Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Animal Farm

At the end of Animal Farm the animals are fearfully looking through the window unable to distinguish between the pigs and the men. The people of Redcar and the workers at Corus must be thinking the same. As Brown, Darling and Mandelson sit idly by a 170-year tradition of steelmaking on Teesside is about to die. In 1980, Thatcher and her minions did exactly the same as the Consett steelworks were obliterated by a harsh world economy. A price worth paying? Just rip the heart out of a northern town. Thatcher or Brown? You couldn't get a fag paper between them. But there is a difference. Thatcher was a hard-line marketeer. She couldn't give a toss about the North, making steel, people, traditions or history. And now it turns out that our beloved PM, the conviction politician, is no better.
We might have known.
Orwell; genius.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Luck of the Irish

Thierry Henry's "hand of God" was observed by nearly 6,000,000,000 people on Earth and more than half of the satellites we have in orbit. The referee, however, missed it. Not to worry. Ireland miss the World Cup, France get to go. It's only a game. Anyway, if the dozy Irish forwards had put away their chances it would have been 4-1 easily.
But good luck follows bad. It all evens out. Well, yes.
John and Edward have been kicked out of X-Factor. God be praised. Gone. History. Toast.
The interesting question posed by Danni Minogue (upon whom all judgement fell last night) was: Is this a singing competition? Others pretended not to understand her question but she was quite right. Is X-Factor about the talent or the entertainment? John and Edward were certainly entertaining but they couldn't sing to save their lives.
Now they can't even sing "Come on Ireland" at the aptly named Croke Park.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Getting it Wrong (3)

I've just read that Josie Lawrence is going to leave Eastenders. I am shocked! I didn't even know she was in Eastenders. When did that happen? Was that about the time when the richly talented Miss Lawrence disappeared from my radar. Must have been. Let's hope she resurfaces soon in something worthy of the gifts she has been given. I've always been a fan and finding out that she has been in a tawdry soap was quite disappointing.
Come on Josie. You are so much better than that trash.

Getting it Wrong (2)

Simon Cowell. Love him or hate him - and I do both - you have to wonder what the hell he was up to by saving Deadward in the X-Factor. These erstwhile Children of the Damned have no talent whatsoever. To be saved by Cowell (who knows full well that they are utterly useless) by casting lovely Lucie back to the obscurity from whence she came was the worst decision since Diana Vickers was binned on last year's show.
My word, I do bear grudges well!

Getting it Wrong (1)

Kevin Rudd (Aussie PM) was in front of a mike recently fulminating about those scientists who are slowing the inexorable progress of the climate change changers (or "coolers" for short). He says it will be them to blame if the planet isn't saved by the "coolers". As one who is not in the least convinced that carbon dioxide is causing atmospheric warming I take exception to his arrogance. Don't get me wrong; I like Kevin Rudd. I wish he was my PM. But to assume that everything we are being fed by climatologists is right is very dicey ground indeed. What if they are wrong. We will be plunged into another Ice Age by their efforts. Great.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Understanding Things

When you start to explain Quantum Theory to people - I find, anyway - they (usually) glaze over and stop trying to understand. It would appear that there is a genuine barrier between the concept and the understanding of the concept.
The same thing appears to be true with MPs and their expenses. They just don't get it. They REALLY just don't get it. Every other person in the UK thinks they are a pack of vultures dragging their rotten bits of flesh of the decaying carcass that is our "democratic" system. They think it is OK.
Shoot them.
Shoot them all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Paying for University

I love it when those who had their degrees completely paid for by the taxpayer via the state pontificate about students paying more for their degrees. The CBI see nothing wrong, apparently, with saddling our 20-somethings with up to £20000 debt as they leave academe to try their luck in a jobs market ravaged by (amongst others) the CBI. Hypocrisy at many levels.
I know it has been said before, but if we really must recoup the money that we are spending on higher education, why not tax graduates when they are earning a decent salary and continue to do so throughout their working lives. This mess all comes, of course, from taking too many into university; from having universities grow too big; to over-reliance on student numbers and thus being hostage to fortune as demographics change.
I despair.
Poor bloody kids.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dowding Park

The title of this entry sounds like a leafy glade in Essex. They are, of course, the unpunctuated names of the two men who marshalled the RAF against the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.
I always get a little misty-eyed around this time of year. The 15th September comes and goes without any recognition now. It was Battle of Britain Day when I was a boy.
Hugh Dowding and Keith Park (a New Zealander, incidentally) were in charge of Fighter Command and 11 Group (which did most of the fighting) throughout the Battle of Britain. They did not "win" the Battle of Britain by themselves. Fighter Command was a formidable "team" in every sense. Had they lost, our history would have been very different.
Yet nobody knows them now. A scant 70 years on and nobody knows them.

Anthem to Spared Youth

Sixty-nine years ago today we were reading the day-old news of the crushing victory by the RAF over the Luftwaffe. It was the day that - without histrionics - saved our civilisation. From 15th September 1940 onwards, Britain was not going to be knocked out of the war. It was not the day that the war was won. It was the day it wasn't lost.
The youthful faces who won that battle are nearly all dead now. Over five hundred died in the Battle of Britain. The grim reaper took a lot more throughout the rest of the war. Age is fast catching up on the remaining few of The Few.
Their counterparts today are getting ready to go to University or are part-way through their degrees. They will not be asked to make the sacrifices of 1940. They have the same cocky exuberance; the same jokes; the same Devil-may-care attitudes. However much we decry the youth of today - any "today" you want to mention - I remain convinced that these lads on the streets would be the equal of their grandfathers and great-uncles. These are the same lads who stood with Harold, died at Balaclava and Trafalgar, drowned in the mud of Flanders in 1917 and a million other times and places in British history.
There was nothing particularly special about the Class of 1940.
They were just given the chance to shine.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Interesting piece on today's breakfast news. Climate change (for a change). The first person interviewed was from the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC) and the follow-up person was from the Committee on Climate Change (COCC). You couldn't make it up. Someone talking CACC, the other COCC.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Again. What?!

I was watching the Breakfast news on BBC1 this morning and a woman was on speaking about some major social issue of the day and she was billed as an "independent social worker". If that isn't a euphemism for "interfering busybody" I don't know what is. Quite frankly, I don't want my social workers being independent. I want them thoroughly locked into a rigid set of working procedures. Independent? Pah!
While we are on the subject of people I don't want in this life of mine: I don't want people who "fight fire with fire" to be firemen, I don't want those who look before they leap to be paratroops, I don't want neurosurgeons with strong Brummie accents, I don't want footballers who fall over in anything higher than 2 on the Beaufort Scale, I don't want money to make the world go round - angular momentum is fine, I don't want qualified people I want competent people.
There are many others...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I hate it when women go on about multi-tasking. They wave the multi-tasking card in our faces as though it is taken for granted that doing several things badly at once is better than doing one thing well. I beg to differ with the current female opinion on this. I would rather do one thing right at a time than run the risk of making a bollocks of several things at once. I simply don't buy into the notion that multi-tasking is the better idea.
And then...
I was let down by - of all people - a bloke in a bog in a pub.
I stood at my urinal steadfastly not multi-tasking. My mind/body combination was doing but one thing. The guy next to me was also doing this one thing but he was also doing another thing. He was texting on his phone. Bastard! A brilliant example of multi-tasking.

A-Level Results

With 97.5% of the nation's kids passing A-Level you don't need an A-Level to see why the whole system has become devalued. Here's a simple suggestion to regain some equilibrium into the situation. Stop giving grades; give percentages. Instead of the six grades ABCDEU we would have the 101 grades 100...0. Universities could then ask for realistic "levels" of entry.
So simple it won't be done.
Regardless of that: Congratulations to all those students who did so well at A-Level, AS-Level (an examination I abhor by the way) and GCSE. No-one may rate your qualifications but that is hardly your fault. The idiots in charge have screwed up, not you. Well done to you all.

I'll Drink to That

So, we have a new ASBO. This one is for getting pissed and behaving badly. Presumably 35 million of us will have one by the end of the year. This new ASBO (which sounds more like a Scout's badge) means that you can't go into any pub in the city where you were asboed (I asbo, you asbo, he she or it asboes...) or, indeed, licenced premises. So that's Morrison's & Tesco's out too. Blimey; I only wanted toothpaste m'lud.
So how is this legalistic heap of crap going to be policed? Will all publicans in a city have a list of who can/can't drink there? Will Sainsbury's require proof that you don't have an ASBO before letting you get food for the cat? Of course not. Like so much produced by this pathetic, puritan kakistocracy, it is completely pointless, completely unworkable and will wither and die.
Incidentally, if we are now so worried about binge drinking, why did we get rid of opening hours? Oh yes, it was Brown and his Merry Men tinkering again.
Ye gods.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Best Before Dates

Am I hearing things? A Government minister contradicting "sell by" and "best before" dates? Surely not. These are the sacred cows of consumerism! But it appears so: Hilary Benn says we need to re-think these cursed dates to keep our food supplies "secure". Is the nanny state actually saying that we might trust our own senses to decide on something so serious as whether our bacon is "off"? I need a stiff drink.
Having put up with use-by and sell-by for decades we might - finally - start relying on our senses to tell us whether our food has gone bad. Staying with bacon, it is pretty obvious that it has "gone". It looks, smells and tastes terrible. For other things it hardly matters. I never mind cutting a piece of mouldy cheese off a block and scoffing the rest. I don't like the black pulp that bananas turn into, but I don't like them under-ripe either. Now here's strange: I can tell what a banana looks like when it is edible. [Gasp] Oh yes. Gather round and learn.
I hope that the British consumer will now stop racing downstairs each morning to see which cans and packets are out of date; which eggs are still edible; cornflakes, milk, butter... What do we junk today? Quick, before it explodes!
Have you noticed that bottles of wine do not carry a best before date? The French, probably.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Rent" and the youth of today

The Edinburgh Fringe, you will already know, finds venues and support for some great shows every year. I saw "Rent" on Saturday (8th August) at the Merchant's Hall. It was astonishing. The good bits are too many to mention; the bad bits are too few to remember. It ended, quite rightly, with a standing ovation. Complete sell-out. All week. Awesome.
Then step back for a moment. The cast are aged between 18 and (I guess) 22. They can portray joy, sadness, love, hate, laughter and tears with consummate ease. The songs were sung with style, gusto, tenderness and passion as required. The musical support was superb. Most of the time you would believe that you were listening to a karaoke CD.
But hang on...
Aren't these kids part of the useless generation that roam our streets picking up ASBOs? The lazy students with devalued GCSEs and equally worthless A-Levels? The no-hopers who blow their student loans in bars and Pizza Hut? The sea anchor of our struggling society? Our millstone?
It would, from what I've seen (and not just in "Rent"), appear not to be the case.
Well done Team Rent. Loved it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Man on the Moon

40 years ago yesterday and today* I was a 14 year old geek, glued to a B&W TV set watching grainy pictures of Neil and Buzz on the Moon. I also remember feeling profoundly sorry for Michael Collins (yes, I remember the names) orbiting the scene in the command module being more or less forgotten. I remember Armstrong and Aldrin landing the Eagle manually when the automatic systems failed. I remember the tears in my eyes when the words "Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed" skipped across the intervening 250,000 miles in just over a second.
As a geeky science-nut, I loved the whole US space programme. Mercury to Gemini to Apollo. I remember going to church to pray for the brave guys of Apollo 1 (Grissom, White and Chaffee) who died fighting the flames inside their capsule. I held my breath for days with Apollo 13 (Lovell, Swigert and Haise). I was in church again on their safe return.
Apollo was certainly "one small step for man" but the "giant leap for mankind" became a kind of cul-de-sac road to nowhere. As a now aged geeky science-nut, I hope they/us/somebody has the vision and expanse of ambition to get us moving again in space.
Let's go to Mars.

* I was in Australia at the time and although the landing was made on 20th July in US time, it was already the 21st in Australia. This is why I get this question wrong playing Trivial Pursuit.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Holiday Reading

I thought I might let you know what I have read this past fortnight. At present I am reading The Cloudspotter's Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. It is much more whimsical than meteorological and contains much that is (as one might expect) nebulous and hazy. Not a bad read though.
Unlike The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. I like to read "science classics" and my reading of this was long overdue. Dawkins is enormously fond of himself and tramples the painstaking work of others under his heavy boots with ne'er a care. All the number games he plays to show how genes are selfish are interesting but, frankly, bollocks. He dismisses incest very lightly and yet this is the obvious way for selfish genes to maintain their presence. I know that that leads to deformities etc. etc. but the genes don't know that. An irritating read.
Lastly, The Incredible Human Journey by Alice Roberts. Brilliant. Couldn't put it down. Cover to cover in two days and getting ready to do it all again. Not enough on the whole mitochondrial DNA thing for me but beautifully written in a really engaging style.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Flight to (and from) Egypt

There comes a point in any journey where you think "This is dragging on a bit..."
On a low-cost airline, I think this point comes (for me, anyway) exactly 2hrs 7min into the flight. With a posh carrier (I recently did Newcastle to Hong Kong on Emirates, for example) this point is beyond the length of the journey; it never comes.
With Jet2.com from Manchester to Taba (Egypt) I was wishing my life away at exactly 2hrs 7min. The problem was that I had slightly under 3 hours to go. On the return flight (which took 45 minutes longer than the 5hrs out) I hit the 2hrs 7min point even harder in the knowledge that Manchester was 3hrs 38min away. I had refused my "meal" (airline food: oxymoron). I needed to remain sober so that I could drive home when we landed. My 1.5 litre bottle of water (with the unfortunate name, for water, of Siwa) was draining quickly. Life ebbed away. Mine.
Still; mustn't grumble...

The Flight to Egypt

To avoid the massacre of the innocents, the Gospels tell us that Joseph, Mary and Jesus nipped off into Egypt for a while then returned to Nazareth by another way, suggested by an angel.
Having just returned from the Sinai one is tempted to say: WHAT?!
Walking twenty paces from our air-conditioned room to the pool was hellish. A full-blown journey across Sinai must have been dreadful. The Sinai peninsula is like the moon. The daytime heat was astonishing. Nothing grows there. Everything dies there.
I think we can learn several things from the Gospel story.
Firstly, God is not a great planner. Putting his infant son in danger by (a) allowing the massacre of the innocents and (b) having Joe and Mary trudge across Sinai was not the hallmark of a forward thinker. Secondly, angels; surely they have more power than to act like a biblical streetmap.co.uk? Give them a hand for God's sake! She's just had a baby!
Thirdly, and I think most importantly, we should seriously consider canonising their donkey. That poor little beast took them all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, then back home again (by a different route). Awesome.
St Donkey, patron saint of SatNav.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Inverse Square Law

Lots of things obey an inverse square law. That is, the effect goes down (inverse) with the square (square) of the distance; OK?! (law). Gravity is a real biggy. Gravitational force (F) between two objects is given by:
F = Gm1m2/d2
G is the "Gravitational Constant", m1 and m2 are the masses of the bodies and d is their distance apart.
Now, here's a funny one. Matter (the m1 and m2 stuff) distorts space. It distorts linear dimensions (so d will be altered by matter) and it distorts areas too (so d2 will be affected).
Which all adds up to the inverse square law being well dodgy for large masses.
This means that a lot of stuff to do with the universe could be wrong.
Tell your friends.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Antibiotic Letters - Update #1

Our previous communique released news of our first antibiotic letter: r. We have since refined the lexicochemistry of r so that it now neatly tucks in behind the first letter or diphthong. This gets away from the "fruck"/"furck" problem and also avoids "shirt" being produced. It produces "shrit" every time. The "bastard" problem is also resolved. It becomes "brastard" with 100% efficiency. This new verbicillin© is being called r+, with a certain lack of imagination.
We are hoping to release new verbicillins soon, but we need to iron out one small flaw with r+. It tends to react with the word "cap" with unfortunate consequences. Having people "doff their crap" or put "a crap on their head" seriously tampers with a story line.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Antibiotic Letters

As you will know, antibiotics often work by attaching themselves to bacterial cell walls and rupturing them so that the internal gubbins leak out and the germ dies.
A lot of people are put off reading when there is a lot of swearing.
Let's put those two thoughts together.
I have been experimenting with certain letters on the more odious swearwords words in our language and I am proud to release my first antibiotic letter: r
I am sure that r is just the first of a whole range of verbicillins© that we can use to clean up our language. When r is added to a paragraph of assorted words it can be programmed (using macros) to bind preferentially to conventional swearwords, rendering them harmless. Then, having neutralised these offensive words, the timorous reader can progress in safety. One assumes that finding fruck (or furck), crunt, shrit (or shirt - a potential problem) or twart will not offend at all. The word "bastard" is a little more resistant. We have found that the r inserts at position 3, making "barstard". A lot of people think it is spelled that way already. Witness 132000 entries in Google.
We're working on it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Land's End to John O'Groats

The caffeine tablets have worn off now. All eighteen of them. Washed down with Pepsi Max (the one with added caffeine). I have a chest infection and I'm coughing up phlegmy ash. My wrist joints are sore. My knees are wrecked. And I feel over the moon.
You see, I've done it. Far beyond what I thought I could do, I've done. In one day, on my trusty Triumph Bonneville, I've ridden from Land's End to John O'Groats.
I know it has all been done before. But not by me. Doing it on foot (a la Ian Botham) is awesome. On a pushbike, awesome. But only in a car or atop a motorbike could it be done in one day. In a car would be simply pathetic. It has to be the motorbike.
Meet my travelling companions. Boro lads all: Chris Bell (Belly), Barry Corbyn (Baz), Andy Harrison (Harry), Ben Timney (Ben, my 19-years-younger brother). We have a motley collection of bikes. Belly is on a Kawasaki Versys, Baz is on a Honda VTR, Harry on a Honda CBR, Ben on a Honda Hornet and me on the Bonnie.
At 00:00:01 on 13th June 2009 we gunned our engines at a deserted Land's End and headed north. At 18:25 we turned our engines off atop the "mound" at John O'Groats. 850 miles later. Knackered. Running on instincts only.
We had ridden south from Teesside on the Friday, starting at 04:00 and bedding down at the Commercial Hotel, St Just (5 miles north of Land's End) at 18:30. No mishaps. Just before bed we had rammed in a meal from the chippie. I was straight asleep, so was Ben. The others took longer to drop off, but I think I was up first.
So, with between 2 and 4 hours sleep under our belts (and about the same the previous night) we tore through a silent Cornwall and Devon. We stopped in Exeter to refuel (Baz and Ben were both short of tank range - 120 miles or so from full to fumes). We transferred to the M5 and headed north past Bristol and then parallel to the Welsh border. Sunrise was welcome. Warmth beating off hypothermia. You forget how cold it gets on a bike. Asleep riding a motorbike. Not to be recommended.
Breakfast was just north of Manchester. Then to Carlisle, across Scotland heading for Edinburgh but turning north before that to reach Perth by lunchtime. From Perth to Inverness was a slog through the most beautiful of countries (high praise from an Englishman). After Inverness we crossed Cromarty Firth and refuelled again. The weather, kind so far, was turning. Some 50 miles south of Wick, it turned. Fog. Rain. Driving hail. Almost-zero visibility. Twisty, turning roads where one mistake gets you a bunch of roses tied to some railings. In atrocious conditions we finally rolled into Wick. Refuel. Last 16 miles. In driving rain and freezing fog we released our pink balloons, just as we had at Land's End.
Why the pink balloons? Well, this was all for a reason. Sure, there were the laddish "can we do it?" reasons. But there were deeper reasons too. In 2007, Harry's daughter Jessica succumbed to cancer after a long, painful fight. Harry raises money for a charity set up in Jessica's name to help families in a similar situation. If you are reading this and you have a few quid you could add to the meagre support I am able to give please send it in to me.
My life has a lot of ticked boxes. I can now tick the "Land's End to John O'Groats by Motorbike" box.

Any support you can afford would be appreciated. Cheques to "The Jessica Jewel Trust", cash - you'll have to trust me. Post them to Dr John A Timney, INTO Newcastle University, Old Library Building, Newcastle University NE1 7RU. Thanks in anticipation.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pork Scratchings

They might be the most un-Kosher food on the planet*, but Pork Scratchings have an extraordinarily useful characteristic. Let me explain.
Firstly, let's make some... Get a pig. Kill it. Flay it. Carve up all the edibles. Turn everything else into sausages (inc. Black Pudding). You are left with the skin. Chop it up into little pieces and deep fry, with a few added spices and salt. Result. Edible gravel.
This is where the genius of Pork Scratchings comes in.
If you eat normal gravel you generate a huge amount of noise in your mouth (obliterating every other noise) but you smash all your teeth. With Pork Scratchings (although they do advise having strong healthy teeth) you get all the noise but none of the dental damage.
So, next time some drivel-sprouting politician appears on the old box, pop in some Pork Scratchings and crunch. You will hear nothing.

* Actually, Black Pudding might hold this title.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bad Day at the Office

Who would be Gordon Brown? Apart from the 300 or so MPs who wouldn't mind having a crack at the big chair and 60,000,000 UK citizens who know they could do a better job, nobody.
I fear that Mr Brown might be in for a bad day today. European elections; who cares, but he is going to get hammered there. Local elections; we will probably see Labour obliterated from all councils today. Half an hour ago I cast (lovely word) my vote. Mr Brown wouldn't find much to cheer about on my ballot paper.
Representative democracy is a really blunt instrument most of the time. In constituencies like Salford they could stick a red rosette on a gibbering ginger garden gnome and the punters would still vote Labour. They did, you say?
Yet today, throughout yet another bad day at the office for Mr Brown, I have the feeling that the British people are going to send out a ridiculously clear message to the Puritan Kakistocracy that we call a government.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Britain's Got Talent - The Final

I'm glad Diversity won. I'm glad Susan Boyle came second. The glare of publicity had already wilted her; being the winner would have killed her. I'm glad that Julian Smith came third. He was such a nice bloke and played his sax beautifully. Hopefully, he will get a career out of BGT.
A year from now, after their 15 minutes of fame, we will remember none of them.
Sad, really.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Britain's Got Talent

I love "Britain's Got Talent". Love it. Nothing on television even gets close to BGT when it comes to showing how little talent we actually have.
Look at tonight's shambles. A crap dance trio, three thousand badly synchronised dancers, a male soprano with genuine talent who completely cocked up his song, a little girl in tears, a superb dancer [who - thank God - won], a juggler who should never have left his back garden, a "singer" and "guitarist" who were, unfortunately, the same person and a latter day family sounds-like-Von-Crap. Oh yes; little girl in tears again. She clinched second place on the pity vote and is going to be popping beta-blockers and Valium® all night.
There were thousands auditioned and the "judges" (and OMG I use that term loosely apart from the incomparable Simon Cowell) picked out the forty best. Best? Best!
Let's face it. There is very little talent on display in "Britain's Got Talent".
I can't wait for the final.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Lines of Best Fit

When finding a "best fit" straight line I use a cunningly simple method that I have not seen used elsewhere. It gives, to my mind, a better "best fit" than the famous "Least Squares" method that assumes no errors in the independent variable.
My method is this:
Plot all your points, as normal.
Work out the mean x value (xm) and the mean y value (ym)
From all your points, work out the standard deviation in the x values (sx) and the standard deviation in the y values (sy).
The best "best fit" straight line goes through the points [xm,ym] and [xm+sx, ym+sy]. The gradient of the line is sy/sx (but watch for the sign of the gradient).
Easy or what!
Remember where you saw it first.


I recall musing recently on the duplication of snowflakes. Those thoughts have come back to haunt me. Quite clearly, there are huge differences in snowflakes. The bit that has me utterly stumped is why they exhibit six-fold symmetry.
I fully understand how crystals form. A course in crystallography at university took care of that. What I don't understand is how the growing tips of snowflake crystals all know how to be exactly alike. The molecules joining the crystal seem to know exactly where to go and are supported in this, like synchronised swimmers, by five other molecules doing exactly the same thing. That I don't understand or even begin to understand.
It is not like growing salt crystals. Whereas every snowflake is different, every salt crystal is absolutely identical. The only thing different is the size of the crystal. Snow is a completely different deal. So, while each snowflake may be different, I think it should also be true that each "branch" of the snowflake should also be different.
But it isn't!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Have you noticed...

Remember those "threatverts" on the telly?


Don't see them that much at the mo.
Wonder why?

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Benchmark for Fraud

There is a lot of hand-wringing about how we will decide who should and shouldn't resign from Parliament. My brother has come up with a startlingly simple method.
Derek Conway (see a few blogs ago) was dumped out of his job for quasi-fraudulently claiming about eight grand, if memory serves me well enough. So all we need do is divide any particular robber-baron MPs fraudulently obtained loot by 8000 to give us their value in "conways".
Any MP with a conway-value of over 1.0 should be sacked (like poor old Derek). Over 2.0 conways, they should be imprisoned. Some of our MPs are rated, by my reckoning, at about 23.7 conways. Off with their bloody heads.
Actually "conways" is rather a bulky unit title. Just like "newtons" becomes N is physics, I would propose that "conways" becomes Con as a benchmark for MP crookedness. So we could say: "anyone under 1.0 Con is probably safe." There. Much neater.
It works on many levels, does "Con".
Even French.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

O-Order, O-Order

Mr Speaker resigns.
First time since 1695.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha he he ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha he he ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha he he he ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
He he.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fattening Pigs

For the nth time (where n is a large integer) in my 30 years in education I am facing an inspection.
I have box files full of paperwork, meetings to attend, feedback sessions and all the usual pandemonium generated by such events. The cost in man-hours is gigantic. The cost is equally massive in paper.
Now here comes the bit I don't get.
No lessons are being observed.
It is an old aphorism that you can't fatten a pig by weighing it.

Poor Old Derek

Is it just me, or is everyone feeling just a bit sorry for Derek Conway?
As I remember it, he was "guilty" of doing far less than, currently, about 600 other MPs. Like them, he was completely "within the rules" and was pilloried and hounded out. I genuinely feel sorry for the bloke. All he was was the first one caught. The sight of him trudging through the rain to get a bollocking from the Chief Whip (Walnut's younger sister) and then off to get his epaulettes ripped off by Cameron was really, really sad. All he was doing was siphoning money towards his own family. It's not like he was buying porn or having his moat cleaned, purchasing Hob Nobs or getting mock Tudor beams fitted. He should be reinstated.
Derek, if you read this, I think you were hard done by.
It is just me, isn't it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Articles of Lapsed Faith

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I fear that we are moving away from this on a daily basis and I will, I know, devote more than one entry to this.
Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
This doesn't apply to MPs (obviously!) who are miles above the laws that you and I have to obey. Where I would be looking at a lengthy prison term, they are able to write their sins off as poor accountancy skills. Great.
Article 20: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
This is simply not true in Britain today. We have no right to assemble peacefully. We have a Police force that infiltrates demonstrations with its own agitators and then uses "kettling" to ensure that the demonstration is anything but peaceful. That same Police force turn up looking like the extras from Star Wars and batter the crap out of demonstrators who were - until their arrival - quite peaceful in intent and action.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Melting the Crystal Ball

Scientists (and I use the term loosely) are very worried that the Arctic Sea will probably be free of ice (during summer) within 20 years. This is much faster than they have hitherto predicted.
Let's just run that again.
Scientists are predicting that, in 20 years, the ice in the Arctic will be gone after having recently predicted that it will not be gone.
All this tells us is that their predictions are utterly worthless.
Climatologists are basically long-range weather forecasters. As you know, I wouldn't trust a meteorologist to get yesterday's weather right, never mind tomorrow's. So how in God's name, with all the uncertainties in the system do they honestly expect us to even twitch an eyelid when they predict one thing and then come back - with no more real information or insight - with the "no, it will be much worse" argument. Which prediction is right? First or second? We'll find out in 20 years.
Personally, I trust Nostradamus more than this lot and he doesn't mention ice caps melting.

Animal Farm

As a teenager I read Orwell's "Animal Farm" in one sitting one day. Easily done. I was quite happy with the tale as it stood or with the parallels drawn between the farm and the USSR. Jolly good read. I've just read it again, only this time with our beloved PM cast as Napoleon and the other members of the Puritan Kakistocracy cast in other pig-like roles. It works just as well. Sadly. When Blair (Orwell's real name, incidentally) took over from the famously corrupt Tories in 1997 we all looked towards the brightening skies of our collective future. Twelve increasingly corrupt years later we are in a frighteningly worse position. Pigs with noses in the trough. Begone! The lot of you!

Stephen Fry, a chap I admire enormously, was on the Beeb today claiming that all this expenses stuff was completely unimportant and we should let it drop. For once, he is talking total bollocks. The actions of virtually all our MPs have disgraced our democratic system. While the rest of us tighten our belts yet again, watch our savings wither away, see our pensions collapse, and watch the decay of our schools, roads, hospitals and much more besides, our "honourable members" are pigging themselves.
Stephen: it is important; dont be a prat.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


My spelling mistake of a home town is just about to drop out of the Premier League. Being on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline at St James' Park last night just about did it. Having supported Boro (usually from afar) all my life, it does hurt to see them drop into the Championship but the fight to avoid relegation has been fascinating this year. It still isn't decided. Even Tony Mowbray (one of Boro's favourite sons) is still defiant with his WBA team on the brink. Newcastle aren't safe yet. Hull may scramble clear. Much more interesting than the top of the table where the "big four" are in their usual places and it is obvious again that Man Utd are home and dry.
What I like about the "wrong end" of the table is that the games mean something. There is still something to play for rather than just the money. Proper football.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Guilty-ish: The New Innocent

So here's the scenario. I do absolutely nothing wrong, but I get wrongly arrested for something. I get DNA tested. Then I am released. Can I now get on with my life as normal? No. My DNA data will be stored for 6 years (minimum).
So - let's get this right - being completely innocent gets your data stored alongside the bad guys and, subsequently, the Police have access to information about you that they have absolutely no right to have. In effect, we have had an alternative to innocent rammed down our throats. We are now, all of us, either guilty or potentially guilty. I am not sure that there is a word for "guilty-ish" but there needs to be. It is the new innocent.
The first sniff of "guilty-ish" came with re-trials. Once upon a time you were - at your one and only trial - declared innocent or guilty. Being guilty meant that your guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt. Juries who now "can not reach a verdict" trigger a re-trial. Surely "can not reach a verdict" is exactly the same as "not proven beyond reasonable doubt"; viz. "innocent".
We are sleepwalking into a fascist state. Indefinite detention. Show trials. Political trials.
Coming soon to a Britain near you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

On Offer

If David Cameron or Nick Clegg are looking for someone to stand as an MP for the next election, tell them I'm interested. I don't know what contacts you people have out there but since all of us on the planet are connected via three people (i.e. your friend of a friend of a friend knows every person on earth), I'm sure you can get the message back.
I'm sure I could do a good job although I have none of the qualities we have come to demand from our Honourable Members.
I am, for example, honest.

On My Planet

MPs' expenses; you couldn't make it up.
I have to say, I would love simply to collect all my receipts for the week and drop them into the Fees Office to be reimbursed but it just doesn't happen like that in my world. The way it works on my planet is that I work (just one job incidentally) for an employer who pays for this work with something called a salary. From this salary I lose income tax, national insurance (another tax) and a chunk of money for a pension (because the government has so mis-managed things that my generation will all need private pensions). When I go out to buy things I sometimes pay a lot more tax (e.g. petrol, gin) or just more tax (e.g. 15% VAT). Either way, in any one year, I have to work from January 1st to mid-July to pay my taxes. From then on, the money is mine.
This money, ripped from my salary, my hand and my pocket, goes to fund spurious second homes, hubby's porn, most of what John Lewis sells in a year and a million sundry items that should actually be bought from MPs' salaries. And they wonder why we are disenchanted with politics.
I feel like a Dalek at the foot of a flight of stairs; murderous and frustrated.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Help! Is there a biochemist in the house?

After years and years of thinking I did, it turns out that I don't understand DNA. The bases in DNA come in pairs, A with T, C with G. So on one helix you might have AAGCGCTTAGC and this would be matched by TTCGCAATCG. Fine. Happy with that.
Then, I'm told, the DNA is used to make RNA. OK. Which helix? If I use my AAGCGCTTAGC bit I will get a totally different RNA to my TTCGCAATCG bit. I'm also a bit worried because making RNA looks like the DNA has to uncoil. I've tried doing this on models. It doesn't work. You try it with two pieces of wire braided together. It knots up.
Then there's mitochondrial DNA. This is in a circle. No chance of unwinding there. So how does it make RNA? Does it make RNA? How does it make enzymes?
If there are any biochemists out there reading this, I would appreciate an hour of your time. Coffee would be involved.
And perhaps a cheese scone.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pandemics (again)

So here we are again. Swine flu. Initially, I thought that this was just the past tense of "Pigs might fly" but it appears to be MUCH more serious. This M1N1 virus is like ordinary flu but much, much...well...less potent. You feel crap for a day or two and then you feel OK. You might get a bit of diarrhoea (or "dire rear") as well.
I am so impressed that Max Clifford was brought in to do the PR for the first people to catch it. As soon as I heard about it I was looking for Mexicans to socialise with in a snot-sharing way but no luck.
Don't get me wrong, I'm really sorry if this "pandemic" has caused the deaths of 19 people across the world; I'm really impressed that we can mobilise millions of tons of drugs when threatened; I'm in awe of the speedy identification and analysis offered by the epidemiologists.
But - for God's sake - can we please stop crying "wolf" over these things.
And stop kissing pigs! All right?

Thursday, April 30, 2009


The Gurkhas. As a regiment within the British Army they have been absolutely superlative. Having - for generations - fought and died alongside our own troops, these doughty warriors have never, ever let us down. In WW2 they buried 32000 of their dead out of 250000 who served. They were awarded 2734 bravery awards from 1939 to 1945. They have been the loyalest of our loyal friends. They deserve our respect and gratitude in full measure.
Now, in a country where illegal immigration is rife, a paltry 4000 Gurkha ex-servicemen would like to settle here. In a country that is more or less open to more or less anybody these 4000 would represent a drop in the multi-cultural ocean.
Our Government say no.
If honour was measurable our Government would score zero.
Although I loathed Margaret Thatcher*, she did, at least, understand Britain's place within the history of our planet. Brown and his minions have not got a clue.
They will lose this one.
Ayo Gorkhali
* I live in the North-East. I am a teacher. Of course I loathe Thatcher.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another Enemy Within

Like many in the UK, I have been shocked at the tactics of our Police in recent weeks and months. It is nothing new, of course. Blair Peach, Jimmy Kelly & Liddel Towers come to mind from a generation ago. Jean Charles de Menezes is a more recent addition, but the memory is fading. Ian Tomlinson is the latest.
I have the utmost respect for our Police. I think that 99% of them do a wonderful job.
Unfortunately, 99% is nowhere near good enough.
The problem is that the police see us, the public, as the enemy. In the recent demonstations the protestors were not seen by the Police as enemies of the state, not voices raised in protest but their actual enemy. That really is scary. If the Police see us as their enemy then we are being forced to see them as our enemy.
That is certainly not what I want.
But it might be what the Police want.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

That was wonderful Darling...

Well done Darling (as the actress...).
If Cameron & Co. can't get elected after that budget and the crescendo of catastrophe that is daily engulfing the Puritan Kakistocracy then they don't deserve House room*.
Darling & Brown have made Labour (Old Labour as it turns out) completely unelectable.
Like every other Labour government we have ever had, they will leave us absolutely bankrupt.
Bring on the General Election.

* Or even second house room

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What if?

My previous rant might have given the impression that I am not a die-hard supporter of our Prime Minister. Good. I'm not. I was, however, much more of a Blair fan and I often tumble "what if?" scenarios around my head about his days in No.10.
What if, for example, he had had a more public-acceptable wife. Cherie was a cross to bear and so much of his time and energy was diverted in managing the damage that surrounded her.
Then there's the big "what if?". Brown and his gang. For years they whinged away in the background claiming that nasty Tony had told them that they could have the nice house soon. For the last two years of Blair's time in office all we heard was Blair-Brown-Rift. It was pointless, damaging, divisive and created massive uncertainty. Blair made his mistakes and had several blind spots but I am left wondering what he would have been like, and how we would remember him, if Brown had not been stabbing him in the back on a daily basis. In a cruel application of symmetry, Brown's premiership has been - from the word go - pointless, damaging, divisive and it has created massive uncertainty.
C'est la vie.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Saying Sorry

Gordon Brown is famously reluctant to say "sorry". What seems to be the hardest word comes from the Old English "sarig" meaning "distressed; full of sorrow". So it all becomes clear. GB (great initials for a PM of the UK I always think) isn't actually distressed or full of sorrow. My guess is that he will not be any more additionally sorry when his darling Darling reads out his budget this week. Brown has a "moral compass", he claims. This guides him towards right; away from wrong. His "moral compass" is severely affected by moral magnetic storms at present. Our entire democratic system stinks, from PM to MP. He has allowed those we laughingly call "honourable members" to wreck the trust we once had in our parliament. His government is mired in fiddles, fraud, spin, rumour, lies and deceit. Everyone else is to blame, you may have noticed. Never him. Sadly, although this worked with Blair, it doesn't with Brown. He will, I am sure, resort to diffusing the impact of Darling's budget by spreading the blame around as usual. Global situation and Tory legacy (wearing thin after 12 long years). You can guarantee that none of the blame for any of the mess we are in will be due to anything he has done. That's why he doesn't say sorry.
He isn't.

Monday, April 13, 2009


I have just spent a wonderful day looking around two of Northumberland's finest castles: Warkworth and Dunstanburgh. We also took time to stand outside and ogle Bamburgh and Alnwick castles. Warkworth nestles within a pretty village and is a compact example of mediaeval engineering. Dustanburgh dominates a piece of high ground a mile north of Craster. Both are breathtaking in so many ways: the scenery, their longevity, their scale and their history. If I had to pick a favourite it would be Dunstanburgh. Although heavily ruined, the location is peerless and the size is impressive. Warkworth would fit into a small corner. Bamburgh? My least favourite. The best thing about it is the nearby beach. Alnwick? Still the home of the Duke of Northumberland and run by him for as a commercial venture. Tawdry.
Completely coincidentally, I was a staff member of Dunstanburgh House in my last school.
Biased? Surely not.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Heirs to the Throne

I know it is all being done to take our minds off the mess we are in, but the whole problem of "who becomes monarch" is so farcical that it is funny.
We are led to believe that it will remove discrimination if the eldest prince or princess becomes monarch rather than the eldest male heir. What utter tripe. It does nothing to stop the discrimination against those who are not the eldest (male or female). What if the second in line was a complete star, but the heir was a complete wassock? I think a much better plan would be to have an elected King/Queen. When the reigning monarch dies we should have a speedy referendum to elect the next monarch. Just the "first-rankers"; children of the deceased monarch. So, when QE2 dies (which will never happen, trust me), all of us Brit Cits get a ballot paper saying, effectively, Charles? Anne? Andrew? Edward?
This gets round all the discrimination issues and we end up with a popular monarch.
Not a bad idea for a republican, I think.

Richard Timney

Our famously incorruptible Home Secretary (my tongue has just burst through my cheek) apparently pays for her husband's porn with taxpayers' money. Richard Timney; that's hubby's name.
Quite honestly, I'm on his side all the way.
Firstly, he is married (or "partnered" at least) to Jacqui Smith. I haven't seen her on mingers.com but that is surely an oversight. The man needs something to take his mind of his predicament. Imagine waking up in the morning next to her. Cruel; that's what it is.
Secondly (and my major reason for being such a fan of his) the great British public can now spell Timney. As a member of this expatriate Irish clan I have spent all my life spelling my name only to have it misspelled anyway. It has been written in a hundred different variants. I have tried spelling slowly: t.i.m.n.e.y. I have tried Tango India Mike November Echo Yankee. I have tried "it's an anagram of ENMITY" to people who were seriously getting up my nose. All have failed.
But no more. Richard, the onanistic husband of one of our greatest national treasures has ensured that Timney is spelled correctly.
Richard Timney: with my free right hand I salute you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

China Trip #5: Coffee in my Room

Empty contents of Nescafe coffee sachet into my cup.
Repeat; my coffee needs to be strong tonight.
Empty contents of Nescafe Coffeemate into cup.
Empty sweetener into coffee.
Add hot water.
Stir, Drink,

China Trip #4: So Similar So Different

Hong Kong and now Guangzhou are (to western eyes) quite surreal places. HK is like NYC except all of it is like Manhattan. The population density in HK is through the roof, but there is very little of the dirt one associates with big western cities. No litter. No dog crap (no dogs). Strange names of businesses in English and Cantonese. Ferries that look like they will sink at any time. Guangzhou is more "Chinese" (if that word means anything in this context) and much less the finished product. Opulence and poverty side by side.
A little girl, four years old maybe, followed me for some way with her hand out asking for money. I only had my credit card and a bloody big lump in my throat.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

China Trip #3: Hong Kong

I have now been awake 32 hours and sleep is going to overtake me soon. This is my way of staving off jet lag. We'll see if it works tomorrow. I will certainly sleep well tonight.
Apart from my lift from the airport to the hotel being 2hrs late, nothing has gone wrong at all. When a driver did turn up (I'm blaming nobody for this) he was very polite. His 7-seater limo was geet lush. We could, however, have so easily got off on the wrong foot.
As I climbed in he asked "You wanna wink?". Well, no, I didn't, as it happens. Random exercise involving one eye...(?) Or maybe I misheard. "Pardon?" said I. "You wanna wink?" Bugger. I hadn't misheard. I thus assumed that winking was a local custom. So I summoned up my best wink (right eye; left eye is nowhere near as good; long story) and whilst doing it said "Go on then."
He then gave me a drink. Lovely, chilled water it was.
Went down without touching the sides.

China Trip #2: Dubai

This could be Rotterdam or anywhere... as the song goes.
It is sanitary white and spotless. If it isn't being cleaned it has just been cleaned; everywhere.
I am writing this in Dubai, Terminal 3, Gate 226 (they have lots of other gates too).
It is coming up to 1.30am and my flight leaves at 3.15am. I need a drink. The chunky Kit-Kat I substituted for a drink now feels like a bad idea. I am full of sugar, dog-tired and very thirsty. It is like being a chronic diabetic.
We flew through some amazing storms to get here and they suspended landings for over an hour. The scene on the Forward Camera (Channel 17 on my personal TV in the back of the seat in front) was awesome! We arrived only moments after the rain had stopped. Everywhere was drenched.
The desert will bloom tomorrow.
But I'll be in Hong Kong (via Bangkok).

China Trip #1: Newcastle International Airport

Time is standing still. On a much shorter scale the two minutes that must elapse before you can open your washer door are like this. Endless. 105 minutes in the departure lounge. 6300 seconds. I will count them all. Twice.
Fortunately, eventually, nature calls. My over heavy bag and I are travelling together alone. This is tricky at times. One of those times is now. Heading towards a urinal in a completely deserted toilet it occurs to me that the whole "which urinal?" problem is irrelevant at this precise moment. Phew! The hours... Anyway, on second inspection I decide against. There is a lot of splashage and my bag is very heavy to keep over my shoulder out of the puddles and... well, you know. So I head for a cubicle. Designed for poos. A poobicle.
The first has a smashed lock. I discover this after a struggle involving a 15 point turn with a heavy bag to face the door. The next has an inoperable lock. I can't see why but I'm no sanitary equipment operational engineer. The third looks like a shrine to the late Bobby Sands, IRA hunger-striker and dirty protest supremo. The fourth is a work in progress to emulate the third. I give up and go to the 16th. It is fine. My coat is hung on a hook that is there. My bag helps keep the door shut. I check the seat, then the floor. Dry, dry. Well, today is looking up. I sit. The gigantic Kimberley-Clark loo roll dispenser makes sitting vertically an impossibility. What were they expecting? Dysentery at Newcastle Airport? Maybe these loo rolls are meant to last the expected life of the airport. And then some.
Finished, I dried my hands using an air blower that could strip flesh from bones. It doesn't dry your hands; it blows the water off. The perma-damp wall sports a lovely commonwealth of the black mould aspergillus niger along each line of grouting, immune to the casual wipe of the cleaner's cloth.
Back in the departure lounge I decide on a Ritazza latte (large). Pronounced "lah-tay" all over the country but "la'ee" with a voiceless glottal plosive at the ' mark in Newcastle. Either way, it was very pleasant. Well worth an arm and a leg.
Got to go. My flight has just been called.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Great Graduate Rip-Off

Graduating soon? Some advice for you.
The stated aim of our beloved Government is to have 50% of the UK population with university degrees. To do this they created lots of "new" universities from the old polytechnics and then proceeded to cram students in. Of course, students need qualifications. To make sure enough people pass, the A-Level has been getting steadily easier*. It is now so devalued that nobody actually believes they are worth anything (which is a shame for those that have them). But if you can't handle A-Levels there are all sorts of alternatives: BTEC, GNVQ, HEFC - just about any combination of four letters you can imagine.
Now here's the question. Assuming that one of the big reasons people go to university is to train up for a job at the end of their degree, are we now genuinely expected to believe that 50% of the jobs out there in UK Ltd. require a degree? Walk down your high street. Do half of those manning the shops need a degree? What about the factories? Building sites? Transport? Service industries? Are we really saying that half of these jobs require degrees?
Of course not. Stop being silly.
So why are we cramming people into university? Well, here is my take on it.
If we get half of our 18-21 year-olds into university that is a hell of a lot of dole we don't have to find, apprenticeships we don't have to create and opportunity we needn't worry about. Then, when we've got them into university we charge them for the "privilege". £3000 in fees (due to rise steeply). So a tax (clearly) of £9000 for a 3-year degree. Then there is £3500 per year in loans (government backed). So, a government loan of £10500 or so across the three years to be paid back as soon as you cross a very low threshold. Those graduating this year are looking at starting their working lives with around £20000 in debt and probably a lot more. What a rip-off! Look at our economy. It is an unmitigated mess with the opportunity for job-seekers shrinking by the minute. If you do get a job and actually manage to get a decent salary they will tax you more. Heads you lose, tails you lose.
My advice?
Go to a country that values a UK degree. Plenty do. You won't have to pay back the 20 grand so you can have your education for free and then start a new life in a country that values your education. What a deal!
Do it. You know you want to.
*Hotly denied. Therefore true.


This time of the year is a fabulous time to switch on the "science" light in young minds. March and April are littered with rainbows. Next time you are out and about in the showers, have a really good look at a rainbow.
Things to look for...
The colours are staggeringly pretty. We don't see Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Indigo-Violet. Victorian poppycock. We see deep red, orange-red, yellow (a lot), a thin green zone, cyan, blue and violet. The colours aren't distinct. They melt into one another. Inside the bow it is much brighter than outside. Outside the main bow there is often a secondary bow, much fainter, where the colour order is reversed. There may be some other bands of colour too. If the sun is low in the sky the bow will be very high, and vice versa. You never need sunglasses when you are looking at a rainbow. The sun is shining on the back of your head. Evening rainbows are much redder than midday rainbows. The pot of gold is the illumination of the ground where the bow meets the earth. You can also get rainbows at night. Ghostly moonbows; best around full moon.
Show your children. "See" rather than "glance". After a lifetime of being immersed in science I still love seeing rainbows. They replenish my love of physics.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pigs in the Trough

There are few things less surprising than corrupt MPs. Tony McNulty is the latest. Although he quite rightly points out that he hasn't broken any rules it is worth remembering that - in their own countries - neither did Stalin or Hitler. Okay, so he isn't in their league but it really stinks when the "Right Honourable Member" is plainly on the fiddle. Irritatingly, MPs are amongst the highest paid in the country. Top 5%, I think. They always bleat on that they would earn much more in industry or commerce. Well bugger off and earn it! Let's see you do it.
Most of our MPs are career politicians. They have done very little outside politics and they learn, from a very early age, how to fiddle the system. The House is geared around fiddles. They can ask for £250, with no paperwork, on any day they like to take a visitor out to lunch. I have screeds of paperwork to fill in every time I buy a text book on Amazon.
They have systematically denatured our democratic system. The ONLY thing I would like to see Cameron and his mob achieve is the cleaning up of Parliament. Hercules managed to clean the Augean stables in a single day. I will gladly kneel at Cameron's feet if he cleans up Westminster in one term of office.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Alcohol: Pricing per Unit

To listen to the Puritan Kakistocracy's Chief Quack you would be forced to conclude that we are a nation of binge drinkers. We most certainly are not. A tiny minority, less than 1%, do the whole binge drinking thing. So basically the lie we are being told this time is that alcohol is too cheap so we should make it expensive to stop binge drinking. What about the 99% of us who have done nothing wrong? Oh yes, we pay too. So it's just a tax then? Well... Yes. Will it curb binge drinking? Well... No. Not a chance.
The irony is that a 50p per unit pricing system will almost certainly increase binge drinking. It is self-evident that binge drinking happens in public; in pubs. Since these places already charge much more than 50p per unit they will be more or less immune to the Quack's Tax (© JAT 2009). The remaining few who binge at home (if, indeed, anybody does) will thus be driven into pubs to binge there. The whole scheme might put a lot of off-licences out of business, but the publicans will love it.
Dear Puritans: Prohibition in the USA. Go read up about it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Balls Talking Balls

Every so often you have to feel sorry for Ed Balls.
But this is not one of those times.
Social Services. He is in charge of them.
Lord Laming has just delivered a massive smack across his ministerial bare bottom and he had the bare-faced cheek (no pun intended) to appear on BBC Breakfast this morning as though everything in the garden is rosy. Ed, listen to people who know*. It's a mess. A paper-choked, risk-averse, blame-avoidance, solution-free mess. Rather than sitting next to the lovely Susanna Reid with your smug smile, bag full of platitudes and your Blackberry Bolloxtalk go back to your opulent office and actually do something. Just go and earn the money we pay you. Just do your job.

*not me, I don't

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chocolate Tax

The Puritan Kakistocracy are at it again! This time it's chocolate in the gunsights. With a veritable epidemic* of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes absolutely out of control we have to do something. Anything! "Let's tax chocolate!" they all shout in glee. Problem. Chocolate doesn't cause either obesity or diabetes II, sugar does. So why not tax sugar? At least have the decency to tax the right thing!
I really do despair of this lot. I also despair of the morons who are going along with them. Taxing chocolate will not reduce consumption by one bar. All it will do is pour money into the Treasury, who will then dole it out to cronies, consultants and quangos to waste with their usual great aplomb. All these neo-Puritans sucking their recently flossed teeth and telling us fatties to lay off the Maltesers can go to hell. While it is still a free country, I'm off to get a bag of chips with lots of salt on and a deep-fried Mars bar. I'm going to wash it down with a Guinness, a Red Bull, another Guinness and some lard.
So there.

* or not, as the case might be.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Anglian Regiment

In Luton today, the Anglian Regiment came home and marched, to general applause, through the city. They were at one point confronted with a small group of Islamic protesters who called them "war criminals" and "murderers". The vast majority of the crowd were extremely upset at this and some turned their venom on the protesters and were promptly arrested. Clearly, freedom of speech only applies if you are an Islamic protester [yet again]. Our "hate laws" only work in one direction [yet again]. British values count for absolutely nothing [yet again].
The Anglian Regiment, to their eternal credit, did not stop, aim and fire. There are plenty of precedents for this, from Ancient Rome to early Victorian times. Two thousand years of precedent. They just marched on. God bless them.
It must have been like being in good old Basra.


A lot of scientific professions end in "-logy". And quite right to. The ending comes from logos meaning speech, word or discourse in good old Ancient Greek. So why, oh why, do some think the word should end in "-ology"? Biology (bios=life) I have no problem with. Mineralogy I have no problem with. Criminology I have a lot of issues with. Is this the study of criminols? Surely, it should be Criminalogy.
Zoology is another one that irks me. Not because of the spelling; it's the pronunciation that gets me. I guess that 99% of the UK would pronounce it "zoo"+"ology". That would make the spelling "Zooology". It is pronounced "Zo"+"ology", the first two letters as in the girls' name Zoë.
I'm going to bed. Not that I'll sleep with all this mayhem!

The Rising Tide

Sea levels are rising (in some places, not others). Apparently, 600 million people world wide could be in danger from this rising tide in the next 100 years. Now, correct me if I'm wrong here, but that is total bollocks.
I've watched quite a few human beings. Not one of them was rooted to the spot. If we said to the 6 million per year affected worldwide, "Move away from the big blue wet thing. Go inland.", I think there is an outside chance that they might, actually, go, inland.
Rising sea-levels are not new. Nor are they particularly catastrophic. There was a massive rise in sea-level after the end of the last Ice Age. A hundred metres or so. This time we are talking about 1 metre. One piddling little metre.
This all comes from climatologists getting money to fund their ideas and a platform from which to spout. If mesolithic hunter-gatherers can survive (and they did; look around at their descendants) then I'm sure we can.
Ask the Dutch. They know how to do it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Copyright, Twitter and Facebook

I've tried Twitter now and I've given it up. It's crap. Writing one line to tell the world (viz. the five people who are your "followers") what you are up to is, ultimately, quite pathetic. Likewise, I'm not a huge fan of the "status" line of Facebook. I sometimes like what people write but I use it mainly as a spam-free email system. And of course, I look at photographs.
The recent shenanigans about the ownership of the photographs on Facebook has been very interesting. Facebook Inc. (I just made that up - I've no idea who runs Facebook) claim a right to use the photographs we upload. They want ownership and copyright. Fair enough, upload a couple of thousand pictures of child porn and call the cops. They'll soon run away from that idea.
But you have to see their point in a way. Their system, their servers, their storage space, their cost. If we are stupid enough to upload our pictures so that they are available to all then almost by definition we have surrendered our rights to them. I don't know. It's all very perplexing. I think the Australian legal system might have it right. To have copyright on anything in Australia it has to be of lasting value.
Facebook? Nah.

Soft Targets

A man was recently arrested for laughing too hard. A trivial piece of news but the outward symptom of a real disease. Two things: the policeman who carried out the arrest thought he was justified and the "criminal" was a law-abiding like-you-and-me citizen of our country.
The fact that the policeman thought he had justification is scary enough. It suggests that the Police make it up as they go along. They probably have to, to be fair. They have been deluged with new, pointless offences for years. The total area of grey areas of the law increases daily. We now have a specific law against setting off a nuclear weapon. As if the existing laws on explosions, murder, destruction of property etc. weren't enough. There are now hundreds of reasons the Police can now give you to enter your home without a warrant. The Police will not know them all, so if they need to they will make it up on the spot.
The other point I would make is that the guy who was laughing "too much" was just a regular bloke. Normal. No risk of alienating a section of the community. He obeys laws. He pays taxes. He respects authority. He is you and me.
Soft target.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Coming Equinox

I love astronomy. I hate astrology. Nevertheless, we have an astronomical event coming up soon that ties these two together. The Vernal Equinox happens this year on 20 March at 11.43. At that time, the Sun is directly over the equator. At the North Pole it is just rising, at the South Pole it is just setting. The two hemispheres of the Earth are illuminated equally and we have 12hrs of daylight and 12hrs of night1. Hence, equinox; equal night.
The point in the sky where the Sun does all this clever stuff is called the First Point of Aries. It is in Pisces, as it turns out, but it used to be in Aries. You will notice the use of two star signs here. They are genuine constellations in the sky. The fact that the First Point of Aries is in Pisces is because it slowly moves through all the zodiac star signs; something called the Precession of the Equinoxes. Our star sign is the constellation where the Sun was when we were born. Virtually all of us are given the wrong star sign by the astrological community2. That's why I hate astrology. It is all bollocks from the word go.

1 Neglecting atmospheric refraction; which you shouldn't.
2 They don't even include the 13th star sign Ophiuchus

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gordon and Plate Tectonics

Gordon Brown to the US Senate et al: "No power on earth can ever draw us apart"
Sadly, he is wrong. There is a big crack in the Atlantic ocean floor that is pushing us wider apart every day. It isn't particularly quick but it is certainly drawing us apart. The island of Surtsey, south of Iceland was created by this fissure, where two tectonic plates are pulling apart, in 1963. I remember news of it being formed and it is quite big now. We might get a whole string of islands between us and the US one day. That might be fun. A long time ago (170 million years), what is now the US and us were actually joined. Since then we've drifted apart at an average of 3 cm per year. It is now 5585km from London to New York... and rising.
Maybe Geology isn't Gordon's strong point.
Maybe Geology is his strong point!

University Challenge

Only in Britain...
University Challenge (avid watcher here btw) has been running for 40 years, but this year the Press decided to get involved. First is was Gail Trimble. I don't know about you, but she seems like a really nice girl to me. Clever, a bit shy, slightly awkward with twenty cameras in her face. For God's sake, leave her alone. The hate/envy thrown in her direction is horrendous!
Then there's the whole disqualification thing. It was a great final. Manchester led for a lot of the time, Corpus Christi powered through at the end. I thought that the show epitomised everything I love about being English. Good competition, fairly fought, tight finish, applause from the losers to the winners. Then I got dragged back into the 21st Century. Ineligibility. Disqualification. Investigation. Shock, horror, probe. Everything I hate about being English.
The Manchester team was interviewed on Breakfast (BBC) the following morning. They were clearly gutted at having "won" in the way they did. Their dignity in "triumph" was admirable. Their captain, Matthew Yeo, spoke for all of us after the "scandal" broke: "It's only a game show."

Monday, March 2, 2009


My Dad died a year ago (3rd March 2008). That basically means I've missed him 365 consecutive days. I've missed his smile, his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things mechanical, his "general swearing", his unconditional love for those around him and for the words "Hello Son". He taught me how to learn everything I know. My PhD thesis is dedicated to him (and my Mam) although he never had the foggiest idea what I was doing for those three years.
Dad was alive 28593 days (78.28 years). He did all sorts in a very full and interesting life. He had all sorts of jobs and was never unemployed from leaving school aged 14 to when he retired. He's got a great job now. He is Guardian Angel to my niece, Olivia, and he is bloody good at it. He has to be!
The tickover on my bike is still too high. It must be driving him crackers.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tomato Soup, Polo Mints and Rubber Bands

I had tomato and basil soup for lunch today. Delicious and, in a way, perplexing.
When you stir tomato soup it obliges and goes around the pan in the direction you are stirring. If you then pull your stirring spoon out quickly it continues on for about a centimetre then reverses for a few millimetres. Now I'm no scientist, but that is odd. Quite anti-Newtonian.
Not so odd though as when you break polo mints in conditions of utter blackness. Get under your bed, or in that cupboard under the stairs with a packet of polo mints and break a few. They give off light! Amazing. When anyone knocks on the little triangular door and asks what you are up to, you can say "breaking Polo mints". You will then hear speechlessness.
Even that is not so amazing as unstretching rubber. If you stretch a really fat rubber band across your lips (very temperature sensitive are lips) and then suddenly let the rubber unstretch* it feels very cold. Quite incredible.
I must get out more.

*unstretch? God knows what the right word is.

Striking Miners

We are coming up to the 15th anniversary of the end of the miners' strike. This event, for me, will go down in history alongside 14/10/1066, 1/5/1707 and 15/9/1940 as crucial dates in the development of the Britain we are today.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the strike, it was the event where a democratic government turned and bared its teeth on its own people; when the Police Force was used in exactly the way that Hitler used the SS; when honest hard-working people were labelled "the enemy within".
Look around the battlefields of the world. You'll find miners everywhere, dressed temporarily in uniform. Fighting and dying for their country. Thousands upon thousands on the Somme, Paschendael, Ypres and a thousand other places. Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire lost countless men fighting to keep this country free and then they, their family and friends are called the enemy within.
Scargill? As it turns out, he was right.

Poor Old Fred

You might be surprised that someone is sticking up for Sir Fred Goodwin, but here goes.
First off, he has done nothing wrong. Sure, he led his company into the nadir of its fortunes and is clearly a failed banker, or something that rhymes with that. But he did nothing wrong (as in criminal).
Secondly, his pension is all above board, was agreed by the confederation of morons we call the government and if RBS hadn't turned its toes skyward we (a) wouldn't have known anything about it and (b) wouldn't have cared less, apart from the odd, Trotskyite tut. When Gordon Brown shuffles off into retirement, will we hold his abysmal record against him? Of course not. We should, but we won't.
The thing that really sticks in my throat is that serial hypocrite, as she was wonderfully recently described, Harriet Harman going for Goodwin guns blazing. She and her mates waste more money in a week than he will earn for the next 100 years.
Leave Fred alone. He might be that old Spoonerism a wad banker, be he is completely in the right.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Words I Never Say

I love reading speeches. The great speeches. Churchill, King, Lincoln. Nothing from Thatcher's mouth. That sort of thing. There are times when I would love to be able to stand there and deliver the resonant line, the reverberating phrase. Much more than a Blairy soundbite.
And where would I use this skill, if I was so possessed?
At work mostly.
I work with a wonderful team of teachers. They are genuinely inspirational and they manage to weave their special magic in two directions. They can inspire students in Sociology, Economics, Business, Mathematics and a long list of other outwardly dry subjects. And they lift my spirit every day I spend with them.
It will never happen, but I dearly wish I had the words and the style, the opportunity and the voice, the platform and the performance to give something back.
But I haven't.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Inside my head I have two jet engines at maximum revs. They scream all day, every day. Sometimes they are so loud that I can hardly hear anything else. At other times they are more distant. On Saturday morning they had gone away. Completely. For the first time in 16 years I could hear clearly and I was free of the maddening screech that pollutes the interior of my head. It was marvellous.
On Saturday night I went to a CIU in Forest Hall to hear a band called Stormy Monday. I don't usually like blues/rock. Some of their stuff was good: "Substitute" (The Who) was excellent. Most was, in fact, good if you liked that kind of thing. I didn't. What I can say about it was that it was uniformly loud. Very loud. Painfully loud. You know where this is going....
On Sunday morning, after the two hours of aural battering I had endured the previous evening, my tinitus was back. Sixteen years with one day off. I'll be coming up to 70 years old when I get my next day off. Most days it is just a fraction below unbearable. Some days it has me suicidal.
At least I have something to look forward to for my 70th birthday year.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Motorbike Season

The Sun has one month until it gets to the equinox but the lengthening evenings and warmer days have already seen that wonderful phenomenon of bikers all over the UK emerging from their winter hibernation.
Donning jackets and pants, or even onesies, that are still a little tight after the excesses of Christmas they are starting to throw their right legs over their metallic mounts. My own steel steed has had its chain lubed, tyres inflated and the Haynes has been smudged with oil on the appropriate places in a frenzy of checklists and admonishments. My bike is a Triumph Bonneville 790. A bike exactly right for old geesers like me. My brother has just bought a Honda Hornet. Much more in keeping with someone his age. Alongside all the others we are ready for spring. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha from Japan, Ducati from Italy, BMW from Germany, Triumph from England; we are all ready. You will notice that "Harley-Davidson from America" hasn't made that litany above. They come out of hibernation much later. There is much chrome to be polished before they make their appearance. They die if there is even a trace of salt on the roads.
It is good to be alive astride a bike.
Let's keep it that way brothers and sisters.

This piece is dedicated to my good friend Ben who has a yearning to throw a leg over a Gixxer but should really get an SV650 or equally sensible machine. Do it mate. See you on the road.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sorry; What?

"Waders of the Lost Ark". I'm sure that was what she said. Harrison Ford in a movie about extreme fly-fishing, I surmised. Maybe my hearing is going. Not to worry. Lots of other senses. Aristotle reckoned five, Bruce Willis made it six. I think eleven, as do most others: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, nociception, equilibrioception, proprioception, kinesthesia, sense of time, thermoception and a very weak magnetoception. Unlike "a sight for sore eyes", "good taste", "hear no evil" and "left a bad smell", these less commonly noted senses do not have a great wealth of phrase and vocabulary attached to them.
I blame Aristotle for this. The man was a state-sponsored idiot. He quagmired* science for a bloody long time until several people (almost at once) stood up to him and shouted "Rubbish" (mainly in Italian). Aristotle had been dead for a millennium so he couldn't have cared less. The shouty people became the Renaissance and Western Civilisation was off and running. We have never stopped since then. Without Aristotle we would be 1000 years further on in our development as Homo sapiens sapiens.
Such a shame.

*To quagmire (vt): I quagmire, you quagmire, he/she/it quagmires etc.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Liverpool: No longer funny

I spent some time on oxymorons recently. No sooner had the cyber-ink dried, as it were, than I came across another: "a comedy by Carla Lane". You will have to excuse me here. It is not that I don't like Liverpool (although the song "The Leaving of Liverpool" gets it about right). It is a very interesting city. Lots of history. People as good as you'd find anywhere in the UK, including Middlesbrough. But funny? I think not. Especially Carla Lane. "Liver Birds" and "Bread": gut-wrenchingly awful. "Butterflies": a little better but only because of Wendy Craig (born in Sacriston, County Durham; so not Liverpool then).
We went through years of Liverpool thinking it was the most comedic spot on the planet. Like every other city in northern England it has taken a battering through the years and that does breed a certain urban gallows humour but no more in Liverpool than anywhere else. In recent times its lack of a GSOH was revealed by Boris Johnson who was nearly lynched for suggesting that Liverpool had developed a "victim culture".
My worry is that, by writing this, the whole of Liverpool will revert to his stereotype and I'll have to "do a Boris" and go there to apologise.
That wouldn't be funny either.

James May: National Treasure

We have only a few people in the UK that would make it on to any list headed "National Treasures". Ian Botham and Patrick Moore are obvious. Ralph McTell from the world of music and Stephen Fry from the world of everything else would complete my list.
Until now.
I would strongly advocate that James May should be added to this litany of demi-gods.
Why? Well, he doesn't come from London. He is interesting and engaging. He has a degree in Music from a non-Oxbridge university and is a keen flautist (viz. he plays the flaut) and pianist (viz.... no, I'm not going there). He writes for the Telegraph and still has a ridiculous hair "style" even though it has not been fashionable to look like that for decades. He walks around looking like an unmade bed but has a tendency to be charming, forthright, polite and intelligent. He likes beer, doesn't understand the "terroir" thing with French wine and adores Airfix kits. He is, in short, my kind of bloke.
That's why he's on my "National Treasure" list.
James. Advice. Ditch Clarkson. He'll never be on my list.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Isn't Britain filthy?! It is becoming more like urban France every day. And that can't be good. Look outside. Our green and pleasant land is like a part-emptied bin. The irony is that it is getting harder to get rid of household rubbish.
I guess that part of the problem is a distinct lack of ownership of "our" Britain. We don't feel that we own the railway stations and we certainly don't own the verges of our roads. There is always a quango somewhere, an agency, responsible for such. We over-hype (if that isn't tautologous) those that clean up the rubbish. "Binman" used to be a perfectly respectable job. The "man" bit is now un-PC and the full title is now something like "Environmental Health Refuse Collection Operative". Whatever they are called, there are not enough of them and they don't empty the bins often enough. Yet here we are installing microchips in our bins at home to make sure we don't chuck out anything recyclable. Madness.
I will return to this anon.
Well, got to go, this litter won't drop itself you know.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Next Blockbusting Novel

Do you remember how you felt when Bambi's mother was shot?
I'm trying to get the same feeling into a paragraph of my next blockbuster novel "Through Smoke". Next? Well, yes. And first, if you want to be pedantic.
Anyway, my young hero, Beorn, and his swordsmith father have just rescued the beautiful maiden, Engel, from the clutches of the evil Guthric. Swordsmith father (Alden) is nearly clear of danger when an arrow hits him right between the shoulder blades and lances through sinew and flesh to rent a hole in his left ventricle. I won't say it like that of course. The book is being written in Ænglish with no Roman or Greek or anybody else's vocabulary for that matter apart from good old Germanic and a bit of Norse.
I know it has all been done before but it really tests your wordken.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Free Speech

As Geert Wilders returns to Schipol Airport our Puritan Kakistocracy have effectively binned the entire concept of free speech in this country. Anywhere else they would be hanging their heads in shame. To refuse entry to an elected parlimentarian of a fellow EU state on the grounds that he might upset some easily upset people is ludicrous.
I personally do not agree with one thing that Wilders says. I do not align myself with anything he stands for. His politics are laughable. So laugh! He must realise that the right to free speech does not pre-ordain the right to be taken seriously. Let him speak. Listen to what he says and then walk away disagreeing. Gagging him is a moral victory for all the extreme right-wing nutcases everywhere. Let them speak. If they think what they think then actually voicing their opinions is of secondary importance. If you do not value the right to free spech for those you despise you do not value it at all.
In WW2 the leader of the British Union of Fascists, Oswald Mosely, was a voluble, high-profile anti-semitic apologist for Hitler and Mussolini. He was finally interned seven months after the war started. Even when openly siding with one of the most evil men in history and creating an organisation that was avowedly anti-Jewish, he was allowed to speak his mind. Why? Because we valued free speech. Now we don't. Now we have to watch our words all the time. The Puritans don't want you thinking. So stop. They don't want you deviating one millimetre from the Party line. They know best. They will tell you what to say. They will tell you what to think. They will tell you what to eat, drink, wear, hear, see, smell, touch, feel, love, hate and everything else in between.
Today was a bad day. Not a revolutionary, cataclysmic day. Just another, slightly deeper than most, cut of a thousand other cuts into your liberty.

Inciting Hatred

Geert Wilders and free speech is a big issue to which I will return when my anger cools.
Inciting hatred; that's why he was banned from the UK.
This whole "incitement" thing is quite terrifying. We (you, me, anyone) can be locked up for "inciting hatred". Does this absolve the person so incited from any guilt? In every other crime I can think of there is a felon and a victim. With this one the felon might be a Dutch guy with a bad haircut walking through Heathrow and the victim might be a bomber on a bus in Camden who gets his place with the angels along with 52 bored commuters. I don't get it. Our "inciting" laws make the person who can't control his hatred legally innocent of the crime of hating. Any number of things get me boiling, but I don't take it out on anyone else. Presumably, we can claim "he made me do it Guv" for a vast range of atrocities.
If you look at it a bit closer you might get a bit suspicious. I've heard rappers come out with all kinds of blasphemy, misogyny and hate but they are protected by their "kulcha". I hear Islamic clerics spouting venom at all things British, hiding behind the laws of this land. Can these people not "incite racial hatred"?
It appears not.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bobby & Becks

David Beckham will trot on to the field of dreams tonight to equal Booby Moore's record of 108 caps for England. Hold on; it's not a record. Peter Shilton (125 caps) holds that. Moore's record is for an outfield player.
Anyway. Some are up in arms* that Becks has made a lot of these appearances as a substitute. So? As EASports would say: "It's in the game." Bobby Moore gathered lots of caps in the quasi-internationals we called "Home Internationals" where we regularly stuffed the Welsh and Irish and had quite a tussle with the Scots. Moore's record is not an absolute ceiling. Anyway, Moore remained in the England team far after his best days were over. Sheer sentimentality.
If Becks gets cap no. 108 by coming on for the last 5 minutes, good on him. He has been a tremendous player for England and is worth every one. I can't remember the same furore when Moore passed Billy Wright's record. Perhaps we had more perspective then.
Moore was a great player but not England's greatest.
That would be Wilf Mannion.
*These are the same people who were up in arms when Beckham looked stranded on 99 caps and there was a massive campaign to get him Cap No. 100.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunburnt Country

My favourite poem, by Dorothea Mackellar, is My Country. When Australia occupies that magical part of your life called "growing up", poetry such as hers can only end in tears. So too, when the news is full of dead and dying Australians caught in bushfires.
I remember bushfires well; not so much in Queensland where we lived within a few yards of the beach north of Brisbane, but certainly in the valley of the Nepean River at Penrith, New South Wales. Across that river were the Blue Mountains. And the Blue Mountains were regularly ravaged by fire. From Penrith to Katoomba (one of the most beautiful journeys anyone could make) I saw the ashes from time to time. It makes me ache when I think of that beautiful sunburnt country, where I never rose above the rank of Pommie Bastard, in flames.
Fight the flames Aussies.
This Pommie Bastard, for one, has prayed all week for you.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Random Rantings

Two things have recently stuck in my craw and I'm having trouble coughing them out.
Firstly: those guys on strike because of our fellow Europeans taking their jobs. Presumably they are the same blokes who cheer on football teams full of anything but Brits and see no contradiction there at all. The fact that a company employed a load of Portugese and Italians speaks volumes for the indigenous workforce. They might also remember that these workers are here completely legally. Xenophobes: there's a word they may need to look up.
Secondly: Headline in the Torygraph - "Teachers need more grit" and then a massive rant about teachers closing schools and leaving Joe and Josephine Public the problem of looking after their kids. Hold on. 6.4 million stayed off work on Monday. We were virtually ordered to! Londoners relying on their public transport had no option. The point that the Bellylaugh had clearly missed was that teachers don't close schools. Headteachers do. Local authorities do. Teachers don't. Get it?
Leave the teachers alone. Not their fault.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Another Historical Whatnot

The day after Darwin's Birthday, it is the 317th anniversary of the Massacre at Glencoe which gave rise to a joke in very poor taste:

Two Campbells are walking through Glencoe.
One turns to the other and says, "I'm hungry"
The other says, "So am I. I could murder a MacDonald."

Apologies to all concerned.

Happy Birthday Charles

We are coming up to Charles Darwin's 200th Birthday. He was born in Shrewsbury on 12th February 1809. He won't be around for his 200th. He died aged 73. Sadly, he won't be there to blow out the candles (assuming that (a) one could light 200 candles and (b) one could blow them out aged 200).
I am a huge fan of Charles Darwin. His Law of Evolution (it's not a Theory, for God's sake) was beautifully crafted from millions of observations and countless hours of deep thought. It serves as an explanation of our past and a hope for our future.
It cheers me that in the 200 years since he appeared on Earth, the molecules of air that he breathed in and out (the nitrogen only very rarely gets used) will have permeated the entire atmosphere and I have have calculated that, every time I breathe in, a dozen or so molecules that went into Darwin's lungs go into mine. A genuinely inspirational thought.
(Latin: inspiro = I breathe in)