Sunday 31 October 2010

Our holiday started early!

We have been looking forward to our two week holiday break for some time. However, for reasons unknown and to the chagrin of the Memsahib. I managed to set the alarm clock to wake us at 3am rather than the intended 4:30. So we were up ultra early for the airport run. So I made a cup of our favourite Chai tea for us both and we went into the lounge to watch TV for a while. We settled on the BBC 24 hour news channel. Where we watched live coverage of the first person go down the shaft to join the Chilean miners who were trapped underground. A short while later we almost cheered as the first trapped miner Alfonso, was brought to the surface. The amount of media and the circus like mayhem going on at the mine must have been a shock to his system.

I have an certain affinity with these people as my family also included miners, going back some three generations. I also have a feeling of Déjà vu, as one of my earliest childhood memories was being stood at the pit yard gates with my mother. With a growing group of wife's (including other mothers with children) as they gathered to await news of their loved ones. A group of miners who were trapped and in some cases injured far underground. This was as a result of a roof fall. We watched as the mines rescue crew prepared equipment and then went underground to bring everyone back to the surface.

We children were far to young to understand the implications or have any idea of what was wrong. However, we could sense from the atmosphere and gravitas of the situation, that something was very very wrong. Our caring mothers were now pre-occupied with other things and were sometimes a bit short-tempered with us. Then moments later, they would pick-up on our fears of the unknown and their mothering instincts would kick-in. We would be drawn in close and reassured back into our normal unaware and care-free state. But the one thing I do remember we children were not playing as we would normally have been. So maybe some of the older children were more aware than I seem to remember all these years later.

I remember that my dad had two broken legs and other cuts that were later (after healing) outlined by the coal dust that had entered the wounds. I can remember going to visit him in hospital. Many years later he would pay the price by a worsening loss of mobility. But at the time, he was as quickly as possible back at work. He had to be, he was the head of the family and the bread winner. This was just before the days of the welfare state and the advent of the national health service. Something that me and my generation have benefited from. Something that we must cherish and never let the various political parties erode away. Where any savings made, could be used to fund tax cuts or pay bonuses for the already rich.

A few years later, I came home from school to be greeted by mother with the words “your dad wants to see you in the garden”. Now dad left our day to day up-bringing to mother. He only played a supporting role whenever needed – Like if I had done something wrong. Being asked to go out into the garden to see dad was unusual to say the least. With some trepidation I went outside. Dad said “I need to have a word with you” At this point my sphincter would have been rapidly tightening! “you are about to leave school” he continued. “I have some advice to give you.” He continued “You can do any job that you like, you could be a dustbin man or a doctor.” He went on “However, I give you warning. If I ever see you come in through the pit yard gates I will break both your legs.” That was it, my first and only bit of career advice he ever gave. Needless to say I took heed and went on to choose a different career.

But I digress again! I will get back to the holiday in the next post....


Wednesday 27 October 2010

We have been delayed

Well, if your reading this, it will prove that on Blogger the delayed posting system has worked. Not only that but we will be able to brag about getting back from enjoying two weeks in the warmer climb of the Greek islands. All blog postings made over the last two weeks on here, were prepared in advance. Then put on the blogger scheduler for automated posting.

We have visited the Greek mainland and also done a few Greek Islands in the past including Crete, Thasos and Santorini. This is a new Greek Island to add to our check-list. We stayed near Lindos on  the Island of Rhodes. This holiday was organised by way of a birthday present from me to the Memsahib. I have been instructed to play down any speculation of the actual birthday number. So, please note "there is nothing of any significance about the Memsahib's birthday" OK. However, there has been a "D" notice issued and a total media blackout ordered on any publication of the Memsahibs age.

What do you buy as a small additional gift for someone who has already been lucky enough in life to win over my love and affection. Sixty red roses - No that's far to old a concept and far too twee.  A deep maroon Moroccan Leather bus pass holder with gold inlay bindings - No, that's a bit too much "antique roadshow".  Looks like it will have to be the traditional Ann Summers gift voucher again. But how the Memsahib expects to keep warm of an evening in all that skimpy, neglileg, body hugging stuff beats me.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!


Saturday 23 October 2010

Not that old chestnut again!

A couple of decades ago, we had the Dutch Elm disease problem that decimated our native Elm trees. In fact I am told that there are only about a couple of hundred Elm trees left in the UK. Dutch Elm disease is a  fungal disease of Elm which is spread by a beetle. Although believed to be originally native to Asia, the disease has been accidentally introduced into North America and Europe, where it has devastated native populations of Elms which had not had the opportunity to evolve any resistance to the disease.

Elm was a favoured wood in the past for use to build and bottom many wooden narrow boats. Often giving a working  life of twenty to thirty years between replacement.

Now with a strong feeling of Déjà vu it veems to be happening all over again. but this time to another of our native trees.

It seem to be the turn of our native Horse Chestnut tree. In the UK Horse Chestnuts have suffered increased levels of attack from the horse chestnut leaf miner, a tiny moth larve that burrows into the leaf structure. Despite the poor appearance of horse-chestnut trees infested, there is no evidence that damage by the moth leads to a decline in tree health or tree death. Trees survive repeated infestations and re-leaf normally in the following year.

Now there is also a second fungal pathogen similar to Dutch Elm disease causing stem bleeding, commonly known as bleeding canker. When the infection spreads round the full girth of the tree, the tree will die.

All of the above comes after sustained damage from a couple of hundred years of producing acid rain which is as a result of air pollution. When any type of fuel is burnt, lots of different chemicals are produced. The smoke that comes from a fire or the fumes that come out of a car exhaust don't just contain the sooty grey particles that you can see - they also contains lots of invisible gases that can be even more harmful to our environment.

Until relatively recently air pollution has been seen as a local issue. It was in southern Scandinavia in the late 1950's that the problems of acid rain were first observed and it was then that people began to realise that the origins of this pollution were far away in Britain.

Acid rain was slowly killing trees in the north of England, parts of Scotland and across in Scandinavia as a result of our coal and gas fired power stations. However, factories and cars all burn fuels and so they also produce polluting gases. Some of these gases especially nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide react with the tiny droplets of water in clouds to form sulphuric and nitric acids. The rain from these clouds then falls as very weak acid - which is why it is known as "acid rain".

Acid rain can be carried great distances in the atmosphere, not just between countries but also from continent to continent.  The rain sometimes falls many hundreds of miles from the source of pollution but wherever it falls it can have a serious effect on soil, trees and water. In the 1970s the effects of acid rain were seen at their worst. Forests all over the world were dying... in Scandinavia the fish were dying; lakes were crystal clear but contained no living creatures or plant life. Many of Britain's freshwater fish were threatened their eggs were damaged and deformed fish were being hatched . This in turn led to to fish-eating birds and animals also being affected.

However, all acid rain is not man made, the release of sulphur dioxide can also occur naturally, such as when a volcano erupts. Nature has mechanisms to cope with natural events - todays polution levels are much more sustained than in natural events.

Now, in some new research that has just been released, it would seem that our two tree species are just the tip of the iceberg. More than a fifth of the world's plant species faces the threat of extinction, a trend with potentially catastrophic effects for life on Earth. Stephen Hopper, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew said "the report on plant loss was the most accurate mapping yet of the threat to the planet's estimated 380,000 plant species". At the launch of the Sampled Red List Index, Hopper also said "This study confirms what we already suspected, that plants are under threat and the main cause is human-induced habitat loss," The study was carried out by Kew with the Natural History Museum in London and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.


Wednesday 20 October 2010

To bee or not to bee.

I have gone Kindle mad! 

You may remember my previous post about purchasing an Amazon Kindle electronic book. Well I have started to read some of the classics again, just because they are a free download from Amazon. But mainly because the Kindle is a new gadget that is easy to use and easy to read.

I started out with "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Soon followed by "Blood Sweat and Tea" by Tom Reynolds. Blood, Sweat and Tea is a collection of Tom Reynolds favourite posts from his blog, Random acts of reality. The Real Life Adventures in an Inner-city Ambulance driver.

Time to go off at a tangent, as I rummage around in the old and failing memory box to find a few of the last grey cells that are still working! Today was wet and miserable - as usual, nothing out of the ordinary there then.

However, I noticed a few bees were still busy working the last of this years garden flowers. It's October, soon the hives will batten down for the winter. The majority of the workers will die and a skeleton crew will maintain the hive over winter. Keeping everything ship shape and preparing the hive ready for the spring.

Years ago, I used to keep a few bee hives in my back garden between the greenhouse and the hedgerow. I quite liked messing around with them - and I have always enjoyed honey. However, one day my next door nosy parker spotted them whilst cutting back my hedge! Well, to be honest the bees actually spotted him and nailed his arse. This was the starter for his never ending winding up of everyone else in the district in his anti bee crusade.  After a fair few complaints from people living around me, I eventually gave up keeping them.

Is there anyone who has never complained about a few wasps and bees being a problem. Yes, I know they are pesky little critters, they do like to join us for a meal now and again. But then, we need to realise that our world would soon collapse around our ears without their essential work.

The European Commission has approved programmes to improve the production and marketing of honey and apiculture products. This is a positive measure because the EU has recognised the vital role of honey bees not just for the production of honey, beeswax and other products, but also their role in pollination. It is estimated that over a third of the food we eat depends on pollination and with the ever-increasing world population we shall increasingly rely on the pollination services provided by bees. It has been estimated that insect pollination contributes over £150 billion per year to the global economy through agriculture. A reduction in pollination would mean that foreign fruit and vegetables would have to be imported at a higher cost.

Since 2006, large-scale losses of bee colonies in various parts of Europe, North America and Asia have served to highlight the 20,000 species of bees’ essential role in our ecosystems as key pollinators of wild plants and crops. This has also served as an eye-opener on how little we know about diseases that affect these insects and how changes to global farming practices can affect the fragile balance not only of pollinators but of whole ecosystems.

In the US the problem has been most acute with over a third of bee colonies failing to survive the winter. The exact reason for these losses (termed as colony collapse disorder) is still unknown, however, the attributable causes vary from viral and bacterial infections, irresponsible use of pesticides and destruction of bee foraging areas from over-development to loss of floral abundance and diversity due to intensive farming methods.

There is much to learn about this small insect, but one thing is certain – the decline of the honey bee is not a myth and it is a problem that we need to sort out very soon.

Later ....

Tuesday 19 October 2010

His Goose was cooked!

Some fifteen years ago I was involved with a bird ringing group. It was all legal and above board. We would deploy mist nets and ring, weigh, measure and record whatever we caught. The vast majority of our ringing was done with the chicks in the nest boxes scattered round the nature reserve site.

From time to time we would look at ringing mature birds. There was a big lake near to the sanctury where people would go every day and feed the ducks and geese. We would go down and catch the odd goose or swan. The problem with the large birds is that you have to time your capture carefully if you want to catch more than one at a time. Once you grab a bird the others quickly scatter across the lake and it takes a few days for them to settle again.

The favoured place had a ramp down into the water, where trailer boats could be launched. it was late in the afternoon and we were on the ramp eyeing up the birds to identify the ring numbers that we could see. At the same time it gives us a chance to see which birds were not ringed. What we would do was feed the birds a bit of bread and then scatter some bread on the ramp. This would draw the birds out of the water. Making it easy to read the rings and after recording what we could see. We could then make a lunge and capture a couple of un-ringed birds.

Dave was the head ringer and reserve warden. Myself and John were giving some assistance with the recording of ring data. When we decided that it was almost time to go, we hatched our "Baldrick" like cunning plan to capture a couple of geese.  We would stand around on the ramp trying to isolate a bird each by getting between it and the water. We co-ordinated our efforts by whispering to let each other know when we were ready. John, was having problems with his target bird. When the "go go go" was given John was facing the water.

Dave and myself had missed our targets. John however had managed to grab his bird in about two feet of water. Suddenly out of nowhere came this "old lady", and charged up ready to defend the geese from these bullys. She bounced off the middle of John's back. He staggerd forward, went off the edge of the ramp. The goose escaped and all that could be seen was Johns Bretton hat floating in the water. a few seconds later he surfaced spitting and coughing. His bald pate on display (we never knew he wore a wig). At the same time the old dear went for him again. She was soon up to her knees in the water and shouting obcenties and threatening to tear him limb from limb.

It was a Mexican stand off, John could not get out of the water and she could not get in far enough to get to him. Myself and Dave the warden were rolling about laughing. She thought we were laughing at her and turned her ire on us. This gave John chance to make good his escape. This story is almost bird ringing folk lore and a few years later the story was re-told at John's funeral. the story helped to change the mood from sombre, to a celebration of his life.


Sunday 17 October 2010

Boating types you will find on various forums.

A few months ago Click Here I wrote a piece about the childish actions of some people on a boating forum. At the time I wrote “In a nod to Shakespeare, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 222–230)  To be honest “The perpetrators of either gender doth protest too much, methinks" as well.

Almost always misquoted as "Methinks the lady doth protest too much." Gertrude's line is both drier than the misquotation and due to the delayed "methinks" and therefore becomes much more ironic. The last comment I wrote was “Yet the likeness to Shakespeare does not stop there. The perpetrators can be become characterised in their own right. 

Shakespeare also said “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” (As You Like It - Act II Scene VII) The speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play then catalogues the seven stages of a man's life. Infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon, and second childhood. "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Today's the day for catching up on the “Forum Players.” who I think have reached the “pantaloon, and second childhood” point in their lives.

Here are some of the players:-

Troll: The troll lurks on a forum and aspires to verbal violence. Gaining a warped pleasure from the level of trouble they can cause. Whilst gaining a morbid  sense of pleasure from the emotions of disgust and moral outrage they create. The troll attempts to pass themselves as a valid participant who is caring and sharing the same interests and concerns. Trolls can disrupt the discussion and disseminate bad advice. Operating only from a position of complete anonymity. The spineless invertebrate troll demonstrates the lack of any moral fibre and a complete mastery of cowardice.

Naysayers: Naysayers are the saddest people you are ever likely to come across. Given to bouts of melancholy and unprovoked ill-humour, the ultimate aim of a naysayer is to derail, defuse, or destroy the dreams of others through negativity and by generally being shitty about stuff. Born with the instinctive ability to shake their heads whilst drawing air through clenched teeth.

Naysayers pervade every aspect of human endeavour, stifling imagination, smothering and putting a stopper on good old fashioned fun. They have been, perhaps, the greatest handbrake on social development through the ages. Naysayers are universally loathed and despised by right-thinking people. However nobody bears a greater hatred for a naysayer than another naysayer. Beards on either gender of naysayer are optional.

The Bullshitter or Pseudo-knowledgeable: The prefix pseudo is Greek for lying or false and is used to mark something as false, fraudulent, or pretending to be something it is not. Knowledge is defined to mean the confident understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for a specific purpose if appropriate. The Pseudo-knowledgeable or bullshiters are everywhere espousing their general ignorance as fact and the truth as an alien concept. Their conversation starts with a deep discussion on the merits of pump-out -v- cassette toilets, and goes downhill from there. Bullshit is commonly used to describe statements made by these people who are more concerned with the response of the audience than in the truth and accuracy. Bullshit is often used to make the audience believe that he or she knows far more about the topic. The bullshitter generally knows the statements are false, exaggerated and in other ways misleading or has no interest in their factual accuracy one way or the other. Bullshit does not necessarily have to be a complete fabrication you can bullshit with only basic knowledge. However nobody bears a greater hatred for a bullshitter than another bullshitter. Accordion playing is obligatory for either gender of bearded bullshitter.

Expert Nitpicker: Nitpicking inherently requires fastidious, meticulous attention to detail. The term comes from the intense and obsessive concentration and careful attention to detail required when searching for nits or lice. Nitpickers will often pore over the detail with great diligence to find all the occurrences of the most minute and insignificant of errors. Excitedly pointing out to everyone the most tiny detail of an error in a 1930's manual on lawnmowers. Particularly as the pointed-out details will seem insignificant or irrelevant to all but the finder. Nitpickers also stifle the discussion by deflecting the conversation in an unwanted direction and then criticising at length anyone else who nitpicks. However nobody bears a greater hatred for a nitpicker than another nitpicker. Accordion playing and beards and on either gender of nitpicker should be made compulsory.

Celebrity: The celebrity on the canal forum is the 'ego' without limits. The curious thing about the celebrity is that it is not a stand alone function. It is always associated with one or other of the existing groupings. So you get the celebrity troll, the celebrity naysayer, the celebrity bullshitter and the celebrity nitpicker.

Specialist: When a knowledgeable person is perceived to be an expert by others when he or she is by definition a specialist. A person may well be an specialist in one field and a layperson in many other fields. An expert differs from the specialist in that a specialist has to be able to solve a problem and an expert has to know its solution. However nobody bears a greater hatred for the specialist than nitpickers, bullshitters and naysayers. Accordion playing beards of either gender are disliked by specialists.

Expert: Experts have a prolonged or intense experience through practice in a particular field. In boating, the definition of expert is well established by consensus and therefore it is not necessary for an individual to have a professional or academic qualification for them to be accepted as an expert. In this respect, a boater with 20 years of experience would be widely recognised as having complete expertise in the use of the canal infrastructure and boating in general. Experts are often characterised by the perceptions of others who are less knowledgeable. Experts are asked for advice on their respective subject, because it is believed they have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may rely upon the individual's opinion. However nobody bears a greater hatred for an expert than nitpickers, bullshitters and naysayers. Experts, usually smoke a pipe.

Observer: The observer is someone who can spot a naysayer at 500 paces. Chronic sadness is a toxic by-product of listening to nay-saying. The observer has gained an effective immunity to the naysayer. An observer can also detect even the faintest trace of a bullshiter at 1000 paces. Bullshit comes in many different packages only varying in strength, quantity and level of repugnance. The observer is someone who can feel the presence of a nitpicker at 2000 paces. High strength irritability is started as the nitpicker draws near. The observer has no sympathy for the cowardly troll and would be quite happy to see the demise of them all.

Average canal person: A person with knowledge of life. Who enjoys the time he or she spends on their boat. They like to communicate and enjoy the camaraderie of the canal lifestyle. They tend to be laid back individuals with a ready smile.

Layperson or Novice: A layperson, novice or newbie is a person who is inexperienced. Usually a person who is completely new to boating and eager to learn. Often identified by asking what is to an experienced boater a trivial and easy to answer question. But a significant opportunity to point out the slightest error at great length by the nitpickers, bullshitters and naysayers. The clean shaven layperson, novice or newbie of either gender does not smoke and recycles waste.

Sniper: As covert as the name suggests is the forum sniper. Who follows the machinations of the forum clientèle. Working in isolation the sniper passes few comments other than to target the Troll, Nitpicker, Bullshitter and Naysayer. A sort of hit and run warfare where their cover is never broken and their role is never revealed. Often the covert sniper will have several logins to the forum which are cycled from time to time. Each of their forum login are carefully controlled and camouflaged through anonymous browsing.

Super Sniper: The super sniper acts the same as the sniper. But utilises a separate troll like on-line persona that is used to draw the real trolls into the line of fire. The super sniper is often the trolls best friend!

Volunteer: There is a new person to be seen along the canal. The volunteer. Volunteers are a hardy group of men and women. Dressed in their 'high visibility' clothing, they enjoy the camaraderie that comes from spending time with like minded people. However, the volunteer hates being used as a political pawn or as a token gesture. The volunteer hates boundaries to what he or she can get involved with. The volunteer is a fickle animal, that thrives on well being. If the role available to the volunteer is repetitive. If the dynamics within the volunteering group are constantly changing.  The volunteer will up and walk away.

Volunteers who work the locks are welcomed by some, such as the average, layperson and novice. They are disregarded as superfluous by the Nay-sayer, Bullshitter and Nitpicker. They are regarded with a benign suspicion by the experts and specialist boaters who do not have any well founded trust their level of skill and knowledge of lock operation.

Worst of all for the well being of a volunteer is when the roles available are limited and not rewarding or challenging. Litter picking to clean up the detritus dumped by the public is a different task to restoring a footpath that has become overgrown by nature. Different in that one is a natural occurrence and the other is symptomatic of the apparent disregard for our environment. There is only so much litter picking that will be tolerated before the volunteers spirit is broken.

Curiously and at the same time understandably there a few volunteers that are found on canal forums. Their role is scorned and belittled by some. They provide rich pickings for the Troll, Nitpicker, Bullshitter and Naysayer. The one thing that picks out volunteers from other denizens on canal forums is that they are smart enough to keep a low profile.


Friday 15 October 2010

Swan story you will never forget.

About eight years ago we had a holiday with our two dogs on a broads hire boat. The boat seemed somewhat crowded with a couple of manic Springer Spaniels constantly dashing around. For the first couple of days, we had to try and keep them under close control, whilst they became accustomed to life on a boat. Both dogs loved water, as expected there were several instances of dog overboard.

Most evenings we would feed the ducks and geese after cruising for the day. This particular evening we were joined by a pair of swans. There birds were almost hand tame and I was soon sat on the gunnel feeding them. Suddenly one of the dogs came dashing out of the door and stopped with his back feet in the well and his front feet on the gunnels. With the swan being right next to the boat, this put them within a foot or so of each other. The swan was the first one to react when he made a lunge for the dog and caught a hold of him by the ear. At this point, both of them chickened out and tried to go in opposite directions.

The dog had the typical long ears of a spaniel, however he had been trimmed with his long wavy hair left on his ears. The swan was soon tangled up and not able to let go. I slammed the door shut into the boat, so that the second dog would not get involved. At this point I started to try and grab them both to see if I could pull them apart. Holding a flapping swan in one hand and a panic stricken Springer spaniel in the other is quite difficult. This was however, compounded by a couple of "old ladies" who were shouting abuse at me because they thought I had "set the dog" on the swan.

The tug and pull between the dog and swan must only have lasted a matter of seconds, before I managed to free them both. The swan made a tactical withdrawal away from the boat. The dog hit the bank at high speed. I jumped onto the bank to go after the dog. Out of the blue one of the old ladies started to beat me with her walking stick. I was trying to fend off the walking stick blows and call the dog back at the same time. I managed to grab her stick. Then the second old lady came to the "rescue" of the first old lady and also started to wade in with her bag, swinging it with all her strength.

The dog shot past me and jumped back onto the boat. I fought a rear guard action in Dunkirk style whilst I retreated for the boat. At this point the first old lady says she is going to get the police. The second old lady bolstered by her prowess with the hand bag, is issuing all kinds of dire threats.

I threw off the boats mooring lines and made good my escape. These two "blue rinse thugs" bring a whole new meaning to "Auntie Social Behaviour"


Thursday 14 October 2010

One woman's meat is another man's poison.

It's raining and so I have put off again checking the boat battery bank. So I had a good read of various other canal boat blogs today. I think we bloggers all spend some time reading our own favourite boating and non boating blogs. Often we gain some inspiration from reading other blogs to generate tomorrows posting. Occasionally we come across an article covering a subject we have written about, that has a different or opposing viewpoint to our own. Today, was one of those days.

Sue on Nb Chertsea writes in her blog, Don't call me....... And I won't call you either.  (You can read it the full text by clicking the link) Sue writes a piece which has a different view to my own on the subject of modern communications. A subject that I touched on a few blog pages back.

Sue says "For maybe seventy years, the phone was a necessary evil. But now, thanks to email and the wonders of SMS, it simply isn't necessary any more." The problem is that SMS (simple message system) is reliant  on mobile-phones to work.  What's more SMS is also available on our land-line. So its not such a clear cut distinction after all.

The gist of Sue's posting is that text messages and email are a good thing. That maybe acceptable in her particular circumstances. However, I would contend that we do live in a joined up world, but increasingly we live our "joined up lives" in isolation behind a computer screen. Emails often replace the normal day-to-day contact with people in the same building. Replacing even a simple walk along the corridor and a normal conversation. Our children seem to be unable to hold a normal eye-to-eye conversation amongst their peer group. Unless it it is through the medium of a mobile phone or SMS text message. What's more worrying is that a mobile phone is now considered to be an essential part of our children's school equipment.

Sue continues "The visual cues which contribute so much to communication are totally absent. Now, I know this is also true of written communication, but the thing is, we know that's not a conversation; we approach it differently and make allowances for its inadequacies."

Yet we have technology like Skype, which offers a visual link for the visual cues. A system that can stitch together, our voice and the video from a web-cam. Even the news which is presented from far distant regions of the Earth in just this way. 

Sue continues "A phone conversation on the other hand, is merely an inadequate conversation, an emasculated, shadow of one."

I would contend that an inadequate conversation is better than no conversation. Our children use "Text" to communicate even though it has a limited character count. They now use the same principal to communicate with a limited character count when they "Tweet".  Young people are conditioned in this way, that they now feel the need to text and have phone conversations whilst driving, risking their life and the lives of others.

Here we both are, Sue and myself, blog writing an open ended communication, intended for a readership group of unknown individuals. Individuals who may or may not read or pass comment on the content. We strive to elucidate our viewpoint, because we don't understand the background of the readership other than an interest in blogs or canal boats. If we had both been brought up and educated in the culture of the "Tweet" and "Text" would we have the life skill and understanding to be able to put across our point. The paradox is, that at the same time we are not diametrically opposed in our views.


Tuesday 12 October 2010

Autumnal mornings.

Every morning before I set off for work I take Poppy for a walk unless the weather is dire. As the nights get longer, so the available morning light gets shorter and shorter. Until I seem to set off at the break of dawn. Most mornings are featureless and grey, this seems to set the tone for the rest of my day. However, some mornings are also accompanied by spectacular sunrises.

I'm not sure if the sunrise has any effect on Poppy as she is seemingly fixated on chasing after a ball. But the more spectacular daybreaks seem to have an effect on me. They add a spring to my step and give me a nice warm feeling that all is well in my world. This feeling of well-being can sometimes last until I reach my place of work. It is at this point when all the well being is drained away by the effort to get all the pigs in flight. Porcine avionics is fast becoming a speciality of mine.

I found out last night that the frogs are back, well I am not sure if they actually went away. However, if they did, then the frogs are certainly back in larger numbers and are a tour de force to be  reckoned with. We have a few permanent residents in and around the garden pond. These little reptile anti-slug wardens seem to be there all the time and grow quite large on a feast of slugs, fish food and various insects. In return for eating their food, the fish seem to enjoy a diet of frog-spawn whenever they get the chance. But I digress.

Last night there was a knock on the door and there stood a pretty little thing, a bit wet and bedraggled and looking for sponsorship for some charity or other. She immediately launched into a well rehearsed script, with all the psychological prompts for me to agree with. All prior to moving in for the sponsorship kill.

Being an old campaigner I am well versed at letting them run off at the mouth and then just saying no thanks. Suddenly, there was a stutter in the prologue as one of the frogs hopped into view. That was the termination of the well rehearsed patter, which then gave way to the patter of her feet as she beat Poppy to the gate. So if she returns at some point in the future, she would be better to come on the morning of one of the more spectacular daybreaks. She is going to have to get up early to pull one over on me, and to find a bit more charitable well-being in this crusty old curmudgeon.

Later .....

Thursday 7 October 2010

Personal Ad

We paid a flying visit to Rosie at the marina on Monday night. On our way home through Wentworth, we spotted a small dog in something of a distressed state. We stopped and the dog came speeding over to meet us. Weaving its way through moving traffic. All it was wanting to do was to get as close as physically possible. One very frighted and distressed little dog!

We did not realise it at first, but the dog was covered from head to foot in some evil smelling liquid. It was at that point that we tried to maintain a little distance whilst we tried to assess the situation, but it was too dark. So, I picked her up, the Memsahib got a travel rug out of the boot to wrap the dog in. The dog then travelled back home with us, being reassured all the way by Mags.

On arrival, I went in ahead to move Poppy out of the way and to set the shower running. We brought the very smelly dog in, put it straight in the shower. After we gave it a quick wash down. Out of the muck and mire emerged a very attractive white and tan Jack Russell bitch. We popped the dog into Poppy's old puppy cage and set about cleaning ourselves up. Mags had to strip off all her clothes and get them in the wash. Quickly followed by her fleece jacket and the travel rug out of the car etc.

We gave her the quick once over and there was no sign of injury, so we offered her some food - it did not touch the sides. This was followed by a drink, which she had a small amount. Then we popped her back in the cage whilst we fed Poppy her evening meal. It was then time to think about us, so we had to pay a visit to Tesco to top-up the empty fridge. We had the windows down all the way there and back to help "freshen up" the interior!

We already knew that the police no longer take any interest in "lost dogs". So with a feeling of Déjà vu, its back to phoning the local dog warden and paying a visit to the local vet tonight to see if she is micro chipped. The last lost soul that we  rescued, was a cat called we called Monty. The one prior to that was a stunning German Shepard dog called Bonnie who we eventually re-homed with her new found friends Paul and Carol.

We eventually took the dog to the vet and had her scanned for a micro-chip. However there was non to be found! So we have now reported her to the dog warden service in Rotherham and Barnsley which are the two areas close to where she was found. We have given her a short term name - and it is "Doris" that we have chosen for her. It just suits her personality, so Doris it is. We will be putting up a few posters close to where we found her, in the hope that we can find her owners.

So in the event that we cannot find her owners, and Doris has to be placed for re-homing.

Personal Ad: One small, dog and cat friendly, very gentle, fun loving, house trained, boat sized, non-smoker, complete with fur coat and big personality, no baggage. Who would like to meet that special someone for companionship and outings. With a view to becoming a valued crew member.

Since I posted the above - Doris has now become "Aileen" and we have now traced her owners. It seems she was out on a walk when she chased off after something and became lost. Her family are coming to collect her tonight.


Wednesday 6 October 2010

anti-social behaviour.

I was sorry to read on the Canalworld Forum  about an unpleasant situation experienced by a family on their boat, perpetrated by a lout on a hire boat. More than that I was surprised by a willingness by some people on the forum to accept what had happened . In essence it was a case of hit and run, failing to stop which eventually led to a deliberate and provocative case of anti-social behaviour.

I have had experience of a similar unpleasant situation that took place in March this year. At the time I did nothing, however in hindsight I realised that if we don't stand together collectivly and have a zero tolerance attitude to this problem, things will only get worse.

Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 creates the distinct offence of intentional harassment, alarm or distress. Under section 5,1 a & b

The offence is created by section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986:

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he:

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby."

This is a summary offence. It is punishable with a fine not exceeding £1,000.

I was wondering what the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) think about such anti-social behaviour?

Ref:070/10     September 23, 2010
ACPO response to HMIC report on anti-social behaviour

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Edens ACPO lead on anti-social behaviour said: “Chief officers are acutely aware of the devastating impact anti-social behaviour can have in neighbourhoods when it is not tackled, particularly where repeat and vulnerable victims are involved. We will continue to work tirelessly to improve our response. What this report highlights is that where there is police action, victim satisfaction in the police response to anti-social behaviour is high. As HMIC recognises, modern policing has to meet a hugely complex range of challenges. Tackling anti-social behaviour must be achieved alongside keeping people safe through less visible parts of policing such as tackling serious organised crime or terrorism. Anti-social behaviour is not a matter for the police to tackle alone, and the service supports the Government’s approach to encouraging greater personal and community involvement in neighbourhoods.”

ACPO have an Assistant Chief Constable leading on this issue. The Police can't tackle anti-social behaviour unless the wider community get involved. You get involved by reporting any instance anti-social behaviour. I don't think it can be made much more plainer than in the above ACPO Press release.

However, its not the first time ACPO have published a press release on ASB.

Ref:017/10   March 11, 2010
ACPO statement on anti-social behaviour

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Edens the ACPO lead on anti-social behaviour.said: "Chief Officers recognize that what people want most for the community in which they live, is to feel safe in the homes they live in, and on the streets they walk. We know that anti-social behaviour matters to the public and that the police service is the only 24-hour, 365 day per year resource that the public can turn to. Of the 3,600 neighbourhood policing teams across the country, most if not all of them will have anti-social behaviour as a top or high priority. Information sharing is critical to dealing effectively with ASB and that includes between local partners as well as within the police service. As policing prepares for straitened financial times difficult decisions on priorities lie ahead and it is vital that others, including councils, housing providers and parents continue to work closely with us if we are to improve our response to the public in this crucial area. As a police service we are universally committed to a local focus on policing which deals with what matters in every street and neighbourhood."

A further press release issued in 2009 also highlighted that the police wanted such issues to be brought to their attention.

Ref:122/09   November 20, 2009

ACPO comment on anti-social behaviour funding

Chief Constable Julie Spence, ACPO lead on citizen focus said: "Tackling anti-social behaviour is an important responsibility of the police. The police service as a whole does not tolerate anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood policing teams remain dedicated to tackling it. Very often, police are the only resource that the public can turn to 24 hours, 365 days a year. A partnership approach will ensure victims are getting enough support. Police, local councils and communities must continue to work together to ensure people acting anti-socially are dealt with appropriately. Effective data sharing arrangements between partners are critical in order to ensure vulnerable members of the public are identified and protected. People should feel secure in their communities and the police service will continue working hard to ensure vulnerable people are safe."

Now I know why the Police are keen to get their teeth into some of the Anti-Social Element.

It came as something of a surprise to hear on the radio. That most Police forces stand accused of failure over dealing with and recording anti-social behaviour. The chief inspector of constabulary (Denis O'Connor) has been critical of the way the police in England and Wales deal with complaints of anti-social behaviour. O'Connor said "The failure to properly record and tackle incidents undermined confidence in the police" He also called for urgent improvements. His comments came as the inspectorate published "report cards" on the performance of all 43 of the UK forces. The inspectorate found the way police databases logged information about reports of harassment, vandalism and verbal abuse was "inadequate". Most police computer systems were unable to identify people who had been victims before or had previously been categorised as "vulnerable". Mr O'Connor said: "It is like going back to the doctors' surgery but you see a different doctor every time. The more times they suffer the less confidence people have. There are some heart-rending stories."


Sunday 3 October 2010

Billy Goat Stuff!

I was minded today of an incident from the past.  The memory was triggered by Andrew on his Granny Buttons blog who has published a picture of a "Guard Goat" that he took a few years ago. My story is also from a few years ago and goes something like this.  Alan who is an old friend of mine had his own fabrication business based in Doncaster. There they kept a large Billy Goat on site, who's main job was to keep the grass and other herbage round the car park in check.

One day a sales representative calls in unannounced to try and sell his wares. Alan suggests to the sales representative that he might want to move his car as it was close to where the goats shed was and Billy was not tethered up. The sales representative declined saying it would not be a problem. He then followed Alan into the workshop. However, on his return he found that his car was quite extensively damaged. The old Billy goat on seeing his own reflection in the door panels had tried to head butt the interloper.

This was not the first time that this had happened.

Another charming trick the old Billy used to do was to eat cigarette ends that were still lit. He was also known to be an excellent guard goat after closing time. The local police when things were a bit quiet would have a bit of fun with their new recruits by getting them to enter the workshop yard of an evening to check for intruders. 

They did this without telling the new recruits about Billy. However, his most vile trick was to twist himself round to "obtain a mouthful of his own urine" which he would then spit at anyone he took a dislike to. Whenever Billy twisted round everyone started running - I think Billy the kid was just taking the piss!