Friday, 29 November 2013

If You Have Time To Remember......

RAF Swinderby, 1978, when I was still innocent.

I just want to give this website a bit of a push.

Obviously I have a personal interest in all of this, I talk and write often enough about this chapter in our history, and indeed a very important chapter in my own life.

Please do us a favour, and if nothing else, please
don't forget us. And do not try to airbrush us out of history.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Let There Be Beer!

Its really nice when we get folks from home come over to talk to us. Especially when the folks concerned are brewers from the South West of England, and they bring some of their finest ales with them.

And so, last night the Brewers of Europe put on show no less than 57 different beers from the West Country.

I'll declare an interest here, I used to work for Fuller's, the London brewery, and I do own shares in more than one brewery, so I am also very keen to promote the art.

Last night we learned of a campaign to encourage people to drink beer with food. Of course, you wouldn't want a pint of Skol with your belly of pork, but we are talking about something a bit more classy here.

I didn't try all 57 beers, as much as I tried to justify an attempt, because I quickly identified a few that clearly warranted a full half pint. But there was one that really stood out, and I like to give credit where credit is due.

1913 Stout is made by Walter Hick's famous brewery in St Austell, Cornwall. Lighter and easier to drink than Guiness, but with all the flavour. Bloody marvellous, and I must admit that something slightly over a half pint may have been consumed.

I have family a little more than a stone's throw from St Austell, and I plan to be there at Christmas, so I suspect that my brother and I may well seek out Mr Hick's excellent brewery at some point over the festive season. Cheers!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Violence Against Women - When Does It Stop?

I was delighted to be able to speak on behalf of Nikki Sinclaire MEP at a conference in the European Parliament yesterday to discuss the elimination of violence against women in conflict zones. Nikki has emerged as a leading defender of human rights during her first term as an MEP, and I am very proud to be a part of that.

According to Dutch soldier Major-General Patrick Cammaert, former commander of UN peacekeeping forces in the eastern Congo, and who is internationally renowned for his experience and his commitment in the area of peacekeeping. “You destroy communities. You punish the men, and you punish the women, by doing it in front of the men. It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”
I find that heartbreaking. I abhor violence completely. I have experienced active service, including in a situation where civilians were targeted, by the IRA, and it sickens me.
No one person can change the world, but together we can at least have an influence on events, and on the future our children will live in.
I was reassured by the turnout at last night's conference, and by the passion of the human rights activists - people from all backgrounds and all walks of life - who had come along to support the event.

Many thanks to our friends at  the Global Network for Rights & Development for making it happen.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Let the Train Take the Strain? Yeah, Right.....

Armed soldiers patrolling the station... Hundreds of people boarding a decrepit train with no food or water on board... A slow grind through a snowy landscape... The train breaks down at a previously unheard of village station... Passsengers thrown off the train and forced to wait in sub-zero temperatures without knowing when they will see their homes again...

Is it Yuri's epic journey from Dr Zhivago?

No, it is the train from Strasbourg to Brussels.

All that was missing was Anton Diffring and a bunch of armed Chekists demanding to see our papers, followed by a 12 hour shift in the salt mines on arrival, and then it would have been the perfect European nostalgia trip.

But this is normal. I well remember a trip from Strasbourg to Brussels in February 2005 in serious sub-zero temperatures. The train moved at walking pace, and the heating had broken down. There were icicles inside the carriages, and we literally had to go into survival mode. It was sort of worth it to see my colleague unpack her suitcase and wrap woolen tights around her head, but probably not an experience one would like to repeat.

I didn't take the train to Strasbourg for a couple of years, but as the panzer has developed a glitch, I thought I make take advantage and get in some reading time. I didn't bank on getting quite so much reading time though - even the train east arrived in Strasbourg over an hour late - and I only took 2 books and a newspaper with me. I ran out of reading material just after the train departed from Metz.

The service was, as always, totally useless, and for this I had to pay €168. Nice!

Friday, 15 November 2013

All I Want For Christmas.....

Eight year old boys are great fun.

On the way to school this morning, George told me that he had finally decided on what he wants for Christmas. (I had previously told him that "no", he could not have a Grand Theft Auto Playstation game).

So he has whittled his wish list down, and he now knows exactly what he needs.

A Bazooka.

Not a toy one, mind you, but the real thing.

He had his pitch ready. He would be careful with it, and he would not let his sister near it.

How can you be careful with a Bazooka? "Its alright Dad, I'll only take out one bus full of innocent people", or maybe "don't worry Dad, I'll make sure I only hit the policemen."

Of course, it is still only mid-November, so he will change his mind dozens of times between now and when Santa pops in for a glass of Armagnac (I know its supposed to be Sherry, but like myself Santa is not so keen on that).

George still has plenty of time to discover the existence of nuclear weapons!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Beauty Of Ukraine...

I am having a bit of a 'proud dad' moment. This is actually not the first time that my daughter has been published (although she is only 17 years old), but this one is really nice.

I know Alena, the subject of the article reasonably well, and you could not meet a nicer young lady. She is totally commited to preserving her national culture, as this picture shows.

It is so important, in an increasingly globalised world, that we keep local, regional,  and national traditions alive like this.
That two such young women could collaborate on such a project and present our traditional Christian culture in such a nice, non-confrontational way, gives me hope for the future.

The article is here

Monday, 4 November 2013

European Union (Referendum) Bill comes up for review.

It was, I seem to recall, a Tuesday evening and I was sat at my desk in the EP. Nikki Sinclaire was in the adjoining office. Some time earlier we had been talking about the government's offer to debate matters in parliament if 100,000 citizens would present a request by petition. There was no mechanism in place at that time, nor did there appear to be any real hurry to put one in place. Nikki had identified this as an opportunity to call for a referendum on our country's continued membership of the EU.

Nikki suggested some words, I put them down and sent them through to her, she e-mailed me back some changes, I finished it off. It didn't look bad at all....

"We the undersigned call for a binding national referendum to decide whether Her Majesty's Government should invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to negociate the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union...."

The campaign was launched at a meeting in Torquay on September 3rd 2010, and so we set out to find 100,000 signatures.

There was uncertainty as to whether 10 Downing Street would accept the petition. They accepted it, in fact they took in over 200,000 signatures.

There was uncertainty as to whether the Commons Backbench Business Committee would debate the matter. They debated it, and we saw the biggest backbench revolt the government had experienced up to that point.

The idea of a referendum was voted down, but the matter would not go away. Nikki's polling proved that the people wanted to have their say.

This coming Friday, Nov 8th, we will see the Commons review the European Union (Referendum) Bill.

What impressed me was the level of cross-party support for the petition. Only UKIP failed to support us. Indeed, a UKIP member who had asked if he should support the petition kindly forwarded to me a letter he had received from the UKIP leader's office. Here is a short extract: "Petitions, I may say, are useful for publicising issues and recruiting activists; but, where such a fundamental policy as rejecting the EU is concerned, there is no prospect whatever of a pro-EU government's acceding to a petition."
However, once it became clear that we were winning the battle, the referendum suddenly became UKIP's 'greatest achievement'.
As recently as last month, a journalist in Strasbourg reported to me that two UKIP MEPs had told him that they were opposed to a referendum on this matter.
Of course, this is not an isolated case. During the 2010 General Election campaign, HS2 was the main issue on the doorstep. This is a project that will have serious implications for West Midlanders and indeed many people in the UK.
UKIP's manifesto for that election included the party's desire to: 'introduce three high-speed lines linking London to the Midlands, northern England and Birmingham.' That reads to me like an approval of HS2!
Now that opposition to HS2 has become a major dynamic, guess what? UKIP is now 'the only party that has consistently opposed HS2'.
There have been attempts to airbrush the 2010 manifesto out of existence, but you can find all you need to know here.