Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Last Day of Holidays

Tomorrow, the children go back to school. Bethen starts at her new Secondary school; The Deanery School in Wigan. This is a Church of England school that has an excellent reputation, and if any school is going to get the best out of Bethen, it will be this one.

Jayne goes back to Primary School, and is not particularly happy at the prospect of going to school without her older sister, but I'm sure she will be fine.

Anyway, as a treat (well it was a treat for me!) we did a 20-mile ride along the canal. Not our normal route up to Wheelton, but east towards Manchester. Some very pretty places along the way, but on this part of the canal, you are never very far from buildings and sites that remind you that the real reason for canals was work. In particular, this stretch of canal has a lot to do with the transport of coal, iron and cotton, and there are reminders of these industries all along the canal. At Leigh, there are a cluster of 5 mills, now converted to other activity, but with a little imagination, you are transported back 150 years and you can hear the shouts of men and women as they maneuver their boats along the canal. You can see the blinkered barge horses as they strain against the rope pulling the barges along the reach, and over it all, the grey/black smoke from the mill chimneys as the wheels of industry were kept turning.

It was a reasonable ride, except for the gates that British Waterways place across the tow-path. Whoever designed these gates had a real hatred of cyclists, as some of them are really difficult to get through. Moreover, on some reaches, the gates are less than 100 meters apart.

However, we made it to Worsley which is a really pretty village on the outskirts of Salford where the Duke of Bridgewater lived. He was a prominent coal mine owner in the late 18th century who wanted to get his coal; to Manchester cheaply. Later it was extended to the Trent and Mersey canal which meant that he could get his coal through to Liverpool. The final part of the Bridgewater canal - the one we cycled, was completed in 1799 and linked his canal to the Leeds-Liverpool canal at Leigh. There is no indication as to where the Leeds-Liverpool ends and the Bridgewater canal starts, but by the time we got to Worsley, the canal is a bright orange, polluted by water pumped up from mines along the way.

From Worsley, we cycled the roads to Swinton station - about 2 miles away and mostly up hill!, and got the train back to Hindley. Just in time, as thunder and lightening started and the heavens opened.

Click here for map of the route.

One final thing. One ambition has been realised and Christine is now a blogger. All support appreciated and her site is Kitchen talk.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Back Garden Camping

Over the last couple of days, and to keep them quiet while I endured the Cricket, I put the hiking tent up in the back garden. Needless to say, Jayne was very keen to sleep in it, so last night, Jayne and I slept out (Bethen was not that keen).

It's been a few years since I was last under canvas (in fact I think it was canvas in those days!), but I seemed to get back into it OK. Took a while to drop off, Jayne was out like a light, and of course we were awake pretty early due to sunlight and the fact that I had pitched the tent close to the bird table and the early morning avian squabble was pretty loud.

All in all, it was great and Jayne enjoyed it. We were up and about drinking tea at 6:30 am.

A couple of items on Iraq in The Guardian caught my eye. One was by George Monbiot who argues that Iraq should throw away Bush's self-serving timetable, and take the time to get it right. He particularly feels that the model to democracy should be those followed by Nicaragua and South Africa where the Constitutions were developed by thousands across the nation discussing openly in town and village halls - not a small, unrepresentative group cobbled together by an increasingly desperate US Administration to try and come up with something. The article is How to stop a civil war and is well worth a read.

The other article is by Adam Curtis who feels that the West and America in particular created the nightmare vision that is "al-Qaida" after 9/11 as a large, co-ordinated, powerful network, unlike any previous terrorist danger and capable of overwhelming our society and our democracy. He goes on to say that ".. our energies were going into fighting a phantom enemy. We were looking for a network that doesn't exist when we should have been dealing with an idea that does." He concludes that further "anti-terrorist" action is likely to lead to more marginalised young men taking up the struggle. His article, Creating Islamist phantoms raises some key questions in the West's "War on Terror."

Monday, August 29, 2005

One More Game To Go! and Katrina

Yesterday, England won the Fourth Test against Australia at Trent Bridge. If I have a heart attack, the blame will lie squarely with this England side.

After performing brilliantly over the previous 3 days, they clearly decided to put all supporters through the mill. On Saturday, England forced Australia to Follow On (that is when a team's First Innings score is less than 200 behind the other teams First Innings score: England scored 477; Australia scored 218) and put them into bat again. This time, Australia dug in and scored 387 leaving England to score 129 in their Second Innings to win. This should have been a stroll in the park. No pressure! Block and only score on the bad balls.

No, England decided to do it the hard way and allow Shane Warne and Brett Lee to run amok through the recognised batsmen. It was left to the England tailenders, Matthew Hoggard and Ashley Giles to wrap up the match. It was Giles who scored the last 2 runs off Warne which is poetic, as Warne has taken Giles' wicket 4 times in the series.

It's now off to The Oval for the last match. If Australia win, they keep the Ashes, if its a Draw or England win, the we regain the Ashes for the first time since 1989. I'm seeing my doctor for extra strength heart tablets!

To find out why the series between Australia and England cricket is called the Ashes then click here.

And to find out about the Laws of Cricket, then click here - good luck!

My thoughts are with all in the Southern States of America - particularly in New Orleans, as they prepare for Hurricane Katrina. I hope everyone stays safe and well. Good luck!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

How To Give A Cat A Pill

  1. Pick cat up and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cats mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding the pill in the right hand. As cat opens mouth pop pill into mouth; allow cat to close mouth and swallow.
  2. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.
  3. Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.
  4. Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for count of ten.
  5. Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe, Call spouse from garden.
  6. Kneel on floor with cat wedged between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cats throat vigorously.
  7. Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill from foil wrap, make note to buy a new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered Doulton figures from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.
  8. Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.
  9. Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink glass of water to take taste away. Apply band-aid to spouses forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.
  10. Retrieve cat from neighbours shed. Get another pill. place cat in cupboard and close door onto neck to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.
  11. Fetch screwdriver from garage and put door back on hinges. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Throw tee shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.
  12. Ring fire brigade to retrieve cat from tree across the road. Apologise to neighbour who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.
  13. Tie cats front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table, find heavy duty pruning gloves from shed, force cats mouth open with small spanner. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of fillet steak. Hold head vertically and pour 1/2 pint of water down throat to wash pill down.
  14. Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room, sit quietly while doctor stitches finger and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop to order new table.
  15. Arrange for RSPCA to collect cat and ring local pet store to see if they have any hamsters.

Road Ter Wiggin Pier

An occasional flurry into local Wigan "culture" with a poem written by Jeff Unsworth.

For those who need it, there is a translation down below.

The Road Ter Wiggen Pier

George Orwell wrut a book, tha knows, The Road ter Wiggin Pier.
He tried fot tell it eaw it wuz. Un eaw folk lived reawnd here.
He tried fot give a detailed view. Abeawt th'unemployed un't poor.
He even lived among um aw. Fot help im larn some moo'er.

He wrut abeawt aw't miners. What their werk wuz laahk.
Worr a poxy darty job it wuz. Enough fot mek thi skraahk.
Conditions were'nt reight gradely, werk'in undergreawnd.
Hot un cramped un dusty,wi not much room fot turn'in reawnd.

Tunnels, oney three foot heigh werk'in on their bally's.
Picks un shovells, scrawp'in coal, in order't get their tally's.
They trudged wom in their pit dirt. When their shifts were done.
It were ard fot tell which wuz thi Dad, black faces, every one.

Stripp'in off their darty cloo'us. Gerr'in in't tin bath.
This is wee'er yo'd see aw't scars, the pit faw aftermath.
Dark black lines across their backs, wee'er coal geet under't skin.
The wives would scrub but neyer would they be laahk what they'd once bin.

Condemned eawses, Orwell wrote. Areawnd th'area of Scholes.
Four rooms, two up two deawn. Sometimes flea ridden holes.
Leak'in roof, walls faw'in deawn un damp in moo'ist er't bricks.
Windows would'nt opp'n reet. Rent six bob un rates at thee un six.

Poverty wuz rife,George Orwell wrote. Thirty theawsund claim'in dole.
Tha were fain if tha'd even geet a job. Even digg'in coal.
He wrote mortality wuz very heigh un illnesses were rife.
Un generally or't folk areawnd these times had a bloody awful life


George Orwell wrote a book, you know. The road to Wigan Pier.
He tried to tell it how it was, how folk lived round here.
He tried to give a detailed view, About the unemployed and poor.
He even lived amongst them all, to help him learn some more.

He wrote about the miners. What their work was like.
What a rotten dirty job. Enough to make you cry. ( skraahk )
Conditions not being very good, working underground.
Hot and cramped and dusty, with not much room for turning round.

Tunnels only three foot high, working on their bellies. ( ballys )
Picks and shovels, scraping coal, in order to get their tallys.
They trudged home in their pit dirt, When their shifts were done.
It was hard to tell, which was your Dad, black faces everyone.

Stripping off their clothes, getting in the tin bath.
This is when you'd see the scars, the pit fall aftermath.
Dark black lines across their backs, were the coal got under the skin.
The wives would scrub but never would they be like what they'd once been.

Condemned houses, Orwell wrote. Around the area of Scholes.
Four rooms, two up two down. Sometimes flea ridden holes.
Leaking roof, walls falling down and damp in most of the bricks.
Windows wouldn't open right. Rent six shillings, rates at three and six.

Poverty was rife, Goerge Orwell wrote. Thirty thousand claiming dole.
You were glad if you even had a job. Even digging coal.
He wrote mortality was very high. And illnesses were rife.
And generally the folk around these times had a bloody awful life.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

What America Does Not Believe In

Having now seen most of the deletions, amendments and insertions to the draft UN summit agreement, the rest of the World now clearly understands this Bush Administration's Foreign Policy. These changes were presented by John Bolton, a cynical, politically maneuvered appointment, placed to ensure that the UN is finally finished off. John Bolton's core belief is the US interests should always take precedence over the search for compromise with the international community. Here are some of the core values of this American administration:

  1. America does not want "respect for nature". In other words, it wants the freedom to rape and pillage the world's resources for its own selfish desires.
  2. It does not support all efforts to uphold the sovereign equality of all states. America arrogantly believes it is superior to all other countries and will pay lip-service to those countries' independence that "support" it, while having the freedom to violate other countries' freedoms and independence when it suits or needs.
  3. America does not want the right of self-determination of peoples which remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation. Obviously, once America has invaded a sovereign state, it needs the time to subjugate the people, so that it can rape and steal that country's resources - the only reason America invaded in the first place. (Unfortunately, they are not very good when it comes to military action - inparticular; Exit stratergies).
  4. America does not want to provide the UN with the organisation and resources to fully implement its mandates. Clearly, America wants to reserve the right to cherry-pick the countries it wants invaded, and as there is no oil in Dafur or Niger, that's why no action is being taken in those countries. There is no material spin off for America stopping children and babies being slaughtered by a regime that appears more blatantly vicious than Saddam Hussein's.
  5. America does not want to implement it's part of the internationally agreed development goals, and in particular want to renege on the millennium development goals. In other words, America only provides help to countries that are useful to it.
  6. In the global battle against corruption, America does not want corporate responsibility and accountability to be a part of that fight. Clearly, Bush's friends want to continue to make money by whatever means with impunity.
  7. America does not want to develop a timetable to achieve the Official Development Assistance of 0.7% GNP by 2015. This Administration's attitude appears to be; "Who cares, if the rest of the world is falling behind, as long as we have everything we need, and no international body can hinder our greed and desire for other countries resources".
  8. America does not recognise that climate change is a serious and long-term challenge that will affect every part of the world (including the USA). America does not want to develop institutions for the sustainable use and management of natural resources
  9. America does not want to take action against man's role in affecting climate change. It's very happy being the dirtiest country in the world, allowing it's own population to choke on it's own pollution, and cares not that the pollution is carried to the rest of the world on the jet-stream and ocean currents.
  10. On the treatment of HIV/AIDS in Africa, America does not want to provide prevention, care and treatment ..."on a grant basis, and encourage [its] pharmaceutical companies to make anti-retroviral drugs affordable and accessible in Africa". No, the Administration wants to be sure that its pharmaceutical companies can continue to make the outrageous profits it has been, well into the future.
  11. Obviously, America does not agree that the use of force should be considered as an instrument of last resort. Come on, think of all those American arms manufacturers who don't make a profit unless countries are fighting each other.
  12. America does not want to disarm. A great example to those who are thinking about developing the "bomb". If its right for America; its right for me.
  13. America, obviously, does not want to co-operate with the international criminal court, or any other appropriate mechanism for international justice. It can't support this because it would be in the dock itself.
These are just a few of the things that Bush and his cronies want changed and reflected, to ensure that the draft charter is so watered down that it becomes meaningless. The reality, of course, is that Right-Wing America doesn't want a UN at all, as it can prove meddlesome when America is trying to secretly achieve its aims, or trample all over other people's freedoms. What a shining light of leadership and moral example to the rest of the world the US is at the moment.

In terms of human history, the UN is still in its infancy, with the prospect of becoming a true global power for good. Unfortunately, for the sake of greed and the moment, the American administration of today wants to destroy it. Perhaps it is "unpatriotic" to seek security through agreement, rather than violence.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Lost Job

Found out today, that I didn't get the job I had applied for. Pretty disappointed and a bit down about it, but I'll recover. I'll just indulge my depression with a beer or two, and watch the cricket on the TV. Freddy Flintoff is doing brilliantly and England are, at the time of writing, 353 for 5 which, for those who know, is pretty good.

I'll be back tomorrow with a fresh topic and keep you up-to-date with the cricket.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rivington Moor

The girls returned from Grandparents yesterday. It seems like ages since I last saw them, and it was a pleasure to have them back in the house - I think.

Anyway, as a reward I decided that we should all go on a nice 8.5 mile walk over Rivington Moor and Winter Hill The walk starts from and finishes at the Black Dog Pub in Belmont (click the 'bigger' button and Belmont can be seen in the top right hand corner). The walk is a circular walk that starts by ascending to Winter Hill and the radio and telephone masts. This is a fairly sharp rise of about 500 feet to the top of the hill. There are great views of the Pennines proper as they wind their way north. At the top, you can see Darwen Tower (or as it is called locally, Darwen's Rocket as it looks a little like Buck Rogers' rocket - the black & white version) and Holcombe Tower. These towers along with Rivington Pike form a 31 mile walk called - unsurprisingly, the Three Towers Walk - supposed to be done in a day - oh yes?

This part of Lancashire is mill and coal country, and if you look carefully, the signs can still be seen. The landscape is dotted with mill ponds for example, that fed the mill races that kept the water wheels turning in the mills nestling in the valley. When we reached the top, the heavens opened, and even with waterproofs on, we were soaked to the skin, and then, as soon as it started, it stopped! English weather - don't you just love it? However, we soon dried out as we carried on toward Rivington. Jayne, who must have DNA from a mountain goat, was, as usual, out in front when she stepped into a particularly boggy bit and sank up to her mid-thigh and could not get out. Yours truly had to affect the rescue, and save the stuck daughter - all part and parcel of being a Dad! After she got through the initial fright and tears, Jayne, being Jayne, perked up and continued without complaint - apart from her now wet feet.

Lunch at Rivington Pike, a tower built in 1733 by John Andrews as a shooting lodge and look-out for his newly acquired lands. These days it provides a little shelter and some spectacular views across Lancashire. After that, it is a reasonably easy, but drawn out walk back to the Rivington/Belmont road and back to Belmont. Stopped off at the Black Dog Inn for a pint (or two) before heading home. The pub is a Joseph Holt's pub, which means the beer is a pretty good standard bitter, a nice edge of bitterness with a good body. A brass notice over the bar said:

" In six days, God made the World and then rested."
"In one day God made Man and then rested."
"Then God made Woman, and no bugger's rested ever since!"

It seems everyone enjoyed the walk, and Jayne was talking quite happily about her experiences in the bog. For me, it was quite different type of exercise to cycling, and made a nice change.

The photos are from a previous walk, the pictures from this walk will be put onto Flickr as soon as they are developed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sailing Across The Channel

Yesterday, a 33 year old woman sailed across the English Channel. A 22 mile stretch of water that has kept the UK reasonably independent for the past 1000 years. People sail this water every day of the week. An Amarda of boats, no less, cross the Channel all the time.

Well, this woman did it solo. So what? a fair proportion of those sailing across the Channel do it solo. So why am I spending time and bytes on this when I could be talking about myself?

Well Hilary Lister is quadriplegic. She suffers from a degenerative disease, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, and over the years it has progressed from her ankles and up through her body to her neck. I just can't imagine what that must be like, and I'm not sure if I could have coped as she has. She described herself as a "sporty" person who lived an active life, enjoying canoeing, swimming, rugby (good girl) and hockey. She only took up sailing 2 years ago to boost her self-confidence!

The voyage took six and a half hours, and she did it by using 2 straws which she sucked and blew down to control the rudder and sails. When she got to France her comment was: "I am just thrilled." I bet she was, and I bet all those who supported her from her husband Clifford through to her sailing instructors and those who just helped in any way they could were just as thrilled. I'm thrilled for her.

What a magnificent advert for the Human Spirit.

She summed up her reason for doing it so publicly, was to demonstrate to all, that the disabled "... do not need wrapping up in cotton wool, and can go out and do silly or dangerous things if that's what we want to do." Hilary said on TV this morning that everyone can acheive their dreams. I believe her.

She plans to sail around Britain next. I for one wish her all the luck in the world.

One other thing of note yesterday was that I had my second interview for a position at J D Williams. That interview took about half the time it took for Hilary to sail across the Channel - and I was exhausted!


Monday, August 22, 2005

Flat Pack Furniture

We bought a computer/study desk for Bethen today. A self-assembly, flat-pack desk that has a slide away top for a key-board. Nice looking thing, grey powder-coated frame with tempered glass for the work tops. I have no problem with flat-pack furniture. Most of our furniture came in a box of one size or another and once assembled, looks pretty good. Our house could almost be used by IKEA to photograph their catalogue. So why the blog?

Well, the one thing that frustrates me even more than Tony Blair and George Bush are the diagrams that are supposed to pass for instructions. After many years of experience, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that there is a company that has the contract to do all the diagrams for all flat-pack companies. The main criteria for getting that contract must be a promise never to look at the finished article or attempt to put the item together. If they did do that, there might be a danger that the diagrams and instructions could be understood and the furniture assembled in quick time and without the use of "old-English" words to aid the process. No, today I was confronted with approximately 40 different pieces to put together, and 2 exploded diagrams of how they are supposed to fit together. Most of the items in the diagram look nothing like the real thing, so one hour later, I was taking the thing apart again to swap 2 pieces over, for the 3rd or 4th time. Fortunately, the children, who see me as someone full of sweetness and light, with never a cross word, would have been shocked with some of the phrases I used. I wasn't even aware that I knew some of those words!

Anyway, it's done now and she had better bl***y appreciate it!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I'm Being Spammed

I've just discovered that I am being Comment spammed. As such, I have had to put in place Word Verification on comments. I'm sorry for inconvenience, it is not of my choosing, but it appears to be the only way to keep most of it out. Clearly some immoral people and companies out there!

Cindy Sheehan

Today's Observer, which I have been reading in the garden, enjoying a beer and my first full day on holiday (that does sound good) had a very intelligent article, not so much on Cindy and her protest as such, but the debate that she has instigated in America about why American troops are being sent to a foreign land that was not threatening the US in any way, and being killed. She asks the simple question, what is the "noble cause" that her son died for? This is a debate that America has needed to have for quite some time, and has been stopped by Right-Wing fanatics as being "unpatriotic". To me, it is grossly unpatriotic to use your country's foreign policy for personal gain! It does seem that "draft-dodger" Bush is probably going to chicken out as usual in talking to this lady about her son's death. How many funerals of the "brave boys" has Bush been to?

Any way, the article talks about the deep division in the US over this issue. 54% of Americans now, finally, believe it was a big mistake to invade Iraq and a higher proportion now accept that they were lied to prior to the war happening. Professor Rick Stoll of Rice University points to that other US calamity - Viet Nam, and said that once support dipped below 50%, it was impossible to get it back. The momentum is clearly, now with the anti-war movement. As Bush is not standing again, he'll probably carry having America's boys killed for spurious reasons regardless. He probably recognised that he had lost all possibility of being a great president, way back in his first term. I wonder how long it will be, before Republican "chancers", looking to succeed him, start criticising the war - particularly the complete lack of an exit policy, in an attempt to woo those supporters who have now woken up to the fact that they were probably duped.

Clearly a few paid up members of Loonyville are still supporting Bush and toeing the party line such as that pinnacle of the intelligentsia; Rush Limbaugh, who is something called a "shock" jock. The only shocking thing about him is his support for the indefensible. The other great supporter who still clearly has difficulty understanding the complex issues surrounding Cindy's protest is Bill O'Reilly of Fox "News" who thinks that Cindy is only there to embarrass the President. What he doesn't seem to understand that for the rest of the World, President Bush has been an embarrassment to America for quite some time - particularly when he opens his mouth!

I'll finish now as the sun is still shining, and a bottle of Tangle Foot is calling me from the fridge. A few more pictures now loaded onto Flickr.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Holiday Starts

That's it! I'm home! Cold beer from the fridge, sun still high in the sky - the holiday starts here. I've been really looking forward to this break for some time. Work has been incredibly busy and hectic with lots of work coming in, and fewer people doing it. Two things from this holiday - lose weight and get Christine signed up to Blogger!

It's Saturday

Today, the sun is shining brightly, the temperature is comfortably warm, families are out and about enjoying themselves - and I'm stuck in work!!

Ah well! A couple of more hours, and I'll be finished and more-over, able to start my holiday. Should be a nice quiet evening as the children are still over with my parents - Bethen is using up her free texts on her new phone texting Christine's parents who are on the Isle of Man celebrating their 50th anniversary. Hopefully the weather will be kind and Terry and Barbara have a good time. I've got the pictures from their celebrations last week, and I will be loading them up into Flickr tomorrow.

My holiday? No plans as yet, but with Christine working, we can't really go anywhere - can't afford it after the work we've had done on the house! However, we'll see if we can get a few days out and about. Not been cycling for a while, so that will certainly be an option. The blackberries and Elderberries are now ripening, and the best ones are along the canal - no pollution! Jayne and I brought back loads last year, Apple and Blackberry pie or crumble with custard, I can taste it now.

Anyway, for the next 2 weeks, the "real" world can take a back seat. I'll try to keep this up-to-date, but I can't promise. One joy/stress time to look forward to is the next Test match against Australia - and I'll keep my regular readers up-to-date from my perspective.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mo Mowlam

It appears to me that there are basically two types of politician. There are those who see politics as a means of personal advancement, making as much capital out of their position as their “consultancies” allow; and there are those who enter politics and view it as a means of changing the world for the better. Mo Mowlam, who died today at the age of 55, was a politician very much in the latter camp. MP for Redcar, she was very instrumental in helping to get Labour electable because she believed that only a Social-Democratic party would ensure the most benefit to the most people.. When Labour came to power in 1997, she became Northern Ireland Secretary – the graveyard for many an aspiring politician. However, for her, this was a challenge she relished. She always believed that it was the politicians duty to talk to anyone if it brought about the opportunity for peace and security. She believed that terrorism can only truely be beaten by words and she was proved right. In 1998, the Good Friday agreement was signed, which effectively sounded the death-knell for the Provisional IRA. Atrocities still occurred, particularly at Enniskillen, but these were very much the actions of desperate splinter groups, which Republican politicians dis-owned.

Much of her success in Northern Ireland, was partly the result of her firm, life-long friendship with Bill Clinton, who believed, similarly, that the Worlds problems could be improved through intelligent politics, rather than violence. Mo had a very simple creed; violence begets violence – a lesson some politicians still need to learn. In 2000, Mo Mowlan received the Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland.

As a person, she was very approachable. She revelled in the company of others, and seemed very much at home with just about everyone. A truly natural and open person who seemed not to judge others very quickly. However, she had very firm principles, once saying the the Royal Family should move out of Buckingham Palace, and let the homeless of London move in. She was always a great defender, and fighter for the down-trodden and those who could not defend themselves.

Mo had been suffering an inoperable brain tumour through the Nineties, and was under chemotherapy during the Northern Ireland peace talks. The treatment made her lose her hair and gain a lot of weight. Typically, because she kept her illness secret, one right-wing paper described her as being like a “fat, Geordie trucker” – attempting to personally abuse both her and Geordies (people from Newcastle Upon Tyne).

Mo also had a wicked sense of humour, and apparently in one particularly difficult Northern Ireland meeting, she took her wig off – her way of lightening the mood and threatening to "head-butt" Jerry Adams if he didn't start moving in the right direction during the talks up to the Good Friday agreement..

She will be badly missed. The full story can be read at the BBC web-site.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Advertising Break!

Just came across this site for a winery in Oregon called Cameron Winery. Any wine company that uses a picture of Che Guevara must be worth trying!


Poor Bethen. Bethen came down with an acute bout of homesickness while at Guide camp, and Christine had to go and pick her up yesterday. It was a bit of a shock to me, as I’d psychologically forgotten that she is only eleven years old. I’ve fallen into the habit of viewing her as older than she really is, and believe that she will cope in just about any circumstance. Although she has spent periods of time away from home, this camp was the first time she has been away without being with anyone from the family, and in truth, she did very well. I’m very proud of her, and I hope it doesn’t stop her from trying out camping again. I need to remember that she is still a child – even though you could mistake her for an eighteen year old, the way she behaves from time to time. At heart, she is a pretty strong and resilient girl and I’m sure she will be fine.

Israel have started to pull out of the Occupied Territory in Gaza – 50 years after they first stole it from the Palestinians. Israel and America are trying to portray this as a move towards peace, but until they relinquish the West Bank – also stolen from the Palestinians, I can’t see there being a peaceful outcome. On the contrary, those Palestinians living in the Occupied West Bank will be more determined for the Israelis to leave. Bush, of course, has told Israel that he will support them if they decide not to leave. Clearly, the Middle East is yet another area of the World being manipulated by the foreign policies of other countries that are more concerned about their own self-interest. What’s really required is Justice for both Israel and Palestine. While Israel is supported the way it is, they have no incentive to make peace with her neighbours.

Israel is another example of the arrogance of the powerful.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Shoot to Kill

Disturbing news is surfacing about the death of Mr. Jean Charles de Menezes' death. This was the Brazilian electrician who was shot by Police on the 22nd July at Stockwell Tube station. Police statements at the time said that Mr. de Menezes failed to stop when challenged, vaulted the ticket barrier and ran down to the tube. Police reports also said that he was wearing a heavy winter's coat on a very warm summer's day.

It now emerges that his house had been under surveillance, and that when he left home to go to work, he travelled 15 minutes by bus to Stockwell, CCTV at the station shows him walking in and presenting his pass at the barrier, passing through the barrier and picking up a free newspaper. The only time he ran was when he reached the platform and saw his train about to depart. He ran onto the train, followed by the surveillance officer who immobilised him. Mr. de Menezes was going nowhere, and could not possibly do anything.

What happened next would appear to be quite apalling. An armed Police officer arrived, and with little or no warning, fired 11 times, hitting Mr. de Menezes 7 times in the head, once in the shoulder and missed 3 times. A passenger took a phone-camera picture of the aftermath, and Mr. de Menezes was wearing a light denim jacket. This information is coming from a leaked source, but it does have the ring of truth about it. The full story can be read on the BBC website.

This sort of reaction and over-reaction is precisly what the terrorists want. They want national governments to crack down on their own populations, curtail hard-won freedoms and control the populace. On the face of it, particularly in the UK and America, the terrorist has won.

In the UK, the move to ID cards and deportation of funny coloured people who wear scarves on their heads. In America, it can take longer to get through security at an airport, than the subsequant flight. The question is: who's winning, and who is allowing the terrorist to win?

A woman in London was asked whether she felt more secure with all the visible policing on the streets, and she said "no". It reminded her that there was something to fear. She much preferred to play the odds, and the chances of being a victim of terrorism is millions-to-one. Sensible woman.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Boscastle - One Year On

In the early hours of the 16th August 2004, a major flash flood ripped through the small coastal Cornish village of Boscastle. Fortunately, there were no deaths, but the damage was colossal with a third of the buildings severely damaged and 80 vehicles washed out into the bay. The event was memorable because it was being shown live on the BBC. By shear chance, the Beeb was filming a series of Doc Martin in the village, and so drama film-makers became, in seconds, news film-makers. While watching it, and in the immediate after-math, I had the very real feeling that the damage was so great, that the village would not recover. I did not count on Cornish toughness and determination. A year on, most of the village is now up and running, repairs are mostly complete and life is getting back to some normality. The Environment Agency, have put in some defenses to cope with excessive water build-up which should help.

How did it happen? After a dry, early summer, the previous 2 weeks had been wet and rainy. Boscastle nestles at the mouth of a narrow river-cut valley, surrounded by hills that are generally boggy. The dry weather had dried out the sub-soil, which meant that when the rains came, it couldn't penetrate into the ground. The water was absorbed by the top-soil and vegetation. On the night of the flood, Boscastle was the centre of a major storm that dropped a massive amount of rain. The surrounding land couldn't cope and so the water ran off into the local streams and then into the river Valency which flows through Boscastle to the sea. A large volume of water and a narrow river valley is going to lead to trouble.

The pictures of Boscastle today show a reviving village looking forward to the future. Most of the buildings have been repaired, and only the whiteness of the mortar give any indication of what had happened. We love the West Country, and Boscastle is definitely a place I would want to visit.

One place we have been to is Lynmouth which, on the 15th August 1952 suffered a similar, but even worse fate as Boscastle. Lynmouth is just up the coast from Boscastle in Devon, and is similarly placed at the head of a narrow river valley. In almost identical climatic conditions - dry summer, 2 weeks of rain then a major storm, the rivers West Lyn and East Lyn, which join in the middle of the village, catastrophically burst their banks. As well as tons of water, the rivers brought massive boulders off the tops along with a great deal of mud. 34 people lost their lives, and over 70 buildings were either destroyed or had to be demolished. However, the village is thriving today, and defenses have been installed against future problems. It is a very pretty North Devon coastal village, and I'm sure that Boscastle will also revive.

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Strange Day, Australia get the Draw!

With so many people off work today for one reason or another, today has been a really hectic day - and if I find out that they've been to the cricket, there will be trouble! Hopefully, there will be a few more in tomorrow.

Bethen is off to Summer Camp with the Guides. The weather is looking fair this week, but the nights are likely to be chilly. We've got her a superb sleeping bag, new boots, thick socks and plenty of warm clothing so I'm sure she'll be OK. In some ways, I really envy her. I've come to the conclusion that childhood is wasted on the young as they never appreciate it at the time. Jayne is over with Grand-Parents, though which ones, I'll find out later.

Today is, VJ day (Victory over Japan Day). I asked Dad if he was going to any of the commemorations, but he said no. He would much rather remember the day with his Grand-Daughter. Can't argue with that. Dad was also a Dunkirk vet, and I feel he was more at home with the people who went through that than his comrades from Burma. The children in Bethen's class still remember when Dad went into the school to talk about that time, and they were quite impressed when, at one point, Dad started to cry. The children were absolutely superb and dealt with it really well.

Well, I am now emotionally exhausted. Australia held on to secure the draw in the Third Test. England were unable to remove a ninth wicket to secure the victory they deserved. Any way, its on to Trent Bridge - a true seamer's wicket.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Lazy Sunday and Help Me, Please.

This has been a nothing weekend. After a week of 10-hour shifts, I had planned a lazy simple weekend, which, on the whole, went to plan. Rained most of Saturday, which meant that there was only an hour and a half of play in the Cricket - enough for Australia to save the Follow-On. Mind you, they were still be around 150 runs behind England's first innings score of 444. England have put another 280 on the board leaving Australia with 423 to win.

The children have gone over to The Wirral as Jayne is staying with Grand-parents this weekend - probably both sets. It's amazing really how the parents muck in and I'm really grateful for their support. However, it does mean that I have got Sunday to myself - Christine isn't back with Bethen until tomorrow. Plenty of beer and cricket (I'd told Christine that I might do a bike ride - ha!) and the Sunday papers.

The papers , today, had major articles on Robin Cook's funeral which took place on Thursday this week. It appeared to be a dignified affair, with representatives from all sides of Parliament and from many different walks of life. Unfortunately, the whole day was badly marred by an idiot Right-winger horse-racing "friend" who used the pulpit at the funeral to lambast Tony Blair. He was pleaded with by the family not to do it, but as usual, these people have no morals or consideration for other people's feelings and will use any and every occasion and person to spout their particular brand of negativity and hate. Wrong place, wrong time - but these people have never been blessed with a full range of Human attributes. My sympathies twice over to the family.

I've been trying to fix the Family History page, but it just doesn't seem to be working in Internet Explorer. I click on a page and it flashes to that page, but then returns to the home page. If anyone reading this can help, please leave a comment. It works fine in Mozilla which is strange. I must admit that Mozilla is a far superior browser and mail set up. It seems very robust and resistant to hacking and it is free and it is my browser of choice. Also, I think I've got my beer page sorted.

Have loaded some more pictures onto Flickr showing our celebration of Meg's wedding. Still waiting for Christine's parents pictures to come back, and I'll load those. Came across a great set of sand sculpture pictures and have made her a contact. She apparently makes them and she comes from the Netherlands.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Is Eddie a Democrat?

A strange thought occurred to me on the train into work. Could Eddie be possibly a Democrat? My reason for thinking this is that some of the things he says are so outrageous and off the wall that no rational person could honestly believe them. I even get the impression that some of the comments are tongue-in-cheek. Could his blog be a deliberate attempt to turn off potential Republican voters? It could be so, but if anyone is thinking of a flirtation with the "patriotic right", they need to be shown this site, and let them read the comments left by people who appear to genuinely hold those views and it might persuade them to consider voting another way. I notice he's removed his "Letter to his Grandparents"! Perhaps it made him feel sick as well!

Anyway, onto other things. England are still doing brilliantly in the Test Match, and I'm still annoyed that I'm missing it. England made 444 All Out in the first innings and our bowlers have really had a field day today. Australia are presently 210 for 7 needing another 35 to save the Follow-On, but with only 3 wickets remaining, my money is on England. My apologies to any visitors, and I quite understand if you think I'm talking rubbish or finally lost it, but this is Cricket and more importantly, this is Cricket against Australia, a country we've not won a series against for quite some time.

Bethen is off to Guide camp on Monday and she's really looking forward to it. We've got her new boots, and I think a walk over the moors might be a good idea to break them in - especially as the Black Dog Pub in Belmont makes a fitting end to any walk. Of course, I'll have to take a radio so I can follow the cricket. Bethen is really looking forward to this, and I hope she has a great time. Takes me back to when I was off to Scout camp many years ago. So much of what I feel and enjoy was born at that time, and I hope something similar will happen with Bethen. She already enjoys walking and cycling and she's done a climbing wall or two in her time without any problem. As Christine and I are working, Jayne is off to Grandparents for a few days.

One more week to my holiday. No plans as yet, but decorating the house has been mentioned. I'm saying nothing. Something not quite right with the Family History page so will try and sort it out over the weekend. I've just had a look at my beer page - that's not working properly either. It looks like it's going to be a blog tidy up weekend.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I Was Walking Through The Blog One Day

Occasionally, I take a walk through Blog World to see what's out there and came across a site entitled "A Conservative's Conservative" published by someone called Eddie. Give him his due, he admits to being a Right-Winger, and he has clearly swallowed every cliche and lie the Republican Party and the Bush cabal push out. His latest is a letter to his, presumably dead, grandparents who came across from Europe and settled in America. I have to say that it is a little purile and sad, and perhaps it might have been wiser to have kept that conversation private. Of course, right wingers tend to wear there heart on their sleeves and will use anybody, including their own Grandparents to make some "political" point.

One thing his site illuminated for me was the thinking behind some of the statements these Conservative's make. He says that he is for Free Speech - except, of course, for Communists, Liberals and Democrats (who he calls Democ(rat)) and anyone else who doesn't agree with him. Free speech is only to be allowed to those who think like him and his friends. Instead of arguement, he uses insult - I presume because there is no coherent philosphy underpinning Republicanism except personal greed (something they don't want to advertise) at the expense of others. As usual with Right Wingers, he pidgeon-holed me as a "Liberal" based on the fact that I made comments about Bush not through asking me, and of course his narrow mind assumed that if I was a Liberal, I couldn't be a Christian.

Jesus is the best Liberal I know! Anti-capital punishment, slow to condem, quick to understand.

If that differentiates me from Right Wingers, then I am proud to be called a Liberal. I personally consider myself an open-thinker and question every-thing before coming to a conclusion. Mostly my tendencies are left of centre, but not always. Here in the UK I feel I can genuinely believe and express an opinion without it being thrown back at me as an insult.

One quality that seems consistent with right wingers the world over is their capacity to hate those that are and think differently to themselves. It's not disagreement, nor dislike, but pure hate. Hate, of couse, is born out of fear, and so right wingers tend to be very frightened people.

He wrote a list of reasons why he was proud of Bush. Fine, but with the best will in the world, I couldn't recognise many of those qualities from view of Bush. Bush is honest - WMD!; has a great sense of humour - as far as I can tell, he can't string 2 sentences together, which is funny; he listen's to people - well he doesn't seem to want to listen to Cindy or any other of the greiving widows and parents of soldiers who have died in his "noble cause"; he has morals - where? and finally doesn't say a bad word about his enemies - "Axis of Evil" springs to mind and "they are all bad people" when talking about the prisoners illegally detained on the base in Cuba. I'm sorry, but Eddie appears to be seriously deluded, brainwashed or is trying to manipulate and catch the eye of those who could help him up the greasy pole of Republican heirarchy.

I was also interesting to read some of the comments on his blog. One person had spent 8 years in the UK and thinks that almost all of us are "commies", brainwashed by the BBC. I suppose he would prefer it if we were brainwashed by Fox "News". Are well, it takes all sorts to make a world, and it's good to know where they are.

The final irony in all this is that I am a republican. The Monarchy is so yesterday!

Today is the first day of the Third Test match against Australia, and England had a great one. All batsmen made runs except Strauss who got an unfortunate one early on. Vaughan, who been in need of a score scored a magnificent 166. At the end of the day England have scored 341 runs for the loss of 5 wickets and Flintoff has yet to bat. Hopefully, we can double this score, or at least add a couple of centuries to it, before letting our bowlers loose. Unfortunatly, I couldn't pull the sickie, but I had the the BBC web score-card open, so was ablt to follow progress.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Drinking Culture

The Government are under fire from Judges and Police over the new licensing laws that come into effect this Autumn as they feel it will lead to a greater level of public dis-order in our town centres. Effectively, the Government are loosening the restrictions imposed on public drinking, in place since the First World War. Then, a patronising Conservative Government decided that the Working Class could not control themselves, and would end up drinking all hours and turning up for work the next day very much the worse for wear. (What they didn't put into their argument was that class that voted Conservative were generally the bosses of the Working Classes who didn't pay them enough to go binging). However, for most of the 20th Century, there have been restrictions on when people could drink. Now, that is to be swept aside and I'm not sure whether I'm for it or against it.

Drinking is a social activity, and I've been know to enjoy the odd (and some of them have been very odd) pint of beer. I like the idea that I can have a pint at a time when it suits me, such as at the end of a bike ride or walk in the country. It strikes me as being very civilised to be able to choose when I want to drink, and not when the Law tells me it is OK. I believe, but can't prove it, that the majority of those who drink in moderation feel the same.

Unfortunately, there is a large minority of, generally young people with money, who do not see drink in quite the same way. These people want to have "fun", generally at the expense of others, and do not feel that they are having "fun" unless they are drunk, falling all over the place, being sick in the street and generally out of control. I would not venture into Wigan on a Friday or Saturday night, and I certainly would take my children. The problem is that it is exactly those young people who make the large profits for the multi-national drinks manufactures, and it is they who have pressed this Government to extend opening hours so that they can extract even more dosh from them. Of course, this Government likes to cosy up to big business, and so agreed.

Unfortunately, many young people have not learnt how to control both themselves and their drinking, and as alcohol clouds judgement, they do not see the effect their behaviour has on others. The drinking places that young people frequent today are a far cry from the local pub and are generally noisy, smelly, loud music so conversation is curtailed and designed to extract money from them as quickly as possible. The drinks themselves are a chemical concoction created from manufactured alcohol pepped up with CO2 with added flavourings. No wonder most of them are sick! An alcoholic drink for me, is one that has been developed from natural ingredients, blended together by a Master craftsman, nature allowed to take it's course before being barreled/bottled for consumption at just the right time.

Beer, like wine, takes time and needs to be savoured, not devoured, and like all drink, in moderation. Getting drunk is not the objective.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I had a haircut - by my 8 year-old Daughter

Today, my 8 year-old daughter gave me a haircut. This is not has tricky as it sounds in reality. Being follicle challenged, I have long dispensed with barbers, and generally run the hair clippers through my hair on number one. This tidies it up and it means it doesn't need to be done for a couple of months. It must have saved me a bundle over the years.

Anyway, Jayne wanted to do it, so I got the clippers and set up outside, and most importantly got Christine to supervise; and she went to it. I think she enjoyed doing it, but got bored after awhile, leaving Christine to finish off. Both the girls like stroking my head when it has been done.

I was very pleased to see Discovery got down OK and the astronauts are back on Terra Ferma. I know they have to put on a positive face, but I'm sure there must have been extra nerves as they re-entered. My hat is off to them, they are very special type of person, and in some ways I envy them. However, I'm not sure the Shuttle is the way forward for space exploration. I know there are advantages in being able to carry a large payload, perhaps 2 different types of craft could be used - sending the payload up in one, and the crew in another. I don't know, but I'm pretty sure the shuttle is not it.

My thanks to Cherokee Sage Woman for pointing me in the direction of the countdown clock to George Bush's exit from office. It's good to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just wish there was one for Tony Blair, but not even he knows when that'll be! Talking about Tony Blair, I'm really saddened by what has happened to him. Although I have been a lifelong Liberal and Liberal Democrat, of the 2 main parties, my preference is definitely towards Labour. Social Democracy and Justice has always been at the heart of Labour principle, and although they have, from time to time been incompetent, I have always felt that they were honest and had a true heart. Unfortunately, with this lot, and in particular Tony Blair, truth appears to have left the arena. In some areas, Tony Blair's lies were bigger than Bush's which is saying a lot!

Went for my first Physio today, and felt pain like I've never felt it before. At least the therapist is in no doubt that my shoulder hurts. On return home, we decided to have a BBQ, and while I and the girls were quietly standing by the incinerating meat, our Sparrow Hawk descended and took a Sparrow. It was almost silent. I saw a branch suddenly start waving in the tree at the bottom of the garden, and then the Hawk emerged with the Sparrow clutched in its talons and flew to our fence. Adjusted it's meal and then took off over the fields. As can be seen by the picture, this is not the first time he has dined in our garden. All I can say, is that we are really blessed with where we live and the environment we share with nature.

I've created a new page to keep a diary of the beers I've drunk and enjoyed. I will be in serious trouble if that blog gets bigger than this one!

Monday, August 08, 2005

What a Win!!

Well England did it - by 2 runs!

This has to go down as the most exciting test match ever. It was amazing really, and I feel a bit sad that I hadn't seen it live on TV as I was trying to get the lawn back under control after not having cut it for 2 weeks. In truth, and to my everlasting shame, I forgot it was on. The next test is at Old Trafford in Manchester - just round the corner from work. I think I can feel a 5 day illness coming on! It all takes me back to 1981, and the Test match at Headingly in Leeds. This was the match that Ian Botham scored 149 runs and turned not just the match, but the entire series around and England re-gained the Ashes. That match I did watch!

This years match threw up another hero - Andrew Flintoff who scored significant half-centuries of 68 and 73 and took 7 wickets. The best thing about all this is that Flintoff is a Lancastrian coming from Preston, a town about 20 miles from where we live. As the next Test takes place in Old Trafford, the home of Lancastrian Cricket, he will be playing at "home" and supported by thousands. I'm feeling sorry for Australia already - not!

Lots of stories about Robin Cook and some of his quotes in the papers. One of his more interesting statements was that if ".. we had won the peace in Palestine, there would have been no war in Iraq". That is an interesting thought, and the more I play around with it, the more I understand what he was saying. The West's preoccupation with support for Israel has meant that a stark political and military imbalance exists in the region. Israelis and Jews require the rest of the world of the time they were the subject of victimisation by Hitler - vilification, humiliation, execution, theft of lands and possessions, ghettoisation and demonisation; yet they are comfortable doing the same to the Palestinians. As someone said recently, to understand is not the same as sympathy, and I think Tony Blair has to be honest and concede that the recent attacks are the direct result of our meddling in Middle East affairs - particularly Iraq. For many, because they have very little with which to fight back, use the only weapon they have which is themselves. I do not condone it, I do not condone violence in any way - but I understand it, there is a difference.

Weather is looking good for tomorrow, and I have the day off. I'm actually going to the physiotherapist for my first appointment to have my shoulder "worked on". Not sure what the problem is. Could be an old injury with a touch of new RSI; we'll see. But mostly it will be an opportunity to put Bethen's new bed up and laze in the sun!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Wedding, An Anniversary and a Death

Yesterday, Margaret Anne Senay Salisbury married Andrew Barrett Rosson in Ben Wheeler, Texas at 11.00am (4.00pm BST). I've yet to see any photographs, but I'm sure that will only be a matter of time. Christine, Bethen, Jayne and I wish her and Andy all the happiness in the world and that the day went well. We all gathered at Mum and Dad's to celebrate the occasion as we not able to get across for the big day. There was Mum and Dad, Carole and Ryan and ourselves. We did a video and took some digital snaps which we could send across immediately to Meg. It was a good excuse to bet the bubbly flowing! The weather was great, and I took a few pics on my "old-fashioned" camera - you know, those cameras that use something called film. It will be a day or 2 before I'll get them back, but I will post the best ones on Flickr.

It was really good to see Ryan and Carole, as it has been some time. Ryan's band is now up and running, and their debut album is just about done. The band - Attar and The Funkadome are just about ready to get on the road. Ryan plays bass. Carole has just finished her latest film which was apparently a horror movie which turned literally into a nightmare. Apparently the Director and Director of Photography didn't really understand her role in Continuity. Ah well, all over now. We are hoping to get down to London in October during half-term.

Yesterday was also Christine's parents - Terry and Barbara's 50th Wedding Anniversary. So it was a dash from my parents house to Christine's. We are very lucky in that both out parents get on well with each other and are very happy to share the child-minding duties when required. They only live a few miles apart on The Wirral. The celebration was a reasonably low-key affair with family and relatives, a BBQ and wine and beer, but it was a good evening. Later on, me and the girls went up Bidston Hill to take photos of the observatory and windmill in the sunset. It was really great to be up there again, the light was good and the views over to Liverpool smashing. Again, if the photos are any good, I will publish.

One piece of sad news was to hear of the death of Robin Cook, MP for Livingston. He was a rare politician, a committed man of principle who rose through the ranks to high office without compromise. He resigned on the eve of the Iraq invasion when it became clear that his arguements for not following Bush's lead was not going to be heeded. He will be missed. As a man, he was a family man and a great lover of the outdoors. He died doing something he loved, climbing mountains.

Finally, England thrashed the pants off the Aussies in the 2nd Test. Series stands at 1 all with 3 to play. Can we really pull it off? I think I'm becoming a believer!

Friday, August 05, 2005

England Take Charge

After thrashing the Aussies all round Edgbaston yesterday, they proceeded to bowl them out for 100 less than England today. Hopefully, the Aussie's cockiness has gone a step too far this time, and the Ashes are truly returning to England after so long.

For those of you who have just read the above and think I've finally entered my dotage, I'm talking about Cricket. This essentially English game is very much a cultural event, but it does include some aspects that fit me perfectly. Test matches take 5 days; much of the time not a lot happens which means I can go and get a drink and not miss anything; I can drink all day and sit in the sunshine (if it is one of those rare days) or the bar if it is raining and it gives me much opportunity to talk with other like minded souls. We even take an interest in the match from time to time! However, unfortunately today is a work day.

Tomorrow is niece Meg's wedding to Andy. Unfortunately for us, the wedding is taking place in Texas (the home state of Bush - eeek!) but I suppose it goes to show that there is goodness everywhere, even Texas. However, we are all getting together at Mum and Dad's to celebrate, and hopefully I will get the web cam up and running. Carole and Ryan are coming up from London to be with us, so we should have a good time. This will then be followed by all of us going to Christine's parent's house to celebrate her parents Terry and Barbara's 40th wedding anniversary. So tomorrow should be a good day all round.

This is likely to mean that there will not be a blog entry tomorrow (or if there is, it probably will not be worth reading!)

I loaded some more pictures on to Flickr today, a couple of which were taken at Wigan Pier. George Orwell didn't make the place up - there really is a pier. Strange place as it is closed at the weekend; a time when people would probably want to visit, but the pub there does sell a rather nice pint of Sunny Jim.

Last night on the news, George Bush was on talking about terrorists and a thought struck me. Why does he always smile and look happy when the subject of terrorism arises?

Anyway, I don't want to end the week negatively, so the weather is picking up, a good weekend in prospect, and only a couple of weeks to my holiday. Life is good.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Amazing Escape

I was amazed and very pleased to see that no-one lost their life - or even seriously injured in the plane crash at Toronto Airport. The pictures on the television were very alarming, and clearly something catastrophic had gone wrong, but the most serious injuries were sustained by people on the way down the escape chutes. Just occasionally, good news can come out of tragedy.

I learnt today after reading Cherokee Sage Woman's blog that the great leader of the Western World; President Bush, is likely to restart America's land-mine industry. What a great humanitarian he is. Clearly killing 100,000 innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan is not enough, and wants to lay down little doorways to Heaven for more children, elderly people and innocents.

Quite seriously, I small part of me feels sorry for Bush. The man is living in a moral vacuum, and I believe he is ethically lost. Surely there must be some Republicans who must now be starting to doubt Bush. If so, they need to speak out before its too late. The Democrats had better start getting themselves organised, because the world can't cope with anyone else similar to Bush. What a sad man he is.

An incredible day at work today. Quite a few people off on holiday or sick, the lines go down to the order line, which means we need to pick up the slack, a new mailing has hit giving us thousands of pieces of mailing to cope with, along with a raft of new reports required for the boss. I am so looking forward to getting on the train home. (No doubt it will be late, and there won't be a seat). However, I do have to say that I prefer a busy day to one where nothing happens.

Manchester is living up to its reputation today - it rained!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Things you read

I read today in the paper that a new person becomes a first time blogger every second! That's a pretty amazing number - and I would like to welcome the 42 new people who have joined since I started this sentence.

I was looking out of the window of the train this morning as I traveled into work, watching the countryside roll by, and I was struck by how much human history lies there in the ground. The land close by where I live in Wigan in South Lancashire was the heart of the Lancashire coalfields during the 19th Century and the early part of the 20th. The landscape is full of low lying, rolling hills which are the result of slag heaps and waste tips, along with hollows that are the result of subsidence. You can also see the ghosts of old railway tracks as they run arrow straight across the land. It amazes me how much lives and culture have changed over the past 200 years or so, but the clues to previous existences remain. Although we should not live in the past, it is the past that shapes us now and will affect us in the future. History, particularly local and human history is something I find very fascinating.

Loaded some more files up to my page on Flickr of Christmas last year. That was one of the best Christmas's I've had in a long time. Instead of going across to The Wirral and our parents, we decided to have Christmas at home with friends Derren and Kim. We decided to have an Italian Christmas, and we created various dishes such as risotto, spaghetti and other pasta dishes I can't really remember. What I do remember is the atmosphere, and my side aching from laughter. As much as we love our parents, Christmas with relations can be stressful for many reasons, and sharing with friends was so much more relaxing.

But the best thing about the day was that it snowed!

Not much, a couple of centimeters, but that didn't stop the kids from getting out in it. The following day, Bethen and I went for a bike ride along the canal which was almost magical. That day will live with me for a long time.

If any of the 2,820 new bloggers have visited this site, you are very welcome. Leave a message and do come again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Why do I have to work?

Today I woke up to a beautiful August morning so I had breakfast on the patio. Sitting quietly, I was able to watch all the birds on the bird table and feeder. We get a whole range of birds in the garden; finches, tits, sparrows, a Robin, a Song Thrush and our new Blackbird and his missus. It certainly didn't take the Blackbird long to get established. I don't bear him any ill-will, but I think he could have been a bit kinder in his coup.

It is very quiet without the children, and with Kate Rusby on the CD playing quietly in the background, it was near perfect. Unfortunately, work was calling and so I had to leave. I do understand that if I want to live where we are, we have to work, but it doesn't make it any easier when the day is as nice as it is.

After the rain we've had recently, the garden is looking good, unfortunately the grass is growing, so it will need cutting shortly - a job I do enjoy!

At work, I can see the Pennines from my window, and I am determined to do them in the next 12 months. I wonder if Bethen can make it with me, it would be great if she could. I must admit, the tops look very inviting today.

The usual stuff seems to be happening in the world, and I know I should care, but on a day like today, I just can't find the interest in me. I do know that there is a pub at the station when I get home, so a quick pint before going home seems a good idea. I'll get Christine to join me.

Apparantly it will rain tomorrow, so going to work won't seem so bad.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Braces on the Teeth, and I'm a Pro!

Christine and I decided to pay for a Pro account on Flickr which means that I can organise my photographs a lot better. I don't intend to pack lots of photos on there - only those I feel are worthy of sharing. The Flickr community does seem to be a lively one, and there are masses of interesting stuff.

Our politicians are about to start an 80 day holiday, including Tony Blair, Charles Clarke and other senior Ministers (alright for some!) leaving John Prescott in charge. At least we have a fighting man in the hot seat with a proven record in the field of conflict. God help the terrorists if he got his hands on them!

Bethen now has a set of braces for her teeth. I remember when I was a kid that the last thing I wanted were braces, but Bethen couldn't wait. These days they are a fashion statement. You're nobody unless you have braces. Hers have pink inlays!

Bethen also got her school uniform today for her next school. I must get a picture of her in it before it gets ruined.

Bethen and Jayne have gone across to the Wirral to stay with grandparents this week, and we'll be joining them on Saturday for Terry and Barbara's wedding anniversary. It is also Meg's wedding day in Texas so, of course, we will be raising a glass to them. Do hope the day goes well.

Another murder in the papers. This time someone on a bus asked a youth to stop messing around and throwing chips at people. The youth stabbed him a number of times and he died at the scene. For some people, life is cheap and not worthy of respect.

A Racist Murder

Over the weekend a particularly horrible murder took place in Liverpool. Anthony Walker, 18, was walking his girl-friend home when he was attacked and cowardly hit from behind in the head by an axe. Anthony is Black! Prior to the attack, he and his girl-friend had been the subject of racial abuse from some "adults" leaving a club. Obviously nothing is certain yet in this case, but the trend does seem clear.

Even in the 21st century, there are people who are frightened by those who appear different. Their view of themselves is challenged and they clearly feel they need to assert or regain their perceived position in life. And the only way to do this is to belittle others. Perhaps they generally believe they should be superior. However, what these people forget is that we were once all black!

My thoughts are with Anthony's family, and my hope is that they come through this with their dignity intact. What they must try not to do, though the temptation I'm sure will be great, is to descend to the level of those you find comfort in racist abuse and who may also have committed this terrible crime.