Posts Tagged ‘Light In The Sky’
Great delight on the allotment this morning, and I am not referring merely to a record number of eggs or even the bright light in the sky. Some of my pals who bought the final edition of the News of the Screws did so in the hope that the sacked staff would include an attack on the whiter-than-white Rebekah Brooks, but they were initially disappointed, no great surprise since she had ordered a top-level scrutiny at the proof stage. What she didn’t think to do was to check the crossword. Yesterday afternoon Tom tackled the puzzle and, to his delight, gradually realised that the answers added up to abuse of the dear lady on an unprecedented scale! Clever!
Speaking from a personal angle what is not so clever is the sudden appearance amongst the headlines of the so-called ‘Chipping Norton set’. It may well be the first time you have heard the name of my favourite Cotswold (ish) little town. When I was a boy back in the 40s the greatest treat was an outing to Chipping Norton children’s home. At that time I was by compulsion a part of a floursihing Methodist chapel in Oxford, and a lot of effort was devoted to raising funds for the orphanage, as it was known then. Once a year it held a fete and along we went in a coach armed to the teeth with every copper we had scraped together.
Once the admittedly limited excitement of a fete was over, we would wander down into the picturesque town. I remember the broad accents, the friendly manner, the cosy shops. This, I decided, was the place I wanted to live in when I grew up. Of course it never happened, but to this day I think of the place with affection. At least I did until the Murdoch scandal broke and suddenly the little innocent haunt of my childhood became identified with ‘The Set’ or, as I gather the locals term it, the ‘Cameroons’.
Friends from the area tell me that David Cameron is to be seen regularly out riding with Rebekah Brooks. The now Prime Minister’s constituency home is just four miles from that of the chief executive a la Murdoch, and it was at her home that the now infamous Christmas party took place. She lives two miles from the town centre, in a luxury barn conversion, with her second husband, Old Etonian Charlie Brooks, the former jockey, horse trainer and now thriller writer. We now know that James Murdoch was also there for the get-together between the Camerons and Brooks. It was just after the party that Vince Cable, the business secretary and no fan of Rupert Murdoch’s, was relieved of his responsibility to decide on Murdoch’s attempt to take full control of BSkyB.
Ten minutes drive away lives Matthew Freud, the PR Guru, and his wife Elisabeth. They are at the heart of the ‘Set’ and are said to be immensely influential. Oh yes, Elisabeth is the daughter of Rupert Murdoch. A well know personality living nearby is Jeremy Clarkson, the ‘Top Gear’ presenter and columnist for The Sun. It was at his home that Elisabeth met her second husband, Charlie, an old pal of Cameron. In fact the prime minister turned up for the launch of his latest thriller. He was also happy to appear as ‘Top Gear’s’ The Stig in a video tribute at Clarkson’s 50th birthday party.
On Saturday the town held its festival but there was no sign of, to quote locals, the ‘Cameroons’. But several folk were happy to have their say. At the Chequers pub, David Hawker, suggested that the prime minister might want to “put some distance between himself and The Set. “It’s not ideal for the PM” was his verdict. Others are pretty annoyed at the way their beloved community has sprung to national notice. Don Davidson, a former mayor, said that “Chipping Norton should be known for real community spirit, not the outrageous things that have been taking place in Wapping”. The present mayor, Chris Butterworth, said that he would prefer his town to be known for more positive things”, and local resident Graeme Garden spoke out at the fete itself.
The former member of The Goodies said he spoke as one not invited to any of the parties held by The Set. Graeme has lived in Chipping Norton for thirty years and is less than enamoured with The Set. “I can think of more acceptable reasons for us to be put on the map, rather than through any association with sleazy journalsim” he complained.
Amen to that. As the old line has it, they are treading on my dreams. In those, Chipping Norton is still a lovely friendly place where everyone looks out for everyone else. I hate to see it portrayed as the home of a secretive, powerful clique that trades in deception and half-truths, that was prepared to hack into the phone of a murdered child.
I am striving to apply a mental censor and to delete the existence of such ghastly people from a place that served ice cream and doughnuts to small boys on long gone sunny summer days.
TODAYS PUB QUIZ; WHO WAS WHO? 1. Who became US President in 1992 when Governor of Arkensas? 2. Which playwright Arthur, an ex of Marilyn Monroe, died in 2005? 3. Which scientist gave his name to the process of pasteurisation? 4. Who left $9 million to give prizes in five different fields? 5. Did Tony Blair have one, three or five children when he became Prime Minister? 6. Who lit the fuse for the 1605 Gunpowder Plot? 7. Was it John Ford or Henry Ford who manufactured cars? 8. During which war did Anne Frank write her diary? 9. Indira Ghandhi was Prime Minister of which country? 10. John Paul Getty made his millions from which commodity?
End of Easter break and end of sunshine! We sometimes underestimate the effect of that bright light in the sky on our moods, morale seemed to have dropped a notch this morning and Gaddafi, the bullying hen, received a less tolerant reaction when she staged her daily escape. The mood wasn’t helped by the news that the Banks have offset the reduction in their bonuses by an equivalent rise in salaries, but you have to admire them for their relentless pursuit of greed. Or hate them!
The story that really caught our eye when we retired to the allotment shed for a brew, was the one covering the Great Escape. Over a period of five months a team of insurgents dug a tunnel hundreds of metres underground through the brown soil west of Kandahar city and into Sarpoza prison in Afghanistan. And this was no ordinary tunnel, it was supported by Nato funded metal girders and concrete beams, and boasted lighting and air conditioning. It was large enough to enable the imprisoned Taliban notables to escape without even bending down, and 480 of them did just that.
One of the escapees said yesterday that the guards were ‘just sleeping’. They were, he said, “always drunk and regularly smoke heroin or marijuana”. The mass exodus occurred without any alarm, it was several hours before the authorities noticed that they were guarding fresh air. Now the large group of senior Taliban fighters have rejoined those doing battle with British and American troops who had sacrificed lives and much effort to their capture.
The episode really sums up the utter futility of our engagement in Afghanistan. It illustrates perfectly the fact that any notion of handing control back to the new Afghan government is nonsense. The moment we pull out the Taliban will take back control. And it will enjoy far more support than we are led to believe, does anyone seriously believe that a five month building programme, which involved tunneling under the main road, was not known to local people?
Another piece of news tells us that many of the Taliban killers facing our troops on a daily basis come from, er, London. WikiLeaks files obtained by the Daily Telegraph reveal that many of the terrorists were indoctrinated by extremist preachers in Britain. Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza, two preachers who lived here off state benefits after claiming asylum, are identified by the American authorities as the key recruiters responsible for sending dozens of extremists from throughout the world to Pakistan and Afhanistan via London mosques. The Finsbury Park mosque is described as a “haven” for extremists and served as “an attack planning and propaganda production base”. And by way of encouragement, fifteen of the released Guantanamo detainees described by the US authorities as “high risk” have been paid a reported £ 1 million each of our money in compensation. If it was portrayed in a novel one would dismiss it as too far-fetched, we are in the unique position of supplying both combatants in Afghanistan.
Some months ago I mentioned a new book written by Sergeant Pen Farthing, a Royal Marine who served there and endured horrendous problems, not least with the treatment of dogs by locals, hence the book’s title of ‘One Dog at a Time’. But for me the most telling aspect of this down-to-earth account is the author’s reflections on the conflict of cultures. The Taliban are not a uniformed easily identified army. They are the people, often the very people that our troops sacrifice everything to ‘defend’.
This war cannot be won, if the Russians ever proved anything by example it is that. The Great Escape shows that the supposed Afghhan government is incompetent beyond belief. It is time to bring every British serviceman or woman home and to concentrate instead on the enemies within our island.
Staying on will achieve only one thing – more coffins draped in the Union Jack!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; MONEY; “If someone says, ‘It’s not the money, it’s the principle,’ it’s the money”……Kin Hubbard ”A builder’s estimate is a sum of money equal to half the final cost”…….Neil Collins “I was feeling irritable and moody. It was that difficult time of the month when the credit card statement arrives”….Julie Walters ”I had my credit card stolen but I didn’t report it because whoever stole it is spending less than my wife”….Henny Youngman “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?”…..John Barrymore “If there is anyone to whom I owe money, I am prepared to forget it if they are”….Errol Flynn ”Money can’t buy everything. That’s what credit cards are for”……Ruby Wax “I once gave a waiter a tip. I told him never to step off a moving bus”…..Groucho Marx
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. The Battle of Salamis took place on a Greek island of the same name in the Saronic Gulf, about 16km west of Athens 2. The name Druid is derived from the word roots ‘oak’ and ‘knowledge’. The earliest references to Druids date from the 2nd century BCE.
TODAY’S QUESTIONS ; 1. Which newspaper introduced Rupert Bear in the thirties? 2 Which newspaper attacked Churchill with a front page banner headline “Whose Finger on the Trigger?”
There is a heaven and we are in it! How else can one react to such a beautiful day to greet the start of the County cricket season, an occasion usually celebrated in dressing-rooms with rain, snow, or bad light guaranteeing no game but Whist. The multitude of hens seemed subdued, perhaps puzzled by the strange light in the sky. But not everyone was in good humour, as the children headed down the lane for school we could hear high-pitched voices raised in one of those ‘it’s all your fault’ arguments. Who does that remind you of, someone asked. Who? The politicians of course, was the answer.
I’m not sure who said it but it’s a fair bet that they watched last night’s Question Time on the Beeb. The main argument there centered around the NHS reforms and the lay members of the panel made interesting points. But the various ministers were, er, pathetic. A smart young blade in a posh suit called Hunt explained the Lansley plan away by claiming that Labour would have done the same. “Oh no we wouldn’t” yelled the Labour lady, whose name has slipped my memory. I found myself wishing the audience had joined in, in true pantomime fashion, with oh yes you would. It could have gone on for hours. The truth is that Blair’s government made attempts to bring in his private sector heroes and only fierce public resistance stopped it. But it is beside the point. Is everything that the coalition does based on the belief that they are no worse than the previoius lot? We had hoped they would be better!
This morning we have yet another example of the yoo-hah politics that have taken over. Cameron has had to intervene in the dispute between the treasury and Ministry of Defence. In truth he had no option since Osborne’s department seemed hell-bent on taking away every last penny of the defence budget whilst leaving the armed forces to fight two wars. Security experts Paul Cornish and Andrew Dorman have warned in the latest issue of ‘International Affairs’, the publication of the Chatham House thinktank, that the defence review is fast becoming “the fastest policy failure in modern British history”. Meantime, the senior Harrier commander in the Falklands conflict, Nigel MacCartan-Ward, has warned that the decision to scrap our only aircraft carrier will cost almost one billion pounds over the expected six months of engagement. What he thinks of the fact that HMS Cumberland, the Nimrod spy plane, and the RAF’s Sentinel reconnaissance aircraft (now in constant action) were on their way to the scrapyard when the Libyan situation exploded, is not recorded. But we can guess!
And how does Liam Fox and his cronies explain this mighty mess? They blame Labour, who of course blame them. The truth is that Labour messed up by adding £600 million to defence coffers for the sale of Typhoon jets to Oman without waiting to ascertain that the sale would go though. And over the past decade the M.O.D has practiced costly and disastrous procurement on a grand scale. But here, as with the NHS, the fact that Labour messed up is not the issue. The coalition studied the situation for many months and then took decisions that have left us unable to defend our own airspace let alone that of Gaddafi or any other madman that Cameron decides to attack.
To an extent the relationship between Tory and Labour has aways been a bit like this, a constant tit-for-tat battle between incompetent combatants. The sad fact is that it is getting worse and the amount of lies now being fed to a public weary of the lot of them could qualify for the guinness Book of Records. At the last election the big hope was that Nick Clegg and his Lib Dem MPs would bang heads together and introduce intelligent, grown-up debate.
But that idea died on day one when he made the mistake of appearing in the rose garden with his mate ‘Dave’. Now he is desperately trying to distance himself from ‘Dave’ and all his works, but no one is listening for when it comes to saying one thing and doing another he has set new levels.
Perhaps we should organise a swap. Let the squabbling schoolkids run the country and let the politicians go back to the playground. We wouldn’t notice the difference!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; HYGIENE; “My grandmother took a bath every year, whether she needed it or not”…..Brendan Behan “Armpits lead lives of quiet perspiration”,,,,,Patrick Murray “Why do they bother saying raw sewage?; Do some people cook the stuff?….George Carlin “A gentleman is someone who gets out of the bath to go to the toilet”…Freddie Trueman “Miss Debary, Susan and Sally made their appearance, and I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow me”…….Jane Austen “Lady Badbreath, fresh as stilton…”…..Cyril Connelly “On the day there was a full chamber pot under the breakfast table I decided to leave”…George Orwell “I remember when pants were pants. You wore them for twenty years and then cut them down for pan scrubs”…..Victoria Wood
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. The Aswan Dam 2. Cholera
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which prime minister married Gladys Mary Baldwin? 2. Which prime minister was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire?