Tuesday, September 26, 2006


So the move went as well as you'd expect. Removal men were still loading the lorry when we got the call saying we could go and get the keys. Unfortunately, of all the days in what has generally been a good summer, I had to pick the one where it was bucketing down.

One thing I didn't properly appreciate was the impact of losing the fitted furniture - our clothes are all still in boxes, and the only fix appears to be spending a lot time purchasing stuff from Ikea and assembling it. So that's most of my weekends between now and Christmas sorted then!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sky Nightmares

I am frustrated and angry.

Two weeks ago I called Sky Television to arrange a transfer of our service to our new house. The best appointment date available was today (we're moving Friday). I pointed out to Sky that this would mean no phone line and no decoder in the house (BT aren't due to install the phone line until Friday, and being BT they'll probably mess it up anyway, and funnily enough the decoder is in our house decoding). They assured me that wouldn't be a problem, and that the engineer could talk to the developers who are on site.

Last night the engineer called me and insisted that either the wife or myself be there. Not a biggie I thought, though slightly irritating. I proceed to text my wifes number to him, and thought nothing of it. I also repeated the bit about phone line and decoder.

At 4pm I get a call from my wife saying a) she'd spent the afternoon waiting for the engineer as agreed b) the engineer, who insisted he couldn't talk to the developers, had been with the developers and decided he couldn't install the dish because of no line and no decoder.

I#ve since spent about 90 minutes trying to get Sky to sort it out - the best they can offer is Monday, which would probably be tolerable if we hadn't just spent 60 pounds on a PremPlus season ticket so we could watch Manchester United matches. Guess who is on PremPlus this weekend - United. At Reading. On pretty much the tenth anniversary of my first meeting with the wife when we went to watch a match at Reading. At the end of the 90 minutes (which involved a lot of time on hold listening to classical CDs which skipped and getting cut off twice to start the process again) I got told by "Customer Services" that they couldn't deal with my complaint as the system was down.

I'm so infuriated that despite Sky's ideal target for the service (no cable service available in Ingatestone and a major football/sports fan) I'm giving serious consideration to cancelling.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

See how those Muslims love one another

Hat tip to the Darling Wife for this one: IBNlive is reporting that two groups of Muslims on an anti Pope Benedict demo started fighting each other.

Talking of which, the Pope has issued a sort of apology. The key passage is "The Holy Father thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions." Am I being nasty in suggesting that possibly this is a slight side swipe at the sort of Madrassahs that only teach their students how to learn the Koran by heart, and not understanding and comprehension of others?

Friday, September 15, 2006


There is nothing more entertaining and surreal than watching a Muslim criticise the Pope for not condemning violence in the Catholic tradition, and then invoking the violence of Liberation Theology in South America.

Sadly for this complete nitwit, it was Cardinal Ratzinger who was credited (or accused) of almost single handedly destroying Liberation Theology.

But don't let the truth get in the way of an argument.

Hat tip to Mr Eugendies for this quote from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry: "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence". And CNN had footage of Friday prayers at a mosque in Iran where the response to the condemnation of the Pope was chants of "Death to America! Death to Israel!"

It's almost as if some Muslims want to prove the point the Pope didn't make in the first place.


What do the following have in common?
  • West Ham Underground Station
  • Romford Central Library
  • Redbridge Town Hall
Well for a start, they aren't in Brentwood Borough - at all.

Secondly, they are the three sites for the public meetings about Crossrail (yes, I know I'm a bit late blogging on this - the Borough Council issued the press release on July 31st).

I'm not sure what the full impact is going to be - but there surely isn't going to be a huge amount of work being done along the line between Shenfield and Maryland is there? Most of the big engineering work, as far as I can see, is the development of the tunnels and the provisioning of sidings at the terminii of the line.

There's little dispute that I can see that there will be major disruption for residents in the area of Shenfield station - I seem to recall reading that the resident's of Hunters Avenue have been offered compensation on those grounds. I'd also expect that residents of the Borough would also be badly affected by the reduction in car parking spaces during the building work.

Eric Pickles, our local MP, has made clear that at the very least he thinks that the issue of the Eastern terminus being placed at Shenfield should not be set in stone. During that debate, Alistair Darling remarked that he took "the view that [Eric Pickles] wants Crossrail to terminate not at Shenfield but at some point nearer to the city". It must be emphasised that Eric Pickles is certainly reflecting the view of his constituents on this matter.

So why is there no meeting in the Borough that will be badly affected by this change? Are they scared of the local opposition, and hope that by having the nearest meeting in Romford they'll be put off?

nice to know

It's not just me - Dizzy is complaining about moronic security calls from the banks.

Read the speech please....

The Pope is apparently being condemned by Muslims accross the globe for a speech he made during his recent visit to Germany. In it, he is quoted as saying "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". Indeed, at least one news source on Tuesday reported that "Departing from his prepared text, the pope added two reminders to his audience that he was quoting, an indication he was aware of the sensitivity of the comment."

The comments about Islam and violence make up a relatively small part of the Pontiff's speech, but funnily enough it appears to have generated the most response - almost as if that's what the speech was about, when it was in fact about more than that. The speech is typical of the current Pope - thoughtful, academic and sometimes slightly obscure. Not that it's exactly new for people to focus on one part of a papal statement and present the whole as defined by the part - the Irish media reports on Veritatis Splendor by John Paul II made it sound as if the document was about contraception - it wasn't.

A friend on IRC informs me that a number of people defended President Ahmadinejad's infamous quote about wiping Israel off the map on the grounds he was in fact quoting another source. He made some remark about seeing the same people leap to the Pope's defence, but he wasn't "holding my breath".

I'd like to say I'm surprised at the fact that a papal "soundbite" has been ripped out of context, but I'm not. I'd like to say I'm surprised at the total overreaction of some members of the Islamic community, but I'm not.

Archbishop Cranmer who can always be relied on to have some comment in this kind of situation sums things up rather well.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


It is reported in a leaked memo that Tony Blair wants to do a farewell tour, including appearances on Songs of Praise and Blue Peter before resigning.

This is exactly the reason why I've never had much time for him as Prime Minister - when he was elected in 1997, he told us all about how much work he had to do after 18 years of Tory rule. And yet he felt it was perfectly appropriate to appear on Richard and Judy and denounce the (incoherent) theological pronouncements of the England football manager.

That's not what governing is about - and neither is appearing on Songs of Praise. Either govern, or go into show biz - but this country needs a full time Prime Minister.

The really scary part is you get the impression he spent as much time thinking about Glenn Hoddle's theology as he did about some of the legislation he passed.

I should note that as I write the BBC are reporting that seven junior govetnment ministers have resigned.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Weekend

Yesterday I attended a 41st birthday for Singapore organised by the Singapore UK Association. Of course they were celebrating their independence not from Britain, but from Malaysia. Their High Commissioner made a comment that when Singapore went on its own way, they were told "you won't last ten years." Which makes their 41st birthday quite an achievement.

One of the reasons for Singapore going its own way was that the State of Singapore had serious problems integrating into Malaysian Federation. And they did it on their own, with no natural resources except their people (and according to Wikipedia in 1965 they didn't have a great education) and they did a pretty good job of finding their niche and building a decent economy - I do enjoy my visits to Singapore - a city with great food, great transport and great aircon.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mandates and the EPP

Was listening to the radio this morning and there was yet another discussion about the interminable affair of "When will Blair go?" (to which the answer is that he should stay as long as possible, to distract the Labour party inflicting more damage on the country). The Prime Minister has said that he has a mandate from the public to serve a third term, and he plans to do so.

This led me to think about the issue of David Cameron's "failure" to take Conservative MEPs out of the EPP. Although he had made a campaign pledge to do so, and therefore he has a mandate from Conservative members, the MEPs ran on the basis they were going to be part of the EPP grouping. So there appears to be a conflicting mandate - the one from Conservative members to take the MEPs out of the EPP, and the one the voters gave the MEPs on the basis they were going to be in the EPP.

In fact the truth of the matter it's a rather obscure issue that doesn't register with the bulk of voters.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Idiotic decisions in the NHS

As I left for work this morning, I glanced at the front page of the Brentwood Weekly News which had dropped on my doorstep, and is usually more interesting reading than the Somerfields offers which make up much of the pool of leaflets around the front door.

They are reporting that the Brentwood, Billericay and Wickford Primary Care Trust has classified the village of Doddinghurst as "urban", not "rural".

Doddinghurst is a pretty village - but you have to get through about two miles of country side to get there, and it's relative remoteness (and long distance from the train stations in the borough) is the reason why it was never on our radar as a suitable location when we decided to move. The decision has an impact on pharmacy services, at least as I understand it - I didn't read the article in full.

I do wonder about the use of English in bureacracies though. If Doddinghurst, at least two miles from the edge of the Brentwood sprawl, doesn't count as rural, then what exactly does?

The County Council call the (rather oddly shaped) ward Brentwood Rural for a reason.

EDIT: By happy chance, I actually discovered the Brentwood Weekly News is online. The full story is here. According to the report, the PCT did actually reverse the decision to classify Doddinghurst as urban back to rural. This has now been been appealed by the Essex Local Pharmaceutical Committee. What an appalling waste of our taxes.