Monday, 15 December 2014

Constantin Meunier- Belgian Realist

Yesterday was a real highlight. My charming friend Inna and I visited the Constantin Meunier exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels.
I looked forward to this visit for some time. Meunier was a realist sculptor and painter who lived just across the road from me. To be honest, he passed away in 1905, but I live in an old quarter of Brussels, and if you are ever passing by, then I can show you his house.

The expo was wonderful.

Meunier was a classicist, and his early works owed a lot to Rodin. There was also a strong Catholic influence in his early days, that was to underpin his work throughout his life. He moved on, but those early influences never left him. He spent some time, as a young artist, in Spain. ....and then he really emerged, as he became more cosmopolitan.

Meunier captured the lives of working folk at the end of the 19th century, more than any other European artist (in my opinion). In the steel mills and the coal mines, he saw everything, and he portrayed the trials and tribulations of the working classes.

Van Gogh wrote about Meunier "He is my superior in every way"

I love his realist style - I am grateful to him for capturing on canvas, and in bronze - the suffering, and the pride, of the working classes.

I could write forever about his art, and about his influences, and about his legacy - within walking distance of my home there is an academy and a museum, both named after him. But I leave it to you, dear reader, to make up your own mind....

Details of the expo are here....

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Farage: Legacy of Der Stormer

UKIP, increasingly, are full of shit.

This, however, is my favourite. Apparently Nigel Farage failed to turn up to speak at a meeting because "immigration" caused heavy traffic on the M4.

Who built much of our motorway infrastructure? Ahhh.... that would be Irish immigrant labour. Was it their fault that you were late, Nigel?

My grandfather was an Irish immigrant who served in the British Army in the Second World War. Was it his fault you were late, Nigel? Did you serve in the British Army, Nigel?

The mother of my children is an immigrant. Is it her fault that you were late, Nigel?

My children have Jewish blood from both parents. Is it the fault of the Jews, Nigel? It usually is. According to people like you.

Your own wife, Nigel, is an immigrant. Was it her fault that you were late? Or are you selective about which categories of immigrants that you blame?

One out, all out!

Yesterday we had a major strike in Brussels. All public transport was shut down, and the school dinner ladies had a well deserved long weekend.

The Eurocrats have bought into this, unofficially, as well.

The European Parliament was a quieter place than usual as a result.

One of my friends took the day off, as he could not get in on the train.

He usually drives to work, but coincidentally his car was "in for servicing" yesterday. He lives near me, and I walk to the parliament - it takes me about 20 minutes! Funnily enough, he made it to the pub at lunchtime - the pub in question being outside the parliament!

Incidentally, the cost of this trade union inspired strike equates to 2,000 public sector jobs.

I often wonder, "how stupid are trade union members, to listen to their highly paid union leaders who lose no pay at all on a strike day?" Very stupid, apparently.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Beauty of Ukraine

At an early age I realised that I was not blessed with artistic or musical talent, which is a cruel blow. I compensate by organising events - mostly classical music events, and art expos.

But this week was a highlight. After some uncertainty, lost sleep, but great fun, we opened 'The Beauty of Ukraine', in Brussels.

A Christmas exhibition, featuring the work of my good friend Alona Pylgun, originally from Kyiv, but now living in Belgium.

It was a lovely evening. I was very pleased by the numbers, and delighted that Alona was interviewed by both Belgian and Ukrainian television crews.

The works will be on display until January 15th.

The venue is the newly opened restaurant GOURMAND, at Rue de Treves 4, Brussels 1050. (It is opposite Gare du Luxembourg), and I strongly recommend it if you want a superb lunch.

Many thanks to Randall at euspectator for the video 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

What to do....

A terror suspect was considering an indiscriminate Mumbai-style attack and had an address for Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, the Old Bailey has heard.

Well the address is not that hard to find. It is in Connaught Square, W2.

I used to live in Connaught Square, at number 23, right on the corner. That was in the days before anybody outside of CND or MI5 ever heard of Tony Blair....

But I suspect when they see this post, 5 will be frantically checking the records. Tossers.

Blair is, of course, the 'man' who launched us into a record number of wars. You might notice that his son and heir has never served in the Armed Forces. We have a name for such people......

Monday, 13 October 2014

I generally do not approve of capital punishment, but at times like this do I wonder why the security services are issued with firearms.... That this piece of vermin should be released and allowed to walk among Human Beings is a disgrace.

Brighton bomber Patrick Magee has returned to the town 30 years after his deadly device ripped through the Grand Hotel killing five people.
The Republican, who was handed eight life sentences in 1986, planted the bomb that targeted Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Cabinet during their annual conference in 1984.
Magee was back in the city to take part in a panel discussion following a screening of documentary Beyond Right & Wrong at The Old Market in Hove.
The programme follows the story of Jo Berry, whose father Sir Anthony Berry was killed in the explosion, and her reconciliatory journey with Magee.
He previously returned to Brighton in 2004 to take part in a panel discussion with Ms Berry. But Lord Tebbit, who was trade and industry secretary at the time, said he could not forgive the bomber.
The former minister was severely injured in the blast and his wife Margaret was left paralysed from the neck down and needing 24-hour care.
Writing for The Telegraph, he said: “I am often asked if I can find it in my heart to forgive the creature, Patrick Magee, who planted the bomb.
“That, of course, is not possible, for Magee has never repented.”
Staff at the hotel held a minute’s silence to mark the 30th anniversary of the outrage, which killed five seriously injured 34 others.
Magee was released in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement – having served 13 years for the crime.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Fat Cats...

“The whole of British politics has been shaken up in a way that the complacent Westminster class could never even have contemplated,” Nigel Farage said as Duncan Carswell was re-elected to Westminster. “Something big is happening here. People want change. They have had enough of career politicians in three parties who don’t even understand the problems they face in their everyday lives. People want real change."

Yes, Nigel, the nation has had enough of 'career politicians' it is true.
And what have you done for a living since 1999, Mr Farage? Ahhh.... you have been a career politician. 
You also employed your wife, contrary to your own undertakings, at taxpayer's expense. Even now, she is employed as an an assistant by a certain Ray Finch, who in the last parliament was himself employed by you as an assistant. That looks a bit dodgy, doesn't it?
And there was a story in the Sunday Times, a few years ago, alleging that one of your sons was on the payroll too....
Yes Nigel, those career politicians are milking the taxpayer for everything they can get... 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

I really do despair about the state of the English language media.

The following is from today's Telegraph (Oct 9th 2014).

"Mr Cameron has previously suggested that migrants from poor countries that join the European Union should be banned from moving to Britain, David Cameron has suggested."

I understand that commercial pressures have led to the redundancy of most of the real journalists, and that most copy, even in such journals as the Telegraph, is apparently sourced by interns from the wires. 

But can they not find one that actually reads that which they cut and paste?

It's no wonder the country is going to the dogs....

Monday, 6 October 2014

How the other half live....

I had to visit the Commune (Town Hall) today, to get a piece of paper stamped. Don't ask me what it was, I couldn't give a stuff, getting bits of paper stamped is an everyday part of life here in Belgium.

I live in that part of town where most of the embassies are, and it is a nice 15 minute walk to the Commune, so I don't get too stressed about it. I had a really nice stroll, stopped off at my local shop to pass a few minutes with my Sri Lankan chums, talked about cricket, and generally enjoyed the start to my day.

For the first time ever, I noticed the embassy of Madagascar in Avenue de Tervueren. It is very big. Very big, and very grand. There were a number of Mercedes outside - the kind you don't see in the showrooms- big limos with blacked out windows and diplomatic plates. Very impressive.

And all that for a bunch of cartoon animals.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Meeting Oleksandr Vilkul

My day got off to a good start.

I got to interview the former Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Oleksandr Vilkul, I was very pleased to have some time with him one hour before the start of his official press conference.

Ukrainian politics, and the dynamics of that country's political elite are often a total mystery to me, even after some years of engagement. But I make a point of engaging with both sides of the debate. And I am excited to say that today a wee bit of optimism is creeping in for the first time in many months...

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Die Partei ist Farage! Farage aber ist UKIP wie UKIP Farage ist!

If anybody doubted the extent of Nigel Farage's megalomania, then this should dispel those doubts.

Farage believes that Cameron recalled Parliament yesterday, to debate the possibility of military action against ISIS, in order to take attention away from the UKIP party conference.

No Nigel, he waited until yesterday because the Labour Party conference was taking place earlier in the week, and he needed the Labour MPs there to take part in that debate. The UKIP party conference was not relevant, because UKIP has no MPs.

UKIP is hoping to obtain its "first" MP soon, in the shape of one Mr Carswell. Apparently Bob Spink, who was once UKIP's "first MP" has been airbrushed out of history. He simply did not exist. I am so reminded of Nazi and Soviet propaganda tactics.
The sort of stuff we can still see today on Russia Today (RT) - the successor  to наше кино,
Bob, who crossed the floor from the Tories to UKIP was a decent chap. I liked him very much. He soon realised what the game was, and walked quietly away from UKIP. So the official line went from "Bob Spink - UKIP's first MP" to "Well, he was never really a UKIP MP..." The UKIP press office never let truth get in the way of damage limitation. The only difference is that then they used to be able to spell it.

This is a serious business, and the boys on the flightline in Akrotiri are getting geared up to go into action.

And Nigel Farage really thinks it is all about him.

Friday, 26 September 2014

A Chat With One Of My Heroes.....

It is no secret that I love Rock n Roll. I remember once being described as a "former Teddy Boy". That made me laugh....  Former? ... I think not.

Today I was thrilled to have a wee chat online with one of the great names of Rock n Roll - Dickie 'Bee Bop' Harrell. 

Dickie was the original drummer with Gene Vincent's Blue Caps. He played on the original recording of Be Bop A Lula way back in 1956

At this point, anybody who understands Rock n Roll should start to get a bit excited.
I won't go into great detail, but I will share just a few of Dickie's words with you.


Those of us who love the music will know those names well. We will also recognise one of the most modest statements of all time. Dickie Harrell was absolutely crucial to the early Blue Cap sound. The drums and the background screams on Be Bop A Lula, the frantic energy of the first album Bluejean Bop, Dickie is the sound of the Blue Caps.

How wonderful it is to hear such modesty. How wonderful it is to wake up in the morning to find a message from someone I have idolised since I was about 12 years old..... Now there is a real star!

Dickie, incidentally, is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The First Day Of Autumn!

Its the first day of Autumn - my favourite time of the year. As one who likes to walk wherever possible - and Brussels is a very small city - over the last decade I have worked out pretty much how to get from any one place to another on foot whilst taking a route that includes as many parks and gardens as possible, I get a lot of pleasure from this time of the year.

My life is organised at the moment in such a way that I can take relatively large chunks of free time on most days, although it will not, alas, last long.

My thanks to the European Parliament for this great photo, which they published today.

The photo would have been taken right on the edge of Parc Leopold, not one of the largest of public parks it has to be said, but nice enough, and close enough to the parliament that for the last 10 years I have often been able to slip away from the office for some time to read my newspaper by the lake.

It is also the case that whereas we don't have great summers here, they do tend to last, and so I expect to be enjoying the parks and lunching al fresco for a good few weeks to come.

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 1824, 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.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

An Unexpected Change Of Direction....

With Former President Viktor Yushchenko
A lot of my spare time and energy is spent on my support for the Ukrainian people, who are going through worrying times. The removal of the despicable Yanukovych puppet-regime was always going to have dire repercussions. Corrupt regimes always struggle until the last, as they try to cover their tracks and get away with as much as they can. Yanukovych was actually quite lucky to get away with his life: more than 100 Ukrainian civilians who faced the security forces in the final days of the regime were not so lucky.

Nobody is in any doubt as to who pulled Yanukovych's strings. The Kremlin is very adept at pulling strings.

But to the surprise of many, a new apologist for Russia has emerged. And it all began during the LBC debate between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg.


The Kremlin is hostile to the concept of renewable energy.
The Kremlin's Trojan Horses in the EU oppose individually and collectively any proposal on energy policy - unbundling, for example -  as they are opposed to any common energy policy.
The Kremlin did not want either the proposed constitution or the Lisbon Treaty.
It was the Kremlin that first issued the infamous statement saying that "The EU has blood on its hands".

And Nigel Farage's policies are....? The first three are justifiable, of course, from the UKIP perspective, but the last one?

A Brussels journalist recently commented to me that Farage can be seen "tossing off on RT most weeks". RT, a Kremlin backed media platform has shown its true colours during the recent crisis, leading to at least two presenters criticising the station's policy live on air. Some amongst us are old enough to remember Наши кино - 'our cinema' - a Soviet era propaganda tv channel (actually, the last time I was in Belarus, it was still broadcasting there!) RT has become the modern equivilent of this, and will interview any western politician who will be critical to camera of his or her own country. ("Useful idiots" was the phrase that Stalin used.)

Farage says that he "respects" Putin.  "The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant." he is reported as saying. Putin has, of course, been choreographing events in Syria for some time, as Russia seeks to pursue a Middle East policy symmetrical to that of the US. Bashar Al-Assad has been pleased to host a strong Russian presence in Syria, as this limits the military options potentially available to Israel. This is the regime, of course, that used chemical weapons against its own civilian population. Putin's intervention following the atrocity was to suggest that actually the regime was not to blame, but that 'rebels' may have been responsible.

On July 5th 2006, the Russian State Duma passed a law - actually a set of amendments to existing legislation - known as 153-FZ. I won't bore you all with the details, but one passage leapt out at me straight away. "The special assignment units of the Federal Security Service bodies may be used, by a decision of the of President of the Russian Federation, against the terrorists and (or) their bases located beyong the territory of the Russian Federation, in order to destroy a threat to the security of the Russian Federation." Within 153-FZ 'extremists' are considered to be 'terrorists'. The definition of such people is broadened within the legislation to include anybody making "libellous statements" about the president or his regime. Note the words "may be used, by a decision of the of President..."

In November 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a British citizen, was murdered in London. The British authorities have stated they have sufficient evidence to secure the conviction of Andrei Lugovoi, a former officer of the KGB's 9th Directorate. This was the organisation tasked with protecting senior government officials. Note again the words "may be used, by a decision of the of President..."

This is the man whose foreign policy Nigel Farage admires so much. This surprises me very much, based on my knowledge of him, and on conversations I may have had with him in the past.

But interestingly, it is not just the UKIP leader who is spouting pro-Kremlin rhetoric. Russia has been courting the western far-right, and parties such as Jobbick and Golden Dawn are increasingly going in the same direction. Marine Le Pen is also no stranger to Moscow - her party wants the replace NATO and the EU with a group of independent nations - including Russia! Putin is using the far-right now in exactly the way his Soviet predecessors used the far-left. To justify his actions, and to support his intentions.

Incidentally, I happen to agree with the argument that says that the EU's approach to Ukraine is flawed, and has been since 2004. The failure of the Orange Revolution came about for a number of reasons, but whereas Putin feared being rembered as the man who lost Ukraine, that title instead went to Barosso. Now we see the results. But it is for the Ukrainian people to decide, through democratic means, their future. Western Ukrainians see themselves as European, and they now seek to assert that identity. However, in the context of the early 21st century, and with the demise of the Westphalian Order, it is hard to see how that desire can be fulfilled at this time other than by EU membership. Of course the EU will welcome them with open arms, but I think a little caution on all sides might be wise here.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Jeramiah Denton Knew Who His Enemies Were.

"Former Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton, who survived 7½ years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and alerted the U.S. military to conditions there when he blinked the word "torture" in Morse code during a television interview, has died. He was 89 years of age.

Denton's grandson, Edward Denton, says he died about 8 a.m. Friday at a hospice facility surrounded by family. Edward Denton says his grandfather had been in declining health for the past year and died from heart problems.

Denton, a Republican who served a single term in the U.S. Senate, was a strong advocate of conservative causes and backer of the Reagan administration. But the iron will that served him in such good stead in captivity gave rise to criticism that he was too rigid as a politician."
(Associated Press)
I remember as a very young child seeing those terrible images from the Vietnam War that have now become so iconic. They were beamed into our homes with every news bulletin.
Vietnam was, of course, a cold war era proxy war.
Of course, we still fight proxy wars, but as one who served in Her Majesty's Armed Forces during the final years of the cold war, I sort of took comfort in the fact that in those days we knew who our enemies were. Our main enemy was what was officially called the Soviet Union, but what we all knew was the Russian Empire. Or as one former Baltic Prime Minister called it recently, "The Second Mongol Occupation".
Then it changed. That change reached its pinnacle on 9/11. The enemy became an unknown force, operating within our own borders.
Now, in a loose interpretation of Marxist vernacular, we see the negation of the negation.
It has changed again. It has reverted back to where we were some decades ago. Russia is on the move again.
A very senior military advisor to NATO told me two days ago "This is the start of World War 3".
Let us hope he is wrong.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Another Duff Policy, This Time From UKIP.

On the subject of ridiculous policies....

I have commented on the UKIP policy formulation process in the past. It is, to say the least, incoherent. But this one really takes the biscuit.

Apparently, a chap named Stephen Woolfe, a UKIP economics spokesman who wants to close down the Bank of England, has come up with the idea of abolishing the state pension.  Considering that the average UKIP member is quite elderly and below the average educational level, this might seem a somewhat unwise direction to take....

“This would take hundreds of years of strict public finances to have an impact. It is bizarre UKIP could be going after the state pension when its core voters are pensioners.”
Strategic Society Centre director James Lloyd

I understand that UKIP has sought to distance itself from this nonsense, just as it Nigel Farage has sought to distance himself from the Pythonesque 2010 UKIP manifesto that he himself signed off.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

And The Winner Of The Shit Policy Of The Year Award Goes To........

An aquaintance of mine recently undertook some work at Tory HQ. His comments on Grant Shapps' office were enlightening, "Well intentioned, well educated young people, mostly working for free, but absolutely no experience in the real world at all. Utterly clueless."

The latest Tory wheeze is a plan to cut taxes to "help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy". Apparently, outside of Central Office, where these chinless Oxford graduates wait for Daddy to arrange a safe seat for them, the proletariat play bingo and drink beer. OK, drinking beer I will accept, and as I own shares in a brewery I'm going to let that one pass without too much criticism. But Bingo?

I actually find it hard to say what I truly think about this. In fact, this is so idiotic, I don't even want to waste my thoughts on it.

What does worry me, deeply, is that somebody at a high level of government thought that was a suitable way of presenting policy. I would like to think that every single person who touched this project, from conception, through approval, to launch, will be sacked this very day.

Given that the Tories are facing a strong challenge from UKIP at the moment, one would have thought that they would have drafted in some heavyweight policy boffins. Apparently that is not the case.

If this is what we are going see from the Tories now, they may as well pack up and go home.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

A Proud Father Moment!

Today, George had his first kart race.

He was, as always, pessimistic, and even doubted that the event would even happen. For an 8 year old, he is seriously Laconic.

 The race started, and he was 5th (out of 6) out of the pits. Not exactly pole position. But by the end of the first lap he was in the lead, and he held it until the end of the race. At the end of his 8th lap, the young lad in second place was still just short of his 7th lap. The lead narrowed slightly, but at the end he was still way ahead of the field. His best mate Jay, whose birthday the event was to celebrate, won the preceding race, so now they are feeling pretty good about themselves.

He celebrated with a fizzy water!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Lib Dems Trounced - By Elvis!

I am absolutely delighted that the Bus Pass Elvis Party has beaten the Lib Dems in the Clifton North by election.

As I understand it, the party is an offshoot of the Church Of The Militant Elvis.

Being in the business myself, the websites of other political parties are of great interest to me. I think I can honestly say, however, that in a great many years I never saw anything quite like this! Keep up the good work, chaps.

Friday, 28 February 2014

A Precious Moment!

I love music.

Rock n Roll or Country, Jazz or Folk. Classical or Opera, I simply love music. And the good Lord blessed me with a life in which I am surrounded by like minded souls.

Sometimes I am lucky to meet some very special people. But to me, there is none more special than Mr Vytautas Landsbergis MEP, who I have written about before on this blog. He is not just a great composer and musician, but he is also one of the true political heroes of our time. And his office is close to mine, and so I am able to share some moments with him far more often than I really deserve.

And so....

He kindly agreed to attend a concert to mark the events unfolding in the Ukraine. After the occasion, a conversation on the stage went something like this:

Me: "Mr Landsbergis, I regret that I never heard you play in this house..."

Mr Landsbergis: "Hmmm...."

At which point he promptly sat down and played for us. I have a soft spot for this stage, because in 2009 it saw the launch of a project to bring more classical music into the parliament. A project initiated by former MEP Tom Wise, under the banner 'FREEDOM OF SPEECH - FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION' and inspired and elevated by the Ukrainian pianist, Dmytro Sukhevienko, a former student of Yehudi Menuhin, and also my daughter's teacher. He is also a good friend and inspiration to me. Dmytro is totally dedicated to to the classical cause.

I was thrilled beyond belief when I was sent the above photo. It is a picture that I will cherish forever.

My thanks to Olga Kaminska for this wonderful image, and for preserving this wonderful memory.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Well Done Canada!

The men's Ice Hockey final is one of the real highlights of the Winter Olympics, which is why it is saved until the end.

It was obvious, during the semi-final between our two former colonies, Canada and the US, that whoever won that game would take the gold. And lo, it came to pass!

The Swedes looked dangerous at the beginning, and their goalkeeper gave the Canadians a hard time - the goal tally could have been higher.

But the big loser in these games has been Vladimir Putin. A lot of money, lots of favours, and some lives, were sacrificed for what was to be his crowning glory. But the world was looking not at Sochi, but at Kiev.

As I have written before, in 2004 Putin feared that he would be remembered as the man who lost the Ukraine. But he got lucky, and played it well. EU Commission President Barroso was to go down in history as the man who lost the Ukraine.

But now, in what was to be his finest hour, Putin has lost it!

The EU is not the winner either - the Ukraine, Germany, and the US have pulled it off.

Exit stage left, Mr Barroso.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Well Done England!

That was a tight one. Both the tries were textbook jobs - very nice!

I have to admit, I somewhat expected Ireland to put in another try in the last 60 seconds, that being a bit of a feature of English sporting events. Nobody can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like we can!

But a win is a win!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Thanks for that, John.

Any more like this will always be well recieved!!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Just thought that I would share this with you.... :)

Monday, 17 February 2014

Belgian Drivers - Generally Pissed, & Amongst The Worst In The World.

Federal police carried out massive checks on drivers on the A12 Brussels to Antwerp Motorway (partially ploughed section) this weekend. Nearly a quarter of motorists were found to be over the legal drink-drive limit.

Those of us who live here were surprised that the number was not higher.

The entire motorway was closed for the operation. In all 124 drivers were stopped. 27 motorists were over the limit and had to hand in their driving licence. Two were on illicit drugs. Drugs and arms were also seized. Four people on the wanted list were detained.

In total, it was anounced, only three drivers were observed to be driving in a sensible and courteous manner - two Brits and a German.

(OK, I sort of made that last bit up!)


Sunday, 9 February 2014

After last week's helter skelter match against the perfidious French, it was a joy to see it come together today. Well, sort of.

Again, this thing about dropping the ball. Do they need gloves, or what?

Anyway, it was a well deserved win. I had a bit of a dream about England playing Wales on March 9th, with both sides going for the Grand Slam. That is not to be, but |I still hope that the tournament will be decided on that day.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Well Done Wales!!

Great start to the Six-Nations!

Italy played better than expected, and Wales were a bit sloppy at times, but it was the desired result.

Monday, 27 January 2014

No Such Thing As A Free Meal?

The name of Titus Clarysse is not much known outside his native city of Ghent, but he popped up on my radar some time ago when I learned of his wonderful ability to enjoy eating in the finest restaurants without ever paying his bill.

I'm not condoning theft - I received a tax bill recently and I know what it feels like - but the world needs eccentrics. Mr Clarysse was not a man of means, but despite his habit, he was not unpopular. The Belgians are a bit like we British - they appreciate eccentrity, and see it as something desirable in a personality.

Sadly I learn today that this local character was been found in his home, stabbed to death.

The investigating police are not ruling out a connection between this sad event and his behaviour - he had many convictions, for at least 100 incidents.

Tim Joiris, head of the Ghent region restaurant and hotel federation, struggled to believe anyone could have gone so far.

“Curse him? Maybe. But kill him? That makes no sense,” he said.

“It was trouble for everyone. And what's worse, for long nobody knew how really to deal with it, in the end, we knew his face, but you know, on a busy terrace in summer, full of people, he knew how to blend in. He did it all, the grand restaurants, the terraces. He really tried them all.”

Mr Clarysse was a “tafelschuimer” — someone who takes everything, even the crumbs, off the table.
“He was asking for it all — the whole menu,” Mr Joiris said with a laugh. “He would sit and wait after the meal — another beer, a brandy. We are not talking about an aggressive guy. He was just happy-go-lucky about it.”

Mr Joiris said that tales of people being forced to do the dishes if they could not afford to pay were “a myth”.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Murdered - By A Stale Pork Pie!

Today is Benny Hill's birthday. Rest in Peace Benny.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Roger Lloyd-Pack - Thanks For The Laughs!

Roger Lloyd-Pack was a serious actor. He was also the father of Emily Lloyd, the actress.

He passed away two days ago.

He knew that despite all the work he did, he would be remembered forever as 'Trigger', that wonderful character in 'Only Fools And Horses'.

It is often the supporting actors that make the principals shine, but Trigger was much more than that. He could steal a scene with just one line.

He was a true Londoner.

Rest in Peace Roger.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

What Are They Thinking Of?

I know we are not supposed to laugh at such things, but nothing can bring tears to my eyes faster than a comb-over.

This 'hairstyle' is particularly popular in Belgium, I am pleased to say, and I have seen some real beauties here in Brussels. But today I saw the greatest.

Even sadder than a comb-over is a comb-forward. We have been in Strasbourg this week, and as I am sometimes inclined to do, I left the panzer in the garage, and let the train take the strain.

Opposite me on the train was a chap, I would guess around 30ish, with possibly the saddest comb-forward I have ever seen. I have to say - and I speak as somebody whose family trait is exceptionally thick hair - this was the thickest, and densest hair I have ever seen. Sadly, it all came from the nape of his neck. It came forward from the neck to his forehead, where he had attempted to create a kiss curl.You really had to see this to appreciate it.

I was looking forward to the 5 hour trip, having acquired a collection of late-Victorian detective short stories (a passion of mine) which included a couple of works by Arthur Morrison that I had never read. You probably have to be me to really appreciate this genre, but trust me, Sherlock Holmes was just one of the many wonderful characters of that ilk.

But I just could not settle into my book. I could not stop staring - for most of the trip - at this incredible sight. This man made Donald Trump look like Mungo Jerry. It was just unbelievable. I just sat there willing him to look out of the window so I could see this in profile. If he combed it backwards, it would have been below his shoulders.

A politician of my vague acquaintance - he does not like me much, so I have no qualms about telling you this  - has just accepted defeat and given up trying to pretend that he still has more than 10 hairs on his head, albeit that each of them is 2 feet long and wrapped around his head 'Mr Whippy' style, and has now 'come out' as being bald (as if nobody had guessed!) This is a great shame.

More comb-overs please chaps, I need a good laugh!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A Chance Meeting With Mr Landsbergis.

One of the great joys of my work is that I am privileged to meet some really great people.

Tonight, after a long day in the office, Nikki Sinclaire MEP and  I had a drink and a chat, and then took a walk together on the edge of the Orangerie - a beautiful park near to the parliament. Nikki had to return to the office, but I continued my walk, deciding to make my own way to my hotel on foot- a mere 2 miles away - rather than catching the tram.

I know Strasbourg quite well, after working here each month for almost 10 years now. But - and this will come as no surprise to those who know me well - I got lost. I can actually take a wrong turn on the way to the bathroom in my own home. I got it wrong in Petite France, the medieval quarter of the city, and ended up approaching my hotel from the wrong direction. No problem, it cost me only 15 minutes. 

But to my delight, as I was just a few minutes away, I met one of my great heroes. Vytautas Landsbergis is a Lithuanian Member of the European Parliament.

 On March 11th,1990, as de facto Head of State, he became the first leader to declare independence from the Soviet Union. It was a dangerous, and heroic, act that could have cost him his life!

When I arrived in Brussels in 2004, I was honoured to meet him and shake his hand for the first time.

Mr Landsbergis is also a highly prominent composer and classical pianist. I love music, that is no secret, and I am proud to say that I helped, in a small way, to found the European Parliament's Informal Classical Music Intergroup. To all of us, Mr Landsbergis is a diamond. 

And so, strolling through Strasbourg, on a mild winter night, I shared a minute or two with him, talking about music and politics, and the forthcoming elections. He will retire this year, at the age of 81. His role in bringing an end to the Evil Empire makes him a great political figure. He is a great  musician. And a lovely man who I am very privileged to be acquainted with.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Freddie Fingers Lee - Setting His Head On Fire!

Freddie 'Fingers' Lee has died.

He was one helluva an act. You have to admire a man who can play the piano and sing while his head is on fire!

His act was largely modeled on that of Jerry Lee Lewis, but he brought in other musical influences as well. His stage act also owed something to Screaming Lord Sutch.

Freddie was a mainstay of Jack Goode's revival of 'Oh Boy', where he performed alongside Marty Wilde, Shakin Stevens, Matchbox, and other stars of the late 70s-early 80s Rock n Roll revival. 'Ol One Eye', as he called himself, will be much missed among my peer group.

I always his version of Lights Out, with a great intro, and yes, he does set his head on fire. Enjoy!

Rest In Peace, Freddie.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

I Hate It When This Happens.....

I have always regarded François  Hollande as a bit of a knobhead. Having said that, I think that I understand his politics better than he understands that fact that this is the 21st century. Nuff said, I guess.

So basically, we are highly unlikely to ever work together, and  I suspect that we would both be the happier for it.

He has now done what every French leader seems to do, and has been caught with his pants down.

I make no moral comment. But I would say - she is a bit of a babe!

So, well done François, you probably don't need me to tell you this, but Keep It Up, Mate!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Bye Bye My Love.....

I inherited my love of Rock 'n' Roll from my parents. The big names Chez Cartwright when I was growing up were Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Ricky Nelson, Elvis, and above all, the Everly Brothers. In the 60's, I remember that on a Friday after work, Dad would always bring a couple of 45s home. Pop music was exciting in those days.

My final moments with my father were spent listening to the Everly Brothers. When a person is fading, the last sense to be lost is the hearing. Although he could not really communicate with us, he would smile and tap his feet to music up until the final days. Dad introduced me to so much great music, and Bye Bye Love by the Everlys was, ironically, the last song we were ever to listen to together.

And today, we learn that at the age of 74, Phil Everly has passed away. I saw the Brothers live a couple of times in the 80's. There were differences between them, but they were still a great act.

Rock 'n' Roll has lost one of it's greatest names this week. And I wish I could have shaken his hand and thanked him for the pleasure that his music gave my father throughout his life, and especially during in his final days.

Friday, 3 January 2014


The government has apologised after an RAF recruitment billboard put up in Londonderry angered some relatives of those who died on Bloody Sunday.

Kate Nash, whose brother was one of 14 people killed by the Army in 1972, said the poster put up opposite her home in the Brandywell, was "deeply hurtful".

I am not aware of any RAF involvement in Bloody Sunday, nor am I aware of any past fricton between the RAF per se and the citizens of Northern Ireland. In fact, I was never treated unreasonably by anybody, be they Catholic or Protestant (with the one notable exception of a Catholic priest who told me "we are sending a lot of you home in boxes, aren't we?") Well, there are ignorant assholes in any community, I suppose.

I have my own thoughts on Bloody Sunday, but I also have sympathy for the families of all those who died in the troubles. It was an awful time, and thank God it is over. It is a terrible shame that some try to keep the hatred alive by digging up the past and making complaints in this way.

Anyway, what the hell has it got to do with the RAF Reserves? The poster should not have been taken down.