Monday, 2 May 2011

All over

So that's it then. After weeks, if not months, of build-up, including countless television programmes about various Royal weddings and some very corny films about the "Royal romance", last Friday William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton said their vows under the glare of worldwide publicity and married in Westminster Abbey.

The big advantage to this was that it gave this country an extra Bank Holiday, on a Friday before a Bank Holiday Monday. For me, because last weekend was Easter, and therefore a four day weekend, I would have only had to work three days, but because of time owing, I was able to take the whole week. So for the outlay of zero annual leave, I have had 12 days off! The downside is that I now have to go back to work tomorrow! At least it’s only a four day week.

So what of the wedding? Yet again, the UK has proved that when it comes to ceremonial occasions, then no-one does it better. William looked more nervous than anyone else, although I don't know why he chose to marry in his uniform of Colonel-in-Chief of the Irish Guards, rather than his everyday Royal Air Force one.

The bride looked lovely. I thought the dress was quite reminiscent of 1920s fashion, but I think that it definitely suited her. Her sister also looked fabulous and turned a few heads!

One of the heads that she appeared to have turned was the best man, Prince Harry's. Now the press are full of speculation. As for Harry, I don't know if his brother had insisted that he wear a uniform that looked like he'd borrowed it from someone else much bigger than him, or if he'd lost weight since he purchased it, but he definitely looked a mess next to William.

The good news is that the threatened rain never appeared, so the trip back to Buckingham Palace in the open top carriage didn't result in a soaking wet husband and wife. And despite the defence cuts, the rumours that the flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was actually all that's left of the Royal Air Force isn't true!

The other thing that was nice was the fact that the whole family were there, having picked up my youngest two on the Thursday. However, Maggie spent a lot of the time playing with m'Julie's new toy, a toy which will hopefully mean I get some peace and quiet!

m'Julie is on my mobile phone contract, and she was due for a phone upgrade at the end of last week. I knew which one she was likely to go for, as every time someone has been on TV with one, or even seeing someone in the street with one, I've been told "See, he/she has an iPhone!"

So last Thursday, off we went to the Orange shop and m'Julie told them what she wanted. The guy behind the counter then informed m'Julie that they had just had a delivery of the new white iPhone, which weren't due for release until the following day, but that they were willing to let her have one that day. How she managed to contain herself, I'm not sure. Although she stood there and calmly said that she would like to go for that phone, I knew that inside she was jumping up and down and whooping like a four year old!

So that was what Maggie was playing with, as well as complaining that her phone (an iPhone 3) isn't due an upgrade until next May.

However, whilst they were distracted by weddings and gadgets, I was indulging in my new "hobby", making cocktails. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I purchased a cocktail shaker, something I'd been promising myself for years, and just about every evening since I can be found with various spirits, occasional mixers and plenty of ice, shaking like a demon. In fact, I think I've drunk more spirits in the past two weeks than I have in the last two years! My efforts have been greatly aided by Alex's Cocktail Recipes.

I guess that I will have to have one this evening to celebrate today's news. That the world's leading terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, has finally been tracked down and killed. It is a pity that they were unable to capture him alive so that he could face proper justice, assuming the special forces team even tried.

There will be enough on the worldwide news bulletins without me going into all of the details, but there is one thing that I am curious about. It appears that Bin Laden was living in a compound that was a mere 200 metres away from the Pakistan Military Academy, was about eight times larger than every other compound locally, had higher walls, topped with barbed wire, than any other local compound and had no telephone or Internet access, and yet the Pakistani authorities were not curious about this and had "no idea" that he was living there. Really?

I saw a television interview this evening with the Pakistani ex-president, Pervez Musharraf, who was objecting to the fact that the American special forces team had flown into Pakistan, attacked the compound and killed Bin Laden, but had not informed the Pakistani authorities of intentions until after the whole thing was over. Is he really that surprised, given that Bin Laden appeared to be living unmolested in the lap of luxury in a Pakistani town, that the Americans chose not to share the information prior to the attack, and therefore risk their target being tipped off and disappearing.

There was also another interesting interview this afternoon. A Pakistani official was being interviewed and again repeated that they had no idea that Bin Laden was in this compound, and then in the next sentence stated that he'd only been there a few days. When the reporter asked him how he knew that Bin Laden had only been there a few days if he had no idea that Bin Laden was there he became very evasive.

I'm sure that there's far more to this whole episode than we will know for about one hundred years, not unless wikileaks restarts.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Double Standards

In recent weeks, there have been a lot of headlines regarding various things which, to my mind, display very obvious double standards.

The first example of this is the bankers. It may seem that I have an unnatural dislike of bankers, but my main dislike of these people is the arrogance that they so often display. Just a few years ago, these people almost destroyed the economy of this country. They were rescued by the Government stepping in and bailing them out with billions of pounds.

Yet there seems to be no acknowledgement on their part that they may have done anything wrong, and their insistence that they still receive bonuses seems to support this. However, the latest thing now is that there have been threats by certain banks that if the Government increases their tax liability further, they will relocate their headquarters abroad. So they are refusing to acknowledge any fault for their dire financial position and they want all the rewards that come to someone who is successful. And if they don't get their way, they are threatening to leave.

So what should the Government do? Should they submit to what is essentially a ransom demand? Personally, I would tell the bankers to go. But there would be conditions. The first of these would be that they would only be permitted to relocate abroad once they had paid back all of the money that they had received during the Government bailout. If they are unable, or unwilling, to make this repayment, they can either remain in this country and accept their liabilities, or they can continue relocation but face having assets to the value of what they owe seized and sold off to recoup the money. And if that leaves the bank unable to continue trading, tough. The bankers can go and claim the equivalent of dole in the country where they intended to relocate.

We've also seen double standards displayed by the Government of this country regarding Libya. What has been and is still happening in Libya is appalling. Gadaffi, desperate to cling onto the power that he seized in 1969, has had no hesitation in using the full force of his military to quell the uprising that has occurred this year.

In response to this, initially the United Nations and now NATO have launched an aerial attack on the heavy weapons of the incumbent regime, in an attempt to stop Gadaffi from attacking Libyan civilians. Britain has subscribed to this wholeheartedly, sending aircraft to enforce the no-fly zone and to attack the heavy weapons used by the pro-Gadaffi forces. And despite the initial claims that this was nothing to do with regime change, it can clearly be seen that this is exactly what the whole thing is about, with the various politicians insisting that there is no place for Gadaffi in a "new" Libya.

Yet, just under four thousand miles from where all this conflict is taking place in North Africa, for the last ten years there has been a very similar thing taking place in South Africa, including a Government that it is accepted has no legitimacy following "rigged" elections and that has no hesitation in using its armed forces against its civilian population to ensure that it remains in power.

Yet despite this continuing and despite there being lots of political hot air stating that this should not be allowed to continue, Robert Mugabe remains the President of Zimbabwe. Why? Well, as I've said before I'm sure that it has nothing to do with the fact that Libya is a wealthy oil-producing country and Zimbabwe is a dirt-poor mineral exporter.

So whilst this country appears to be taking the moral high ground in an effort to assist the oppressed population of Libya, it is only because there is a possibility of there being benefit to the politicians, a benefit that the oppressed people of Zimbabwe cannot give them.

The final area of double standards relates to the recent French law that bans anyone from concealing their face in a public place and seems to specifically relate to Muslim women who choose to wear a niqāb.

My personal opinion is, because in Britain we live in a democracy, people should be allowed to wear what they like as long as it causes no harm. If they want to walk down the street wearing a purple bin bag and a felt top hat, they have the right to do so. The same with regards to a burka or a niqāb.

Whilst there are some security issues regarding the use of burkas, specifically the case of the 21st July 2005 bomber Yasin Omar, who attempted to evade arrest by fleeing London disguised in one of his mother-in-law's burkas, the majority of women who wear these items do so because they wish to, not to conceal evidence of wrongdoing.

However, since the ban in France, there has been an outcry by certain groups objecting to the fact that Muslim women are being dictated to about what they can and cannot wear in public. And many of these objections are originating from middle-eastern countries that will arrest and jail women for wearing what they consider to be indecent clothing. Yet you hear no objections from the west when this happens, because it is the law of those particular countries and is respected as such, just as the no-face coverings law in France is the law of that country and should be respected.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

A Day Off!

It’s been over a month since I last wrote, and a very busy month it has been, as I've worked all but one weekend since last writing, either directing resuscitation courses or away with the TA. Unfortunately, I had to complete both of the courses that I was to direct in the same month, as if I hadn't directed the paediatric course this month, I would have had to wait until next year, because the next paediatric course that we're running is in November. Because this course is running over the weekend of Remembrance, I will have other commitments and won't be able to participate.

These courses are long days, starting at 8am and finishing at 6pm, and intense for both the faculty and the candidates. And you are unaware of what is happening outside the confines of the course, which is why it was not until after the faculty meal last Saturday and when I returned to my hotel room that I found out that, yet again, a peaceful protest in this country had been hijacked by rent-a-mob.

Last weekend, there was a protest march organised in London to protest against the Government cuts that are being implemented in an effort to reduce the deficit. The march made its way through London and was addressed by Ed Milliband, the Labour Party leader.

Unfortunately for all concerned, and like every other protest in this country in recent years, the cuts protest has hit the headlines not because of the peaceful nature of what occurred, but because a few hundred thugs used the excuse of this march to attack buildings on the route, and then the Police Officers who attempted to stop them.

And this is the curse that we now face. As a democracy, we must allow people to protest peacefully, but every time that this is allowed, the scum element will hijack it for their own purposes and cause untold damage. And then to top it all off, those thugs that are arrested and put before the courts will, nine times out of ten, walk away scot free because our legal system is so lenient.

But at least we don't deal with protesters in the way that the Libyans have. Unfortunately, their actions have now resulted in the armed forces of this country becoming embroiled in the whole thing, enforcing a "no-fly" zone and participating in strategic bombing.

From a purely practical point of view, each of the bombs that are dropped by an aircraft of the Royal Air Force will add to the debt deficit that we have already discussed. From a military point of view, it is known that it is impossible to win a conflict by air power alone, and it has been seen that despite the nightly bombing raids, the Libyan ground forces have continued to attack. Are we going to have to deploy ground troops as part of a NATO force? And if so, with all the cuts taking place to the British armed forces, where are we going to get these troops from?

Maybe it won't come to that, as Colonel Gadaffi's allies and colleagues appear to be deserting him at a rate of knots. Mousa Kousa (whose name suggests that he should be a character in Team America) arrived in the UK this week, having resigned his position as Libyan Foreign Minister because he was unhappy with the regime's attacks on civilians.

It's interesting that this is the same man who, in the 1980's, could see no problem with telling a British newspaper that his Government intended to eliminate two political opponents who were living in the UK. This led to his expulsion from this country. And now he's back, apparently claiming asylum. But with his history, should we grant this, or should we put him before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, to answer for his crimes. He is also thought to have been heavily involved with the Lockerbie bombing and is wanted for interview by the Scottish police.

It is also rumoured that there have been various other Libyan officials visiting London in an effort to negotiate a peace, and the debate is now whether Gadaffi should be allowed to disappear off into exile, or whether he should face the consequences of his actions. I would imagine that if he is eventually removed from power and no longer control the oil, then it will be the latter. And I'm sure that if the British Government has been instrumental in removing this dictator, they will be in a better position to negotiate a good deal for oil with the new regime.

Whilst on the subject of consequences, it may be time for previously convicted jailed terrorists to face the consequences of their actions. I am, of course, referring to the recent murder of a Police Officer in Northern Ireland.

Thirteen years ago, the British Government signed the Good Friday Agreement. Part of this agreement was that prisoners currently serving sentences for terrorist activities would be released early if the organisation to which they belonged abandoned armed conflict.

Initially, this seemed to be working, but there have increasingly been breaches with the extremist elements continuing the "armed struggle". The latest example of this is the murder yesterday of the 25 year old Police Officer, killed by a car bomb in Omagh.

What this shows is that despite their reassurances told renounce violence, many of these terrorists are continuing to kill and maim. Many of these terrorists will have the support of their families and the communities in which they live, which makes their detection and apprehension much more difficult for the Police. So perhaps the solution is to round up all those who have been released early and place them back in prison to complete their sentences. Perhaps the impact of this would encourage their families to be less supportive and actually put a stop to this criminal behaviour.

I don't think that anyone wants a return to the days of soldiers having to patrol the streets, people checking underneath their cars and people living in fear of indiscriminate death from a terrorist bomb. I lived in Northern Ireland for a couple of years as a child at the start of "The Troubles" in 1969, my father serving out there at the time. I had hoped that my son wouldn't have to do so.

Unfortunately, Alec has been backtermed as a result of the injury to his ankle and is currently spending his days either receiving intensive physiotherapy and remedial PT or studying for the War Studies course that he will complete when he joins the next intake.

However, the good news is that he recently visited Cranwell, where he was tested for his flying aptitude, which he passed. Now he just has to undertake his flight grading, which he had hoped to complete during his leave in this month, but he will be unable to do so because of his injury.

If he gets through the flight grading, then he will be able to commission into the Army Air Corps, and then begin the process of learning to fly helicopters.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Oh! What a surprise!

In the UK, and no doubt throughout the world, the newspapers have been full of stories about the political upheaval that's been taking place in the North African countries as well as other Arabic countries.

Much of this is a result of the people of these countries demanding changes to the way in which they're governed and the demand for more democracy. These protests have largely achieved changes for the better, but then there's Libya. The Libyan response, or more correctly Colonel Gadaffi's response, to these protests has been extreme violence, with the Libyan military opening fire on the crowds of protesters and killing more than 200. This seems to have caused shock and disgust worldwide. But why? I think that I would have been more surprised to hear that Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, the "terminally ill" Lockerbie bomber had actually died. It is also now being claimed that the Lockerbie atrocity was directly ordered by Gaddaffi.

The world, and more importantly the British Government, seems to have conveniently forgotten that this man came to power as the result of a coup d'etat, albeit relatively bloodless, and for many years was considered a terrorist by most Western countries. This latter opinion was not helped by his actively supporting paramilitary and terrorist organisations around the world, including the IRA. In fact, Gaddafi's foreign escapades resulted in the murder of a British Policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, who was murdered by a Libyan "Diplomat" when he opened fire on a crowd of protesters outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984, the result of which led to a breakdown in diplomatic relations between Britain and Libya, although the perpetrators were granted diplomatic immunity and walked away scot free, and the Berlin Disco bombing, which resulted in the US military bombing targets in Libya in 1986.

And yet knowing the type of man that he was, the world has rehabilitated him back into civilised society from 2008 onwards. And why? I'm sure it’s got nothing to do with the oil, after all I'm sure that if Zimbabwe had oil, they would have been treated in exactly the same way that they have been. Or perhaps not.

There has also been a great fuss about the evacuation of the many expatriate Britons working for the oil companies in Libya. The Government has been criticised for its inaction and the delay in getting these people out. But hold on! They're expatriates, who are paying no tax to this country and no doubt earning plenty of money. In fact, enough that I'm sure that they or the company for whom they are working must to be able to make their own arrangements for evacuation. I bet that if the Government was to ask for a contribution to their travel during these cash strapped times; there would be a huge outcry. No doubt, the European Court of Human Rights would love to get the grubby little mitts on a case like this.

Which brings me onto the next thing that's gripped my shit in recent weeks (I really think that I'm turning into a grumpy old man!) The European Court of Human Rights has also been in the news in the UK recently following the rulings that we are breaching the rights of prisoners by not allowing them to vote and also breaching the rights of sex offenders by keeping them registered.

Surely, if a person commits an offence and finds themselves incarcerated, have they not removed their right to be an active member of civilised society? By all means, once they've served their sentence and returned to society, then they can continue as other normal people do (caveat to this coming up) by taking an active part in the society to which they now belong. And the law of this country states that if a person commits an offence of a violent or sexual nature, then they must be put on the Violent and Sexual Offences Register.

This was decided by the British Courts in the Sovereign State of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. What right some European judge has to dictate the laws of this country beats me. Probably the same amount of right that I have to go to Strasbourg and tell these "judges" to find themselves a proper and useful job.

But we're told that if we don't comply with these dictats, then the British Government could be fined by this Mickey Mouse court. Personally, I think that the Government should have the balls to tell these jokers to get stuffed. After all, if we act now, they won't try telling us that we are breaching a person's human rights by punishing them for committing a crime, as I wouldn't be surprised if that were a ruling that surfaces in the future.

However, that would be the sensible course of action to take, but since when have the British Government followed that course. They are, after all, and despite the fact that this country is in financial dire straits and financially punishing the ordinary people of this country with tax rises and other penalties, continuing to pay billions of pounds in aid to foreign countries. The ridiculous thing about this is that two of these countries are Russia and India.

Now surely, countries that are not only producing their own nuclear arsenals but also still sending craft into space do not need to have their economies boosted by the UK. Also, many of the countries receiving aid are former colonies. But the important word here is former. Surely, once they have gained independence, it should be just that, independence, financially as well as politically. If they wish to export goods to the UK and get paid for that, fine. But otherwise, sort out their finances themselves. If they mismanage their finances, that's up to them, and up to them to deal with the consequences of this mismanagement. Then perhaps we can see the taxes returned to a more acceptable level. Rant over!

Today is also seven weeks since my eldest started at Sandhurst, and it is Old College Sunday, which is similar to an open day, during which the cadets demonstrate some of what they have learnt during the time since they have started their course and also stands to show other elements. Unfortunately, Alec was unable to demonstrate his marching ability, as he badly sprained his ankle during one of the exercises and is on crutches, as can just be seen in the photo of m'Julie, Alec and me.

The worst of it is that there is a possibility that the injury may be severe enough for him to not be able to carry on with the course at the moment, but may have to be "back-termed", joining the next course at the stage that he's at now. Obviously, this has not made him feel good, as it will mean that rather than passing out in December, he won't pass out until May of next year. However, there would be some advantages to this as he would be passing out at the start of a new training year, which means that there would be more opportunities to join the regiment of his choice, there being more places available at the end of a training year, rather than at the beginning. But the biggest disadvantage as far as Alec is concerned, will be that he will not pass out with the friends that he has made so far. But all this is speculation until he is seen by the physiotherapist tomorrow, so hopefully, for his sake, he will be allowed to continue.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

What a Change!

Five weeks ago I drove my eldest son to Sandhurst to begin his Commissioning course and this last weekend was his first weekend home since then.

It seems that he has had an eventful time. He survived the exercise, which is more than can be said for one of his colleagues who ended up in the hospital where I work, but then he spent last week in the MRS in Sandhurst with a kidney infection. Unfortunately, it meant that he didn't "pass off the square", which is the drill test that all the Cadets have to undertake.

Despite Alec's best efforts, he was unable to convince the Medical Officer, who coincidentally I had served with in Iraq, to release him in time, so he will have to do the "pass off" in a couple of weeks.

So he arrived home on Thursday evening, changed and took me to the pub for his first alcohol since before he went. Then he spent the weekend spending the money that he'd been earning on essentials to take back with him and catching up on the sleep that he'd been missing out on.

Everyone here noticed the difference in him in just the short time that he'd been away. He was even vaguely tidy! It’s just a pity that his brother and sister couldn't have spent a bit more time with him than they did, although they were actually permitted to come with me when I drove him back to Sandhurst on Sunday. Maggie was particularly keen to see the place as she intends to study medicine and then join the Army herself, so will probably be there in a few years.

Now he's about to embark on a 36-hour patrolling exercise somewhere Wales, so I hope that he straps his feet well. We'll find out when we visit him in two weeks.

Meanwhile, while he has been enduring all this, in the real world, one group of blood-sucking leeches has given in to another, or to put it another way, the Government has rolled over about the banker's bonuses.

So here we are, less than three years after the British Government spent billions to bail out several banks and still the profits that they are making are used not to pay back the money that they owe but to pay undeserving people vast sums for a "job well done"!

I know that there was the argument that if the Government stopped the bonuses from being paid then the bankers would leave. However, I don't see the problem. If these morons had done their job correctly in the first place, then the banks that they work for would never have been in the dire straits that they found themselves and needing to be bailed out. In other words, why pay money to appease people whose fault it is that they are in a mess in the first place.

In fact, the banks that were bailed out should pay no bonuses until such time as all the money that was given to them during the bailout has been repaid, with interest. And if the bankers leave? Replace them with competent people! Personally, I think that they should have been sacked in the first place anyway.

But then, what do I know?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A Bit of Culture

I think that living in the UK, and particularly living so close to London, we are very spoiled, as we have access to some the finest culture in the world, be it literature, theatre, music, art or museums.

I no idea how many museums there are in London, but sometimes it seems that every time you turn a corner, there's a signpost for another one. And the beauty of so many of these establishments is that they are free to enter.

And so it was that on Sunday, m'Julie and I headed off by train to the Capital and made or way to the British Museum, which is in the Bloomsbury part of London.
Even though I lived in London for so many years and have lived so close to London for about the same length of time, it was the first time that I'd been to this museum since I was taken there by my mother when I was about 10 or 11 during which time there had been a lot of changes.

Our reason for going was actually down to m'Julie, as she has a real interest in ancient Egypt, and there was a special exhibition on the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead.
The Book of the Dead is not as morbid as it sounds. The Ancient Egyptians believed that once a person had died and was buried, then their spirit, or ba, was free to come and go during the day, returning to the body at the end of the day. However, to achieve this, the ba had to go through various trials, and to prepare it for these, the ba was supplied with prayers and "spells" to enable it to do so.

The exhibition was designed as a journey from preparation for the afterlife, through burial, judgement and the preparation of the book. Sadly, and much to m'Julie's chagrin, there was no photography allowed in the exhibition itself, but trust me, it was fabulous. It was sometimes difficult to believe that I was within inches of a papyrus that had been written 4,000 years ago, the same age and a lot more fragile than, Stonehenge.

It is also a shame that we did not have more time, because once we had been through the exhibition, there is so much more to be seen at the museum. At least we now have no excuse not to return and see the rest of the museum, although I suspect that it will take several trips.

I also heard from Alec on Monday. He's on exercise for the remainder of the week just fifteen miles from home. Apparently, having got up at 0500, he was travelling via Tunbridge Wells to get there. I did offer to stand at the side of the road and wave as he went past, but for some reason, he declined the offer.....

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Literary Ability

I'm not sure who it was that said it, but someone did once say that everyone has at least one good book in them. The problem that I see with this is the definition of good. Some people would rave about Mills and Boon, whereas I would rather gouge out my eyes with a blunt rusty nail than subject them to one word of what I consider to be dross.

I am very envious of my friend Neil, the author of Speedbumps, as he is endeavouring to write a book about his time at school. I believe he has the self-discipline to achieve this goal, even if it does take ten years to complete.

I, on the other hand, seem to lack this sort of self-motivation, as evidenced by my year of CBA when it came to writing this, although there are occasions when I think that certain events would make a good book or could be included in a story. It’s just finding the time on top of everything else to sit down and do it.

However, I did make the time last weekend to write one important thing, a letter to Alec. I have heard from him a couple of times, and it was no surprise that he was somewhat tired. At the moment, he seems to be averaging 3-4 hours’ sleep a night, although that will improve as he gets further into the course.

I was not the only one to write, though, as his sister has also written and I know that he received that letter, because he told her when he telephoned her on her birthday on Thursday.

That's something that I find difficult to believe. It’s bad enough that my eldest child will be 20 this year, but my youngest is now a teenager. I can't help but wonder what has happened to the last thirteen years, and marvel at how quickly they have passed, taking my daughter from the baby floating in the birthing pool to the confident, independent-minded young lady that I now see.

For her birthday, I finally succumbed to her constant pleading and allowed her to have her ears pierced. The look on her face when the earring was fired through her ears made me wish that I'd got my camera with me.

It’s quite a busy time for birthdays, with Maggie's on Thursday, mine today and m'Julie's in two weeks. Again, it’s looking back at the speed with which time is passing, as it doesn't seem like 31 years since I was celebrating the birthday that she celebrated on Thursday, and it is incredible to remember all that has happened in that time.

One fairly significant event from my life was brought to the fore again this week with the resumption of the Iraq Inquiry, and Tony Blair (or B Liar as he's referred to on the Army Rumour Service) returning to answer further questions, although from what I can see, although he spoke a lot, he didn't actually say very much. Perhaps if the private correspondence between him and Bush had been released, then more light would have been shed on the whole business.

My take on the whole subject, as someone who found himself in Iraq in late-2003, is like so many others who were out there. Did the regime need to be replaced. Yes. Were the majority of the Iraqi people happy to see an end to the way in which their country was being run? Again, yes. Did the Iraqi regime have access to the claimed weapons of Mass destruction, and did Blair and Bush really believe that these weapons really existed. To both questions, I think that the answer has to be no. And, most importantly, had he and Bush and their advisors come up with a post-conflict plan to ensure that there would be stability in the region. No, of course they didn't, which is largely why Iraq degenerated into the mess it became.

So why did the British Prime Minister support US plans to invade. I guess that we'll never know, but I truly believe that he was not acting in the best interests of the country when he made the decision to do so. I suspect he was more concerned about his future career prospects, making sure that he had friends in high places. As for him finally expressing his regrets for the loss of life that resulted from his decisions eight years ago, I have to agree with the person in the public gallery who shouted "Too late!" I think it’s a pity that he seems to be walking away from this scot free.

However, at least not all corrupt politicians are getting away with things, all be it on a much smaller scale than Tony, as two weeks ago David Chaytor, the first of the MPs convicted as a result of the expenses scandal in 2009, was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for fraudulently claiming £20,000. Again, it’s a pity that with the current policy on sentencing etc, this crook will probably be out of prison and cashing in on his criminal activity in the form of books and lecture tours in about six months.

Eric Illsley, another of these criminals has also finally resigned having been convicted, although he is still awaiting sentencing. Let’s just hope that all of these thieves end up serving custodial sentences, and not just getting slaps on the wrist.

So now I'm about to have my "birthday tea", and m'Julie's even making me a cake (she sold her first cake just before Christmas and is open for orders). Not helping with my efforts to lose weight so that I fit in my mess kit for the dinner in two weeks, but, not being Royalty, I only have one birthday a year, so I'm going to enjoy it.

It’s just a pity that No.1 Son is the only one not here to enjoy the food, although he has telephoned. He's still knackered, still being worked hard, and still enjoying it. And if he's reading this, no, there probably won't be any cake left over when he comes home in three weeks.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A New Beginning

Not for me, but for No. 1 Son. It’s odd, but he passed his Army Officer Selection Board nearly three years ago, and at the time it seemed that his going to Sandhurst was such a long time away, and now he's there!

He decided that he was going to have his last night out last Friday in Tunbridge Wells and invited lots of friends and all the family for a curry night and then he and the friends were going off clubbing. However, from the start, things did not go completely according to plan.

He had decided that he was having the night out some time ago, but the first spanner in the works was his mother, who had decided that as I was going to be there, she was not. I did find this a little selfish on her part in that she was unwilling to put her animosity to one side for the sake of her son, but ultimately that's her loss.

And, because he'd chosen an Indian restaurant to have the meal in, he inadvertently excluded m'Julie, as she doesn't do spicy food because it does not have a good effect on her.

I was also not at my best, having gone down with my third "bug" in almost as many weeks. A week before Christmas, I'd had a chest infection, and then, having recovered from that, I went down with a cold on Christmas Day, and then last Thursday had another cold, with gastrointestinal "extras". m'Julie was convinced that I had swine flu and did a runner to her mother's.

So it was in a somewhat subdued state that I picked up No. 2 Son and my Daughter and drove to the restaurant, where I ate not very much and left early with the kids.

No. 2 Son didn't ,mind too much as it gave him the opportunity to get home here and sort out which are his PS3 games to take home to his mother's now that he has his own PS3, bought from a friend last week.

The plan on Saturday was to collect No. 1 Son, make sure that he was all sorted and then make sure that he had an early night before the trip on Sunday. However, because he was a. Hungover and b. A bit disorganised, he was ready to move out until nearly 8pm! So much for the early night.

We got up quite late and at lunchtime, after Alec had said his goodbyes to the rest of the family, father and son set of for the uneventful journey to Surrey.
We made good time and so stopped off at the Camberley Tesco’s for a coffee and lunch. Alec successfully blended in with all the other smartly dressed young men and women looking very nervous.

After this very quick lunch we made the short trip to the Academy and joined the queue of traffic that was making its way to the parade square to park, Alec managing to get a couple of pictures of New College through the trees as we slowly drove.

Once we arrived, things happened very rapidly. I went off to have coffee whilst Alec was off filling in paperwork, then the families were taken to the chapel to be addressed by the Commandant and Old College Commander. Then it was back to the car to help Alec get all his kit into his room, prior to a quick goodbye and my heading home.

We'd been told during the talk that all of the new Officer Cadets would be kept busy and would be getting used to eighteen hour days during the next few weeks, and we could see that in the little time that we had to say goodbye.

So that's it now for five weeks, which is how long it is until he gets a weekend off. And clearly the long days have started as I was woken up by a text message at nearly 1am this morning telling me that he was just going to bed after a very long day that had probably started 20 hours previously.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Still alive!

Despite the fact that it has been more than a year since my last post, it’s nothing to do with my demise, untimely or otherwise. It is purely that, to quote my No.2 Son, I CBA. It just got to the stage where I couldn't bring myself to sit down and ramble, although the family will be able to vouch for the fact that I continued to do so at home.

It’s also not because nothing happened during 2010, because I did have quite a busy year. My real job kept me busy and even got me a trip to Portugal for the ERC Congress. I'd never been to Portugal before, in fact, I'd never been to the Iberian Peninsula before, and it was even better because it was all paid for by my department

However, we were lucky to get there, as we flew at the time that the UK was again grinding to a halt because of snow. The whole of the east of the UK was in chaos, including the M25 seeming to have been turned into a car park for lorries, but we flew from Heathrow, which was clear.

We were also lucky to get back, as the day that we were flying back was the same day that the Spanish air traffic controllers decided to go on strike. Fortunately, because we flew with TAP, we were able to get back, because unlike airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair, TAP didn't cancel all of their flights at the mention of a strike.

The city of Porto was very nice, from what I saw of it, as the Congress did interfere a little with the sight-seeing. However, courtesy of one of the medical companies, we did get to have a nice meal at, and a tour of, the Taylor's Port Lodge. Now, as I do like my port........... It’s definitely somewhere that I would revisit, hopefully next time with m'Julie.

The TA part of my life has also kept me quite busy, and in July I spent a week in Holland as part of the British Military Contingent providing support during the Nijmegen Marches, or Vierdaagse in Dutch. It was an interesting but tiring week, although we weren't as tired as those that were actually marching. Some of the blisters were horrendous, and I saw my first ever case of trench foot from a man who'd not looked after his feet properly.

And in September, although not as cosmopolitan, the camp was on the Isle of Wight, reached via landing craft, which was an interesting experience.

So now Christmas and New Year is over for another year and 2011 has the potential to be as busy as last year. The first of these is No.1 Son's "Last Meal" this Friday before I drive him to Sandhurst on Sunday to begin his Commissioning Course.

Watch this space!