Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Simon Hughes, and that taxi....

I am going to put my hand up here and confess to having adorned the back of Simon Hughes' taxi with a 'Maloney 4 Mayor' sticker when I found it parked outside my home. It was 2004, and I was working with Frank Maloney, who was running for mayor of London. Hughes was the Lib Dem candidate. It was one of the most enjoyable campaigns I have ever worked on, and you couldn't meet a nicer bloke than Frank.

As much as Hughes has always irritated me - he was my MP for many years - I do think however that these guys might have gone a wee bit too far. There was also an attack on Hughes' office. There is a fine line between protest and intimidation, and an even finer one between intimidation and violence.

Some years ago I was working on what we generally call 'Gulf War Syndrome'. The Ministry of Defence were pulling out all the stops to shut us up, and to discredit the campaign. One aquaintance, a very sick ex-Para, was actually physically threatened by what we assume to have been MoD police - Mod Plod.

There came a point when we realised that depleted uranium poisoning was a major factor, thanks to the US Veteran's Administration and a leaked document from Porton Down. One veteran had been diagnosed in the US, and shortly afterwards Mod Plod raided his home, and took away all his medical records and his computers. HMG can play dirty when it wants to cover something up. The longer they could string it out, the more people would die, and then they would have less to pay out.

Before we went live with all this, I asked Hughes, who was then the Lib Dem health spokesman, for his opinion. He clearly did not have one, and simply repeated the official MoD whitewash line. His office also claimed, through the Southwark News, that I was an extremist, and that I myself had never served. This was grossly offensive to me. I did get my revenge a few years later through the Sun newspaper. Revenge is truly a dish savoured cold!

On one memorable night, the Porton Down document was faxed to as many relevant people as possible. I received 15-20 copies that night from people across the country as we broke through the wall of silence. They could hardly arrest every recipient!

There are many politicians who talk a lot, but actually do very little of any substance. I put Hughes into that category. I do not, however, condone attacks such as those that he has been subjected to, no more than I condone the vile campaign his party conducted against Peter Tatchell during the Bermondsey by election of 1983. People who live in glass houses......

How not to park a car...............

Friday, 25 October 2013

Remembering John G. Magee - the Pilot Poet

J. G. Magee 1922-1941
 Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Rockin' at the 2 'Is

Strolling through Old Compton Street the other day and I noticed the the old 2 I's premises is up for lease......


Friday, 18 October 2013

When Things Start To Go Wrong.....

You wouldn't have thought that too much could go wrong with the burial of a pet Guinea Pig, would you?

It did for me, last night.

All was going well, and with mission accomplished I decided to hop over a smallish fence on the way home. This is where it all started to go wrong. I misjudged, and impaled my right hand on the wire. I mean seriously impaled it.

On the way down, other wire posts ripped the backside out of my jeans, and my boxer shorts.

All this hurt quite a bit, and as I tried to recover my composure something else happened - I'm not quite sure what - and there was a further sound of ripping denim from behind me. I'm pleased to report that throughout this Chaplinesque debacle the Stetson hat remained firmly in place. At least there are some things a man can rely on.

There was an alarming amount of claret pouring out of my hand at this point, and my left buttock, exposed to the world, was attracting some attention from the promenaders around the lake. Actually, to be quiet honest, the whole scene probably looked pretty f****ng weird.

If you ever get the chance to drive a 2mm diameter wire through your hand, give it a go. You will be amazed at how much blood comes out.

By morning my hand was swollen to about twice its usual size, and my middle finger appears to be somewhat paralyzed. I cleaned it up as best I could, and a bit of my hand fell off into the sink. It was about the size of a small boiled sweet, and appeared to be made up of skin and gristle. I wasn't too sure what do to about it, so I just threw it away.

Anyway, a nice fresh bandage, a Tetanus jab, and an overdose of Codeine, and all is well again. Sadly for me, I have absolutely no coordination in my left hand. But I expect that I shall soon get  the hang of typing with my right thumb, the only remaining functional digit on that hand.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Its Never Too Late To Learn.....

A wee bit of advice to a certain Brussels based press officer - he will know who he is.

1. If you write an angry e-mail to the editor of a newspaper, take the trouble to find out his or her name first. As a press officer - sorry 'Director of Communications' - one would have thought you would know that as a matter of course, but apparently you don't.

2. If one votes against a motion to reject a legislative proposal, one is effectively voting for that proposal. I really do not know how I can simplify that, sorry. It is actually very easy to understand, at least for most people.

3. Switch on the spellcheck function on your computer - you do need a little help in that department.

4. When sending out a press release, do try to get it right first time. Sending out an 'amendment' to a press release 20 minutes after it has gone out is not very professional, although it does give the press corps a good laugh!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Remembrance Starts Here.

At Arlington, November 2012.
November 11th, a special day for all of us, is little more than a month away. For me, I am starting to think about where I will spend the day - it falls on a Monday this year, by the way.

I may visit my Great Grandfather's last resting place, he fell at the Somme in 1916. I may go the the Brussels service at the tomb of the unknown soldier, or I may watch the Whitehall service on TV, and then go for a beer or two with some of my many ex-service pals hereabouts. I will certainly call the parents of a close friend who I did my basic training with way back in 1978, and who was to die shortly afterwards, just to touch base and share some memories, smiles, and tears.

The important thing is that we are approaching the 100th anniversary of the start of the appallingly named 'Great War', which swallowed up a generation of our finest. That is what we should really be thinking about.

In a few weeks we will be pinning poppies to our lapels. But this year, and especially next year, we need to think what more we, each and every one of us, can do.

We might start here....

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Euthanasia in Belgium: Shhh... Don't Talk About It.....

I have blogged before, and been published elsewhere, on my deep concerns about the spread of Euthanasia in Europe, and in Belgium in particular.

In 2012, euthanasia accounted for a staggering 2% of all deaths in Belgium. Earlier this year, the Belgian parliament debated extending the right to euthanasia to minors. In the Netherlands, doctors can actually take the decision to end the life of a child without reference to the parents. I find that deeply disturbing, although I understand that there already are precedents here. There is a reason why you will very rarely have seen a Thalidomide victim in Belgium. Need I say more?

Am I the only one who can see where this is going?

This week there have been reports of an incident of Euthanasia involving a transexual who suffered 3 failed operations, and who in any case had some serious issues due to rejection by his parents. It is a sad case indeed, but it has drawn attention to the situation. Sadly, whilst the BBC and other British media have covered the issue, there has been very little comment in the Belgian press.

I find it desperately sad that as many as 2% of those who died last year did so because they wanted to. I understand that many of those folk were older cancer patients who were surely suffering great pain. But it is nonetheless a tragic statistic, and I cannot help linking it in my own mind to the fact that Belgium has the 2nd highest suicide rate per capita in the EU. Is there a connection between the two, I wonder?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Is It Just Me, Or Is Everybody Going Mad?

I see some interesting stuff in my line of work. At the moment, (since I know you are all fascinated by this), I am looking at the rules surrounding the movement of dogs from Ireland to the UK. There are some outdated oddities in the existing legislation, and so it has been drawn to my attention by an animal welfare activist at home. Another project  gets off the starting block...

I took a look at HMG's website that deals with this. It is great.

The fun starts with the very first sentence.  When travelling with your pet dog, cat or ferret, the rules you must follow depend on the country you’re going to or coming from.

Pet ferret?

Perhaps they may do things differently in some of the more remote parts of the UK, but pet ferrets? Please tell me it is not so.

It gets better. Much better.

 There are no restrictions on bringing pet invertebrates to the UK from other EU countries.

How in God's name can you have a pet invertebrate? If you tried to cuddle the bloody thing it would ooze through your fingers.

Sponges, I am told, are also invertebrates, so I guess they would at least serve some useful purpose. But how do you do all those things you would usually do with a pet, like talk to it or groom it? I suppose the advantages to having a pet sponge is that they don't eat much, and you dont have that painful moment when you have to explain to your child that a much loved pet has died.

Another advantage to bringing a pet sponge into the country, as confirmed by HMG, is that you don't have to get them micro-chipped or vaccinated against rabies!