Friday, February 27, 2004

Swimming

Swimming is best done in pairs.

The Value of Truth

Clare Short says that the British government was involved in bugging Kofi Annan.

Is there a single person out there who thinks Clare Short is not telling the truth?

I don't think so. You either think bugging the head of the UN is a good idea and Clare Short shouldn't have spilled the beans, or you think it's a bad idea and she was right to spill them.

Nobody doubts the truth. Nobody.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Tony Brady or Ian Blair?

Scotland Yard wanted to interview Ian Brady, the Moors murderer, to try and find out what makes serial killers tick. He refused and commented:

"Interviewing the few serial killers in UK prisons would only occupy a week! And compared to the professionals in power, they are only amateurs anyway."

Well it takes one to know one, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Times They are a Changin'

I have Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits in my car CD player at the moment. This morning I was listening to "Mr Tambourine Man". On hearing the chorus, it would be easy to believe it is a song about a musician who plays a pleasant tune: some kind of one-man-band as he's unlikely to play only a tambourine.

However, I listened to the rest of the lyrics and thought "What's that all about?". Is it some kind of LSD trip? Lord knows.

Another song is "Times They are a Changin'". This is a protest song. Whatever happened to those? My impression is that opposition to the Vietnam war was largely from the youth of America. This song encapsulates the mood of the time: the young ones are about to take over, and the old ones better watch out:

Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land
And don't criticize What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command
Your old road is Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'


These days, when I go on protest marches, or when I see them, I notice that the average age of the protesters is older than me. How have we got into this state?

Monday, February 23, 2004

LeJog - The date is set

LeJog (Land's End to John O'Groats) is set. It will be the weekend of the 26th March. Sponsor forms have been sent out, and money has been pledged. I'm humbled by everyone's generosity.

It was intended that sponsorship would be per TEN miles (a penny a mile would mean a minimum donation of over eight quid). I also provided the option for a straight donation and to date, everyone has taken this option. This rather takes the sport out of it. We could floor the throttle at Land's End and get no further than Birmingham and still get the same money.

Whatever, when the time comes, we'll make a (not too) serious attempt, and I'll record the attempt in this blog.

Monday, February 16, 2004

What do Americans call LPG?

I have decided to attempt to drive from Land's End to John O'Groats without refuelling. I had the idea when I was considering buying an extremely frugal small diesel car. An impulse purchase put paid to that. However, the attempt has arisen through a more unlikely vehicle.

A huge 2.2 litre brick-shaped jumbo guzzler is not the one to pick for this epic journey, (especially not an automatic that refuses to get into top gear much below 50mph). However, the ancient Renault Espace I have just acquired is precisely that: a gas guzzler. As well as petrol, it runs on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (or LPG).

I reckon that a single tank of gas (incidentally, what do Americans call vehicle LPG when they refer to petrol as "gas"?), and a full tank of petrol should get us most of the way there. I'll be raising money for the Bristol Childrens Hospital Cardiac Ward and the Bristol Royal Infirmary Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. A friend of mine died there last year. He was a lovely Irishman and would have appreciated the "craic" of the attempt.

Those who know me will be pestered with sponsor forms. Others can contact me with donations.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Springtime

The cock crows earlier every day. I don't know why he crows. By this I don't mean why doesn't he "cock", I mean why does he yell every morning?. Perhaps it's his purpose in life to be an alarm clock. All his women have gone (to the fox), and he doesn't much fancy the geese. He doesn't even live in the hen hut any more. Perhaps it has too many bad memories. He perfers to kip with the goat. Whatever the goat thinks of his "cocking", I don't know. She doesn't seem to mind.

The time of year when I spend all the hours of daylight in the office are coming to an end. I get to see some daylight in the mornings now. It would seem more natural and healthy for our sleep and work patterns to follow the seasons: more sleep and less work in the winter; the opposite in the summer.

Now there's a thought.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

What is art?

This weekend, I spent a few days in Paris. Both my elder daughters are studying art to A level standard. We took them to the Pompidou Centre to see the National Museum of Modern Art.

Some of the exhibits obviously had had care and loving attention poured into them. Others didn't. In particular, one painting was simply an unframed canvas covered in unremitting, unvaried blue paint. Just blue. It's famous apparently, even though a child could have created it. Another was apparently rubbish thrown on the floor, Tracy Emmin syle, except that a bed and soiled knickers are slightly more interesting than, er, rubbish.

It seems to me that these exhibits are designed to cause a stir in right-thinking people. I wonder if the impressionists paintings caused the same response. I'm showing my ignorance here, but I think the answer is "yes". I'm not sure.

For me, it calls into question the nature of art itself. Something can only be deemed a work of art if the creator felt passionately about it during its creation. However, this surely is not enough. There has to be some sort of consensus view that it was worth creating in the first place.

Doesn't there?

Funerals

I attended a funeral yesterday (a friend's mother). It was a Quaker service. This was a new experience for me. No order of service; no appointed minister; everyone sat around in silence until someone felt the urge to stand up and speak about the person.

Some provided interesting insights and anecdotes, others read poetry. Some simply related trivial things they will most remember about her. One woman remembered, as a child, she dispensed jam to her large family from large tins instead of jars.

I hardly knew her, so found the contributions painted a detailed picture of her life. Certainly more detailed than would be the case at a conventional funeral.

I thought the silences might be embarrassing, wondering if anyone would speak again. Also, I feared that some would go on at length and become embarrassingly boring. None of this happened. Contributions were brief and the whole thing I found uplifting and generally encouraging.

We were all invited to sign the cardboard coffin in felt pen. Some of the young grand daughters were dressed in fairy outfits. Brightly coloured helium balloons were released into the cold February air when the coffin was finally taken away.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

My pacificm says we should never go to war. At the very least, we should never go to war on intelligence information alone. We did this time. The first time ever, I think.

Bush had an agenda for war in Iraq the day he walked into the White House, maybe to finish off Dad's unfinished business. I don't know, but following him the way we did has done untold damage to our relationship with the rest of the world. Not to mention the damage done to thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians. Yes, I mention them before "our boys" who also needlessly died, but at least they volunteered and should have known the risks of the job.

Hutton pilloried the BBC and exonerated the government: a polarisation viewed as unfair by most. Heads rolled at the BBC. The so called "intelligence" has been proved to be plainly wrong. The new enquiry will surely at least admit this. Will heads roll? I don't think so, certainly not in the government. We'll see.