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.....