Monday, 11 July 2016

When Ducks Behave Badly....

I am not entirely sure what is going on here. I didn't see this before.

Its either a mating ritual or attempted murder. Ducks can be surprising brutal - if one of the flock offends, for example by having any physical contact with another species - they can pay a high price.

This occurred today in Parc Leopold, in the European Quarter of Brussels.

Make of it what you will.

Nikki Sinclaire Cleared Of All Charges

Former MEP Nikki Sinclaire has finally been found 'Not Guilty' of fraud.

This follows a four year investigation, which may have cost the taxpayer some £1.5 million. 

The allegations made against her, by a disgruntled former employee, one John Ison, involve travel claims amounting to around £3000.

Having been present with Nikki at meetings in the European Parliament's finance offices, I can confirm that senior officials told her that there appeared to be some errors, but that they would balance out at the end of the year.

So why did this need a four year investigation, culminating in a failed prosecution? 

West Midlands Plod are, of course, trying to defend the decision to prosecute, but the stories about their incompetence I will leave it for Nikki to decide whether to tell them or not.

But most satisfying for me personally was the exposure of John Ison himself.

Having met him a few times, I have to say that I took an immediate dislike to him. A Walter Mitty type character possesed of neither social skills or political nous was my first impression. This court case has not been his finest hour, and friends who have heard my opinions of him in private have read about his cross-examination, and are saying to me "wow, you weren't kidding!"

But best of all, and I quote from the Express & Star newspaper;

"The jury at Birmingham Crown Court heard there had been an atmosphere of "hostility" between Ms Sinclaire and Ukip leader Nigel Farage, and that Mr Ison had passed information about her to the senior party figure."

"Under cross examination from Sinclaire's barrister Sean Hammond, Mr Ison accepted being a "spy or a mole" in her office, and admitted passing information about the MEP to Nigel Farage in 2009-10.
Mr Ison also accepted making 30-40 hours of covert recordings of Sinclaire, and sending a message to another Ukip colleague claiming he had hacked her laptop."

What is not mentioned is that at around the time that computer files were stolen, and I have seen the evidence personally, Ison was being employed by UKIP Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall. I think this story shows us what a sordid little gang the party became under the leadership of Nigel Farage.

The fact that Ison had himself appeared in court some years ago accused of strangling his wife is irrelevant to the case, but just tells us a little more about the man. 

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Goodnight Sweetheart to make a return

I was delighted to learn that Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran - often known as 'Lo and Mo' - are reprising their classic comedy 'Goodnight Sweetheart', if only for one episode.

It is a masterpiece of the imagination, combined with a warm nostalgia, created to appeal to viewers of different generations.

The central character is Gary Sparrow, played by Nicholas Lyndhurst (Rodney Trotter in 'Only Fools & Horses')

Sparrow finds himself able to travel back in time to the East End of London during the Blitz. Soon he finds himself with a wife in the 1990s, Yvonne, and a wartime bride, Phoebe, played by Dervla Kirwan, who was to go onto to greater things.

He also has a friend in the 90s, Ron, who is a printer, and who supplies him with forged ration books and wartime currency.

Sparrow charms his friends in the 40s by entertaining them with 'his compositions', all of course Beatles classics, and other oddities familiar to anyone who grew up in post-war Britain.

He fathers children in both eras, and befriends Noel Coward. He meets King George VI, Clement Atlee, even Jack the Ripper gets into one story line. In a bank in 40's London he meets inept staff members who we recognise straight away as the characters from 'Dad's Army'.

As I say, a masterpiece of the imagination.

Lo and Mo have been responsible for some of the most popular sitcoms on British TV, including the superb 'Shine on Harvey Moon', and 'Birds of a Feather', the latter being one of the most successful of all sitcoms, running to 110 episodes.

Interestingly, they also wrote 'Mosley', a four episode drama. This was a brave decision, which raised a lot of eyebrows at the time.

Mosley, once described by Micheal Foot as the 'the brightest star in British politics', and one of the earliest advocates of a unified Europe, was a fascist, and Lo and Mo are Jewish.

That they could produce a historically accurate account of the events that shaped Mosley's political direction was considered unacceptable by many. It was, however, enlightening, disturbing, and challenging.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Pétanque in the park. Just perfect!

And so, if there were one thing that the French have given us (apart from great wine, cheese, cider, countryside, etc) then that would be Pétanque. It is French bowls - or 'Boules'. Its great.

One of the pleasures of Brussels is that I get to play this wonderful game against members of the Indian ex-pat community (and we English know how good Indians are at bowling), as well as occasionally going up against elderly Belgian chaps who are just brilliant. Especially after half a bottle of Pastis.

George and I play together sometimes - he loves all sports. But we have now reached that point in our respective lives where he always beats me. He is, simply, overtaking me. 

Today, it was 2 games to 1. Having won the first 2 with ease, he relaxed a bit towards the end and was more focussed on lunch than he was on winning an unnecessary third round. 

Pétanque is the most relaxing way of spending some hours in the sunshine, and I strongly recommend it.