Saturday, February 23, 2008

Some Mistake Surely ...

Does this bloke look like someone who'd take drugs ?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Carty III

For such an unusual surname I do seem to see it on the news a lot.

A gunman wearing a balaclava burst into a wedding reception and shot the groom, a court has heard. Joshua Mitchell, 20, of Slough, was shot in the thigh in an apparent attempt to "sexually mutilate" him at Skyways Hotel, in Slough, Berkshire.

Jason McInerney, 20, of Romford, Kirk McInerney, 18, of no fixed address, and Martin Carty, 18, of north west London, deny Mr Mitchell's attempted murder.

Hmm. At least it wasn't Martin Carthy.

Reading Crown Court heard that during their break-up, Mary-Ellen Mitchell, then Miss Murphy, started speaking with Jason McInerney, who she said she knew as Paddy Delaney.

I may be wrong, but is this a traveller's tale ? There's a showman's site at Blaxton.

Jason McInerney, Kirk McInerney and Martin Carty, all deny one charge of attempted murder, one charge of robbery and an alternative charge of GBH. The defendants McInerney, 20, of Romford, Essex, brother Kirk, 18, of no fixed address and cousin Carty, 18, of Kingsbury, north west London, were all arrested in Blaxton, near Doncaster.

Must Check My Eyesight ...

Wroughton Hammer Attack - Verdict 1

They've reached a verdict - but it's a secret.

They're waiting for the trial of the next batch of defendants before releasing the verdict of the first batch.

The defendants are blaming each other.

Who do you think did it ?

"Then I saw the attacker running past me. And he hid his face from me. He had a black hoodie on. He put his hood up and was hiding his face from me. As I glanced at him I saw him hide the hammer in his jacket. At that point I noticed his top. It had a distinctive 'and' sign on it. The symbol was big and took up most of the back of the jacket."

Wasif Khan, 18, of Caversham Close, Amjad Qazi, 19, of Broad Street, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have all denied wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The jury at Bristol Crown Court has heard that when police arrested Wasif Khan in Broad Street, less than half an hour after the attack, he was carrying a plastic bag, containing a black Dolce and Gabbana jacket with a white ampersand logo covering the back.

Dolce and Gabbana ? Just another case of poverty causing crime.

Roses Blue

I think of tears, I think of rain on shingles
I think of rain, I think of roses blue
I think of Rose, my heart begins to tremble
To see the place she's lately gotten to

She's got into mysterious devotions
She's got into the zodiac and Zen
She's gotten into tarot cards and potions
She's laying her religion on her friends ...

Who says the Sixties culture is dead ? They would have known what to do with Ms Corkhill (a Type 2/3 hybrid) once upon a time up in Darwen.

The mother of a teenage girl who died from a drugs overdose after taking refuge at the home of a self-styled white witch today blasted sentences given to two people in connection with the death. Sue Strickson spoke out after Sally Corkhill, 41, and her lover Lee Harrison, 31, appeared at Preston Crown Court following the death of her daughter Melissa, 13, in October last year.

Corkill, of Sudell Road, Darwen, pleaded guilty to four abduction charges and two of administering a controlled drug and received a total of two years. Harrison received nine months but was released immediately after serving eight months on remand. Melissa, of Tythebarn Street, Darwen, died after taking a huge dose of co-proxamol. Hours earlier she had watched two of her three friends take half a tablet each after watching Corkhill slip five crushed tablets into Harrison's beer. The three had run away from home and sought refuge at Corkhill's house.

The four girls, three of who cannot be named for legal reasons, turned up at Corkhill's house on October 8 last year and were allowed to stay overnight. Both the police and the Melissa's mother visited the house the night before the teenager's death, but Corkhill denied they were there.

Judge Openshaw said: "I accept that when you invited the girls in there was never any sinister intention but no attempt was made to contact the police or the parents of the girls. Your own undisciplined and use of drink and drugs within your lifestyle attracted them. Strangers have no right to interfere in family matters by harbouring children and you even lied about not knowing where they were. It is right to say that Melissa helped herself to huge quantities of pill but they were in an unlocked cupboard and the girls had seen you get them. Melissa's death is tragic and had she not stayed at your house she may well be alive now. To Melissa's family and friends, no sentence will ever be sufficient for their loss."

Outside court, Mrs Strickson led protests against the sentence, saying: "We need a public inquiry. A lot has gone wrong. If the police were so suspicious that the girls were hiding at Corkhill's house, why didn't they go back again. If they had, my daughter might well still be alive.

You have to admire the police response.

Chief Inspector Neil Smith, who was in court to hear the verdict, said it was inappropriate to comment.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hmmm ...

The funny thing is I was looking for a story about a native Brit, a disabled middle-aged white self-proclaimed witch somewhere in Lancashire, who kept open house for various children's home inmates - one of whom (12 ? 13 ?) overdosed on the prescription drugs left lying around the house and died. Witch was acquitted of manslaughter. The story came back into my head while listening to Joni Mitchell's 'Roses Blue' on holiday.

Instead I found this. I guess he must have transgressed the unwritten law. I'm not sure this integration thing's fully functional in Jeanette Winterson country.

A terrified schoolboy was bundled into the back of a car by a gang, driven to a remote spot, beaten up and dumped there, a jury heard. Burnley Crown Court was told the 14-year-old, from Nelson, was punched and kicked. He was left injured, bleeding and with a footprint on his forehead. When he took police to the scene of the attack they found his blood on the road.

Five men have admitted assaulting the youngster last April in Nelson. The court heard the victim was said to have been accused of talking to the female cousin of one of the gang at the school they both attended. Prosecutor Jeremy Grout-Smith told the jury: "Whether this was the motive for the attack remains to be seen."

Imran Yousaf, 18, of Howgill Close, Nelson, Zeshan Ali, 22, of Vulcan Close, Padgate, Warrington, Mujahid Ansar, 18, of St Paul's Road, Nelson, Imran Ali, 19, of Carr Road, Nelson and a Nelson 17-year-old all admitted assault occasio-ning actual bodily harm.

Mr Grout-Smith said the boy was pushed into a car as he walked home from a takeaway on Larch Street. He said the victim met Yousaf in the takeaway and was told "I hear you have been talking to my cousin." The boy said he had not and he was told "you're coming with us."

The prosecutor said the teenager was taken to waste land near Lomeshaye Industrial estate. The boy was pulled from the car and punched in the face. He was also struck with a weapon, which the court heard was possibly an anti-theft car lock. Mr Grout-Smith said the youngster was knocked to the ground before being kicked repeatedly to the face, head and stomach.

Meanwhile, on the obverse side of the coin ...

The two latest defendants are charged with two offences of child abduction involving the girls, 12, and 14, who had both been reported missing from home. One of the men, Farooq Ahmed, is also charged with having unlawful sexual intercourse with the 14-year-old-girl. A third man appeared before Blackburn magistrates last month charged with raping the 12-year-old girl at the Travelodge at junction 4 of the M65 at Darwen on January 18. Hardeep Singh, 31, of Barkby Road and Ahmed, 25, of Humberstone Road, both Leicester, were sent in custody to Preston Crown Court when they appeared before Blackburn magistrates this week. The court heard that the defendants were staying at the Travelodge as part of their work as travelling SIM card salesmen.

The man charged with rape, Portuguese national Nelson Claudino, 26, was in this country to take part in care proceedings involving his child. He was described in court as being "resident" at the Travelodge. Claudino faces two charges of rape, one of anal rape, detaining a child and one of indecent assault.

Police said the girls were approached in Blackburn town centre and taken to the hotel where they were plied with Jack Daniels whisky and assaulted.

Portuguese nationals (allegedly) abusing children seems to be a Lancastrian speciality.

News Via Google

I got a hit at 18:33:28 for "Hutton Road shot Handsworth 17 Feb 2008" - yet there's nothing on the news sites.

Most of the time this sort of thing happens there's something behind it. Someone checking to see if it's on the news yet ? Someone who knows something the rest of us don't ?

(maybe he should make a pre-emptive call to these guys. Love the sales pitch.)

Canterbury Tales 2008

Iowahawk updateth the Canterbury tales. Read the whole thing.

... the hooly Bishop takynge tea
Whilste watching himselfe on BBC.
Heere was a hooly manne of peace
Withe bearyd of snow and wyld brows of fleece
Whilhom stoode athwart the Bush crusades
Withe peace march papier-mache paraydes.

Sayeth the pilgryms to Bishop Rowan,
"Father, we do not like howe thynges are goin'.
You know we are as Lefte as thee,
But of layte have beyn chaunced to see
From Edinburgh to London-towne
The Musslemans in burnoose gowne
Who beat theyr ownselfs with theyr knyves
Than goon home and beat theyr wyves
And slaye theyr daughtyrs in honour killlynge
Howe do we stoppe the bloode fromme spillynge?"

The Bishop sipped upon hys tea
And sayed, "an open mind must we
Keep, for know thee well the Mussel-man
Has hys own laws for hys own clan
So question not hys Muslim reason
And presaerve ye well social cohesion."

Brits Out ! (part 382)

I read a while back that of all OECD countries, Britain has (after Mexico) the second hightest number of its nationals living overseas. Mexico has a much richer neighbour just across the border - whereas the Brits are heading, not only across the channel, but half way across the world - to countries which only allow the (relatively) young and skilled in.

Apparently this trend is accelerating.

Britain is experiencing the worst "brain drain" of any country as highly qualified professionals settle abroad, an authoritative international study showed yesterday. Record numbers of Britons are leaving - many of them doctors, teachers and engineers - in the biggest exodus for almost 50 years.

There are now 3.247 million British-born people living abroad, of whom more than 1.1 million are highly-skilled university graduates, say the researchers. More than three quarters of these professionals have settled abroad for more than 10 years, according to the study by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

No other nation is losing so many qualified people, it points out. Britain has now lost more than one in 10 of its most skilled citizens, while overall only Mexico has had more people emigrate. Britain's exodus is far higher than any of the OECD's other 29 members. Germany has lost only 860,000 highly-skilled workers, America 410,000 and France 370,000. The OECD found that 27.3 per cent of those emigrating had health or education qualifications, 37.7 per cent had humanities or social science degrees and 28.5 per cent were scientists or engineers.

That's an awful lot of techies to lose, given the number of non-degrees we're now turning out.

But there's an upside, according to the IPPRs resident immigration promoter, Danny Sriskandarajah.

"Britain has been lucky - although it has lost substantial numbers of people, it has attracted more than a million skilled immigrants to replace them"

What could be causing such numbers to leave the paradise that is Nu Britain ?

Prof David Coleman, of St John's, Oxford, said the brain drain was "to do with quality of life, laws and bureaucracy, tax and all the rest of it".

Apparently the elephant in the drawing room comes under the heading of 'quality of life'. Do I get a hint of 'to escape the frantic lifestyle' ?

Fortunately the Telegraph asked their readers to put them right. As well as complaints about immigration and crime, one other factor arises.

I'm always on at my kids to work hard at school so that they can leave the country if it all goes pearshaped - but there's another reason. Being poor in this country is now much more dangerous than it was - because of where you have to live.

Up to twenty or so years ago, being poor simply meant that you had less money than other people. You could still live in a nice area - you just had a small house. When I left the inner city I found a two-bedroomed cottage in the sticks for £10,000. My wages were £3,000 - and that was a poor wage even in 1980. So I had no money for holidays or luxuries, rode a CB125 to work each day, but lived in a pleasant village.

My old house - now sporting an extra bedroom and bathroom - recently went for over £200,000. Being poor in modern Britain increasingly means having to live where the most unpleasant people live.

"Despite earning close to 100k per annumn, this was a sum that just about qualified me for a small two bedroom home in a dangerous area. As someone who would like to start a family and works hard, I found this unacceptable. The alternatives in North America and many other parts of the EU made the decision to leave a non-brainer."

"There is actually very little pulling us to New Zealand but huge amounts pushing us there; the main one being that we cannot afford to buy a house anywhere in a decent area of London. And with the (in)justice system so completely unfit for purpose there is no way in Hades that we will risk the lives of our children by living in a bad area."

You're surprised there are any teachers left. London teachers must be a masochistic bunch.

"I have been teaching abroad for nine years. I trained in the Uk and worked in Hounslow for two years. I could not afford to pay my rent some months because of the low wages. Add to that the unruly students! I doubled my wages when I first moved abroad and got to teach students who wanted to learn."

"I am a qualified teacher working overseas where I teach beautifully turned out, polite, fun students with supportive parents and a thirst for knowledge. Compare that with the UK where, at my last job interview, I was asked in all seriousness what I would do if a student pulled a gun on me"

Gaza - Christian Library Blown Up

Some observers have noted that the library belonged to a Christian institution, and that in October a Christian bookseller was killed after his bookshop had been bombed six months earlier. There are about 3,000 Christians among Gaza's mostly Muslim 1.5 million residents.

In the vast majority, if not all, of these cases no one was caught - whether by the regular Palestinian Authority security forces, or, since the June 2007 takeover, by Hamas' police force in Gaza.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Tension Rises ...

moral panic ...

Daily Mail ...

dastardly ...

knee-jerk ...

xenophobic ...

Neanderthal Daily Telegraph ...

wonderfully diverse ...

fusion food ...

multiple, overlapping and increasing self-defined identities ...

tolerance of differences ...

overwhelmingly decent, hard-working and law-abiding people ...

xenophobic prejudice - HOUSE !

(only those over 18 can play CiF Bingo. All cards to be inspected before prizes are paid. The decision of Guardian Media Group is final.)

Kosovan Totty Watch

In my lefty days demos were always a good place to make new friends of the opposite sex and there often seemed to be a party when the coach got back. There are three or four other possibles, but I don't think this looks like a place to pull.


Martin Amis - "It's the demography, stupid"

This Johann Hari interview was picked up by Harry's Place, where David T's piece seems to have an oblique reference to yours truly. As the wires seem to be down between this blog and HP, it looks as if semaphore (or the megaphone) will be the only means of communication. It sure does look like Amis is wading deep into Laban territory - and it's making HP very uncomfortable. No sooner have they got over Amis remarks about giving Muslims a hard time (remarks with which I totally disagree, btw) than he starts quoting Mark Steyn :

Amis tells me Steyn is “a great sayer of the unsayable.” Muslims are indeed reproducing at a faster rate than the rest of us, he says, and they will eventually outbreed us and become a majority. “One of the mathematical beauties of democracy is that you can look at the figures and be pretty sure how it’s going to fall out,” he says. “It’s not PC, it’s so saturated in revulsions that people can’t go near it. [But] we should go near it... Just because of there have been horrible abuses based on this [way of thinking] doesn’t mean that it’s not worth considering, or that it’s so radioactive that you don’t dare go near it. That is the defeat of reason.”

I grimace. I loathe and detest Islamic fundamentalists just as much as Amis - but this is going way beyond criticism of Islamic fundamentalism. It presents each new Muslim child – a Salman Rushdie, or a Salman Rushdie-killer – as a problem. Amis concedes readily that Steyn “writes like a nutter” and is “a very unstable kind of mind,” but quickly adds, “you’ve got to be able to talk about race.” Is this a revealing Freudian slip? Does he mean culture?

It's culture, of course. But in the case of, say, Bangladesh and Pakistan, race is a reasonably proximate cypher for culture - just as 'white' and 'Christian' would have been pretty near interchangeable a hundred years ago.

Amis' slow recognition of facts which others would rather wish away is praiseworthy, given that he has enough money to live wherever he wishes - unlike some poor Brit in Thornton Heath or Rochdale. Just another small sign of change. It may well be that his ideas are completely acceptable among educated Brits of his generation in another 15 years or so - by which time, of course, it will probably be much too late to do anything about it.

Talking of Steyn, here's the man himself discussing multiculturalism. Talks as well as he writes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"You've done your great institution and nation a huge disservice"

Via Natalie at Biased BBC, this story.

In an uncommon act of journalistic contrition, the BBC has apologized for equating former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh as "great national leaders."

The BBC took the unusual step after Don Mell, The Associated Press's former photographer in Beirut, lambasted the parallel, drawn by BBC correspondent Humphrey Hawkesley in a BBC World report last Thursday, as "an outrage" and "beyond belief." American journalist Mell was held up at gunpoint by Mughniyeh's men as his colleague Terry Anderson, AP's chief Middle East correspondent, was kidnapped in Beirut in March 1985.

Hawkesley's report on what he called "an amazing day for Lebanon," when a memorial rally for Hariri was followed by Mughniyeh's funeral, concluded: "The army is on full alert as Lebanon remembers two war victims with different visions but both regarded as great national leaders."

I Told You They Were Bad Eggs ...

Cicero's Songs on the significance of Kosovo to the Serbs.

"... during their years under the Turkish yolk, the Serbs began to create a series of myths surrounding the battle ..."

Laban The Far-Right Extremist

Or, They Flee From Me That Sometime Did Me Seek.

I noticed a couple of months back that I'd fallen off Clive Davis's Speccie blogroll.

Serves you damn well right, Laban, I thought. He's been posting there for months and you're still linking to his old site. And have you considered the possibility that what you're posting just isn't good enough ?

I did leave a comment at the site, but alas I never found out why I'd gone. Pity. I'd been flattered to have such a fine writer reading my stuff.

But when I lost the link from Harry's Place I was more concerned. Along with Norman Geras and Jackie Danicki, Harry was one of the first bloggers to link to me back in 2003. And on a purely selfish-stats note, I must have had 20,000+ visitors via HP. After Google image search (mostly people looking for Helen Mirren's spectacular staircase entrance in 'Savage Messiah') it's my top referrer.

So I wrote to one of the HP crew asking why I'd fallen off the list, and was told that it was 'probably' to do with having links to some far-right sites - perhaps Majority Rights or Nationalist News - both of which I link to because they link to me (although MR has a history - I originally linked because John Jay Ray wrote there - he was then removed by the MR crew because of his pro-Israel views and because he didn't see the hand of the Zionist Menace in everything - so it's a bit of a hangover). I'm on record as saying that I'd link to Satan himself for a link back, although I think I'd draw the line at, say, a blogger who was a convicted and unrepentant killer.

That explanation made sense - but I asked why now, when I'd linked for ages to such sites. Was there a battle going on I was unaware of (apart from the usual Stopper/Euston mullarkey)? Were the boys at Lenin's Tomb or Socialist Unity writing nasty stuff about the company HP kept, and doing the degrees of separation ? Were the advertisers twitched ?

I asked - but answer came there none. Cast into the dustbin of blogging history with nary an explanation. OK, it's not exactly a neck-shot in the corridors of the Lubiyanka - but a man still likes to know the evidence against him. I wrote a couple of weeks ago, so a reply seems unlikely. It is I suppose possible that they're as lazy as I am and as poor correspondents - but all of them ?

So I thought I'd try and work it out. And while I'm not sure if it has any bearing at all, I did find this blog post by a Charlie Pottins.

Another hate attack reported by Searchlight also has an internet connection, apparently. In the early hours of June 9 a fire gutted the offices of Positive East, a charity helping people affected by HIV and Aids. It is being treated as arson.

Searchlight notes that the charity was based in a private house, with no outward sign of its purpose. It also notes that Mark Santos, who runs the charity, was a Labour candidate in Hainault ward, in the London Borough of Redbridge, in May. Julian Leppert of the BNP was elected in Hainault.

As Searchlight points out, the local charity and Mark Santos were the subject of an attack on the blog site run by a mysterious person calling himself "Laban Tall", after a character in Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd.

He objected to the aids charity receiving funding from local taxpayers.

Mr Pottins first drags a few implications across the trail :

"... for someone who claims to be engaged in agriculture in Puddletown, Dorset, "Laban Tall" obviously keeps a close watch on people and politics in suburban Essex. At least on those who may have upset the BNP. But whoever his eyes and ears are, we can't accuse him of having a hand in anything someone does there, nor of himself having BNP sympathies ..."

then calls on Norman Geras to "out" this mysterious person. Charming.

Apart from that, he seems quite a sensible chap - his blog's actually not a bad read.

He's referring to this post, a slightly tongue-in-cheek response (if Mr Pottins or Searchlight call it an 'attack' they need to get out more) to claims here and there that the ordinary people of Essex had reacted with revulsion to BNP gains at local elections. My "close watch on people and politics in suburban Essex" consisted of typing "BNP -paribas" into Google News - and the point of the post - if any - was to show that the only evidence for said wave was a few letters by the usual suspects - Labour candidates and anti-fascist activists.

However, the timescales were uncomfortable. I wrote about Mr Santos' patriotic fervour in May 2006 - the following month the building where he worked was set on fire. Could one of Laban's readers have been roused to such an act by my incendiary prose ? A worrying thought. And how many more of you twisted firestarters are out there ? Just looking at my posts since I returned from Scotland I realised that Canterbury Cathedral, the Boat and Bridge of Orchy Hotels and the Clachaig Inn may all need to check their fire insurance.

If you're reading this, Keir Whittaker, you're a very naughty reader !

21 Dec 2006

AN HIV sufferer who torched an Aids charity centre was told by a judge he should be commended by the court for owning up to his crime. On Friday Judge Inigo Bing told Keir Whittaker, 33, he deserved the "thanks of the public" for giving himself up to police.

Whittaker broke into the Positive East building in Mildmay Road, Ilford - where he had previously had counselling - and set fire to the curtains. The property was gutted in the arson attack which caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage - but fortunately no one was killed or injured. Mark Santos, director of Positive East, said: "This was a tragedy on all levels and clearly not the actions of a well man. The building is under repair and we are thinking about reopening it, but the people of Redbridge have not lost out on our services, we are just providing them in a different way."

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard Whittaker had already been locked up twice for arson attacks and he was given three years for his latest offence. Whittaker had been drinking alcohol and taking drugs on June 9 when he felt "impulsive" and broke into Positive East, starting the fire with a cigarette lighter. He handed himself into Ilford police on July 29 and also admitted stealing petty cash from an ex-lover to spend on booze and drugs.

Martin McCarthy, defending, said: "He went to the HIV centre. They were counselling him. After a consumption of drugs or alcohol, there he was, early in the morning. He says, in desperation, acting impulsively and walking around the area, he broke into the property and set light to it."

Judge Bing told Whittaker: "What is remarkable and unusual in this case, for which you receive the commendation of the court and thanks of the public, is that you gave yourself up to the police and confessed to the crime - because without your confession this crime would not have been solved."

Whittaker, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life. He will have 138 days already spent in custody knocked off his term.

Quite frankly, a homeless HIV-positive serial arsonist and petty thief - who had already been to the centre - doesn't feel like the profile of a typical reader - and it may be that "serial arsonist" is the key factor here. But you never can tell - so I'd like to make it plain to all of you, as well as Mr Pottins and Searchlight, that I disapprove of setting fire to buildings - or people. If Messrs Searchlight and Pottins would like to campaign with me for much tougher sentences for arsonists no one would be happier than I. And in the meantime, perhaps they'd like to add a wee correction to their posts ?

(One other point - one of the other anti-BNP correspondents I quoted was a Diana Neslen, whose son had previously, according to Mr Pottins, been attacked by a BNP activist. I can see why that kind of thing might make you want to write letters to the paper, but I'm really not sure how I'm meant to have known that - or what I should have done if I had. But I'd also like to make it plain that I utterly reject the political tactic of 'duffing people up in the streets' - and would like to see perpetrators jailed for a very long time. If Mr Pottins wants to look for a Dorset-based political activist who keeps a "close watch on people and politics in suburban Essex" and does believe in that tactic, tell the Searchlight boys to get down to to Burton Bradstock at once.

And a second, slightly worrying point. Defending counsel Martin McCarthy missed a trick by not googling Mr Santos and his centre. With the Searchlight article he could have presented his client as a poor deluded man, led astray by his visits to a "hate site".

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the REAL motivation for this crime must be sought elsewhere. I request an adjournment while we subpoena the relevant Blogger and ISP information to enable us to bring the joint author of this conspiracy - might I say the prime mover - before you"

I might have cause to thank Steve Taylor for his 'Internet for Prisoners' campaign yet.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

The One Man Madder Than Rasputin

This chap makes Rowan Williams seem like the Archbishop of Canterbury.

From the top officials who didn't pass on a note from Diana in which she said she feared for her life, to the driver Henri Paul; they were all in the pay of the security services or the "dark forces". The princess's former butler, Paul Burrell, and her sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale were also part of the cover-up, according to Mr Al Fayed. And, as he had maintained for years, Prince Philip and Prince Charles were in charge.

He referred to the royals as the "Dracula family" and called Prince Philip "a Nazi" and "a racist", and even suggested his original surname was something like "Frankenstein". As the list of the co-conspirators expanded to include then-prime minister Tony Blair, the French ambulance service, and the British Ambassador in Paris, the laughs from the public gallery grew longer and louder.

Of course it's all paranoid nonsense. Every normal person knows that Prince Philip and the Royal Family are in fact the secret leaders of a world eco-fascist movement via "front" organisations like the World Wildlife Fund, controlling the appointment of British Prime Ministers while plotting "levels of population genocide that would make Adolf Hitler's crimes pale by comparison".

David Duff has pity on Poor Tom.

This man had a son, and upon this son he built a shimmering palace of hope, ambition and expectation, only to see it dashed and smashed. The ricocheting splinters have pierced his soul and he is now beyond saving. He will spend the rest of his life nursing his bitterness, hugging his hate, muttering his curses even unto his death bed.

About Lee ...

"Former students' union president ..."

You'd never guess.

"Vulnerable Adults"

There's nothing unusual about this story, via Small Town Scribbles - an everyday story of elderly council tenants having their lives made hell by the people the council (or often, some well-intentioned housing association or charity) move in down the road. But the report's unusually revealing in its use of (the officially sanctioned) language.

Coun Reg Corns, (Con: Northfield) said problems had arisen across the city after the city council allowed sheltered housing schemes to accommodate vulnerable adults, who have issues with drugs and alcohol, to live alongside ordinary pensioners.

So the pensioners aren't the vulnerable ones. Oh no. It's the young smackheads and alkies next door who are 'vulnerable'. The medicalisation of deviance is complete. Robert Doody and his mates are probably registered disabled and in receipt of disability benefit - unlike the pensioners next door.

Concerns about Doody included allegations that his guests were drunk, aggressive and abusive, urinated in communal hallways, swore and banged on doors. Doody was issued with an anti-social behaviour order in June 2007. His suspended sentence followed the jailing of one of his guests for four months. He was sent to prison after breaching an anti-social behaviour injunction barring him from visiting Aire Croft and another sheltered housing scheme, Campion House, in Kings Norton.

Doody's neighbour Richard Wilkes, 65, previously told the Sunday Mercury about the problems and said Birmingham City Council had asked him to keep a diary of the troubles. He said: "There's a man in his 80s who lives in the same block as me, and who isn't able to keep diaries like this. He isn't the only one in this position. We have had court injunctions against one man who visits one of the residents, but nothing seems to make any difference. The courts have ordered him not to threaten us, not to enter the block, not to bang on doors or kick windows in, and not to shout or swear, or throw glass bottles."

Fellow Aire Croft resident Rhoda Olsen, 69, said she was sick of the problems caused by Doody and his guests too. "We constantly have to keep the doors of our blocks locked so that they can't get in," she said. "It is the same with the common room. It's only used once a week now for bingo, but we should be able to use it every day to meet with our neighbours and relax."

Stan Andrews, vice chairman of Birmingham Sheltered Housing Liaison Board, said he was aware of similar problems across the city.

The good news is that the full weight of the law has come down on Mr Doody for his breaches of his ASBO. A 28-day suspended sentence.

There'll Be Tears Before Bedtime ...

The Serbian province of Kosovo, mainly populated by ethnic Albanians, has declared unilateral independence - unilateral as in 'with the approval and support of the UK, EU and USA'.

Edwin Greenwood reports that the UK's Albanian and/or Kosovan communities are celebrating in Trafalgar Square.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Another beautiful morning.

Great views from the Ptarmigan lift.

Coire Cas looking towards Loch Morlich. Much narrower than usual due to the big thaw, but still easily wide enough for us. If you've a big family and a limited budget, Scotland's the place for the kids to learn. We may go abroad next year, but there seemed little point until they were all proficient. And if they can ski here, they can ski anywhere.

(A couple of (unpaid) credits. It's still pretty hard to find a rented house with broadband in this neck of the woods. Baztex Computers in Aviemore saved me when I needed to mail a document to work. And our ski hire as usual was from Goodbrand Knitwear in Corgarff on the Donside side of the Lecht - woolly sweaters, tea, cakes and ski hire - what more can you ask ?)

One Hit Wonders ...

They may have been, but Quarterflash singer Rindy Ross played a mean sax. It never did much in the UK, but twenty seven years ago this was all over the US charts. Always had a soft spot for that Mac-y, Heart-y sort of female vocal.

Good Places To Eat If You're Not Hungry

As regular readers will know, I've a bit of an ambivalent relationship (50/50 affection/exasperation) with the Land O'Cakes - and one of my major bugbears is eating out. Scotland invented portion control long before that Mr Forte learned it in Dundee.

Twenty-odd years back Laban was an impecunious trainee programmer in London when British Rail had one of their wonderful special railcard promotions - anywhere in the UK return for £2. It was February, cold even in London ('86 ? '87 ?) so off to the station "return to Mallaig, please" - about as far as you can get from London - grab the skis and boots and be at Euston for the Friday night sleeper. In those days the sleeper had a couple of additional seated carriages - that weekend full of walkers and skiers, all sleeping on the floor.

There's not much greater contrast than Friday night Euston, with its alkies, streetgirls, dossers and assorted ne'er-do-wells, and a crisp Saturday morning on Rannoch station, waiting for another train to pass on the single line, snow-covered hills around and everything sparkling in the frost. From Fort William a bus to Ballachulish, then a walk/hitch to the White Corries ski area at Glencoe.

I'd booked a room in the Clachaig, famed as a climbers pub. After a day skiing I knew I'd be starving, so pushed the boat out and ordered the evening meal, athough it was a bit beyond my budget. At least I'd be full.

I was starving. I don't remember what the evening meal was, but it was something with boiled potatoes. About two of them. I seem to remember wondering exactly how much a few spuds cost, and how much of a problem it would have been to have chucked a few more on. Surely a climbers pub should serve climbers food ? After the meal I was still starved and was forced to fill up on bridies in the bar.

On the Sunday after skiing I hitched down to Bridge of Orchy and had an excellent bar meal at the hotel before catching the overnight train back to London.

Come the summer and Susan and I decided to spend a week or two camping in the Highlands. As we tootled up the A82 I remembered the decent scoff I'd had at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. Why don't we stop there for lunch ?

To say that lunchtime was a culinary disaster was an understatement. With hindsight, staff must have been hard to come by. Susan had fish and boiled spud - a fairly difficult dish to ruin. But when it arrived the spuds were stone cold. Laban had, perhaps foolishly, ordered chilli. Doubtless Mr YTS chef had read the instructions on the Brake Bros packet, and the chilli and rice had been microwaved to eating temperature. But pitta bread had obviously not yet penetrated that far North (this was 1986/7) and was more of a poser. He solved it by taking the bread out of the packet - still frozen - and adding it to the plate. Laban, ever helpful, wrote "THIS IS COLD" in biro on the pitta bread and sent it back.

By the stir it was obvious that we weren't the only unfortunate diners. All over the room people were showing off their food like medieval beggars exhibiting their sores. Some were at the bar complaining, some were putting on their coats. When a young chap with a shaved head and a chef's jacket appeared in the bar he was greeted by booing and hisses. The punters were getting out of control. I've never seen anything like it before or since.

Soon after a couple of hotel functionaries came in and started moving from table to table. Eventually they got to us.

"Excuse me, did you order a meal ?"

"Yes" (thinks - he's going to offer a refund. Fair enough)

"Have you paid for it"

"Yes" (still thinks - he's going to offer a refund.)

"OK, thank you"

The so-and-sos were just checking who'd paid, due to the large numbers of non-payers/walkers out !

All this ancient history is because I'm smarting again. This week's absence of posts was caused by a last-minute decision to head for Speyside at half-term and get some skiing in. Apologies for the lack of warning, but I only booked the house on the Friday. Anyway, we did two days at the Lecht before they ran out of snow - the snow-cannon have since replenished the nursery areas - and four sunny days at Cairngorm - the first time I've been there when it wasn't windy, cloudy or both.

We had good food at the Boat Hotel in Boat of Garten five years back, and took the kids there this time after a couple of hefty days on the hill.

Alas, all was changed. What was 'bar meals' last time turned out to be the "Osprey Bistro" this time. The quality of the produce - the beef, the lamb, the fish - was fine - although they really need to ask any Chinese takeaway for advice on chips - how they can be simultaneously overdone yet not crisp defeats me. And yet again the portions were just not adequate for people who've been on a hill all day. In my old age and less impecunious state I don't mind paying the money. But I resent paying the money and still being hungry - and more do I resent the kids - eating adult meals - being hungry. It's a good place to eat - provided you're not hungry.