Smoke? Screw?

Read this story about how the N.H.S. will be denying smokers treatment until they change their habits and stop smoking. This gels with the earlier story about obese patients being denied hip or knee surgery until they lose weight. Now I’m not arguing with the premise that smoking is bad for the health of the smoker; in fact I am a reformed smoker myself, cutting down from sixty a day to zero in a week!

However, I do believe in the old idea of ‘sauce for goose’ etc., so I am wondering why we have seen no stories about homosexuals being denied extremely expensive treatments for H.I.V. and A.I.D.S, because they brought all their problems on themselves by their perverted lifestyles and sexual preferences!

Just asking?????

He died for a packet of chips!

Remember Richard Whelan? Didn’t think so! Allow me to remind you of the circumstances!

Richard Whelan was stabbed on a London bus after objecting to some thug throwing chips at his girlfriend and other passengers. The black murderer casually walked away, and left the bus as his victim lay dying on the pavement. I mention this killing, not because of the savagery of the attack, not because it was so random in nature, but because of the lack of publicity.

No nation-wide appeals for his killer to be brought to justice! No funeral mass in a cathedral! No high profile discussions on late-night television! No outpouring of grief on television! No grim-faced senior policemen interviewed on the t.v. news vowing to catch the perpetrator! No column of grief-stricken friends and relatives being paraded before the media, to show how much he was missed! Just a stunned girlfriend, sobbing her heart out in private!

Contemplate now the other death of another victim, the Liverpool teenager Anthony Walker. His death was accorded all the things which conspicuously were missing from Mr. Whelan’s murder! Could it be that his death was somehow more important, more newsworthy; or could it be that the teenager was black, and his alleged assailants white; whereas Richard Whelan was white, and his killer was black?  We are told that Walker’s killing was guiven prominence because it was a ‘racial’ killing, as though the very term ‘racial’ somehow makes it special!

Young Mr. Walker’s attackers were caught, and tried, and sentenced. Not so Richard Whelan’s killer. He’s still out there, smirking, no doubt, as he senses that the search has cooled down, and he’s virtual;ly got away with murder!

Ever thought that there would be such different treatments of two murders? Couldn’t be that there was a slight touch of, well, Whelan was only another white guy, but Walker was young, clever and BLACK? No, couldn’t possibly be that, we are all supposed to be equal in this country of ours, alive or dead!

Wash your mouth out, Mike; nasty thoughts!!!!

How many Olympic ideals does China hold?

I was reminded of the truly ludicrous ideas given flesh during the past four or five Olympic Games opening ceremonies, and how the ceremonies have degraded both in terms of essential truths, and the manner in which the so-called ‘committee-based’ events have mushroomed almost beyond control! I only briefly watched the ceremony in Seoul, but saw the ending when the Olympic flame was lit, roasting alive about a hundred of the doves-of-peace which had settled on the rim of the huge bowl in which the flame mechanism was held! The simple truth that the birds were almost bound to settle on the first available horizontal surface seemed to have escaped the South Koreans’ notice, and perhaps we can be honest and say that they didn’t really care! I also watched the first thirty seconds of the Spanish ceremony, but decided I had some varnish which needed watching; and gave that priority over a cavalcade of Picasso flags, some morons dancing and the ludicrous spectacle of the grossly fat soprano belting out ‘Barcelona’! Touching briefly on the Sydney games, if the Australian organisers had allowed the first item only, namely the spectacle of the massed horsemen galloping around the arena, where the true spirit of the Continent was depicted in an awesome and inspiring way, with the true Australian National Anthem, “Waltzing Matilda” roaring out from a hundred thousand voices; where the legends of such nation-builders sprang almost fully clothed from the dust generated by the hooves of those wonderful animals, and then brought the athletes on before the flame was lit, that would have been a worthy start! The fact that they spent the next two hours depicting the “birth” of Australia, including the ludicrous massed lawnmowers, was silly in the extreme.

I mention these ceremonies because, although they were essentially foolish, very expensive and rather silly, at least they were not offensive! We are now less then two years away from what I predict will truly be one of the most expensive, awesome and bogus opening ceremonies in the slightly tawdry history of the Olympic movement; namely the opening ceremony in Beijing, the capital city of Communist China! Let us put our future-scanning skills to the test, and see if I can foretell what items will feature on the list for the Beijing Games?

First we might see, just to provide a little light relief, and to show that the Chinese bear no grudges against their former enemies, a series of tableaux depicting the Rape of Nanking, where the Imperial Japanese Army slaughtered around half-a-million Chinese; with special effects to show how many died while being used as human guinea pigs by the Japanese forces!
Next, a cavalcade of the dead, massacred during the civil war between the Nationalist forces under General Chiang Kai-Chek and the opposing Communists, led by Mao-Tse-Tung. This might prove to be a lengthy parade, as the dead were rumoured to number in the millions!
Following on from that excess of fun, the next events might be a small series of floats reflecting the hundreds of thousands who were either killed, or forced to work as slaves, during that real humorous period known as the ‘Cultural Revolution’. The participants, having been identified as ‘counter-revolutionaries’, in other words people who could actually read and write, were forced to recant their crimes while wearing a white cap, a sign of idiocy in China, and then banished to work in either sewage farms or dangerous coal mines, as punishment for considering themselves ‘elite’!
There would be a special entry next of a full marching formation of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, depicting the 1950 invasion of defenceless Tibet, showing how they overcame the ruthless defenders of the monasteries, ruthless that is in sacrificing their own lives by throwing themselves on the Chinese bayonets!
As a special memorial to their Great Leader, minor god and general prophet, Mao-Tse-Tung himself, and of course his wonderful personal habits and yearnings, a long procession of young virgin girls will walk gaily over the arena floor; none of course over the age of twelve, to help celebrate that in fact the Great Leader was nothing more than a paeadophile, who wanted nothing more than to rape and deflower as many of those unfortunate children as could be snatched from their parent’s arms as possible!
The penultimate procession will of course be a full division of Mongolian Shock Army troops, together with a selection of armoured cars, tanks and other tracked vehicles; all moving slowly and majestically down the main arena floor, much as their predecessors did during the build-up to the massacre of over five thousand students and protesters in Tienanmen Square in 1989!

The final item will be a parade of all of the competing athletes, and the Chinese must resist the urge to shoot a few who don’t march in step, for as we all know; ‘old habits die hard’!

Poverty is relative!

Read a piece in an old Sunday Telegraph about this travel writer’s experience with poverty in Argentina, and recalled two incidents from my youth, when I was in the Merchant Navy.

We were berthed in Vitoria, a Brazilian iron ore port, and we were on a run ashore with lots of money to spend, and hopes of a good meal, more than a few drinks and a bit of relaxation! We were all experienced sailors, so were keen to have a good time and not worry too much about the costs! We trawled the main drag, and eventually found this restaurant which faced on to the main street, with a covered veranda and a good area where the tables were spread out. We had been told by the foreman on the ore-jetty that this was probably the best restaurant in the whole city, so we decided that he should know what he was talking about, so we dived in! The booze was good, but the food was fantastic; with meat so tender it wasn’t eaten, it surrendered! Great cooking, wonderful food, magic music, good company; not often sailors find that combination abroad! The routine was that the bill for the food was separate, but the booze was paid for as it was served, so we built up a fairly large chunk of notes by the end of the evening! Now in Brazil at that particular time, inflation was rampant, with the exchange rate altering by the hour, so with sterling in our wallets, we were sitting in the pound seats, if you understand the saying; but when we got ready to leave, we of course had this fairly large chunk of notes which didn’t mean very much to any of us; so I scooped it all into one hand, called the elder of the two waiters who had been looking after us all evening, and dumped the lot into his hands as we left! Thought no more about it, apart from not having to lunk all that excess Brazilian money around, as it was virtually worthless!

We had to spend ten days in port, as the iron ore had to come some seven hundred miles by rail from the interior, and the port stocks had run out, so we went ashore three nights later, and because we’d had such a good time before, we trundled along to the same restaurant where we had spent the first evening; but as we walked through the door, we were stopped by the manager, who kept us waiting for maybe three minutes while a centre table was cleared, the whitest table cloths I have ever seen placed on top, and superb cutlery and plates spun into position, before we were ushered forward like royalty! Once again the food was superb, the wines were even better, but the service was out of this world! I motioned the manager over, and asked him why we being treated in this way, not that it wasn’t very nice, but it was a little bit unexpected. His reply left us all sober and humbled. “Senor,” he said, “We understand that you are English, and do not know much about Brazil, but do you know how much the tip which you left three nights ago was actually worth?” We all shook our heads. “Your tip, which was shared equally between the three waiters and the four kitchen staff, was the equivalent of three months wages for five men! So when we saw you coming back in once again, my staff decided to show their appreciation for your generosity in the only way they know how!”

My last trip to sea commenced and ended in Hong Kong, and we were flown out and back by B.O.A.C., the forerunner to British Airways, and on our return trip, we landed in New Delhi at about two in the morning. We all stumbled out into the transit lounge, and stocked up with beer, but when the senior steward announced there would be a dely while a valve was fixed on the fuel system, he also announced that the drinks were on B.O.A.C., so I waved over the waiter, a tall, rake-thin Indian whom we had immediately named ‘Winston’, and ordered two rounds of fourteen beers just for starters! Three rounds later, the senior steward once more announced that the aircraft was now fixed, and we should prepare to board. As we had all received lots of Indian coins while we were actually buying our drinks, there was a fair chunk on the table, so I said to the lads, “We’ll give all the change to Winston,”and so scooped all the coins into my hand, waved ‘Winston’ over; took his hand and slapped all the money into his palm. He gazed down at his windfall, gazed once again; moved his fingers over the coins, and passed clean out! We learned that we had given him the equivalent of nine months wages! My only comment, uttered through the fog of alcohol was, “Shit, he mustn’t get paid much money, if that’s nine months pay!”

Those who go down to the Sea…..

As I have harboured a deep and abiding distrust for all forms of organised religion for a number of years, I find it surprising that I not only admire one or two small offshoots of a particular religion, but that I can commend their activities as strongly as I am able to! I refer of course to that admirable institution, the Missions to Seamen, and it’s compatriot organisation, the Apostleship of the Seas. I have only good memories of the “Missh”, as both institutions were broadly lumped together by the crew and officers of the myriad ships who sailed the oceans and entered the ports where one of these two outfits waited to give a friendly welcome to a stranger in what was sometimes a very strange place! In the days when Britain had a sea-going presence, with large numbers of ships with either an all-British crew, or British officers and Chinese/Asian/Arabic deck and engine crew, the life of an English-speaking sailor was often made easier by a friendly face, an accent which was immediately placed and a cup of tea or coffee which was proffered without any ulterior motive! The Mission dances, where vulnerable men could mix and mingle with friendly females who weren’t holding a price list behind their smiles still live high in my memory, as do the many priests and padres who staffed these outposts of what has become one of the most recognised world-wide charitable organisations in modern times!

The idea behind this truly beneficent organisation, founded in 1853 by an anglican vicar who discovered that no-one was visiting the huge numbers of ships which anchored in the Bristol Channel or in Avonmouth docks, and proceeded to do just that,as he felt it his duty to visit those who had been ignored by others! He commissioned the building of a cutter, named her ‘Eirene’ and visited over 14,000 ships at anchor over a fifteen year span! Those were the days when an individual decided to do something, and went ahead and did it! Both the Missions to Seamen, and the Apostleship of the Seas thrive today, although the calls by British-flagged ships are rarer than hen’s teeth, but since the call felt by both organisations is ecumenical, they continue to welcome seafarers of all nations!

I hardly ever quote from matters religious, but am willing to make a change in my blogging behaviour for this occasion; as I now quote:-

“O hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea. “

“Yes; Tony, we believe in fairies too!”

Half-awake some months back, I listened to this sector broadcast about the wonderfully loony subject of the believers in U.F.O.s, or, to the less credulous amongst us, those daft clowns over there! There are, unbelievably, many who give the burblings from the fringe who inhabit these outer areas of incredulity, some credence in their thoughts, sayings and beliefs. The commentator asked this Yorkshireman why the numbers of reported UFO sightings in Cumbria had declined, and his reply, to the effect that not only were they there, they were increasing! He went on to describe how he had been the subject of UFO intervention by a bright light, and that his suntan was proof that he had been “treated”, and others had called to also tell him of their unwanted “tanning” sessions. The believers, whom all appear, over the many years that they have been writing, broadcasting and warning about these “invasive” treatments, to be really nice people; don’t seem to be bothered by the rather solid truths that no vehicle, ship or carrier unit had ever been spotted by others in their vicinity, and nothing had ever come up on military radar, which, unlike commercial radar, actually registers ‘things’ rather than signals! They reinforce their mild delusions by inventing “superior technology” which would allow these ‘beings’ to enter our crowded airspace at will, without detection by the most sophisticated technology on our planet. The ‘invasions’ have, according to this delightful bunch of fruit-and-nut cases, been going on for decades! The one item which is astutely avoided by all these groups who claim to have been ‘scanned’, ‘visited’, ‘abducted’ or otherwise contacted by the extra-terrestrial organisations who have been hovering over us for what must have been a very long time is of course, the question of “why?”

We are all human, we are all subject to the same frailties of birth, life and death, but some are perhaps more susceptible to the theories and teachings of others than the majority. I am reminded of a scene from a film entitled “Contact”, where the scientist (played extremely competently by Jodie Foster) who had discovered the “Alien signal” returns to her radio-telescope base in the desert; and discovers that the whole site has been overrun by a very large collection of credulous fools! From the squad of Nazi supporters, there demonstrating that Hitler had returned, through the choir of women all chanting their admiration of a star system, to the really funny group of Elvis impersonators who were confidently expecting his imminent return to Las Vegas! We are all the subject of our own private set of delusions, some more real than others; and I would end by posing this question to the voters of Great Britain. Your Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was heard pledging his determination to root out and rid these islands of the threat of Muslim-sourced terrorism, and this we all applaud! So why are we shown the truly sickening sight of a bunch of supporters of another terror organisation, the IRA, being welcomed into number Ten, Downing Street, preparatory to the removal of yet more security installations, the dismantling of watchtowers along the porous border with the fools to the south, the disbanding of the Royal Irish Regiment, and the self-congratulatory burblings of the Independent Monitoring Commision when stating that “The IRA has changed radically!” The deceit, lies and downright rubbish which is spouted by this apology for a Government to attempt to justify the surrender to terror, the appeasement of murderers and thieves is truly without comparison, even in the seedy world of so-called diplomacy and politics. John Major had it right when he said, “There is no way I’ll be shaking a murderer’s hand!” Has our Prime Minister gone completely crazy, or has he succumbed to the Westminster version of a U.F.O.? Is he truly delusional, seeing “Peace for our time,” while signing over the freedoms of British people to a group of killers, torturers, thieves and terrorists?

Next time you are invited to vote, figure out if your vote should support a Party which believes in appeasement, in giving in to terror and the payment of “Danegeld”! Danegeld, for those who have not heard the term before, is when, during the early history of our islands, the Danes and Saxons used to come to our shores, intent on pillage and plunder. They were given “geld” or valuables, money, jewellery, whatever; so that they would agree to go away and leave the settled people in peace! But, just guess what happened next year! Yup, the Danes came back, and looked for more “Danegeld”. There is nothing new in this tired old world of ours, and Labour Party supporters should really ask themselves if they wish to pay the next installment of “Danegeld”, or perhaps get their Government to state “So far, and no further! No more talks with killers! No more trust in a terrorist’s promises! No more pushing for other Northern Irish Parties to accommodate the bombers in their midst! Sort the bastards out, and rid our land of the vile stench of home-grown terror; before starting on the imported version!”

Health & Safety…Yes. Politically correct scare stories…No!

There are two types of Health and Safety rules. Ones which are authorised by Professionals, and those which are not! The Health & Safety Executive is a much misunderstood and maligned organisation, and if someone states an error of fact with regard to the H&SE, it is our duty to leap to their defence! The rules which have grown up throughout industry have been collated and published for the general safety of the working population, and while I am the first to poke fun at some of the more ludicrous rulings from individuals who have obviously never been near danger, or industry, or anywhere outside their nurseries; I would stand forthright in condemnation of any attempt to downgrade the essential workings of an Institution which, for the most part, serves us well

I recently saw a comment on another blog regarding H&S rulings, and I quote as follows:-

“During a recent maintenance “shutdown”, husband was servicing some pumps or other on an oil refinery. The pumps were situated below ground in concreted chambers and accessed through a series of openings about 2 metres in diameter and 2 metres deep. He’s done it a hundred times in the past. Its quite easy and quite safe.. he just jumps in the hole and does his job!

This time, the company had employed half a dozen or so white coated, clip-boarded young lads from the ranks of the unemployed, whose job it was to make sure that whenever a man went into the hole, he came back up again. Husband wasn’t allowed into the hole, or climb out of it, without signalling to said white-coated, clipboarded youths of his intention. If the attendant was off to the loo, or on tea break, husband was either stuck in hole or remained out of it. Result? The Job took twice as long, and husband and colleagues.. some of them, tradesmen with over 30 years experience…were left feeling angry, frustrated and demeaned. I told him, more fool them for complying with such a stupid H & S requirement. Silly buggers. But he said they have no choice, Health & Safety Rules in the workplace. Break the rules and you’re out on your ear!

These white-coated and clipboarded youths were called ” hole watchers”.Quite surreal.”

After reading the above posted comment, I replied as follows:-

“Re: “These white-coated and clipboarded youths were called ” hole watchers”.Quite surreal.”

I would be less than fair if I did not respond to the post made by Jo. Working in an oil refinery is covered by a sector of the H&SE rules named ‘Hazops’, which translated means “Hazardous Operations’ and it means exactly what it says on the box. In any industrial environment, and especially where there are risks from the generation of toxic or hazardous gases, the first thing which is mandatory is to test the atmosphere to ensure that there is a)sufficient oxygen to sustain life and b) also ensuring that there are no poisonous or explosive gases in the same enclosed space. Without that simple and essential test, no-one should even think about entering an enclosed space, especially in a bloody oil refinery location! The refusal to obey simple safety rules such as those required of Jo’s husband is typical of a breed which thinks “I know better than they do” and proceeds to get himself, and possibly others, into a grave situation from which fatalities can result!
My own site in Stoke Newington was the site of two deaths of people who ‘knew better’ and my mate, who helped pull the bodies out, said that the faces of the dead men would stay with him for ever!
Poke fun at silly people and silly interpretations of the law; Yes! Disregard safety rules in a dangerous place; Never!”

Political correctness and stupidity aside, the H&SE stands guard on the safety of those in work, and if you disobey the ordinary rules, you deserve everything which hits you!

In between two heartbeats…..

Long time back, I was flying in a Boeing 707 jet towards New Delhi, enroute to Hong Kong in order to join my new ship, as I was an Engineer Officer in the British Merchant Navy. The time was around two in the morning, and I was standing at the rear of the aircraft, trying, and it must be admitted, failing, to chat up the stewardess. It was a hopeless cause, she was smart, svelte, pretty and, I suppose, sufficiently bored to kill time with yet another passenger caught in her orbit.

I was leaning against the rear access door, smoke in one hand and a drink in the other, facing her across the window inset into the door. I glanced out of the window just as the silhouette of another aircraft whipped across my sightline before dissappearing into the night sky, the only thing left to show it’s passage was a fast dissappearing con-trail outlined by the moon.

The stewardess, reached back and flipped out the intercom phone, called the cockpit, and with what I can only describe as a controlled voice, asked the pilot if there had been any traffic advised in the area. The reply came back, “Nope, Helen, the sky’s reported as clear. Why do you ask?”

“Nothing too important, Captain. I’ll speak to you later!”

We shared another, but much larger drink, and another smoke, in perfect silence before I returned to my seat!

Funny how things sometimes stay in your mind long after the event!!

Just pack up and move along, we’ll make sure it’s all hushed up!!!

Watch Panorama on a regular basis? Watch it last night?

The programme advertised for Sunday evening was stated to be eye-opening, and so it proved to be! If you watched it, then you would have seen a catalogue of allegations of child abuse, of accusations that there was a systematic cover-up and protection of the Catholic priests involved in this scandal, and that this cover-up extended as far as the Vatican, where the Office run by Cardinal Ratzinger, now of course better known as Pope Benedict, oversaw the authoring of a document which specifically gave instructions on how to silence and delay investigations and allegations of abuse of many natures.

Now I pride myself on keeping, as far as possible, an open mind on programmes which allege wrongdoing, until I get a chance to examine the evidence for myself, so I downloaded the document in question, and had a look!

The one thing which springs forward is the total lack of commitment towards due process, which in my mind states that if someone has suspicions of a criminal act being, or having been committed, besides investigating the allegations internally, is to advise the authorities, so that justice is seen to be done!

This document, while aimed at  places great emphasis on the make-up and character of the internal tribunal, and of the absolute secrecy which is to be maintained about the investigation, insofar as accusations against an accused priest of solicitation in the confessional, and the penalties for breaking an oath of secrecy. Nothing about the rights of the victims, nothing about the manner in which the alleged perverts were trundled around parishes, nothing about the trauma suffered for sometimes years by abused children; nothing but a sanctimonious desire to keep hidden from the world a darker truth than that shown as a outer shroud to that same outside world! From Brazil to Ireland, the evidence was presented, and the viewer was asked to make their own minds up on the basis of that evidence.

I honestly don’t give much credit to the charge that Pope Benedict was active in the suppression of allegations, as the document itself is concerned with acts solicited within the confessional, but the very words which threaten grave censure to those who break the wall of silence surrounding these truly evil individuals tend to prove at least one section of the charges made within the programme!