Wednesday, 23 July 2014


We're off on holiday in Latvia for a week on Friday. What I forgot is that schools break up on Friday and we're headed from Old Sodbury to Gatwick, which means M4, M25 and M23. Not looking forward to half a day on the M25 - might cut across country to avoid the jams.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Arab Israeli Conflict

As a result of WWI, the British took control of Palestine from the Ottoman Empire as the spoils of war. Most of the citizens, however, were glad to see the back of the Ottomans. 

A steady migration of Jews to Palestine was under way since the 1800s, but following WWII the flood gates opened – fairly understandably given the fact they had been persecuted and hounded out of most European countries at some stage during the previous millennium. 

Wanting to set up a homeland in Palestine (to which they had ancestral connections and where a good number of Jews still lived), the Jews came up against the British, and a lot of trouble ensued. Eventually, in 1947, the UN recommended a pragmatic two state solution to what was an intractable problem – a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews agreed, but the Arabs (specifically the Arab League and the Arab Higher Committee) did not. The Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a three-day strike and Arab bands immediately began attacking Jewish targets. 

The outcome was the declaration of a Jewish state (Israel). The Palestinian Arab economy collapsed and 250,000 Palestinian-Arabs fled or were expelled. However, a large number remained. The following day the armies of Transjordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq attacked the new state of Israel. As we all know, Israel won the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, despite things looking decidedly dodgy for the Israelis at the beginning. The War led to Israel taking the West Bank, Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula. 

The Israelis eventually gave up Sinai as part of a peace agreement with Egypt, but Gaza and the West Bank, along with the Golan Heights, were retained for strategic reasons – you just have to look at a map to realise why the West Bank especially is important – anyone controlling it could cut Israel in half in the event of conflict, and you don’t want an enemy doing that. 

In 2005, the Israelis pulled out of Gaza – even the Hamas co-founder, Mahmoud Zahar, has stated that Gaza is no longer occupied since the Israeli withdrawal of 2005. The myth, however, still persists, as it suits Hamas’ purpose. 

Since 2001, there have been 4,800 rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza, 4,000 of them since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Most of these rockets attacks were by Hamas using rockets fired from civilian areas (albeit there are no non-civilian areas in Gaza). Israeli casualties have been avoided by Israel deploying the Iron Dome defence system in 2011. Iron Dome intercepts rockets having a trajectory that aims at population centres.

The Israelis and the Palestinian National Authority had been slowly coming closer together until Hamas fought a bloody civil war with the Palestinian Authority in 2007 for control of Gaza. 

Gaza has a border with Egypt, but even Egypt has closed this border due to Hamas' continued smuggling of weapons and Hamas' close association with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas has been designated a terrorist organisation by the USA, Canada, EU and a host of other countries. Gaza is therefore, by logical implication, a terrorist state, as it is controlled by Hamas.

Article 7 of the Hamas Charter categorically states that Hamas’ aim in the complete elimination of Israel – nothing less will suffice. Now given Israel and 8 million people (20% of which are Arabs with Israeli citizenship and having representative seats in the Knesset) are not going to suddenly disappear, that is an idealistic position to take. Peace is not an option for Hamas. 

What is Israel to do? Yes, children are getting killed as collateral damage (as the term is today), but again, what option does Israel have when Hamas want nothing less than Israel’s elimination, the death of every Israeli and will do anything to achieve that objective. It takes two sides to make peace. 

Also ask what started the latest round of hostilities – it was Hamas killing 3 Israeli teenagers. That cannot be denied. 

We in the west see compromise as the only way forward - to Hamas a compromise is something your enemy does, shows his weakness and is something to take advantage of while not budging an inch yourself. There can be no real negotiations aimed at a permanent peace with extremists of this variety.

Israel has shown a willingness to negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority, but cannot negotiate anything with Hamas, except the occasional truce, which Hamas uses simply to regroup and smuggle more armaments in through a network of cross border tunnels, which Israel keeps destroying.

What's your solution?

Sunday, 20 July 2014


I've been quiet of late. It's not that I haven't had anything to say, but I have questioned some of what I was going to say and this has led to the hiatus in posting - I wanted to try to resolve the dilemma before bursting into print.

Needless to say, the dilemma is not yet resolved.

Monday, 14 July 2014

A Day Out

Well, finally managed to persuade Hay that the North West isn't all derelict dark satanic mills and vast swathes of sharia law - she thoroughly enjoyed our weekend and said we could have been in the Cotswolds, which is praise indeed from her.

I can't really class parts of the North Yorkshire Dales as Yorkshire when you're only 15 miles or so from Morecambe on the west coast. Had an argument with her as to which is the largest English county - she was convinced it was Devon, whereas it's Yorkshire.

We started off at Carnforth Railway Station in Lancashire - scene of a Brief Encounter in the 1940s. The exhibition there is run entirely by volunteers, and very good it is too.

They've recreated the Refreshment Room where Victoria Wood and Celia Imrie had their famous scene.

Went on to White Scar Caves, which I last visited some 40 years ago, calling in at Ingleton for a sumptuous afternoon tea of gigantic proportions.

This was followed by dinner at The New Inn in Clapham - absolutely delicious!

We stayed at a B&B between Ingleton and Clapham called Moor View, and it is simply the best B&B I have ever stayed in - they thought of everything and even had a bedside kit bag with "things you may have forgotten". They even provide a choice of breakfast - all for £80 a night.

Rounded off yesterday with a visit to my elder daughter in Huncoat.

Hay wants to go again and do the Three Peaks Walk. She can do that on her own...

Friday, 11 July 2014

Daily Mail Reader

I do so love the occasional glance at the Daily Mail for a good laugh.

One of the latest "stories" is that Ken Clarke claimed an 11p ruler on his office expenses. Now nowhere does the so-called story condemn this, but the inference is obvious - to get the readership (if you can call the Daily Mail Tendency that) to huff and puff with righteous indignation about our taxes being used on frivolous expenses.

The fact that the ruler was probably part of a bulk order costing many hundreds of times the 11p is not reported; the object of the exercise is to take one item out of context and blow it up into something it's not.

Off Oop North tomorrow - Carnforth Station to see the refreshment room from Brief Encounter, White Scar Caves, Clapham, Giggleswick, Barnoldswick and then call in at Huncoat on Sunday to visit my elder daughter for a cup of tea before returning home. My, what an event-packed life we live - and such far-flung and exotic places we visit.

When I said to Hay that I was taking her to Carnforth and could she guess what I was taking her to see, she came out with; "A black pudding factory? A clog emporium? Whippet racing?"

Going to the Farnbrough Air Show next week - my company has a stand there. A week later and we're off to Latvia for a week's holiday followed by a restful week of holiday at home to recover.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Cider With Rosie

What with having visted Slad a couple of weeks ago (it's just up the road, the other side of Stroud) and it being Laurie Lee's centenary year, I decided to read Cider With Rosie this week, and what a wonderful book it is. I can heartily recommend it to anyone who appreciates good writing and wonderfully crafted allegories, which seem to come to him in abundance and are so incisive.

It's funny, witty, sad and wistful. How Laurie Lee became such a good wordsmith is a mystery to me, but I've rarely had so much pleasure in reading just for the words, let alone the story.

I liked it so much I've just bought the 1971 film adaptation, to which Laurie Lee himself contributed and is by all accounts far superior to the 1998 BBC version. The only problem is that the 1971 version is on VHS, but I managed to find someone on eBay selling a DVD backup of the VHS tape. I do believe it's being re-released on DVD in September by Amazon, but I couldn't wait.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Art & Music - Music & Art

We were watching Countryfile and there was an article about some Roman coins being found in a cave.

Hay: "Badger, what did the Romans find when they invaded?"

Chairman: "A lack of roads, aqueducts, medicine, education, sanitation, public baths..."

Was thinking about art and music and what artist (in the sense of painting or sculpture) would best be represented by what musician. Here's my take on a few:

  • Vincent Van Gogh - Nick Drake - tortured
  • Michael-Angelo - Led Zeppelin - staying power, sheer brilliance
  • Tracey Emin - Lilly Allen - here today, gone tomorrow
  • Damien Hirst - Robby Williams - some good stuff, but ran out of steam
  • Marcel Duchamp - Sex Pistols - iconoclasts
  • Salvador Dali - Milli Vanilli - bit of a fraud
  • Gabriel Dante Rosetti - Pink Floyd - a new look on music
  • Rubens - The Beatles - solid, old school
  • Grayson Perry - Conchita Wurst - out to shock
  • Claude Monet - Annie Lennox - incredible colours and notes
  • William Blake - Leonard Cohen - images to slit your wrists by
  • Chris Ofili - any musician using elephant dung as inspiration
  • Francis Bacon - Bob Geldof - ubiquitous, but a bit empty
  • David Hockney - Elton John  - pure camp
What are your suggestions?

Sunday, 6 July 2014

I Never Said That, Rolf!

Hay, her sister Michelle, myself and Perry went out for dinner on Friday evening. The discussion got around to how Perry and I say things and then later deny it, having no recollection at all of what we were meant to have said.

This got me thinking.

Mary Magdelene to Jesus; "But you said you would come back from the dead!"

Jesus; "I never said that!"

Joan of Arc to God after being burned at the stake; "But you said I'd be invincible heading the Dauphin's army!"

God: "Sorry, I have no recollection of ever saying that!"

St Julian of Norwich to God; "But you said I should have myself bricked up in a wall!"

God; "I think you'll find you are mistaken!"

Seems to me it's a particular trait of women to imagine all manner of conversations with men which never actually took place...

Some woman in Bristol is complaining that her Rolf Harris painting for which she paid £28k is now worthless. In truth, it was worthless the moment it was painted. Art should be bought either because you like it, regardless of the price, or on its artistic merit - not because it was painted by a TV celeb.

Caravaggio actually killed a man, but despite that his paintings still sell for a pretty penny due to their artistic merit. I doubt any Rolf Harris or Ronnie Wood painting will be gracing art museums in 50 or 100 years time. There may, however, be a Hirst or an Emin, but solely as evidence of how the art world went totally bonkers in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In that respect those works are important landmarks in the history of art, but not works having artistic merit in themselves.

Anyone who buys art because of to the celebrity of the artist is either a fool, or a Machiavellian manipulator of public taste (like Charles Saatchi) and out to fleece the unwary. While being an excellent signpost of fashion, the public is rarely a good arbiter of taste, as evidenced by the dross on TV these days.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Palatial Architecture

We were watching Dan Cruickshank, the architectural historian, on TV the other night talking about Britain's royal palaces.

It struck me that if a new palace or aristocratic ancestral pile were to be built today, in no way could modern architecture portray majesty and overawing power. Instead of Vanbrugh's magnificent Blenheim, we'd have some inverted monstrosity by Richard Rogers. Instead of the entrancing Rubens Banqueting House ceiling, we'd have a Banksy ceiling. We'd probably end up with Tracey Emin's bed as a centrepiece instead of a marble statue of some Greek goddess. 

It's noteworthy that the Duke of Westminster, who rebuilt part of Eaton Hall as a modern residence in 1971, had it completely redesigned in 1991 as a French chateau from an earlier age due to the modern building being unsympathetic to the local countryside.