June 12, 2002

I was appaulded to read that 8 charges - not all, have been dropped against Mr. Reid the Shoe Bomber by a Boston Court.

I appreciate that justice should be seen to be done, but given the crimes and the times all terrorists should have the book thrown at them, be locked up never to see the light of day again. It seems criminal that charges should be dropped on legal technicalities.

Link here for the story.

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Perhaps I should rename London Chimes as Mersey Beat for this next posting!

I simply wanted to add my congratulations to Paul McCartney and his wife Heather Mills on their wedding yesterday.

Although I do not generally attend "pop" concerts I have been to two this year including Paul McCartneys concert in Philadelphia. Without any doubt it was one of the best music concerts I have ever been to - despite having nose-bleed seats it was worth every red-cent to watch one of the Beatles "do his stuff".

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So WHY am I up so early - well my parents who I have not seen for some 16 months are taking their first tranatlantic flight, to the States to come see my wife and myself. This is no small feat on their part and I to quote the current Disney campaign "Im too excited to sleep" and thats the adults - not just the kids.

It will be fun watching them discover America for the first time, the little things that I now take so much for granted.

At the current time they should be at Heathrow eating breakfast....

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So much for the lean mean machine that Mayor Street has been blowing off steam about recently. Philadelphia has in the past been the fattest city in America, I am not too pleased to see we have slipped only to 4th place this year. - Way to many Cheesesteaks me thinks!

It's official: on a recently published list of "America's Fattest Cities," Houston ranked No. 1 for the second year running, followed by Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Dallas (Men's Fitness magazine, February 2002). That's in a nation where the levels of obesity (defined by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion as "an excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass") have increased by 50 percent since 1992, and excessive weight is a factor in some 300,000 deaths each year.
Our weight is more of a problem than ever -- fully two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and cheap food as well as TV-watching are cited among the main factors -- and in big and small ways, we're taking action. In March, the Texas Board of Education elected to resinstate mandatory phys ed in elementary schools. In a recent citywide campaign,

Philadelphia set out to lose 76 tons in 76 days (and came up 65 tons short) and in a similar move, Brooklyn, NY's Borough President is acting as weight-loss guinea pig in his Lighten Up, Brooklyn! project. What is your city doing towards the trimming of America?

So we came up 65 tons short, nice try! But D- does not cut the mustard, or perhaps that was the problem the mustard and other fattening items were not cut out. Cheap food and TV watching are also cited as problem areas. I guess for 2/3rds of the population EXERCISE is limited to pushing the buttons on the remote and walking to the kitchen.

Shame, shame, shame.
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June 10, 2002

An International Perspective on terrorist threats.

While the news is full of the win aganist terrorists in the US. There is also news of a terror coup being uncovered against naval ships in the straights of Gibralter.

Link here for the full story.

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Tom Clancy RED RABBIT, A New Jack Ryan novel due to be issued by Amazon in Hardback in August 2002

Here is the plot as I understand from Amazon.comBook Description
Long before he was President or head of the CIA, before he fought terrorist attacks on the Super Bowl or the White House, even before a submarine named Red October made its perilous way across the Atlantic, Jack Ryan was an historian, teacher, and recent ex-Marine temporarily living in England while researching a book. A series of deadly encounters with an IRA splinter group had brought him to the attention of the CIA's Deputy Director, Vice Admiral James Greer-as well as his counterpart with the British SIS, Sir Basil Charleston-and when Greer asked him if he wanted to come aboard as a freelance analyst, Jack was quick to accept. The opportunity was irresistible, and he was sure he could fit it in with the rest of his work.

And then Jack forgot all about the rest of his work, because one of his first assignments was to help debrief a high-level Soviet defector, and the defector told an amazing tale: Top Soviet officials, including Yuri Andropov, were planning to assassinate the Pope, John Paul II.

Could it be true? As the days and weeks go by, Ryan must battle, first to try to confirm the plot, and then to prevent it, but this is a brave new world, and nothing he has done up to now has prepared him for the lethal game of cat-and-mouse that is the Soviet Union versus the United States. In the end, it will be not just the Pope's life but the stability of the Western world that is at stake. . . and it may already be too late for a novice CIA analyst to do anything about it.

"Clancy creates not only compelling characters but frighteningly topical situations and heart-stopping action," wrote The Washington Post about The Bear and the Dragon. "Among the handful of superstars, Clancy still reigns, and he is not likely to be dethroned any time soon." These words were never truer than about the remarkable pages of his breathtaking new novel. This is Clancy at his best-and there is none better.

Needless to say this one will be added to my wishlist on Amazon!

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When I wrote my review on Sum of All Fears a couple of days ago, and noted that the original book is truer to the current circumstances than the rewritten screenplay, how could I have predicted the arrest of a terrorist planning a dirty bomb.

A case of fact stranger than fiction.

I am certain that it will be some time before all the facts are made available to the public, if indeed they ever are. Certainly to echo the thoughts of another, this is proof, not that it is needed, that there is much going on behind the scenes we are not privvy to, proven by the fact this individual was arrested some time ago.

Regardless of the recent hurrahing from Washington over the new group looking after homeland security bringing the CIA and FBI closer together. Perhaps this news should have been broken before rather than make political fodder of the problems between the two existing agencies.

My hat is off to the analysts and operatives who nipped this nasty little plan in the bud. - Well done.
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June 08, 2002


Its official, grossology exists and is a major exhibition at the London Science Museum. The link above will thrill boys aged 9-13 but I expect is pretty foul to the rest of us. I looked at the questionairre in these pages and in the interests of science you would be suprised at the questions being asked!

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June 07, 2002

The Sum of All Fears

I am a huge fan of the Tom Clancy Jack Ryan series of novels. The Sum of All Fears is the 4th of the books to be captured in film, this time with Ben Affleck as the young Jack Ryan.

I have just returned from my local multiplex where I sat through the new 2-hour film and that is one of the problems, it is just not long enough. The plot when it hits warp speed just keeps accelerating without giving the viewer any opportunity to catch up.

One of the biggest failings is that the screen-writers completely hatch the books which in my opinion is a great shame. The plot for this film has been substantially rewritten including recasting the baddies, more is the shame as the book is shall we say a lot closer to current events than at times feels comfortable.

I found the first three Hunt for Red October, (by far the best of the films so far) Patriot Games (my personal favorite of the novels) and Clear & Present Danger started off about 6 chapters into the book. At least The Sum of All Fears starts closer to Chapter 1 and deviates before page 25.

My favourite character Admiral Greer is not included in the film at all, however the actor playing the part of John Clarke the special ops guy is a huge improvement on the actor in Clear & Present Danger. I sincerley hope that he is carried on in the later films yet to be put into production.

Overall, ignoring the original printed work, the film is a good piece and consistent with the other films. I give it 8/10 and recommend this as a must see.

On a more serious note this is the first post 9/11 film I have seen that deals with terrorists attacking the US. To be honest in the days following 9/11 I wondered if the criminals behind the attacks in Washington, NY and over the fields of Pennsylvania had read the original book. For fans of the book, they would already be aware of the plot, however I wonder what the unaware think as they leave the theatre?

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My parents have less than a week to go before they arrive in the US of A for their first vacation west of Newquay Cornwall ever.
We are looking forward to seeing them.
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A bad time to be a republican.

This wonderful little story came to my attention this morning as I was surfing for my morning news. It is the other side of the coin of the celebrations in London this week for a republican GB not US.

Somehow I don't think the writer has fully grasped the ideology but in the interests of balanced reporting here ya go.

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June 04, 2002

Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee.

I cannot promise this will be my final blog on the Royal Family, but this is one that I strongly believe needs to be added.

Between the video coverage accessible through the BBC News Web Pages and the BBC America TV station I feel very humble today to be British.

The pomp and ceremony of the final days celebrations were simply breathtaking. The accumulation no doubt of many hours of hard work by those faceless individuals working behind the scenes. No group was left out. The Queen is head of state for 64 countries that form the members of the Commonwealth. Each country had a representation that while 50 years ago would have presented a cultural view of far-off lands that recognise the Queen as Head of State, but rather in the twenty-first century accruately presented how multi-cultural Great Britain is today. While the traditional elements that reminded me oh-so-much of the Silver Jubilee were also included, including the use of the Gold State Coach.

The Commonwealth tapestry hanging from the balcony was a beautiful touch, especially as three young children from the commonwealth parade unveiled it.

I used to watch the fly past fly over my old home to the north of London after previous ceremonial occasions and was thrilled to see the Concorde and Red Arrow formation at such a low level. The skill of the RAF pilots was without question, flying so close to the engines of the Concorde was a sight I will not forget for some time.

The crowds lining the processional route stood 20 deep on each side of the Mall, that leads from Admiralty Arch off Trafalgar Square to the front gates of the Palace. Certainly those at the back would have had little view of the processions, but would have experienced the atmosphere of a royal event that is rarely celebrated. Unlike the crowds in 1977 and 1952, technology was fully utilized with many large screens placed along the route for HM subjects to watch the proceedings. The Police estimated at the end of the afternoon over 1 million people had congregated on the area of the Mall, all good-natured and waving the flags of Scotland, (St. Andrew), Wales (St. David) England (St. George) and the Union Jack. There is so much reported in the media that is bad and gloomy generally perpetrated by a very small minority that it is wonderful to see the majority stand up and be counted in a positive way.

Perhaps the people simply needed a platform like the Golden Jubilee to remind us all that they have a voice and are patriotic enough to use it.

It has been reported that the crowds have exceed all expectations. The media who have chased the royals though the pages of their tabloids over the years will for once need to eat humble pie.

The House of Windsor has had a sad year with the passing of both Princess Margaret and of course the Queen Mother. The Jubilee celebrations have been undoubtedly the Gin and Tonic that they all needed.

What does the Queen do? Is a question I have heard one to many times and is not the easiest of questions to answer. Thanks to a former Buckingham Palace press secretary I heard him offer the following answer today. The Queen is the force that holds her subjects together; she is an individual who is above the business of government yet remains in a position of authority and respect to initiate change. The Queen is a Mother a Grandmother, the Head of the Commonwealth, patron along with her husband and children to many charitable causes and a very private individual in a position of public life.

Looking at the crowds over the last 4 days, not just those in London but across Great Britain attending street parties, those who have attended events that the Queen has visited in the run up to this weekend. (With another 7 weeks are yet to be completed including a trip to North London and Barnet on June 6). Clearly gives a mandate to the House of Windsor, not that one is required that the Royal Family are an integral part of the British system and are supported by millions of loyal subjects of all ages.

It continues to be the responsibility of royalist families to teach their children of the importance of the British royal family. Certainly many parents took their children to London this weekend to witness a part of history in the making. For that is what this Golden Jubilee truly is. Somewhere in the process the adults themselves have rediscovered and reconnected with the monarchy, which some reporters have indicated, has surprised them.

Certainly in the last couple of weeks the Queen has made perfectly clear that she will not abdicate in favour of Prince Charles. Clearly answering one question that I am frequently asked.

The House of Windsor, with the support of Prince Charles (who has personally orchestrated many of the Golden Jubilee plans) is clearly changing to keep in step with the pulse of the Country and of the Commonwealth.

Ten years from now will mark the Queens Diamond Jubilee. The Queen will then be in her mid-eighties and the Duke in his early nineties. Certainly if the longevity of the Queen Mother is helpful as a guide, then Queen Elizabeth may even pass Queen Victoria as the longest serving monarch.

My favorite quote of the weekend has been from a brief conversation between one of the groups performing in the palace gardens last night and Queen Elizabeth. He asked her “same time next year” to which she replied “not in my garden.” And “they” say the Queen does not have a sense of humor.

My final thought on this subject is how we have changed over the last 50 years. My mother a teenager at the time of the coronation remembers watching the Coronation on TV huddled around a small black and white TV set with neighbours, relatives and friends watching a grainy black and white picture that we are all now historically familiar with.

25 years ago, I was a teenager on vacation with my family in Devon as we watched with my Gran, parents and brother the scenes from London on a colour TV. This week, I have watched much of my coverage through my internet connection, and some through news footage on BBC America transmitted 3,500 miles using satellites and digital technology. for each event we were "wired to watch" the pagentry through the “latest in available technology.” – I wonder what we will use next?

Before I sign off this final Jubilee blog I wanted to share the following postings from other ex-pats and subjects on the 50th celebrations. Enjoy.

I watched the fireworks at the Palace on TV last night and it made me feel very homesick and desperate to be back in London. It's not very often that us Brits actually allow ourselves to be patriotic, and so the sight of the huge crowds waving Union Jacks brought a tear to my eye.
Josie, Canada (former UK)

The events over the weekend make me proud to be English. Would you have a barbecue in your back yard for 12,000 people?
Mike, UK

The celebrations were a great show. It's only a shame that the show could not have been longer. Perhaps this episode in British history here and now answers the question of what it means to be British.
Matthew T. Brown, Scotland

I have just been watching the Jubilee concert live on Mexican TV... I felt very proud to be a young British person this weekend! When I was watching the finale I was sad as I didn't have anything to wave so I stood up in my hotel room waving my passport as it was the only thing remotely British I could find! I felt a bit silly but still felt like I was taking part in the celebrations... from Mexico I send my love.
Greg Rose, England/Mexico

It has brought back that much-needed pride back to Britain and has strengthened us as a nation. This weekend the people of the Commonwealth again realise that they are part of a unique and proud history not seen anywhere else in the world, and together they go forth into the 21st century stronger and better than ever. I am a Scot, but I am proud to be British and part of the Commonwealth, and to be able to do that we have to support the Queen.
Andy, Scotland, UK

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June 03, 2002

Historic Trivia
I have taken to purchase a copy of the International Express a weekly summary of news stories and opinions printed in the UK Daily Express tabloid from time to time. I would prefer an international version of the Daily Mail, but such a publication does simply not exist.

The paper offers an alternative source of opinion and covers newsworthy stories that I would not necessarily find from my regular news sources, both on-line and through the international bulletins on the television.

A short time ago I reported a nautical treasure hunt find of substantial value. This weeks International Express reports an interesting find in the archives of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Admiral Horatio Nelson’s plans for his greatest ever victory, the Battle of Trafalgar have been found sketched on a scrap of paper at the National Museum. It has been reported that arguably Britain’s most famous naval hero noted his tactics on the back of a letter during his leave in August or September 1805 during one of his frequent meetings at the Admiralty or Navy Board. Museum experts believe the sketch is the only known hand drawing by Nelson illustrating the tactics he was to use.

The discovery was made during the review of a file of letters from Nelson to his older brother William. The letters included a list of names and refer to promotions that Nelson was hoping to obtain for his fellow officers.

Other sketches of earlier battles do exist, however these were produced after the fact. This is the only known example of tactics before the battle. Colin White a leading expert on the life of Nelson has been quoted “This is a remarkable find.”

Gardening Story
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan is a man of immense wealth with homes across the globe, yet the President of the United Arab Emirates has had his feathers ruffled this week thanks to a pair of blackbirds.

The Sheik had sponsored a prize-winning garden at this years Chelsea Flower Show that he planned to transfer to one of his European homes at the end of the show. Yet the plans of a pair of blackbirds have sabotaged his plans in the short term at least.

The centerpiece of the garden of transparency, a hornbeam arch that had taken 5 years to grow became the nesting home for the blackbirds shortly after the garden was constructed for the 4-day show. The birds who despite the noise of 155,00 visitors built a nest and are jealously guarding the 5 eggs. But the blackbirds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is a criminal offense to disturb nesting birds in the wild and the Sheik must wait until the nest is deserted.

Under the rules of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) the gardens must be removed within 5 days of the end of the public event. The designer of the garden has had to apply for special permission to the RHS to leave the hornbeam arch until the appropriate time.

A Chelsea flower show spokeswoman has said that the “Blackbirds have delighted everybody all week and that the garden will remain until the eggs are hatched”.

These are not the only birds to make the news this week. Twitchers, fanatical ornithologists who will travel anywhere to catch a glimpse of the rarest of the rare of our feathered friends are to quote the cheesy headline “Chuffed as Choughs make a return”.

Four chicks have made history by becoming the first Choughs to be born in England for 50 years. The bird’s members of the crow family with red bills, the symbols of Cornwall were born in the west of the county.

Their gradual decline was attributed to a reduction in their natural habitat by more intense farming methods. However agreements with landowners (in Cornwall that would be Prince Charles among others), coupled with grants from the Government’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme have created a suitable environment for the birds.

A farmer of Pontypool, Gwent, South Wales has been stunned that his cow shed complete with straw littering the floor is to be awarded with thousands of pounds of public money as it is to become a listed building alongside St. Paul’s Cathedral and Blenheim Palace.

The cow shed, build around 1550 has never been renovated and that is what makes this such a treasure. Nearly all the original features remain from the flagstones to the oak window frames.

Now the Grade II listed building will be given a 150,00 GBP makeover to transform it into holiday homes. Let us hope that this does not become a target for the welsh extremists who have a history of setting holiday homes on fire for their own political ends.

Potters Bar Rail Crash Update
The authorities investigating the recent Potters Bar rail tragedy are taking DNA samples from the points at the center of the de-railment. They hope to discover who last touched the four nuts that came off the points prior to the crash.

Authorities will also look at other nuts which Jarvis, the contracting company claims had been over tightened.

This forensic work is being carried out at the Health and Safety labs in Buxton, Derbyshire where the points were taken to.

Further to my earlier blog, authorities continue to pursue the line of inquiry of foul play. Cameras on the station platform have captured something to give reason that this is a reasonable line of inquiry to take. I still find this far-fetched, and would not be surprised if there were a tie-in to the general maintenance of the line, rather than an act of vandalism by person or persons unknown at this time.

And Finally…
I have been made aware, by a member of my family that I was to be removed from her favorite places if I did not add something to London Chimes soon – I do hope that the postings from the last couple of days goes someway to rectifying the lack of postings and that I am forgiven! (M-S-i-L)

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Continuing the theme of Street Parties, I have found this excellent nugget buried within the pages of the BBC News coverage as they will be web casting the street party around the world today at 3PM GMT, 11AM EST.

25 years ago Jubilee Crescent in Gravesend, Kent – down river from central London made national headlines. The BBC Nationwide program, a lightweight current affairs program that followed the BBC News at 5.45pm each weekday evening covered the story. This web page provides a link to the video of this story.

My personal interest is that it provides a social commentary to how communities have changed in the last 25 years. As a teenager in 1977 this story is an interesting history lesson on social studies that I lived through.

I cannot personally relate to the “goings-on” in Jubilee Cresent in 1977, I can read the sub-text and the interviews with the committees would make for a classic comedy sketch in what was not said, but implied during the Nationwide filming.

Here is the basic text of the story, - please link for the full page and the follow the link to the Nationwide video on that page.

This year there's going to be just one street party in Jubilee Crescent, Gravesend. For the few of the remaining residents who lived in the street in 1977, that will be something of a novel experience. For at the Queen's Silver Jubilee, Jubilee Crescent had two competing parties - one for each end of the street - "the top end" and "the bottom end".
The twin parties were not simply a coincidence - the two ends of the street did not exactly get on with each other, as accusations flew around of one end being snobs. Newspapers gleefully stoked the row at the time, and the division was even recorded by the 1970s current affairs programme, Nationwide.
Although the two ends of the street managed to patch things up in time for the arrival of the television cameras, some foul work was still at play as an unknown saboteur went up the entire length of the street, from top to bottom, cutting the bunting down.
Most of the 1977 residents have now moved on or died, but some remain. One, Marian Friend, (not a known relation) who was 14 at the time of the 1977 party, remembers it well.
"We had a really good DJ. I remember all the flags going out, and my mum wearing red, white and blue. It was really good - I don't know if this year's party is going to be as good, but we're going to have a go." The rivalry did not make much of a lasting impression on Marian, whose mother - also called Marian - was one of the organisers in 1977. But it left enough of a memory that she decided early on that there was going to be none of that nonsense this time round. She went knocking on doors up and down the street weeks ago to ensure everyone was on board. "Everyone's going to wear fancy dress, and the mayor's coming. There's going to be a balloonist, and a caricaturist, and sports on a nearby field before everyone comes back to the street for the disco and fireworks," she says.
Marian senior is the first to say how much things have changed in the past 25 years. Not only have most of the 1977 residents gone, so has any lasting rivalry. And also - more sadly - has the ready sense of community which characterised the Silver Jubilee party.

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June 02, 2002

The first weekend of June in the UK this year is a 4-day long weekend that includes the celebrations for the Queens Golden Jubilee.

On a local level, villages the length and breadth of the country celebrate with the lighting of the beacons, these being of historical significance as they were originally used to send the alarm across the country of approaching attackers. There would also be the peeling of church bells in celebration, and the most common activity of all, the street party.

My brother who recently moved to South Wales sent me today pictures of the local street party attended by his family and my parents. The formula for a successful royal street party has not changed for at least 50 years. A long table is set with tables down both sides as the streets residents all contribute to the food and beverages. Red, white and blue bunting and balloons adorn street lighting and any other piece of furniture that can be tied to, everyone flies the flag, or at least wears the colours of the Union Jack. The photographs taken to today was proof that everyone participated to the full, danced, ate and drank and played games – all with smiling faces.

This is an image of Britain at its best.

Yet on the same day it is very sad to see pictures of smoke and fire atop Buckingham Palace. Especially as over the next couple of days the Palace, gardens and surrounding area are playing host to the major jubilee events.

Is it simply coincidence on the 50th Anniversary of the Queens Coronation that Bucking ham Palace catches fire? Time will tell.

I have reviewed the bulletin boards of Ex-Pats and their ways of celebrating the Jubilee. Personally we have a large Union Jack draped from our porch and a dozen smaller flags marked out in our front garden.

Do I think I have missed out on something special not being in London for the festivities. I can firmly answer with a no, I remember the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977, I was in Exmouth, Devon with my family in the first week of June that year and had already been involved in other Jubilee projects with the Boys Brigade Company that I was a member of at the time.

Yet while I do not think I missed out on being in London, I do miss not spending the day with my family at a fun street party in South Wales, - now that would have been a real pleasure. Yet I spent the day with my family here in the USA, including my brother-in-law who has been recognised for his blogging entries nationally recently and his family. A great day building evil robots, good robots and purple light sabres from lego with his youngest son. A great Sunday.

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