August 23, 2002

Last Summer Post.

There are signs that the Pennsylvania summer are starting to come to a close, adverts running on TV show children being tricked into returning to school as part of the Back to School campaigns, but on a more local level, I have noticed the increase of brown leaves on the ground. A sure sign that some heavy duty leaf work is just around the corner.

But for now it is still summer, and it has been a remarkably hot one to date not so much occasional record highs but extended days (weeks) with temperatures exceeding 90F.

Before we all turn into pumpkins for the winter, my wife and I are heading to LBI, NJ for a final week of summer fun on the shore. It is a traditional “holiday” in the British sense as it is a beach break with plenty of fresh seafood, ice cream and sand in everything. It is very easy for both of us to get a little nostalgic on beach breaks, we both have had wonderful holidays/vacations at the coast/shore and it is not really surprising that the things I enjoyed doing as a boy still hold true today.

It takes me a little time to unwind, and for the first couple of days rather than just sit on the beach I like to wander and collect shells. North Beach is a good shell beach and beautiful first thing in the morning. The beaches on the eastern side of LBI are beautiful an extended golden sand bar that runs 20 miles so a long walk on the sand is a highly likely, without the need to negotiate large stones or shale in bare feet. (Ouch!) memories of British beaches at Bognor Regis, Brighton, Canvey Island to name but 3.

For the summer my wife invested in a collection of Jersey Shore Murder Mysteries, they could be complete fluff, but the reviews of the first, Dead Mans Float, on Amazon is really good and I look forward to working out who-dunnit. I personally blame the Ellery Queen TV program (decades ago) for hooking me into murder-mysteries a passion shared by my wife and by my mother-in-law too. By the middle of my week I may be settled enough to relax on the beach and read.

In the late afternoons I plan fly a kite. Somehow there is nothing quite like flying a kite on the beach with a stiff sea breeze. I have happy memories of flying my Dad’s old kite on the beaches of Devon and am looking forward to relaxing with a spool of line in my hand.

For years I have always wanted to take my bike on holiday, explore the little country lanes and breathe in the sea air. I have never been able to do this before, and I have never found myself in a place where I could hire a bike. Of course in recent years the car has been my preferred method of exploration but somehow the kid inside of me would love to be up in the saddle. This is the first occasion I can take a bike to the shore as the car is big enough to take it, if we used the Saturn workhorse I do have a bike rack for the back so on this journey at least getting the bikes to the shore is assured. LBI is as flat as a pancake and I have been clocking up a mile or two early in the mornings to get into practice. I believe the first weekend in September they have a sponsored bike run, 40 miles that is the length of the island – and back again, or a shorter 10 miles. We will not be on the island for this, but it is certainly something to consider for 2003. (The longest sponsored bike ride for Water Aid with my friends James & Heidi Thomas who joined me on a ride around Rutland Water 24 miles across rough terrain and mud paths. Most enjoyable, if not a little sore).

For the rest of the week on LBI , I plan to enjoy the company of my wife and mother-in-law, rest, relax and unwind.

Last night I found myself discussing with my wife that the weather forecast is not as good as the last couple of weeks, another sign that summer is coming to an end. There is an occasional threat of a thunderstorm this weekend followed by a week of cooler but sunny weather. But you know what, it is STILL going to be over 80F each day, sun with a little cloud to prevent my European fair skin from getting fried. Besides, as the family has been telling each other this summer, “If you are lucky enough to be at the shore, you are lucky enough”. I must have acclimatized to the summer weather if this bothers me at all. .
Besides when was the August Bank Holiday Weekend in the UK ever so good?

Trust me I know that I am (very) lucky enough.

(As to the other postings promised earlier this week, they will happen, I am taking my PDA and foldable keyboard to write at the shore house. As there are a couple of fun personal stories I wish to share with you).

Thank you Mom, and until the next posting I’m on my bike.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 22, 2002

Plans to restrict car boot sales are scrapped

Plans to restrict car boot sales and farmers' markets have been abandoned by the Government because of overwhelming public opposition.

I have yet to find a "car boot sale" in the US. Perhaps they exist and I am in the wrong place at the wrong time. A car boot sale in the UK is held in a car-park or field and the better ones attract hundreds of cars and thousands of buyers all out to find the elusive thingumy-whatsit.

Drivers pack their cars up with the type of stuff you would find in a US yard sale to sell. Remembering that european cars are smaller than the US counterparts packing the car has developed into an art form.

There are of course pitfalls to car boot sales, villians have been known to sell stolen goods but the vast majority are ordinary folk who want to make a little cash out of the 1970's junk sitting in the back of the cupboards and might be worth something to someone.

Before my wife and I headed to the US we attended a couple of car boot sales and sold off enough stuff to cover the bulk of our shipping costs to the US. That which could not be sold was either taken directly to the Red Cross Charity store or if it was real junk, the local council tip.

Lord Rooker, the planning minister, announced yesterday there would be no change to temporary planning uses covering the events, which attract hundreds of thousands of Britons every weekend.

Clay pigeon shooting, war games and small-scale motorsports gatherings have also been reprieved from proposals to force their organisers to apply for full planning permission. Ministers ordered research into a possible crackdown two years ago after concerns were raised about the noise and traffic generated by car boot sales and farmers' markets in particular.

At present, temporary activities are allowed to operate up to 28 days a year on any piece of suitable land without planning permission. Markets and motor racing are restricted to a maximum of 14 days in any 12 months.

Motorsport activities, a subject close to my heart, if a club organiser COULD find a venue that was available 14 days of the year it would be a wonder at best. Many motor sport organisers spend countless weeks search and buttering up landowners for use of land for the odd autocross or autotest. In comparison the event organisation is easy.

With strict controls on noise from the cars through the RAC Motor Sports Association, I would fully support a local register held by the council planning departments who may - or may not be keeping a check on this limit. In fairness on only one occassion have I needed to provided the landowner with papers from his local authority that plannnig permission for a one-day autotest was not required.

However I do wonder for North Weald Airfield in Essex, and how that will affect the number of sprint meetings held there.

Among the options set out in a government consultation paper published in January was the removal of all permitted development rights or a new uniform limit of seven days a year for markets, shooting and motor racing.But the plans provoked an outcry from farmers as well as schools and charities, many of whom rely on car boot sales to raise funds or supplement their income.

These weekend activities are part of the tapestry that continues to be forever British, - Westminster leave well alone, allow the people to have the right to persue happiness. Oh yes I forgot different country!
God Bless America.
Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 19, 2002

There are a number of topics that will be blogged in the coming days, as there are some funny personal stories that I want to add.

However, please note on your PDA's MS Outlook or whatever you use to keep track of dates that London Chimes will close down for "maintenance" next week and a normal service of chiming will resume at the start of September.

I thank my readers for their continued support and emails and please keep them coming.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
I received the following email from a former colleague today. I imagine this will be the first of many on this subject of showing solidarity in a simple form.

If you agree with the sentiment, please feel free to copy and paste this to your American based friends and family.

I thank you.

PLEASE forward this email to everyone in your address book asking them to
also forward it.

Please join us on 9/11.....................we have over a month to get the
word out all across this great land we love and call the United States of
America. Let's see how powerful e-mail can be!

On Wednesday, September 11, 2002 everyone in the USA who will be driving a motor vehicle is asked to
drive with their headlights on during daylight hours. Though no explanation is needed as to why we are commemorating
September,11.........................we hope more importantly to pay respect to the victims of that day, show our nation's solidarity and show support for our men and women of the Armed Forces. You can help by sending this e-mail on to others!

Remember......................9/11 LIGHTS ON!

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 17, 2002

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

W.H. Davies

This poem came to mind as I watched the sun set over the bay off Long Beach Island last weekend. For some reason it is one of the few poems I learned at school that I remember with affection.

In these days of immediacy and availability 24/7, it takes but a moment to stand and stare in awe of Mother Nature and the other things we take for granted.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Military Matters:

While we go about our daily business I wanted to share a couple of news pieces and commentary from Australia.

British troops killed in Afghanistan

TWO British soldiers serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan have been killed, an ISAF spokesman said today.

Remember when you read the whole story WHY they are there and what caused them to be placed in harms way in the first place. I find it somewhat saddening to read this news from Australia while I have not seen this reported in the UK.

Next some international commentary:

From: Matt Giles
I am also proud of the men and women who have made their commitment to defend this country, and to stand up for what is right. Each and every one of you has the right to stand tall and be damn proud of what you are doing.

From: Jim Allison, Houston, Texas
Please accept my sincere thanks for the work you are doing to help rid the world of terrorists. We in the US cannot do it alone. You Aussies have always been at the forefront of protecting freedom. As an American - no, as a human being - thank you and God bless and protect you. Having fought in war, I know something of what you are having to endure. You are not alone dear comrades. It's a shame that others in the world aren't as faithful to freedom as are you.

From: Ross
To the brave men (and women?) of the Australian SAS in Afghanistan, please come home safe and well, knowing you and your family will always be appreciated for the sacrifices you make before, during and after your work in a difficult situation.

The final wise words I offer on this today are from George B. Tselentis
As you patrol those parts of the world that are dangerous. As you patrol those areas that are to cold, and too hot. As you eat from a small packet not enough of a meal, but just enough to keep you going. As you see the enemy and do what you must. As you climb, crawl, walk, swim and jump into places very few of us will ever know. Know this: some of us have been there and we honour each of you every day by thinking of your courage and hardships. We know your names and will never forget your sacrifices.
Strength and Honour
George Tselentis, Omaha Nebraska, USA
Sgt. United States Air Force Combat Defence
1965-1970 (Separated)

Through the power of the web messages of support from every nation to every nation can be shared and mutual support written.
This commentary also comes from Australia, 12,000 miles away for many of the readers of this blog.

The expression jaw jaw is better than war war. Tis true, but what we all face is not a conventional war with country against country. The objective is clear, to seize the opportunity to bring down THOSE INDIVIDUALS who seek terror and methods of mass destruction against humanity.

Through the web the people of Iraq are able to communicate their hopes and fears to the world. Never more so than today has it been important for the individual to have a voice and use it to communicate.

I urge you to read the numerous postings on this blog site that provides a platform for the voices of the many, against the tyranny and terror of the few.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Coming soon: the age of the fortysomethings

This is a subject that I have blindly shoved my head into the sand as my 40th Birthday starts to loom just under 6 months away.
Yet it would seem that I am very much Mr. Average if I was still living in Britain.

Britain is on the brink of entering the era of the 40-something. The changing nature of the nation's population will see the average age rise above 40 in about five years for the first time, official figures revealed yesterday

Link to story.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
The Final Voyage of Calypso (?).

Many years ago, shortly after man landed on the moon, my parents decided to upgrade the family TV from black and white to colour. The reason for this move, was the weekly captivation of the 4 of us watching the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. Somehow the underwater reefs don't quite cut it in black white and various shades of grey. I remember the family conversations about getting a colour TV and certainly attribute the move to this program.

In my ongoing quest to find nautical stories for London Chimes, this one popped up on the Independent news site.

The ship Calypso, legendary vessel of Commander Jacques Cousteau, could end up in the place where the late French explorer and film-maker made his name: under the sea.

Calypso, once a British minesweeper, is rusting in the harbour at La Rochelle, in such a terrible state of repair that all plans to restore her have sunk below the waves. "Everything that is not broken is rotten and everything that is not rotten is broken," said Patrick Schnepp, director of the La Rochelle maritime museum, which originally planned to turn the ship into a Cousteau exhibition.

It is a sad ending to such a famous ship, yet perhaps this is the most fitting end to Calypso.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
So which way to you lean, politically speaking.

I have come across this neat little questionaire that measures your responses to 24 questions, each with an agree/disagree and interested/not interested scale - total input 48 dots!

The questions include issues such as police powers, immigration, trade with other countries, taxation and privatization of industries. From the answers given it will indicate your current poilitical leaning towards Conservative, New Labour or Democrat.

The results are presented in an interesting graphical format with text support. Personally my results were as I expected.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 16, 2002

Meanwhile in Westminster, there are all sorts of reports about the cabinet being split over future miltary action.

Perhaps these dip-whatsists would feel a little different if a plane crashed into Big Ben as was planned it would seem.

Perhaps we should all wait for the MP's to find their way back to Westminster to have a proper discussion over tea and Whitehall biscuits. (Now there is a plot for a Python sketch).

These politicians should realise that it they have been elected into offices that mean they have to make hard decisions. Not just take the soft approach.

Since September 11, last year the rules HAVE changed. No longer should we wait around for some dictator or other to throw there military muscle in the gerneral direction of Parliment Square. Not when the "muscle" has the capability to wipe out everything within the borders of the Circle Line and much, much more to boot.

So my message is clear to Mr. Blair. Time to pull out the whips and sort out this spineless bunch of individuals who dont realise the awsome responsibilities they have not just to getting re-elected but to humanity! Meanwhile for goodness sake get our ambassador in Germany to talk to Schroder

Feedback always invited, please email me.
John Cleese Interview

Funny enough, nudge, nudge that one of those geeky questions involved Monty Python, that fellow ex-pat John Cleese has been such a splendid fellow answering questions from the hoy-paloy!

Read it here.
In the US the new bond movie hits the screens with John Cleese taking the role of Q again. Interesting little story in this interview about how the Q scenes were filmed in the past, allowing for indescresions in the filming. Or perhaps Connery, Moore, Dalton and all were so ham fisted there was little left!
Feedback always invited, please email me.
Monk on ABC.

It is a wonderful suprise to find a gem of a TV show in the middle of the summer. USA have produced such an offering an off the wall who-dunnit with a great cast and fine acting.

ABC, reknown for dropping shows like confetti if the ratings don't take after a couple of weeks have seen this gem for what it is worth and have taken up an option to show this PRIMETIME.

This is a good thing, it is great to have been in on a show from the beginning, yes ABC viewers you have missed a great pilot and at least 3 episodes already. That offered a great intro to the cast and ongoing plot line.

It is as wackky as Jonathan Creek, only filmed in San Francisco.


Feedback always invited, please email me.
How big a geek are you?

Like my internet b-i-l I rarely take the endless little on-line tests unless my darling wife asks me to. Regardless this was brought to my attention by me internet b-i-l and well here is the result. It would seem I am 12% geek.

The full lay it on the whatever is as follows!

" OK, so maybe you ain't a geek. You do, at least, show a bit of interest in the world around you. Either that, or you have enough of a sense of humor to pick some of the sillier answers on the test. Regardless, you're probably a pretty nifty, well-rounded person who gets along fine with people and can chat with just about anyone without fear of looking stupid or foolish or overly concerned with minutiae. God, I hate you. "

I hope this is a good thing Mac!

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 14, 2002

Happy Left Handers Day, August 13th.

Typically, left up to the Brits there is a wonderful picture of this event in Leicester Square, London here, but WHERE IS EVERYBODY.

I thank my beltway bro-in-law for bringing this special day to my attention. Yes I am left handed and so are many members of my family on both sides. The best fencers are left handed oh I could go on, but I will leave you with a little joke.

Q: What do you call a failed left-hander?
A: Righthanded!

Comments I am sure are bound to bounce back from this posting.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
To my Dutch readers:

Greetings! I know that there is at least one, thanks to a recent email to my wife I thank you for connecting with the blogging community from the bottom of my heart, purely for fun I thought I would add a brief story relating to your countrymen being reported in the British press.

Given the Dutch newsheadlines this has to be one of the strangest links to a story I have found to date.

Vikings, squaddies and Romans battle it out to bring history alive

Not offensive but certainly an odd link, especially as the "venue" is Northamptonshire in England! Read on.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Prayers and a few sandbags will not be enough.

Prague is on high alert as the swollen river Vltava threatens to break flood barriers and swamp the historic centre of the Czech capital

Full Story and additional links

I was unaware of this story and the effects of heavy rainfall, most unsusual for this time of year in Europe until yesterday. The news footage showed very few truck depositing single loads of sand for the locals to make their own sandbags. It seemed a pathetic image considering the might of mother nature bearing down on the City.

One shop owner had but a small handful of sandbags to secure is shop doorway and fully expected the river to burst its banks and swamp the front of his store to at least waist height.

Last night many in Prague expected the worst, many were evacuated in the middle of the night, yet the real problem is not the rain in the immediate area, but the volume of water upstream that continues to pose a very serious threat to the City.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen - Part 1.

It would seem that my fellow Brits are setting out to be the third country to put a Englishman in space, through private enterprise no less.

No doubt the soaring cost of fuel has some bearing on these "chaps" using a balloon instead.
But seriously this is a conserted effort using a balloon bigger than the Empire State Building. Tests are taking place off the coast of Dorset soon and I will continue to keep a watchful eye on this somewhat eccentric record attempt.

Good luck to them I say.
Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 12, 2002

Lost Weekends.

It must be the summer, the heat or any one of a number of excuses why the quantity and I confess the quality of my blogging has dipped recently.

Last weekend my wife & I packed our bags and headed for to the Jersey shore. With no computer to access, no news web pages to review my priorities involved my family, building sandcastles, warm waves and warmer weather.

Although I had access to cable TV, I simply zoned out recalling but 2 news stories all weekend, a fire on the Boardwalk at Ocean City and a motor racing accident involving Jason Priestly (actor in the TV program 90210), and these only noticed purely in passing the TV set in my short walk from the porch to the fridge to top up my ice cold drink.

The only print I started to read was a Jersey shore murder mystery novel that has succeeded in the first death threat before Chapter 3.

This weekend certainly was one of the best this year for both of us and despite holding out to the end of the day before traveling home in the twilight, we did not want to head back home.

The shore is a two-hour drive from our home and offers one of the best beaches, with exception of the USVI, I have had the pleasure of putting my feet onto. Looking back to the beaches that my parents would take us to on holiday in the UK and the subsequent environmental stories around the coast of Britain, you would think twice before swimming in waters for fear of who-knows-what. Long Beach Island at the Jersey shore offers almost 20 miles of sandy beach without rocks, stones or shale that I remember from Hastings, Canvey Island, Brighton and Bognor Regis. All I needed was a good old fish and chip shop so I could munch on my chips sitting on the sand in the evening to make my perfect shore trip complete.

I believe that my brother in law Chris would agree this weekend was a real 2636.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 08, 2002

Her Majesty Government (HMG) Dads and Sons Campaign.

A current topic offering multiple perspectives including a social affairs journalist, an industry representative and a teenage boy.

This ongoing story reported in the British press has been reviewed in the last day, again I thank Iain for bringing this to my attention through his most excellent blog.

The British Government are rolling out a pilot program to get Dads more involved with their sons, specifically those in the 11-14 age bracket as this is the group most likely to under-achieve at school in English and mathematics.

This program is also in response to an increase in Mums returning to work, to support the income to the families and the effect this has had on male parents regarding their share of parental responsibilities. Perhaps if the government made it easier for Mums to stay-at-home to raise children this program would not be necessary.

We all have a Dad, I have a great Dad who was my role model growing up he helped teach me the difference between right and wrong to fish, ride a bike and countless other things and he did a fantastic job. Between balancing his responsibilities of breadwinner and supporting my Mum who was in ill-health. My Dad did not need a booklet from the Government to tell him how to help my brother or myself because my parents both put us first and for that I will always be thankful.

HMG have a magazine and a web site program that has cost the taxpayer change from half a millon pounds.
I have found three separate arguments to this ongoing story starting with Sarah Womack the Social Affairs Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. (Full report)

Here are some of her main comments with mine appended:
“In a section advising men how to help sons with homework, it says: "Make sure he's got somewhere comfortable to work away from the TV." This statement makes plenty of common sense, my parents had put a desk in my room away from the distractions of a TV certainly not allowed in bedrooms, music systems, or the hubbub in the rest of the house.

“The leaflet envisages some strained, if not strange, conversations between father and son. Men are advised to take their sons to the cinema and ask them the following: "If a film is estimated to make £10 million at the box office, and the distributor takes 40 per cent, how much will that be?"Why would this be strange, or strained? We are all learning all the time, not just between 11-14, but the opportunity to learn a little mental arithmetic which the schools I am sure gloss over these days is a good thing. This is nothing less than a practical example out of the schoolroom to learn some simple maths without the use of a calculator.

“The leaflet also suggests father and son go and see the film The Time Machine, based on the H G Wells novel, and work together on an alternative design to the machine that travels backward and forward through time. "What would it look like? Where would the scientist sit? How would it work?," it says”.What is wrong with this, it simply feeds the imagaination. However what would be more important here as the program is working in English as well as Maths is for the father and son to head off to the bookstore to by a copy of the original book. The observation here is that they are thinking about engineering.

“Another exercise involves taking a boy to a sports club or shop and getting him to think how he might run it. First get him to estimate how many square metres of floor and wall space he'd have. How much space would he have for shirts? And trainers? And a changing room? Would he move stock around or ditch some lines and bring in new ones?"Computer games like the Sims already get teenagers putting together stores. This takes the imaginary task one stage further, thinking about the economics of running a business and the mathematics of calculating area. Although I doubt Dad would get out a ruler to measure the shop up without getting strange looks from the manager.

“There is no respite for boys watching sport on television. As father and son settle on the sofa to watch cricket, the leaflet says: "Don't just talk about the game between overs." Instead, fathers should tell their sons to "write a short [sports] report. It doesn't need to be more than 150 words. Show him how they're written up in the sports pages and get him to follow the same style: headline, result, byline (his name), report - with a good play on words for the headline."Why not take this one stage further, give the son a blog and let him not only write but publish to the world!

“The leaflet includes a "problem page". The question "Is it alright to take my son out of school for a holiday during term time?" elicits the response: "It's not really recommended." A moment while I pause for a deep breath. OK, if the school breaks were taken with a longer summer break and shorter breaks the rest of the year, the parents would not be forced to plan their holidays in a brief 6 week period. Companies would not feel the squeeze in that period with their workforce wanting time off because of the school holidays and the travel companies bless them would have a longer peak period to overcharge everyone. Who knows the weather may also be better.

The comment from HMG Minister Stephen Twigg, Minister for Young People
He denied that the latest effort was evidence of the "nanny state gone mad". He said fathers had responded positively to the Government's campaign to get them more involved in their sons' education. Dads often have a unique bond with their sons, and can make a real difference to what they achieve at school. . Almost two thirds of dads say that work commitments are a barrier to them spending time with their children, and so I am delighted that Comet are embracing the ‘give an hour’ scheme. A lot of it is about having a role model." The Government's initiative also involved encouraging companies to give fathers a paid hour off work, he said. “Any initiative that helps dads develop a good relationship with their sons deserves support," he added. “Dads often have a unique bond with their sons, and can make a real difference to what they achieve at school research shows that three quarters of dads want to be more involved in their sons’ learning, we need to harness this enthusiasm in order to raise the confidence and achievement levels of secondary school-age boys.” Deep breath again, AN HOUR! How on earth to HMG believe one hour is going to make a difference? I think not.

The Independent Think Tank Comment, Rebecca O'Neill, of Civitas:
The Government's leaflet was "going to be wasted on good fathers and lost on bad ones. Most fathers do a great job. Also, daughters need fathers as much as sons do, and what about them? There has been research showing that the most successful women in the workplace have had close relationships with their fathers."Agreed, lets here it for the DAUGHTERS too, surely there is a case for sex discriminiation here, what about DADS and DAUGHTERS, or MUMS and SONS as mothers work too Mr. Blair. Aren’t we also forgetting MUMS and DAUGHTERS???

The Employer comment participating in the pilot study, Comet a British version of Best Buy:
This September Comet whose workforce is 69% male will be offering employee fathers one paid hour off work to spend pursuing educational activities with their 11-14 year old sons, declares Rob Cissell, Managing Director. He added “The Dads & Sons ‘Give an Hour’ scheme is a fantastic opportunity for Comet to proactively support our employees in their role as parents, and as a dad of a young son myself, I can certainly recognise the huge benefit in us spending time together. Any initiative that helps dads develop a good relationship with their sons deserves huge support – hence Comet’s involvement with this great scheme.”
ONE HOUR! Paid! Oh what a bonus! And of course it is great publicity for his company.

I encourage you to review the HMG web page for this and let me know your comments.

Finally and probably the most important view here is from Archie Utley, aged 15. (Outside the 11-14 range but still interesting to note).
If my dad took me to a sports shop and started asking me about square metres of floor and wall space, I'd think he'd gone mad. I certainly wouldn't want to go out with him again. I wouldn't want to do anything suggested in the leaflet with my dad, and he'd hate the leaflet anyway. He would think it was a lot of effort and useless. I just don't think it's relevant. We have a good relationship because he doesn't put any pressure on me and lets me be myself. He never interferes. I don't mind dad spending a lot of time at work because it allows me to do my own thing. And I am glad that he doesn't try to be cool. He's just ordinary and that is what I like. I'm grateful to him and all that, but we like different things and I want to do things with my school friends. If I had any problems with my homework, I would just ask my older brother. He's around more and he's done the schoolwork more recently than dad. One of my favourite bands is Red Hot Chilli Peppers. My dad would just think that was a cooking ingredient. But the point is that he doesn't like the things I do. The last film we saw together for example was Jurassic Park when I was 10. I'd rather go the cinema with my friends. We would never go to see The Time Machine, but if we did and he started asking me how I would devise a time machine, I would probably just get annoyed. I would get cross about all his questions about where the scientist would sit, how it would work and what it would look like. It would sound to me like a conversation you would have with a six-year-old. When we do talk, we do it over dinner and he asks me things like what I have done during the day. Sometimes he has written about me in the newspaper and I don't really mind except for once when he said I liked ironing. I had said I would do the ironing if I got paid for it (I needed the money) but in the paper it came across as if I just liked ironing and it was really embarrassing. I don't regret he doesn't have more time off work because if he did we would probably just spend the day doing different things. He'd do a crossword and I would play on the computer or just go out. I wouldn't write up a sports report. It's not going to benefit me that much and I just think it's a waste of time. One of the better things about being my age is that dads like mine don't look over your shoulder all the time.

I look forward to your comments.
Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 07, 2002


or perhaps this should be titled, EQUALITY AND PROGRESS.

The question of men behaving correctly (in the UK at least) has come under the spotlight in a study from Lloyds TSB Private Banking Heritage Report.The press release issued by the Future Foundation a think-tank in the UK who carried the study on Lloyds behalf has produced some interesting findings. However I do wonder who was surveyed to answer these questions. Could they have been Lloyds Private Banking customers, those who receive a prefferential service to the regular checking customers who I imagine equate to the vast majority of Lloyds customers.

Perhaps this is where the more bizzare bank changes get syphoned too for liberal studies such as this. Neverthless, in fairness and balance(?!?) and as an English gentleman I offer a summary of this press release for your comments.

A man holding open a door for a woman is likely to receive a smile and a thank you, but trying to pay for dinner could just as easily earn him a slap as a goodnight kiss. While men and women are more or less agreed about the custom of holding open doors for women (95 per cent of men and 91 per cent of women), only half the number of women compared to men would be happy with a chap picking up the tab for a dinner à deux (22 per cent of women vs 40 per cent of men).

The bad news for men is that in the post-feminist age, there is simply no 'right' way to behave. According to the research, while most of us are pleased by a relaxing of formality and labelling, we still hanker for what we regard as 'the golden days' when everyone had good manners, boys could be boys and girls could be girls.
Melanie Howard from The Future Foundation said: "It's practically impossible for men to get it right. Although on the surface the figures for holding open doors for women seem pretty non-contentious, it still means that every tenth woman a man steps aside for is probably going to take offence, which is a pretty daunting thought."

According to The Heritage Report: Part 2 Etiquette & Manners, the lines of demarcation used to be much clearer. One retrospective from a 70-year-old man, said: "It was…common to greet one's girlfriend with a handshake, and kissing in public was not quite the thing to do." Not only are the overall boundaries of society changing, but since the war, the balance of power between men and women has also changed considerably.

Other findings of the report, which demonstrate an overall yearning for a return to the genteel traditions of the past are:

* The youngest and oldest survey respondents were most likely to think men should pay for a meal with a woman: 39 per cent of 18-24 year olds and 42 per cent of those 65+ agreed, compared to only 20 per cent of 25-34 year olds.

*The vast majority of us (80 per cent) would like to see the custom of greeting strangers in the street reinstated as the norm.

*Nearly two fifths of us are enamoured by the idea of visitor calling cards and guest books (41 per cent)

*Well over half (65 per cent) think that formal social introductions should be de rigueur

*Over a fifth of us (21 per cent) would like to see the National Anthem played at the start of films and plays!
Lloyds TSB Private Banking says that research amongst its clients shows that a number of them seem to reflect what are in actual fact the nation's attitudes as a whole.

One client insists on a sherry before she will even think about finance and another insists on being addressed by his title when discussing his investments but his christian name when he sees his private banking executive socially.

I would be really interested to read you comments and views on this subject from both sides of the Atlantic.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
The Monitor

Thanks to my beltway brother in law for bringing to my attention the current efforts to retrieve the turret of the Monitor. Another in a series of underwater darring-doos!
Feedback always invited, please email me.
Luton Hoo Estate, Bedfordshire.

Some twelve years ago I lived for two years in the Round Green area of Luton in Bedfordshire. Sited beneath the landing path to the International Airport, and nestled between the B158 Wheathampsted Road, and the St. Albans Road is the grand estate of Luton Hoo.

Luton Hoo was not so long ago, without any doubt in my mind the jewel attached to the southern side of the carbuncle known as Luton that was surrounded by some precious English villages to the north like Chalton and Toddington. Before I start receiving email from Lutonians reminding me how wonderful the town is, as a former resident I am deeply saddened at the news of the thousands of jobs from the closure of the Vauxhall plants. This must have had a magnified effect on the town similar to Aerospace leaving Hatfield in Hertfordshire not to many years ago. I did enjoy my brief time in the town but I was glad to move on to better things.

Luton Hoo remains a Grade I-listed building, including state and reception rooms on 3 floors including a 140 ft former library and private chapel. Luton Hoo is surrounded by a thousand gently rolling acres of Bedfordshire parkland with a 50-acre lake fed by the River Lea landscaped by the famous Capability Brown. The estate also includes a Grade 2 listed stable block, a beautiful entrance lodge formal gardens and picturesque carriage drives, the three of which I had the pleasure of navigating through in a 1930’s Austin Ulster on the Norwich Union Classic Rally many years ago which started outside the house. Yet that is another story for another time.

When I lived in the area Luton Hoo was in private ownership but “operated” by the National Trust, the house was renown for the collection of Faberge Eggs among many other art treasures. The grounds frequently played host to the annual craft fair and car shows of one sort of another in the summer months. As I recall Luton Hoo was also the hosting venue to the British BBC program Antiques Roadshow on many occasions and frequently was used by film companies including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Never Say Never Again. For reasons I cannot clearly recall, the house was closed to the public and sold off to the Elite Hotel Company who turned the house into an exclusive hotel and function establishment.

Yesterday the Independent News reported that business tycoon and property magnate Peter DeSavary has plans to turn Luton Hoo into Bedfordshire’s equivalent of Skibo Castle in the Scottish Highlands. Skibo Castle is an exclusive retreat patronized by celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas and Sean Connery, and was the venue for the recent wedding of Madonna and Guy Ritchie.

I was not aware that Luton Hoo was for sale by Elite Hotels, who purchased the estate for a reported ten million pounds. Ironically at the time I did enter into discussions with Elite regarding “opportunities” at the new hotel. Only to be told that it would take some considerable time to bring the house up to specification before recruiting specialist staff, so I looked elsewhere. Interesting to note that had something developed it would have been a short term engagement and I would not be in America!

Whether or not this move to celebrity-listed status will help the local economy I have full reason to doubt. Sadly I believe it will be a classic case of the rich getting richer while the locals will be left with crumbs in the gutter.

Sadly the report of listed estates in the Hertfordshire / Bedfordshire borders is not alone. Some while ago Brocket Hall, another country house, a short distance down the B158 towards Lemsford and Welwyn Garden City fell from grace when Lord Brocket found himself in a financial pickle and iniated an insurance fraud on his prized collection of Ferrari’s. Lord Brocket was found out, sentenced to Her Majesty’s pleasure, lost the estate - and everything else to boot. Which in turn has been sold to corporate business to run as a golf course and conference center. Shame, as Lord Brocket I am sure would have loved to have run a hill climb on his grounds, similar to the Earl of March Goodwood Festival of Speed. Another story for another time.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 05, 2002

Short and sweet entry today, as my attention is turned to other matters. The BBC have brought to my attention yet another nautical tale of dareing-do against one of Britains formers enemies. In this instance the US.

"The tale of a humiliating defeat for the British Navy in 1779 has been resurrected this week, with the UK securing rights to guard the wreck of its old US adversity. Emergency action has been taken to protect the wreck of what is thought to be the sunken American warship the Bonhomme Richard - which lies beneath the sea off the coast of Yorkshire"

This summer seems to have a wealth of treasure ships and old nautical stories that have surfaced in the mainstream media.

I will investigate this story further and report back.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 02, 2002

WHAT !!!! the Tetley Tea Folk fired.

One of the downfalls to being an ex-pat is that it is easy to think that institutions in blighty carries on as before and it comes as a great jolt to reality to read that not only have PG tips have ditched the Chimps in their TV advertising BUT horror among horrors it would seem that the Tetley Tea folk were axed at the start of this year from the British screens.

Well the british tea drinkers voted with their lips and Tetleys sales plummetted by 14% (thats telling those boardroom boys).

Such institutions should not be medled with especially if they have worked a magical profit for 28 years! For those ex-pat brits reading this, I am informed that the famous "Tetley makes tea bags makes tea" slogan has been replaced with a campaign using the "You are the champions and this is your cup" slogan and only cost fifteen million pounds to come up with. That is one too many rich tea biscuits stuck in the back of the throat for these execs to swallow.

PG tips on the other hand have employed the services of Ardman Animations, (of Wallace and Gromit fame) and in comparison their sales increased 35% over the same period.

Thanks again to the tabloid print International Express for bringing this most serious of stories to the ex-pat community attention.
Feedback always invited, please email me.
Speeding ticket given to 18mph engineering wonder.

I am certain in its day the Scammel Mechanical Horse was the three wheeled wonder of the commerical world, driving around the highways and byways of Britain.

So you can imagine the suprise of the current owners of this prized Scammel at a railway museum in West Yorkshire home of the station used in the Railway Children film were taken aback on receiving a speeding ticket. (Link here for Keithley & Worth Valley Railway)

As not only was the 1948 mechanical horse incapable of reaching the dizzy speeds of 44mph in a 30mph zone, but it was literally in pieces at the museum.

Following much correspondence over the speeding fine eventually the case was dropped after the police realized the registration number belonged to a Belgian tourist and shared the same number of the Scammel which was the only reference in the police computers.

Police say the case has now been dropped, which is very luck for the Belgian driver!

Thanks to the International Express newspaper for bringing this story to my attention. Ah yes on-line news is great and up to the minute but there is nothing better sometimes than a tabloid story from tomorrows fish & chip paper. Now theres are thought fish and chips... ah well!

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 01, 2002

Very few things really get under my fingernails and bug me something rotten.

Yesterday, one such instance occurred, I had misplaced some keys. Not important keys like the car and front door. No that would have got me into a blind panic.

I was specifically looking for one key, the key to my bike lock. Our bikes will be taken to the shore before the summer is out and what started as a simple task of repairing a puncture turned into something other than a 5-minute job.

The tubes of repair glue puncture repair kits that I had owned since I was a boy had transformed either to a fine white powder or to gas resulting in a quick visit to the nearby bike store, but that was not the thing that really bugged me.

Before I moved to the US on my key rack in my old kitchen were a couple of odd key rings with odder keys, many for lock long since removed or inaccessible to me.

During my move to the US I had a collection of small padlock keys for an assortment of luggage locks held together on one of those large paper clips.

The more I searched for this bike lock key the more padlocks I came across without keys, including one security padlock that I had originally used for a lock up in the US. Could I find the keys for this? No.

I pulled the house inside out, twice this evening in search of the large paper clip and the keys to all my little padlocks secured on the luggage in my closet.

The longer I searched the more frustrated and annoyed I became. I believed that I had put them in a safe place so they would not get lost. So safe I have no idea 18 months down the pike since the last time I used them.

After at least three hours of pulling the house inside out, looking in every drawer, nook and cranny imaginable I gave up.looking for the keys.

My wife thought we might have a hoagie tonight, in searching for the menu I actually found the security lock keys under a pile of papers where the menu last was seen but has now been declared lost!

I am not a disorganized person, at least I do not believe that I am and the fact I have several missing keys somewhere in the house continues to bug me no end. In my search I did find some other keys, including a Hotel Key and two keys to the window locks of my old apartment.

Taking off onto a related tangent I invite you to watch an unorthodox detective series on the USA channel. “Monk”, is a jewel of a show that does not insult the viewer allowing you to solve the whodunit through a series of clever clues. Perhaps Monk can find my keys, watch the show and you will know what I mean. The pilot was very clever and the subsequent episodes still make for fun viewing.

Just finished reading.

Star Trek Enterprise The First Adventure written by Vonda N. McIntyre

Thanks to in general the rubbish television offered in the summer months (with few exceptions, I really ought to calcluate the number of hours a week I watch in the summer months) and the longer evenings I have finished reading this entertaining book this week lent to me by my mother-in-law and fellow trekkie.

The plot follows the adventures of the very first journey the Enterprise took under the command of James Kirk before the start of the five year mission. Kirk brought with him Bones and had a different first officer lined up for the Enterprise. Spock, Scotty and Uhura were all officers under the command of the previous captain, Sulu had his orders changed to report to the Enterprise and really did not want to be there. This was not a great start to one of the most cohesive teams in Sci-Fi history. Add in a first contact, a brush with the Klingons and an interstellar vaudeville group with a flying horse on board the Enterprise and you have the recipe for an interesting adventure.

The book very nicely answers other questions that are answered in both the series and the subsequent films.

I would recommend this book as a beach read this summer.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?