July 29, 2002

Summer Films

The heat of the last couple of days has kept away from the keyboard and turned my attention to other activities.

Over the weekend I have seen the top two US films Goldmember starring the comic talents of Mike Myers and The Road to Perdition Tom Hanks summer offering.

Of the two I personally preferred Goldmember, in particular the role of Sir Michael Caine and the spoofs of the Italian Job film, one of my all time personal favs for no other reason other than I love the Mini.

The Road to Perdition I went with my wife, her brother and his wife on Saturday with this being chosen on the toss of a quarter against Lilo and Stitch. Perhaps we have should have gone to watch Lilo. The one fact that critics have failed to make clear is the amount of violence in this film, specifically the number of gunshots to the head at close range that proved far to many to be tasteful. Thinking back this is the worst film of this type I have seen since Sweeny 2 released in the late 1970's.

This is the second Sam Mendes film I have seen, in my opinion American Beauty was one of the worst films ever made. Perhaps there is a message here for me.

On the return from the theatre on Saturday my wife phoned Mr Movies on Talk Radio and was "on" for at least 20 minutes. As she and the host discussed many of the summer movies from Stuart Little 2 through to the advance warning of the Tom Hanks film and disgust of the upcoming remake of Charade.

As an aside I wondered if the box office figures are affected by citizens escaping to the cinema in need of decent air conditioning.

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July 26, 2002

Deena Gilbey - a satisfactory conclusion.

Deena Gilbey has been cleared by the INS to remain in the USA without threat of deportation and has the right to apply for American citizenship in five years as of yesterday, Thursday.
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July 25, 2002

Britain’s battle against the opium growers in the hills of Afghanistan.

This top story on the BBC 6pm news broadcast does not even rate a mention on their web pages yet, but the facts are disturbing.

90% of the opium available in London is sourced from the poppy fields of Afghanistan

The fertile fields in the NE of the country have produced a bumper year increasing yields by 30%

The alternative crop for farmers in the region is wheat. The farmers can earn the same amount for 7lbs of opium compared with 500lbs of wheat.

The Afghan government do offer farmers $225 equivalent to destroy the crop in a fight against the drug trade, yet the farmer can reproduce a new crop without penalty.

Given the current situation in the region the farmers will continue to profit from opium, until the war against terror links with the war against drugs.

UK government figures released this week report that 270,000 Britain’s take opium-based drugs.

(Source BBC Broadcast News).

Kenyan Cyclists complete for gold at the Commonwealth Games.

The Commonwealth Games was officially opened in Manchester, UK today. Already medals have been won and the stories are starting to filter out from the Midlands. Top story reported on the BBC news has to be the tale of George and Arthur two intrepid members of the Kenyan Commonwealth Games cycling team. For while Lance the US UPS postman leads the Tour de France with a 5 minute lead as of yesterday, and the following pack weaves its way through some tranquil country lanes in rural France, George and Arthur the danger-loving duo decided they wanted to ride on rather more hazardous terrain. Namely the M61, Manchester’s equivalent of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

George and Arthur are based at the Manchester athletes' village, but are due to compete in a road race at Rivington, near Bolton. The Kenyan team arrived in England without their bikes, because they were in such bad shape, but were helped out by a generous cycle shop owner who lent them some wheels.

Ever enthusiastic, George and Arthur grabbed a map which revealed a nice blue road leading almost directly to their destination. Blue roads are the inter-states of the USA in the UK with vehicles traveling up to 70mph and frequently faster.

And so they braved the incessant honking of long-haul truckers, the erratic driving of stressed caravanners and even the danger of our speeding royals on route to Liverpool today to officially open the John Lennon Airport, to check out the venue for the games cycling activities.

Amazingly, they reached their destination safely, and luxuriated in their Lancastrian surroundings before heading back to base.

Unaware that cycling on Britain's motorways is illegal, the duo repeated their voyage the very next day - but this time they were spotted and stopped by the police. An apologetic George and Arthur - who are known as the "speed kings" in their native Kenya - told the bemused officers that bike riding upon the motorways of Kenya is perfectly legal. But they were more than happy to take the advice of the police who redirected them on to the slightly less intense surroundings of the A6 trunk road. Inspector Chris Burrows of Greater Manchester Police said: "I couldn't quite believe my eyes. They reached speeds of 40mph. They were dressed in full training kit and did not seem to have a care in the world. Both spoke good English and were very surprised they could not cycle along the motorway."

George and Arthur are hoping to use their knowledge to good effect when they compete in the Games at the weekend. But, despite the excitement of their adventure, the chances of the Tour de M61 taking over from the annual French marathon remain slim. Link to complete story and games links.

Britain’s Best Views
This little competition has touched a raw nerve, as the top 5 views in Britain are all to be found in England.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should have been represented in this major fauxpax and was commented upon by the Welsh Newscaster during the bulletin, with an impromptu “Humph! I am not going to comment on that”, most unprofessional of a BBC Newscaster.

Personally I can think of any number of alternatives to Chesil Beach in Dorset which was identified as one of the five finalists. I invite you to email me with your thoughts and personal votes on this subject.

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Britain slips down ranks of the best places to live in the world (and so does America).

Not only are the Brits rude when travelling abroad as confirmed by the Expedia.com survey recently, but it the UN Developement Programme has also been confirmed that Britain has slipped outside the best top 10 countries to live in the world. This report from the Independent posted from New York.

America is also slipping but retains a place in the top 10. So where is the best place to live in the world? Norway as it is a great place to live ­ it's safe, it's clean and everyone is precious about their spare time, so employers make sure nobody needs to work too hard. With a population of only 4.5m in a country larger than Britain, they enjoy wide, open spaces and traffic is rarely a problem. The provision of essential services is good; health care is affordable and mainly run by the state sector. The same goes for education; there are hardly any private alternatives. There are good social security provisions and few fall outside the system.

Child care, which is provided by the state, and maternity leave are among the best in Europe. Everyone has the right to eight months' maternity leave with full pay, or a full year with 80 per cent pay. Four weeks must be taken by the father, or the family loses that time altogether.

Some have complaints; taxes are high, as is the cost of food and drink. The government is also accused of interfering too much in everyday life.

A personal comment : yet they consistently fail to win the Eurovision Song Contest and are the butt of Euro Jokes as the country that failed to score a single point on at least one occassion. (Perhaps this is their cunning plan).

While the Independent link makes for easy reading yet there is much more to this and can be found by linking to the UN Development Program web pages and selecting from the press kit.

Progress since the Cold War in forging new democracies around the world has stalled, if not gone into reverse, and the US-led fight against terrorism could encourage the re-emergence of authoritarianism in many states, a United Nations report warns.
So who are the leading countries based upon quality of life, in descending order:
1) Norway,
2) Sweden,
3) Canada,
4) Belgium,
5) Australia,
6) USA ­ which has slipped four places since 1990 ­
7) Iceland,
8) The Netherlands,
9) Japan
10) Finland.
They are followed by Switzerland, France, Britain, Denmark, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and Italy.

The annual rankings are not just a wealth index but consider indicators such as life expectancy, per capita income and educational opportunities, as well as human rights considerations.

This year, they show that the worst countries to be living in are all in Africa. The bottom five are Sierra Leone, Niger, Burundi, Mozambique and Burkina Faso. Eastern European countries that have tumbled down the rankings include the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Interesting reading.

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July 24, 2002

The Kindness of a Stranger, An appeal for Deena Gilbey

Sometime direct action can make but a small difference, and small differences can create the force to make change.

As a resident and not a citizen of the US my voice does not carry the same weight as a citizen who is qualified by status to vote for the very officials that maintain the cogs of the American dream machine. I thank those citizens who have acted in the last day to raise awareness and contact those officials that have the power to initiate change.

Last night after completing my blog entries for the day, I wrote an open email to Rush Limbaugh, Michael Smerconish (Philadelphia 1210am Talk Radio) and Bill O’Reilly. To bring this story to the attention of their viewers and listeners. Given that today has been a big news story day especially in the Philadelphia area all I can say is God Bless America! The story was picked up and included in the commentary on the Rush Limbaugh show this afternoon being hosted by Roger Hitchcock, bringing this story to arguably the largest radio audience in the nation. Whether this was as a direct result of my email I do not know and cannot claim for certain.

For readers of this web page looking for a personal perspective on this unresolved issue Deena Gilbey herself has a web page that provides a more comprehensive review of the story to date. This includes a report taken from the Philadelphia Inquirer printed in early June
and a letter from Prime Minister Tony Blair, offering whatever support the consulate can provide.

While attention of the plight of Deena and her sons continues to keep bubbling close to the front burners through the media and those politicians who have publically signed on to do what is right, “we the people” must not be complacent as it remains the responsibility of each and every citizen to facilitate right and just laws for the few through good clear lobbying.

I thank you in advance for your kind support, action and circulation of this story to the masses.

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Leaves being rustled in Kew Gardens, London.

The report from the Kew Gardens constabulary who attended the scene of the rustling in their new environmentally friendly police car reported that although a couple of Chelsea pensioners were seen in the vicinity they have reason to believe it was just the wind from the River Thames.

If only it was true it would be a farce, yet a farce is what the new police car truly is, a vehicle that would not be out of place in the ring under Barnum and Bailey or Coles Brother big top.

Robin Roberts kindly brought this story to my attention this morning which made me laugh into my cup of tea.

May I kindly ask readers visiting this page to please read the Kindness of a Stranger report posted yesterday.
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July 23, 2002

Can Europe be a superpower?

They are certainly giving it thought, but need to think outside the box, Brussels and their own national boundries to achieve this goal. Tony Blair is being quoted tomorrow that his challenge to Europe is this:

"if we want to have greater sway and greater power, then instead of complaining about America, we've got to face up to what we need to do ...

This remark has been made as European leaders prepare to line up their ducks over Iran. America will no doubt lead the assault but lets "make way for the ducklings".

For excellent blog reporting on the current Iran issues I direct you to review Glenn Frazier.

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The kindness of a stranger.
An Appeal on behalf of Deena Gilbey.

The plight of Deena Gilbey and her young American born sons continues to trouble my thoughts today. As an individual and a resident of the USA and not a voting citizen I am effectively disqualified by status to effectively complain to the authorities as my voice is mute.

Yet, through this web page and by making the media icons aware of this story long since forgotten as resolved months ago, it will come as a great shock to many that the threat of deportation to a resident of the US for ten years who so tragically lost her heroic husband as he tried to save many of his co-workers at the World Trade Center must come as a bitter blow.

I have a voice and my voice through this page is asking you dear reader if you are an American Citizen, I appeal to you to raise awareness of this story to all those that you know, your family, your friends, your co-workers and fellow bloggers.

I kindly ask you to do at least one of the following actions as the massed voices of the American public are more likely to make a difference on this topic than the few solitary voices who have read this Fox News reported story from July 22, 2002.

In the spirit of liberty and justice for all I ask you to:

Email to INS with your thoughts on this case.
Contact your Congressman with your views.
Write, Fax and email any other elected officials that may offer support to this case.

This is an emotive subject, Through calmness and politeness the greater good are much more likely to get results.

I would like to thank James DiBenedetto and Iain Murray for bringing this troubling situation to my attention. I urge you to please link to their blog sites for further information regarding this story.

I pray that there will be a happy conclusion to this story and that the INS will not find themselves responsible for further undue stress and pressure on this family who have endured too much pain and strife already through the loss of a husband and father.

Thank you most kindly in advance for any help and support you may be able to offer.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Have the INS and John Ashcroft finally lost it?

Thanks to "The Edge of England's Sword", who so very kindly mentioned London Chimes in dispatches yesterday I have been brought to the attention of this story that surfaced shortly after September 11th last year. He in turn was made aware of a blog entry titled "Misplaced Priorities" on the 11day empire blog page that provides further information on this news story.

A British woman who lost her husband in the attack and has 2 children born in the USA is under imminent threat from the INS for deportation. The full story here.

Has this woman not suffered enough without being threatened to be deported by the country she has called her home and the homeland of her children for over ten years. Surely there MUST be some flexibility within the INS rules and regualtions in instances such as this. It would seem that while certain restrictions have been removed for the families of those effected by loss of a loved one on September 11, 2001. As her lost husband who through reason of changing his job here in the US required a resubmission of paperwork to ensure continuation of residency had not reached a certain level of processing, she is exempt from these new conditions.

While America is improving the service that the INS offers citizens, does this lady pose a clear and present danger to the wellbeing of the citizens of the United States of America? - I think not.

I will be writing to the Prime Minster Blair today to request leverage from Downing Street over this matter calling once again on the special relationship between our two countries. I have already written to the editor of the Daily Telegraph in London to seek exposure on this story in the UK which does not seem to have picked up by the broadsheets or the BBC in the last couple of days.

If anyone can offer a direct email link to the newsroom at the BBC in London, would someone please advise me.

(Revised posting).

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July 21, 2002

Film 9/11 is to be shown on BBCtv - Reviews.

I have just found this listing of important reviews from the people that really matter, not TV critics but the firefighters, the families of those lost, individuals who were touched by the unfolding events in New York on September 11, 2001. In the posting below I urge you to watch this film. I also urge you to read these reviews.
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Film 9/11 is to be shown on BBCtv.

I understand from reports to be printed tomorrow that the film 9/11 previously shown on the CBS network is to be aired on the BBC on the first anniversary of the attack on America. The timing of this broadcast in the UK is in my personal opinion in poor taste and lacks managerial judgment for the sensitivities of those from Britain who suffered a loss last September 11.

Nevertheless, I urge everyone to watch this film for several reasons.

I have seen this film shot by two French journalists who were on assignment covering the everyday activities of a firehouse in downtown New York last summer. Through circumstance they have provided us with a unique historical record of an act of violence and hatred that should, never, ever be allowed to be repeated.
There are other 9/11 films, this without any doubt in my mind the only one film of its type that you need to watch. Even if you only watch it once in your entire life I urge you to watch this film so that you can understand.

I urge you to watch this film, I warn you in advance that it is not an easy film to watch; yet aware of scenes of abject horror beyond the periphery of the viewfinder at the WTC site they refused to capture these scenes on camera. But what is included will touch you deeply.

I urge you to watch this film, in memory of all the heroes that ran into the WTC when any sane person would want to turn and flee, especially those who did not return.

I urge you to watch this film, to remember why Britain should stand united with its allies against the enemy of terror, remembering that next to the Americans the British lost the highest number of fatalities.

I urge you to watch this film to understand why certain courses of action are deemed necessary for the common good of civilized mankind, not just for today but for tomorrow and all the tomorrows necessary to prevent this from ever happening again.

I urge you to watch this film in memory of those faceless, nameless allied heroes from the armed services and security forces who are fighting this war across the world.

I urge you to watch this film to remember first and foremost. Then I ask you to stand in support of your country, your flag, and those charged with the responsibilities of ensuring the right decisions on what must be done.

I urge you to watch this film on BBCtv on September 11 2002. Then email me.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Brits are the worst tourists

This story blogged in London Chimes below on July 18 has generated a great deal of interest in my family here in the USA. I have investigated the source further and have found the following press release that started the story.

Never letting a great story get in the way of the facts the Independent did report the Americans as the best tourists in the world. Yet the source clearly places them in second place behind the Germans. I wonder why?

To offer some further perspective on this I have found the following quotes. The first from David Glover, producer of the Channel 4 program The Tourist Trap, a fly on the wall documentary series of British teenagers behaving badly aboard (not one of the best documentary programs Channel 4 have aired by far) said “the British had more fun than the Germans. When it comes to other things like doing the Conga at two in the morning, the British are champions of the world."

Personally speaking given the subject matter of the Tourist Trap program, it is filmed at locations that quiet frankly shows my fellow countrymen at their very, very worst on holiday in the same tourist traps that are most likely to rank them below sewer rats in terms of their behavior.

In difference to Mr. Glovers statement this statement was submitted to a UK web site from a gentleman in the UK who I believe hits this subject on the noses regarding the arrogance of stereotyping a whole nation regardless which on the behavior of the minority and questioning the reasoning of this survey by nationality in the first place.

“How pathetic to stereotype whole nations in the way some contributors have. How can you say, "the Americans are the rudest" or "the British are the rudest". You should consider people on an individual level - failure to do this is arrogant beyond belief. The worst travelers are the rude ones. Unfortunately even the concept of 'rudeness' contains a degree of subjectivity to oneself and the local 'culture'. “ Chris, England

For balance I thought this written by an American was most appropriate.

“As an American who has traveled not infrequently in Europe, I can assure you that the easiest way to meet many of these rude travelers is to stay in the 'best' hotels and strictly follow guidebook recommendations. Venture further into the local lives, the small family-run hotels and hostels and little neighborhood cafes, and you'll find a very different breed of tourist. They are inevitably dressed for comfort rather than show, and make Sometimes-Herculean efforts to speak the local language, with either impressive or comic results. Change your travel habits and befriend the 'polite traveler.' “ Emily, USA

I will continue to keep a watching brief on this story and report back with updates as necessary.

In the meanwhile perhaps when an American asks me if I am from Australia, perhaps I should agree with them! (Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda....)

Comments are welcome from one and all!

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July 20, 2002

July 20th - A Special Anniversary.

There is but one blog entry for today. Today is the second anniversary of my immigration to the US. I publically want to thank my wife for her devotion, love and continued support and for being my life companion as we take the road less travelled in the highway of life.

I had produced a long and lengthy entry for today but have by accident removed this from my palm pilot.- Despite this I want to publically say that I am so glad to be here in the USA, I have tasted my slice of the American pie and I look forward to tasting some more. I do miss my family back in England and Wales which is my only real regret, but thanks to technology we speak or email or IM each other on a regular basis.

As they say back in the UK, you can take the man from Great Britain but you can't take Great Britain from the man. I will always remain as British as a stick of rock with UK emblazoned through my core. Yet I proudly fly both the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes outside my house.

I would also wish to publically thank my US family for putting up with (and understanding) their somewhat eccentric British in Law.

I look forward to my third year in the US with relish, (and pickles on the side).

God Save the Queen and God Bless America.

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July 19, 2002

An open letter to the people of Iran.

If you do but one thing on the web today after reading this site, please go to this my brother-in-laws blog read, digest then act.

A familar thread is that the actions of the few effect the lives of the many. It is easy to loose sight that there are plenty of good people in the world caught up in the conflicts of the day. This is a wonderful opportunity that has already started to be recognised nationally in the US. Perhaps my friends and family in the UK would please pass this link on.

Thank you.

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July 18, 2002

Is Bin Laden dead, yes according to the FBI.

USA Today had a most interesting headline today a senior ranking FBI agent announcing that bin Laden is dead. His logic is far from flawless. Personally I believe it to be in the best interests of all the allies working to resolve the War Against Terror to assume that he is still alive. Bin Laden is without doubt the figure head of all that is evil in this campaign and while he is alive provides the inertia of support to rid the world of terrorists which ever rock they may be under.

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Britons are rated the world's rudest tourists

Every Thursday evening my wife and I play host to my mother-in-law for dinner and catch up with what is going on in the world. This evening quite by chance we were discussing tourists visting the US Virgin Islands and the "secret key" to communicating with the islanders. It is no real secret, a eye contact big smile followed by "Hi how are you doing today" will work wonders.

I don't wish to pre-empt a blog entry planned for July 20, a special anniversary for me, but politeness and repect to the waiting staff, bellboy, receptionist, supermarket manger or whoever make a great difference to the experience of communication. It come then with no great suprise that the following story will appear in tomorrows Independent Newspaper in the UK.

To legions of weary Greek restaurateurs, Italian waiters and Spanish barmen, it will come as no surprise – Britons are the rudest, brashest, most tongue-tied and least desirable holidaymakers in the world.

A global survey of tourism officers has found that the inhabitants of the UK are the nightmare of hoteliers, souvenir sellers and ice cream vendors from Ibiza to Bangkok. Were the universal loathing of 17 of the most popular holiday destinations not bad enough, it seems the best regarded travellers are those traditional rivals for the poolside loungers, the Germans.

The poll, by the travel company Expedia, ranked each nation on criteria ranging from respect for hosts to tipping, and general behaviour to ability to speak a foreign language. Britons came lowest in all but one of the criteria, scoring a total of minus 44, some 38 points fewer the next worst behaved, the Irish and Israelis, and 83 behind the Germans.

The Americans were ranked as the most polite, while the Germans made the most effort to use their hosts' language, and the Italians were most willing to try local delicacies. Britons, along with Russians and Spaniards, were found to be the most likely to talk loudly in their own language to try to make themselves understood.

The only consolation for Britain's boorish masses is that they are not the meanest. That distinction was found to belong to New Zealanders.

First I wish to apologise to all non-Brits who have found themselves on the wrong end of rudeness from a fellow countryman that there are exceptions to this rule and I would consider myself one of them.

Secondly, I am not suprised to find that American tourist top the list. For if they were brought up by parents like my mother in law, when travelling abroad they would be told to recognise the fact that "you should act as an ambassador for your country. You may be the only American (they) ever meet and it is your responsibility to leave them with a good impression of Americans.

If only the British lager louts and similar tourists would recognise this when travelling not only would they have a far better holiday but they will be seen for the gentlemen and gentlewomen they truly are. When travelling to "foreign parts" at least make some effort to learn the language, even a few simple phrases that include "please" and "thankyou" would be a start. From experience locals appreciate that some effort is being made. Never, ever raise your voice to be understood, talking louder and slower in English will NOT make yourself more understood. One final thought I have seen the swimming pool wars between the German and English before it is not a mature attitude so grow up. The "saving the best lounger by the poolside through the placing of a towel" is in the words of my 5 year old nephew "just crazy". Will walking a foot further make a difference to the pool? Will the sun not shine on the lounger next to the one you want.

Sort out your attitudes! Alas today because of the actions of the few I feel very ashamed to be British living in the USA.

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July 17, 2002

St Albans - again!

Verulamium, a settlement near St Albans, Hertfordshire, was the only British town the Romans regarded as a municipality, wrote the historian Tacitus, suggesting a site of great size and potential splendour

The site is under threat by a local landowner who has voluntarily stopped ploughing. But 15 years on with no agreement has forced action and brought this site back onto the front burners. Tony Robinson of the TimeTeam show, that can also be watched on one of the History channels in the US has recently visited the site.

Personally, St. Albans is more than a site of special scientific interest and should be investigated and preserved forever. I wish the archeologists every success in their attempts to push the red tape wevils into making the right decision.

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Sir David Manning.

Sir David Manning, the foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair at Downing Street, is set to become Britain's next ambassador to the United States.

I am pleased to see that we have a qualified man lined up to take on this most important of postitions during this time of conflict. As the US greatest ally in the War on Terror, it is ever more critical that the right man is given this post in Washington. While this is not confirmed, (the typical Whitehall two step), it appears to be a "done deal". Nevertheless I am scared that Peter Mandelson has been linked to this job, he is without any doubt the very last man you would want to fill this role. What makes you think I don't like the fella!
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July 16, 2002

"Mind the Gap, Mind the Gap, Stand Clear of the Doors and Mind the Gap"

Did you know that the announcement at Embankment station on the Northern Line is a command to all passengers to cover their heads and duck. As moving trains in the tunnels disturb the Gappe bats. Neither did I until today. This and other interesting facts and accounts of passengers on the London Underground need to be read to be believed.

There is so much on this site I suggest you take the time to take it all in. If you only have a few moments look at this trivia site of 50 things you never knew and probably are not better off knowing about the London Underground, unless you are a trivia buff or an expert pub quiz teamster.

Five star rating. *****
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To boldly blog - perhaps.
I am sure he will loathe me for this but actor Wil Wheaton, known for many roles but probably most faomus for Ensign Wesley Crusher in Star Trek The Next Generation is blogging away with the best of them. He make it very clear that his TNG days are way behind him and is persuing a career in comedy. Good luck to him.
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Spam that looks like a Honeyed Spiral Ham.

Yesterday I received an odd email titled "You got pictures" one of the features of AOL 7.0
Generally if I do not recognize the senders name and reference it is immediately deleted. This one I opened to find it addressed to me and about 6 other people from an unknown source. It said:

"Dear AOL Customer,

Kodak and America Online have teamed up to bring you the newest feature to
your online experience, "You've Got Pictures!". You've Got Pictures allows
for your friends and family members to send you pictures online much easier,
and they have! This feature is free with your America Online account and you
are one step away from completing your registration process to recieve your

With links to follow underneath. It even had the look of an AOL 7.0 screen. Wary I continued to be asked to complete a registration process that included entering my email address and AOL password. Very wary at this stage I entered my email address and a dummy password to be sent to a site that was unable to load.

I forwarded this email to AOL to confirm the validity of this post and received a long reply that included "AOL will NEVER ask you for your password.

Please be warned that someone is getting very clever out there in producing Spam intended to get your passwords and possibly more. If anyone can enlighten me further on this problem, please let me, AOL and Kodak know.

The scoundrels.

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July 15, 2002

Why call my Blog London Chimes?
First and foremost I want to apologize to Paul Hardcastle and the Jazzmasters who I understand have a track on one of their albums with the same name. If this is the same Paul Hardcastle of “19” fame then I have certainly heard of you and would be interested to hear the musical track London Chimes.(I have not checked your web page to find out).

So why do I call my blog London Chimes? For too many years now I have written this, that or the other, under a signature type banner for the purpose of establishing a platform for comment rather than occasional copy with a simple by-line. I am what many in the UK would consider an ex-pat. Although not living in a community with a large percentage of my countrymen I do of course live in a community where we all speak broadly the same language, and there are some Brits here too judging by the few Union Jacks that I have seen fluttering off trees in front yards.

I was raised in the northern suburbs of London, for the majority of my career in the UK I commuted to or through central London. I have worked in the City of London and at Westminster.

London Chimes to me conjours up an image of the clock tower at the eastern end of the palace of Westminster that contains the famous bell Big Ben. (Link here for a live image taken from The London Aquarium, incidently the workplace of my wife, author of Lets Talk Friends at one time).The tower itself is not called Big Ben as is a mistaken fact by many who flock to see it. Not that the bells themselves are loud enough to be heard across London. But the chimes every 15 minutes and on the hour cast a familiar melody known around the globe. (Time and circumstances do not permit me to post a blog entry every 15 minutes).

So I have named this site London Chimes, London for that is my original home town and Chimes to represent that I will continue to make noise through the written word as long as you dear reader access this site.

London Chimes compared with other peoples blogs certainly offers something a little different. I am not a total political animal, but I will weigh in on certain political issues biased towards issues in the UK. Although I will set my sights on issues from Washington from time to time. There is a nautical theme running through the site for no reason other than I find the topic of treasure hunting – regardless where an interesting topic. Recently there have been a number of wrecks that are being explored that I find interesting stories. The truth is that I am not a great fan of sailing, even though I come from a nation of seafarers, well I guess I am the exception to the rule!

I certainly recommend the following sites from my brother in laws here in the US. My warblogger brother in law, my academic brother in law and my beltway brother in law. All have very interesting perspectives on the world at large and are required daily reading. I must also add to the ladies of the family here who are also blogging away my wife who has Lets Talk Friends, my sister in law the wife of the warblogger, and my sister in law currently studying in Australia.

I am the author of two other blogs which are starting to fall by the wayside. www.wheeltracks.blogspot.com and www.point2point.blogspot.com

I have been a passionate fan of motor sport through organization participation and competition in the UK for more years than I care to remember. Wheeltracks was a signature title first written in the Green Belt Motor Club monthly magazine in the early 1980’s. When I researched the use of the title, I discovered that it had been the name of a short-lived motoring program in the early 1950’s and had not been used for many years in the same context.

I was fortunate in the late 80’s early 90’s to take Wheeltracks to a broader audience through a magazine titled Competition Car. Long since wound up it was produced by the then owners of Micro Mart in Solihull Birmingham avid motor sport competitors to boot. The concept of Competition Car was very different from the other motoring titles on the shelves as it was written by enthusiasts, no staff reporters as I recall and printed every two weeks. I contacted the magazine prior to the launch of Edition Number 1 and received notice that they wanted me as part of the freelance team. My first accepted copy titled “Wheeltracks in the Mud” was reproduced in the first edition and directed wannabe rally stars how to get started in the sport.

The majority of the magazine was filled with race reports, rally reports for each discipline of the sport at grassroots level and upward. Yet features were few and far between. Wheeltracks was one of the few regular columns that appeared covering such subjects as the future of marshaling of motor sport events, the thirtieth anniversary of the Mini, the Le Mans 24 hour motor race from a spectators view and Motor Sports Day at the national motor show among other subjects. Features’ writing was to me personally more rewarding than event reporting. I tried it once and was so disgusted at the finished article I didn’t have the heart to submit the report yet I learned a valuable lesson to stick with what I knew.

This year I received an invitation to produce copy for Wayfarer a number of years after I my last contribution a copy of the article in full can be read on www.wheeltracks.blogspot.com Would readers interested in the sport note that with few execeptions Wheeltracks is the site that will be used for all motoring and motor sport related blog entries. All motor clubs are free to use any of the reports I post to Wheeltracks for club magazines and web pages in return for a link from your web site if you have one.

At the same time I was writing Wheeltracks for Competition Car I also had a second feature column, Point to Point, the column for navigators. This was a ground breaking column as from my research there had never been a column for rally navigators that introduced the complexities of navigational techniques using the 1:50,000 Landranger Series of Ordnance Survey Maps. The tool used for all navigational activities from treasure hunts to national and international rallying in the UK before the days of pace notes on the premier events. Run somewhat like a correspondence course each edition would cover a navigational technique with an example, followed by a test for the reader to complete on a Map 166, Luton and Hertford full of little twisting lanes that provided me with plenty of scope for an infinite number of routes using countless techniques. The next column would offer the solution and another technique and so on. Around Christmas time other motoring magazines would run competitions. Using point-to-point and my network of contacts put together an easy competition with fun navigational prizes that would be useful to navigators. The first prize was his driver gratefully received a state of the art intercom system, which the winner kindly informed me by letter, for their stage rallying efforts.

Eventually the magazine folded, less than two years and dwindling circulation figures brought a curtain down on an interesting project. Point to Point lived on as a navigational scatter event in Essex supported by Halfords the motor accessory store that sadly was cancelled due to lack of entries. It never actually ran and sits in one of my folders as a memory of a great event which in this case that never was.

The www.point2point.blogspot.com site I hope to use as a tabletop rally web site for the winter months. I do need up to date Ordnance Survey Maps for this and plan to give this some thought for 2003. If there are any motor clubs or individuals that wish to participate in this, please contact me further to show me your support. For the moment it is very much a site in progress. It was interesting to note that one of the competition eventually started a column for navigators written by one of the top chaps in the sport some years later. If I at least laid a foundation for this I would be very humble indeed.

On my arrival in the US I kept a weekly bulletin up called Potterings from Philly, meanderings from Malcolm would have been closer to the truth, but they are a great record of my first year in the USA and all the firsts I experienced. In time Potterings petered out, as there was little to write about. My wife author of the blog Lets Talk Friends came up with the title Friends Flash that in turn has been replaced by London Chimes.

If you like what you read on this site, or Wheeltracks or Point2Point, please visit us again soon.

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At what cost democracy - 39 pence for a pound perhaps?

The continued fight of market traders in the UK to continue to sell the fruits and veggies by the pound appears to be reaching a climax. There are 5 test cases across the UK, this is the update on one of them. Link here for the story.

Personally when I lived in the UK at the time of the "official" change over for the street traders and stores, my weekly visit to the St. Albans market on Saturday morning was very odd indeed.

After years of asking for a pound of spuds (potatoes) it seemed very odd to ask for 456 grams of potatoes instead. Further I was taught to use the metric system but when the law took over custom and practice seemed much more preferable.

Personally I applaude these market traders in the action they are taking. More applause as now living in the US everything is in pounds here. Perhaps everyone in the UK should move here to support the traders, there is room for everyone.

The compromise that the vast majority of market traders have come to is having electronic scales that weigh both pounds and kilos. If a customer asks for a pound of spuds it will be weighed out in metric, while the price tags will show the price in metric with in much smaller text the equivilant imperial price per pound.

I do miss the costamongers at St. Albans Market on Saturday mornings.

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July 14, 2002

Big thanks to my Beltway Brother in Law for putting my straight on my HTML code to include my email address.
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July 12, 2002

Citizenship Education - Votes at 16 Part 2.

There is much to found from the government regarding Citizenship Education and how it links to the National Curriculum. Yet getting down to the nuts and bolts, suggested programs for kids aged 9 and over are listed in this on line document.

I have some concerns from an inital read-through and wonder where the resources are going to come from to keep this initative afloat. Certainly much of this education will fall squarely on the childrens groups outside school, Scouts, Guides, Boys Brigade and other such groups, all run by volunteers.

While this program in itself is ground breaking with respect to empowering the youngest generation to prepare to change attitudes in the country over a long period of time. I cannot easily see how the link to initally the local government systems will provide a positive experience without the children running into red-tape.

Ultimately, I do wonder if the children are ready to be prepared for Investors in People and corporate processes at this young age. Perhaps 18 is young enough to vote and the rationality to understand a little about politics, and perhaps we should encourage children to behave like children and not deprive them of their childhood years.

I remain with mixed feelings about this issue for the moment.

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Headline - UK to consider lowering voting age to 16 -
London Chimes Report PART 1.

As many of my regular readers will recall a couple of days ago I blogged a one liner on this subject and planned to find out more on the subject.

Moves are certainly afoot in the UK to prepare plans for the reduction of the minimum age of voting from 18 to 16. It has been reported that these plans are in part efforts to reduce the public’s disenchantment with politics. The Electoral Commission has confirmed that it is to review the issue this fall, the first such assessment of its kind. More worrying is it has been reported that John Denham, (Home Office minister) has made it clear that the Government will take The Electoral Commissions recommendations seriously. In Great Britain today teenagers aged 16 and 17 can under the law of the land, fight for their country, have sexual relationships with the oppersite gender and pay taxes but cannot vote in local or general elections.
Those in Westminster who worry about little else are getting very concerned about voter apathy. Politicians no longer receive a clear mandate from the electorate as the turn outs to the polls reduce ever more resulting in a 70 year low at the general election last year. The idea of reducing the minimum age to vote is being seen by some nameless ministers as a solution to the problem.
With lobby groups for everything these days it is unsurprising to see the birth of a new group calling themselves “Votes at 16 Campaign” ramping themselves up for a major drive to push this recommendation through to law. It is very interesting to see which groups fall under this new coalition including the Electoral Reform Society, the Children's Society, Barnardo's, the British Youth Council and the UK Youth Parliament. It has been reported that the chairman of the Electoral Commission had ordered this review with a target of presenting its findings as early as next year. As the wheels of law crunch oh so slowly, (but can move with great speed on some occasions) it is anticipated that the earliest this could be made law and implemented would be for a general election in 2010 or 2011, yet it is anticipated that it could be tried in local elections before then. The last drop in the voting age was under Prime Minister Harold Wilson's Labour government in 1969 that last reduced the voting age from 21 to 18.
Since devolution of Scotland and the creation of the Welsh Assembly papers need to be drawn to bring both areas into line with the thinking of Westminster. It has been reported that both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly are coming under mounting pressure to introduce the reform. Campaigners were boosted last week when the Commission on Local Government Electoral Arrangements in Wales, an independent review set up by the Welsh cabinet, recommended lowering the age to 16.

"Lowering the voting age will help to re-engage young people with democracy and ensure that their voice is heard. With the introduction of citizenship education in the national curriculum from five to 16, giving people the right to vote at the end of that period makes sense in terms of joined-up policy.''

What this “Citizenship Education” in the National Curriculum is about from age 5 to 16 ?I will investigate further and report back in Part 2 of this interesting subject on this site. Nevertheless my inital knee-jerk reaction to this subject is how any 16 to 18 year old are supposed to fully comprehend the issues and complexities of politics today or in 2010/11 is beyond me.

At that age for the majority of teenagers in this group see most arguments as black or white, politics is and always has been shades of grey. (And grey has statistically been shown to be a boring colour - umm Grey Politics that should really get some interest in this group).

I know things have changed (I hope) from the years I was a school but debating political issues seemed to revolve around simple subjects like Fox Hunting. As my mother-in-law pointed out last night, to a 16 year old you are either in favor or against. But totally unaware of the other issues surrounding the subject under debate in respect to how it may relate to say the economy and the bigger picture.

I have other concerns on this subject right now but without having the statistics available to me all I have are these questions:

What are the demographics of social groups of those aged 16-18 for 2010/11 and how do they affect the voting pattern for the next thirty years?

Could a political party gain from an influx of voters that with a targeted campaign would potentially keep these voters "for life"? Further how much of an influence of these young peoples vote comes from their family and environment? Further still does the demographics of this group currently favour one party over another?
(Like the present incumbents).

If Westminster seriously believe that this may be tested in local elections first, how is that going to be an incentive to the young people who do not easily see local politics in action? Further, local elections are frequently used as a protest vote by the electorate that acts as a barometer of the performance of the current government. Frequently parties that would not be considered at a general election, win in local elections.

For non-UK readers the General Election held every 4 years is the election that votes in the next government in Westminster, currently Tony Blair and the Labour Party.

Local elections equate to boroughs or district councils that have limited power over local issues.

I will keep a watching brief on this story and brief you all as it unfolds. In the meanwhile if my questions can be answered or you have comments to add, please email me MalcolmFriend1@aol.com

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War on Terror

With the number of reports, comments and opinions buzzing around the internet this is one subject that I have not generally made much on in London Chimes. Nevertheless when a cherry is ripe for picking I will pick it and bring it to the attention of my friends and readers everywhere.

I urge you to read this news story from the UK would look like scaremongering until you notice the quote from the Director General of MI5. The numbers involved are simply staggering and we need to remember that these are only from the UK.

Source "The Independent" Newspaper - a national broadsheet paper that does not report tabloid rubbish.

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July 11, 2002

German Storms
Check out the link above, it is not so much my interest in the storms in Germany today. However scroll down the page to the photo of the car with the tree balancing on the roof. If you look closer you will see that it is one of the new BMW Mini's. This is interesting for 2 reasons. First I am suprised at the strength of the roof with such a weight upon it. But secondly and totally unrelated to this story is that demand of this new car has far outweighed supply hence BMW have ordered an increase in production of 20% today to keep up with the demand.

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On this day in History - 1979.

Skylab landed in the South Australian outback after a spectacular return to Earth on this day in 1979. The abandoned space station burned up in the atmosphere and showered debris over the Indian Ocean and Australia. Skylab was the first US space station and was launched into orbit on May 14, 1973 as part of the Apollo program. Its objectives were twofold: to prove that humans could live and work in space for extended periods, and to expand our knowledge of solar astronomy well beyond Earth-based observations. Despite early mechanical difficulties it proved a success. Three three-man crews occupied the Skylab workshop for a total of 171 days, 13 hours. It was the site of nearly 300 scientific and technical experiments, including medical experiments on humans' adaptability to zero gravity, solar observations, and detailed Earth resources experiments.

As a yong child in the 60's I remember watching the Apollo launches and the moon landings with awe on a grainy black and white TV that my parents owned. (We upgraded to colour after watching "The Undersea World of Jacque Cousteau). Unlike today where launches are considered more routine than "an event" a real shame given the technological marvels behind each launch. Skylab really caught the imagination of this 10 year old and this project really should be remembered by space historians.

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July 10, 2002

Can someone help me work out how to add my email address as a link at the end of my blog entries.- Thanks. (MalcolmFriend1@aol.com)
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Smear on Dick CheneyIt has emerged in the United States that Vice-President Dick Cheney took part in a promotional video for the disgraced accounting firm Andersen. The news came just before an anti-corruption pressure group filed a lawsuit against Mr. Cheney, alleging fraudulent accounting practices. In the video Mr. Cheney - then Chief Executive of the oil company Halliburton - describes how Andersen gave advice "over and above" what would normally be expected from auditors. Link here for full story

I find this more than just a coincidence that this story has broken just at this time. This is an obvious smear campaign against the current administration and the VPOTUS just at the time that POTUS is trying to distance himself strategically from corporate wrongdoings and scandals.

Personally I am a big fan of “Big Time” not just because of his political views but because I find him a very interesting person. I would love to be given the opportunity to just sit and talk with Dick Cheney for half and hour. His dedication between serving his country and big business makes him an unusual breed in politics. A high ranking political leader who has a sense of perspective on matters relating to the “real world” unlike many who work in Brussels, Westminster, Washington and the like.. From my time in Westminster I can count on a singular hand with fingers to spare of those who have moved successfully from public life into a successful corporate career and back again into politics. Where they have fully contributed to the profits in the private sector rather than used their name for a seat on the board.

The scoundrel that unearthed this video should be public ally brought to account for their motives in this outrageous smear on Mr. Cheney.

The Great Train Robbery
It will be 39 years ago next month that one of the in my opinion daring crimes The Great Train Robbery (one of a number named as such) that captures the imagination was committed in Bedfordshire, England.

Some years ago I was competing on a nighttime treasure hunt when I can across the bridge that was the subject of photographs world wide, the spot where the postal bags were unloaded before the get-away to Leathers lade Farm.

No guns were used in the robbery, which daring enough at the time was committed by a group of scoundrals of the old school. Interesting enough if you recalculated the value of the haul taken would be over 100 million pounds. (145 million dollars) it still ranks as one of the biggest crimes ever.

Today the story is remembered again as Ronnie Biggs one of the Train Robbers who escaped to Brazil was married in prison today. Only in recent times did Ronnie Biggs voluntarily gave up his self-imposed exile and return to the UK where he was in need of medical care. He was of course arrested at the airport and has been ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence after his daring escaping from prison.

While justice must seen to be done, somehow given the atrocities of today stopping and robbing a mail train without the use of guns does not seem to merit serving 25 years in jail. Or perhaps given the amount of time that has passed since August 8, 1963, and the fact that Ronnie Biggs is no longer a danger to society given his state of health, perhaps the Home Secretary should intervene.

However, I do not suspect that this will happen as all the train robbers were criminals of the first order in 1963, and at the sentencing in 1965 would have been taken to one of the darkest holes in all the UK to serve their sentences. Further the crime against Her Majesty’s Mail Train was seen to be a crime against the Monarchy herself.

Yet it is ironic, that for such a notorious crime, there is no sign at the bridge for the purposes of history to say what happened at that place on that night, a crime that has passed into English folklore.

Further when I searched for web pages into this most interesting of stories, the only half-decent web site was from one of the train robbers himself! I thought it to be inappropriate to add that link here.

I have been back to the bridge on a number of occasions since and still marvel to some degree at what was accomplished at that spot that night, even though it was a crime.

Cannabis laws eased by Blunkett

Cannabis is to be reclassified as a less dangerous drug to free-up police resources to fight hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine, Home Secretary David Blunkett has announced.
He unveiled the controversial measure in the House of Commons just hours after the government's former "drugs czar" Keith Hellawell said he had quit his role as a government adviser in protest.

Link here for the full story. Dependent upon your point of view you either applaud the government or are appalled by their action. Without making a personal judgment either way as I on one hand recognize the medicinal purposes of Cannabis for those suffering with life threatening diseases, and recognizing that being in possession of any amount has been considered a crime – till now. I am disgusted that the government chooses to comment that this will release law enforcement to focus on dealing with harder drugs. This seems like a Westminster cop out again (no pun intended) instead of dealing with the real problem of investing into improving the Police Force.

Further I roll my eyes back in disbelief at the earlier blog entry about the study of 14 –18 year olds having no interest in politics. Westminsters response lets drop the voting age to 16. (Future blog entry on this subject will follow).

Good grief, if the governments answer to problems is simply raising the bar and letting things slide underneath what ever will be next.

I look forward to your comments as always to my email address

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Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the adoption of 2 of our cats from the local
SPCA. Jaffa & Truffles for those are the names we gave these two cats have given us immense pleasure and I have difficulty in remembering what the house was like before we introduced the cats into our lives.

We were very lucky in finding them both thanks to the SPCA.

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July 06, 2002

Congratulations to our niece Siobhan on her Baptism today.
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July 05, 2002

Time to Catch Up with the last 3 weeks.
The reason that London Chimes has been silent for three weeks is that my wife and I have been host to my parent’s first visit to the USA. This was mothers first overseas trip and only the second overseas trip for my father who has only previously been to Liechtenstein on a camping trip long before I was born.

Needless to say this was a big undertaking for them both, and both my wife and I were so pleased that they made the journey and had a great deal of fun while they were here. We are sure that now they are safely home what they achieved here will start to sink in as they have an opportunity to reflect and “come up for breath” after their whirlwind tour.

Their visit here was a series of firsts some of which I have noted below:

First flight. – A huge thank you to the wonderful people at British Airways for looking after them and providing a thoroughly enjoyable experience for them both. Taking a transatlantic flight as a first flight can be a daunting experience for many. However with the technologies today, not only was my father tracking the progress of his flight from the small screen in front of his seat, both my brother in Wales and I here in the USA were able to tracking the progress of the flight through the internet.

First time they experienced temperatures of over 100F. – A series of unseasonably hot days in June took the temperature including the heat index over one hundred degrees. London in contrast has been in mid seventies and rarely reaches such high temps (if ever). To escape the humidity of the town we headed to the shore Long Beach Island, NJ where during the afternoon they saw a temperature gauge measure 102F. A highlight of the trip which with the cooling sea breezes made for a great day.

First time being driven on the right hand side of the road.

First time drinking iced tea. I had an issue with iced tea on my first trip to the USA, many years ago. Tea I thought should always be drunk hot. But in the heat of summer, iced tea makes for a wonderful refreshing drink. My parents favored Raspberry, Peach and sweetened Ice Tea.

First time at a McDonalds. Yes, the chain does exist in the UK but my parents had never been to one before. My father noted that there were in our area less McDonalds restaurants than those back home.

First visit to a Japanese Restaurant. The local hibachi grill (Mount Fuji, Southampton, PA) was the location for my wife’s birthday celebration while my parents were in town.

First time feeding a flock of Australian Birds at the Philadelphia Zoo with cups of nectar.

First US History lessons at Washington Crossing and Independence Mall. My parents when I was much younger would take my brother and me to number of historical sites around the UK during our vacations. This did in retrospect enhance the history we were taught at school. However, my wife who is a history buff, has expanded my international history lessons taking me to places where as I mentioned to my mother-in-law just the other day, “if we (UK) lost there, I have been there”. As I cannot recall learning in my English history lessons of battles that we lost – there may have been some but American History was so contemporary considering that my lessons started with Stone Age man and working up to the Vikings, I cannot honestly recall history beyond Henry the eighth, unless it was told to me by my parents or grandparents.

These firsts and many others are not remarkable in themselves until to understand that my mother is confined to the use of a wheelchair outside of her home. Yet I am so proud that my mother took every trip, every new experience in her own way without baulking at any one that it was beyond her. My father relieved from his responsibility of pushing the wheelchair during their vacation, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meander at his own speed to take photographs and collect shells along the shore.

To my family here, our friends, and all the kind people who opened doors and were courteous to my parents during their stay I say a hearty thank you.

There are others who I want to thank here also in no specific order starting with the staff at Appleby’s restaurant in Southampton PA for their kind attention. The National Park Service Rangers at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and the guides at Washington Crossing.

Finally but certainly not least my wife for being a wonderful hostess.

July 4th Celebrations.
I had a wonderful July 4th this year. Parades, Party and Fireworks.

I believe I am in the minority of those polled who said that they would not change their plans for the 4th in light of current events and possible threats. Last year I celebrated the 4th on Independence Mall and watched a huge concert and the traditional fireworks over the Art Museum. This year I thought it might be wise to keep clear of the city. Not in retrospect that anything did happen in Philly yesterday and thank goodness for that too.

No, this year in the morning I witnessed a slice of small-town-America celebrating the 4th with innocence, fun and sweetness for the greater part, while I celebrated with my US family around me in the evening as we waited for the firework display in the school behind us to top off the day. The family party was a real blast.

I could not but smile at the children who had decorated their bicycles and wagons in red-white and blue to head up the morning parade behind the mayor, followed by the other groups in town including the emergency services. My nephews told me that they saw the Rescue Heroes in the parade and you know what, I believe them to be right.

Potters Bar Rail Disaster
As a former resident of Potters Bar and a regular commuter from the station into the City of London I am keeping a watching brief on the finger pointing of blame as the early stories of sabotage are totally unfounded which I reported on this site within days of the first allegations being reported. Link here.

Even stretching my imagination beyond creditable limits I could not reconcile the fact that a resident of the town could or would commit such an act of sabotage at the station.

I believe it to be time for the real culprits to step forward and admit they failed in their maintenance of the line.

UK Politics – How the next generation are switched off.
This will be hard to read by many in Westminster. However it is interesting that this is the first time such a study has been completed. All of those polled will qualify to vote at elections and referendums within 4 years.

I wonder if a similar study has been carried out in any other country?

Oliver Cromwell’s sunken treasure fleet may, at last, be raised.
In keeping with occasional nautical stories, it would seem that not all underwater treasure troves are found in tropical warm waters. A project to locate a sunken fleet of up to 60 Cromwellian ships allegedly loaded with a treasure trove estimated at £2bn was launched this week. The story was found through the Independent Newspaper.
For some 350 years the coins and plates many gold and silver have laid undetected, but from records not forgotten, on the bottom of the River Tay near Dundee Scotland.
History tells that Oliver Cromwell's enforcer, General George Monck, ransacked the Port of Dundee in 1651. His attack was but a part of a campaign to smash any remaining royalist support in the areas of Aberdeen, Stirling and Dundee at the end of the 1642-51 civil wars.
Because Dundee a walled city was regarded as the most secure place in Scotland, much of the country's wealthy gentry, including the Viscount of Newburgh and the earls of Tweeddale and Buccleuch, had stored their most prized possessions there.
Yet few of the gentry had anticipated the cunning of General Monck and his determined 7,000-strong Puritan army and the power of the cannon. Monck discovered that the army within Dundee frequently became drunk in the mornings offering an opportunity to attack. In the bloody aftermath up to 5,000 citizens were slaughtered as the victorious troops went on a rampage of rape, pillage and plunder.
But Monck was not so fortunate with the treacherous waters of the River Tay. As Dundee burnt, Monck decided to take his loot to Leith on the first leg of its journey to England. He ordered his men to commandeer more than 60 ships from Dundee's harbour and loaded them with an estimated £2.5m worth of coins, plus tons of valuable trophies including ornamental plates made of precious metals, religious artifacts stolen from churches and monasteries around Scotland.
But as they set sail in September 1651 a storm blew across the Tay estuary. All 60 of the ships sank in heavy seas as, crowded together, they were driven into one of the river's notorious sandbanks. It is not known how many died in the disaster, although Monck survived.
The Firth of Tay is only 40ft deep, but the treasure has remained elusive to generations of hunters because the dangerous waters have foiled previous salvage attempts.
Now a Coventry-based diving firm, Subsea Explorer, is to join scientists from the University of St Andrews and Scottish Natural Heritage in an acoustic survey of the estuary, which could lead to the recovery of the sunken booty. The university and Scottish Natural Heritage are surveying the estuary with a view to designating it a special conservation area, the dive company is "piggy backing" in an attempt to find Monck's loot.
Gary Allsop, the chief executive of Subsea Explorer, whose company has taken part in dives to the wreck of the Titanic, described the hunt as "one of the most exciting and sexiest jobs I've ever undertaken". He added: "It has everything: history, technology and the romance of buried treasure.
"We have the best technology and the best people behind us and I'm confident that if there is sizeable amounts of metal, for example gold and silver bullion down there, we will find it. If so, it will be of major historical and archaeological significance."
Also found in the Independent this week a story that has not been picked up by other regular sources of UK News.

Maggie Thatcher July 2002 - Politics is about persuading people through reason, not by acts of sabotage.
A theatre producer was accused of decapitating a £150,000 statue of Baroness Thatcher at a London art gallery in a protest against global capitalism. Paul Kelleher has been charged with criminal damage after the head became detached from the 8ft, white marble statue at the Guildhall Art Gallery last Wednesday afternoon.
The court was told he had decapitated the statue by attacking it with a cricket bat and a metal pole, which had been supporting a nearby rope cordon.
When invited to enter a plea, Mr Kelleher, from Isleworth, West London, who was representing himself, said: "I'm unable to enter a plea of guilty due to the fact it [the charge] is criminal damage. I'm not a criminal so I will have to enter a plea of not guilty."
John Gilbert, for the prosecution, said that neither the cost nor possibility of repair were yet known. He said: "This was a deliberate act of criminal damage. Mr Kelleher said it was in order to make a political point ... He told the police his intention was for two purposes – one, to test security, two, to damage the statue."
Mr Gilbert said Mr Kelleher had violated the statue to make sure he had his day in court "to highlight his concerns about the future of the world and the future of his two-year-old son. People like Baroness Thatcher were the cause of capitalism and global problems, which meant the world was in danger of suffering irreparable damage," Mr Gilbert said. "He said he would continue to stage such acts until this was remedied, a clear indication that his behaviour will continue."
Mr Kelleher assured the court he would not repeat the action. He said: "The objective of the exercise yesterday was to remove the head of the statue for some of the reasons the prosecution have said. There is absolutely no chance of my reoffending. I realise the press publicity is far greater than I thought it would be. "It does seem a little bit like hounding me. I haven't really hurt anybody, it's just a statue, an idol we seem to be worshipping to a greater extent."
The statue's sculptor, Neil Simmons, 44, said he was "deeply saddened" by the damage. He spent two years searching for the right-sized piece of marble for the 1.8-ton creation. It was completed over eight months and involved several sittings with the Baroness.
Lady Thatcher, who unveiled the statue in May last year, described the incident as an act of sabotage. She said: "I thought it was appalling, but there you are. It's what vandals do. Politics is about persuading people through reason, not by acts of sabotage like that."
The former Tory leader William Hague said: "I think it's a disgrace. I hope it can be put back together or a new one made. It turned out not to be as resilient as the real thing."

Finally, now we are up to date so to speak, I welcome you comments, links etc and thank you for your readership. My traffic counter on this site has doubled since I stopped writing I wonder what will happen now we are very much chiming again.
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Time and Blogging Time waits for no man.

See future entries as to why I have been quiet for the last 3 weeks.

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