Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why I'm not a LibDem.

A couple of years ago - before making the decision to join the Conservatives - I did one of those online "what party are you" questionaires which had me smack between the LibDems and the Tories.

In case I had any doubt that I made the right decision, Iain Dale is reporting that LibDem MP Sandra Gidley has called for a ban on school sports days as "Those children who are towards the end of the queue when the teams are being picked soon get the message and decide that they do not want to exercise" and it's humilitating for those who finish last.

What a load of ridiculous, PC, twaddle. I can speak from personal experience here - I was usually one of the last picked at sport (though for a strange period at around 13 when we did mini rugby during PE, I turned out to be pretty good at it and didn't get picked last - and I admit that felt great). However, it didn't stop me taking part - I was (and still am) rather proud of the fact that I managed to finish the 3000 metres every year at the school sports day - though I only avoided finishing last in my final year, and even that wasn't very impressive as a sporting achievement (a seventeen year old finishing ahead of only two 13 year olds doesn't exactly rank up there with the sinking of Bayern in extra time).

Life is full of adversity - we can't all be multi millionaire city traders, sports stars or thickos like Jade Goody. Children should enjoy their child hood, but don't wrap them up in cotton wool. Its a tough world out there, and they have to learn that at some point.

The fact that a LibDem MP can come out with this sort of garbage is exactly the reason I prefer the Conservatives.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I've been known, on occassion, to blog about the state of education. This Verizon Math blog is an outstanding example of why maths is important - even if you simply end up working in a call centre. The entire misunderstanding is based on the ability to understand the difference between 0.002 cent and 0.002 dollars.

What worries me is I could easily see the same experience happening in a UK Call Centre.

Living in a Siberian cave.

Do you live in a Siberian cave with no access to the print or television media, or are you incapable of understanding it? Then there's a job at Basildon Council's Planning Department for you.

A few weeks ago, a group of travellers were given five years temporary permission to stay at plots
they developed in Cranfield Park Avenue, Wickford. Basildon Council is appealing the decision because (according to the Southend Echo) of the travellers is Freddy Eastwood who "is a well-paid professional footballer earning £100,000-a-year and this may have affected the outcome."

Now that would usually sound fair enough - I don't expect local officials to have an in depth knowledge of the football team in the next town - even their goal scoring hero whose goals got Southend United promoted last season for the second season running and scored a vital freekick in the game that put Southend in the Carling Quarter Finals for the first time.

Except I do expect them to notice when a) the goal was against Manchester United and b) the result of said goal was a bunch of national newspaper articles talking about how he was about to get evicted from his house by Basildon Council.

Friday, December 08, 2006


A friend on IRC drew my attention to this report about Irish publicans complaining that random breath testing of drivers is hurting their income. They are demanding compensation.

So let me see if I have this straight. For years and years we've been watching ever more gruesome "Don't Drink and Drive" adverts. Despite this, plenty of fools have continued to do this, at the risk of destroying Christmas not only for their own families but for the families of the innocent people they kill. The Guards initiate a regieme of testing designed to catch the fools before they hit someone. This one actually works - in the sense that it appears it's reducing the number of people who are being fools.

And the publicans want to be compensated for the fact they are no longer serving drink to people who shouldn't be drinking.

Coming next, the local drug dealers ask for compensation for the losses incurred as the result of the most recent drug haul.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I read in the Telegraph that a member of the Bank of England monetary policy committee is calling for green belt land to be made available for housing, "particularly in areas where house prices were the highest." Well, that puts Brentwood fairly high up the list then.

Anyone care to speculate as to what proportion of Green Belt land in Conservative and Lib Dem constituencies will be rezoned as opposed to Labour ones?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Making it up as you go along.

One Railway appear to be making the timetable to make their punctuality figures look better.

I arrived at Ingatestone station this morning to catch the 0933 to find there were delays. The screens weren't showing a 0933 service, but were showing a 0948 service that doesn't actually exist on the current timetable.

Are they taking lessons from Labour on how to massage the figures to look good?

Thursday, November 30, 2006


The BBC is reporting that the government is going to encourage more schools to offer the International Baccalaureate - amidst concerns that amongst other things, so many students are getting top grades the good universities are have issues distinguishing the top students. This has been condemned by one teaching union as "elitist".

The suggestion is that A Levels have been made easier to facilitate higher pass rates. Perhaps the unions are worried that if more kids start doing the IB, the much vaunted increase in pass rates will slip.

In any case, if it's elitist to want our brightest children to be challenged and stretched during their education, then I'm proud to be elitist.

(I should note that one of the 46 state schools already offering the IB is the Anglo European School in Ingatestone - always nice to get a local spin on a national story).

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Train companies and tickets

As both the regular readers of my blog know, I work in the City and commute from Ingatestone to Liverpool Street. I decided to take advantage of One Railway's Season Direct scheme - mostly because it actually saves me money on buying a monthly ticket.

As I pulled into Liverpool Street yesterday morning, someone asked if it was true that the tickets gave free travel at the weekend and Bank Holidays - I answered yes.

Only odd thing about this is that the guy asking the question was a ticket inspector. Now, personally, I question the sense of doing ticket inspections on a train that's about to pull into a gated at Liverpool Street station. But it's even more dubious if the guy doing the inspections isn't sure if it's valid or not. Perhaps One should consider briefing their staff on the features of new tickets.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Live longer, live in Brentwood

The Telegraph is reporting that Brentwood has the nineth highest life expectancy in the country for men.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Academics and Bishops

There's been quite a strong reaction in both the media and the blogosphere to the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent remarks on women's ordination. The impression is given that he's had second thoughts on the issue, and that the Church of England might even need to rethink it.

A few things do need to be born in mind when considering this though. Firstly, the Archbishop made the comments to the Catholic Herald in the run up to his visit to the Pope in Rome next week. Secondly, the comments were made in the context of a wide ranging discussion about the prospects for future Anglican-Catholic dialogue. Thirdly, what he actually said was on reconsidering the matter was "I don’t see how there can be. I could just about envisage a situation in which over a very long period the Anglican Church thought again about it, but I would need to see what the theological reason for that would be and I don’t see it at the moment."

At no stage during the interview did Archbishop Williams suggest that it had been the wrong thing to do, though he did acknowledge that the divisions caused within the Anglican Communion had tested the decision. Further, in the wider of context of the discussion, the "just about" situation could appears to be the point at which the only outstanding issue between Rome and Canterbury was the existence of women priests - in other words, the much more significant issues dividing the two Churches concerning the Eucharist, the role of the Papacy, authority within the Church, etc had all been resolved to a mutually satisfactory level. In other words, in the context of a situation that is pretty unlikely.

Part of the problem here would appear to be that Archbishop Williams is an academic - he's regarded as a pretty good theologian (Archbishop Cramner on his blog remarks that "both the Archbishop and the Pope are (whether one agrees with them or not) highly accomplished academics and renowned theologians." While I disagree with him far more than I agree with him, its clear there's a pretty good mind behind that blog - and he's hinted on Conservative Home he himself is a theology lecturer).

But academics have a habit of making speeches or giving interviews where quotes are pulled slightly out of context and then made into the story. Indeed, Archbishop Williams will be meeting with a man next week who knows all about that - given the recent fuss over comments Pope Benedict made on his recent tour to Germany.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More on Yarmouth

Conservative Home is reporting that Brandon Lewis is now the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Great Yarmouth. Does this mean he'll be moving to Yarmouth (which I seem to recall is a requirement for A list candidates who have been adopted) and if so, will that have any impact on the party in Brentwood (yes I am a member, but to quote Manuel, "I know nothing").

In other news, the Hutton and Shenfield Choral Society are doing a performance of Verdi's Requiem at the Brentwood Centre on Saturday evening. Do try and make it!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Parliamentary seats

I was a little surprised to see that Brandon Lewis, the local Council leader who is on the Tory Party's A List wasn't on the "extended" short list for Witham, given that it's just down the road. The answer to that appears to be partly because he's on the short short list for Yarmouth. All I can say is "Good Luck".

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Labour and marginals

A letter in today's Telegraph reads "I cannot help thinking that the problem with rural post offices is that they are not in marginal Labour seats. ".

Over the weekend, the Telegraph reported that hospitals in Tory seats were twice as likely to be closed as Labour ones.

John Prescott wanted to do massive building programs in parts of Essex and the South East that were as Blue as the sky.

Is there a pattern here?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New Brentwood Blog

Councillor Brandon Lewis, Leader of Brentwood Council and Tory A-Lister, has set up his own blog. It could do with a decent spell/grammar checker though.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tax cuts

One issue that dominated the recent Tory conference was that of tax cuts. Namely, David Cameron and George Osborne's refusal to commit to tax cuts while at the same time spouting out a line about "economic stability". But what I didn't hear them say was that a future Conservative government wouldn't introduce tax cuts (apologies for the double negative there).

For me, this appears to be more an issue of presentation and policy. There is a perception out there amongst the floating voter that Conservatives would introduce tax cuts to benefit their rich friends regardless of the impact that would have on the ordinary voter. This perception needs to be challenged - not by dropping a commitment to tax cuts, but by emphasising that it's not the only issue that concerns the country.

I was pleased to see Norman Tebbit argue that tax cuts should be introduced at the bottom of the range to benefit those on lower incomes. Labour may have been more right than they intended with Dave the Chameleon - "Underneath he's still true blue" - the issue is not that people object to Conservative policies, they object to the Conservatives. And the only way to get Conservative policies is to change the image of the Conservatives.

Monday, October 02, 2006


I remarked at choir tonight that we were using cloth nappies for the boy. A fellow choir member over heard this and said "ah, you must be a Cameron type."

Is this how we're recognising the Cameroons now?

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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ken and Trevor

Ken Livingstone has apparently remarked that Trevor Philips is pandering to the right and that he expects that Trevor Philips will soon "be joining the BNP".

I do wonder if this is a yet another case of the left not liking it when a minority member dares to disagree with them?

Breast is best

Darling wife pointed out this article on Comment is Free on the subject of obesity and breastfeeding.

It does seem that some of the comments seem to think that the point that breastfed babies are less likely to be obese in later life means the article is saying:

  1. If you breastfeed, you won't be obese.
  2. If you don't breastfeed, you will be.
Clearly, the article is saying neither.

Incidentally, the wee fella has been exclusively breastfed and has been consistently in the 90th percentile weight wise (aka he's a big boy) for the last four and a half months. I don't think he's particularly fat, just big. He also has the most gorgeous smile!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I recently picked my copy of Robert Fisk's "In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the price of neutrality". I first read the book for my Leaving Certificate, when my specialist subject was Operation Green and the W plan - the plans for the Germans and the British respectively to move their troops into what was then the Irish Free State. Although Green was very distinctly an invasion plan, the W plan was more ambiguous - officially it was a plan to move troops into the Free State to repel a German invasion, though certain aspects of the details and instructions given to British troops suggested that the British might not necessarily have been expecting the full cooperation of the Irish Defence Forces.

The Times is currently carrying a debate in their letters column about the Irish decision to remain neutral, which is a bit of a coincidence. It's even more of a coincidence that it comes on the same day that Neville Chamberlain has come bottom of a list ranking 20th century Prime Minsters in order of "greatness", in that it was Chamberlain's decision to return the Treaty ports that both enabled de Valera to keep Ireland out of the war at the same time as infuriating Churchill (at school, it was suggested that de Valera at the end of the Economic War had simply asked for them towards the end of the negotiations and was slightly surprised to get immediate agreement from the British).

Back firing....

The Royal Mail has suspended a member of staff for distributing a leaflet advising residents on his usual round how to opt out from the unsolicited email they distribute. The result is that the BBC News report now has that information in a handy side bar on its news report, which presumably means that a lot more people than the residents of Barry will now be opting out.

Sometimes it's better to just let these things go.

Crossing oneself and the Scottish police

Over the weekend, I read on Iain Dale's diary that the Celtic goalkeeper had been charged and cautioned for blessing himself in front of the Rangers fans during the Old Firm game last February. However, Mr Eugenides had a different perspective. Archbishop Cramner on his blog made a strong defence of the right to bless one self. However, I heard on Five Live yesterday that the Scottish police have clarified that Boruc's offense wasn't the sign off the cross, but other gestures that followed (presumably the one that implied that Rangers fans were rather fond of committing the sin of Onan).

Most of the comments seem to be based on the single BBC report on the matter (both MrE and the Archbishop refer to the BBC story, where as Iain refers to the Archbishop). The BBC report does not so much cover the news that Boruc was cautioned, as the Catholic Church's response to that. That BBC report links to another report in which the Crown Office is quoted as saying that : "The decision to use an alternative to prosecution in this case was based on an assessment of behaviour, not one single act, which appeared to be directed towards the crowd, which was being incited by that behaviour and which caused the police to intervene and calm the crowd." In fact, it would appear that Boruc's gestures were even more provactive than Gary Neville's gestures to the Liverpool fans earlier this year.

It therefore would appear that this controversy has been caused, not by the decision of the Scottish authorities to caution Boruc, but by the interpretation of the Catholic authorities in Scotland that he was being cautioned by the police for blessing himself. It would therefore seem to me that this whole row has blown up because of an overly paranoid reaction of the Church - or at least certain segments of the Church.

This is a rather worrying trend - because Archbishop Rowan Williams is so busy trying to hold the Anglican Communion together in its current troubles, in some ways Cardinal Murphy O'Connor is seen as the de facto moral leader of Christians in this country (it was the Catholic bishops - in particular Archbishop Smith of Cardiff - who made much of running in the media over Lord Joffe's Bill, though it must be acknowledged that the Anglican Bishops did attend the House of Lords and vote in opposition to the Bill). But Catholic Herald reports on Adrian Hilton took down a committed Christian candidate for the Tories in Slough, and now it appears that they are taking the worst possible interpretation of events in Scotland.

There are battles worth fighting - taking down a Christian candidate in Slough over alleged anti Papism or defending a goalkeeper who makes obscene gestures to opposition fans doesn't strike me as the best use of the resources.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Trains, commuting and time

This is after all supposed to partly be a Brentwood Blog, and I was left thinking tonight on the train to Shenfield about local complaints about the train service. David Kendall, of the local Liberal Democrat organisation, has organised a transport forum to discuss transport issues within the town. If I recall correctly, the forum recently called for fast trains to stop at Brentwood.

On the face of it, this is not an unreasonable proposal. On closer thought I'm not so convinced it is there. When I first moved to Brentwood, I lived in Warley and took the train from Brentwood to Southend every day. That job turned out not to be as good as it was labelled on the tin, so instead I found a job in the Docklands, and continued to commute from Brentwood, but this time via Stratford and the DLR. Not long after moving jobs, I moved house to Shenfield, where by moving three miles further away from London, I cut 15 minutes off my commute. However, I also added £40 a month to my season ticket. Shortly we'll be moving to Ingatestone, which means, if I have it right, that despite being five miles further out than when I lived in Warley, I'll still have an eight minute shorter commute. However, I'll now be dealing with two trains an hour, rather than every ten minutes from Brentwood.

However, I'm convinced there are two reasons for the infrequent service there. Firstly is the issue that according to the world's largest collection of facts, debate, rumour and rubbish the population of the village is 3400. Secondly, and more significantly in my opinion, it's on the main line between London and Chelmsford, with a large number of express trains on the line (during a driving lesson recently, I sat at the level crossing at Ingatestone and watched four trains pass before the line was sufficently clear to raise the gates, only for the gates to come down as soon as I'd crossed over). That line merges with the Southend and Southminster line at Shenfield, which means you've got even more traffic along the line I commute.

This leads to me conclude it's not feasible for fast trains to stop at Brentwood - when I did commute from Brentwood during rush hour, you could usually reckon on a train going by every two minutes on the fast tracks. A sum I once did calculated that for a train travelling at 100 km an hour, a stop would add three minutes to the journey. I can't remember the assumptions, which were probably wrong, and it was done in my head, which means the calculations could be wrong, but there is a point in that the deceleration and acceleration required to stop at a station does mean that a train takes longer to traverse that section of track, and that doesn't include the time to let the customers on.

In case I lost you there, my point is that I think having "fast trains" (by which I suspect would mean trains from Southend Victoria) stop at Brentwood as well as Shenfield is not operationally feasible during rush hour (I think the high level of traffic on the fast line is the reason only off peak fast trains sometimes stop at Romford).

There are two other points I think are worth making to the Brentwood commuter, as opposed to the Shenfield commuter:

1. There's rarely seating on the fast trains from Shenfield as it is - there simply isn't room for all the Brentwood commuters on the train as well. On the other hand, metro services are practically empty on arrival in Brentwood, so at least you get to sit down.
2. There's a mark up for travelling from Shenfield which probably includes the price of getting the fast train as opposed to the Metro service. And you've always got the option of buying the Shenfield ticket anyway, and then going to Shenfield on the slow train before double backing on a fast one. That's often quicker than going direct on the Metro.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dodgy sporting decisions.

In the world of illogic that is football rules, while Wayne Rooney is suspended from the next two Manchester United matches because of a dodgy red card in the Amsterdam Tournament (and by the way, would someone please explain to me why the game he missed in that tournament doesn't count towards the suspension), Ben Thatcher is free to play for Manchester City despite putting a guy in hospital with an appalling tackle last night. I would suspect I'm paranoid, but Jose Mourinho has quite enough of that.

What I find more interesting though is the row in cricket. A lot of people, including most of the Cricket writers in Monday's Telegraph, were critical of the umpire in how he handled the ball tampering allegation, and also the Pakistani protest. I enjoy watching cricket, and have a minor connection to fame in that my brother as a schoolboy played football with Ed Joyce, and my sister has played cricket in teams coached by Ed Joyce's family. I am a little excited to see that he's in the squad for the One Day Internationals. However, I would acknowledge I'm no expert in the sport.

It does appear to me though that the ICC has little choice but to support the umpire. Yes, he may have accused the Pakistanis of cheating, but then so does a Premiership referee when he books a player for diving, and you don't see Manchester United refusing to come out for the second half in protest. Even if Darrell Hair has made a "massive mistake" to quote Nasser Hussein in the Mail, that's not the point. The point about referees and umpires is that their word is law and if teams feel they can pressurise officials into giving a decision their way or the authorities (the ICC or FIFA) will back them over the official, then you remove one of the key elements of good officialdom - the ability to make a decision based on how they see it at the time without undue pressure.

This is not to say officials always get it right - Dermot Gallagher certainly didn't at the City Portsmouth match - nor that they shouldn't be sanctioned when they get it badly wrong. But the ICC have consistently insisted they have confidence in Darrell Hair despite complaints and criticism from the Pakistanis, and they should continue to give him their backing now.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Missing the point

The BBC is reporting that Channel 4 has defended the decision to reintroduce an evicted Big Brother housemate into the game with the line "all profits from the phone vote [for the reentry vote] are being donated to charity." This is particularly in response to the fact that ICSTIS have announced they are investigating the possibly misleading advertising of the premium rate numbers used to cast votes.

Talk about missing the point - the issue is not where the profits from last weeks vote as to who to put back into the house went, but the fact that many people (including my wife) voted earlier in the series to evict these losers. Having voted to evict Nikki from the house, who is an appalling, self centred, vicious, spoilt, whiney brat, my wife is understandably annoyed that she's not only potentially back in, but has the chance of winning the money. There appears to be an element of "you didn't really mean to evict her". When you get 37% of the votes in a field of ten, it's fairly clear the Great British Public did.

It's not far off the situation where if Labour doesn't like the result of the next election ("you didn't really mean to elect a Tory government") they simply change the rules and have another one.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Singapore National Day

To my darling wife and son, Happy National Day!

More on Dispatches

One of the biggest things that can get confusing when discussing Islam is the failure to realise the common identity in the Islamic community is a religious one, not an ethnic one. Which is what made Monday's Dispatches program completely unsatisfactory.

A quite significant proportion of the program was devoted to Islamic attitudes to sexuality, and discovering that they held relatively conservative views on the area.

What was particularly idiotic and unsatisfactory about this is that the views expressed (no sex outside marriage and marriage is for heterosexuals), while not shared by society at large, would be shared within other groupings in British society who would also have religion at the core of group identity. Catholics for a start, but you'd probably get even more extreme opinions if you interviewed attendees at a large number of Evangelical Christian Churches as well. I was not surprised by the results, nor was I particularly bothered by them. My darling wife stated her agreement a number of times with the views on sexuality attributed to Muslims.

It also raises the question of why the liberal media is always so obsessed with religious groupings teaching on sexuality, but that's a different issue.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Education Education Education!

Last night's Dispatches on Channel 4 was Jon Snow interviewing young Muslims to assess their views on modern Britain. At one point he interviews a group of young men who put forward the conspiracy theory that Princess Diana was murdered to prevent Britain having a Muslim King as the result of her liason with Dodi Al Fayed.

This is a sad reflection on the state of modern British education, which has clearly failed to teach these young men some basic facts on how succession and monarchy works, or the ability to apply knowledge and critical thinking. Or both.

Surely they don't need to be told that any child Diana had with Dodi Al Fayed had no claim to the throne. And I wasn't even educated in England.

Monday, August 07, 2006

So apparently I'm Bartlett.....

Powerful. Intimidating. Trivia Nazi. President Bartlet is all of these and more. A super-nerd who's into chess, National Parks, and rambling off things in Latin, POTUS is the 'real thing.' Not being completely upfront with the American people may cause him re-election headaches, though...

:: Which West Wing character are you? ::

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Better late than never....

John Reid is quoted today as saying the country needs a debate about immigration and "We have to get away from this daft so-called politically correct notion that anybody who wants to talk about immigration is somehow a racist."

So was that why the Labour party spent the last election campaign criticising the Tories for saying the same thing?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Proof that Symantec is the tool of the devil

I've always had my suspicions about anti virus and anti spy ware software, but here, finally, is proof that it is in fact the devil's work.

The BBC is reporting that their security suite is identifying a software package that vicars use for planning services as spyware.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I've not posted for a while, though oddly, I've had a lot to say.

Firstly the County Council by election result is available here but the short version is that Ann Naylor of the Tories won comfortably. I now have a vested interest in the result as the wife and I are moving to Ingatestone (hopefully) in the not too distant future.

Secondly, sadly the West Wing is no more. Janet Daley had an excellent article about it in the Telegraph on Monday which is well worth reading. I will admit I'll miss it, though I think my wife will be pleased thats one less thing I'm watching (though as a Big Brother addict....).

She's not the only one in the house watching BB though - I have also been watching this year. I've never really bothered with BB much before - I can name a handful of former housemates, Anna Nolan and Brian Dowling from the early series as being Irish and popular meant it was impossible to hide from them if you were living in Dublin. Jade Goody of course has made a career out of well.... being thick? And Makosi and Derek from the last series simply because the issue came up on Question Time when Derek was on (he is also mentioned in Alan Clark's diaries, though with a different spelling of his surname). I really, really, really hope that Nikki disappears back into obscurity - the idea that her tantrums could be an inspiration to young girls as to what to be when they grow up bothers me immensely.

Monday, July 10, 2006

By election

In local news, there is to be a by election in the Brentwood Rural Division for Essex County Council. More details here. In case you live in the relevant division, I'd urge you to vote on Thursday.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Pots and kettles

Chelsea are complaining about an illegal approach to Arjen Robben by Real Madrid.

Perhaps when they've removed the planks from their eyes they'd care to send them to me so I can make a new shed.

7/7 one year on....

We're now approaching the first anniversary of the 7/7 bombings, and my mind goes back to this time last year. It was the Thursday of my first week back after the wedding, and as I reached Stratford I heard an announcement that the tubes at Liverpool Street were delayed "due to an explosion in the tunnel". On arrival at work twenty minutes later, I was told that Stratford Station had also been closed. Since then I've moved jobs, and very occassionally (when it's pouring rain) take the train from Liverpool Street to Aldgate along the very part of the track where the bomb went off. Am I concerned? Yes. Do I still make the trip? Only if it's raining - otherwise in general, it's not worth the £1.50 it costs to take the train.

The Brentwood Gazette today has a front page story about the father of one of the victims expressing his concern that it will happen again. Interestingly, he doesn't blame the government nor does it change his view on supporting the Iraq War. This must be a very tough time for him and his family and I hope that on Friday he can remember all the happy times he had with his daughter. He will certainly be in my thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

More on ID cards

It's always nice to get comments on your blog (shows someone out there is actually reading it who isn't my wife).

The comment is on my last posting about ID cards suggesting that the Australians are also pushing ID cards.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the US alone within the alliance in Iraq appears to also be the only country not pushing ID cards. That's right - George W Bush is the leader who isn't pushing for ID cards.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Authoritarian Labour

An excellent article in the Independent today about the rather authoritarian nature of the current government. Perhaps there's hope yet on ID cards not getting through before the next election - surely between the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Labour rebels it should be possible to defeat this proposal.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Another big man dies in Ireland

Where as Charles Haughey was controversial, so was Monsignour Denis Faul who died today. I was always aware of him as a man who never shied from speaking his mind, and who was willing to condemn unequivocally the violence on both sides of the Northern Irish divide.

Requiem Eternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpertua luceat eis.

By the way, the Hutton and Shenfield Choral Society will be performing Mozart's Requiem and some Bruckner Motets on July 8th in Chelmsford Cathedral. Come along and support the arts.

Why I am now opposed to the EU constitution

I'm not a euro sceptic. I'm not opposed to the European Union, and I do think the EU has an important role to play in the future development. Until recently, I would described myself as pro-Europe.

During the second referendum on the Nice treaty in Ireland, I was active in the Yes camp - to the extent that I made the case in discussion with friends and canvassed on the door steps in my hometown to get people to vote Yes to the treaty. This despite the fact I didn't even have a vote. I did this despite the No vote in the first referendum, because of my belief that the real problem first time out was that the Yes voters stayed home. In that sense, my decision was vindicated, as the actual number of No votes cast barely moved (529,478 in the first referendum as opposed to 534,887 in the second, yet the result went from 55% - 45 % against to 63 % - 37% in favour of the treaty). The results proved that the claims of euro sceptic groups like the Bruges Group that the original result showed "the people of Ireland have unequivably rejected the Nice Treaty"[sic] was plain wrong.

Things have changed in the intervening four years since the referendum - I've moved to England, and the EU Constitution was introduced and rejected by the Dutch and the French in referenda. The British, who were promised a referendum by Tony Blair, and the Irish, who have to a referendum under the terms of their own constitutions, haven't had a chance to vote. I was always concerned about the concept of a constitution - that's the sort of things states have, and I don't want the EU to become a Federal State. The Constitution was almost impossible to read, as opposed to the Irish or US Constitutions. Now, we have a constitution, rather surprisingly carved out at the end of the Irish presidency with much backslapping amongst the Irish media at the role Bertie Ahern had had in brokering a compromise. Despite that, the referendum was well beaten in the two countries already mentioned, and there they don't have the excuse that Ireland had with Nice in 2001 - namely a low turnout.

One other thing really bothered - the decision of the European Commission to over rule the European Parliament vote on software patents. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the issue (and I am opposed to software patents) for an un elected body to simply disregard the ruling of an elected body on an EU wide issue is fundamentally undemocratic.

After the "defeat" of Nice in Ireland in 2001, Romano Prodi said that the EU would listen and reflect on what the Irish voters had said. This has turned out to be complete hogwash - despite the votes against the EU Constitution, EU Ministers seem to be determined to push ahead with it. There is a story from this week on the BBC News site in which the Prime Minister is quoted as saying it would be wrong to rule out the return of the Treaty.

I can no longer continue to support an institution with senior officials who think democracy is something inconvenient and to be ignored when the people decide they want to slow things down. Cameron is absolutely right - this is an ex Constitution. Bereft of life, it is no more. And it is time for the EU leadership to accept that fact.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Releasing paedophile information

The announcement over the weekend that John Reid is considering introducing an equivalent of Megan's Law into the UK smacks to me of political opportunism, and an attempt to divert attention from other issues within the home office - including the fact that the outrage caused by relatively lenient sentences awarded to a man who kidnapped a three year old were in fact the result of New Labour drawing up legislation and not the fault of the judge.

As I see it, the main issue involved in releasing the information is that it will stir up lynch mobs of the kind witnessed in Portsmouth a few years ago. Quite apart from the issue of vigilantism, this is a disturbing thought as during those riots a pediatrician was attacked by morons who couldn't tell the difference between a child doctor and a child molestor. On top of that, the wrong individuals were identified in a number of cases and attacked. I saw some archive footage over the weekend of hand written banners were the word paedophile was misspelt.

Citizens are entitled to the protection of the state if they are threatened - this is true regardless of what they may or may not have done in the past. In particular, if they have committed a crime and have served their sentence, it is not acceptable for individuals to take it upon themselves to add to their punishment. If John Reid were to publish the details of paedophiles released from prison, he would almost certainly be incurring additional costs involved with protecting those people from vigilantism.

Better changes would be to give the courts the authority to extend the sentence of paedophiles if there is a significant risk they may strike again. There is lots of evidence that paedophilia is compulsive (a lesson that tragically the Catholic Church learned the hard way) and if you have already committed the offence, it seems reasonable to want to keep you in prison until you are no longer a risk to other children.

One suspects however, that this bill is less about protecting children and more about whipping tabloid hysteria so that, combined with the World Cup, the public will forget about the complete mess they've made of running the Home Office.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Amusing banner ad

This amused me - look at the head line and the Google Ads.

Death of "the Boss"

The news of Charles Haughey's death reminded me how much I've moved away from Irish politics since my move here. I learnt of the news through the ILUG IRC #linux channel. During the week, one friend remarked "you're getting more British with every passing day". I'm not sure if it was meant as a compliment or not, but I really don't care.

But back to "the Boss". Ever since a friend lent me the Scrap Saturday tapes I'll always think of him going "Meara" at an unfortunate PJ Meara (yes - I know its satire). There's little doubt that he was a flawed politician, and frequently the target of the Irish left. Yet during his career he was responsible for a number of changes that have shaped modern Ireland - including the abolition of the death penalty, patronage of the arts and the development of Temple Bar and the Irish Financial Services Centre in Dublin.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Baby's first world cup...and the heat...

This time last year I was packing up in our old flat before heading off to Singapore to get married. A lot has happened since - new job, the arrival of our gorgeous little boy. One thing that I still remember about the build up to the wedding was not handling the heat particularly well - the day before the wedding I had a terrible heat induced headache. Today has also been very hot, and right now I'm sitting in the back garden enjoying it.

It was supposed to be Baby's first world cup - we'd bought an outfit for him, but the little darling decided to go to sleep instead. It's probably the result of a morning when he was left along with Daddy while Mummy went to Tesco to do the shopping (the original plan had been Sainsbury's, but being a world cup match day I gather the car park was absolutely insane. E got to Tesco's in Romford only to find that the queue to get in was rather long).

Which rather nicely brings me to a very important point - there is really nothing that can match the feeling of spending the morning with your son on your knee and having him smiling at you. As I wrote that last sentence, baby showed his sense of irony and the little sweet heart decided to puke. Luckily he missed the laptop. And me for once!

Friday, June 02, 2006

how stupid can FIFA be?


In a letter to the Irish Football Association, Fifa insisted its officials should not be expected to determine whether a player fulfilled eligibility requirements on the basis of the Belfast Agreement.

"The fact that a player holds an Irish Republic passport does not demonstrate conclusively that he or she is eligible to play for Northern Ireland," the letter to IFA chief executive Howard Wells read.

Neither does a British passport you twits.

Rules and regulations

Maybe I'm just turning into a slightly grumpy old man, but I'm feeling a little peeved with the passport application process. As I've noted elsewhere, a number of major changes have taken part in my life over the last couple of years, and the two changes that are relevant to this story are my arriving in Brentwood from Ireland at the tail end of 2004 and the more recent arrival of my wee fella in Harold Wood Hospital on Good Friday.

In order to facilitate his visiting grandparents in foreign parts, he needs a passport. And the most wonderful woman in the world (aka my wife) was talking about going back to foreign parts with him in a few weeks.

This gives me a minor headache, as it appears that I need someone to countersign the passport form. This someone must be of standing within the community and have known me for two years. For added values, the someone must be a UK resident and be a UK or Irish citizen (this last one actually gets me my solution).

Of course, I know plenty of people who are "of standing" for a number of years but most of them are in Ireland and the ones who aren't are relations of mine. Luckily there's an old school friend who is Irish and counts, so he can sign the form, because otherwise I was going to have to ring up an old priest friend of my mothers to get the forms signed. The system clearly wasn't designed to facilitate the process for ex-pats who have only relatively recently returned home.

And I just described myself as an expat for the last 25 years of my life. A Thiarna déan trócaire.


To Pron and Sinead on the safe arrival of baby Eoin Tadhg at 9:31 in Dublin this morning

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Even the press are right some of the time

It was widely suggested this time last year that Shaun Wright Phillips might well be making a mistake by moving from Man City to follow the rouble. Although Chelsea were offering SWP a lot of money, it was also pointed out that it would not be a good idea to move to a club where there was very fierce competition for first team places in the season leading up to a World Cup. SWP ignored the advice (partly on the encouragement of his father) and went to Chelsea anyway. Net result, he spends most of the season on the bench and doesn't end up making the last 23 for the World Cup.

But given his father's encouragement of the move in the first place, he has to accept the consequences of that decision. And although Sven's squad selection has surprised some people, SWP not being in the squad wasn't one of those surprises. A quick search of Google News turns up this article from The Sun where dad is quoted as saying ""I was so happy when he joined Chelsea and I still am." But does dad want to face up to that? No, he instead prefers to insinuate that the only reason Owen Hargreaves is in the squad is because he knows something about Sven's family.

I freely admit to not watching much Bundesliga, and I didn't see very much of the match last night, but it does occur to me that a regular for a side who are German champions and who got as far as Chelsea in the Champions League probably has a better claim to a squad place than someone who has spent most of the season warming seats in the Stamford Bridge stands.

The best way to deal with traffic....

The best way to deal with the fact that you failed a driving test because of the way you reacted to traffic, is to book a test for 9:17 am on a Sunday morning. Yes, apparently it exists.

In extra fun and games, there's a bike race on which means that the high street, and therefore Wilson's Corner, will be closed.

This is in theory a blog about Brentwood, though I've taken to babbling about other stuff as well, and Wilson's Corner is notable for being two things - a really nasty double roundabout at the end of the high street with a turn off to get to the Sainsbury's behind it, and having a great big sign saying "Secret Nuclear Bunker this way" (about three miles past Sainsbury's in fact).

Clearly it isn't that secret.

Friday, May 19, 2006


The last thing you need in the week of a driving test is to hear that your seven year old niece had her foot run over by a car. I'm not sure of the details, but it is pretty scary to think that you can be driving along the road only to have a small girl do something a bit silly and seriously damage her .... or worse. Worst bit is just trying to find out what's going on - I wouldn't even have known if my brother had mentioned to the most wonderful woman in the world on MSN, and she, being the most wonderful woman in the world, passed the news on to.

Then today the wee fella gets sent to casualty on the grounds he might be jaundiced. Apparently he is, and this time they've got tests to prove it. This is a distinct improvement on "well, he looks a bit yellow" to which the only response is "meet his mother". He's growing fast - only a month old and nearly 4lbs on his birthweight. And that's for a breast fed baby.

Hopeful all this illness is not an omen for tomorrows test.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Leaving, on a jet plane.....

Don't know when he'll be back again. After a six week visit, during which his first grandson was born, my father-in-law is returning to Singapore.

It's been an exciting time - nothing like the arrival of a new born to turn your life upside down, inside out and back to front. And the first eight pages of the Gazette made for relatively interesting reading for once.

For a start, there was the election coverage. For me, it sums up the essential problem the LibDems have. For a start, it's certainly true there are parts of Brentwood where it doesn't matter who or even what is running, stick a blue rosette on him/her/it and they will get elected. And usually they don't need to bother counting the votes, just weighing them. I gather from my limited reading that this was practically the case for all the wards in the borough until the LibDems came in and organised well at the ground level. A few years ago, they actually had control of the Borough Council. Last week though, they won one out of 13 wards being elected - six of which had previously had LibDem councillors. While they are making gains elsewhere in the country, their gains were pretty much cancelled out by their losses. It's almost as though people vote LibDem in the hope that the other party (Tory or Labour) are making a mess of running the council, and then discover that the Liberals are no better and go back to their original choice.

Secondly, there was coverage of Brentwoods most wanted job, The Apprentice.
As the Gazette wouldn't have known who won, being printed on Wednesday morning, it didn't spill the beans on that, but the profiles were interesting. What was more interesting was Karen Bremner's blog on the two finallists - she was clearly no fan of Michelle, who won. There is a part of me though that feels Karen is very embittered over her firing - yet her own comments on her blog make me feel Sir Alan got that one right at least - witness her comments on the advertising task.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

What on earth is going on?

I've never really understood the attraction of Tony Blair - I've certainly never really managed to understand how he's managed to win three elections on the trot. Living in Brentwood which is as blue as the home section at Roots Hall probably doesn't help that, and of course before that I was living in Ireland.

Gordon Brown boasted recently how Britain had had 54 consecutive quarters of economic growth - which is almost certainly true. However, it's dishonest in its presentation - it's an attempt to imply he's responsible for the growth, wereas in fact the 54 quarters brings us back to 1993, when the Tories were in power.

But how on earth can you justify keeping in office a home secretary who thinks that 288 cases is only a "very few" cases. We can only conclude that Charles Clarke was misleading the public, not that that's exactly news for New Labour - they've been doing it for years. The precedent for keeping politicians who mislead the public in power was set by his boss and the infamous "45 minutes" claim. Presumably that's why his resignation wasn't accepted - Blair was concerned it might set a precedent.

Someone actually read this

Who wasn't my wife - I'm amazed.