December 22, 2003

December 2003, Happy Holidays to all. 

As we countdown the last couple of days to Christmas Day, I wanted to take this opportunity to personally reflect on the last month and what has happened to the house of Friend in Pennsylvania.

The first gift of the first Christmas was a child. This is the best gift that Taney & I will give to each other on Christmas morning as we sign our adoption agency application to start the process of bringing our daughter home from China. Regardless of everything else that has transpired this month, this one fact is concrete.

Since the start of November, we have had our home on the market as an opportunity had presented itself to move to Bryn Athyn PA. This action in itself was pivotal for our Plan A to move forward combining both a move and the start of the adoption process from the day we completed the sale. Plan A turned into something of a roller-coaster as events unfolded that as we discovered after six weeks of living in an ideal home, dressed for the holiday season with scented candles and the cats boxes conveniently hidden down in the basement. With the Christmas season as our deadline to move forward with our plans, we have switched to Plan B, we have taken our home off the market and both of us, and the cats are not as stressed.

The day the For Sale sign was removed from our front lawn, I certainly signed a great breath of relief and moved ahead immediately with Taney to our Plan B.

December is the holiday season. The Friend family continues to establish our traditions since moving to the US. For this first time, we joined friends caroling around Pine Run Park. An evening all the more authentic in that the snow truly lay around about, deep and crisp and even. The last home on our trek from door to door invited us in for hot chocolate and home baked cookies.

We declined this year to attend the Glencarin Sing, opting instead for the Bryn Athyn Society sing last Saturday evening. A far more informal affair, despite the brothers Simmons sporting natty red bowties, while the pastoral staff of the school and the cathedral presented the “Pastoral Dance” top hats and canes with much shoe shuffling in coordination of sorts. This is truly an opportunity to celebrate the start of the final countdown, to sing a few more carols and celebrate with friends.

I had to miss the children’s concert on Friday that was attended by Taney m, featuring our nephew Glenn who performed the twelve days of Christmas with his classmates. One of the highlights of this event is the presentation of “Toys for Tots” to the US Marines that visit the school each year for the purpose. Taney & I contributed the American version of the British game “Frustration” no batteries included. This gift will be opened by one of many youngsters who will have a brighter Christmas this year thanks to the campaign run each year by the Marines. More important is that the adult attending gave the marines three standing ovations, in recognition of their contribution towards freedom. A scene that turns the hardened man to quivering jelly.

Last Saturday, Taney & I visited Peddler’s Village in PA and took our annual trip to the Gingerbread house competition to view but not to taste the entries. Our personal winner was Radio City complete with bear looking rockettes. Peddler’s Village is stunning at this time of the year. Our annual trip to the Cheese Shop, added to the tasty foods we received as a gift from my wife’s parents that traditional remains untouched until Christmas Eve, our shopping included brandy butter to add to the feast!

Taney has already purchased the ingredients for our Christmas Day breakfast. A full English breakfast, just as I remember my Dad preparing on Christmas morning, we continue the tradition including Heinz baked beans. It would seem that our Christmas revolves around food – and why not I say.

Professionally the checks are starting to filter into the offices now that the Sweeten the Season candy canes campaign is underway. Indicators point to a successful year, the New Year will clearly announce the conclusion.

For friends that read London Chimes and have not received a Christmas card from us this year, please keep an eye open in you email boxes this week. With the pending now aborted house move, and the imminent start of the adoption process this month, we have pulled right back on all Christmas expenses this year. Parcels to family back in the UK have been sent and I believe will not arrive before the big day. This is my fault as despite having a grip on most things, last posting dates are put to the back burner and then forgotten until it is too late. Nevertheless, gifts are on their way to my parents, my brother and his family and these packs include cards.

From being wrapped in the spirit of the Christmas season in late November and early December, events have rather drained my initial enthusiasm for the season and it is only today with three days to go that I am in a buoyant and happy mood looking forward to the Christmas season.

One thing I have taken to far more naturally this year is the concept of the terms “Happy holidays” not everyone is celebrating Christmas at this time of year, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are just as important to others. So not wishing to be disrespectful to anyone, on behalf of Taney and I we wish you and yours happy holidays.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

December 19, 2003

White Christmas 

According the oracle on such matters the Weather Channel is not predicting a snowy white chirstmas such as we had in 2002. The roads on route to a splendid turkey dinner were white, icy and covered in snow last year.

This year it would seem that today is the last day for a flurry before the 25th.
Feedback always invited, please email me.

December 17, 2003

Capture of Saddam. 

It has been best part of a week since the capture in a hole, grovelling in the dirt like the rat he is last Saturday without a wince of a comment on London Chimes.

There are reasons to numerous to mention that have nothing to do with Iraq that have sidetracked me for the last days.

Regardless, I could not continue the week without at least offering a passing mention that the capture of Saddam is significant in ways yet to be imagined on the global scene. The London Chimes jury of one is sitting on the sidelines watching the careful drip of information cross into the public domain before offering any detailed comment.

If evryone knows where they were when the news broke, I will be able to tell my daughter that I was woken by a call from my mom-in-law answered by my wife to simply put on the TV, any channel.

Waking from my slumber I first thought the very worst, it took at least the first cup of tea of the morning, well after all I am British you know, to start to gather the enormity of the news.

My hat is off to the American troops and intellengence teams who ferretted him out of his "spider hole". The reaction broadcast from the press conference in Iraq was a taster of the reaction that would come from the streets with celebration gunfire.

There are many questions that have yet to be answered to full satisfaction. Will he talk? What will he say? How and where will he appear in a court of his peers to face charges of mass murder and worse?

For today, tomorrow and the next few days we are left to gleen the morsals of information being fed to us.

I offer two comparisons for your consideration.

What would have happened to Hitler had he been caught alive?
In recent times look at the trial of Milsovitch as a possible guide to the future for Saddam.

Goodnight all.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

December 16, 2003

The Red Thread. 

There is an update to The Red Thread today.
Feedback always invited, please email me.

December 09, 2003

Rugby fever. 

The images of the tens of thousands - and more, in London to watch the parade of the England Rugby World Cup winning team travel through the west end of London yesterday looked wonderful.

It is not often the patrotic pride at its very best is projected through the win of a world class sporting event.

"Its not the winning its the taking part that counts", is often quoted as England, are dismissed in the stages leading up to a grand final of many sporting events. Further it is great that once in a while their truly is something to celebrate.

I imagine the odds must be short indeed for the Sports Team of the Year award at the BBC Sportspersonality of the Year awards.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

December 06, 2003

Weekend Post - First Snow. 

The first snowfall in December before Christmas is a magical experience, to watch the flakes fall from the sky and create a christmas card image is a beautiful sight to see, - normally.

The snow that started in the very early hours of Friday morning had created enough havoc in the burbs of Philly for rush hour. The number of minor accidents from the black ice had as one radio reporter announced, made today $500 deductible day, the american car insurance term for "excess" on British policies.

My commute through the burbs, NE Philly over the Tacony Bridge spanning the Delaware River to Cherry Hill was not without incident, although thankfully I was but a spectator rather than a participant.

An estimated measurement places us at 6 inches of snowfall on the drive, and it is still snowing and will continue to do so up to midnight tonight. (Saturday).

Unlike the nice light powder snow that requires less effort to shovel, this snow is the "British kind", wet and heavy, turns to slush too easily and compounds to ice.

For sure the image of the snow on the trees and the ground looks dramatic, thankgoodness we have a weekend for the "heros" of PennDot and the townships to clear the roads with the ploughs before Mondays commute.

It never ceases to amaze me how efficent everyone is at clearing the road and indeed keeping them ploughed during a winter storm, and in this instance storms as there are two back to back (not that you would notice).

My snow shovel has been brought up from the basement and last night was put to work after returning from the office. I appreciated the office closing early yesterday at 2pm to allow those that had struggled in to return in the daylight before the roads became too dangerous.

I have thought a great deal of my colleagues who had driven to New York yesterday morning for a meeting and how their drive home must have been challenging and slow at best.

Turning to other matters this week, professionally the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America annual holiday seasonal "Sweeten the Season" candy cane for $1 campagin is stronger than ever. We still have a week and a half before the central distribution stops. The number of canes in circulation to raise funds for MSAA exceeds all expectations this year. Reports from the volunteers and stores participating is truly heartwarming.

Tomorrow, Sunday is my nephews Laif Brighton Judson baptism this is scheduled as the highlight of my weekend.

Looking out of the window this morning at the snow the bike ride I took with Laif's Dad, Chris last Sunday through the northern tip of Fairmount Park alongside the Wissahicken (and yes its spelt wrong I am sure) Creek.
It was a beautiful sunny not cold but not warm fall Sunday morning, as we cycled down the old road that runs along the river as were horesriders, joggers, and others out cycling or just for a stroll. The valley reminded me of the wooded valleys on Dartmoor with stone bridges and waterfalls. I had never visited this part of Fairmount Park before and the ride was a true 10/10 in great company.

The cycling is all part of training for a sponsored cycle ride on Long Beach Island next September, some 20 miles. With a bikerack on the back of my car, the opportunity to explore the unaccessable byways on bike is a real pleasure for both of us.

For now, my bike a hybrid cross-country bike not build for speed but comfort off road sits in the basement until the next Sunday the weather is suitable for an adventure.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

December 04, 2003

Seven months in Iraq - A progress report. 

I was delighted to receive an email from Tor a good friend of mine this morning that clearly spells out the progress in Iraq, the story of democratic freedom in just over seven months.

With the negative reporting in the majority of the media, bias would be an accurate description, these facts written by Charles Mitchell are posted here for your information in a mission for fair and balanced reporting.

Since May 1
By Charles Mitchell

The next time you hear a network news story, or read a newspaper, keep these facts in mind and ask, why isn't this being reported? Below is the list that NEVER makes the Media Moguls' "news" headlines. They just keep printing the explosions, shootings, deaths and failures. Have faith!

"Since May 1..."

Since May 1...the first battalion of the new Iraqi Army has graduated and is on active duty*

Since May 1... over 60,000 Iraqis now provide security to their fellow citizens.

Since May 1...nearly all of Iraq's 400 courts are functioning.

Since May 1... the Iraqi judiciary is fully independent.

Since May 1...on Monday, October 6 power generation hit 4,518 megawatts-exceeding the pre-war average.

Since May 1...all 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all primary and secondary schools.

Since May 1... as of October 1, Coalition forces had rehabbed over 1,500 schools - 500 more than their target.

Since May 1... teachers earn from 12 to 25 times their former salaries.

Since May 1...all 240 hospitals and more than 1200 clinics are open.

Since May 1...doctors' salaries are at least eight times what they were under Saddam.

Since May 1...pharmaceutical distribution has gone from essentially nothing to 700 tons in May to a current total of 12,000 tons.

Since May 1...the Coalition has helped administer over 22 million vaccinations doses to Iraq's children.

Since May 1...a Coalition program has cleared over 14,000 kilometers of Iraq's 27,000 kilometers of weed-choked canals. They now irrigate tens of thousands of farms. This project has created jobs for more than 100,000 Iraqi men and women.

Since May 1...we have restored over three-quarters of pre-war telephone services and over two-thirds of the potable water production.

Since May 1... there are 4,900 full-service connections. We expect 50,000 by January first.

Since May 1...the wheels of commerce are turning. From bicycles to satellite dishes to cars and trucks, businesses are coming to life in all major cities and towns.

Since May 1...95 percent of all pre-war bank customers have service and first-time customers are opening accounts daily.

Since May 1... Iraqi banks are making loans to finance businesses.

Since May 1...the central bank is fully independent.

Since May 1... Iraq has some of the world's most growth-oriented investment and banking laws.

Since May 1... Iraq (has) a single, unified currency for the first time in 15 years

Feedback always invited, please email me.

December 03, 2003

A matter of Attitude and Lattitude. 

Attitude first...

This is not one of those oh-so-boring political posts I promise, you can always skip to Lattitude further down this posting.

In the bustle of Thanksgiving Dinner shortly before I sat at the table with my US family, I noticed breaking news that President Bush was in Baghdad having a turkey dinner with the troops. My initial reaction, “that’s a nice gesture to be with the troops on Thanksgiving” and to be honest, that is about as much thought I gave the event.

Since then I have read, watched and heard the great divide from “it’s a political stunt” to “a wonderful gesture to the troops”. Opinion has polarized many opinions into one of two cams with no real middle ground, except perhaps me.

The logistics of planning a trip as this with some degree of secrecy and the media blocked out with the exception of a chosen few was remarkable. Further given that only a few days before a DHL plane was shot at over the skies of Baghdad, the thought of Air Force One with the President on board in the same skies was a risky decision.

Let us remove the title President, and replace the title with “Commander in chief”. I ask the question is it inappropriate for the CiC to be with troops he has ordered in harms way on a day of Thanks? The majority would say that it is wholly appropriate, it is the baggage that comes with the title President that has one of the camps taking to the word of hate. “We HATE the President” is a quote and soundbite recently broadcast, out of context I am certain.

Given that America is broadly speaking a country run using the 2 party political process, and that as with many democratic countries in the late twentieth century, the divide, policies and manefestos of the parties getting over closer. There are many, who still feel aggrieved by the Presidential election in 2000. This made me think further, Britain is governed by a three party system, the government is decided upon the party that wins the greatest number of seats, and that the government may be elected with less, far less, than 50% of the electorate voting for them. I wondered how three party politics might be accepted in America?

As I have stated on many occasions, as a legal resident alien I am not entitled to vote in America. I do support the President and his policies. In comparing his feast with the troops last week with the speech announcing the end of hostilities on the aircraft carrier that he flew onto, one may be considered as a staged political stunt, the other a genuine measure of the man. Both will probably be used in the video-clips for his reelection campaign, both events had very specific political agendas. A speech announcing the end of hostilities is very different from a low-profile visit to Iraq to be with the troops still fighting to lay the foundation of a democracy for the citizens of Iraq. Troops that her personally has ordered into the way of harm, in conclusion, this visit is probably a true measure of the man who is President, not a President who is also a man.

Switching to Westminster, would the advisors to Downing Street even consider asking Tony Blair to go and eat turkey with the British troops in southern Iraq this Christmas? Would it be considered “grandstanding” or “following the coat-tails of Bush”. While I may not have not originally been a support of Tony Blair, as a statesman he has taken his place on the world stage and must rank alongside Churchill and Thatcher. Nevertheless I am concerned that Brits have a habit of pulling those who succeed off their pedestals, and fear that it may only be a matter of time before Blair is ousted by the Labour members to be replaced by a new party leader. To accrue some political points such as a quiet visit to Iraq this December 25, would not simply be helpful to the upcoming elections in the UK, but the right thing to do, and Tony Blair is as he has proved this year, a man of principal and conviction.

Okay, so I said that this was not going to be a rambling political piece. I guess I was kinda-wrong. But I would be interested in everyone thoughts. Email me please, MalcolmFriend1@aol.com


I never really gave a great deal of thought to the difference between a December morning in England, and one in the 'burbs of Philadelphia.

For instance being South does have some advantages, the sunrise in Potters Bar on this day was at 7:45am, in the Philly burbs it was far earlier at 7:06am. Breakfast in the dark can as I recall be a pityful experience.

I recall from the days I worked in Hatfield, Herts, that sunset in early December would be around 3:52pm or earlier, with it dark by 3:30pm on Christmas Day. While the commute home from Cherry Hill, NJ is still dark, the sun does not set until 4:36pm.

While my family and friends may think that I have it easier living further south, Britain is warmer, much warmer, as icy blasts are heading our way and a real threat of snow on Friday and Saturday.

Earlier this week light flurries left snow in the cold, shady spots that barely covered the ground, this weekend, could see an accumulation of snow, we await latest forecasts.

Hence the cumulative snowfall listing on London Chimes. I ask readers to email me through the winter to keep this listing up to date, in the areas listed.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

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