Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms

Almost exactly two hundred and twenty-one years ago, on 15 December 1791, the United States Bill of Rights was adopted. Part of that Bill of Rights is the Second Amendment, which enshrines in law the right of US citizens to keep and bear arms.

So how did all this come about? It originates from the English Bill of Rights, an Act of Parliament that coincidentally was passed almost exactly one Hundred and two years earlier on 16 December 1689.

Prior to the adoption of the US Bill of Rights, many of the early settlers armed themselves for protection from the often hostile natives, but also armed themselves as they were expected to be part of the militia that would defend their territory in times of conflict. And it was predominantly because of the need for men to serve in militias, the most famous being the Minutemen, that these citizens were armed.

There was a lot of fear that the British, at that time probably the most powerful nation in the world, would not take the defeat during the American Revolutionary War lying down and may return to reclaim the territory that they believed was rightfully theirs. So it was important that the ordinary citizen had access to arms in order to defend their nation. As a result of this, along with a few other things such as ensuring democracy and self-defence, the Second Amendment came into being.

Fast forward two and a quarter centuries. The United States is probably the most powerful nation in the world. It is (allegedly) the most democratic. The last time that mainland American territories were invaded were during the Mexican-American War, 150+ years ago, and the American armed forces are among the largest in the world. Apart from the odd, and I do mean odd, self-declared militia living in the wilds and convinced that the world is approaching its end, there are no "official" militias within the United States.

Yet I can go to a supermarket in America and purchase an assault rifle, or I can purchase an easily concealed handgun, and I can own both of these legally. The question I have, though, is why do I need them? The answer seems to be that I need them for self-defence. Self-defence against the millions of other Americans who have also purchased their assault rifle or handgun alongside their monthly food shop, because the Second Amendment of the US Bill of Rights gives them the right to do so.

In this country, if I want to purchase a gun, legally, there is a long and protracted process before I can get my hands on that weapon. And even then I can't own a pistol or an assault rifle. Why? Because we have learnt from our mistakes and taken steps to remedy them.

In 1987, a man named Michael Ryan went on the rampage in the town of Hungerford in Berkshire. Armed with various legally owned semi-automatic pistols and rifles he killed sixteen people, including his mother, and wounded fifteen others before shooting himself. This became known as the Hungerford Massacre. Following this, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 was passed which banned ownership of certain semi-automatic rifles and restricted shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than three rounds.

Almost ten years later, a man named Thomas Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary School in Dunblane, Scotland, armed with four hand guns. Once there, he proceeded to shoot and kill sixteen 5 and 6 year-old children and one adult prior to killing himself. Following this, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 and the Firearms (Amendment) (No.2) Act 1997 have effectively banned the private ownership of handguns. This was known as the Dunblane School Massacre, and one of the children who was at the school at the time of the shootings and hiding under a desk, Andy Murray, later found fame as a tennis player.

Since then, there has only been one occasion when someone has gone on the rampage in this country, in 2010, when a man named Derrick Bird, armed with a legally owned shotgun and a bolt-action rifle killed twelve people before killing himself in Cumbria.

Three mass killings with firearms, 45 people, not including the perpetrators dead in quarter of a century. Compare that with the numbers of massacres that have taken place in the US.

Since 1987 there have been 45 similar incidents in the US and 456 deaths as a result, the most recent being just four days ago, 14 December 2012, the day before the 221st Anniversary of the Adoption of the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment.

That is fifteen times the number of incidents and ten times the number of casualties in a country that is five times the size, but that has very limited gun control laws.

I have access to firearms in my military capacity. In fact, I will be on the range again early next year. As a child, I lived with a firearm in the house, when my father was serving in Northern Ireland. But I have no desire, nor do I feel that I should have the right to "keep and bear arms" in the way that the Americans do. The main reason is that there will be people like Michael Ryan, Thomas Hamilton, Derrick Bird and Adam Lanza who, in a moment of madness, will kill innocent men, women and children, something that it is unlikely that they would have done had they not had the weapons to hand when the madness came over them.

I was listening to a podcast this morning from the Radio 4 Today programme. The man that was being interviewed, Richard Feldman, the President of the Independent Firearm Owners Association,  stated that even if there were tighter gun control laws in the United States, people would still get hold of the weapons. As an illustration he pointed out that the guns that Adam Lanza used to kill the twenty children and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School belonged to Nancy Lanza, his mother, and that he had stolen them after he had killed her. He seemed to have completely missed the point that if the gun laws in America were not so lax, Mrs Lanza would not have owned the 5.56mm Bushmaster M4 Type carbine, 10mm Glock handgun or the 9mm SIG Sauer handgun used to kill her son's victims, herself included.

Friday, 30 November 2012

It's November!

OK, so I accept that today is the last day of November, and that tomorrow is December, but at the moment it is still November.

So why is this important? Well, it’s important because Christmas is still 25 days, nearly 4 weeks, away. But that doesn't seem to have bothered the shops or the radio stations, which have been playing Christmas music for weeks!

Two weeks ago there was a formal dinner at my Squadron, and I was in during the day. At one point I went into the kitchen to see how the Chefs were getting on and they had a radio on. Sadly, the radio station was playing Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody. It was the 17th November, nearly six weeks early. But I also know that many of the shopping centres and shops have been playing Christmas music earlier than this, some since October!

At the risk of sounding like a "back in my day" type, I'm sure that when I was a kid, Christmas advertising and music didn't make an appearance until the beginning to middle of December. The pattern was that Christmas advertising and music was around for about two weeks before Christmas day and then everyone would see how long it was before they spotted their first holiday advert (I think they usually appeared just after the Queen's speech or during the commercials that interrupted the big Christmas day film).

Nowadays, as people book their holidays at the last minute and usually via the Internet, holiday adverts seem to have disappeared and the adverts from Christmas day onwards seem to be for Easter eggs!

So how long will it be before Christmas, Easter and every other holiday is advertised year-round. As it is, people are becoming over-exposed to all the "holidays" and I just think that there will be nothing special about them at all.

I am also sure that when I was a kid, nowhere was open (except newsagents) on the various holidays (Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year's Day, Bank Holidays etc), but now there's been a complete turnaround and it appears that nowhere is closed on these days, in fact they have just become another working day, business and commerce taking priority over family.

Perhaps we should just abolish all of these various high days and holidays. It would be far cheaper!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Lest We Forgot

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Laurence Binyon (1914)
In Memory Of

Private Joseph Watt
S/4206, 1st Bn., Seaforth Highlanders who died on 10 April 1916
Aged 21
Remembered with honour on Panel 37 and 64
Basra Memorial, Iraq
Serjeant Thomas McIvor
S/8909, 9th Bn., Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) who died on 29 April 1916
Aged 30
Remembered with honour on Panel 78 to 83
Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Thursday, 1 November 2012


I know that I hadn't really lived in this country until I was eight, but I'm also sure that the whole Halloween thing was nowhere near as popular as it now seems to be.

I knew that Halloween was celebrated as I was a big fan of the Peanuts books by Charles M. Schulz.  Charlie Brown  would set up a pumpkin patch every Halloween in the hope that he would be visited by the Great Pumpkin, but was disappointed every year.

However, to me it was something that Americans celebrated, dressing up every year and "trick or treating". I'm sure it never happened in this country, but now it seems that every year there are more and more children, young and old, roaming the streets and demanding sweets and more.

There was a programme on the radio yesterday where they were discussing the rise of "trick or treating", and how it had moved further than just young kids going from door to door and collecting sweets. Apparently, in some areas, there are groups of teenagers who will go door to door, but who aren't happy with just sweets, they demand money. And if they don't get money, they will often play quite malicious tricks on the person in the house.

I have to say that, adopting a cynical approach, I believe that much of the recent increase in the popularity of Halloween is nothing more than a marketing ploy by the various greeting card manufacturers, the same people who are pushing for things like "grandparent's day" and "nurses day" to be celebrated, with the appropriate greeting card, purchased from them, of course.

When I was a child, there was much more emphasis in "Bonfire Night". This commemorated the fact that in 1605 a man called Guido Fawkes was arrested in the early hours of  November 5th in the cellars under the Houses of Parliament with a large amount of gunpowder.

Fawkes, and seven other catholic conspirators had hatched the Gunpowder Plot, as it came to be known, to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament, killing the protestant King James I with the intention that he be replaced by his nine-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, as a catholic monarch. Almost all of the conspirators were tried and found guilty of treason and sentenced to death by being hanged, drawn and quartered.

Since then, on or near the 5th November every year, all over the UK there are firework displays and bonfires, either private or elaborately organised, the latter often having been planned all year by various Bonfire Societies.

For most people, the sectarian significance of bonfire night has long been forgotten. But it is still a problem in areas where there are sectarian tensions, such as Northern Ireland, the catholic community putting more emphasis on Halloween, the protestant community concentrating on Bonfire Night. In fact, it is possible that the American "tradition" of celebrating Halloween may have been an import with the Irish immigrants during the 19th Century.

None of my children went trick or treating when they were younger, but they did go to various organised firework displays, and will be this year, attending the Squadron fireworks on Saturday.

Changing tack completely, myself and m'Julie went to the cinema this evening and saw Skyfall, the latest James Bond film. Both of us thought that it was very good and enjoyed the film a lot. I think that the way that the Bond films are going is back to the way that the original films had been made, which I think is a good thing. There was even an appearance by my all-time favourite car, the Aston Martin DB5, so I think that it was worth it just for that!

Saturday, 27 October 2012


Although it’s been a couple of months since I last wrote anything, it’s not through lack of motivation, but more through lack of time and the inability to stay awake long enough to not only write something, but to do so in a manner that can be read.

Even now, I'm concerned that I may revert to gibberish as, since 23rd September, I've had just one day where I haven't worked. Clearly bad planning on my part, but necessary, and a combination of both civilian and military work.

The military side of it was that I have been lucky enough to attend the Intermediate Command and Staff Course at the Joint Services Command and Staff College in Shrivenham. I felt very privileged to have been able to attend, particularly with the history. However, having said that, the premises at Shrivenham are relatively new, as the original Army Staff College was located in Camberley, Surrey, in the grounds of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Having completed this course now means that I will have an added edge when applying for Staff Officer posts.

The course was hard word, lectures every day from 0830 - 1730, and homework most evenings, but the social aspect was also very enjoyable, there being a formal course dinner night, syndicate nights out and beer at only £1.10 a pint!

As I said, though, I had had to do my civilian job for the five days prior to attending the fourteen day course (no days off), I then had to attend the Squadron the day after I got back, having a day off on the Sunday, prior to working two full weeks with a European Paediatric Life Support course that I was teaching on during last weekend. It was therefore quite a relief to be making my way home yesterday knowing that I had a whole two days off!

And then next week I have a shortened week as its half term and my daughter is staying. Pity, though, that No.1 son won't be staying for a while as he has now started his history degree at The University of Hull. He was a busy boy before he left, though, not only passing his driving test, but also buying himself a car. It's very strange seeing one of your children driving, believe me!

Also, just before I went on the Staff course I received notification that I had been awarded the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal, which meant that I had to rush about getting a miniature and having it mounted prior to the dinner night. As for the full-size one, it was being engraved prior to dispatch and still hasn't arrived from the Medal Office, so although I will have the ribbon on my service dress in time for Remembrance, it is unlikely that I will have the medal.

This will be my last Remembrance with the Squadron. In the eleven years that I have been with them, I have only missed two, in 2003 when I was making my way to Preston to deploy to Iraq with 5 Medical Regiment and in 2008, when I had been ill and attended the Remembrance parade at my old school. Next year, I plan to be back at my old school again.

One of the strange things about being away on these courses and living in the insulated environment of a military unit is that you are often not completely aware of what is happening "outside the wire". Although there were newspapers available every day, I found that I only really had time to flick through them, and although there was access to television, I didn't actually watch any. My connection to the outside world was Radio 4 via my clock radio. So, although I was aware of the whole Jimmy Savile thing, I wasn't fully aware of just how serious it was, or just how far it had spread!

I was a child of the 70's, and I can remember watching Jim'll Fix It on a Saturday evening, which was when I first became aware of this person. The concept of the show was that children wrote in and asked him to arrange for them to meet a celebrity or do something daft. I never wrote in, but m'Julie apparently wrote in loads, although she was never chosen (perhaps a lucky escape!) Although I always thought that he was a bit odd, the revelations that have been made about him are a shock.

However, what is a bigger shock to me is that, now that about 300 people have come forward claiming to have been abused by Jimmy Savile, there seem to be numerous people also coming forward who either worked with or knew him claiming that they knew what was going on. The question that I have is "Why did they allow it to continue if they knew?" I was particularly shocked by the "revelations" that the nurses at Stoke Mandeville Hospital knew what he was up to, apparently telling the patients to "pretend to be asleep" when he was around. Yet they didn't report it, therefore breaching the NMC (or UKCC as it then was) Code of Professional conduct.

Sadly, we will probably never get to the bottom of the whole thing and will also probably never know the whole truth as Savile died last year. There have been various "co-conspirators" named by several of Savile's alleged victims, but not surprisingly, they have denied everything.

Earlier this week, there was an article in one of the newspapers which suggested that much of what was happening here was linked to a paedophile ring that was being run by civil servants at the very heart of the British Government, in Downing street itself. So with that in mind, I wonder how long it will be before this whole issue disappears from public consciousness, replaced by some even juicier scandal?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

What a show!

On Wednesday 6th July 2005, in Singapore, the International Olympic Committee announced that the winning bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics was London. Sadly, the celebrations were cut short the very next day when three British Muslims detonated bombs on underground trains and one detonated a bomb on a bus in the very city that had just been told that it was to host the games. Fifty-two innocent people were killed and more than 700 were injured.

So it was in the aftermath of this that preparations began to host the Games of the XXX Olympiad, particularly the construction of the new Olympic Park at Stratford in the East End of London. And between the awarding of the games and the actual games themselves there were the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, very successfully hosted by Beijing in 2008. I have re-read my blog from around that time and I also remember how spectacular the opening and closing ceremonies were. I, like a lot of other people, was a little cynical about whether we could match in 2012 the performance of the organisers let alone see the athletes be as successful as they had been in 2008.

The events in the lead up to the games didn't really do anything to allay the fears, as far as the organisation was concerned, with stories about the venues being behind schedule, the security risks and even, in the final build up to the games, the announcement that the security company G4S would be unable to meet its contractual obligation to provide 10,000 personal for security duties and that the slack would have to be taken up by military personnel. It looked as if it was going to be embarrassingly bad.

However, there was a lot of "rallying around the flag" when the US Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as part of his Insult the World Tour, which I understand was his attempt to prove to American voters that a. he had a passport and b. there is someone who is less appropriate to be the ruler of the world's last superpower than George W. Bush, successfully riled the British by suggesting that we were unprepared to run an Olympics. He had completely missed the point that, as Brits, if we want to criticise something British, that is our right, but he, as a colonial who once organised the Winter Olympics "in the middle of nowhere" needs to learn when to keep quiet.

So it was with this background that I prepared to watch the opening ceremony, an event that had been kept "Top Secret", but was being directed by Danny Boyle, which probably meant that it would be "unusual".

Unfortunately, I wasn't at home for this as I was attending the second weekend of a course that I had to do for the Army, but was settled in the bar in Malta Barracks to see most of it.

I had arrived slightly late, so missed the initial "Green and Pleasant Land" part, so I was texting m'Julie about how dark it was. Overall I thought that it was a fabulous piece of theatre, but the highlight for me was when Daniel Craig, as James Bond, entered Buckingham Palace and when the person in the chair turned round with the words "Good evening, Mr Bond" it really was The Queen!

So was it better or worse than Beijing? I think neither, it was different. It celebrated the history of this country, good and bad, in much the same way as the ceremony in Beijing celebrated the history of China. It also seems that the rest of the world also appreciated the quirkiness of the whole event as it was overwhelmingly positively reported in non-UK press and media (except NBC, which I understand is an abbreviation of No Brain Cells).

I will admit that the eighty minute parade of the athletes did seem to last forever, but I had to stay up to see TeamGB, with flag bearer Sir Chris Hoy who was to become the most successful British Olympian after by the end of the games. It was also amusing to observe that just about every country with either the word "Peoples" or "Democratic" in its name was is usually ruled by a regime that oppresses the people and is certainly not democratic. 
On to the actual competition. What was witnessed was two weeks of some of the finest displays that the world has seen in every one of the Olympic events. And I, for one, am very glad to eat humble pie after commenting in 2008, when the TeamGB finished fourth in the medals table and won 47 medals (19 Gold, 13 Silver and 15 Bronze)

"However, it looks unlikely that this feat will be repeated when London again hosts the next games in 2012. Already, there has been talk that the budget will be nowhere near that of the Beijing games (which in the current climate is not such a bad thing), but there also seems to be less support for certain sports".

Just the prove me wrong, and I'm glad they did, TeamGB eclipsed that with a total of 65 medals (29 Gold, 17 Silver and 19 Bronze). However, I was correct in one statement that I made

"The problem is that in the build up to the next Olympics, plus all the ones for the next 200 years, the press will have a field day referring to these games, as they do with 1966 in the build up to every World Cup. If/when the team don't do as well, they will have a field day slagging them off as they always do."

And it was true. It took "six long days" before TeamGB won the first of their gold medals, with the UK press making much of the fact that it did take that long. But that was just the first gold, with 43 athletes winning Gold, five of them twice, by the time the games finished, although the fact that several were won as part of a team, hence the tally of 29 Gold’s. And it’s true that there were some of the athletes who were expected to win Gold who either won a Silver or Bronze, or didn't medal at all, but equally, there were also some who weren't expected to win anything that medalled. Was I proud to be British? You know my feelings on patriotism!

But it wasn't just about TeamGB. Michael Phelps winning 4 Gold and 2 Silver medals to become the most successful Olympian ever, with a total of 18 Gold and 4 Silver medals and Usain Bolt proving, for the second Olympics running, that he is the fastest man in the world, winning the Gold in the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay were just two of the numerous other highlights during the fortnight of competition. Others would be the first participation of Saudi Arabian female athletes and the introduction of women's boxing, the first of the Gold medals for this being won by Nicola Adams of TeamGB.

I admit that, like m'Julie, I had become addicted to the Games, cheering and shouting at the TV when the British athletes were competing in close races, and like m'Julie, regretting that we hadn't been able to get tickets and experience the atmosphere at first hand. So like m'Julie, I found it sad that the closing ceremony came around so quickly. However, I personally didn't think that it was a patch on the opening ceremony, and thought that the choice of artistes, bearing in mind the talent that this country has produced over the years, was poor, which has been reflected in the press and media reviews.So that was it, 7 years and 37 days after the announcement that the games would be taking place in London 2012, it was all over with only 3 years and 358 days until it all happens again in Rio.

Friday, 27 July 2012


Between 1914 and 1918, the British Army executed 306 of its soldiers for a range of offences. These executions have always been controversial and in recent years there has been a very effective campaign to have all those who were sentenced to death and shot, pardoned. As a result of this, in 2006, the then British Defence Secretary, Des Browne, pardoned all those who had been executed, acknowledging that, in some cases, an injustice had been done, particularly when looking at those executed for desertion or cowardice.

However, what this failed to address was that the pardon was also extended to 35 soldiers convicted of murder, who had they been convicted in a civilian court during peacetime, would have received the same sentence, although they would have hanged rather than been shot.

I think that the difficulty here is that we, in 2012, are looking at the offences in a post-capital punishment (in the UK at least) world, where there is far more understanding of things such as post-traumatic stress disorder. And can we really apply our sense of justice to something that happened a century ago? In the 18th Century, it was not uncommon for a person to be hanged for stealing a handkerchief, yet in 2012, that same person would be unlikely to receive a more severe punishment than a few hours community service.

Sadly, I believe that this has led to this country becoming more guilt-ridden. There seems to be, among our politicians at least, an almost apologetic tone when discussing historic events. No doubt the way in which the British treated Indians during the subjugation of the sub-continent was appalling, but it was 200 years ago! What difference will apologising now make to a country that is thriving and even has its own space programme? And there seems to be very little said about the atrocities committed by the Indians against the Europeans during the Indian mutiny.

It also sends out the message that this country is weak and opens the door to all sorts of spurious claims by people who I would consider to be less than completely deserving.

Last year, five elderly Kenyans brought a case in the High Court in London claiming that during the Kenyan Independence War in the 1950s, the so-called Mau Mau uprising, they were tortured by the colonial authorities. The courts have examined their claim and feel that there is a case to answer. Additionally, the courts have said that they may be entitled to compensation. I wonder if the Kenyan courts would look as favourably on any claims by relatives and descendants of the numerous Europeans killed by the Mau Mau?

Another example of weakness is the case of Binyam Mohammed. This is a man who came to the UK in 1994 from Ethiopia and who claimed political asylum. He was then granted leave to stay whilst his case was heard. In 2001 he travelled to Afghanistan where he has admitted receiving paramilitary training, and in 2002 he was arrested in Pakistan whilst trying to fly to the UK on a false passport.

He claims that he was then subjected to extraordinary rendition, by the US authorities, and in 2004 was detained in the US prison in Guantanimo Bay, Cuba, by the US authorities. It is important that I emphasise that all of this was carried out by the US authorities, because in 2007, Binyam Mohammed and four others filed a civil lawsuit against a subsidiary of US company Boeing for complicity in the alleged rendition. This was rejected by the US Supreme Court.

In 2009, this man was released from Guantanimo Bay and returned to the UK, where two weeks later he filed a civil suit against the British Government for collusion in his alleged rendition and torture. However, rather than following the US line and rejecting this self-confessed paramilitary, who was attempting to gain access to the UK illegally on a forged passport for whatever nefarious reasons, blatant attempt to cash in on his crimes, the British courts rolled over and he walked away at the end with a £1million pay out.

There also appears to be no consistency in the way that justice is carried out. A good example of this is that in 2010 a Ukrainian named Vladymyr Buchak, an illegal immigrant who had been in the UK since 2004, was convicted of his part in up to 360 sham marriages that took place in a church in St Leonard's in East Sussex. He was paid to marry off Eastern European girls, including his then pregnant girlfriend, to African men, who would then use the marriage to apply for residency in the UK. He was sentenced to four years in prison in September 2010 but was released from prison in July 2011, less than a year later. The judge had also recommended that he be deported at the end of his prison sentence, but more than a year after he was released from prison, this crook is still living in St Leonard's. Why? Could it be because he has a young son and it would "breach his human rights" if he were deported? One solution would be that he and his eastern European girlfriend and his young son all set up home in his native Ukraine after he has been deported.

Compare this to the case of Isimeli Baleiwai. This man is a Fijian-born ex-British soldier, who served in the British Army for 13 years before leaving in June of this year, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He is married to a British woman and has two children. He applied for UK Citizenship in March of this year.

However, in 2010, he got into a fight with an Army colleague. As a result of this, he was seen on orders by his Commanding Officer and fined and for this reason, UK Immigration has concluded that he has a criminal record and has refused him entry to the UK. He faces the prospect of deportation on 9th August. What about his human rights?


Thursday, 7 June 2012


Patriotism is not a dirty word, although you would think that it was, the way that some people view it.

There has been a lot of patriotism on display during the last few weeks with the run up to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the culmination of which has been the various events that have taken place during the course of these last four days.

The UK  seems very reluctant to "do" patriotism. I don't know if it’s in the more reserved nature of most Brits, but you would never normally see the chanting and flag-waving that we see from our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic.

It may be that we are more multicultural. Whilst the United States has always been a melting pot for all of the world's nationalities, there seems to be far more integration of these "foreigners" into America than there is in the UK. Don't get me wrong, I think that it is vitally important that people do not forget their roots, but I believe that it is equally important that if you wish to make your life in a different country to the one of your birth, with a different culture, you should conform to the new culture. Why make the effort to leave your country of origin in the first place if you are not willing to make that effort?

The difficulty with the multicultural aspect of this country is that sometimes the symbols of nationhood, the Union Flag for example, are hijacked by the extremist element. The British National Party have the Union Flag as their political symbol and the fallout from this is that this flag, this national symbol of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,  is often associated with right wing extremist views and is likely to alienate, rather than integrate, immigrants to this country.

There is also an almost cynical element which makes patriotism uncool, making people feel that it is wrong to be proud of the nation from which they come. But again, I believe that this is because it has been hijacked by elements that use patriotism as an excuse to cause trouble. How often have we seen images of English football crowds in various foreign countries, their faces painted with the Cross of St George, or the crowds adorned in red and white, fighting with local people or the local Police? And I use the word English deliberately, as it is rare in this day and age that there are reports of Scots, Welsh or Northern Irish doing the same.

And this leads to another problem. If one of the home nations qualifies for a competition, the team management will often call for "the entire nation to get behind the team". But when that team is England, which it so often is, I suspect that many Scots, Welsh and Irish are reluctant to "get behind a team" whose "supporters" are linked to so much violence and destruction.

I will be interested to see what happens in Ukraine during the Euro championships that are about to start, particularly when there is so much reporting, in this country at least, of how extreme and right-wing the Ukrainian "fans" are.

But I digress. The sort of patriotism that we have seen over the last week or so is the sort that you would hope to see. Whole families, or all ethnic backgrounds, waving Union Flags and singing patriotic songs, to some extent mirroring our American cousins. But unlike them, now that the celebrations are over, there is that risk that Britons all over this nation will resort to the non-demonstrative race that existed prior to the Jubilee, and this will give the extremists the opportunity to hijack once more the symbols of our Nation.

So where do I stand? When I joined the reserve Forces 11 years ago, I had to declare the following:
"I solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, her heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, her heirs and successors and of the generals and officers set over me."
I made this declaration freely and willingly. I think that that answers the question.

The Union Flag: a red cross over a red saltire, both with white border, over a dark blue background.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Memory loss

How embarrassing is that? Having started out with all those good intentions to this year maintain a regular blog, I end up not writing anything for so long that I forget the sign-in information! Still, all sorted out now.

It’s been so long since I last blogged that I can't actually remember whether or not we had the threatened snow. I think that we did but that it was nowhere near as severe as expected.

I do remember that we had a mini-heatwave and I think that it was actually the warmest March in the UK since records began. But that's all changed and we've returned to normal service.

The problem that I was having with the previous landlord now seems to have resolved, or rather, he gave me an ultimatum threatening legal action and I reciprocated, also threatening legal action. He backed down and all is resolved. The added bonus is that as a result of everything that was happening, the letting agent was being "unhelpful", so I emailed her a snotagram, copying in one of the partners from the estate agents, and she has had a 180 moment, now being extremely helpful.

So the new house is really starting to look like a home. Admittedly, there are still boxes, mainly containing books, that have yet to be unpacked, but they will have to wait until we've bought (yet more) bookcases.

No. 1 Son has, unfortunately, now been discharged from the Army. Sadly, the injury that he suffered to his ankle was such that, having had two lots of surgery, the Army has told him that he will be unable to train for about 2 years, although he has a place at Sandhurst available for the next 5 years.

In the meantime, he has been applying to various universities to get a degree in history, and has a provisional place at the University of Hull. The advantage of this is that one of his best friends from school is already at Hull. The downside is that when Alec left school, he actually had a scholarship from the Army to go to university, but had turned it down to go straight to Sandhurst as he was fed up with studying, so he will have to pay for it himself, although the compensation that he will get from the Army should help.

No. 2 Son continues to do well at college on his programming course, although the amount of time that he spends on the computer does worry me. I suppose if he's to make it his career, and he can make his first £million by the time he's 30, I shouldn't really discourage him.

Maggie has been conspicuous by her absence of late, but this is because her mother arranged for her to have an exchange to France, and she has been staying at her Godmother's house near Toulouse for the last six weeks. The only communication that we have had has been via Skype, as it was far too expensive to call her.

She arrived back in the UK this week, but I still haven't seen her as mother had arranged for her to go on a narrow boating trip pretty well as soon as she got back in the country!

Hopefully, she and Alec will be coming over for lunch next Sunday.

In the meantime, since I last blogged, I have carried on much as before, both civilian and military-wise. However, it has been the military aspect of my life that has given me the most opportunity, and just last week I attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace as a military helper. This was organised by the same people that also gave me an opportunity to attend a Christmas party at St James's Palace last December.

The Honorary Colonel of my Territorial Army Squadron is also the Chief Executive of the Not Forgotten Association, a charity that provides help and support to both serving and ex-servicemen and women. We, along with various other military organisations, are asked to provide personnel to assist the older and more infirm guests, which we are always happy to do.

I was also able to see the preparations that were being made for the concert that will take place in front of Buckingham Palace this evening, part of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

I watched some of the River Thames pageant yesterday, but the coverage by the BBC is now being severely criticised. I didn't see any problems, personally. It was a shame, however, that it rained so heavily during the actual pageant, but I don't think that the BBC can be blamed for that.

The Queen's Jubilee has also meant that I have received another medal, The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, which is my second, The Iraq Medal being my first. However, I should receive my third this year, the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal, although I don't think that I will get that until later this year.

So in the meantime, I shall carry on as before, and hopeful blog more frequently. Now to have dinner before the Jubilee concert begins.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Conmen are everywhere

We have now been in the new house for just over a week, and unfortunately chaos is still the order of the day. Fairly organised chaos, but chaos nonetheless.

The day of the move started bright and early as I was picking up the van at 0730. First port of call was m'Julie's mum's house, where we loaded the van, pausing briefly to sign the lease agreement and collect the keys of the new house, before taking the first load.

After we'd unloaded, myself and Drew then headed off to Big Yellow for the first trip. We worked well and it wasn't long before the van was loaded to the gills and making the 8 mile trip back to the house. We then had the second trip, finally finishing the unloading at 0030, all of us knackered and all of us ready to sleep.

Again, it was a bright and early start as I had to take the van back and then it was back to try and get some order into the piles of bags and boxes that we were now facing.

And this has been the order of the day for the last week, although it has been mainly down to m'Julie, her mum and Drew as I was back at work on Monday.

Unfortunately, today we received a letter from the letting agents, and it appears that our previous landlord is now trying to rip us off. According to his calculations, the "dilapidations" that we have caused to the property are in excess of our deposit and therefore, this will not be returned. Unfortunately for him, I am not very tolerant of conmen, especially one who is trying to charge us for hanging a painted a door that was purchased, pre-painted, by us and re-hung long before we moved out.

What this now means is that I will answer the letter and if I believe that I am owed a rebate from the deposit, I suspect that I will have to pursue this through the small claims court. To be honest, this is something that I could do without, on top of everything else.

On the upside, it is likely that we will have the kitchen in enough of a semblance of order so that the whole family can sit down at the table to a proper Sunday lunch tomorrow. I say whole family, as Maggie is staying this weekend, but we may be missing one, as I will need to collect Alec from Tunbridge Wells, and if the threatened snow arrives, I have no doubt that the entire country will grind to a halt again.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Money isn't the route of all evil, oil is!

I commented last year that I believed that much of the involvement in Libya was fuelled by the fact that Libya was an oil producing country. And now we're seeing a former military dictatorship attempting to flex its muscles again.

In 1592, an Englishman by the name of John Davis discovered a group of isolated islands, but it wasn't until 1690 that another Englishman, John Strong, actually explored these islands.

Then, in 1764, these islands were inhabited by a group of French sailors, who established a colony, which lasted until 1766, when the Spanish deposed the French and settled the islands themselves on the east side, not realising that there was already an English colony on the west side that had been established in 1765.

In 1774, the English left the islands, the Spanish also leaving in 1811 and they remained uninhabited until they were colonised by Argentina in 1820, The Argentinians remaining until the British navy recolonised the islands in 1833, sending the Argentinians packing.

And so the Falkland Islands, for that is their correct name as they were named in honour of Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount of Falkland, the man who had financed Strong's expedition in 1690, remained a largely peaceful British Territory.

That is until 1982, when the Argentinian junta, increasingly facing difficulties at home decided to divert attention from domestic matters by launching a full scale invasion of the Islands. Seventy-three days later, the invading force had suffered ignominious defeat and the Argentinian junta, by their actions, was responsible for the deaths of 907 British and Argentinian service personnel.

Now, thirty years later, the sovereignty disagreement is being cranked up a notch again, including the Argentinians burning Union Flags outside the British Consulate in Buenos Aires. Why? I'm sure that it has nothing to do with the fact that it is looking increasingly likely that there is oil in and around the islands!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Let Chaos Reign

One of the changes that are occurring that I failed to mention in my last post is that fact that we are moving. Not far, but moving nonetheless, into a slightly bigger house, and last Saturday saw the start of this process.

One complicating factor has been that although we anticipated moving out of the old house last weekend, we cannot move into the new house until the end of this month. In the meantime, we are staying at m'Julie's Mum's house.

This has meant that we have had to put the majority of our belongings in storage, which has also meant returning to Big Yellow, a place that both me and m'Julie had grown to dread after having to store my stuff there in 2007 for five months before we moved into the last house.

Unfortunately, not everything has gone completely as planned and we have found out that we both have far too much stuff and we need to "downsize" before we move again, particularly as, having booked one room in Big Yellow, we had to book a second room.

The old landlord has also been a bit of a pain, as we had told him that we anticipated moving out by last weekend, even though we are fully paid up until this Thursday. Now he's unhappy because we won't have moved everything out until tomorrow (*Wednesday). It appears that he has new tenants moving in this weekend and is concerned that they won't be able to do so. Personally, I think that he should have anticipated needing more time for the handover.

So now we have ten days of living out of boxes and then the chaos of sorting out a new home, with Maggie and my birthdays in the meantime this weekend. Should be fun!

Monday, 2 January 2012


Having started 2011 full of good intentions about continuing to blog, I got as far as May, and then I'm not quite sure what happened. What didn't happen was my continuing to write this. Having said this, it’s not as if the last seven months of 2011 passed without anything happening.

In August, Drew, my No. 2 Son finally had enough of his mother and chose to move in with me. This did not impress my ex-wife, but as he is now 16 there was very little that she could do about it. The major down side of this has been that once again I have had to have dealings with the genetically challenged employees of the Child Support Agency, and as per usual, they have proved that they remain as incapable as ever.

I initially contacted these morons at the end of August to report the change of circumstances. Having learnt from my previous experience, I informed the cretin with whom I spoke that they had two months, until the end of October, in which to sort out my claim after which time I would have my MP, Greg Clark, sort it out.

Towards the end of October, I again contacted the CSA, who informed me that they hadn't actually managed to do anything due to their utter incompetence, so I was forced to write to Greg Clark. Interestingly, following his intervention, I did receive a letter from the CSA, admittedly one that was full of untruths, but it also moved on my case. To this end I received a letter from these incompetents informing me that I would receive payment in mid-December.

Having received no money, I called the CSA on the 16th, to be informed that the money had left their account and I would receive it within 3-5 working days. I was surprised that this now seemed to be moving on, but m'Julie was more cynical. Unfortunately, she was right! When I contacted another of the morons about this on the 29th December, still having received no money, he informed me that the Agency had put a block on the payment as they weren't sure they had the correct bank account details. This was despite the imbecile I spoke with on the 16th confirming my bank account details! I also have no idea why I wasn't contacted to verify the details.

The upshot is that I should receive the money this week. But I have again informed the latest cretin that I will be reporting this to my MP, and I think that the Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, should also be made aware of this Agency's incompetence. Sadly, he cannot sack them all as every one of the employees is too stupid to find employment elsewhere and would therefore become a huge burden on the state.

Drew did well in his GCSEs and has succeeded in getting a place at the local college to study the computer programming course that he wanted with a view to becoming a games designer.

Another piece of bad news from 2011 was regarding Alec's injury to his ankle. Unfortunately, rather than being just badly sprained, he had torn several of the ligaments and tendons in his right ankle.

As a result of this he has undergone one operation, which was only partially successful, and now has to have a second one.

Following the second surgery, he will be unable to train for about two years, so he will be discharged from the Army once he has had the surgery and had some rehab, although they will keep a place at Sandhurst for him for the next 6 years.

The advantage to this is that he is looking to go to university and get a degree, although had he done it before going to Sandhurst, he would have had sponsorship from the Army, something that he no longer has.

Workwise, I have had the "joy" of moving from the hospital that I was working in to the new, purpose-built one five miles away. An interesting, and at times chaotic, period, but it seems to be settling down. I have been on leave since 22nd December, returning to work tomorrow, and having just checked my pager, it appears that I will have more than 30 emergency calls to follow up. No peace for the wicked!

M'Julie also has the prospect of change, having become very fed up with the dental practice where she is working. As a result of this, she has applied for, and got, a new job in the new hospital.

So it looks as though 2012 is to be a year of change for the whole family. And who knows, I may even carry on with this.