Thursday, July 31, 2008

And it's gridlock.

Back to work this afternoon, but not up into Derbyshire. Tuesday afternoon saw gridlock in Chesterfield and along the A61. It was so bad that I left the A61 and went along the B6014 to Matlock where I could go no further because my driving hours were up. I had a statutory 45 minute rest break in Matlock which was also severely congested but it still took me an hour to get into Derby. These delays resulted in my coach arriving in Birmingham a staggering 3 hours and 35 minutes later than advertised.

There had been a lucky escape for mechanic in M-way crash when the M1 was closed for about nine hours after a lorry smashed into a rescue vehicle dealing with a broken down HGV . The mechanic carrying out repairs to the HGV was in the back of his van assembling parts when it was struck from behind by another lorry which veered onto the hard shoulder at around 10.10am. The broken down lorry was carrying tins of condensed milk and the second was carrying a 21-tonne roll of steel, which broke free and rolled across the motorway. One of the vehicles lost its entire load of diesel, which had to be cleared up before the motorway could re-open last night. at 7.20pm.

Accidents happen from time to time and it should be relatively easy to clear things away and get the traffic moving again. These delays cost the economy huge amounts of money - which we all have to pay for at the end of the day. It all leads to the feeling - there must be a better way. Shift the debris off the road and let the traffic flow. There is now point crying over spilled milk or in this case condensed milk.

In my opinion all these delays could have been avoided. Was it really necessary to close the motorway for 9 hours? I sincerely doubt it but we all know how the Police love to close our roads and motorways at the drop of a hat.

Now you can watch the BBC video .

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Hundredth Man by Jack Kerley .

This thriller was published in paperback in 2005. I picked a copy up cheap, very cheap in Asda. Asda are good at selling paperbacks at bargain prices and this novel was an International Best Seller.

The book concerns one Policeman called Carson Ryder who works in Mobile, Alabama. This is a regular crime thriller which is well told. It is easy reading with a good plot that has many twists. The story reveals that many ordinary people can have a darker side and you later learn that one regular person is actually a psychopath.

The main characters are quite buddy-buddy, they are all warm characters who are involving. At the end of this book you feel that is was simply made-for-TV. People who enjoy a regular television Police drama should enjoy this book. This book is good but it is not memorable. What I can praise is the way Jack dealt with alcoholism and psychopathic disorders. Those two issues were well researched and woven into this thriller to add realism. However, regular television Police drama also has a lot of street reality thrown into every episode.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's tough on the streets .

Okay, so here we are in the UK worried about road rage and knife crime. Motorist looses his temper and a mirror gets cracked. Yet more black on black crime in London and another black teenager is stabbed.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem another mechanical digger driver goes on the rampage. The difference is that the driver, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem who had been working on a nearby construction site, was shot first by an armed Israeli civilian and then moments later by an Israeli border policeman. There were at least a dozen bullet holes in the door of the digger.

This was not some crack Army anti-terrorist squad soldier but a civilian who shot the driver - a Jewish settler named Yaacov Asael, 53, who lives in the occupied West Bank near Hebron and served as a company commander in the Israeli military reserves. This was not gang turf warfare like we get on the streets of London but an ordinary middle aged bloke who thought I can put a stop to this right now.

What a difference in the 2 cities. Things can get ugly here in the UK but not as ugly as this in Jerusalem. This is the second mechanical digger attack this month but you do not get middle aged civilians firing guns and killing construction workers in London. You just do not think that regular citizens can take the law into their own hands, own and possess a gun, then simply shoot to kill.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Village Restaurant and Grill .

Oh for the sounds and smells of summer! Oh for the wish of an all-inclusive holiday in the sun! I walk along Ogmore-on-Sea and bump into an old workmate by the name of Charlie, poor bloke - he had a heart attack in April and is off on the sick now with his PCV licence suspended until October. Charlie looks well and he feels good but is finding life hard living on £80 a week sickness benefit as our company does not top up his wages due to illness.

We leave the sunny shores of Ogmore and try a new restaurant that was recommended by our friends Deborah and Nicholas. The Village Restaurant and Grill is in the Red Dragon Centre in the heart of Cardiff Bay, about 7 miles south of my home. They do a buffet lunch for £5.95 and specialize in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking.

What a wonderful lunch we had there today - brilliant! We had all the flavours and sensations we always get whenever we enter the restaurant of an all-inclusive hotel on holiday. Marvelous - simply marvelous, I want to go there with our friends for my birthday when I am 50! The food on offer is gorgeous - the chicken curry was gorgeous - difficult to describe, just lush! That lovely Middle Eastern taste, creamy and lush! I had all the tastes that I enjoy on holiday, fresh and full of flavour rather than the dull British food that is generally on offer throughout the UK. What a lovely surprise to be able to get the quality of food I enjoy on holiday just 7 miles down the road from my home. Well done to the team at The Village Restaurant and Grill for bringing a taste of foreign holidays to Cardiff.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Give cyclists room.

Cyclists need room to cycle safely on our roads. It is not easy in multi-lane traffic to overtake cyclists. This can become a big problem when driving a coach in London. Cyclists can make such good progress in London traffic that it is very often pointless in trying to overtake a cyclist because they will overtake you yet again at the next traffic lights.

Yesterday afternoon I was cruising out of London in my coach when I caught up with a cyclist. I was driving towards Earls Court and in that multi-lane traffic it was difficult to overtake. Then I looked a little closer and I did not want to overtake. The view brought more than a smile to my face. The cyclist I was following at a safe distance was wearing some black lycra pants. The sun was shining brightly and the colour of her pants had faded. As her buttocks moved as she pumped hard on the pedals I could clearly see the naked flesh of her buttocks. The black lycra was not dense enough to conceal her lovely white bottom as it weaved it's wholesome way towards Earls Court. When I pulled up behind her at a set of red traffic lights I could make out the white thong she was wearing beneath her black lycra pants. She cycled off when the lights turned to green and as she moved away I could feel the blood pumping beneath my uniform.

I do not think she knew just what a good show she was giving passing drivers but it was very welcome and brightened up my afternoon!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just hitting fifty.

Here in the UK petrol prices are rather high at the moment. Motorists grumble at the high prices and generally get on with life. However, this past week I have noticed some rather annoying car drivers on the motorway network cruising along at just 50 mph. They believe that they are saving fuel by driving so goddamn slow when their vehicle limit is 70 mph. The problem is that whilst they are dawdling along at 50 mph lorries are coming up behind them at 56 mph. These lorries then have to try and move out into the 2nd lane to overtake these dawdlers. This action of a constant stream of lorries moving into the 2nd lane causes the whole motorway to slow down and for dangerous bunching to take place. Braking distances are reduced between following vehicles and the amateur drivers start hitting the brakes which has a knock on effect for up to 2 miles behind the dawdler.

These dullards dawdling along at 50 mph on our motorway network are a dangerous nuisance. They are very inconsiderate of other road users and are clearly not making reasonable progress. They are so stupid that they put themselves in the very silly position of constantly letting 44 ton lorries bear down on them with a gain of 6 mph. One false move and the dullard is off to the funeral home. The last thing you want to do on any of our motorways is to piss off the lorry drivers. Yet these dullards continue to dawdle along at 50 mph regardless of the safety implications or any consideration for other road users.

It is not much to ask that car drivers use the motorways sensibly at speeds that do not let them get in the way of lorries running at 56 mph. Any sensible car driver will happily drive at 60 mph or more on our motorways which will increase everyone's safety and reduce their journey times a great deal with very little extra cost than dawdling along at 50 mph.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Quiet Belief in Angels by R. J. Ellory

I have finished reading A Quiet Belief in Angels by R. J. Ellory . This novel is a thriller, a very dark and moody thriller. This book was featured in the Richard & Judy 2008 Book Club and I am glad that I bought it. Roger John Ellory is British and was born in Birmingham but this book is set in America. In character with the American scene all the words are spelled the American way and the time frame is from 1939 to 1967. Roger's use of vocabulary is huge, this is not tabloid writing. The book is written solely from the angle of the lead character Joseph Vaughan. As a reader you have many, many doubts as the story unfolds. You get some dark, very dark thoughts and it is very easy to jump to conclusions as to who is murdering the little girls. With the exception of the pages numbered 215 to 218, this book is not graphic in it's detail. It is a very haunting book that keeps you wondering all the way through. The most powerful part of the book is the pages 215 to 218 which simply add to the reader experience and these pages come as rather a shock. This is a dark, emotional novel that is expertly told. Roger leads you along in a rural location as though you are living there, when suddenly Joseph Vaughan moves to New York and you feel shocked at the relative claustrophobia of living in a huge, busy city. I vote this book a hit!

Many people wondered what went through Ian Huntley's mind when he killed two 10-year-old girls - Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman - in the case known as the Soham murders. Maybe pages 215 to 218 of A Quiet Belief in Angels will help the reader understand what went through Ian's warped mind. Judge for yourself, I still vote this book a hit for many reasons. This is a quality read that haunts the reader and forces you to question your prejudices. You are shown just how easy it is to feel bad and think the worse of people. You understand how stranger danger can grip a community, when in the end you just do not know who you can trust.

I will now end this post by quoting pages 215 to 218 of A Quiet Belief in Angels, sweet dreams everyone!...

Tears were not enough.
Little girl crying would've brought many a man to the brink of compassion, but not this one.
What a friend we have in Je-sus-
Praying in her mind perhaps.
On the vic-tory side, on the vic-tory side, no foe can daunt us, no fear can haunt us-
Words going round in her mind. Eyes tight closed like winter shutters.
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, give me oil in my lamp I pray-
Smell of something like something dead. Smell of shoe leather, or something that smelled like leather, and after the sudden shock of being snatched, after the moment's expectation for laughter, that this was a game, just a game, just a fun game-
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear-
Like hide an' seek, catch-as-catch-can, ollie ollie oxen freeeeee-
But realization dawned snap! Sudden like a door slam. Bang! One thing, now another, and then understanding that the pressure she felt around her neck, the fact that the other hand went beneath her skirt and touched her where she wouldn't have dared to touch herself, was never part of any game she remembered.
And then her breathing faltered.
Hitching, catching in her throat, and understanding that whatever was happening wasn't supposed to happen in any kind of world she'd imagined.
Feeling of hands - one around her throat, one beneath her skirt, and the smell of liquor, the smell of tobacco, the smell of leather or something like leather...
Struggling now. Muscles tensing. Nervous system charged with electricity, snapping inside her like machine she once saw at the State Fair. Big silver globe, and sparks crackling away from it, and someone touching it and all their hair goes wild and haywire... and kids laughing, and the man standing there with his hair like cotton candy... and the smell, the brackish tang and hiss of energy releasing...
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning... keep me burning 'til the break of day-
And everything inside her screaming that she had to get away, run away, run like the wind, run like lightning across the field to home.
But the arms around her, holding tight, holding her ironbound and unrelenting, and the sensation of pressure increasing against her chest, her throat, and finding it harder and harder to breathe, and colors flashing behind her eyes, and wanting to scream, wanting to scream like she'd never screamed before, scream like a fire siren, like a great swooping bird of prey descending, like a wild horse, its mane flying behind like the colors of a hundred armies, unfurling and snapping in the wind... screaming like a little girl terrified for her life...
Eight years old. A quarter mile from home.
Opened her eyes a fraction. Could see the dip and the sudden rise of the hill, the way the road wended east then northeast then east once again, and back of the rise to the right, back there where the tall tree stood with its shorter brother, was her house.
Had it not been for the dip and rise she could've seen the house, her house, from where she'd been walking when he came out of nowhere.
Smelled like blackness, smelled like dark and deep. Smelled old; older than God and baseball.
Smelled like Jesus and nowhere to be seen.
A man behind her, arms like tree trunks, a man who smelled like he'd done this before.
And then she started crying, and that's when he hit her, hard, smack!, and the sound was like a whip, and the pain that lanced through the side of her head was like the time she fell from a tree and bloodied her nose and bruised her cheek, and felt the sound of the earth colliding with her head for three weeks in her right ear.
Started crying, and he smacked her, and she knew it was a he because no-one but a man could have held her so tight, and no-one but a man had such iron muscles and rough skin and callused hands.
Crying sound was swallowed by the darkness of evening, and every thought she had was more terrifying than the previous one, and when she realized what he was going to do it felt like her blood ran quiet and still in her veins.
Down on the ground now, hand across her throat, other hand tearing at her clothes, rending cotton and lace and a peach-colored satin trim, tugging the bowed pink ribbons from her hair... and she felt the press of cool air on her skin, and the ground beneath her head, the dampness of earth, breathed the smell of dead leaves and broken twigs, heard the labored breathing over her, her eyes screwed shut in the make-believe wish that if she didn't see it then it couldn't happen.
But it did.
Colors behind her eyelids like kaleidoscopic whirls, and the sound in her ears of blood rushing through her... frightened blood, blood trying to escape.
Hit her again. Smack! Stinging redness on her cheek, and opening her eyes, and through her tears seeing the light in his eyes - deadlight, redlight - and white teeth, and smelling his rancid, fetid breath, and feeling the roughness of stubble as he pressed his face against her stomach, as his hands buried themselves, as fingers pushed inside her and made her hurt like she'd never imagined anyone could be hurt, that someone could hurt that much. But they could.
And then deciding to lie still, barely breathing, barely thinking, barely hoping anything at all now, as he does things , bad things... things that men don't do to little girls...
Pain inside her. Lancing pain. Pain like her insides are being pushed up into her throat. Sensation of choking, and then the hand across her throat starts to increase its pressure, and feeling her eyes swelling inside their sockets, eyes fit to burst, and the sound of blood like a thunderstorm, like a black train, like those galloping horses across acres of night fields.
Struggling now, and as she struggles the weight and pain increase, and then she knows she's going, slipping away into somewhere cool and safe, where such things can't be felt any longer, and she welcomes the impending silence, the sense of motionlessness, the feeling of calm that invades every inch of her body.
Senses the man standing over her, a single pink ribbon in his hand. He pauses, and then he buries the ribbon in his pocket.
And then it all goes away.
All of it.
A feeling of nothing, of emptiness, a breeze like summer.
Figured she would have been a child a little longer.
That much at least.

Copyright R. J. Ellory Publications Ltd 2007.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Gravy Tale.

We had friends down this weekend from Yorkshire to stay with us. We went out for a meal on Sunday to The Otter at Bridge Street, in Newbridge on the A467 north of Newport. Neil went for the Steak & Ale Pie - described as Tender pieces of beef with a rich ale gravy in
a pastry case, with chips and mushy peas. There was nothing wrong with his pie, the chips or his peas. He asked the waitress if he could have some more gravy. She replied that he could but we would be charged for it. He told her to forget it.

What a strange way to go on, this is not a piddly little pub but run by Marston's , one of the big boys. We were all shocked at this management decision to charge for extra gravy. We are all accustomed to having a carvery where you help yourself to as little or as much gravy as you like, generally from a huge jug. To make a charge for a little extra gravy is rather petty. The Otter are more than happy to give you salt, pepper, vinegar, tomato and tartar sauce at no extra charge. What is the difference from giving away these other condiments but charging for extra gravy?

We enjoyed everything else but charging for extra gravy is silly and is bad for business. I think The Otter should grow up a little and not be so petty as this attitude to customer service really annoyed Neil. This is penny pinching of the worst order.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nation Radio in South Wales.

Nation Radio is the new station for South Wales. You can hear Nation Radio right across the region, on 106.8 FM in Cardiff and South East Wales and on 107.3 FM in Swansea and South West Wales. The website states that Nation Radio is aimed at Wales’ music loving 15-44 year olds, an audience with discerning music tastes and high disposable incomes.

...Well, I am 49 years old but what do I think of this new radio station? I like it very much and for one very simple reason, it does not annoy me! For years when I switch on the wireless in my motor car I have been assaulted by radio presenters who annoy me with their banter. Radio presenters who claim and rant about how good and popular they are - presenters who talk like school children, to whom everything is cool. There is a whole range of music available in this world and compiling a playlist can be an impossible task. However, broadcasting music that may be popular with Hip Hop and Rapping Black Americans living in ghettos is not what I want to hear in my motor car here in South Wales. The music that has been played on Nation Radio in the 2 weeks of test transmissions before it's launch on Monday 16th June 2008 and since has been very good. The mix and diversity of the music played has really pleased me. I cannot put a label on the music that Nation Radio plays, such is the diversity. There is no era that the records are played from, current mixes seamlessly with the past. What is there is quality, this is not the Eurovision song contest. The Nation Radio presenters are pleasant and adult. They do not annoy me and simply do a workman-like job of presenting the programme. These radio presenters do a good job without a fanfare and they are not up their own backsides.

I wish this new radio station a great success. In this cruel world of commercial radio broadcasting, advertising revenue is all important and I hope that Nation Radio gains the cash it clearly deserves. The tag line for this new station is "We let the music do the talking" but to my mind it could just as easily be "We will not annoy you".

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