November 30, 2002

Black Friday

Until I met my wife I had little idea what Black Friday was. Given a simple search on Google, you would think it was the day the stock market crashed, gold fell through the floor and the Stuart Clan were to embark on a clash with a rival clan.

All are correct, but the Black Friday to which I refer is the day after Thanksgiving, when the hoards of American bargain hunters head off to the malls and outlet centers in search of that bargin of a gift for Aunt Flossie and a steal of a price on practically every gift to be bought on your present list.

Philly.com asked the following question of its readers. So, you think Black Friday - the traditional launch day of the Christmas shopping season - is all about shopping and nothing else?


It's the thrill, if you're one of the 100 or so hearty souls who shivered outside the Franklin Mills mall in Northeast Philadelphia before 5 o'clock yesterday morning - when Friday was pitch black - waiting to sprint for the KB Toys Superstore, one of the first mall retailers to open.

"It's a high. It's exciting," said Reenie Boyle of Pine Valley, N.J., one of the first early birds through the doors. "I do this every year for bargains, for the rush of it, and because it gets you halfway done with shopping for Christmas" in one hectic day.

I have yet to experience Black Friday at Franklin Mills, Willow Grove or Plymouth Meeting Mall. Frankly, I am not certain I actually want to. With the convenience of internet shopping the annual assault in the West End of London, more commonly known as the first day of the January Sales (usually December 27), is close to the scrummage of Black Friday.

In our home Black Friday has turned into the day the outside of the house is decorate with lights, white, colors and icicles, candy canes, for those who know me yes the 3 foot candy canes are all outside again this year despite the joking from last. The only reason this last friday would be black is if the lights would not work. In which case our Black Friday was very illuminating.

In my search of Black Friday sites I came across the following short work of fiction,

As the day progressed more people jammed their way into the overflowing mall.

"Excuse me...... Pardon me...... Excuse me....."

"Stop it Daniel. You can't apologize to every person in the mall. In this mass of people you can't keep from knocking in to a few.." Jack berated Daniel as they slowly made their way, glancing into the store windows as they went.

"Sorry, Jack." Daniel turned to look at Jack and walked straight into the woman in front of him. "Oh, excuse me, ma'am."

The full story, and it is just that a story.

Enjoy your countdown to the holiday season!

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Have you migrated?

The expat-express ring was established on November 27 2002, with the intent to bring together people who have migrated from their country of origin (permanently, or temporarily), and who now maintain a journal, diary, weblog, log, photolog, or blog.

I believe that those of us who've changed our environment so drastically tend to have unique perspective on things. We've given our minds and hearts some space and objectivity with which to consider where we started from, where we're going, and where we are now. It seems to me that we must therefore have some common ground, so I considered, Why not create a venue in which to share our experiences on a personal level--through our journals, diaries, blogs: whatever you want to call them!

Links to this can be found on the left hand side of this web page.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 26, 2002

A personal view of an American Thanksgiving.

Today President George W. Bush issued the traditional pardon of a turkey Tuesday in a Rose Garden annual tradition.

"And now as we look to our national day of Thanksgiving I have the honor to carry out an important presidential tradition. The bird's name is Katie ... It's a fine-looking turkey," Bush said of the all-white bird who hid behind the display table for most of the event.

Thanksgiving this Thursday for the Friend family living stateside will possibly be white with snow given the predicted weather forecasts. As is becoming a tradition, we will attend the Thanksgiving service in the field house in Bryn Athyn, as the Cathedral is not large enough to accommodate the local residents for whom this service is as traditional as the turkey.

My wife Taney asked me today about my thoughts on this most traditional of holidays in the States. This will be my sixth thanksgiving, having celebrated the holiday in Boston, England, the US Virgin Islands and Pennsylvania. I have given this much thought and researching the subject a little deeper have the following comments in reply.

Much is documented about the first Thanksgiving by the Pilgrims but as a national holiday it has evolved yet fundamentally remains in essence a celebration of thanks. The contemporary history is just as interesting as the celebrations of the Pilgrims thanksgivings.

Regardless of one individual religious belief this is one of two holidays, the other being July 4th where everyone living from “sea to shining sea” celebrates as one unified nation. For many, thanksgiving is an opportunity to gather with friends and family to dine with the culinary delights presented to the family thanksgiving table, and bow our heads to give thanks.

Leaving the well documented "First Thanksgiving" many years behind it is most interesting to see how this holiday has developed into that which is celebrated at the start of the twenty-first century.

The establishment of the day we now celebrate nationwide was largely the result of the diligent efforts of magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale started her one-woman crusade for a Thanksgiving celebration in 1827, while she was editor of the extremely popular Boston Ladies’ Magazine. Her hortatory editorials argued for the observance of a national Thanksgiving holiday, and she encouraged the public to write to their local politicians to secure such a national holiday.

In addition to her magazine outlet, over a period of almost four decades she wrote hundreds of letters to governors, ministers, newspaper editors, and each incumbent President. She always made the same request: that the last Thursday in November be set aside to "offer to God our tribute of joy and gratitude for the blessings of the year."

Finally, with the agreement of President Abraham Lincoln, national events converged to make Mrs. Hale’s request a reality.

By 1863, the Civil War had bitterly divided the nation into two armed camps. Mrs. Hale’s final editorial, highly emotional and unflinchingly patriotic, appeared in September of that year, just weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, in which hundreds of Union and Confederate soldiers lost their lives. In spite of the staggering toll of dead, Gettysburg was an important victory for the North, and a general feeling of elation, together with the clamor produced by Mrs. Hale’s widely circulated editorial, prompted President Lincoln to issue a proclamation on October 3, 1863, setting aside the last Thursday in November as a national Thanksgiving Day.

Since then, there has been one controversial tampering with that tradition. In 1939, before the American inclusion into World War Two, President Franklin D. Roosevelt shifted Thanksgiving back one week, to the third Thursday in November because store merchants requested an increase in the number of shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.This pleased the merchants but just about no one else. Vehement protests were staged throughout the country. Millions of Americans, in defiance of the presidential proclamation, continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November-and they took the day off from work. Protests grew even louder the following year. Not wanting to go down in history as the "Grinch" who stole Thanksgiving, in the spring of 1941 Roosevelt publicly admitted he had made an error in judgment and returned the holiday to the last Thursday in November.

There are reported stories of servicemen posted overseas sharing their thanksgiving meals with the children of the surrounding towns and villages they were posted near. In many instances this was the first “real meal” of meat that the servicemen had been offered in months. Yet, remaining to the core meaning of thanksgiving the servicemen offered to share what they had with those less fortunate.

Thanksgiving remains an ideal, a day to offer a moment of though, of thanks, of charity, one not sullied by the trappings of commercialism. There are no trees, no gifts, no bows, lights or decorations. Simply food, although there is nothing simple about the food that is prepared or indeed the preparation of the food is not so simple a process.Thanksgiving remains one occasion where the cooks in the household would go above and beyond to produce the dishes that are forever linked to Thanksgiving, shared by family and friends.

Norman Rockwell the famous American artist depicted in his Freedom series, Freedom from Want. Portraying an American family thanksgiving. While some may argue at the time this was not an accurate image, many more would support this as a quitencential image of the festivities.

For many, Thanksgiving Day also means parades. Historically the first parade was documented in New York, where children would dress up and parade in the streets. Over the years the parades have developed and remain an integral part of the festivities. None more so than the traditional Macy’s Day parade from New York today. From an outsider’s viewpoint, this is a traditional way to open the doors to the run up to the Christmas holiday season.

In Regents Street, London the switching on of the Christmas lights may traditional mark the start of the never ceasing ringing of tills in Oxford Street and the West End, American readers may be interested to know that "seasons greetings" are suspended from store ceilings once the children return to school in September. Not even Halloween, not least Guy Fawkes, offers some respite.

The "Thanksgiving Day (American) Football Game" for many is just as important. Following the depression, with many working a six day week, and the concept of leisure time and a weekend, some years off, with a whole day to relax, and football being the national game, the visit to the pitch to root for the home team, listen to the commentary of the big game on the radio or the men of the family gathering around the television while the women prepared the thanksgiving meal, may today seem very unpolitically correct, is nevertheless part of the psyche of the celebration.

With the building blocks of the fundemental Thanksgiving celebrations established for over a century, returning to 2002, this year, I will gather around the family dinner table with my wife, in-laws and invited family friends, eating turkey, candied yams, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. We plan to video tape the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade this year, as I have always missed this most nostalgic of parades. One that has captured my imagination from the very first time I watched the Christmas film, Miracle on 34th Street, which incidentally was not released in the run up to Christmas.

Thanksgiving remains as much a time for giving to other less fortunate than us. America will open its hearts and homes more than ever. Through positive contribution by donating food and time, many people are also volunteering at homeless shelters and community centers. Such is the spirit of giving, that some shelters have created waiting lists for volunteers.

With American servicemen fighting in foreign lands wing tip to wing tip with the pilots of the Royal Air Force, living in a nation during a period of uncertainty, traditions like Thanksgiving remains as solid as rock and act as a beacon of hope, reminding each and every one of us what truly is important to us.

The traditional image of Thanksgiving, is that of a table of food, yet let us not forget it that the food is about much more than nourishment. It is a kind of celebration of the fact that we live in America, a county of plenty, and we're with our families and can enjoy this plenty together.

I am certain that my family here in the US will get a "kick" out of a piece of copy from Fox News this week that the only place traditionally families are always together is around the table. It's a very communal act.

Being serious, this year, I will pray that I am thankful for a great many things in the last year. I will be thankful for being invited to a family thanksgiving meal, and thankful that I live in a country where freedom of self expression, allows me to write my thoughts and feelings like London Chimes with the hindrance of government, religion and military rule.

I will openly admit, as will many Brit's who have travelled to America of not understanding at first the concept of Thanksgiving. It seemed to be a dress-rehersal for Christmas Dinner one month early. It may have taken a little time, I think I have a measure of the holiday, its true meaning and what it mean to me. This all said and done, I will raise a glass to one and all on Thursday and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Niki Lauda has been dismissed as team principal of the Jaguar Formula One team.

For a story that would normally be on Wheeltracks, this one somehow grates in the back of my throat.
Few drivers have progressed into motorsport management with a high degree of success. Jackie Stewart did as has Niki Lauda.

Yet only months after taking the position of principal Ford, owners of Jaguar have transferred him to a special advisor. They have replaced both their 2002 drivers for the new season with lesser experienced drivers although I predict that Mark Webber the Australian has a talented career ahead of him.

Nevertherless, I am troubled by the roughshod way that the team is being managed by faceless executives. From the outside, either the sum of all these changes is inherrent with a serious problem - or the executives pulling the strings

a) Do not fully understand the workings of a F1 team
b) Are simply looking at the cost against benefits, in this case exposure and F1 championship points.
c) Expect to win races with a realtively new team "out of the box".

By downgrading the management and drivers will this improve the current situation? I doubt this very much. I expect it will balance the budget and in a sport that is purely business and sadly no longer a sport the bottom line is very much behind these changes.

In the last couple of weeks, Niki Lauda had to release his two 2002 drivers including the talented Eddie Irvine. From the sidelines, it looks as if this is what the "owners" wanted from Niki Lauda and little else.

Shame on you Ford, shame, shame, shame.

The team you were developing was a winning package. You don't throw the baby out with the bath water using a flimsy excuse as "The most important thing (in Formula One) is technical depth and Niki Lauda, for whom I have enormous respect, does not have it."

Niki Lauda has been treated with the utmost disrespect by Ford over this matter. While an offer exists for him to remain as a special advisor, I would consider this offer very carefully indeed.

Andrew Masters

Andrew Masters, 29, left a blustery Brighton last December to take up a job in the south Pacific. In the first of a new series featuring ex-patriate readers of BBC News Online, Andrew tells of his new life.

I've developed a bit of a twang from hanging around with all the Australians. I can no longer say "water" properly, it comes out like "warder" and I've picked up "fair dinkum" and all that nonsense. I'm also learning a bit of Pidgin, such as "em nau" for "that's right".

It is interesting to read ex-pat stories, this one on the Beeb is a fun story that in some ways I can relate to.
Water, wader, waader!!!


Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 23, 2002

Weekend Posting

With my attention turned to other personal matters this week, LC has been put on a back burner to a degree.

This month I have been invited to three weddings. Today my cousin Brent will be getting married on Vancouver Island to his fiancee Farrah. Both my wife and I wish them health and happiness as they start their new lives together as man and wife.

The wedding of Brett and Erin I attended last weekend, the minster described marrige as the best of lifes adventures.I thought that this was a wonderful way of describing how the love of two people grow and develops over a life time.

It is with the deepest regret that I cannot be in Canada for my cousins wedding today.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 20, 2002

Pathe Gazette Newsreels

I was pleased to read through Robert Hanks of The Independent, that yesterday Pathe launched a web service that allows you to trawl through and buy films from the archives.

Even the introduction to the web page is, nostalgic and as this is about as British as you get, I had no excuse not to blog this.

For 50 years Pathe was the window on the world for cinema going Brits who could see rather than listen to the news of the day. While Pathe was overtaken by television news, the newsreels exist providing a wonderful window on history.

As Mr. Hanks quiet well described it:
In the 21st century, it's hard to see how the Pathe website (britishpathe.com), launched yesterday by Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, can fail. We seem to live in an amnesiac age, when the collective memory stretches back no more than a few years, even a few months. Why, last year, BBC2 broadcast a programme looking back fondly at the fads and fashions of 1999.

Perhaps precisely because of a sense that the past is receding ever faster, the collective thirst for history has never been stronger: history books of one kind or another dominate the non-fiction best-seller lists, and TV documentaries about pharaohs and Tudor monarchs are guaranteed ratings-pullers.

At the end of the twentieth century, with the endless Millennium programs, too many centered on the last 100 rather than 1000 years (personal beef), when history recalls historic events of the first half of the 20th century, it is more than likely a Pathe newsreel that you have seen over the year stuck in your subconscious.

With the internet as a new medium and an injection of cash from the National Lottery's. Pathe has risen to the challenge and transferred its entire archive to a digital format, that can be easily downloaded over the Web.

Inevitably the launch of the web site yesterday was not as smooth as it could be with technical hiccups as literally thousands attempted to connect to contemporary history in pictures.

A cameraman in Westminster took the oldest footage dating back to 1896. The film contains shots of horse drawn traffic crossing Westminster Bridge. Probably traveling not much faster than the average speed of cars today. While one of the most recent was the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969.
Over 74 years, the archive covers 3,500 hours of news, made up of getting on for 100,000 items.

Mr. Hanks continues that
The sheer slog of converting it all must have been horrendous enough. And the job is not without risks: most of this stuff is on nitrate film stock – notoriously unstable, liable to burst into flame at the slightest provocation, so it has to be kept in specially cooled vaults, equipped with safe, non-sparking light switches. Film archivists like to tell horror stories of exploding reels, of precious cinematic treasures reduced to glop inside their canisters; although some of the oldest stock in the Pathe archives had decayed, almost nothing of value has been lost – a piece of luck that is astounding enough by itself.

Congratulation to this most British of web sites.

I did a quick search and found a newsreel with an interview of Paul Easter, who I had the pleasure of meeting very briefly at a dinner he was the guest speaker at. A gentleman, most entertaining and a master in his field.

Pop Quiz: Who is Paul Easter and what field did he excel in. Emails please!

An apology.

I consider that I have personally stepped across a line in the sand recently which upon reflection was not a charitable act.. While considering that it was in good humor, I recognise that if the tables were turned it is highly unlikely that the same would have happened to me. So to redress this, publicly, I want to apologize to Mac for voting against his blog on the Blog Basher site, while I doubt that you will ever beat the number of votes against Instapundit at the last review, my vote was most undeserving. I unreservedly apologize.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 19, 2002

Water, becoming a scarce resource in the UK?

The BBC News web page is currently running a commentary piece on Water Resources in the UK. A subject close to my heart after working in the British water industry for eighteen years.

I must take issue with some of the shock-tactic headlines of the BBC to bring a balanced and informed viewpoint to this serious issue.

It seems as if it rains all the time in the UK, yet the taps could run dry within a few decades. Water stores throughout Britain are stretched to the limit, yet we continue to use the stuff as if it's going out of fashion. The BBC are stretching a point somewhat but have an underlying good observation to make, if less sensational.

Not that many generations before us, the opportunity to turn on a tap for quality drinking water and the luxury of mains drainage to take away the water after the fact, was limited to those who could afford such luxuries. In the 21st Century, water, considered to be the one thing man cannot survive without, hardly thinks once let alone twice about where the water comes from and what happens to it before it “magically” arrives at your taps. There are exceptions, certainly when water limitations are imposed, everyone moans, the grass turns a brownish color and cars go unwashed, but do we as individuals suffer. No.

Statistically each Briton uses about 150 litres a day for washing, cooking and flushing

In the olden days of yesteryear when you could take out a date on a Saturday night have a 3 course meal and still have change after the hackney carriage home from sixpence, if the consumers of today had to be hand pump and carry back to their house it would equate to 16 bucket or 75 2 litre bottles per person each day. I wonder what their opinions would be.

Since then, and the introduction of water closets inside the home, washing machines, dishwashers, whirlpool tubs, the list does go on. Can you imagine heading off to the a 21 century water distributor, say 7-11 and bringing home 75 cola sized bottles for each family member on a daily basis to meet the water supply needs of these domestic necessities?

It is a recognized fact by the Water Companies that on average 20% of water entering the distribution system is lost through leakage. The Water Companies, I am aware have gone to great lengths to reduce the level of leakage, investing millions of pounds into engineering programs to maximize the resources they have. 20% leakage may still seem like a high figure, yet it has been reduced from 33% on average in over 10 years. A result testament to the projects and technology that has been developed to line old water mains, and detect leaks without digging holes everywhere. The technology is remarkable but often unseen. Only 25 years ago, water inspectors were still placing rods on valve covers and listening to the other end to hear the water gushing away. Technology has done much to improve the technique and pinpoint leaks.

The BBC has brought up the argument of the installation of water meters. As you pay for gas and electricity in measurable units, should water not be measured in the same way? For all new homes built water meters are immediately installed. Water Companies have for some time offered incentives for households to switch over to meters. In the early 1990’s I remember the pilot Water Meter trials in areas such as Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire.

Over a ten year period, water meters have been installed in roughly 1 in 4 homes. Water Companies are unlikely to have the resources to switch every house over to a meter in the next year, or even five years. From the outset it was always envisaged that the metering program would be spread over a 20 year period, especially in highly urban areas.

Individual efforts to save water can only achieve so much. It is far more effective for the government, suppliers and the building industry to support sustainable, community-wide measures this is being done as efficiently as possible.

November 19, 2002 is for some reason or other World Toilet Day, according to the Beeb. They have given thought to individual water saving measures starting with water closet.

The Beeb suggests that the UK could follow New York's lead and provide rebates for householders to replace old-style toilets with dual-flush models, which have a "half-flush" setting to carry away liquid waste. "This meant a huge outlay for the New York authorities, but it meant that they didn't have the extra expense involved in building a new reservoir," Ms Holdsworth says.

Certainly the multi-millions of building a new reservoir is a great operational saving. Yet in a highly populated area such as New York, the manufacturers would have great difficulty in meeting the demand of producing such a high volume of water closets, without massive short-term investment.

The Beeb suggests that rather than use fresh water to flush toilets, a cistern fed by rain water (grey water) - the run-off from showers and sinks - could be used.

Most household water saving methods are common sense. In the sixties and during the drought in the UK in 1976, we all smiled at the suggestion of bath with a friend. Yet realistically, if you a shower rather than a bath each day for a week, you'd save enough water to make 1,680 cups of tea,"

With the support of white good manufacturers, the consumer has choice to replace household water appliances such as dual-flush toilets, and washing machines and dish washers which use less water.

On an international perspective, an Australian maxim goes: "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down." – Perhaps this is a little to disgusting to consider. Yet by placing a "hippo" in your toilet cistern - a polythene box which stores one-third of the water instead of it being flushed down the drain, available free of charge from many water companies, this will save the cost of replacing your toilet and reduce your water consumption. The “hippo” acts much as placing a brick or two in the cistern. The volume of water you flush is less.

For the full BBC story link here.

In conclusion, your water companies do have your best interests at heart, even if you don't think so when your bill arrives. They are watched over in the UK by OFWAT the industry regulator, who sees to it that they cannot increaase your bills beyond pre-established limits and that they reinvest back into the infrastructure to maintain the quality of water you demand.

Water is a resource that while many of us ignore, if each of us saved a little it would go a long way.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 18, 2002

London Chimes is accessible in China.

Unlike other web pages, and personal blogs of note, many are blocked from being accessed in China.

Have you been blocked, link here.

The Blog Basher

There is a blog basher out there in cyber space, a nut with a keyboard, he personal refers to himself as something worse, who is taking polls on blogs and bashing the best of them or perhaps you may consider the worst of them.

My warblogger brother-in-law is a target this week and the last time I voted, (I mean the last time I looked) he had a paultry 7% of the vote. Can he give the leading blog to be bashed a run for the money? Perhaps! It is all in the best possible fun, isn't it??

Thankfully London Chimes sinks beneath the radar of the targets of this poll.

Reducing the quality of entries on this blog even further for this one occassion, from an email received by my friend Tony in the UK I have received the following silly news stories that are currently ciculating around in an email! Surely they cannot be serious, can they?

Police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van,
because they cannot issue a description. It's a special branch
vehicle, and they don't want the public to know what it looks like.
(The Guardian)

There must, for instance, be something very strange in a man who, if
left alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn't try it on. (Glasgow
Evening News)

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth
was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coastguard spokesman
commented, "this sort of thing is all too common". (The Times)

At the height of the gale, the harbourmaster radioed a coastguard on
the spot and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied that he
was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help,
the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff. (Aberdeen
Evening Express)

Mrs Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue, Boscombe, delighted the audience
with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each
week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she
recalled. "He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the
crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they
spelt out "Heil Hitler". (Bournemouth Evening Echo)

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas
bill, a spokesman for North West gas said "We agree it was rather
high for the time of year. It's possible Mr. Purdey has been charged
for the gas used up during the explosion that blew his house to
pieces." (Bangkok Post)

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 17, 2002

Sunday Special


A few moments ago these results were sent to me, I presume them to be PROVISIONAL at this time.

Petter Solberg held off the challenge of Markko Martin to claim his first ever WRC win. The Subaru star held his nerve through the final stage to come home 3.1s ahead of the Ford Focus driver.

The result also meant that the Norwegian claimed the runner-up spot in the drivers' championship, deny established star such as Richard Burns, Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae in the process.
Provisional report from Autosport.

A mere 16 seconds separated the top 6 crews. A close finish again on this event. Colin McRae finished as top British driver, codriven by Derek Ringer in 5th only 11 seconds off the winners pace.

390km of competitive driving for the timing of the top crews to be so close, once again raises the argument that rallying at this level is more competitive than Formula 1 motor racing.

Terror on the Tube, Update.

Only a couple of days ago I posted a piece about the London Underground, the Tube, being a chemical or biological target in the war on terror. Unbeknown to me, or anyone else then Three men were arrested on terror charges in London amid reports of a plot to target the city's underground last Sunday November 9.

Scotland Yard declined to comment on reports in a Sunday newspaper that the Tube network had been the target
The Sunday Times speculated they planned to release cyanide gas on the London Underground

Given this information it is very interesting that within the last week, there was confusion over the extent of Home Office fears over a chemical attack on the UK. A warning of a possible chemical or nuclear terrorist attack on the UK using a "dirty bomb" or poison gas, was quickly withdrawn and replaced with more general advice.

Certainly "The intelligence services are getting good and useful information and they are able to work on it in a competent and forthright fashion." Yet as President George W. Bush has mentioned in the past, news on the War against Terror may not be immediately released to the public. In some instances it may be some time if at all, that information is known by the public.

Full story link here.

The Independent weighs in on the same story, crediting the Sunday Times with the scoop.

According to The Sunday Times, the three north African men were suspected of being al-Qa'ida terrorists whose most likely target was a crowded London commuter train. The Government has rejected suggestions that the arrests on 9 November had prompted Tony Blair's terror warning at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in the City last Monday or a Home Office warning, later withdrawn, that terrorists might resort to using "a so-called dirty bomb or poison gas". MI5 is reported to have been tracking the alleged conspiracy for several weeks, and the Prime Minister must have been aware of the details.
Last Monday Mr Blair said barely a day went by without new intelligence about a threat to British interests.
MI5, the security service, is reported to have been monitoring the group for several months.
The devastating potential effect of a gas attack on an underground transport system was demonstrated in Tokyo in 1995, when the Aum Shinrikyo cult released sarin nerve gas, killing 12 and injuring 5,000. Members of the cult planted small perforated bags of sarin, designed so that the gas would seep out and spread slowly in the confined spaces of Tokyo's subway during the rush hour.

An attack on a London tube train in the rush hour would be at least as lethal if not moreso.

There be Dragons in Asia!

Posted on an Asian news service (BANGKOK)
Who says dragons do not exist? The people of Thailand and Laos, two countries separated by the Mekong but knitted together by language and folklore, believe fervently that there are river creatures that spew balls of fire into the sky on a full moon night every October.
So when a Thai television network suggested in a recent documentary that it was a hoax, it almost caused a diplomatic flap between the two governments.
The belief in Nagas, or serpent-like creatures, is embedded in Thai and Laotian cultures.

Full interesting story, link here.

What do you think?

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 16, 2002

Weekend Posting (Revised)

Wow, that week really spun by, highlights have included moving up in the ranks to 16th on this blogroll and the promise to be included on the blog roll of this web page. The EoES has marked this week his 200,000 visitor milestone. While London Chimes passed a speedbump of 2000 by an unyet announced visitor.

Yesterday I watched the sun set over the forests of South Wales. A neat trick from Pennsylvania.
The sky was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, the ground a little slippy, perfect conditions for the start of this years Network Q Rally of Great Britain.

In recent years the event has been based in Cardiff, South Wales and has been run in the forest to the west of the City over 3 days. A far cry from when this event over 5 days visited England, Scotland and Wales and included Sunday stages designed for the fans who watched the Rally heroes yump their way through the grounds of Statley Homes and super-special stages at established race tracks. - Ah! They were the days!

It has been my privilage over the years to have led marshalling teams on a variety of motorsport events, the most important being the Network Q RAC Rally and titled in the past, (The Lombard RAC, in the distant past). Rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship. Event sponsors have come and gone. Next year the Network Q are to be replaced by the nation of Wales as the main sponsor.

Allowing a rally enthusiast to reminice:

My first encounter with this WRC event was marshalling at West Midlands Safari Park at Bewdley in 1983, as the sealed roads of the park were being used as one of the Sunday special stages. The park as it is now, closed for the winter season had moved many of its residents to enclosures not being used for the Rally. As the stage was one of the first to be run, and that the marshals needed to be in place along the stage (hours) before Car 1, I drove a car full of fellow GBMC members up to Bewdley the previous evening. We had been given permission to park in the grounds of the Safari Park to sleep in cars and the radio caravan over night. After I had dropped off my passengers to sleep in the caravan, I found an enclosure that I discovered was right next to where the lions had been moved to, and was kept wake by the continued pacing and growling not more than 50 feet away.

In the late 80's when I freelanced for Competiton Car Magazine, together with friends Nick and Andy, we drove the route moving from stage to stage as best we could. This is the only time I have ever visited Scotland, the moors of Yorkshire and deepest Sweet Lamb in Wales. There was an instance in Wales when one of the top teams service barges drove far to close to our car smashing the drivers door mirror. Asa we progressed north, I have memories of driving around the Lake District trying to find an open Ford dealership to purchase a new mirror as the car we were using had been hired and it was cheaper to make the repair than suffer the penalty when we took the car back.

The following year I drove friends Ed and Trevor all the way up the snow covered M1 to some country house in Yorkshire. Even though this stage was being televised, there is still nothing quiet like watching it at the stage. We arrived in time for car 1, and the local spectators throwing snowballs at TV crews who took advantage of blocking the view of some spectators that had been standing in the snow patiently at a great viewing spot for some hours. Almost an international incident.

Of all the Sunday stages I have the fondest memories of two in particular. Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. A beautiful setting for a classic event and Donington Park, the venue for final marshalling appearances on a World Rally Championship event.

As a seasoned marshal on the RAC my last three visits as a marshal at Donington Park in the East Midlands were the most fun, and the coldest I have ever been.

The first of the three visits we were assigned a stretch through trees in the infield area. Plenty of slippy-sideways action close-up. Friends James and Tim came prepared with a great primus cooking set up that enabled us to make bacon sandwiches, hot dogs and boiling hot tea in the hours we waited until the first car. The other two visits we improved our catering, and were assigned a stretch of the main circuit taking up position in the marshals post at the bottom of the Craner Curves. With no spectators to contol at this point, we were afforded a great view of most of the stage and could concentrate on cooking up those bacon sandwiches!

The stage started on the old circuit, long since abandoned in favor of the current layout. The cars ran behind our post first, on the loose muddy track down to the old hairpin, then onto the racing circuit track, in the opposite direction to normal racing, past our post and up the Craner Curves to the entrance to the infield.

The primus stoves were set up in the marshals post that had recently been upgraded to a cage with a solid metal framework that provided us with a shelf for our mustard, English and French, Ketchup, etc. My final trip to Donington proved to be the longest of all my marshalling days on the RAC Rally. The stage was run twice, early morning and late in the afternoon. With the a classic rally made up by old historic rally cars of the 50's and 60's running through the stage in the middle of the day.

With beautiful blue skies all day, for November it was cold. While thankfully we were at the bottom of the hill and out of the wind. As the sun set, car 1 started the stage for the final time as the thermometer hit 32F, freezing, before windchill factors. It just got colder, and colder.

To combat the cold, I was wearing my race suit, and nomex under my race suit with a pair of hiking boot over 3 pairs of socks. Add one gortex jacket and a Scandanavian ski hat I was as warm as I could possibly be. Given that our food supply was extensive, the marshalling team from GBMC were well looked after with food and hot drinks supplied from our "catering cage". Aas a veteran of RAC's I think that "we finally got it right" at the Craner Curves with the catering and and excellent viewing spot. As the last cars past us it started to snow, the temperature was well below freezing and the mustard pots had frozen to the marshals cage.

Great times, to especially to Nick, Trevor, James and Tim I thank you from the bottom of my heart for some of the BEST days I have ever had on the RAC Rally.

Now for the next couple of nights I will be watching the Rally of Great Britain on TV.

My hats off to all the volunteer marshals who make the biggest sporting spectator event in the UK safe for all. It may seem a wonderful job, but it is long hours. When I undertook this task the marshals have to be in position before the public are allowed to access the spectator areas. This could be over four hours before the course cars would be seen on the stage. In 2002 the entry list seems smaller than other years where I recall 200 odd cars. Starting at minute intervals followed by a thirty minute delay after the due time of the last car. Then another delay as the course closing car passes through the stage, offering a thank you on the PA and a cheery wave for standing still for up to 7 hours. Our day at Donington was over 12 hours, so you see why it was necessary to make the best of it.

After Day One the results could be closer, but this event has a habit of turning results on its head to I will be watching with great interest.

Looks like Day 2 is warming up with the Day 1 leader retiring from the event.

For personal interest, I am not sure if my old road rally navigator Dave Howe is competing on this event this year as I know he has competed in this event in previous years. But a former student of my Rally School Andrew Bargery co-driving Car 30, has retired. Full story here. If fairness, Andrew was more than just a rally enthusiast when I met him, I doubt that my Rally School taught him anything more than he already knew. I am pleased that he continues to perform in the sport at this level and wish him every sucess in the future.

On a serious note:
When Life Imprisonment, means just that. Read here for the full story from the UK

I ws unaware until this morning that Moors murderer Myra Hindley had died in prision this week. The 60-year-old died on Friday of respiratory failure, following a chest infection, after 36 years in prison.

A cautionary tale, has the London Times been hoodwinked?

The London Times has published an intriguing story - that Saddam Hussein has made plans to pay Libya $3.5bn to provide a safe haven for members of his family and his senior officials, though not, it seems for himself.

Link here for the story.

Stories in the past about Saddam Hussein preparing an exit, for his family at least, have appeared before and provide a cautionary tale.

And finally, returning to the rally, from experience specatators at motorsport events seem to get all revved up literally when driving between stages and leaving the circuits. I have seen the madness first hand.

Reports in Wales are coming out that the Rally followers were urged to watch their speeds when driving between stages on the event.

During a four-hour period on Friday on the M4 motorway between Pyle and Margam, 182 motorists were recorded exceeding the speed limit.

Of these, 73 were driving above 90mph and two motorists were recorded driving at 135mph.

Slow down guys! The last time I read the speed limits on the M4 were set at 70mph. If you want to speed, and hopefully win events, go and join your local motor club. There are around 200 in the UK that are affiliated to the RAC Motor Sports Assocaition, and other countries have their own club structure. In the US it is the Sporting Car Club of America SCCA.

Watching the final SCCA Pro-Rally round in Mitchigan this week it was very interesting to see that many of the top driver / co-drivers were British. Add to Speed Television coverage being contributed to by Nicky Grist, until recently the Welsh co-driver for Colin McRae, I am having a wonderful Rallying November. (Problem is some viewers here in the US are asking for subtitles for Nicky as they cannot understand his accent).

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 14, 2002

Personal concern over possible biological attack on London Tube.

This evening I was discussing the reported threat that seems to be dipping below regular news radar of the threat of a biological attack on the London Underground Network.

In the last couple of days the looming threat that an attack on the UK seems to be increasing.

With a general lack of specific information, all manner of possible targets have been reported. The Underground I am sure is but one of them. However, given the numbers of commuters each day on the tube, it must be a very inviting target for those who wish Londoners harm.

Just how secure is the tube? Given that the tube has been the target of terrorist activities in the past, it should be secure to a point. Yet I do wonder and am very concerned.

I think back to the Kings Cross disaster, and the chemical attack not so long ago on the Japanese subway.

Should something happen in the tunnels beneath London, and hundreds if not more men, women and children be injured or worse, I am appauled but not suprised that a report has been issued today that they could not cope following the effects of a chemical, biological or dirty bombing in the City.

I remain concerned.

My family and friends in the UK I ask you to be safe and watchful.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Getting ever closer to visitor 2000. Please scroll down to the bottom of the screen to see if you are my 2000th visitor. - Update, it would seem my counter is appearing and disappearing. This is somewhat frustrating, but as it is a freebie service, I cannot really complain! - Ah of course I can. Nevertheless I would appreciate a brief email from who ever you may be. - Thanks!

Quick update on a recent posting, I have a some very nice feedback on the subject of the 1940's house. If you have not read it, please do, just scan down about a weeks worth of postings.

Ta much.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Blogged it before you announced it Prescott.

My rant last night over the issue of the armed forces crossing picket lines is being considered by Downing Street. Have they been reading London Chimes?

See the BBC Story here.

Meanwhile Green Goddess fire engines have been on the scene of a fireworks factory fire in the north of England in the last 24 hours. Located across the street from picketing firefighters, they left their picket to help rescue someone in the building.

A brief follow-up on the British Prime Minister posted by Iain. While West Wing has it's fans, a similar style series in the UK would be more like Coronation Street. Nevertheless, if you remember House of Cards, this award winning political drama broadcast at the time of Maggie Thatchers political end, and the subsequent series that questioned the role of royalty in political matters runs very close to fiction appearing as fact.

Francis Urquhart was as nast a piece of political work that the White House hasa possibly not seen before. Riviting viewing.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 13, 2002

From the PS before I sign off for the night department...

Thanks to Iain over at the Edge of Englands Sword, I have found a couple of stunning entries.

How many people read those papers, anyway?

and an interesting commentary on how the Brits could never make a political drama as interesting as West Wing titled, The British Prime Minister.

I have comments to make but as my delightful wife wishes to use the PC now, I'm off!

Feedback always invited, please email me.
Fire Brigade Strike.

After reading a posting on the Have you say bulletin board regarding the firemans strike and the reintroduction of the Green Goddesses in the UK got me thinking.

Who actually OWNS the fire engine appliances? The tax payer / government / local authorities. (Take you pick). Who does not own the fire trucks, the strikers.

What stops the armed forces who are manning the Green Goddess fire trucks from using the latest fire engine technology. It is after all sitting their, not being used.

If the government are not prepared to cross picket lines to take what is rightfully theirs, in the protection of the people of the United Kingdom, I fear that Saddam is probably having a real old belly laugh at Downing Street expense.

Just a thought....

Feedback always invited, please email me.

Under the terms of UN Security Council resolution 1441, passed unanimously last week, Iraq must submit a comprehensive declaration of its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programmes, as well as its missiles and other means of delivery by Dec 8.

Any "false statements or omissions" would constitute a "material breach", said the resolution. But in its letter of acceptance to the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, Iraq insisted it had no weapons of mass destruction.

The claim, strongly challenged by the many reports of past UN inspections, is regarded as a blatant lie by Washington and London and could constitute an instant casus belli.

Mohammed al-Douri, the Iraqi ambassador to the UN, said Baghdad had chosen the "path of peace" and was eager to see inspectors begin work as soon as possible.

He added: "Iraq has not, and will not have, any mass destruction weapons, so we are not worried about the inspectors when they are back in the country. Iraq is clean."

American and British officials say Iraq has hidden large stocks of chemical and biological weapons, as well as some medium-range missiles.

They believe that since the departure of the inspectors in 1998, Iraq has continued to work on all aspects of its weapons, including nuclear weapons.

Iraq's acceptance of the UN conditions, announced a day after the Iraqi parliament portentously as an affront to Iraqi sovereignty, came in a nine-page tirade laced with religious quotations and insults against George W Bush, the American president.

Signed by the foreign minister Naji Sabri, the letter accused Mr Bush and "his lackey Tony Blair" of spreading "the most wicked slander against Iraq" by claiming that Saddam was trying to build nuclear weapons.

British officials would not say whether an Iraqi declaration that it had no banned weapons would provoke immediate military action or whether the UN Security Council would wait for inspectors to find conclusive proof that Iraq was lying.

Mr Straw said last night that he welcomed Iraq's decision to accept the resolution as a "first step". He added: "We must remain vigilant. Iraq's intentions are notoriously changeable. The next step is for Iraq to provide an accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programmes by December 8. It is only the credible threat of force which has brought Iraq this far today." The White House responded with scepticism to Iraq's announcement, emphasising its "zero tolerance" policy towards any non-compliance. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "We've heard this before from Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime. Now we need to see it by Saddam Hussein's actions."

About 20 inspectors plan to gather in Cyprus on Sunday and fly to Baghdad the following day. They must begin inspections by Dec 23 and report back to the Security Council by February 21. They must report any Iraqi obstruction "immediately".

Good luck to the inspectors and woe betide any official who denies them access.

Meanwhile I have real difficulty in reconciling the fact that Bin Laden is still possibly alive and stirring up the emotions of many who have a hatred of the American and their allies way of life.

The threat level is no doubt set to raise following the latest statement that, so far, has proved inconclusive from the analysis of the tapes to be his voice.

While there are many who will not beleive he is alive until captured on film holding a newspaper, need to remember that the camera can indeed lie.

We must all be vigilant in the weeks ahead.

In Bin Laden's words

Excerpts from the US translation of the Nov. 12 audiotape by Osama bin Laden:

"The road to safety begins by ending the aggression. Reciprocal treatment is part of justice. The incidents that have taken place since the raids of New York and Washington until now - like the killing of Germans in Tunisia and the French in Karachi, the bombing of the giant French tanker in Yemen, the killing of Marines in Failaka and the British and Australians in the Bali explosions, the recent operation in Moscow ... are only reactions and reciprocal actions. These actions were carried out by the zealous sons of Islam in defense of their religion....

"If you were distressed by the deaths of your men and the men of your allies in Tunisia, Karachi, Failaka, Bali, and Amman, remember our children who are killed in Palestine and Iraq everyday....

"Why should fear, killing, destruction, displacement, orphaning and widowing continue to be our lot, while security, stability and happiness be your lot? This is unfair. It is time we get even. You will be killed just as you kill, and will be bombed just as you bomb...."

Link here for the The Christian Science Monitor full report.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 11, 2002

Countdown to 2000.

I have noticed that we are getting ever closer to the 2000th hit on London Chimes. While it may have taken a while, the wait was worth it for sure.

I would be interested in knowing who my 2000th visitor is and ask that they email me.

(The 1000th visitor was my parents back in the UK).

Feedback always invited, please email me.
The Smelly Mystery.

The weather has held for the last three Sundays to take my nephews to the Secret Story Telling Bridge over the creek at the bottom of the hill.

Of the two books we had an obvious winner,

The Smelly Mystery: Little Monster Private Eye (Little Monster)
by Mercer Mayer

Unlike last weeks winner this is available in paperback on Amazon.

The plot is that a Secret Smell Switcher is swapping the smells of orange juice and peanut butter and garbage and candy. The illustrations captivated Glenn and Tommy who loved the book.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 09, 2002

Weekend Posting

I am sitting at the PC at an early hour as the Wawa Coffee I thought would be a relaxing way to unwind last night has be so "wired" I am awake and ready to go after a few hours sleep. Well, that and the antics of two of the household kitties. I digress...

I am part way through a quest to find better blogs in blogtopia.

In answer to the frequent question, “How did you find my blog?” my search usually starts at the blogger.com login screen and I check out the logs that have recently been updated that have interesting titles and following perm links from other sites at random. Should there be a comprehensive register of blog sites of note that do not cost to be entered into I would be most interested in looking them up.

There are a great many people in blogsphere who are doing and using their blogs to great effect. However as every storybook will tell you, princesses have to kiss a load of toads before one turns into a prince. I have looked through a great many blogs before finding a couple this week.

A complete “prince of a blog” and locally written at that opened up on my screen. The Rittenhouse Review is one such diamond.

“Cruella Finds Her Place in the House”
The state official who certified Al Gore’s defeat in the presidential elections
They called her Cruella DeVille, the Republicans’ hit man [Note: The Republicans’ “sicario,” which is difficult to translate effectively in this context. “Hired gun” isn’t quite it either.], Jeb Bush’s lover.
This is but a snatch of the entertaining writing that I fully appreciate and has earned its place within the limited perm-links on this page. Go check this site out, it is not all politics.

As it is the weekend and the end of a long week of UN and political news, views and my attempt at destroying a Guardian reporters piece on the US elections, we turn to more trivial matters.

Later this month I am looking forward to a brace of great films coming to my local cinema. Two in particular are the second of the Lord in the Rings, The Two Towers and James Bond.

Other sites that are identified of mentionable note today goes to Greg Howard, he has written this objective comparison of the two films that really needs to be shared. Titled Baggins, Bilbo Baggins.

Everyone's excited about the new Lord of the Rings movie, "The Two Towers." No one seems to care about the new James Bond movie, "Die Another Day."

I'm here to tell you that you should be caring about Bond, and only Bond. But don't take my word for it. Let's see how the two franchises stack up on the key issues:

Cute girls.
Bond: Has cute girls.
Lord of the Rings: Has cute girls, but they have pointed ears.

Bond: Lots of gadgets and guns.
Lord of the Rings: Swords and weird jewelry. When you're staring into the face of evil, what should you be holding--a Walther PPK or a crummy magic ring?

Bad guys.
Bond: Has bad guys with cool names like Goldfinger and Jaws.
Lord of the Rings: Main bad guy is named Sauron, which is notably unscary. It's right up there with "Francis" and "Oswald" in terms of names that strike terror into your heart.

Christopher Lee.
Bond: Had Christopher Lee as villain in only one movie, "The Man With the Golden Gun."
Lord of the Rings: Has Christopher Lee as villain in all three movies. Okay, so LOTR wins one lousy category.

Bond: Ian Fleming, author of the original Bond novels, actually worked as a secret agent. Cool.
Lord of the Rings: J.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings novels, was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. He wasn't a hobbit, or an elf, or a Wizard. He wasn't even a lousy orc. Which author do you trust? I thought so.

Bond: Lots of explosions.
Lord of the Rings: No explosions. Gasoline hasn't even been invented yet.
As you can see, this isn't a matter of personal taste or subjective opinion; it's pure, unadulterated logic.

Greg describes London Chimes as “a serious blog”. (Serious? Eek. I never intended London Chimes to get too serious. But recently it has not been as light as some of the great postings in the archives! Thank you Greg for keeping me on my toes.)

No doubt I will spend time with my nephews over the weekend. The following spam email circulated in boxes around the world has been posted to the blogs of Wilson and Michael. whos blog alerted me to this piece in the first place. Credit to both chaps.


I am hereby officially tendering my resignation as an adult. I have decided I would like to accept the responsibilities of an 8 year-old again.
I want to go to McDonald's and think that it's a four star restaurant.
I want to sail sticks across a fresh mud puddle and make a sidewalk with rocks.
I want to think M&Ms are better than money because you can eat them.
I want to lie under a big oak tree and run a lemonade stand with my friends on a hot summer's day.
I want to return to a time when life was simple; When all you knew were colors, multiplication tables, and nursery rhymes, but that didn't bother you, because you didn't know what you didn't know and you didn't care.
All you knew was to be happy because you were blissfully unaware of all the
things that should make you worried or upset.
I want to think the world is fair.
That everyone is honest and good.
I want to believe that anything is possible.
I want to be oblivious to the complexities of life and be overly excited by the little things again.
I want to live simple again.
I don't want my day to consist of computer crashes, mountains of paperwork, depressing news, how to survive more days in the month than there is money in the bank, doctor bills, gossip, illness,and loss of loved ones.
I want to believe in the power of smiles, hugs, a kind word, truth, justice, peace, dreams, the imagination, mankind, and making angels in the snow.
So . . . here's my checkbook and my car-keys, my credit card bills and my 401K statements. I am officially resigning from adulthood.
And if you want to discuss this further, you'll have to catch me first, cause........
......"Tag! You're it."

A short(ish) weekend posting as I am giving an airing to Point2Point one of my other two blogs perm linked on this site. Point2Point needs urgent attention as if it languishes any longer will be as rotten and decayed as Taney’s carved pumpkin on the front porch. (The Squirrels seem to be ignoring my carved effort – not good enough).

Have a great weekend.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 08, 2002

Now that I have confirmed my postings to Blogger are not being lost...

A stark warning that Britain is facing a possible chemical or nuclear terrorist attack was released but then withdrawn by the Home Office.

However, an hour after the document was released it was withdrawn and replaced by a much more general warning.

The Home Office said journalists had been given an early draft version that was yet to be authorised.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said there had been an "administrative slip-up".
He said the original advice was not withdrawn because it was damaging but because the government did not want people to be diverted by a specific type of threat.

Given the times we live in, and the controls over release of information to the media, I cannot believe that this was simply an administrative slip-up. I find it hard to believe that an unauthorized statement of this nature had even been circulated to the media, even if it had an black-out embargo assigned to it, which I do not believe is the situation here.

In a world of 24 hour instant news, the damage was done the media had reported the story and then an hour later Westminster retracted the statement in favor of a more general statement.

In the US when threats have been reported through the media, they have been very general. Subsequently nothing has happened and the “people” would prefer to have a little more detailed information.

Today we have a detailed statement, here is the text from the original, withdrawn.
For those who wish to link to the text link here.

Providing safety and security for its citizens is the first duty of government.

Well before the terrorist atrocities in the USA, Bali and elsewhere, the UK had been forced to develop one of the most sophisticated counter-terrorism regimes in the world to counter Irish-related terrorism.

Since the September 11th attacks, we have strengthened still further our domestic security, while investing time and money in increasing our ability to deal with a major attack.

These measures include:
· the tightening of aviation security on the ground and in the air
· the enhancement of legislation in respect of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons
· the introduction of a new enhanced programme to provide protective security advice to critical
sectors of UK industry
· the UK taking an active role in building and complying with international standards set to combat terrorist financing
· an increase in the general capacity of counter-terrorist policing
· participation in a number of major joint operations against suspected terrorists, resulting in a number of arrests and having a significant impact on terrorists
· a substantial increase in efforts devoted to counter-terrorism work across all the security and intelligence agencies.

In addition, prior to the attacks on the United States, the UK government had already begun to review and improve contingency planning in the UK.

Experience in this area led to the formation of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat within the Cabinet Office to draw together and co-ordinate the different strands of Government activity that come into play in handling such difficult challenges.

This document (Mr Blunkett's comments were in the foreword to a document on counter terrorism) provides a summary of the measures we have taken since September 11 last year and our most recent actions.

However, we must be clear that we remain a target and there can be no guarantees there will not be an attack in the future.
Though we have increased our intelligence gathering significantly since 11 September and helped disrupt terrorist activity, there is no such thing as 100% intelligence and British citizens remain at risk from both international and Irish terrorists.

We cannot be sure of when or where or how terrorists will strike.

'Dirty bomb'

But we can be sure that they will try. They may attempt to use more familiar terrorist methods, such as leaving parcel or vehicle bombs in public places, or hijacking passenger aircraft.

However, they may try something different, perhaps as surprising as the attacks on the World Trade Center, or the theatre siege in Moscow.

Maybe they will try to develop a so-called dirty bomb, or some kind of poison gas, maybe they will try to use boats or trains rather than planes. The bottom line is that we simply cannot be sure.

We must be prepared to face this evolving pattern of terrorist activity and this is why we needed to introduce new legislation and new operational measures.

None of this means an attack is imminent. But what it does mean is that we must all give priority to security and make security a part of our everyday lives.

For government, it means continuing the broad and vigorous programme of protective security work that we are already pursuing.

For businesses it means ensuring that the security plans that were carefully drawn up after September 11 have not been forgotten about, and are still relevant and being implemented.

The key for most people, however, is just remembering to be alert and vigilant - keeping an eye out for suspect packages at stations, or people acting suspiciously at airports, for instance, and reporting anything suspicious to the correct authorities.

In this respect, I must stress that aviation security measures remain at an enhanced level following the attacks on 11 September 2001 and the government keeps these measures under constant review, and from time to time additional protective steps will be taken as the situation demands, but none of that replaces the need for public vigilance.

I am determined that we continue to balance the need to take all necessary measures with the imperative of living our lives, free from fear.

We must ensure that we live free of the fear of terrorism, otherwise the terrorists have won.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
This is a quick test as Blogger was unable to post earlier today.
Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 07, 2002

A “light-bulb” moment.

Last night I sat and watched the final two hours of the British Channel 4 program “The 1940’s House.”

It has only quiet recently been aired on the PBS (Public Broadcasting System) network. Home to the other similar programs the 1900 house and the American version the Frontier House. All remarkable programs.

The plot:
This latest installment of PBS reality TV places modern day English families in 1940's wartime London. Air raids, food rationing and gasoline rationing are just a few of the inconveniences these 21st century families will have to face. Take one modern family from Yorkshire, remove them from their 21st century home and lifestyle and transport them back more than 50 years to 1940's London. How will they fare in their new home adapting to a more basic standard of living, coping with the wartime regime of a strict 'war cabinet' and with only a wireless for entertainment. Share in the frustrations and triumphs of the Hymers family.

I found this program riveting. My parents were both aged 3 at the start of the Second World War. (Sorry Mum for spilling the beans), and many of their formative childhood years growing up in a north London suburb was through this hard period. Of course once the war was over it took many years before rationing was completely phased out so the culture of make do and mend, dig for victory and making a little go a long way was more than just custom and practice it was a necessity.

It was not until last night the penny truly dropped with me. How hard life was on children, but harder still for their parents, my grandparents.

Over the years my Mum has relayed stories to me about the community shelters across the road from her house and the guns that were placed there. The story about how the houses one block away were destroyed next to the church and that the explosion damaged the structure of the house. I can also recall the stories of rather than heading down the garden to sleep in the cold and damp Anderson shelter, they would sleep under the dining room table.

Until recent years my Dad’s neighbor still had his Anderson shelter in the back of their garden. My brother on moving to his house in Enfield some years ago, removed one from the bottom of his garden that had sat home to garden tools for 50 years after the war.

Watching the program I could picture my Gran working away in the scullery, the family limited to shallow baths, and the honed cooking skills that made a little food go a little further, following the daily walk to the high street and the small shopkeepers that existed long before the supermarkets took hold of the convenience market.

In 2002, the small shopkeepers do exist and if you are prepared to suffer the inconvenience of shopping more than once a week, or less, the quality and the prices as found out by the grandmother in the 1940’s program has reduced her bill by over 50%.

The hard times that rolled into hard years, did effect more than one generation. While it is easy to point fingers at today’s culture and say we have never had it so easy should look at what the children and their parents of war endured.

We do live in a consumable society. Nothing these days is made to last anymore. Fifty years ago, you made it last, made do and mend, Clothing was handed down, until clothing was threadbare, and then they found another use for the cloth.

I appreciated the war cabinet in the program setting the rules to make life as close to authentic without the risk of V1 & V2’s actually landing in the street. Food stamps, food points (something I was not aware of), restrictions on the amount of fuel you could use per house, limited supplies of favorite foods, only the radio for entertainment.

One of the interesting facts that we now take for granted is that in 2000, the family in the TV program would use 6 rolls of toilet paper a week. In the 1940’s house it was reduced to 1. The government had instructed that all paper should be used at least twice before being discarded. Imagine in 2002 what you would do in the US with all those catalogues shoved through the letterbox this time of year. And what would you use the Comcast bill for. (Suggestions please). But seriously, thinking on this subject for a moment, my Nana keeps her greetings cards and uses them for shopping lists.

With the men away serving in the forces, the women were faced with fighting the war on the domestic front line. After 6 weeks into the project when the husband returned he was more of a hindrance in the house than a help.

At the end of this program, I had a much better understanding of why my parents and grandparents have done things in the past. It was one of those light bulb now I understand moments. The lessons that they learned have in some small way been passed down to me.

Last night I caught myself walking through the house turning off unnecessary lights. I have always done it, but until last night thought it was just force of habit. My Mum hates wasting food, so do I. Although since coming to America I don’t somehow feel quiet as guilty in throwing food away. But I understand now that my Mum grew up in a house where every morsel of food was used.

Old habits die-hard. Yet this program has open my eyes to why I do some of these things I do and why my parents and grandparents have done too.

If you have not seen this program, I urge you to watch it on PBS. In the UK and the US it is available to purchase on video. Like the other two programs, it is an authentic portrayal of a truthful history that has not been portrayed in the glossy films in the past. This is reality TV with a purpose.

Like many of the programs before, the participants find this a life changing experience to some degree or other.

The children, with the support of their grandfather are more content to make their own entertainment than play on the play station. They also by their own admission agreed they argued less in the 1940’s house, as there was far less to argue over.

Their mother has found a sense of purpose and independence she thought she had lost. The project has gained her self-confidence and reinforced her relationship with her parents and her sons.

The Grandfather has since purchased a 1940’s Ford Prefect that the family uses on picnics.

The Grandmother has changed the most. From being as her young grandsons called “Hip, Bud swigging Gran she has changed and gone all loopy on us”. By this she has revaluated her priorities and has found a new purpose as champion for the small shopkeeper.

I must sit and watch the first hour at the start of the series now.

To conclude, in finding some useful links for this piece, I found the following piece about wartime recipes.

These are some of the recipes my Grandmother used to feed her husband and seven children during the Second World War in England. There was little fruit, scarcely any sugar, few eggs and meat; butter and nearly all foods were rationed. Families were encouraged to Dig For Victory, grow as much food as possible themselves, consequently many a flower garden found itself turned over to potatoes, carrots and onions in a desperate attempt to fill up the ever hungry children's stomachs.
Women were told that food was their munition of war. The Ministry Of Food and women's magazines of the day gave basic nutritional advice and suggested substitutes such as mashed potato for flour, sour milk for cheese, grated vegetables for fruit and whipped margarine with vanilla instead of cream, but the housewife of the 1940's had to be very creative with what little food they had queued for with ration books in hand.

The Imperial War Museum were staunch supporters and advisors to this program and have the following link.

I thoroughly recommend a visit to Churchill’s War Time Bunker off Whitehall in Westminster if you are ever in the area and looking for a real authentic tour.

I must add to this a walk down the side of the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. The wall has been left as a reminder to the damage inflicted by the bombing on London.

Finally, my old home town London borough has through one of it’s schools posted a 25 question quiz on living in 1940’s, for example, What was the scullery used for?

Have fun with the quiz.

This is a different London Chimes posting, but one I really wanted to write. I would like to add to this with some of the stories from my family and other readers. Please email me with them, especially if I have some of my stories wrong.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

November 06, 2002

Another of the bulk blogs on the following subjects:Gibraltar Votes tomorrow
300 poisoned in Russia
Concorde in drama at high altitude.
A response to the Guardian (UK) on the US elections.

Gibraltar Votes tomorrow.

It is too easy on this side of the pond to get swamped in the results from yesterday’s elections to notice other stories of international interest.

In one of those stories that has dipped under the radar, the residents of Gibraltar are expected to "reject massively" plans to share sovereignty with Spain. The voting stations open tomorrow.

The single question being asked of the electorate is
"Do you approve of the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar? Yes or No".
The vote has no formal status, although the UK has previously said that no change in sovereignty will take place without the agreement of people in a referendum.

There is much political wrangling on this vote between Gibraltar, Spain and Westminster. For the full story link to this BBC site.

300 hospitalized in Russia poisoning case.

Three hundred people, including 222 children, have been hospitalized after suffering from poisoning in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia, the Itar-Tass news agency reported on Wednesday (Nov 6). The victims were rushed to hospital on Tuesday with symptoms of high fever and vomiting, the report said. The conditions of some of them were causing concern, Itar-Tass said. The first poisoning cases happened on Monday in Kropotkin. Most of the cases occurred on Tuesday with those affected taken to hospitals in neighboring Gulkevichi and Kavkazskaya. An inquiry has been launched into the cause of the poisoning. – AFP

My source of this story is through an English written news web service in Asia. Yet this story has not broken through the western European news sites as I write this. My initial thoughts question if there is anything more behind this news story.

Terror through 27,000 feet.

It hardly seems that long ago I stood in horror watching the unfolding news story of the Concord disaster live on the TV news channels with my father-in-law. Following the grounding of the British Airways and Air France fleet, one year to the month after returning to regular service comes almost buried news stories that a Concorde on route to Paris malfunctioned at 60,000 feet.
The pilots rapidly descended 27,000 feet creating panic in the passengers on board. Thankfully none of the 67 passengers were injured and the cause of the engine trouble was not immediately known.

A passenger on the flight, Amar Belgacem, said the plane descended fast and passengers panicked. "All the plates, glasses, all the food crashed to the ground," Belgacem told France-2 television. "We grabbed onto our neighbors ... everyone was saying prayers. I had the fright of my life."


Despite my earlier blog about, enough has been written, spoken and thought about the elections in the US yesterday, I have to weigh in against a dreadful piece written in the Guardian today.

The Guardian, a broadsheet is well known to be biased more than other papers to the left, published the following titled Bush achieves the impossible. A poor Democrat campaign, 9/11 and the president's huge personal appeal helped his party triumph in the mid-term elections, says Jonathan Freedland

The Democrats did not produce a poor campaign, if this was true the margin would have been even greater. My careful analysis of the results, some of the Republican gains were by small margins given the large turnout by the electorate at the polling station.

One thing again is true, every vote does count. Those democratic supporters who for whatever reason did not vote could have made a difference yesterday. Yet, there are no second chances, not for four years and in my personal opinion the Republicans have pulled off a great victory and have smashed political records in the process.

Freedland continues: Even Ronald Reagan did not manage this. Even Reagan, revered by Republicans as their greatest ever vote getter, had to bow to what used to be one of the iron laws of US politics: the president's party always loses seats in mid-term elections.

Now George Bush has turned that maxim on its head. He has become only the third president in American history to see his party actually gain congressional seats in an "off-year" election. Franklin Roosevelt managed to win House seats for the Democrats in 1934 and Bill Clinton pulled off the same trick in the bizarre Monica election of 1998, but no Republican had ever done it. Until now.

Even those Republican optimists who thought the party would narrowly hold its majority in the House never dared predict they would win the Senate. The Democrats had held it by a razor-thin, one-seat margin - and most pundits expected them to fractionally increase that majority. Instead, a Democratic defeat in the decisive state of Missouri has tipped the Senate into Republican hands.

Poop, poop, poop! I am not sure what spineless reptile was quoted on this, but the republicans entered into the Senate race with the best hand of cards they had for many years.

Freedland continues: As a result Bush will now enjoy complete control of the executive branch, in the form of the White House, and both chambers of the legislature. In a system that is designed to prevent a single-party monopoly of power, Bush has won a command and authority denied to all but a handful of his predecessors. Now he can have his way, whether on entrenching tax cuts, appointing conservative federal judges or waging war on Iraq.

Wrong, in my opinion, a graduate of Schoolhouse rock no less, the system is not designed to prevent a single party monopoly of power. Based upon the votes cast the three ring circus, the executive, the house and the senate have on this occasion all fallen to republican majority. This will signal to the world stability, and given the recent question mark over the economy will for the next two years at least provide some stability not just for the national economy but for the money markets that look to Wall Street for a lead.

Freedland continues: What explains Bush’s success? First, the quality of his opposition. Apparently still in shock over the non-defeat of 2000, where they felt the presidential election was stolen from them, Democrats have struggled to find their voice. Their national leaders, Dick Gephardt in the House and Tom Daschle in the Senate, are solid but uninspiring: neither was able to tour the nation, building genuine momentum.

Poop, poop again Mr. Freedland, the opposition did contain quality, they did have a strong voice, but the substance of the policies they backed was not necessarily the shirttails they should have pegged onto. It takes more than two members of the Democratic Party to “tour the nation” and rally the faithful. This comment does a great disservice to the thousands of democratic members and volunteers that worked long hours and long days to secure votes.

Freedland continues: Nor has the democrats generated much in the way of new talent. Two years after Bush Sr lost the White House in 1992, the Republicans had already developed a new programme and a radical new leadership, in the person of Newt Gingrich. There is no Democrat equivalent. On the contrary, the Democrats had to turn back to their past in this election, putting up 78-year-old Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey and 74-year-old Walter Mondale in Minnesota. Their best campaigner was not a new face, but an old president: Clinton.

Mr. Freedland, given the circumstances and the timescale that Walter Mondale did not have to conduct an effective campaign, and the disgusting political rally bannered as a memorial service, it is not surprising that Mr. Mondale lost. Frank Lautenberg, a stalwart in New Jersey should have stepped down in favor of younger blood. But the American “system” allows him to continue and voters still showed him support.

Freedland continues: More crucially, the Democrats failed to craft a single, winning theme for this election. It should have been the economy, which is certainly suffering. But that message did not get through.

Ah, the economy, the latest excuse I have heard from the democrats is that the media did not focus strongly enough on the economy as being an issue in this election. Given that their resources and attention until the last week or so has been diverted elsewhere with the Sniper news story, the democrats only have themselves to blame for not rolling out their message.

Freedland continues: Instead the economy issue was cancelled out by what voters seem to have regarded as a more pressing concern - the "war on terror". And that is the second explanation for Bush's success. Simply put, 9/11 threw a protective shield around the president and his party, making any challenge to them appear unpatriotic. In normal times, with an economy in this much trouble, Democrats would have romped home. But the 9/11 shield meant any Democratic arguments about the economy - and not enough were made - just bounced off the Republicans.
One last explanation: Bush himself. Even those who oppose every one of his policies, at home and abroad, must surely now face up to the fact that this president has become a formidable politician. He invested huge amounts of personal political capital in these contests, campaigning hard for Republican candidates.
That was a gamble, but it paid off. His personal popularity lifted Republicans across the country, and his campaigning skills may well have made a difference. Barring a disaster - say, a bungled war on Iraq - surely few would bet against this man cruising toward re-election in 2004.

My final arrow at this piece is that popularity alone does not win votes. To suggest this dumb down the intellect of the American voters.

But the one thing I wholeheartedly agree with in a mire of dross and poop, is that I do agree that (very) few should bet against George W Bush crusing towards a re-election in 2004.

… and this is my FINAL word balanced and unbiased, (as best I can write!).

Feedback always invited, please email me.
US Elections

There will be much about the results written and will not be repeated or rehashed here, other than I am pleased with the overall results, despite my inability to vote as I am a legal resident not a citizen in the US.

Nevertheless, what a difference two years makes. I remember watching the results of the Presedential election and the mess the networks made of calling results before the votes were fully counted. A great deal of egg landed on faces of many executives and presenters, not least Peter Jennings.

Last night on one of the national networks, I could stomach a short period of the result programs.
At 10:30pm last night with only 56% of the vote from one of the states in, the Associate Press were calling the result for this state. The news network having learned their lesson reported:

"We will tell you what AP are reporting, and will advise you of the continuing results from this state. But we will not be calling this result at this time".

Ah, what a difference 2 years makes.

Yet, one brief newsclip showed a frustrated senator trying to cast her vote only having the voting machine seize on her. With a camera crew on site, she was very vocal in her disgust.

Perhaps we have not learned that much in two years after all.

The last time I voted in the UK, we still used a ballot slip and a pencil to mark a X against our favored candidates.

The huge volunteer counters would then work late into the night with only spoiled ballot slips to weed out and not a Chad in sight.

From the UK today...

Lamplugh 'killer' named, but he will not face charges

In 1986 Suzy Lamplugh an estate agent had an appointment with Mr. Kipper. She was never seen alive again.

The case of her murder had the British police puzzled for many years. Again this week the story is once again brought to the attention of the public as her killer is named but will not face charges.

My first reaction was the cost of this investigation alone merits an arrest and a trial. Yet the full facts are again an example of an investigation that perhaps fell short of its objective much sooner.

The Independent today writes:

Crucial evidence that could have led to the conviction of a rapist for the abduction and murder of Suzy Lamplugh was missed by the police, Scotland Yard admitted yesterday. The Metropolitan Police said unless an important new witness came forward the man it believes killed the 25-year-old estate agent in July 1986 would never be brought to justice.

The force yesterday named John Cannan, 47, a convicted rapist who is serving life for abducting, raping and murdering Shirley Banks in Bristol in 1989, as the only suspect in the investigation.

A second inquiry into the Lamplugh murder uncovered evidence linking Cannan to the abduction, but without scientific evidence, a confession or the discovery of the body, the Crown Prosecution Service decided last month that any case against him was likely to fail.

The new police team has disclosed that the original inquiry missed or ignored potentially crucial clues in the months after Ms Lamplugh disappeared while showing a house in Fulham, west London, to a man calling himself Mr Kipper.

The case has become one of the most enduring in recent criminal history, but until yesterday the full extent of the links between Ms Lamplugh and Cannan were unpublished.

Four days before Ms Lamplugh went missing Cannan, whose nickname in jail was Kipper, was released after a conviction in 1981 for rape. He had been in a prison hostel in Wormwood Scrubs, near to where the estate agent was abducted. The first investigation by the Metropolitan Police treated the case as a missing persons inquiry and failed to find out the full details of sex offenders who were released from Wormwood Scrubs.

The police also failed to act on information provided by Ms Lamplugh's parents, who revealed that their daughter had been pestered or stalked by a man claiming he was a businessman from Bristol. This was the technique and storyline that Cannan had used for previous victims.

The police later discovered that in the months before the abduction Cannan had been out on day release and could have easily contacted the estate agent.

The police also released a photograph of Ms Lamplugh with dark hair, despite being told by the family that at the time of her disappearance she had dyed it blonde. There was a breakdown in relations between the police and the Lamplugh family, who believed their concerns were being ignored.

Witnesses also described a man who resembled Cannan. But he was not identified as a suspect until his conviction for the murder of Ms Banks, which had many similarities with the Lamplugh case.

Not until a new inquiry was set up in May 2000 were the police able to reinvestigate the case and identify more witnesses. Cannan was alleged to have boasted to a former girlfriend that he had raped and murdered Ms Lamplugh and buried her in the countryside. Despite several excavations police have been unable to find her. Cannan is one of 26 "lifer" inmates who the Home Secretary has said should never be released.
Detective Chief Inspector Jim Dickie, one of the senior investigating officers, said yesterday: "I have dealt with enough serial murderers to know that he [Cannan] is one.

"We recommended that he should be charged. The CPS thought otherwise and we have to respect that view."

Questioned on the failings of the first inquiry, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bill Griffiths said: "It's about having poor systems, being overwhelmed with information and not seeing the key question."

Paul Lamplugh, Suzy's father, praised the new inquiry, but added: "We are greatly distressed and indeed considerably angered that after all these years it is still not possible to prosecute the person who both we and the police believe murdered Suzy."

With the only suspect already behind bars for life, Justice has been seen to be done, for his other crimes. Nevertheless, if I was a relative or friend of Suzy’s I would certainly want some closure by a day in court and a guilty verdict or plea.

In 1986 my brother was, and to this day still is an Estate Agent. Perhaps this is why I have an interest in this case.

and finally The Falklands.

November 11 is only days away. The vets heading to the Falklands left today from London Airport. Who saw them off, why former PM Maggie Thatcher. Good for her!

Who will be joining the vets in the Falklands, why Prince Andrew, a Falklands vet himself.

Who will be wearing a poppy in Whitehall on Sunday, PM Blair. Who did not help the vets with their travel expenses to the Falklands, PM Blair. Still something wrong here.

The locals on the islands will be providing bed and board for the vets heading south. They will ensure the vets will be transported to the battle sites to pay their respects.

But this will be despite the actions of PM Blair.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

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