Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Sad Anniversary

It just occured to me that today is the 5th anniversary of the passing of Piers Merchant, former journalist, MP, and indeed a former colleague from some years back.

I have many fond memories of Piers, in Brussels, Guernsey, London,and of many hours chatting and plotting on the telephone.

He had a wonderful, and somewhat naughty, sense of humour, and seemed able to make friends in an instant.

It was Piers who encouraged me to turn my working diary and research notes into a book - Putin's Legacy was published in late 2009.

I last saw him, and his wife, at a lunch in Brussels hosted by Roger Knapman and Tom Wise in 2009. It was an opportunity to bring together the nicest little team I ever worked with, as the parliamentary term was coming to an end, and we would all go our separate ways. It was, indeed, the last time we were all to be together, as Piers succombed to his illness shortly after.

I am, actually, the only one of the group who remains in Brussels to his day.

Rest in peace, Piers.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Today, September 7th, would have been Buddy Holly's birthday. He died tragically young in 1959 at the age of just 22.

He left behind a huge wealth of material, as well as great Rock n Roll, he recorded inspirational ballads, and pioneered new recording techniques.

We can only speculate as to what he what he could have achieved had he lived....

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Wrong Type Of Curtains

I've been a little quiet recently blogwise, as I am coming to the end of an incredibly turbulent month. Moving home, career change, and my daughter going away to university. All in the same month!

Since arriving in Brussels in 2004, I have always lived in what is known as the 'European Quarter'. I decided to move out a mile or so to a quieter area, Woluwe St Pierre. The problem with the European Quarter is that its in a state of constant development, its like living in a building site.

Where we are now is very 'Belgian', and I stick out like a sore thumb. But the people are very nice here.

And there is already a problem. Apparently my curtains are not in keeping with the spirit of the building. They are not white. One of the neighbours has curtains that are not white also, but mine are patterned, so that makes them worse. They are very heavy, custom made, and designed to last a lifetime. Belgian homes tend to have very high ceilings, and the whole front of the apartment is glass, so I guess they do tend to stand out a bit. But I will stand my ground!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish.

I understand that Gerry Conlon, who was one of the Guildford bombers, according to former workmates who I would trust far more than I would trust Tony Blair and others of his ilk, has died. He died after an illness, presumably peacefully in his bed, unlike his innocent victims who were slaughtered publically and horrifically.

Conlan was absolved of his crimes, and I have nothing more to say on this subject, other than that miscarriages of justice can work both ways.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A Hideous Little Dictatorship...

That is how Brussels was described to me last night by a friend, as we sat with a glass of wine before the Belgian match last night.

About 30 minutes before kick-off, armed police entered Place du Luxembourg, outside the European Parliament. They were serving papers on the bar owners, in quite an aggressive manner. You see, the World Cup is not the big community event you might expect this time round. The local mayor has decreed that only the 3 Belgian group games can be watched outdoors.

The police were ordering the bar owners to switch off the big screens on their terraces the instant the game finished.

Now I don't want to think badly of my Belgian hosts - I have lived here for 10 years - but as a political scientist I have to tell you that Belgium does display distinct characteristics that we would normally associate with a fascist state.

This policy is clearly discriminatory, but that would not worry fascists. Let us hope that common sense kicks in, and we foreigners will be allowed to watch our national sides play outdoors.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Breakfast in Bloomsbury

Cartwright Gardens - slightly before my time!
To start with a whinge.... £50 for a return ticket from Birmingham to London with Virgin trains. There was standing room only - I found myself squeezed against the wall outside a toilet which was 'out of service'.The train left 10 minutes late, arriving at Euston 25 minutes late. Rubbish service you provide, Virgin bloody trains!

I arrived in London in time to meet crowds of celebrating Arsenal fans - a really good atmosphere, with Hull fans good naturedly joining in the fun. Well done chaps!

As I often do, I ensconced myself in Cartwright Gardens, my bedroom looking out over the statue of my esteemed ancestor and great inspiration, Major John Cartwright. After quite an intense week, it was just perfect to wake up listening to the birds, and to pore over the Sunday papers in the Gardens after a slightly too large breakfast.

There is something inspirational about Bloomsbury, in a bohemian sort of way. It has been, of course, the home to many literary greats over the years, Virginia Woolf to name but one.

The spot where the Major lived, and where he passed away in 182, having just received a final, ironically melancholic letter from his friend Thomas Jefferson, is now occupied by the University of London. I hope they get the same inspiration that I find in these gentile surroundings.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

A Bit Of Perspective Is Called For...

I am not going to glorify killing. I personally know what it looks like, I know what it sounds like, and I know what it smells like. (The latter being the worst).

But my hackles rise when I hear criticism of our armed forces - the best and most honourable  armed forces in the world.

If these allegations are true, then they indicate immature and insensitive behaviour. I hope that the officers responsible will act upon this, and I am sure that they will. It is not correct behaviour at all, and it does not befit our military, or our country, as I am sure that even our detractors will agree. Let us hear the story of the chap in the picture, who is highly likely to have been under attack, outnumbered, and in territory where even the most innocent of civilians would have been likely to turn on him with a butcher's knife if he were to go down injured.

However, compared with the beheading of innocent civilians by Al Queeda and the Taliban, (the alleged victims here), recorded for posterity, and broadcast with pride through social media, this really does pale into insignificance.

A lapse in military discipline does not compare with the barbaric behaviour of the Taliban.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Now There Is Beautiful....

My love of Wales, and all things Welsh (especially the rugby), is well known. And so what a pleasure to hit the road this morning and head for Snowdonia. Sunday lunch in Bala, where I picked up a Welsh rugby shirt for George, coffee in Dolgellau, and dinner in Borth with the most charming company.

Back to work tomorrow....

Well Done Nuneaton Town FC!!

And well done to Lewis Moult, who managed to score a hat-trick, in Nuneaton's 3-1 victory over Dartford in the final game of the season.

I was lucky to be able to enjoy the game along with Nikki Sinclaire MEP, who sponsored the match, and the rest of the team. It was my first visit to the ground, and a very entertaining afternoon we had.

Bloody marvelous!

Friday, 11 April 2014

I've a feeling we're not in Kansas....

I went for a stroll after lunch today, as is my habit.

I am so glad that I am not in Brussels this week. George is up on the glacier taking ski lessons - he does not ski, so much as hurtle. He does not do that going from side to side thing as he heads down the slopes, he just heads straight down at top speed, and finds sticks cumbersome.

I don't like skiing, I am not all that keen on snow anymore, to be honest. It is nice to look at, but you wouldn't want it in your boots. And so I am spending my time walking in the Tyrolean mountains, and very nice it is too.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

I'm With Tebbit On This One!

With Norman Tebbit at the House of Lords, 2002

"There's always the possibility that a member of the Real IRA will be so outraged by Mr McGuinness bowing to the Queen that they might shoot him in the back for it. We can but hope." 

Lord Tebbit has received quite some criticism today for this comment. Let me just put on record my absolute support for him. No qualifications. No justification. Absolute support for this great Englishman.

I remember meeting with him in the House of Lords, where I was interviewing him for an ex-services newspaper. A nicer, and more gentle man you could never meet. 

We are both ex-RAF, and I was delighted to learn that he had flown the Gloster Javelin. I had done some ground training on the Javelin, a beautiful looking aircraft, but with an alarming tendency to burst into flames around the undercarriage legs on engine start-up.  Hence the big asbestos gloves we were given...

Totally unnecessary training, as the Javelin was taken out of service many years before my time, but like God, the Royal Air Force moves in mysterious ways.

But I digress....

Norman Tebbitt has very strong thoughts about the cowardly scum that came close to murdering him in cold blood, and who inflicted grievous injuries on his beloved wife. I understand, and share, his thoughts.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Vote Farage - Get Putin!

I referred in my last post to a comment from a journalist about Nigel Farage "tossing off" on the Kremlin sponsored 'news' channel RT.

How interesting it was to see, following his most recent debate with Nick Clegg, the following report on RT.

On the day when 'pro-Russian' forces tear down the Ukrainian flag in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, I think my point is now well made - useful idiot indeed!

With Putin taking us to the brink in possibly the biggest crisis since Cuba in 1962, perhaps it is time to bring back Defence Regulation 18B?

Incidentally, for the benefit of the swivel-eyed loons, Ukraine has never applied for EU membership. The EU has never offered Ukraine membership.