April 29, 2003

With my parents arriving from

With my parents arriving from Texas today, there has been no time to blog. I know you are extremely disappointed, but you'll get over it.

Stay tuned tomorrow when you will learn how The King and I was nearly The King and Fred, and all with a Hereford connection.

Posted by david at 09:55 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2003

Off the British Educational Radar

Off the British Educational Radar

Talk about Creationism to most Brits and you might as well be talking about little green men from Mars or declaring that the Moon is made of cheese. I thought that Darwinism was prevalent in the US. Over here they don’t even bother to call evolution a theory. That there could be any explanation to the origins of the universe and all it contains other than an atheistic one is considered absolutely batty – almost grounds for institutionalisation.

That’s why the local and national governments don’t know what to do with Emmanuel College in Gateshead. It is not a college in the American sense of the word, but rather a secondary school. Just the fact that some of the staff at Emmanuel believe in the creationism caused a huge uproar last year. The school had to deny that it was teaching biblical literalism.

But the Brits are now finding out what the American educational establishment found out years ago. For decades now, schools in the States that teach that Creation is not just a load of spiritual symbolism have excelled academically far, far beyond their secular counterparts.

In England and Wales, all students at 16 finish their secondary education with exams in both compulsory and elective subjects. Rather than getting a single high school diploma, the results of each one of these exams is a separate academic qualification. The qualification is called the General Certificate in Secondary Education or GCSE. Students are required to sits GCSEs in English, Math, and Science and then take others as they choose. For example, Mrs Holford has 9 GCSEs. Unlike the grading system common in the US, the range is from A*-G. Schools are judged by the percentage of their students that receive grades A* (called “A-star”) through C.

The national average for schools is 52% of students achieving five GCSEs at grades of A*-C. This calculation includes posh private schools with exorbitant fees and state schools in nice middle-class suburban areas. It would also include Emmanuel, where last year 98% of student accomplished this. Did I forget to mention that Emmanuel is non-fee-paying, non-selective, and in a deprived catchment area?

You would think with results like this that local governments would do everything they could to promote similar schools and draw the same organisation to their localities, especially in the depressed conurbation of the Northeast. Middlesbrough and Doncaster have. Others are less welcoming.

The schools are sponsored by a foundation set up by Sir Peter Vardy, who built his fortune in car dealerships. Sir Peter is said to have been frustrated by an initial reluctance by some Labour education authorities to accept his plans for a stable of Vardy academies in the North East, each modelled on Emmanuel.

As the Vardy Foundation’s chief academic adviser noted, Sir Peter “saw the success of Emmanuel and was very keen to replicate that. When he was approached by the Labour Government and asked to become more involved, he offered six schools but it has been a slow process because dogma keeps getting in the way of young people’s development.”

And now something scary for younger children…

Ofsted is the governments inspector of schools – everything from nursery to secondary. Now Members of Parliament want to know why Ofsted inspectors are banned from telling parents anything about investigations into standards of safety at nurseries and playgroups.

According to The Times, “Parents who complain to the inspection service about nurseries are never told what action, if any, is taken to improve safety, even when children are injured. Nor can they be told how many complaints have been made in the past.

“Ofsted has said that the situation is frustrating, but that it has no legal power to make the information available. In fact, the law compels it to keep the information secret to protect the privacy of nurseries.”

Further Ofsted said that it was “not the purpose of complaints investigations to provide information about outcomes to complainants”.

And if you are one of the good people working with children …

Need to prove you have no criminal record? That’ll be £30, please.

That’s right – under Home Office proposals, it will cost £30 just to produce a document with no information. Apparently, the £30 charge will ease the backlog of applications to the Criminal Records Bureau. I suppose this will pay for more incompetent bureaucrats.

Not Killing Them Fast Enough

Concerned with the teenage pregnancy rate in the UK, the Government started pushing the “morning-after” pill, which kills newly conceived babies. Fortunately not enough girls are buying to make the Government happy. They are not willing to fork out £24.
Yes, that’s right – kill you baby for £24 and all you have to do is take a pill. Couldn’t be easier.

Oh, yes it could. All you have to do to qualify was be under 16 years old. Yes, that’s right, as long as you were under 16 – thus having sex illegally – the Government makes sure you kill your baby for free. For while Tesco, the largest supermarket chain in the UK, was a part of the scheme, but they pulled out after public backlash. We were among those who boycotted Tesco while they were participating.

Here in Herefordshire, the rate of morning-after pill prescribing went up by 17 per cent from 1999 to 2000 and the under-age pregnancy rate shot up 75 per cent.

Posted by david at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2003

Nosey Dog May Save You

Nosey Dog May Save You Life

The next time a dog sniffs your crotch, it mayfind out whether you have cancer. Well may not the next time, but soon. According to the Sunday Times, British researchers are to train dogs to sniff out signs of prostate cancer.

A 12-month project at Cambridge University will train German shepherds and Labradors to spot cancer from the proteins in urine odour.

This idea is not at all far-fetched. Scientists in the US have discovered that dogs can detect skin cancer. You might think what all the fuss is, given the advances in medical technology. However, in Tallahassee, Florida, a dog called George trained to detect melanoma spotted a cancerous mole that had previously been examined by three doctors and tested twice without finding a malignancy.

Given that the NHS spends very little on men’s health and appalling little on preventative medicine at all, we may need as many trained dogs as we can get.

Whose the Richest of Us All?

My British readers will have almost certainly seen this on the news stands today, but it might surprise American readers that royalty is the not best way to riches in the UK. A better bet is wizardry. Not practicing it – writing about it. Sure HM the Queen is loaded, but she has been surpassed on the Sunday Times annual Rich List by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. With a fortune of £280 million, she outdoes HM by £30 million.

The best means of riches for a woman is still marriage or inheritance. Rowling is only the ninth richest woman and 122nd overall. To make the top 1,000, your best bet is to be a man, as there are only 79 women on the list (though this is up from 74 last year). If you want to be really, really rich, it doesn’t hurt to be a woman. Of the top 10, three are listed with their husbands, and one is listed alone at number 9.

Cappuchino -- The Drink of Saints

Marco d'Aviano was 17th-century friar credited with halting a Muslim invasion of Europe and discovering cappuccino in the process. The Pope has beatified d'Aviano today, after a miracle cure of a bedridden was attributed to his intercessions.

The friar was sent by Pope Innocent XI in 1683 to united Christian troops against the Ottoman Turks advancing on Vienna. As a result, the Turk turned tail and ran, leaving behind sacks of coffee. Like manythings Turkish, the Christians found it too bitter, so they sweetened it with honey and milk. The drink was called cappuccino after the Capuchin order of monks to which d'Aviano belonged.

Posted by david at 10:42 PM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2003

Saturday, April 26, 2003 I'm

Saturday, April 26, 2003

I'm sorry there wasn't a chance to post anything on Good Friday yesterday (for you Western Church folk out there, our Holy Week is a week after yours this year). I wish I could say it was because of all the services we were attending. Alas, here in the hinterlands of Herefordshire that wasn't the case. Instead there were many personal matters to attend to.

Today, I don't have a lot to write about. But this is one story I just couldn't miss, and it happened just a few miles from here:

Julian Evans from Monmouth was convicted before Merthyr Tydfil magistrates with sending nuisance e-mails. He had been sending malicious messages to one of the main mobile phone networks, T-Mobile, because they had refused to hire him. In his quest for a character reference to encourage leniency from the court, Julian produced a letter from the Pope. In letter read:

"My dear friends in Christ, I regret that we have been unable to protect the Church from this scandal in the case of Julian Evans.

"We are obliged to support Julian Evans and we have done throughout these troubled times. Julian has given an immense amount of spiritual, human and social good for the welfare of the Church and humanity.

"Yours in Christ, Pope John Paul."

Call them sceptical, but the Mertyr magistrates weren't entirely convinced the letter was genuine. After what was probably not a long investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service discovered that the letter had been purchased off the internet for £50. The amazing thing to me is that someone was willing to pay £50 for something like this. Why didn't the bloke just type something up himself?

Two Good Articles

I'm not a regular reader of The Atlantic Monthy, or even of their website Atlantic Online. However, a received the link to a good article in this month's issue about the clash of Christian and Muslim civilizations, which I encourage you to read if you have a bit of spare time: "I'm Right, You're Wrong, Go To Hell".

While read that article, I saw links to other articles about religion that have appeared recently in The Atlantic Monthly. I clicked through to an even longer, but very good article by Philip Jenkins on the explosion of conservative Christianity in the developing world: The Next Christianity.

If it is after midnight Saturday/Sunday where you are... Christ is Risen!

Posted by david at 11:09 PM | Comments (1)

April 24, 2003

Dealing with a toddler is

Dealing with a toddler is like trying to follow in the path of a tornado, tidying up as you go along. As much as we have tried to toddler-proof our flat, certain things have to be out to be used on a regular basis.

Other things that are in use cannot be forgotten by momentary distractions in another part of the home. If we forget them, we can rest assured Aidan hasn’t and he has been waiting patiently to pounce on them. Given his fascination with beverage receptacles of any kind, it is open season on any glass, cup, mug, or bottle left less than three feet above floor level. That is, unless there is an adjacent climbing device, in which case we might as well be hanging things from the ceiling on a very short string.

Though Aidie is getting very good a drinking without the aid of a sippy lid, he hasn’t mastered this skill to perfection. It seems this week has consisted of a series of spilled drinks and various mopping efforts, depending on the floor surface underneath at the time.

And mopping efforts are not confined to the various drink offerings poured out. One of the major entertainments at bath time is the ritual throwing of the toys onto the adjoining floor. This is not some sort of tantrum. There is careful planning in how to throw the object past Daddy and get the best distance. He has even discovered the art of faking and feigning. Aidan may have a future scoring penalty kicks for one of the three national teams for which he is eligible to play. We have now gotten to the stage where the various parts of his favourite toy (the tug boat with three people, three lift rafts, a smokestack, and a raised deck that doubles as a second little boat) all exit the bathtub quickly to get down to the big prize: the washcloth. It doesn’t go far, but it splatters lots of water when it hits the tiles below.

I only have one news item today, and as the parent of a toddler, this is a story to which I can readily relate and have included in full:

PARIS (Reuters) - Two French three-year-old twin boys who disappeared from home then reappeared hours later without their clothes had been off wreaking havoc in a neighbour's empty house.

Police initially feared an abduction by a paedophile when the missing boys were discovered late in the evening walking through their home town of Deols, western France, stark naked and holding a bedside lamp, newspapers said on Thursday.

But a call from a neighbour to report a suspected burglary revealed the boys had broken into a nearby house and gone berserk, emptying out drawers, bouncing on beds, scribbling on walls and gobbling up orange-flavoured vitamin pills.

The twins discarded their clothes after getting covered in shampoo and toothpaste after a rampage through the bathroom, squeezing out bottles and tubes.

They grabbed a bedside light and took it away with them thinking it would help them find their way home in the dark.

The boys' parents will compensate the house owners, daily Liberation said. It did not say how they would punish the twins.

Posted by david at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2003

Following one of the themes

Following one of the themes of yesterday’s blog, the Tower of London is not the only place where important repairs have been delayed. Much closer to home, in the village of Llangattock Lingoed, very near Mrs Holford’s hometown, the church is awaiting the completion of repairs costing £100,000. It’s not the money that is the problem. It’s the bats.

St Cadog’s Church has become the roosting place for lesser horseshoe bats. This is a rare species, so I guess shooting them is out of the question. Because the bats have been in the way, the rotten roof has not been replaced. Renovations on the church tower have been completed, and there are hopes the bats will move over there while the roof is being finished. Now they just have to find someone who can explain this to the bats.

And speaking of creature of the dark…

If George Galloway is going to sue all the media sources which are publishing information about his dirty dealings, the docket is going to get quite long. After the Sun failed in their attempt to interview him at his £250,000 Portuguese hideaway (and £250,000 will get you a lot in Portugal), despite offering a fee of 50,000 Iraqi dinars, they made him the front page. Other papers, both tabloid and broadsheet followed suit.

Looks like Gorgeous George is neck deep in guano.

And keeping with the subterranean theme…

The largest prehistoric man-made cavern in the world has been discovered in North Wales. It has been found adjacent to part of an elaborate complex of Bronze Age copper mines nearly 4,000 years old which was discovered in 1987.

To quote the article appearing in The Times tomorrow, “Great Ormes copper mines are recognised as making up the largest Bronze Age mining complex in the world, with four miles of tunnels already excavated to depth of more than 200ft. Geological surveys suggest that there are probably about ten miles of tunnels in total. The copper was used to make axes and other implements at the start of the Bronze Age: prehistoric Britain had a far more advanced civilisation than previously thought.” The article also notes, “Some archaeologists rank the mines alongside Stonehenge in historic significance.”

Something positive from the Turks

You may remember that I had less than favourable things to say about the Turks recently. Well, I want you to know that I try to be fair. I have something positive to report. Not from Turkey itself, but from its client rogue state occupying the northern part of Cyprus.

Turkish Cypriot officials have decided to allow day trips across the cease-fire line. This is the first time there has been free movement throughout the island in thirty years. Some residents of both Greek and Turkish backgrounds have not been able to visit their hometowns since they were uprooted in the wake of the Turkish invasion of 1974.

Posted by david at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2003

Sorry there was no blog

Sorry there was no blog yesterday. Today I’m late getting this together, because once again Mrs Holford wanted to watch a film. Instead of trip to Blockbuster, this was the film we had ordered for my father-in-law for his birthday. In a family tradition that goes back as long as I can remember – probably three years or more – we watched the present before giving it away.

We saw We Were Soldiers, the 2001 Vietnam War picture starring Mel Gibson. The blurb on the back says, “Makes Saving Private Ryan look like Dad’s Army”. [For the Americans, Dad’s Army is an old sitcom about mostly old men serving in the Home Guard in WWII.] I don’t know if it was that gorier or more intense, but it was not filmed for the faint of heart. However, it is a very good movie, and based upon a true story. Parts of it are quite tear jerking (says the man who has never required excessive force to produce an effusion of tears) and I recommend it.

Now for something not Based on a True Story…

It is reported in The Times today “Urgent repairs to medieval stonework at the Tower of London have been postponed while a mock dungeon has been created to display instruments of torture that were almost certainly never used at the Tower.” I hate when they do this. Not the delaying of repairs – though that is deplorable, too. I hate when they make up history. I despise and abhor when they do it to make a buck. Or a pound. Or bucks that have been converted into pounds at the airport.

This new exhibition, called “Torture at the Tower” is set to be a permanent fixture, like the ravens, the beefeaters, and the Crown Jewels. The tourists are being suckered in with “promises that visitors will learn how ‘over the centuries, hundreds of prisoners suffered and died’ and see ‘replicas of a range of torture instruments known to have been used on unfortunate traitors in the Tower’.” People want gore, and by golly they will get gore.

There doesn’t seem to be any mention of the fact that torture was only ever used at the Tower, and then rarely, under the Tudors. Even then, in the 16th and 17th centuries there were only seven executions there.

He says it’s not based on a true story…

George Galloway, friend of the former Iraqi regime, is suing the Daily Telegraph. The Telegraph claims to have documents recovered from the looted Foreign Ministry showing that the member for Baghdad Central received at least £375,000 a year from oil earnings. According to the Daily Telegraph, “A confidential memorandum sent to Saddam by his spy chief said that Mr Galloway asked an agent of the Mukhabarat secret service for a greater cut of Iraq's exports under the oil for food programme.”

This is not one little article, like the Hot Cross Buns story. The Daily Telegraph seems to have all it ducks in a row. They even printed the contents of the documents in question translated into English, with photos of the originals in Arabic. I would guess they anticipated that Galloway would sue, which he immediately announced he was doing.

The Times reports that the allegations are being taken seriously by the Labour Party. They will be investigated by the general secretary of the party, who is already looking into comments made by Galloway before and during the recent hostilities, such as branding Tony Blair and George Bush “wolves” and encouraging British troops to disobey orders.

Posted by david at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2003

Any official from Tower Hamlets

Any official from Tower Hamlets Council would have felt most welcome at the meal after our Liturgy today. One of our parishioners brought hot cross buns, but having been made aware of the potential for trouble in race relations through the efforts of your faithful blogger, he marked through the words “Hot Cross” on the label and renamed them “Spring Festival” buns.

I also learned through another source today that neither Tower Hamlets nor Liberal-controlled councils have a monopoly on idiocy. Another faithful reader informed me of something that occurred that while he was teaching in a northwest London borough in the early 1980s. The council, controlled by that other party beginning with letter “L”, had decided to hold a series of afternoon tea dances, ostensibly for retired residents. To promote this initiative, flyers were posted all around the borough. The posters naturally featured photos of older couples dancing. Someone employed by this council in a position to enforce political correctness had all of the posters removed. Why? There were no pictures of same-sex couples.

And speaking of organizations that promote same-sex couples…

The Sunday Times today published a report on a survey it conducted of forty Church of England clergy regarding the Gospel accounts of the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. I’d provide a link, but as The Times Online charges an annual subscription fee of £39.99 to overseas readers, I’d better just give you a synopsis. The Sunday Times was motivated to run this survey after an internal Church of England report last week criticised the standard of theological training for priests. To quote the article, “More than half the clergy contacted this weekend achieved a score of 50% or less in the quiz. Some were irritated to be stumped on details of the crucifixion and resurrection stories.”

A curate in West London didn’t know the name of Barabbas, but he was trying to remember the details of Monty Python’s Life of Brian to help him recall it. A curate in Derby took a break from getting a tan to take the quiz, but only got 4 out of 10 correct. One Anglican priestess missed 7 out of the 10. The lack of knowledge was not confined to the ranks of the lower clergy. The former bishop of Durham scored only 50%.

And speaking of Anglican bishops…

According to the Sunday Telegraph “The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been forced to apologise to Britain's 330,000 Freemasons after he said that their beliefs were incompatible with Christianity and that he had rejected them from senior posts in his diocese.”

Apparently, Dr Williams used to believe that certain elements of Freemasonry were “satanically inspired”. Now after a private letter was leaked, in which he said he "had real misgivings about the compatibility of Masonry and Christian profession," he has written to the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, trying to explain it all away. In his letter of apology he said, "I have been sorry to learn of the distress of a considerable number of Freemasons . . . In replying to private correspondence, I had no intention of starting a public debate nor of questioning the good faith and generosity of individual Freemasons and I regret the tone and content of the media coverage."

So maybe he still does believe that there are satanically inspired elements, because as the Sunday Telegraph notes, “Dr Williams does not, in his letter, deny that he has misgivings about the role of Freemasons within the Church.” But that’s not what is really important, obviously.

The Sunday Telegraph may have missed this but it is clear to me that given the state of Church of England finances, the Archbishop cannot afford to lose any members who may be disposed toward generosity.

And now for some good news…

A Presbyterian church of 400 members has escaped the ravages of war. Among the entire congregation, only the windows of a few homes have been broken. Pastor Ikram Ibrahim Mehanni said, "The bombs made the church shake like it was in the middle of an earthquake but it never fell down. We feared we would be attacked by Muslim extremists, but they never came. So far, we have been kept safe from the looters. It is a miracle that God has protected us and we are all alive."

Sometimes you have to be tough in Baghdad, even if you are Christian. The secretary of the parish council, Samir Aha said, "I hit a looter in the jaw and sent his spectacles flying, but I am not a bad man or an aggressive man. I hope Jesus will forgive me, because I was protecting this church. After that, I was firing my gun in the air every night.”

The Easter Sunday service was guarded by two US Marines, who also brought the church the gift of an AK47 and two boxes of ammunition. Pastor Mehanni said, "We will be praying for peace. Next Easter, I would rather our church be given chocolate, not guns." But there’s no report that he turned down this year’s gift.

Posted by david at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2003

Another busy day, so not

Another busy day, so not much time to blog. Sorry, campers.

We went to see my father-in-law for an early celebration of his birthday. Aidie got Grampy a nice jumper (that's a sweater to the Americans out there) from Burton's. His mummy and daddy ordered something from Amazon, but it didn't manage to get here in time.

This evening Mrs Holford wanted to rent a video. At her request, I obtained The Road to Perdition with Tom Hanks. I liked it and she didn't. I may review it here later, but it is too fresh to be objective.

And I want to mention the link that Huw Raphael Richardson has include on his blog, Doxos. I especially wanted to mention it because he is the only person linking so far that has also mentioned the Mental Meanderings. Thanks Huw Raphael!

For tomorrow I wish those in the Western churches a blessed and happy Easter, as those in the East observe Palm Sunday and the beginning to Holy Week. One day we may all celebrate the Paschal Feast of Feasts on the same day.

Posted by david at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2003

What Local Councils are Good

What Local Councils are Good For

When we moved house recently, we tried to find a public park near us. Not being familiar with the area, we rang the local council. No one there seemed to have a list of local parks. We were hoping to find a park better than the one across the street from our old flat. It had so many hypodermic needles and so much broken glass that we could let Aidie play.

Mrs Holford remembered seeing a park not far from the Whitecross roundabout, so we went exploring and found it. It is not particular close to our current residence, but it has become our park.

We took Aidie there today. There is a fenced in play area where he can run around freely. With him constantly getting into everything in the house, it is good to set him free to run off some energy. It is amazing how much energy can be trapped inside such a little body. Sometimes I think he is made out of the same stuff as those little superballs that we used to have – little rubber balls that seemed to bounce forever and in all directions.

Aidan is all boy. The even at 15 months, he wants to do the slide himself. He doesn’t want interference in making sure he doesn’t flip out of the groove, even though one time he managed to turn himself from his seat to his belly on the way down. The swing is his favourite. He likes everything higher and faster. The wilder the ride, the harder he laughs.

We remembered to take the digital camera with us on this trip to the park. I have posted the pictures on the Photos of Aidan page over on Holford Web. I even had to create a second photos page to fit everything.

So thanks to Herefordshire Council for the park off Whitecross roundabout, even if they don’t know it exists.

And now back to politics…

If you only recently discovered these Daily Diversions, you might be surprised to learn that I don’t reserve all of my criticism for Tower Hamlets Council.

In 1979 cousins Vincent and Michael Hickey were jailed for a murder they didn’t commit. It took until 1997 for the Court of Appeal to quash the convictions, so the Hickeys spent 18 years as tenants of HM Prison Service. Or at least that’s how the Home Office sees it. When Vince and Mike, now 48 and 41 years old respectively, were awarded compensation for the inconvenience of losing the prime of their lives, the Home Office (the UK department responsible for criminal justice) deducted £60,000 for room and board.

I know you think I must be joking. Surely this is unthinkable. Surely the Government wouldn’t be a crass as this. This is the same Government that initially demanded repayment of 10 days pay from an Army widow after her husband was killed in the Gulf, because they took too long to identify his body and therefore didn’t stop his weekly salary from going into his bank account. (The Government changed its tune after the Leader of the Opposition brought it up at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Common.)

But back to the Home Office. You might want to think that the Hickeys’ situation was unique. No. Michael O’Brien from Cardiff was jailed for 11 years before his conviction was quashed. The Home Office reduced his compensation by £37,000 to pay for his keep. Fortunately, Mr Justice Maurice Kay determined that this sort of thing is, in typical British understatement, a “misdirection as to the common law”.

Posted by david at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2003

We’ve now had a link

We’ve now had a link to the hot cross bun controversy from David Kenner at An Age Like This. If you have linked to this story on your website or blog, please let me know.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Holford family took a day trip to Gloucester, about 40 miles from Hereford. Warm sunny days with temperature at or near 80 degrees are not common in this country. In mid-April they are even rarer.

If in choosing a destination you are looking for a locality that is easy to navigate, then Gloucester is not for you. The city has many charms, but ease of access is not one of them. Getting to the city centre required a certain amount of fortitude, as it is a risky business rapidly crossing multiple lanes of traffic to get to the correct successive forks in the road.

The city centre parking is all owned by NCP, a large national car park company. Unless you are a cripple, you are out of luck. NCP does not operate any sort of concessionary scheme (as local government car parks do), but with my trusty blue badge, I found street parking. Free parking is not worth losing a leg, but it is one of the small advantages I have.

Those of you who know me know that I find it easier to make life changing decisions than to pick a restaurant or a subsequent menu item. We ended up at the Fountain Inn for lunch, more than anything because it was at the end of the street. The pub dates from sometime around the 14th or 15th century. I read it on the board outside and assumed they would say something about the history on the website so I wouldn’t have to remember. They don’t.

Eating in a traditional English pub, you’d expect we’d have traditional English fare. Mrs Holford had the chicken fajitas. I had the beef. Fajitas, of course. They didn’t do a bad job for Brits, except that they forgot to cook some of the beef. I distinctly heard a mooing sound when I stabbed it with my fork, so I sent it back. The portions were large though.

As Mrs Holford is quite the fan of Beatrix Potter, she wanted to visit the House of the Tailor of Gloucester. Just before we reached it down the narrow College Court, we stopped at a fudge shop. It’s not the sort of place easily passed. We managed to get out with just a piece of banoffee and a piece of lemon cheesecake. Fudge, of course. Very good fudge.

The House of the Tailor of Gloucester is the actual shop originally sketched by Beatrix Potter and used as the setting for the eponymous story published in 1903. The downstairs is a shop and for the modest sum of £1, the upstairs is a little museum with displays based around the tale. It’s all quite well done, really. Though Mrs Holford has purchased all manner of Beatrix Potter books and related merchandise for Aidan, he didn’t seem particularly impressed with the museum. That’s okay, though. Children under 12 can be bored for free.

College Court is right next to the Cathedral, so we thought we would drop in there for a moment, for me to see all the important dead people and for the Mrs to use the loo. We were stopped at the front door by an imposing nice man who informed us that the cathedral was closed in preparation for the arrival of the Queen for the Maundy Thursday service. Oh well…

After Kelly less sanctified facilities, we stopped by a used bookstore. The last time we spent the day in the Gloucester city centre, back in the summer of 1998, I bought a book (John Davies’ History of Wales), so I thought I should keep the tradition alive. I picked up a large collection of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, translated and edited by S.A.J. Bradley, and The Middle East: 2000 Years of History from the Rise of Christianity to the Present Day by Bernard Lewis. Not bad for £8.

I hope you found this a refreshing break from the political controversies of late. But don’t worry, I’ll be back with more stories of government insanity tomorrow.

Posted by david at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2003

I had hoped to just

I had hoped to just write today about our family outing to Gloucester. We had a lovely day. Maybe I will tell you about it tomorrow. But there’s just too much to say about Tower Hamlets Council and the Hot Cross Buns story.

First I want to thank Iain Murray of The Edge of England’s Sword for his comments on my stand with this story. Check out his story posted at 10:48 today. He’s harder on Tower Hamlets than I am! I also want to thank Phil Ingram at flyingchair.net for linking to it as well.

I also want to thank my web hosts for refusing to pull down my website when Tower Hamlets contacted them and had the audacity to tell them that it contained material which is contrary to British law. I believe my hosts informed them that as they are situated in the United States, Tower Hamlets could sod off.

I’ve updated the original story to include Tower Hamlets’ press release on the matter. I had so much fun with it that I have included it here for you. I hesitate to publish it, for fear that you might think I’ve somehow given in to them.

Apparently, the existence of this piece will incite racial hatred in East London. Now my traffic stats would indicate that about the only people in East London reading David's Daily Diversions are apparatchiks of the Tower Hamlets Council. Now you do the math: if it will incite racial unrest and the only people reading it are with the Council, it sounds like the Council has plenty of internal problems to sort out without harassing people like me.

As I have explained in my further story on this, I'm not removing what I have written. In the spirit of fair play, however, I am willing to append hereto the official press release from Tower Hamlets. Of course, as with any governmental statement, I reserve the right to comment upon it. So feel free to read the press release, giving it the same credibility you would give anything emanating from government sources in general and Tower Hamlets in particular:

"Response to Sunday Telegraph article, 16.3.03

"In response to the article concerning Hot Cross Buns (pg 11) in the above newspaper: Tower Hamlets Council would like to make it clear that it has never ordered schools not to serve hot cross buns at Easter. This allegation is entirely without foundation.

"In addition:
"1. Tower Hamlets Council, as the Local Education Authority, has a recommended Religious Education curriculum which encourages schools to celebrate the full range of religious festivals and to take a multi-faith approach to religion.

"2. However, the Local Education Authority is not in a position to order any school on its religious requirements for food. That is a decision to be taken by each school.

"3. The Council respects each school's choice as to whether it takes part in any marketing event regarding school catering.

"4. All schools in the borough were given the option of whether they wanted pancakes to be provided on pancake day and we supplied pancakes to all schools that requested them. We are unaware of any complaints.

"5. Tower Hamlets Council celebrates the rich cultural diversity of its community and the benefits that this brings.

First of all let's cut the crap. Paragraphs 1 and 5 are irrelevant. Nothing wrong with them, but they have no bearing on the truth or falsity of the article in the Telegraph. Of course only a Liberal Democrat-controlled council could make perfectly legitimate statement sound like they don't actually stand for anything. According to paragraph 3, the serving of hot cross buns is a marketing event??? And most of paragraph 4 is again irrelevant. Neither the Sunday Telegraph nor I suggested that schools weren't given the option to serve pancakes. But paragraph 4 seems to taint the truthfulness of paragraph 2. If the LEA is not in a position to order, what is it doing giving options?

So you decide. Which is more credible, the Sunday Telegraph or Tower Hamlets Council?

Posted by david at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2003

First of all, I want

First of all, I want to extend thanks to veteran blogger Natalie Solent for linking to and commenting upon yesterday’s Daily Diversion. She also posted it Samizdata. Even if she hadn’t, I would recommend both blogs to you.

Keeping on our theme of what is and isn’t inciting racial hatred, if you are in the UK, you may have seen the rather shocking story of Sir Iain Noble. Sir Iain owns a merchant bank and an estate on the very beautiful Isle of Skye.

In a speech to the Scottish Countryside Alliance, Sir Iain called himself a “racialist”. To clarify this, he said “It doesn’t mean that I don’t like foreigners. I love them, all colours. I have many Indian friends and even one or two black ones. But I don’t want them to settle and create ghettoes in my patch.” This is apparently because he believes there is some sort of genetic purity to be preserved by Scots.

He tried to analogise efforts by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Government’s environment body, to ensure that trees were grown from local seeds. Digging himself further in a hole, he said, “I don’t have any English blood in my veins, a thing of which I am inordinately proud. I’m sure SNH would be pleased as well because they believe in purity of species.” But, by golly, I bet even has even one or two English friends. He hasn’t made any in the SNH office, of course.

But let’s pause for a moment on this whole idea of racial purity. First of all, the whole concept of race is fuzzy at best. But how did the Scots become a race? This is a term that has lost any meaning whatsoever, so it is trotted out to mean anything whatsoever. This even true of the Race Relations Act, as mentioned yesterday.

In declining to withdraw his comments, Sir Iain tried to explain, “I am not a racist in the sense of disliking people. I just don’t believe that ancient civilisations should be destroyed by aliens.” So the Scots are a race in the sense that they are an “ancient civilisation”? What does he mean by ancient? Surely he doesn’t refer to that epoch that historians generally term “ancient”, generally accepted in the West as anything before the fall of the Roman Empire. Who does he think was in Scotland then?

In fact, it was around this time that the first of some Irish immigrants began disrupting the local Britons (ancestors of the Welsh) and Picts. Those foreigners were called the Scots. They created their first ghettos in the Kintyre peninsula. They kept their own language and generally made a nuisance of themselves. But wouldn’t you know it: they started mixing the other groups and lost their “purity”. Eventually one of their tribal leaders, Kenneth MacAlpin managed to get himself made ruler over the Scots and Picts and northern Britons, and everyone got amalgamated into the term Scot. This was true of the Scandinavians who invaded a couple of centuries later. And I hope that Sir Iain isn’t descended from any of the great Scottish noble families of the Middle Ages. They were all Anglo-Norman interlopers, after all.

Methinks Sir Iain’s pure Scotland really means Scotland before predominantly 20th century immigration to the UK from Africa and Asia. Scotland before some of the people looked different enough from him that he could tell. But this is just another chapter in the long and continuous history of immigration into Scotland.

So where does his pure Scottish blood come from? Well, our friends at the Telegraph have at least part of the answer:

“Sir Iain may not have any English blood. But it turns out that his maternal grandfather was Johan Michelet of the Norwegian Diplomatic Service, while his grandmother, Amie Grogan, hailed from County Dublin.

“Sir Iain himself was born in Germany and educated in England, Argentina and China. His family's fortune was made in England, at the Vickers-Armstrong armaments factory. If he obeys his own rules on local seed, Sir Iain will be on the next ferry to leave Skye.”

By the way, since Tower Hamlets Council is careful to accommodate all ethnic groups and their celebrations, I hope they didn’t forget to serve haggis on Burns Day.

Posted by david at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2003

Very Cross Councils So Sue

Very Cross Councils

So Sue Me

If you have been a reader of David’s Daily Diversions from the beginning, you will remember the write up about certain local councils banning hot cross buns on school menus. On the 2 April, I received a threat from Tower Hamlets Council "requesting the immediate removal of the article (and any related response(s)/commentary) from the www.holford.org.uk web site and a correction with the same prominence given to the original comments."

Like Pontius Pilate, what I have written I have written, though I have appended a note which will eventually link to this after it is archived and has a fixed URL. I am happy to provide a correction with the same prominence given the original. In fact, I hope it even gets more prominence.

Tower Hamlets alleges that the basis of my piece “is an article on page 11 of the March 16th 2003 edition of British newspaper the Sunday Telegraph, entitled "Hot cross banned: councils decree buns could be 'offensive' to non-Christians".” Well, they are half-right. I originally found it in the March 17th 2003 edition of The Times. I also found a related op/ed piece by Mick Hume . It was only after this that I found the original Sunday Telegraph piece. I would have written something based on The Times, had I not found the Sunday Telegraph. Of course my article could have been based on a half-page in The Sun. It was soon all over the web.

It seems there was a general capitulation when the Guardian published an article in which all of the councils in question denied ever banning the buns, or even having the power to ban the buns. Well, I’m not one so easily swayed, especially after I spoke to the legal department of the Sunday Telegraph and found out their reporter was sticking by his story. If I have to choose between believing something in the Guardian and something in the Sunday Telegraph, I pretty much pick the Sunday Telegraph every time.

The council insisted to me, “The article was wrong and is without merit or foundation.” Further they said “The council has written to the Sunday Telegraph to demand a retraction and an apology and questioned the veracity of their quotes.” Well, it took several weeks, but the Sunday Telegraph finally published this on April 13th:

"Hot cross buns

"After our article "Hot cross banned: councils decree buns could be 'offensive' to non-Christians" (March 16) the councils concerned - Tower Hamlets, Liverpool, York, Wolverhampton, Wakefield and Birmingham - have asked us to point out that none of them has an official policy on hot cross buns and that their councillors have never discussed banning hot cross buns, nor have they ever instructed council caterers not to serve hot cross buns in schools.

"Where council catering managers were quoted as saying that hot cross buns were not being served, for whatever reason, this was not as a consequence of any council policy.

"We apologise for any confusion."

The apology affirms a lot more truth than the councils in question would like. The Sunday Telegraph is sticking by the quotes. There may be a question of what is council policy, but there is no retraction that the statements were made by employees of the councils who were the actual people in charge of serving or not serving hot cross buns.

So Prosecute Me

But this isn’t the best bit. The most outrageous bit. Tower Hamlets actually threatened me with criminal prosecution for commenting on news published in the Telegraph, Times, Sun, et al. Criminal prosecution. They said, “We believe that the continued existence of the comment piece on your website has the potential to incite racial hatred, especially during these very sensitive times.” That’s right, incitement of racial hatred. Not a tort. A crime.

The only hatred that might be incited over my article is the hatred of local councils. Last time I checked, local councils do not constitute a race, even under the broad definition of this as “race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), or ethnic or national origin” in the Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. And not once in the article did I say anything negative about any group, whether or not they could be classified as covered by the act.

In fact, the only group mentioned of which I am not a part (other than council officials of whatever level) were Muslims. I gave the Muslim quotes from the story lots of space. Why? Because they agreed with me.

I hope this has been enough prominence for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. For the time being, anyway. If they want prominence so bad that they threaten to sue me or prosecute me, I’m happy to oblige. I’m sure there is a lot more that I can say about Tower Hamlets. And don’t worry: I’ll get all my facts straight.

Posted by david at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2003

Something Positive from the EU

Something Positive from the EU

I’m not particularly pro-European and it is rare that the EU does anything worthwhile.

For two years, the UK Government has allowed therapeutic cloning. This is the cloning of human embryos to create tissue for research into disease treatment, or for farming of stem cells to attempt to cure the patient from whom the clone is derived.

However, in a move welcomed by Pro-lifers everywhere, the EU Parliament has voted to set quality and safety standard that effectively outlaw therapeutic cloning and end British embryo research.

The Impossible Nightmare?

It is possible that despite the desires of the new eugenicists, cloning of human may never be possible. This is according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. The technique that has been used for farm animals, such as the late Dolly, does not seem to work for primates.

They unsuccessfully tried to clone over 700 eggs, in the process identifying what was going wrong. The basic differences mean that reproductive cloning (where the purpose is to birth a cloned child) may be impossible.

I have no doubt they will keep trying. Human reproductive cloning would be a crowning achievement for a mankind trying desperately to separate itself from its Creator. I’m waiting for scientists to start trying to create people out of dirt. Now that will impressive. Of course if they want to be like God, they will have to create the dirt, too. Out of nothing, of course.

Ya’ll Come Back Now

After clearing the queues at passport control with his bungling of the Foot and Mouth Crisis, Tony Blair is hoping to boost the tourism to Britain by appearing on The Simpsons. Well, I suppose “appearing” isn’t the right word.

There has been some criticism of Tony for taking time out from the war to record for the primetime TV cartoon, which appears on BBC2. Frankly, there is a lot more worthy of criticism. Considering that this had been booked months in advance, that it took a matter of a few minutes, and that he never had to leave 10 Downing to do it, I’m not that bothered.

Blair will be in a British guest cast that includes Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling appearing as herself, Sir Ian “Gandalf” McKellen, and Monty Python alumnus Eric Idle.

And if it will bring across a few more Simpsons viewer to visit this country, I’m all for it. British tourism-related businesses (especially the hard-hit bed and breakfasts) need the money. And since no one ever ventures out this far from London, I don’t have to listen to those annoying American accents.

And in Other News…

I don’t usually recommend either The New York Times or CNN for accurate and unbiased reporting of the news, but if you haven’t seen it already, click on this interesting op/ed piece from the chief new executive of the latter in yesterday’s edition of the former: The News We Kept to Ourselves. Free registration may be required to view this article.

Posted by david at 09:23 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2003

Summit of Irrelevance The leaders

Summit of Irrelevance

The leaders of France, Germany, and Russia met together today to focus on Iraq’s reconstruction. After they actively opposed the removal of the old regime, they want to be key players in the new. Yeah, right. If France, Germany, and Russia have a plan for Iraq, you can bet it is going nowhere. The new Triple Entente have as much credibility as Baghdad Bob.

In fact, I would venture to say that they are less popular. After all, I wouldn’t even guess at how many hits www.WeLoveTheIraqiInformationMinister.com has received. But for the record www.WeLoveTheFrench.com, www.WeLoveTheGermans.com, and even www.WeLoveTheRussians.com are all still unregistered as domain names. And I hate to disappoint you, but someone has already grabbed www.WeHateTheFrench.com and www.WeHateTheFrench.co.uk but neither has a live website yet.

Posted by david at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2003

Being on this side of

Being on this side of the Atlantic, I sometimes find my finger off the pulse of American politics. However, I have been reliably informed that part of the reason lack of support was even registered for President Bush and the concluding conflict in Iraq was due to the inclusion of New Yorkers in opinion polls. Apparently, it is hard to find a good word about W in New York. I had previously thought that negative views in that city were confined to the editorial desks of Pravda-on-the-Hudson. No wonder I don’t like New Yorkers.

The only thing I like less than New Yorkers is pseudo-New Yorkers, like the classless, characterless junior Senatorial carpetbagger from Chicago via Little Rock.

Right up there with New Yorkers would have to be the Turks. The Turks were unhappy that the Coalition forces were working together with the Kurds. The only thing the Turks like to do with Kurds is mistreat them. Now the Turks are really upset that the Kurds have taken the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, because it is so oil rich that the Kurds might be economically strong enough to attempt the creation of an independent Kurdish state.

The last thing the Turks want is a Kurdish state. The only thing the Turks liked about Saddam was that he gassed Kurds. The Turks are afraid that if the Iraqi Kurds get self-government, then all the Kurds in Turkey will want the same. So even though the Kurds in question are across the border in Iraq, the Turkish government has declared that Kurdish independence or autonomy is unacceptable.

The only way the Turks can change something they find unacceptable is by force. We know from their history with the Greeks, most recently in Cyprus, that the Turks are certainly willing to invade and permanently occupy territory. I have no doubt that without US military presence in the northern Iraq, the Turks will do exactly the same there. Their philosophy is that if Saddam can’t keep them under, Turkey will have to go do it.

If you thought that Turkey is only good at making Christian martyrs and committing genocide on Christian nations like the Armenians, think again. They are just as happy to slaughter fellow Muslims.

Of course when I refer to the Turks, I do not mean every Turkish person. There are peaceful Turkish Muslims, a handful of Turkish Christians, and others who would not favour genocide. And this doesn’t mean everything Turkish is bad. The Turks did give us the doner kebab, after all.

And I’m not saying every New Yorker is bad, either. I haven’t met every New Yorker.

Posted by david at 09:26 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2003

“Smiles like split watermelons” That’s

“Smiles like split watermelons”

That’s how BBC political correspondent Andrew Marr described Tony Blair and his advisers in Downing Street watching today’s events in Iraq.

It would also be an accurate description of most of the Iraqi faces I saw on television.

I have to admit that I’m going to miss one other smiling face. Baghdad Bob, as the Information Minister of the former regime is affectionately known could spin the wildest yarns of how Saddam’s troops were utterly destroying the Coalition. He said it like he almost believed it.

The children of a friend of mine were confused by some of the images on television. They didn’t understand why people would be acting that way in response to the fall of the regime. My friend explained to them that Iraqis normally celebrate by carrying around TV sets and rolling tyres down the street. Must be a cultural thing.

Seriously, though, all of the looting, first in Basra and now in Baghdad, demonstrates the necessity of a visible police presence in society. This behaviour is not unique to Iraq or the Middle East. The same thing happens when there are blackouts in major cities. Or simply when living on a British council estate. There is a significant element in every society that is inherently lawless. In particular, they have no respect for property.

The only property for which I am glad there was no respect was the big statue of Saddam that was pulled down. I’m glad I was watching that live. It reminded me of scenes during the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, especially the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Today I saw the iconology inherent in the human heart. Saddam made sure there were lots of pictures of himself hanging around. This was indicative of the veneration he desired from the Iraqi people. Likewise, the Iraqis took particular interest in tearing down these pictures. But it wasn’t enough to tear them down. They wanted to purposefully desecrate the images of their former tyrant. By kicking, punching, slapping, burning, urinating, and simulating certain sexual acts upon his face, they were in essence doing these things to the man himself.

I have to say that in that sense, Saddam got exactly what was coming to him.

And as the above-mentioned friend told his class of university students, “Today Baghdad – tomorrow Paris!” Anyone got any pictures of Jacques Chirac?

Posted by david at 08:38 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2003

If you read my latest

If you read my latest Meandering, you will remember George Galloway, MP for Glasgow Kelvin and friend of what we might as well call the former Iraqi regime. Even if you excuse his political views as terribly misguided and somehow think that his call for all US and UK soldiers to be tried as war criminals is supportable, it is now clear that he is not merely stupid. He is entirely lacking in character. Or so demonstrated The Times on Saturday.

Galloway created a high-profile fund to fly a little Iraqi girl with leukaemia to Glasgow for treatment. He set up the Miriam Appeal. On official House of Commons stationery, he wrote: “The Mariam Appeal has had to guarantee the costs of her treatment which could cost up to £50,000. The appeal’s target is £100,000 with the balance being sent back to Iraq in medicines and medical supplies for the children she has had to leave behind.”

But how did he spend the money? According to The Times, “The appeal paid for 14 overseas trips by the Glasgow MP between September 1999 and January 2002, mostly including flights and frequently hotel bills. He visited Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Hungary, Belgium, New York and Romania.”

Further, “Mr Galloway flew from a private airfield in Kent via Bulgaria to Baghdad to break the British air embargo of Iraq. His flight, said to have been paid for by private donations to the Mariam Appeal, contained no humanitarian aid. The MP brought six men, including Stuart Halford, the appeal’s director, to an anti-sanctions conference.”

George couldn’t satisfy his addiction to foreign travel on the back of little Miriam, so in June 2000 he set up the Great Britain-Iraq Society, which, for a £25 membership promised to “circulate a newsletter, publish material, organise events, exchange visits, organise trade missions, religious and other tourism”.

I don’t know what else the group has done, but according to The Times “It has paid for seven overseas visits by the MP, usually including the cost of flights. The destinations were to Jordan, Morocco, Beirut and Kiev, along with four trips to Iraq.”

But The Times is not the only source of trouble for the MP they call “the member for Baghdad Central”. It looks like the Labour Party has had enough of Galloway. Hurling insults and recriminations at Tony Blair and urging troops to disobey orders looks like it will eventually result in expulsion from the Labour Party. And while the former offence is not criminal, the latter is, and there are calls for prosecution under the Incitement to Disaffection Act 1934.

Posted by david at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2003

The first Saturday in April

The first Saturday in April in the UK is similar to the first Saturday in May in the US. More people than usual gamble and everyone gathers around the TV to watch the horses. In the US it is the Kentucky Derby; here it is Grand National, which is held at the Liverpool race course known as Aintree. Unlike the Kentucky Derby and most US horseracing, the Grand National is jump racing, not flat. Also unlike the Kentucky Derby, the field consists of forty horses.

I’m not a big gambler. I’ve played the national lottery twice, I think. But I have a long-standing tradition of betting on the Grand National, going back to the year 2002. That year I put all my money on a horse called David’s Lad. I figured if somebody had gone to the trouble of naming a horse after Aidan, it was worth putting a bet on. I’d never been in a bookie’s before so I didn’t know exactly what to do. Fortunately, the betting shop was well staffed, since I’m not the only person who only ever bets on the first Saturday in May. I remember a nice older lady with a three-pack-a-day voice filling in my slip for me and pointing me toward the cashier. Alas, David’s Lad, though quite promising with some of the shortest odds, did not manage to finish in the first four places. I lost my £2.

This year I bet on the horse named after my old band, Ad Hoc. In a similar train of thought, I figured I should back any horse named after one of the best bands in the history of local Christian music in Indianapolis. For a time Ad Hoc was the joint favourite to win. When I went into Ladbrokes, it was at 10 to1. I had the choice of either taking it at 10 to 1 or at the price in effect at the start of the race. I opted for the former. At least this part of my keen gamblers intuition was correct, because Ad Hoc dropped to 8 to 1 and rose to 9 to 1 just before the start.

There are 30 fences to be jumped in the Grand National. They vary in height and drop, but they are very high fences. This is what separates this race from the rest of the season. Horses that have no problem jumping throughout the country are put to the biggest possible test. One year, only four horses finished the race at all. Horses are often lost in the Grand National. I said all that just to say Ad Hoc fell at the 19th fence and I lost my money again. All £3.

I was watching the race with Mrs Holford’s mother’s domestic partner. He fared better. He had £10 both ways (to win or finish in the top four) on the horse that finished third and won about £30.

Well, enough gambling for one year…

Posted by david at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2003

Situated about 20 miles from

Situated about 20 miles from Hereford is the market town of Monmouth. It’s greatest claim to fame is not that my mother-in-law lives there, though this is why we visit there from time to time. It was in Monmouth Castle in 1387 that the daughter of the Earl of Hereford gave birth to her second child. He was christened Henry.

Henry of Monmouth’s father was also named Henry. He was called Henry of Bolingbroke, after the castle where he was born. Henry of Bolingbroke was the son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. The younger Henry probably would have lived the life of a 15th century magnate, had Bolingbroke not seized the throne of England as Henry IV.

Though a usurper, Henry IV was able to consolidate his power and pass the throne to Henry V. As a result several streets in Monmouth have been named Agincourt. In today’s political climate, Henry V should be a hero of those who support the current war effort in Iraq. This is because Henry V made a habit of kicking the collective French posterior. He didn’t go around saving the French from this invasion and that.

So today I made pilgrimage to Monmouth Castle, the birthplace of Henry V, scourge of the French.

The latest London protest against the present hostilities drew a crowd of about 1000. This is quite a drop from 750,000 the first time and 200,000 the second. Instead of filling the streets of the capital from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, they marched on the US Embassy. Something tells me the Ambassador didn’t even look out the window.

Now I could be mistaken, but I don’t think the protesters were there because of the hundreds of human remains found by British soldiers in southern Iraq. They all appeared to have been shot in the back of the head, most of them with signs of torture left on their teeth and bones. No, I don’t they were protesting against Saddam’s killing fields.

And on a completely unrelated note…

Local council workers in Edinburgh boarded up a flat after they failed to spot the body of the tenant they were sent to evict, it emerged. The tenant laid dead in his bed for nearly a fortnight after council staff sealed up his home in Scotland’s capital.

I will have a lot more to say about local councils in the near future.

Posted by david at 09:01 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2003

I was so busy with

I was so busy with other things I didn't have time to post anything today.

Posted by david at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2003

Today I reached the pinnacle

Today I reached the pinnacle of my two-year stint with the Open Directory Project, popularly known as DMOZ. I was promoted to Meta Editor, the highest level of privileges. This came as quite a surprise. Meta editors are in essence the management committee of the Directory, responsible for the overall direction of the Project.

For those of you who do not know, the Open Directory is the largest free-source directory of the Internet. Originally developed independently, it was bought by Netscape, which is now owned by AOL/Time-Warner. It is edited entirely by volunteers and is completely non-commercial. You cannot pay to get a listing. Many commercial directories and search engines, including the all-important Google, use it as a primary source of data.

If you have a bit of free time and you would like to make a tangible impact on the usability of the Internet, consider applying to become an editor.

Today my dad reached his 71st birthday. As a present, we sent him the Stephen Ambrose book, Band of Brothers. We knew he would enjoy it, because we got him the DVDs of the series and he watches them over and over. On the telephone we told him about his other present, but more on that at a later date.

Now a bit of a follow up on yesterdays Meandering… I mentioned that I didn’t understand the idiom of the French insult “Rosbeefs [Roast beefs] go home.” This morning, Mrs Holford explained that the French call the English “Roast beefs” because the English call the French “Frog legs,” usually shortened to “Frogs”. In reply to an insult about eating frog legs, the best the French can do is suggest that there is something unnatural about eating roast beef? The French eat lots of roast beef themselves! All of this time, I’ve thought the French were called Frogs because they are slimey and jump at the first sign of danger.

Posted by david at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2003

I've had plenty to say

I've had plenty to say today. Go and read my latest Meandering. Receive the Mental Meanderings in your mailbox free.

Posted by david at 09:07 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2003

The Peter Arnett furore has

The Peter Arnett furore has gone fairly unnoticed over here. I saw some sort of brief mention on a new programme, but that was it. From what I’ve heard out of the States, there are those who want Peter Arnett tried for treason, for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

I’m not sure if this is because he gave the interview to Iraqi television, or because he’s now writing for the Daily Mirror. The latter, is after all, much more anti-American. All of the other newspapers have gotten behind the war effort, even if they were opposed to it before the outbreak of hostilities. The Mirror, like Robin Cook, continues to be as negative as possible, looking for ways to undermine public support.

But honestly, I don’t think there is honestly a chance of prosecution. I’ve been going on about the problems with this war in international law. For all the fighting, a state of war does not exist between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq. There is actually not an enemy, even if it would be difficult to explain this to troops in the line of fire. The United States is involved in an armed conflict pursuant to a United Nations resolution, even if the United Nations doesn’t support the US prosecution of the war. If the US and UK governments believe that Saddam is an actual threat to our countries, which is one of the reasons given by both W and Tony, then they should have the courtesy to draw up a formal declaration.

This is one of the hazards of fighting politically correct, propaganda-based wars.

And before I go, I should mention that veteran blogger Natalie Solent (one of the blogs I check daily) quoted from one of my Meanderings today and gave me a nice plug. Cheers, Natalie!

Posted by david at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)