August 25, 2014
by Paul
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Attend 15 Lib Dem conferences and win a free peerage!

Mark Valladares provides very interesting updates on the progress, or otherwise, of the names on the Lib Dem list for peerages (or whatever it is called).

It reminded me of the scheme, in the title of this post, coined by the late great Simon Hoggart.

I have had a simple approach to voting on the peers list. I vote for all the female ethnic minority candidates starting at the end of the alphabet (working backwards) and then for the male ethnic minority candidates starting “Z” also. When I told a young British man of Chinese extraction with a surname beginning with “W” that I had voted for him, he was tickled pink.

By the way, it is worth reading in full Simon Hoggart’s report from the Bournemouth conference of 2000 in which he used that phrase in the title of this post. It is a classic.

August 25, 2014
by Paul
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Notting Hill carnival and the art of the pissoir

pissoir with extra fuzzWe were wondering around the fringes of Notting Hill Carnival yesterday. It’s great for people watching.

There were some portaloos near Pembridge Square which had the usual long queue. However, there was virtually no queue for this snug four man pissoir (above – with heads “fuzzed out” to protect the anonymity of the protagonists), next door to the portaloos. (Be careful how you pronounce that word in mixed company, by the way. The emphasis very much needs to be on the “oir”.)

I am probably one of a dying breed of people who remember the 1972 BBC2 series called “Clochemerle”, based on a book by Gabriel Chevallier adapted by Galton and Simpson (who wrote Hancock and Steptoe and Son). It was all based around the outrage in a small French town concerning the installation of a gentleman’s pissoir in the central square.

No such outrage ensued about the (temporary) installation near Pembridge square and others elsewhere in Notting Hill. Not even the Daily Mail got hold of it.

August 23, 2014
by Paul
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A personal best and a great song from a great musician

I may have done a personal best at the Newbury Park run on Greenham Common this morning. I should find out the verdict from the official timespeoples later this afternoon. Certainly, the lady from Mapmyrun, who comes over my headphones, was very encouraging. ++BREAKING NEWS++ PB confirmed at 27:56!

As usual, as I ran round, I listened to my “old mate” Brian Matthew and Sounds of the Sixties, about which I have waxed lyrically on several occasions.

This morning the great spinmeister played a cracker of a song from Ray Stevens called “Mr. Businessman”.

I normally associate Ray Stevens with his lighter fare, such as “The Streak”, “Bridget the Midget” and “Turn the radio one”. But “Mr. Businessman” is in a different league. It is a very serious song which “skewers” (as Brian Matthew put it) the genre of money-minded businessmen:

Itemize the things you covet
As you squander through your life
Bigger cars, bigger houses
Term insurance for your wife
Tuesday evenings with your harlot
And on Wednesdays it’s your charlatan analyst
He’s high upon your list

The full lyics of the song are here.

Here’s the song on YouTube and, as a bonus, Ray Stevens singing “Turn the redio on” from 2009 while, I might add, tinkling a Steinway with great aplomb.

August 22, 2014
by Paul
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Header photo – the beauty of Scotland

IMG_01591.jpgMy current header photo is of Loch Fyne. I walked out to the end of Otter Spit to take it. I crouched down and held the camera so that the water was lapping at my chin! Otter Spit is at Otterferry. We had a great pint in the Oystercatcher just there. The Cowal peninsula is a real gem and we feel privileged to have spent a day exploring it three weeks ago. Blessed Scotland!

August 19, 2014
by Paul
2 Comments

Time to heave a sigh and stagger forward, older and wiser

Liberal-Democrat-badge-Some-rights-reserved-by-Paul-Walter-Newbury-UKCaron Lindsay and Stephen Tall have written wisely about tonight’s news. It is telling that both, quite relevantly, quote from their previous posts on the subject. That indicates that we are running out of things to say on this (not in a good way). It is time to move forward, one might say “stagger forward”, older and wiser as a party.

The best thing we can say is that it is extremely regrettable that this all has an unresolved feeling about it. Due process, such as it exists, has been carried out in the last year or so. It was inevitable that Lord Rennard would be reinstated. There was no reason to do other than sustain his membership. On a personal level, I welcome Chris back. I am also acutely aware that there are some very discontented people in the party and, now, outside it. As Stephen says, the missed opportunities to achieve a more satisfactory resolution (for all sides) were years ago. Our party processes have been found wanting, and desperately need the overhaul Tim Farron is hopefully giving them.

Having said all that, I can’t help but think the following. We are a small party. Lord Rennard was, for some years, more revered and respected as being more important than the leader of the party. One might say he was bigger than the party. He was, and is, greatly respected and admired. In that sense, it is not a surprise that the party was discombobulated by all this. But, as the party of liberalism, it is very disconcerting that we were not able to deal properly with this much, much earlier.

August 18, 2014
by Paul
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Details of the police helicopter which was hovering over Newbury last night

A number of people have been searching for the reason the police helicopter was hovering over Newbury last night.

It was the helicopter from Benson. They have tweeted:
image

Newbury Today have reported:

POLICE are searching for a man in his late twenties after reports that a 17-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in Newbury last night (Sun).

A spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police, Connie Primmer, said that the victim and her friend were approached by a man on his bike close to the job centre on Oxford Road.

The man then followed them until they reached Bath Road and as they got near the alleyway by Digby Road, the man grabbed the girl inappropriately.

…A police helicopter circled the skies of Newbury for more than an hour last night searching for the man after reports that the man may have headed in the direction of the railway line.

August 17, 2014
by Paul
1 Comment

Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Auschwitz speak out about Gaza

This letter in the Guardian yesterday caught my eye. It is very powerful.

As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide, we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonisation of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanisation of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached fever-pitch. Politicians and pundits in the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and rightwing Israelis are adopting neo-Nazi insignia.

Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages (advertisement, 11 August; Report, 11 August) to promote blatant falsehoods used to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean “Never again for anyone”.

Hajo Meyer survivor of Auschwitz; The Netherlands, Henri Wajnblum survivor and son of an Auschwitz victim from Lodz, Poland; Belgium, Norbert Hirschhorn refugee of Nazi genocide and grandson of three people who died in the Shoah; London, Suzanne Weiss survived in hiding in France, whose mother died in Auschwitz; Canada, Felicia and Moshe Langer survivors from Germany, Moshe survived five concentration camps, family members were exterminated; Germany, Michael Rice child survivor, son and grandson of survivor; United States and 30 Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide and 260 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other relatives of survivors
See full list at ijsn.net/gaza/survivors-and-descendants-letter/

August 16, 2014
by Paul
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Comedy genius at work – Big bang Theory

As I’ve mentioned before, “Big Bang Theory” tends to be on a constant loop on our TV. This afternoon, I noticed that there was an old guy playing “Professor Proton” in an episode we had on.

After watching for about ten minutes, I said:

That guy’s a really good actor.

He was handling his lines really well in a great deadpan way.

Then I saw the credits:

Professor Proton – Bob Newhart

So he’s not just a really good actor. He’s a comedy genius. Indeed, he is The Bob Newhart, the Bobster!

August 13, 2014
by Paul
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Something stirring in the heart of England

Newbury public meetingNewbury, Berkshire, is a relatively prosperous place which tends to mind its own business. “O little town of Newbury, how still your ruins lie”, goes the song in the Liberator song book. Occasionally the town has been at the heart of protests, such as those at Greenham Common and against the Newbury by-pass.

There is nothing more British than the public meeting. It is a great expression of our democracy. Continue Reading →

August 12, 2014
by Paul
1 Comment

Public meeting on Gaza at Newbury Town Hall

imageIt was standing room only last night, as Richard Benyon MP held a public meeting on Gaza in Newbury Town Hall.

Of about 20 speakers, 18 spoke up for the Palestinian cause with great passion and knowledge. There were a surprising number of people with a declared personal interest to some extent or another.

That well known Israeli government spokesman, Hans Christian Andersen, was remarkably absent.

Two people made brief comments in support of Israel. I’m afraid to say that one gentleman was cut off/shouted down as he spoke in support of Israel. The shouting down came from an elderly gentleman who said that he had been “ethnically cleansed” from his homeland of Palestine. I don’t think that is good or edifying. We should hear out our opponents, not shout them down. The pro-Israeli speaker was saying how Israel are “surrounded by crazies”. Rather than shouting him down I would have retorted at the end that Israel itself has become one of the “crazies”.

I was heartened by Richard’s closing remarks. He is at the enlightened end of the Conservative party on this subject. For example, he readily accepted my point that arms licenses should be suspended. He also clearly said that the Israeli response is “disproprotionate” and gave several examples of this.

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat PPC, thanked Richard for organising the meeting and asked what the view of the likes of Phillip Hammond are on this.

I was the first person to be called to speak (an old trick – always put your hand up first and get in before other people pluck up the courage). The following is the full points/questions I had prepared. I skipped over a few of the numbers at the beginning because Richard had already read some of them out:

Thank you very much for arranging this meeting, Richard.
I fully support Israel’s right to defend its citizens. I wholly condemn the Hamas rocket and tunnel terrorist attacks on Israel.
What I question is the proportionality of the Israeli response. According to the UN, 1,135 Palestinian civilians, including 246 children, have been killed in the last month’s hostilities which have included attacks on three UN schools designated as shelters. According to Mondoweiss.net, since 2002 in the entire history of rocket and mortar attacks into Israel, 28 Israeli civilians have been killed. That is a disproportionate situation.
I make three proposals:
1. Parliament should be recalled immediately to discuss this issue and the Iraq situation
2. All UK arms sales licences for Israel should be immediately and indefinitely suspended. It is unconscionable that those licences should be left open after the three attacks on UN schools.
3. With the EU the Uk should play a much more active role in encouraging talks to establish a fair peace and the establishment of a fully recognized, free Palestinian state, alongside the state of Israel.
Thank you.

August 11, 2014
by Paul
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Summer camps for Israeli and Palestinian children to play together

imageI became aware of the existence of summer camps for Israeli and Palestinian children when I was looking for photos to illustrate articles on Gaza. Using pictures of death and destruction can be rather unsavoury. So I found this photo (above) which shows Israeli and Palestinian children playing at a summer camp at Tuwani. It gives a message of peace and hope.

This morning at my church we had a talk from one of the organisers of such summer camps. We were addressed by Dr Salim Munayer of the organisation Musalaha.

Dr Munayer made some interesting and clear points. He said, repeatedly, that the Israeli/Palestinian problem will not be solved by politicians but by the “grass roots” – the communities involved.

He said that the moment the conversation involves “us” and “them”, there is dehumanisation.

He said that the opposite of love is fear, not hate, and that on both sides there is “embracing of the victimisation identity” which can lead people to be indifferent to others’ suffering. The Jews feel victimised because of the Holocaust and the Palestinians feel victimised because of having been driven out of their ancient lands.

Dr Munayer made some interesting observations. One was left with the thought that summer camps may well play a small part in moving towards a peaceful settlement eventually.

Photo by delayed gratification

August 9, 2014
by Paul
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Thieves steal £8.3 million from under Nick Clegg’s residence

OK. Thieves steal £8.3 million of fuel from under Nick Clegg’s (official half) residence, Chevening House – above. From the Press Association:

Police have launched an investigation after thieves siphoned fuel from a pipeline running under Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s official country residence.
Police said initial indications were that it had been “a well organised crime”.
A gang drilled their way into the pipeline, which passes through Chevening House estate, shared by the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary.
The fuel was funnelled along a 1,600 foot pipe to an area just outside the 3,500 acre estate near Sevenoaks, Kent, and pumped into huge plastic containers aboard lorries, according to The Sun.
About 30,000 litres of fuel a day was stolen over seven months, with a value of £8.3 million at pumps.
The theft was discovered on Wednesday after new security measures were introduced on Esso’s South East Pipeline, the newspaper said.

Photo of Chevening House by Glen

photo by:

August 9, 2014
by Paul
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The forgotten glories of Britain

imageWe’re now back from our holidays in Scotland and Northumberland. As well as the great excitement of twice attending Hampden Park for the Commonwealth Games athletics, including seeing Usain Bolt run, we had a great time and saw some fantastic places:

Loch Lomond
Fort William
The foothills of Ben Nevis
Glencoe in fantastic sunshine, which was awesome
Loch Fyne and the Kyles of Bute
Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland
Farne Islands
Holy Island, Northumberland
Grace Darling’s memorial, Bamburgh

Those were all wonderful places.

It all goes to show that as a nation we ought to at least attempt to discover some of our less visited places a little bit more. Northumberland has a fantastic coastline and a wealth of glorious castles. And if you haven’t been to Glencoe in blazing sunshine, you haven’t lived! It is just breathtakingly awesome.

My photo above was taken in Glencoe.

August 9, 2014
by Paul
1 Comment

Why does the West intervene in Iraq, but not in Syria?

Such was the question from a Facebook friend yesterday, to which I replied:

I assume we are talking about the latest air strikes here. “The West” is about 50 countries. They haven’t intervened militarily in Iraq. The USA has. NATO hasn’t. The EU hasn’t. The UN hasn’t. The UK is just helping with food drops, but it does that in Syria also. The UK has poured a great deal of aid into Syria.

So the question isn’t for “the West”, it is for Barack Obama and perhaps also for George W Bush and his psychiatrist, as Dubya started the whole sordid mess and created a sort of US obligation in Iraq. There are also clearer targets in Iraq, whereas Syria is a total mess in military terms. It is one thing supporting a sovereign government, as in Iraq. It would be an entirely different matter to intervene militarily in Syria where we would be opposing the sovereign government in favour of a very complex and often dodgy collection of rebel groups.

We intervened in such a way in Libya against a sovereign government and in favour of rebel groups, and look where that got us – the country is now on the verge of total breakdown.

I think it is counter-productive most if the time to intervene militarily in the Middle East. It probably just delays things reaching a natural equilibrium.

But, bear in mind that there are various forms of military untervention, including peace-keeping and peace-making, all of which can be justified in certain circumstances.

August 9, 2014
by Paul
2 Comments

Great “My daddy works here” signage on the M1

imageWe’re now back from holiday. We travelled back yesterday on the M1. I was very impressed with the signage along the various road works on that road. There were a few different signs along the lines of “My daddy works here”. It’s a great way to remind people that there aren’t just “Men at work”, these are people with families. Well done Costain, who seem to be behind the initiative.

August 9, 2014
by Paul
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Barenaked Ladies and the greatness of Canada

Several of my favourite bands and entertainers turn out to be Canadian. I’ve written previously about my wish for Rush’s “Spirit of radio” to be played as the last item at my funeral. (And it must be the album version). Rush are from Toronto, Ontario.

Barenaked Ladies are another Canadian outfit. They are from Scarborough, Ontario. I actually hear them about a dozen times a week – not because I play them on my generic MP3 player, but because they sing the theme tune of the “Big Bang Theory”. – That’s a programme which is on our TV on a continuous loop most of the time.

On my morning run today, “One week” by Barenaked Ladies came up on my MP3 player. I realised that this really is a great song that has and will stand the test of time. It is just so tightly put together and catchy.