Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Closure of St Mary Street in Cardiff

On the 6th August 2007 St Mary Street in the centre of Cardiff will be closed to all through traffic. This is a new scheme being imposed by our council and St Mary Street is not some small back street but the main A470, a primary route. It is linked to the High Street and runs from the Castle right in the heart of our city towards the Central Bus,Coach and Train Stations.

We already have the nuisance of our council closing this main city centre road at the drop of a hat. Every Friday and Saturday night it is closed to traffic so that drunkards can stagger all over the road rather than be responsible for themselves and walk along the pavements and cross the road at appropriate crossing points. Get an event at the Millennium Stadium and our council closes the city centre roads. Get a large event at the Millennium Stadium and the council even closes the Central Bus and Coach Station causing chaos to public transport passengers.

So now the council in it's nanny state wisdom has decided to close St Mary Street to all through traffic. They proudly call it an improvement by restricting vehicle movements and people's freedom.

This is a backwards move and is an unnecessary restriction on everybody. Roads should be open to all, that is what they are for and this is a main road. You cannot make a successful established city centre into a pedestrian precinct. Can you imagine the uproar if a London council tried to enforce this madness? Businesses and residents would tell the council where to go but here in South Wales there is not a whimper. At the drop of a hat city centre roads are closed and nobody can criticize the council because of it's claim of health and safety. If people are so dumb not to walk on pavements and use appropriate crossing points then that is their problem. The whole city should not be restricted and made to suffer because of a few jay walkers. People have bigger brains that sheep and we, the council tax payers, should not be treated like sheep. This is not progress, just another nuisance from our nanny state council.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Woodfield Farm a pub at Doncaster.

We went to visit friends this weekend at Doncaster, in South Yorkshire. The floods at Bentley and Toll Bar have now gone and the area is getting back to normal. Doncaster has developed over the years and has grown a lot since I traveled through the town in the 1980's.

Our friends, just like us, enjoy eating out regularly. Over time you get used to similar menus and a lot of pubs doing food are owned by large chains. You get used to having the same meals from the same chains all around the country. Your meal is no different whether you have it in Cardiff, Bristol, Weston-Super-Mare, Castleford or Doncaster. Wherever you go in the UK you see the same brands offering the same menus. You could be anywhere in the UK, it is all the same.

However, our friends on Saturday took us to the Woodfield Farm Pub, Woodfield Way, Balby, Doncaster, South Yorkshire DN4 8SN which is on the way south from the town centre towards the M18 motorway. The style of building and car park looked very familiar so we knew the standard would be what you would expect from any national pub chain.

First impressions were that it was your standard pub chain building but there was no company logo to be seen anywhere. Then we saw the menu and this was different, not your usual pub fayre but food to excite the diner. Then at the food pay point there was a chilled cabinet were there were some deserts that had been made on the premises. Yes, food made on the premises, not food that comes in daily on a lorry from a distribution hub.

I looked at the bar in hope because most pubs that serve good food do not try very hard with the beer. What a lovely surprise I got as there was Courage Directors on hand pump, an old favourite of mine that I have drunk when available for over 25 years. It is now brewed by Wells and Young of Bedford but still retains it's unique character. There I was drinking a good quality real ale in the company of friends far from home, having a great weekend away.

The soup was an unusual vegetable variety, not your usual tomato soup that gives you the impression it came in a 32,000 litre tanker from some vast factory. My main course was a farmhouse beef pie but it was not a normal mass produced beef pie. It had a mashed potato top and the beef was seasoned with various herbs and spices. This was an absolute delight to eat, a definite hit.

The whole business was very well run and a refreshing change from the major operators where every branch is the same. The people of Doncaster are lucky to have such a fine, different and independent pub close to them. I wish we had a pub like this in Cardiff but the big chains appear to have the market stitched up between them.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Heroes on BBC2.

I have watched the much hyped Heroes on BBC2 television. I do not like it, I thought it was very poor and it failed my 15 minute test. Why the BBC commissioning editors bought this programme is beyond me. Some viewers like to fantasize and this story is complete fantasy. It should insult the viewers intelligence but at least it keeps them safe at home as they should not be allowed out on their own if they find this programme entertaining.

What programme will the BBC buy from the Americans next? "Fairies at the bottom of the garden" featuring a Christian family who witness miracles on every episode I expect.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Terrorist threat to airport passengers.

Front page of my newspaper today is the headline "Terrorist threat to airport passengers". The story goes on...

Airline passengers are in danger of being turned into potential terrorist targets by the new security regime at airports, MPs warn today. Lengthy queues at check-in desks and in departure halls are vulnerable to a bomb attack - presenting a "significant security threat".

...Well tell me something new, my alarm bells started ringing when the 7/7 London bombings went off. I did a simple risk assessment in my day job and it was obvious to me that all waiting areas in bus, coach and train stations as well as airports were vulnerable to attack. I am aware of the risk and I have to live with it everyday I go to work. I will always give the queue of intending passengers a glance before I open the door of my coach. The thought of queueing passengers waiting like lambs to the slaughter gives me the creeps but this is the world we now live in. It is a world that Londoners accept every day as they travel to work. I doubt if commuters going to work by public transport here in Cardiff give the possibility a thought and I personally give Cardiff Central Station a very low risk of attack from suicide bombers. However, Digbeth Coach Station in Birmingham and Victoria Coach Station in London are in a different league and I fear that one day a suicide bomber may strike in the passenger waiting areas. There is no way to prevent this tragedy, wherever you allow public access there will always be a risk. There is no way around this problem and as with airports wherever you increase security you only move the risk to other areas.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What is a story worth?

Most bloggers on the internet write a blog because it is the outlet for their feelings. They can write whatever they want and it will be published. They do not get paid for their work and they write for their own pleasure. I get an awful lot from blogging, I can write what I like and publish my own little world.

I am aware that newspaper journalists can earn some good money, columnists like Boris Johnston are very well paid. However, regional journalists are not well paid and only use local newspapers as career stepping stones or if they really like the job then it may be the best that they can secure as competition is fierce.

Until yesterday I did not know how much authors of books, fiction and non-fiction were paid. An educated guess would be a commission deal similar to the music industry. In fact a standard publishing contract gives an author 10 per cent of the cover price. This to me is a good deal and I did not think it would be this high. Book sales are not in the high figures like newspaper sales but the pennys will mount up I am sure. So who is the highest earner for written works today? It can only be one author and I am not a fan. The figures speak for themselves, so take a deep breath because this is big money - forget Premier League football players but consider JK Rowling and a total of 2,652,656 copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold in the UK on Saturday. With a cover price of £17.99 this means that Rowling, already estimated to be worth more than £500 million, earned almost £4.7 million from UK buyers on the first day.

So successful is she, however, that observers believe that she may have negotiated to receive 15 per cent or even 20 per cent of the cover price of each copy sold. Deathly Hallows was published simultaneously, in English, in more than 90 countries. Though few figures from overseas were available last night, it is thought that the worldwide first day sales could top 10 million.

JK Rowling is the top earner but regular authors may be earning a good crust for their labours of love. Your unpaid blogger is back to his hourly paid work tomorrow whether anybody wants my services or not. I get the same rate of pay whether I take 49 people with me or travel on my own. However, I am not allowed to blog about my day job because the company does not want the public to know my opinions. The company pays my wages and blogging is an unpaid hobby so the choice was easy to make.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Do not drive downhill with your foot on the brake.

Peter Allen in Paris writes...

At least 26 people died yesterday when a coach carrying Roman Catholic pilgrims from Poland crashed through safety barriers on a winding mountain road in France. Another 24 people were injured, 14 of them seriously with some in a critical condition.

The accident happened high in the Alps on the road between Gap and Grenoble. All those on board were returning from the sacred shrine of Notre Dame de la Salette, where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to two children in 1846.

The coach, which is believed to have had faulty brakes, smashed through a safety barrier at around 9.30 am and fell 130 feet on to the banks of a river, before bursting into flames. Local people tried to put out the fire with buckets of water, while the injured were rushed to two hospitals by ambulance and helicopter.

Christiane Bonnard, who lives nearby, said: "I heard the sound of the crash and came rushing to the scene. There were bodies lying everywhere. I also saw part of a severed foot. It was really traumatic."

Five hours after the accident, rescue workers said all on board were accounted for. Nine unidentifiable bodies were found on the coach. Police said one driver was among the dead.

Motorcyclists following the coach told investigators that it was moving downhill at 44 miles per hour with rear brake lights lit.

They saw sparks flying as it picked up speed on the last stretch and plunged through the barrier.

...I think that this accident should never have happened. When driving a bus or coach downhill you should never use the brakes to check your speed. All modern buses and coaches are fitted with a retarder or an exhaust brake. The driver uses this secondary braking to check the speed of the bus or coach. The driver does not use the foot brake unless he wants to stop. It is part of driver training and common sense that all brakes will fade with prolonged use due to the heat generated caused by the friction. On very old buses and coaches without secondary braking the driver should select the appropriate gear and descend the hill under compression so that the engine braking checks your speed. When I drove a Bristol FLF in the 1980's there were special bus stops erected at the top of steep hills in Bristol. The sign would instruct the driver to stop and then engage 2nd gear. The driver would then descend the hill in 2nd gear without using the brakes and when the road levels out he would change up into 3rd gear. If for any reason he had to stop, then a quick dab on the brake pedal would quickly bring the bus to a halt because the brakes were cool. Driving this way means that your brakes are always cool and you can use them if you want to stop.

Brakes do not fail on buses or coaches because of the way the compressed air system works. If you have low air pressure for whatever reason then the air pressure gauge will drop and a warning buzzer will sound. If the air pressure falls any further then the brakes will come on as a fail safe. What this system cannot stop is the driver cooking the brakes by driving downhill with his foot on the brake. Brake fade will then take over and the driver has lost control of the vehicle.

It really saddens me that 26 people have lost their lives because of ignorance of an elementary driving skill. There are a lot of Polish lorries and coaches being driven on our roads here in the UK and I hope that their driving skills are up to scratch. The other week in London I noticed that VOSA were having an inspection campaign of all the Polish coaches in Bulleid Way, just around the corner from Victoria Coach Station.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Two simple questions from Sky.

The days roll by and shortly our subscription to Sky television will cease. When I telephoned them to cancel there was no hard sell to keep my business just a simple resignation that it was time to move on and that I was just another customer adding to their churn. I expected that maybe later I would be interrupted with telephone calls trying to sell me their television service. Telephone calls can be intrusive and salespeople will get a sharp response from me. If I want to buy something then I will go online or outside to buy the service or product. I am not some puppet who will buy over the telephone just because someone has cold called them to drum up business.

All credit to Sky, they have not insulted my intelligence or pestered me with nuisance telephone calls. The other day I received a letter from Sky along the lines of sorry you are leaving us. Could I spend a minute, yes - just a minute to answer two simple questions on a card and return it to them freepost. The first question was to tick box only one of the obvious listed reasons for leaving plus a second column for additional matches. The second question was to tick box which genres of television I had watched with Sky. Below this was a number which I assume was my account number.

What a refreshing change this was, a simple Customer Service Questionaire that did not invade my privacy or mine me for information to sell to third parties. It was two simple questions, took less than a minute to think and tick the boxes. It only got the information that was relevant and nothing more. I wrote about my views on the subject of Customer Questionaires on the 7th February 2007 and I just wish that some people on Hagley Road would follow this excellent business model set by Sky.

Sky have demonstrated how to have a good customer experience and if later on if I were to change my mind about having a pay TV subscription then I would consider Sky because they have not annoyed me with intrusive telephone calls or nosey parker Customer Service Questionaires. That would save me from taking my potential business to MegaTV, if you take the hint!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Old Speckled Hen , I miss you.

While I was at work yesterday Gail had some visitors to our home. In came her eldest son Jayme Parsons with his wife Jenny and their daughters Kelly, Georgia and Lauren. They were here for less than 2 hours and had a meal. It took Gail another hour after they left to clear up the mess.

I enjoy a drink of real ale and I had a bottle of one of my favourites, an Old Speckled Hen, tucked away neatly in the far corner of our dining room. Smash went the bottle as the visitors stormed around our dining room. A quality real ale spilt over my carpet, what a waste of good beer. This was only the start of the mess as the next casualty were our dining chair seat cushions. Rather than eat their dinners from plate to mouth the food was scattered all around the room. Food sat there on the cushions were it dropped and the table become a gooey mess awash with the dinner that Gail had cooked just for them.

This family from Port Talbot like to take holidays their at Butlins. I can imagine what mess and chaos they cause whilst on holiday. But nobody can say anything because Kelly, Georgia and Lauren are special, little princesses who at all cost must be spared any negative comments. You are not allowed to criticize these badly behaved children and are just supposed to tolerate the mess they create. Watch out because the family from hell make be coming to a holiday park near you.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What jihad for dinner?

The above is not a typing error but is meant to be said in a Geordie accent. Normally I do some serious surfing and read websites like the excellent Jihad Watch written by Robert Spencer but the question posed by my post today offers some light relief.

I was reading the Daily Telegraph today and if it was the 1st April you may have dismissed the story as a hoax. I take an interest in global conflicts and jihad but I also have a strong interest in food. This story links these two interests...

An illiterate Afghan fruit seller has offered a rare insight into the world of Osama bin Laden.

Today, Akhtar, who is 65 and uses only one name, enjoys a quiet retirement tending his orchard near Kabul. But he claims that for five years he was the personal valet and cook for bin Laden.

Akhtar was not a formally trained cook, but the job required little skill beyond the ability to prepare bin Laden's favourite dish of mutton korma, for both lunch and supper. Breakfast would typically involve scrambled eggs.

"If he was here today, then of course I would prepare him a mutton korma," said Akhtar, sitting under one of the apple trees in his Kabul orchard. "It was his absolute favourite, with a pilau full of almonds, orange peel and raisins."

Akhtar claimed that his Saudi employer, who often grumbled about his health and was a picky eater, rarely let anyone else prepare his food, mainly due to worries about being poisoned.

Life in bin Laden's cave close to the Pakistan border was predictably austere, dominated by prayer and talk of jihad. Bin Laden slept little, rising at midnight to fit in an extra set of prayers on top of Islam's standard five cycles.

Akhtar claimed he shared a room with bin Laden and Abu Maz, his Palestinian assistant. There was only one bed and bin Laden gave this to Akhtar because he was the oldest.

Every afternoon bin Laden delivered lengthy lectures to his followers offering Koranic justification for holy war. But he had a lighter side to him.

"He was always making so many jokes," claimed Akhtar. "He was always happy before he went home to Saudi Arabia and would say 'Uncle, I have four wives waiting for me. It's time for some fun'.

"We Afghans do not talk about our wives in this way."

... thanks to Tom Coghlan in Kabul for bringing us this story.

I do enjoy a curry and a lot of Middle Eastern food. The story made me smile and I will never look at a Lamb Korma the same again. I also like the little snide about Afghan women.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Children and dogs in Pubs.

Not much news to comment on in the last few days but the letters page has been brightening things up quite a bit. One reader suggested that dogs should be banned from all public houses in the UK. This letter was followed by another reader who thought that dogs were OK but that children should be banned from all pubs. Then other readers waded in with their pet hates in pubs, some serious others funny.

I think that dogs should be allowed in all public houses. They are very sociable animals and add to the friendly atmosphere. At this time of year a number of dogs die when locked in cars due to the sunlight and scorching heat. If any food is spilt or dropped it does not get trodden into the carpet but scavenged by the nearest pet. Dogs are very soothing animals to have around and are good conversation ice breakers.

Children on the other hand are a nuisance in all public houses and should be banned. The age limit for buying and drinking alcohol is 18 years and pubs should be an adult environment. I do not want screaming, screeching children running around loose. Their parents do not seem to care about the chaos and mess their children create. They scatter food far and wide, spill drinks left, right and centre. They leave tables in a sticky, gooey mess and then go into the car park and scratch other cars with careless door opening. Pubs are not places for children and sensible adults do not want them there. There are places for these little rascals and their ignorant parents - the drive-in brat palaces like McDonalds, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Give the little rotters their meal in a bucket at one of these fast food joints and keep them away from pubs were civilised adults and their well behaved dogs should be enjoying sociable food and drink.

Dogs in, children out, you know it makes sense.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The joy of booking another holiday.

The weeks roll by and my day job ticks along nicely. Dog walks are quite routine and pub lunches are what you expect from them. The internet continues to be a consistent joy as the information flows around the world wide web. Television viewing continues to entertain Gail and I in our lovely home. Life just bumbles along quite nicely thank you.

However, there is a little sparkle in our eye. Something far from our usual routines. A light at the end of the tunnel, a distant goal calling us from afar. The light that shines from Hammamet in Tunisia.

We have booked our next holiday in December 2007. This brings us such joy, to have a hotel booked to a foreign destination. We can look forward to this break from our usual routines. Having this booking under our belts gives us such a boast, the joy of knowing when and where we shall be going. We look forward to sampling once again the foreign sights, sounds and smells. We know that there is more to life than going backwards and forwards to work in the slow road to retirement. Life is to be enjoyed and when you have a party coming up it gives you a spring in your step. Booking well in advance means that we can have a workable dream for longer, knowing how long it is before we fly away. A booking to fly away and live like a king for a week in the winter sun of Tunisia. I can hear the beaches calling me now.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Their time in court.

The 21/7 failed London bombings trial has finished and these criminals have been sentenced to 40 years in prison. It was a long trial with a lot of media coverage both here in the UK and around the world. Dominic Lawson in his column today writes about...

"The strange thing about the bombers was how passive they were in court.
Throughout the trial, the would-be mass murderers behaved exactly as common criminals do.

Throughout the course of the trial Ibrahim, and three of his co-defendants who were also given 40-year sentences, claimed that they were not suicide bombers at all, that the reason why their chemical devices had failed to ignite was that they were not meant to: it was all a hoax.

So why was it that none of the defendants declared to the Court that they did not recognise its authority? Woolwich Crown Court is not exactly run according to Sharia law. More to the point, why did none of the defendants simply argue that what they planned was just, in accordance with their religious conscience, and that they therefore had no regrets? Given the public nature of the trial, with reporters present throughout, this would seem to have been a glorious opportunity for some peak-time jihadist propaganda.

The intellectual leader - if one can so describe him - of al-Qa'ida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, did not miss such an opportunity when he was in a Cairo courtroom charged with involvement in the assassination of Anwar Sadat. He declared to the court: "We want to speak to the whole world! We are not sorry, we are not sorry for what we have done for our religion, and we have sacrificed and we stand ready to make more sacrifices!" Al-Zawahiri's tirade had a galvanising effect on his followers, and tapes of it still continue to do so."

...Dominic Lawson has written a very good column today and he has given me cause for thought. You can read the whole article by clicking the link above, I am not going to plaglarise it.

These failed bombers had their reasons and must surely have known that with the evidence available they would be sentenced for a long time. They had their opportunity to wave the flag of jihad in open court with global reporting to gain some credit for their failure. If their bombs had exploded as intended then their lives would have been lost, the sacrifice would have been made. They had decided to become suicide bombers so the length of their prison sentence should make no difference to them as they had chosen to die on 21/7. Therefore they would have nothing more to loose by having their day in court, waving the flag of jihad and becoming role models for other Islamists. They could then have the fame in prison of being jailed political activists rather than low intelligence criminals acting on their own.

Some people may think that the 21/7 bombers were highly principled and motivated individuals who were prepared to martyr themselves for the good of a greater cause. However, this claim did not clearly stand up in court and shows us that they were just simple criminals. Simple criminals with simple minds that were brainwashed by Islam.

All around the world Islam recruits the low intelligence individuals, the village idiots, the educationally sub-normal to become suicide bombers, the cannon fodder of jihad. Although sometimes you have the opposite of this and highly intelligent individuals like the NHS doctors become suicide bombers. However, you will notice that in places like America where strange religious cults prosper, they quite often attract the really intelligent to believe in their vision where the average man-in-the-street keeps well clear of these nutcases.

Oh, the power of religion just shows that not all the nutters are in the asylum.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Countdown to the big bang.

Front page on my newspaper today is the warning that Osama Bin Laden's second in command issued a warning yesterday that Britain faced fresh terror attacks as ''punishment'' for Salman Rushdie's knighthood. The threat - addressed directly to Gordon Brown - came in a 20-minute audio-tape posted on jihadi websites by Ayman al-Zawahiri.

He threatened ''a very precise response'' in retaliation against Britain for having knighted the controversial novelist in the Queen's Birthday Honours last month.

"I say to Blair's successor that the policy of your predecessor drew catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq and even in the centre of London," he said. "And if you did not understand, listen, we are ready to repeat it for you, God willing, until we are sure you have fully understood."

I wonder how long it will be before there is another terrorist incident here in the UK? Al-Qaeda have a history of repeating terrorist attacks until they become successful. The recent London and Glasgow attacks failed but it will not take long before they perfect these improvised explosive devices. There are too many terrorist cells working quietly towards jihad for our intellegence services to monitor them all effectively as the latest trial in London demonstrates. The clock is ticking away but shortly our Parliament will start it's annual summer recess. Just how long will it be before COBRA has to meet again due to another terrorist crisis?

Our foreign and domestic policies are listened to abroad. We should listen to the protests being made abroad about our government and respond by changing our policies to keep us all safe and secure in our homes and workplaces. You cannot win by fighting jihad because their supporters are prepared to die for their cause and become martyrs. The only way is through diplomacy and by changes to your foreign policy. Take a pacifist view on these problems rather than adopt an aggressive military view which you can never win. The history of Afghanistan will teach you that guerrilla jihadists, some of whom the West has trained, cannot be beaten. The only way forward that I can see is from spreading peace through diplomacy and withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

If it also takes the withdrawal of the knighthood to Salman Rushdie, then so be it. That is the price of diplomacy and will not let our national pride get in the way of our personal safety in our towns and cities. Better to loose a knight than a civilian life.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The end of Sky.

I looked at what television Gail and I were watching and found that it was mostly free-to-air channels. There are loads of other TV channels on our Sky digital box that we can view for our monthly subscription of £21.00 but actually watch very little on them. We decided to cancel our subscription today with Sky because we were getting very little value from our £21.00 a month and this money was being wasted. As an ex-Sky subscriber we get to keep their digital box and use it to view their free-to-air channels through their satellite system. This is the same as if you paid £150 for their Freesat which provides the same service as we will have from the 9th August 2007.

There is a lot of churn from television viewers in the UK because of the tremendous success of Freeview . These set-top boxes have come down in price big time to as little as £20 in some supermarkets. Every month viewers are ditching their television subscriptions to Sky and the cable companies because of the good range of free-to-air channels being broadcast. The quality of these channels is far greater than the repeats and American imports that you pay for as a Sky customer.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Extremists working in the UK

Plenty of newspaper coverage this past week along the lines of extremists working in the UK. First we have speculation about NHS workers being terrorists in their spare time and shock, horror how can this happen due to pre-employment checks. Today we read about the possibility of extremists working for the Police service with the same noises about pre-employment checks. A long time ago there were reports of suspected terrorists working for London Underground. Why should questions be asked of employers and this guilt be put on them?

People should be taken onto employment due to their suitability to do a job. Whatever other interests they hold or do in their spare time should not come into the recruitment service. What people do outside of work is down to them, not their employers. People can also start employment and then later take up leisure interests that may surprise people. This is not a problem and should never become one. Maybe a new employee starts a job which he does well but later decides to convert to Islam. His new found religious beliefs should not lead to his dismissal just to be one the safe side.

Who knows what employees do in their spare time? Employers should not be made scapegoats for their employees' leisure interests.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bullying in the playground.

Bullying in a school playground can take various forms, one of which is name calling. There can be a very nasty side to this name calling that is not innocent or funny. Thankfully my local MP Kevin Brennan has taken up this issue in his new job at the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Children who call classmates "gay" or "queer" should be treated the same as racists, the new children's minister said yesterday. "We need to create a culture where homophobic bullying is as unthinkable as racist bullying. That culture must be shared across our whole society but I believe schools are the right place to start." Mr Brennan singled out disc jockeys such as Chris Moyles on BBC Radio 1 who has been criticised for his casual use of the word "gay" to describe something as "rubbish".

"This is too often seen as harmless banter instead of the offensive insult that it really represents," said the minister .

I am pleased that Kevin has taken this issue on board in an effort to nip this problem in the bud. Children will face many challenges as they grow up and will face many prejudices in their lives. A challenge to their developing sexual identity is one that they should not have to endure and certainly not be bullied over it in the supposed supportive environment of a school playground. It is right that appropriate teaching is offered in our schools so that pupils can understand sexual diversity within our society.

Kevin is a good MP for Cardiff West and he is one of a number of MP's who stood up against our government and voted against the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Keep up the good work Kevin, your heart and mind is clearly in the right place.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The change in the weather.

Here we are into July and another British summer. It is showers followed by sunny intervals with various wind speeds. Mixed days from a weather point of view. Up and down this nation men get out of bed in the mornings and get dressed. They go about their daily lives with no problems. However, women get out of bed and dress for fashion not purpose. They then moan constantly about the weather, oh! they feel cold, they want some heating on and can feel a draught on their delicate skins.

For goodness sake women, dress sensibly in the mornings. If you only dressed properly instead of thinking you were all catwalk models then all the men of this great nation would be spared your moaning about the weather. Be an adult and dress yourselves properly, clothes protect you from the weather, that is their purpose - not just to look nice.

Why are these women so sensitive about the changes in the weather? As a rough rule of thumb I guess that most women have 3 times the ammount of clothing in their wardrobes compared to men. Dress sensibly and you will be OK, comfortable and happy - just like us men. Why should women be obsessed with exposing their arms, mid-rifts, legs and feet? If you insist on showing your skin then for the rest of mankind please stop moaning and no, you cannot have the heating on, wear a pullover.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Alan Johnston is free after 114 days.

What a relief for everyone that the BBC journalist Alan Johnston has been freed after being held captive for 114 days in Gaza. In his first interview he reveals his feelings, the following I wish to highlight...

"I had... the one lucky break in my incarceration, I got hold of a radio that gave me the BBC World Service, and I realised that we weren't just talking about a local campaign in Gaza.

I realised that the Beeb was mobilising the most extraordinary international campaign, drawing in all the major networks and all the bureaus."

On the release...

"Suddenly the car screeches to a halt, they drag me out of the car and sling me towards more gunmen. In Gaza there are always more gunmen when you get out of the car, everywhere you go there's more gunmen and you just think, who are these crazy guys?

And, but then I recognised one photographer and I thought, this looks better. And then round the corner there's my old friend who I'd worked with for three years. And it was over. And it was the most extraordinary moment of my life, as they say in journalism.

It's really hard to sum up quite how good it feels to be standing here instead of lying in that room that I was lying inside just yesterday. It just is unimaginably good to be free. Maybe you have to have been a prisoner of some kind, for some time, to know how good it is just to be able to do the basic things that freedom allows, not least to get a haircut and to drink what you want, to walk through doors that you want to walk through."

On his family...

"But then, you know, in a rare act of kindness the guard let me come through to his room and watch the telly when my dad was in a press conference on an Arabic channel and, you know, it was my dad at his best in a crisis you know."

I am very relieved that Alan Johnston has eventually been released unharmed. Journalists should be free to report their news reports from anywhere in the world with no restrictions placed upon them. They should be free from danger and respected by everyone in the world because the work they do is professionally independent and is in the public interest.

I am sure that I am not the only person who feared that Alan would not get out of Gaza alive, thankfully he is now a free man which is a basic human right. I think we should all now respect his wishes and "The whole Johnston family is about to go back to the obscurity in which it was extremely happy for about 45 years."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

What is it with skin colour?

Everybody has skin, it covers our bodies and stops us from falling apart. The colour of a person's skin should make no difference to their lives. The person is beneath their skin and the colour of their skin should be as arbitrary as the colour of their underwear. However some people are not happy with their skin colour which is rather sad. Some pale skinned people spend a lot of time and money on tanning studios and some darker skinned people spend a lot of time and money on skin lightening creams. Skin lightening creams have become quite popular in India which I find rather sad. The time and money people are wasting is beyond me and I think the use of these creams may have physical as well as mental health risks.

I wish that people would enjoy their lives and not be concerned with their and other peoples' skin colour. No skin tone can possibly be better than another and people who are affected by these differences are showing some disgusting morals. These people should lighten up, not their skin but their attitudes and prejudices. There was one funny quote from this story however...

"My maid has been using Fair and Lovely for years and I still can't see her in the dark," said Anuradha Kapoor, owner of a public relations firm. "But she goes on using it. Hope springs eternal, I suppose."

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