Saturday, April 29, 2017

Children

The birth on 27th April 2017 of a new maytrees grandson  - Henry - of course puts  all other news into the shade.

Those mothers in Syria and elsewhere further south in Africa who have to flee or starve while heavily pregnant with child  are on my mind at this otherwise very happy time for the maytrees' family.

As it happens a report by Aidan Hartley in this weeks "Spectator" magazine suggests that within the next 30 years or so Africa will have more people of working age than anywhere else but with few jobs to go round.  A really sad paragraph or two of his article however read:

"The UK's development secretary calls what is unfolding in South Sudan tribal genocide - but President Salva Kair does not care. Last month he raised the permit fee for aid workers from $100, to $10,000...What we should expect... is a better performance from the Lords of Poverty themselves. Today the UN blames droughts or climate change but they have always occurred in Africa...In Northern Uganda the world's largest refugee camps have been forming for nearly a year as the South Sudanese flee..Suddenly UN officials sound alarm bells that a cholera epidemic is about to erupt. Send money now! What we know is that the refugees did not have cholera back home in their villages - but they find it when they congregate in camps specially established by the UN to house and feed them..."

Similarly the EU  is about to argue about how many $billions the UK needs to provide for the remaining 27 EU nations upon the UK leaving the EU. If  whatever sum is agreed, was to assist refugees particularly the mothers who are pregnant or with small children, or the poor in Africa that would be one thing but in fact the sums are apparently being argued for, purely to keep the EU in the wealthy ways to which it has become accustomed.

At least one EU country encouraged  without the prior approval of the other 26 nations let alone the 27th which is the UK, thousands of North Africans to head for Europe from  the war torn   parts of that continent. Hundreds of thousands  of refugees and apparently others, decided to make that perilous journey to Europe across the Mediterranean  as a result. Then other EU nations which refuse to agree to  what seem to be the dictats of the first, were being  and perhaps still are, fined millions of Euros despite the fact that traffikers and profiteers are making killings, in all senses of that word, by putting would be refugees in overcrowded unsafe boats  in my view encouraged by  some EU nations. Thankfully the UK's financial effort has apparently (who knows what is in fact done in this area these days!) been concentrated on provision for the refugees in North Africa as near as possible to the homes that they have been forced to leave rather than encouraging mass fleeing in unsafe boats.

Now the EU is essentially bribing Turkey to retain more of the sadly  still fleeing refugees and even seeking some payment from the UK for what may well be an illegal international restraint when  really,  the wealthy nations of Europe and the West  and indeed  the world over, should be discussing the best way of assisting and funding the starving and war afflicted peoples as near as possible to the homes they have had to leave.

The UN should be insisting that food for the starving gets to the affected peoples even if that means supporting the famine relief convoys with UN troops.

Well, baby Henry's first few hours on this earth have caused much celebration and some personal thought.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

General Election 2017

Given the rising election crescendo in France, the announcement by the UK PM that there would be a general election here on 8th June 2017 caused great surprise.

The previous UK coalition (Tories/Lib Dems) government had following I believe pressure from the Lib Dems, enacted the requirement of  fixed term 5 year parliaments but rather like the Lib Dems' previous  proposals to reform the British first past the post electoral system, the fixed term requirement, was not supported when the chips were down.

Of course Brexit considerations were given by the government as the basis for calling an early general election. A fresh five year term should strengthen the government's negotiating hand with the 27 EU members, as  the new election  will now result in the two year exit provision laid down by the EU for departure, not expiring shortly before the UK  government became embroiled in another  general election.

 In reality perhaps the risk of 30 or so MPs   having to face criminal proceedings based on alleged  overspending during the 2015 election, meant that there was little practical alternative for the Tory government in any event. Presumably those who win seats in 2017 will not be affected by  what may have occurred during the 2015 election campaigns?  The overspending seems to concern the cost of buses being borne nationally rather than locally - if so, wrongful though that would have been the issue seems hardly of Watergate proportions.

The Labour Party being in complete disarray over Europe, its leadership and other issues, the main anti Brexit parties would appear to be the Lib Dems nationally plus the SNP in Scotland.

All this could be viewed as somewhat depressing but for the fact that  the French presidential election campaign involves four main candidates, none of whom  fill one with confidence and of whom two at least, appear far more extreme than the British UKIP and Labour leaders are in this country.

Add to that the choice faced only 100 days or so back by our American friends of Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump it is clear that democratic politics is undergoing rapid change at present in some countries.

The UK political parties have yet to publish their new  election manifestos so more later.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

North Korean Missile Crisis?

Newly arrived as a 13 year old at Beaumont College the long since closed Jesuit boarding school in Old Windsor, I well recall the  fear of the then Cuban Missile crisis in October 1962.

In those days the school had individual bedtime cubicles with desks, beds and cupboards for younger boys rather than open dormitories. There was a Jesuit in charge nearby who one rarely saw. However on the eve of the Cuban missile crisis, when the USA's President John F Kennedy and the USSR's President Nikita Khruschev were apparently so close to initiating a nuclear war over the USSR's stationing of nuclear missiles on Cuba proximate to the USA,  the Jesuit came into the dormitory and said that as this could be the last night of the world as we knew it we should pray  together the "De Profundis".

Most 13 year old boys were and perhaps are even more so today, hardly interested in religion or prayers. Nonetheless I well recollect almost 55 years later, the huge emotions coupled with not a little fear, with which all present said that prayer at the time:

Psalm 130 
Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If Thou, O Lord, shalt observe iniquities; Lord, who shall endure it?
For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness:
and by reason of Thy law, I have waited for Thee, O Lord.
My soul hath relied on His word; my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him plentiful redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel from all her iniquities.
[In conclusion]
Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Let us pray.
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful,
grant to the souls of Thy servants departed the remission of all their sins,
that through our pious supplication they may obtain that pardon
which they have always desired;
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Thus it is to me slightly surprising that the parallel if not even worse, threat building up over the Korean peninsular in 2017, is not so far apparently  creating similar emotions to those resulting from the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962.  The memories of many in 1962 of WWII compared with the majority at least in the West, at  the current time who thankfully  have no such memories, may explain the difference and hopefully the situation will in any event not deteriorate to the 1962 level or worse.

The North Korean Leader appears to behave like a spoilt child but sadly with unlimited adult guns possibly including as in 1962 nuclear missiles at his disposal, held essentially at the cost of impoverishment for many of his people.

The United States Leader is hardly a spoilt child-like figure but his behaviour in the days ahead may prove either dangerously immature, making him  in effect no better than the North Korean spoilt child President or depending on what decisions he makes in the near future, may be the making of one  who appears so far at least to be the most unpopular American President of my lifetime at least.

If the former, Psalm 130 may again need to be said from the depths of mankind's being. If the latter, the world may become a safer place.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dublin April 2017

As a result of the tragic death in Dublin of the husband of the younger sister of mrs maytrees  it was sadly necessary to spend a few days there   to be with her family and for the funeral.
















Dublin has not changed very much in the few years since mrs maytrees and I met over there. There must be money coming in to the country from the EU but much of that may have been spent on infra structure. The whole City is being dug up at present for the two original tram lines to be connected and extended. When that is complete later this year, there should be much improvement in public transport.

People I spoke with, though more enthusiastic about the EU than many in the UK, were nonetheless critical of what they perceived as the baling out of the banks there at the expense of ordinary men and women.

The City Hall has been converted to a rather interesting exhibition centre with exhibits illustrating the development of the area since Viking times though the one painting on display, was modern rather than historic - at least I assumed so.













On a day away from the City, I traveled by the Dart to Shankill to meet  an old school friend (we were at an English boarding school in Sussex together some 58 years ago) and  went with him for a glorious run over the pebbly beach -  though at high tide running was slightly difficult in some places.













His Romanian wife a lecturer at Trinity, son, daughter in law and two babies, joined us for lunch and his wife recounted tales of Trinity College where she is a lecturer.

As a result I took a photograph or two there as well.


The flight back was to London City Airport which is far more pleasant  at least to me, than the other rather larger airports around London.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Old Friends

Having agreed albeit with a little reluctance, to attend the  reunion of the final year of old school friends,  50 years after Beaumont closed (the old place is is now an hotel in Old Windsor) I decided to try to meet a friend from those days, who like myself is or at least was not then,  as sporty as many of our contemporaries  were in those teenage years.



Tracing a contemporary from school   and with whom one has not had any contact at all for 50 years or so proved quite difficult.

In fact, chance and good fortune played a good part in the search. Coincidentally, another boy or I should say now, man,  from the old school some 3 years older than I  a few days ago, fortuitously happened to give me a large wave and hoot from his wonderful motorcycle and side car, as he raced up a local hill whilst I was strolling down.

I recalled  that the contemporary I was seeking, had  had an older brother at Beaumont so later I emailed the motor cyclist for his assistance with my search. He gave me the telephone number of the older brother who I subsequently telephoned to explain my quest.

The older brother, Paul signified that  my contemporary, his younger brother  Simon, had not been too keen on the old place so might not take too kindly to my contacting him. Nonetheless having been given  a telephone number I gave Simon a call and we agreed to meet at Southampton where he lived.

Arriving at Southampton Central station I realised that neither of us had a clue as to how the other might appear after 50 years. However we stumbled across each other at an agreed station entrance.

Age had taken a little toll as one might expect but thankfully not too much. Simon cleared the air by signifying that his issue was not about people at the old school nor about  abuse etc and although he could not be persuaded to attend the reunion party of our year in November 2017, we enjoyed several hours of catching up over coffee and then a good lunch at a country pub which Simon kindly provided. He also gave me a tour of the City of Southampton, which I could not recall visiting previously.

Despite huge bombings by German planes and  rockets during WWII, the city has been substantially rebuilt with fine parks and green open spaces abounding.

Simon proved to be brilliant as a tour guide and explained that the City was celebrating the residing there (for a few years)  of Jane Austen although he told me that in reality she could not stand the place!

Some fine stretches of the Old City  walls have survived the WII bombing and Simon showed me the spot where in the fourteenth century, landings by French warships and the pillaging of the gold and other precious materials from the local church, essentially caused the fortification of the City from further such attacks and apparently led to  the start of the 100 years war with the French in 1337.

A most unusual and interesting reunion for which I am truly grateful to  Simon although I could not persuade him to come to our year's reunion at the old place.

Some footnotes:

Simon Charles Potter informs me that the  "motor cycle and side car" point above is quite inaccurate. and he has sent me a picture of the real machine.  I am pleased to update the post above by using his photo below accordingly:





Also having overcome the earlier difficulty of  depicting  a photo of Simon Reynier 50 years on, I have now managed to do this - quite successfully!

Apologies to both

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Man killing Man

More often than not   murder seems  to be perpetrated by men  though of course there are also sadly, many female murderers.

The ISIL thug killing in London this week is regrettably, not the first time that a person ostensibly acting in the name of a religion has murdered or tried to murder other human beings.

I recall as a young 18 year old  being  in Turkey at the time of the USA's involvement with the then  Vietnam war. Riots took place in Istanbul around John with whom I was traveling and I  when the police in endeavouring to restore order killed some by-standers.








A few years later in November 1981 at about midnight in Wimbledon, there was an huge explosion from nearby, which caused our neighbours and ourselves to come out in pyjamas onto the street to learn if we could, what had happened. As was reported the next day:

LONDON, Nov. 13— A bomb exploded tonight at the home of the British Attorney General, Sir Michael Havers, slightly injuring four police officers.
In Dublin, the Irish Republican Army said its guerrillas had planted the bomb.
Police said the blast caused a ''tremendous explosion.'' The house was empty at the time. A Scotland Yard spokesman said three police officers were taken to a hospital with minor injuries, and another officer on duty outside the house in the southwest London suburb of Wimbledon suffered shock.

I doubt that the Turkish "Fruko", the IRA or the ISIL thugs were or are motivated by any  true religious ferver but expect  that their motivations were and are as is often the case with bullies, motivated by self interest. 

That is not to say that unfairness, perhaps huge unfairness exists at the seat of the thuggery, for example the rampant religious discrimination in Northern Ireland at the time of the IRA bombing, only really began to be tackled by the NI equivalent of the the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 well after the IRA began its killings.

From a religious viewpoint however most catholics would know that "turning the other cheek" might still  involve protesting but never attempts to risk innocent people's lives let alone deliberately kill them so the IRA could not be said to be acting for the church. 

Thus the thug's butchery in Westminster this week comprising truly  awful murders and maiming, although apparently said to be based on some interpretation or other of the Koran, was  not based on any true religious belief but upon  naivity coupled with greed and perhaps, though this is too early to say, lack of  a proper  enriching  school and/or home life.

May those who are injured recover as soon as possible and those who have died RIP



Saturday, March 18, 2017

C21 Politics

The election of Donald Trump as President of the USA came as a shock to many in Europe irrespective of their own personal positions in domestic politics. Thus  in the UK as many on the right of the political spectrum as on the left were and are concerned at the decision taken by the American electorate.

The media often mention  the British Brexit referendum outcome almost at the same time as Donald Trump's election implying that the two events are in some way connected or at least of a similar trait. This in my view is quite inept.

The Brexit  decision arose largely because of the distance felt between Brussels and  many ordinary British people especially in the North of England compounded by the hugely expensive Brussels bureaucracy largely paid for by two countries namely Germany and the UK although France too is now making a smaller net payment.

Donald Trump was elected perhaps because of the effects of the very significant growth of Chinese influence in the world and the consequences  being felt by many ordinary American workers. Personally I doubt that the new American president will prove very positive for the USA, whether for ordinary workers' incomes there or for that country in the world at large but we can but wait and see.

Brexit on the other hand gives rise to a rather different set of circumstances. Interestingly most (actually all!) catholic church priests and monks I have spoken seem  to would prefer that the people  in this country had not chosen Brexit.

My personal view on this however is that whether the UK remains part of the EU or  reverts to its place in the world as an independent post-colonial country is not a matter for God's Law but rather the Law of Caesar. After all in old and new testament times man's world seems to have comprised many separate countries and the old testament illustrates that mankind's different languages and by implication, separate nations, have been with us for  millennia - illustrated for example by  The Tower of Babel (Genesis11:1-9).

Still I voted albeit reluctantly to Remain in the EU but now wonder whether the UK will ever actually leave.

Possibly another general election in this country would assist settling not only the EU membership question but also that  of Scots' independence, once and for all.

Would the Labour Party be up for a general election at this time however?


Children

The birth on 27th April 2017 of a new maytrees grandson  - Henry - of course puts  all other news into the shade. Those mothers in Syria a...