Saturday, August 11, 2007

NHS Direct ...

I got a call today from Susan, who's with her mother and the children in Gower. My in-law had left her tablets behind, but her GP said he'd fax a prescription if she could find a chemist that's open late tonight or tomorrow. Could I take a look on the Web ?

A quick Google gave me a list of pharmacies, but which were open out of hours ?

The Swansea Council website had a helpful link.

NHS Direct operates a 24-hour nurse advice and health information service, providing confidential information on what to do if you or your family are feeling ill, particular health conditions, local healthcare services, such as doctors, dentists or late night opening pharmacies, self help and support organisations.

Looked useful - followed the link. And look - there's a place at the bottom of the page to look for pharmacies by postcode.

Enter a postcode, check the pharmacy box and you end up here.

I don't know if any of you can get any results from that page, but I couldn't. I hadn't noticed the bit underneath saying :

This service is provided for people in England only. For local services information in other parts of UK please visit the NHS in Northern Ireland, the NHS in Scotland or the NHS in Wales.

Not to worry - I found another link to here.

"Enter a valid postcode or place name" - OK, "Swansea".

Apparently that's not a valid placename - after all, it's only a city of some 250,000 people.

It appears that the "National" Health Service is in practice "The NHS in England" - only unlike the Scots and Welsh, the name of the English nation is verboten. If you enter "SA3 2BT" on this page you're told :

This postcode can be classed within Wales.
Please visit the for more information outside England.

Follow the link and you do indeed get a list of pharmacies - but no information on late opening.

With a sigh I dialled NHS Direct Wales - which turns out to be the same number as NHS Direct England . Fifteen minutes later I sat listening to a staff member typing in the same details on the same web pages.

"I'm sorry, I'm afraid I can't help you"

If you want information on out of hours pharmacies in Swansea, it seems the thing to do is to ring your 80-year-old aunt there. She walks up to the local shops, where a list of out-of-hours pharmacies is displayed in the chemist's window, copies them down and rings back.

I explained my problems with NHS Direct.

"I could have told you not to bother. Everybody knows they're a waste of time".

Friday, August 10, 2007

Free Up Mi Ganga

" ... 'tis called by the Moors, Gange, by the Chingalese, Comsa, and by the Portugals, Bangue ... (it) doth in a short Time, quite take away the Memory and Understanding, so that the patient understands not, nor remembereth any thing that he seeth, heareth, or doth, in that Exstasie, but becomes, as it were, a mere Natural, being unable to speak a Word of Sense; yet he is very merry, and laughs, and sings, and speaks Words without any Coherence, nor knowing what he saith or doth; yet he is not giddy, or drunk, but walks and dances, and sheweth many odd Tricks; after a little time he falls asleep, and sleepeth very soundly and quietly; and when he wakes, he finds himself mightily refresh'd, and exceeding hungry ...

'tis commonly made Use of, by the Heathen Priests, or rambling Mendicant Heathen Friars, who will many of them meet together, and every of them dose themselves with this Medicine, and then ramble several Ways, talking they know not what, pretending after that, they were inspired."

Robert Hooke, describing the effects of cannabis to a meeting of the Royal Society in London, 18th December 1689. (from Stephen Inwood's Hooke biography The Man Who Knew Too Much).

(The Chingalese are the Ceylonese, and the charming and sympathetic expression 'a natural' was used until the early twentieth century to describe a simpleton or mentally backward person. There's an echo there of the concept that the afflicted one was in some way sacred or touched by God. Today a natural would be described as having severe learning difficulties.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Compare And Contrast

The BBC hand over a secretly recorded tape to the police. It shows senior BNP guys saying things like 'Islam is a wicked, vicious faith' and 'let's show these ethnics the door in 2004'.

The police and CPS prosecute. One trial fails to reach a verdict, so there's a second trial.

Channel 4 hand over a secretly recorded tape to the police. It shows senior Muslim clerics saying things like 'Christians and Jews are enemies of Muslims' and 'Take the homosexual man and throw him off the mountain'.

West Midland Police investigate the film - then investigate the film-makers and ask the CPS to consider prosecuting them for stirring up racial hatred.

The CPS was also asked by the police to consider whether a prosecution under the Public Order Act 1986 should be brought against Channel 4 for broadcasting a programme including material likely to stir up racial hatred. Miss David advised West Midlands Police that on the evidence available, there was insufficient evidence that racial hatred had been stirred up as a direct consequence of the programme. It would also be necessary to identify a key individual responsible for doing this together with an intent to stir up racial hatred, which was not possible.

West Midlands Police have taken account of this advice and explored options available to them and has now referred the matter to the broadcasting regulators Ofcom as a formal complaint.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Boom Bang-A-Bang

At last. Sky News reports on the "largest haul (of explosive chemical precursors) ever found at a house in this country".

Four containers of sulphur - gunpowder
A packet of magnesium ribbon - flares, incendiaries
A container of aluminium powder - improves the bang of most explosives. Churchill was very cross when in WW2 he discovered we weren't putting it in our bombs. Used by PIRA.
A container of magnesium powder - flares, incendiaries
Three containers of magnesium shreds - ditto
A bottle of nitric acid - can be used with toluene and sulphuric acid to make TNT. Generally useful if you want to make things go bang.
A bottle of hydrochloric acid - pass.
A bottle of phosphoric acid - pass
A bottle of acetic acid - eh ? Maybe he knows more about bangs than I do. Diluted and coloured with caramel, it is sometimes sold in chippies as a disgusting vinegar-substitute called euphemistically 'Non-Brewed Condiment'
Four containers of potassium nitrate - aka saltpetre. Gunpowder
A container of potassium perchlorate - useful oxidiser
A bottle of dimethyl sulfoxide - pass. Good solvent.
A bottle of chloroform - for the lovely Kerena ? Deadly if overdone, of course. Not heard of it going bang.
A container of sodium hydroxide - cleaning the drains.
A bottle of acetone - TATP ? Or Kerena's nail varnish ?
A bottle of toluene - see above
A bottle of methanol - not to be confused with big sister ethanol.
A bottle of ethanol - mix with water and lime juice. Very little hangover.
Two bottles of hydrogen peroxide - useful oxidiser, once used in rockets
Five bottles of hydrogen peroxide - ditto
Two bottles of potassium Iodide supplements - in case of nuclear strikes ?
A bottle of potassium permanganate - peroxide dissociates violently in the presence of pot permang, liberating lots of heat and oxygen, also steam which is not so useful.
A bottle of ammonia - for cleaning the windows
An ampoule of methadone chloride - no comment
Three containers of iodine crystals - surely he wouldn't try nitrogen tri-iodide ?
A bottle of hydrogen peroxide hair product - see above

As far as I know it's not illegal to possess any of the above.

The alleged rocket launchers vanished from press reports quite a while ago, seemingly now followed by the nuclear protection suits.

Robert Cottage got two and a half years after admitting possessing explosives. I find that slightly odd as he didn't actually possess any. But his sentence certainly bears out my observation that "a desire to make improvised explosive devices, when mixed with right-wing politics, can be extremely hazardous to your liberty." Compare his sentence with that of Edward Mattison, who not only made but detonated some quite large devices. He got less than half Cottage's sentence.

Mr Cottage at first glance wouldn't appear to have a great deal in common with Irfan Raja and his co-defendants, jailed for "possessing material for terrorist purposes" or "having articles for terrorism" - the BBC reporter can't make up his mind. But like Mr Cottage (and unlike Mr Mattison), they hadn't actually done anything.

Among the items found was a film showing atrocities against Muslims around the world, aimed at encouraging martyrdom, the Old Bailey was told.

We seem to be in the same territory where people who report on (true) crimes committed by one or other ethnic group are accused of 'stirring up racial hatred' - the truth or otherwise of their claims being apparently immaterial. Whether a film of atrocities is 'encouraging martyrdom' is surely a subjective judgement - and in any event, English culture and the Christian faith have venerated martyrs from Samson, whose pulling down of the Temple of Dagon would surely qualify as an act of terrorism, through John Wall and the Catholic Martyrs to the names once known to every English child through Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

These prosecutions seem to lie in a strange half-world - but closer to the political offence than the criminal act.

The defendants denied having extremist views and some said they were researching ideology and other matters.

Hang on. In a matter of criminal law why should their views count one way or the other ? Why's it so important for them not to be 'extremists' ?

Because motivation is all. Possessing items "likely to be of use for terrorism" is such a broad concept that in practice the 'likeliness' is decided not by what the items are, but what the accused may have wanted to do with them. The 9/11 murderers used Stanley knives and Microsoft Flight Simulator, but those of us who possess both are unlikely to get arrested at 5 am unless we start posting on jihadi websites while simultaneously researching flight deck door locking mechanisms and when the stewards bring the pilots coffee.

Similarly Omar Altimimi got nine years despite the police admitting that "we will never know exactly what Altimimi was preparing to do". He had built up a library of terror-related literature - but on those grounds Professor Paul Wilkinson should be inside.

The sad thing for Mr Cottage is that if gunpowder was all he wanted, why not just buy some fireworks and dismantle them ? Although the banger and the fearsome mortar are now banned, you can buy multi-shot cakes at very reasonable prices these days - enough I would have thought to construct the mother of all thunderflashes. (Not that I would encourage such things, as it's almost certainly illegal under some law or other). I guess Mr C just wanted to do it himself - to be self-sufficient. Just goes to show how British initiative is being stifled ... in the Land of the Free people still play here.

Other posts on the Great BNP Bomb Horror :

Not With A Bang But A Whimper

Half A Ton Of BNP Rice

Huge BNP Bomb War Horror Shock Apocalypse

It's Tin-Foil Hat Time ...

Tsk Tsk

Monday, August 06, 2007

Frog Almost Boiled

Brits during WW2 were horrified at the segregation of the US armed forces and were sympathetic to the black G.I.s - as recounted in this novel.

Churchill looked at the English outrage and pronounced :

"In countries where there is only one race, broad and lofty views are taken of the colour problem."

Newly released archives show Churchill's 1951 administration worrying about the Windrush generation and social cohesion. The Guardian story is written by a David Ward to make it appear that cabinet secretary Norman Brook considered them 'riff-raff', whereas the case "for excluding riff-raff" related to the Metropolitan Police finding that 40% of those convicted for pimping in London were "coloured". But you wouldn't expect the Guardian to do a straight report, would you ?

Churchill :

"Problems which will arise if many coloured people settle here. Are we to saddle ourselves with colour problems in UK ? Attracted by Welfare State. Public opinion in UK won't tolerate it once it gets beyond certain limits."

Let's just revisit the 'nation of immigrants', shall we ?

"David Maxwell-Fyfe, the home secretary, reported that the total of "coloured people" in Britain had risen from 7,000 before the second world war to 40,000 at the time of writing, with 3,666 of those unemployed, and 1,870 on national assistance, or benefits."

Home Secretary David Maxwell-Fyfe uttered a variation on Churchill's theme which still applies today :

"The col(onial) populations are resented in Liverpool, Paddington & other areas, by those who come into contact with them. But those who don't are apt to take Liberal view."

And those who didn't were many and influential. Maxwell-Fyfe was cautious :

" ... politically it would be represented & discussed on basis of a colour limitation. That would. offend the floating vote viz., the old Liberals. We should be reversing age-long tradition that British subjects have right of entry to mother-country of Empire. We should offend Liberals, also sentimentalists."

"Public opinion in UK won't tolerate it once it gets beyond certain limits". Even a great man doesn't get everything right.

The strategy for years and years was 'the immigrant population is a tiny minority of the total. Anyone feeling threatened by such a tiny minority must be an evil racist'. The water temperature rose slowly and the frog stayed put.

But that's changing. Trevor Phillips' "since the migrant and ethnic minority populations are still below 10%, we have a way to go before Britons feel threatened by pure numbers" may prove to be the last sighting outside of the Guardian comments. We're more into comments like these :

Immigration to Britain today is fundamentally different from previous settlements because it is changing the composition of the nation, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality said last night.

I think the real problem is that community cohesion ends the idea that a diverse society can be built without the white majority having to change very much.

A view of multiculturalism where no single group is perceived as dominant is needed to prevent a repeat of the inner city riots of the 1980s, communities minister David Miliband argued this week.

Now you used to have to be a swivel-eyed loon to pick this stuff up. It seems to be spreading to the MSM at last. Maybe the fact that the new incomers are white has reduced the liberal guilt and fear of being called a racist.

Britain's face is changing. More than half of all babies born in London last year were the children of foreign-born mothers. Across England and Wales, the figure was approaching a quarter. The biggest winners, apart from the migrants themselves, are the farmers and hoteliers who employ them at minimum-wage rates. The losers are the British craftsmen and cleaners, farm labourers and semi-skilled workers whose wages have been forced down as they compete in the labour market.

The most remarkable impact of recent migration is shown in birth statistics, calculated by the Office for National Statistics and revealed today.

These show that out of 669,000 babies born last year in England and Wales, 147,000, or 22 per cent, were the children of foreign-born mothers. A further six per cent had British-born mothers but foreign-born fathers. Among the foreign mothers, roughly a quarter were Asian, a quarter European, a quarter from Africa or the Caribbean, and a quarter from elsewhere.

The figures also show that British-born women have, on average, 1.6 children - less than the "replacement rate" needed to keep the population stable. Foreign-born women living in Britain have, on average, 2.2 children. The highest fertility rate is among women born in Pakistan but living in Britain, who have an average of 4.7 children.

The Government Actuary predicts that by 2031, Britain's population will have risen from 60 million to 67 million, with most of the growth due to net immigration. The increase is the equivalent of six new cities the size of Birmingham.

Hmmm. 22% + 6% - nearly 1 baby in three in 2006. And from an in-depth study of the Gloucestershire and Wiltshire stores of Poundland and Lidl, I think the Poles are only just starting to sprog seriously. The frog may find it a bit late to jump out of the pot.

Guilty White Liberals

Observed in the lab.

Public School Socialists ...

Via Harry, this Prospect piece on the changing music market. As the value of recorded music drops, the value of live music increases. But it was this that struck me :

Even the less prosperous citizens of Chile were asked to pay £80 to watch Coldplay in Santiago's Espacio Riesco, a considerable sum in a city where the average monthly salary is around £250.

Crooks Escape

Imam Sajid, a former chairman of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, urged the escapees to give themselves up, but also called for a change to the way immigrants are treated. He said: "The problem we have is these people feel they are treated like criminals when their crimes are simply fleeing their own country for whatever reason".

Treated like criminals, eh ?

The Home Office has confirmed the 14 men still on the run from an immigration detention centre have all been convicted of criminal offences. The men were among 26 people who fled the Campsfield Detention Centre in Oxfordshire following a riot there on Saturday night. A spokeswoman for the Home Office said they had all served their sentences and were awaiting deportation. She said the most serious offence any of them had committed was robbery.

Note the theories of Evan 'Dr Death' Harris :

"It is not surprising that seemingly indefinite detention without charge or without conviction leads to frustration, misery and potential unrest".

It's only "seemingly indefinite" because of the taxpayer-funded lawyers spinning out the appeals process !

UPDATE - Martin Kelly notes the lack of descriptions for any of the men of no appearance.

Men Without Religion ...


In the annual survey of MPs' holiday reading, released today by the bookshop chain Waterstone's, first place was taken by William Hague's biography of William Wilberforce, which was published to coincide with the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. It came well ahead of books that received more hype at the time of publication, such as the latest Harry Potter fantasy, or the diaries of Alastair Campbell.

It is perhaps not surprising that Mr Hague should be the top seller among Conservative MPs, but what is less predictable is that the survey showed the same book to be the Liberal Democrat's top summer read.

A new mood of religious scepticism seems to have taken hold of Labour MPs, who have made The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, their main choice.

You don't surprise me at all.

Also in the Indie ... (via)

We have nothing to fear from al-Qa'ida. Christian fundamentalists are the real extremist threat. That's the message from the writers of a new play being shown at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. Cash in Christ, a sing-along play satirising the modern capitalist "mega- church", is arguably one of the most controversial productions in a Fringe with the largest satirical content in living memory.

The 50-minute show, written by Van Badham and Jonny Berliner, which premieres this weekend, comprises sermons from Christian literature, television programmes and church services. The authors conducted extensive research in America, Australia and online, and also spent three months attending services at London churches, including the Hillsong Church and Holy Trinity Brompton.

The writers said that, while there is public discussion about the dangers of radical Islamic groups, the influence of the Christian far right is underestimated. "I've been very sensitive to extremists in other religions, particularly Islam, being demonised," said Badham. "I find the Christian right groups that are enormously powerful in our own culture a larger numerical threat than extreme Islam. They are somehow removed from public criticism, and that is one of the reasons we did the show.

"Bush is from the religious right and he has the bomb; that terrifies me far more than the potential of other extremists to get their hands on nuclear weapons. In the religious right it is the self-appointed moral majority that sets its own rules, and anybody opposing them is labelled unpatriotic and shouted down."

Badham said the Wisepart/Jews and Communists co-production is entirely fictitious, but reflects wider political concerns. "It terrifies me that a few religious groups were able to cause a furore around Jerry Springer – The Opera in Britain. What I find frightening about the war in Iraq is that Bush and the people around him speak about it as if it's the crusades again."

She said that although people they met at church services were kind, she felt their attitudes might foster religious intolerance. "The propaganda is intense. We have been going to these megachurches to be told: 'Christianity is not a religion. It is the work of God to rescue all of humanity.' So everybody else can basically get stuffed."

I think that Messrs Bad Ham und Berliner can basically get stuffed. But if they fancy getting their play put on at Stratford, they need to get on the phone to Dominic Cooke.

Polish Drivers


Migrant workers from Eastern Europe are responsible for a disproportionate number of fatal traffic accidents, especially on rural roads, a council has said. The concern is so great that young Polish men will be officially classified as one of the most at-risk groups on roads throughout Yorkshire.

Staff on North Yorkshire Council sought the birthplace of motorists involved in car crashes over the past year in the county after evidence suggested that such workers were putting lives at risk. They discovered that 14 per cent of all fatal accidents involved Eastern Europeans. John Fort, executive member for community safety, said that many were production workers and needed cars because public transport was limited in rural areas.

The TTC Group, which runs a drink-drive rehabilitation scheme, suggests that Eastern Europeans are proportionally higher represented on its courses. A spokesman for the Federation of Poles in Great Britain suggested that companies employing young Polish workers should ferry them around in small buses.

"after evidence suggested" - amazingly the council investigated following anecdotal evidence.

The figures have been released by North Yorkshire council after officials became increasingly concerned with anecdotal evidence suggesting immigrants were putting lives in danger.

Isn't that racist ? I heard some interesting anecdotal evidence (aka hearsay) last week about the free bottled water handed out in Gloucester over the last month (police had to supervise the distribution). But it may just be tittle-tattle. Who can tell ? I'd be amazed if it was investigated.

UPDATE - it's not just North Yorkshire - the North Sea too.

A captain has been charged with being drunk in charge of a cargo vessel which crashed into a North Sea gas platform. Zbigniew Karkowski, 56, was arrested after the Jork hit the unmanned Echo platform 40 miles (64km) off the Norfolk coast on Saturday. Mr Karkowski, from Szczecin, Poland, was one of seven people who had to be rescued from the 2000-tonne ship.

This is interesting.

The vessel, which had been bound for the River Humber, eventually sank the following morning. The vessel had been carrying grain from Lubeck in Germany. Mario Siano, of Yarmouth coastguard, said the swelling of wheat on board the ship caused its hull to burst.

Tricky stuff, wheat, once it gets wet. Didn't Horatio Hornblower have the same problem with a cargo of rice ?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

"I am now going to try an experiment"

The story of Churchill and the cigars. You get the impression that someone prepared to take the risk of poisoning his Defence Committee in the middle of WW2 wouldn't have had an awful lot of time for health and safety culture.

September 1941, and the Cuban Government has made a handsome present to Mr Churchill - a hand-made cabinet containing 2,500 of Cuba's finest cigars. But people are worried that the cigars may have been got at by ill-intentioned types.

On September 23, soon after the cigars arrived at 10 Downing Street, Churchill was informed that a cigar from each box had been sent to Rothschild for laboratory testing. Colville warned him against sneaking a sly smoke from those that remained. “It is hoped that you will not smoke any of the cigars until the result of the analysis is known . . . there has just been a round-up of undesirable elements in Cuba, which has shown that a surprisingly large number of Nazi agents and sympathisers exist in that country.”

The tests took five weeks and concluded that the samples, at any rate, were safe. But it was all too late.

He ushered the committee into a small anteroom to the left of Downing Street’s hall and proudly displayed his new cigar collection.

“See, this came for me today. I have had some difficulty getting this through customs,” he said, pulling out bundles of long Romeo y Julieta, H Upmann and Por Larranaga.

Lord Balfour, then undersecretary of state for air, later recalled: “Turning to the waiting ministers, he addressed us thus, ‘Gentlemen, I am now going to try an experiment. Maybe it will result in joy. Maybe it will end in grief. I am about to give you each one of these magnificent cigars.’

“He paused, then continued with Churchillian effect, ‘It may well be that these each contain some deadly poison.’ He went on, alluding to the possible act of poisoning the entire defence committee: ‘It may well be that within days I shall follow sadly the long line of coffins up the aisle of Westminster Abbey. Reviled by the populace, as the man who has out Borgiaed Borgia’.”

Each committee member returned to the cabinet room contentedly puffing a rare Havana cigar.

Hang 'Em High

The Daily Mail shows us the barbarity of today's Iran, where executions take place in public.

Two more criminals have been publicly hanged in Iran as children looked on and people took pictures.

Flanked by masked hangmen, hoods over the heads of the condemned men were removed before the hanging, which took place in front of a giant portrait of the judge they had killed. Onlookers in the street and on the roofs of houses chanted and took pictures with mobile phones. Some laughed.

How appalling - the kind of degrading spectacle abolished in mid-Victorian times. The Mail readers must be outraged.


"I'm all for the death penalty ..."

"A few public hangings in this country might help deter the criminals ..."

"We should bring it back in the UK and stop pussy footing around."

"Job done! this is one aspect of Iranian law that we should start using now."

"Before we criticise other countries, let's look at our own. It was great once but not anymore. We don't even have punishment now."

"Medieval and barbaric it may be, but I bet Iran doesn't have anywhere like the problems that Britain has with crime !"

"this is what we need in this country as far as murderers and other violent criminals are concerned. Jailing them is expensive ..."