The Prime Minister has sent out his official Christmas card, and how charming it is. It shows him and Samantha with their adorably pretty three-year-old daughter Florence Rose Endellion Cameron. You can see she’s pretty because her face is not pixelated. Let me explain. DowningStreet has sent out ferocious letters to newspaper editors explaining that photos of Mr Cameron’s children must on no account be published unless their faces are pixelated. In the same breath, however, it invites the media to reproduce Florence’s face prominently – in a Christmas card photo that bears no sign of photoshopping at all. Well, unless you count the suspicious disappearance of one of Dave’s chins, but I could be wrong about that.
Using an innocent child for political ends…..Yes, he really is a true Leader.
At the news of the death of a 95 year-old man, an event which we shall all, eventually meet; I am happy to acknowledge that he was man enough to encourage reconciliation within South Africa. I do not rejoice at his death, but neither do I mourn him. I tend to look at a man’s achievements; at what he has done; at what he failed to do. In the balance, and we should always; at least those of us who actually think, instead of operating on knee-jerk reflexes only, judge fairly: accept that he was, as others have said before me, a flawed man. No saint, a man who could plot a murder because it was a means to an end, a future; only to see the promise of that same future discarded and vandalized by a bunch of chancers, thieves, charlatans and crooks masquerading under the banner of the political party of which he was the great figurehead.
My worry, my premonition, is based on the realities of life as it is now, in the shacks, the tin-roofed huts, on the dirt roads of the townships, with the untreated sewage running down the ditches, where the vast majority of South Africans live, in approximately the same way as they did when I was living there! My worry is that the resentment, the anger over the broken promises of the ANC Government will, instead of being directed at the thieves and criminals who have systematically stolen the birthright of a nation; will be instead directed at the people who once ruled, but are now forgotten. My worry is that the clubs, the guns and the bombs will be made ready, and the White minority, along with the Indians and the Cape coloureds, will be the focus for the violence which might have been stalled by Mandela. Stalled, but just delayed, not forgotten.
I remember that there lives, in a small, peaceful, coastal South African town, a 93 year-old Lady who devoted, since arriving in South Africa in 1940, every day of her life to teach all who came to her schools. I worry about my aunt, who lives now in retirement. A comment upon another post was that they had heard the South African anthem sung. I worry that there will be other chants, other songs and war-cries; and the loudest amongst them will be ‘Kill the Boer’ and ‘Kill the White Man’; because they are both easy chants to remember!
I have just logged on to the Government’s e-Petition site, and generated my petition which is shown below, and which should appear in around seven days.
I do hope that this gets some circulation; legs, whatever the term might be, because I feel rather strongly about this particular issue. After all, if even Albania doesn’t want the filthy stuff, why on earth should we give it more that a second’s thought before giving a flat and resounding rejection to this proposal?
We don’t want it, we don’t need it, and we surely have enough problems on this small and crowded country without importing someone else’s problems!
We wish to petition the Government of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland in protest against the importation of any part whatsoever of the residue, material or structure associated with the disposal of the Chemical Weaponry which is to be made safe from the Syrian State.
If anyone, anywhere else in the world wants to make itself the repository for this deadly material, good luck to them; but it should not be Great Britain, as we already have enough waste products of our own production to be going along with.
It is, I believe, an accepted truth that the Arabs have a lot of oil, hence a lot of cash; but they just don’t have a lot of anything else, like good taste, or even foresight. For the evidence, just check out the Qatari ‘Designa’ stadium:-
Where were you, or rather were you even alive, on the day Kennedy was shot? I was home on leave from Merchant Navy service, seated on a bus travelling back to my home, when a mate of mine spotted me, sat down and told me of the news. It seems to me that this one question, tells us more about how the world, and the people, have altered perceptions, and changed viewpoints than any other political event in the last one hundred tears.
Imagine, if the Internet, and citizen bloggers, and 24/7 news cycles, had existed on that sunny day when John Kennedy sat down in that motorcade which slowly wound its way through downtown Dallas.
It is indeed, more likely than not that LBJ would have been seated in that limousine, as the word, and fact, of Kennedy’s many flaws would have already driven him from office; either through resignation, or impeachment. Can you even imagine of the furore which would erupt if the news cycle was able to grab and run with stories of the American President having multiple sexual liaisons whilst his wife was in the White House caring for their youngest child? Can you even contemplate the size of the headlines when the assassination attempts on Castro were uncovered? Or the plots to overthrow the South Vietnamese President? Can you imagine the blog pages when Monroe serenaded Kennedy in public? All those huge problems would have been uncovered within hours of happening, because today, no-one gets away with much, except maybe bogus asylum-seekers and killers in Britain, and of course the SinnFeinIRA murderers in Stormont.
Camelot was always a straw building, and Kennedy was not even a very good politician, never mind President. He was a reluctant convert to the civil rights movement, and just about the only thing he got right was to stand firm against Kruschev over Cuba and the missiles, and even then Kennedy benefited from the spy Oleg Penkovsky’s advice on Soviet intentions. A pity that Penkovsky was later arrested and burnt alive after being betrayed by an American KGB mole.
So where indeed were you on the day that Kennedy was shot? Does it matter if there was a conspiracy? Why did Jack Ruby gun Lee Harvey down? Who indeed was on that Grassy Knoll? Who, if indeed anyone, really cares?
When speaking or writing of death, or a death, I tend to lean on things which I have written before to give some balance to my words. I read, many years ago, of the ‘Elysian fields’ of Greek mythology, and remember them partly because of the illustration given them by one of the teachers from my schooldays. He stands out in my memory partly for his teaching, for his manner of passing information almost imperceptibly, and partly because he was just about the only teacher who didn’t use some variation of a fist when ‘correcting’ us.
He told us that the Greeks believed that the Elysian Fields, populated by those who had died, gave them all a means of an everlasting ‘achievement’ in their chosen area of expertise. If you had been a warrior, you were matched against an opponent who was your equal in every way, and you fought and struggled, until nearly beaten, but then you were given a final burst or infusion of guile, and defeated him at the last gasp. You then celebrated, slept; and the next day did it all over again. It probably seems a little simplistic, but hey: it beats 72 virgins!
I was reminded of this just today, when reading of a Warrior who realised that he was judged worthy of a true salute by fellow Sailors. Does me good just to read it.
I wrote a small screed to our local newspaper concerning a proposed Development Plan for our whole County, and I thought I might reproduce it here. As I may have mentioned before, I have taken a deep and critical interest in local politics recently, so, as this Plan is so important, I thought I might stir up some effluent.:- (Note; the words in Red are quoted straight from the Plan).
To the Editors,
I am writing to advise your readers of a book that they simply must read. They won’t have to buy it, because it is free to those who wish access, either online, as a download, or as a normal printed book. It is a work of non-fiction, but there is, by this observer’s thinking, a great deal of both fiction and wishful thinking in this book of 301 pages. It has a really zingy title, well chosen for both brevity and accuracy; namely… The County Durham Plan (Pre-Submission Draft Local Plan). See what I mean? The words roll off your tongue like treacle spread over honey! It is a great pity that the contents don’t live up to the title, as there is planning, but not the type which most of us would accept as the result of neutral thought and open discussion. No, this document, which purports to be the Plan under which this whole County, along with all its residents, will be steered towards a happier, more productive and informed existence than they do at present; is in fact the worst sort of Socialist thinking in terms of the old-style attitude of ‘We know what is best, so shut up, pay your taxes, and we’ll let you know when its finished!’
Allow me to expand and explain. The book states, in great detail, The Plan as it purports to lay out the master-plan for regeneration, re-industrialisation and re-vitalisation of the County in which we live. I was not expecting to read a funny book, but there are pages which will generate laughter in the reader, but the laughter will not be of a humorous nature; but instead will be acid, sarcastic and derisory. The excerpts which will generate the laughter are entitled ‘Vision’, and explain, in great and glorious detail, how we shall all be living, some twenty years down the timeline, in a ‘Workers Paradise’, reminiscent of the Stalinist billboards which featured strong, muscular, chisel-featured men and beautiful women, gazing forth into a rising sun, as they set forth to build that same ‘Paradise’.
We are told that Durham City’s traders and businesses will flourish, aided by the newly-built “relief roads”which will remove excess ‘through’ traffic from its overburdened main roads. Tourists will “flock’ to see the Cathedral and the ‘sensitively optimised heritage and cultural attractions’, whilst staying in the newly-provided ‘quality accommodation’. Major new ‘communities’ will have developed to the North, East and South of the City proper, and the inhabitants of those ‘new communities’ will all be leading fruitful lives in harmony with everyone else. To the East of Durham City, Seaham Harbour is lauded as a new generator for wealth and activity, with most of the new wealth coming from the ‘Marina and Harbour’, the only one in County Durham, and the visionary Centre for Creative Excellence. Peterlee is not forgotten, as the Plan states that it will have a ‘vibrant’ regionally important employment base and new rail access via the new rail station at Horden.
For the South of the County, the planners wax lyrical with the ‘strong success’ of Aycliffe Park and Amazon Park, and Hitachi shall be the home of train manufacturing in the UK. Bishop Auckland has not been forgotten, as it is described as having a consolidated retail centre and well-supports the ‘visitor experience’, what ever that may be. Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor will no doubt be encouraged to learn they will have viable housing strategies, and Crook will still be the ‘gateway’ to the Durham Dales. The West of the County, Barnard Castle, Stanhope and Wolsingham will be delighted to learn that accessibility will have been improved, and broadband access will bring creative and service industries flocking to their environment.
All this will be achieved through ‘Sustainable Development’ and a ‘Spatial Approach’ (no, I don’t know what that means either!); but a big hint is in the choice, by these same Planners, of where and how the major new ‘Communities’ will be sited and built, and then bought by the future occupants of these ‘sustainably built’ and ‘spatially planned’ houses and estates.
The Durham City Green Belt is proposed, under this Plan, to be de-registered and then raped, in three major areas. To the North of Durham City, a huge new development north of the Arnison Centre, a second huge estate complex surrounding Sniperley to the North East, and a third, smaller housing development South of Sherburn Road. The two afore-mentioned ‘relief roads’ shall funnel the extra traffic generated by the occupants of the new developments, mostly riding on public transport and fewer in those nasty, evil private cars, away from the main thoroughfares and trunk roads of Durham City proper, and all in this new-found ‘Garden of Eden’ will be so, so happy!
But the twist in this Planners’ plot comes along when the Plan reveals how all of this will be paid for. Because the bill will be immense! All the industrial parks, the new ‘relief roads’, access roads, sewerage, power lines and cables will have to be provided, but not by the County Council; because the Council doesn’t have any extra taxpayers’ cash of its own. Or does it? No, it will all be paid for by the Community Infrastructure Levy, which is just another name for yet another ‘Stealth Tax’ which states that every house, every shop, store or supermarket, every development within the list will have to shell out huge sums of money to fund these huge bills, and the end users of the houses would have to realise that the inflated prices being asked for these ‘sustainably and spatially’-built homes would be paying, through the veritable nose, for the privilege of living in one of these so-called ‘vibrant’ communities. Just to give you some idea of the range of charges under this Community Levy, the proposed Levy charges for new homes within the Green Belt land would be around £250.00 per square metre, for large retailers (supermarkets) the Levy would be around £400.00 per square metre, and for student accommodation the charge would be £50.00 per square metre. So if Tesco wanted to build another ‘Extra’ around the same size as the Dragonville site, they would have to shell out, on top of all the other building costs, 40,000 * £400.00, or some £16 million quid! The Council really want to attract new investment into County Durham!
So, in winding up this small diatribe, I would end with one piece of advice, and one comment. The advice is simple, grab yourself a long, cool gaze at this bureaucratic wet dream, and then make your objections, if any occur to you, known to the Council, either on the web-site, or by letter.
The comment is the truth that we, as a community, get exactly the Local Government we deserve. An Exhibition on the Plan were held at Framwellgate Moor on the afternoon and evening of Wednesday 23rd, and the room was thronged with interested people. A similar exhibition was held at the Laurel Avenue community centre in Gliesgate on the 24th, the following Thursday, and only two people, one of whom was myself, signed in by 7 p.m.