Thursday, March 29, 2007

On the Not-So Slippery Slope

While in hiding, Evar has been earning some extra money by giving tips on disguises on the internet.

Strike By Fashion Police Beginning To Bite.

Well, my creamy yeomen, last night you could have knocked me down with a feather. Indeed, you could have covered in sprinkles and called my a donut. Or even wrapped me in crushed velvet and called me Dior.

On entering the ‘Rat and Ferret’, I was dumbfounded to see Chief Inspector McCrindle Barleymow Honeydew-Fforbes stood at the bar. Now I know this isn’t an uncommon experience. It isn’t that unusual to see the erstwhile Chief Inspector sporting a cast on his leg and crutches – for his is a dangerous occupation.

No, the surprise came from seeing his drinking companion was none other than Evar! The tanned and smiling Evar has had his misdemeanours forgiven and has returned from his exile.

Despite rumours that Evar was living rough on Bondi Beach, it can now be revealed that Evar was living in a small, Austrian ski resort disguised as busty Peruvian chalet maid call Maria. In a coincidence that would grace a plot hole in an American mini-series, the good Chief Inspector chose that very chalet to enjoy a short skiing holiday. Thankfully, Evar’s disguise was so good, that even the keen-eyed Chief Inspector failed to recognise his arch-nemesis. (Note 1)

The reconciliation came about after the Chief Inspector decided to indulge in a little extreme skiing and strayed off-piste. Unfortunately, he slipped and did himself a mischief. So loud were the Chief Inspector’s expletives, that they sparked an avalanche. Fortunately, Evar was in the same area and skied to his rescue, scooping him up as the wall of snow was about to swallow them both up and then, with the Chief Inspector over one shoulder, he outran the roaring ice until they reached safety.

With such bravery, the Chief Inspector felt it churlish to press charges and with the slate smudged unreadable, Evar is free to partake of a pint of Nightswerve’s Velvet Cudgel in the Lounge Bar.

Washday at Yvette’s always draws a crowd. She only owns one bra.

Sadly for Yvette Munsderpiedder, her return to the ‘Rat and Ferret’ will have to postponed for a while longer. While Evar was in trouble with the noble Chief Inspector, it appears that Yvette has upset Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. (Note 2)

An undercover investigator has been rifling through Yvettes underwear drawer and has calculated that the pneumatic and curvaceous Yvette should have paid VAT on tips she received while working at the Aniseed Hippo Lap Dancing Emporium.

Sadly, this case looks to run and run. The Customs’ people have calculated the tax bill based on the size of Yvette’s lingerie. Anyone who has seen the size of Yvette’s lingerie will realise that the tax demand is exceedingly large.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: I was to learn later from one of the fellow residents of the chalet that this was despite a rather drunken game of ‘Strip Tiddlywinks’ and a rather inept attempt by the inebriated Chief Inspector to seduce the now partially disguised Evar. I have a problem with some of the mental images this provokes, but suffice to say that both of them deny the story – despite the impeccable source. Click to return

NOTE 2: As every schoolboy knows, the it wasn’t the police who did for Al Capone, but the tax man. In the end he got sent down for eleven years for tax evasion. Click to return

My cute little mascot admits that even he wouldn’t like to explore the depths of Yvette’s support garments.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Poking a Grumpy Lion With a Pointy Stick

The clocks went FORWARD last night – as in ‘Spring Forward’!

May the Force Be With You!

Well, good yeomen, last night somebody tinkered with the clocks. So now we are running on British Summer Time which is a hour ahead of good old GMT. (Note 1) So it is that I – and so many others – will spend the next couple of days wandering around a touch grumpy having lost a precious hours sleep.

Yet it is now truly Spring! You would expect that we would all be bouncing around like the young lambs in the fresh green pastures. But no, we will all spend the next week grumbling about sleep deprivation and making statements like ‘Yesterday I was still in bed at this time’.

Perhaps we should have the same approach as Iran. They are currently celebrating the festival of Norouz. Nourez is a major holiday in the country.

I’ve always had an interest in Iran. It has an amazing history and cultural legacy. Yet here in the West, we tend to view it with a little bit of suspicion. I’ve always tried to take an informed view on the stories, but perhaps it is the changes to the clocks, but even I am beginning to wonder if the Iranian leadership is trying to goad the West into war.

In my rather grumpy mood, I am getting rather fed up with Iran’s take on what constitutes diplomatic endeavours. We have had the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad call for Israel to be wiped off the face of the map and to deny the Holocaust under the Nazis in Europe. We have seen Iran actively support groups that employ terrorism. There have also been suggestions that Iran is supporting the insurgents in Iraq. (Note 2)

We have also had the rather long running dispute over Iran’s Nuclear program, particularly their enriching of Uranium and their refusal to allow Nuclear inspections by the UN. An issue that stems from Iran running an enrichment program in secret in contravention of international treaties and then taking an uncompromising line once found out.

All of which leads us to question whether the international community can trust Iran. Just how far is Iran prepared to go to?

An image we should all burn into our minds – Hiroshima after the A-bomb.

Despite it being a public holiday in Iran, in a piece of miraculous timing, the Iranian Republican Guard had ships at work in Shatt al-Arab waterway. Just as the UN were about to vote on sanctions against Iran because of their Nuclear program, the Iranian Republican Guard seized fifteen British sailors on anti-smuggling operations in Iraqi national waters. (Note 3).

In this grumpy, sleep deprived state of mine, it is beginning to look like the Iranian Government believes that it can just do whatever it likes, whenever it likes without any regard to any other international body or government. That Iran doesn’t negotiate or discuss on issues and is just out to goad the rest of the world.

Without trust and without dialogue and compromise there seems to be limited ways you are able to deal with Iran.

Take care, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, you cannot go on poking a grump lion with a pointy stick forever without getting a reaction.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: My body clock seems more in tune with British Summer Time. I like getting up early and the simple temporal shift of the clocks means that I get up at an hour that people are less likely to view as weird. The thing is, that in the summer months the early morning is a truly wonderful time. There is nothing quite like watching the sun come up on a late spring day – and the moving of the clocks forward means this treat is more accessible to all. One of the great pleasures I remember from working shifts was going outside for a ciggie in mid-summer and watching the sun creep over the horizon. Given that the horizon was actually the local abattoir you would have thought the magic would be lost – but no, it always gave me a real lift even if I was barely half way into my shift. Click to return

NOTE 2: In the interests of balance, I should point out that both the US, UK, China, Russia and others have been known to support the appropriate Left Wing or Right Wing Freedom Fighter / Rebel Group in the past too. Then we have the whole issue over the Iraq War and the invasion of Iraq by the US and the UK – so perhaps we are in a position of weakness when discussing the supporting of terrorists. Click to return

NOTE 3: I’m inclined to believe this because the patrols would be equipped with GPS and this isn’t the first time that Iran has pulled this trick. When they did this in 2004 the GPS systems later proved that they had never strayed out of Iraqi waters – as confirmed by Sir Alan West in this interview. It is also suggested that the Revolutionary guard used to make a good living out of smuggling before the British Naval patrols. Click to return

My cute little mascot just stares open mouthed at events.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Moments in the Limelight

Put on you glasses, settle down and if you are sitting comfortably, I’ll begin.

That’s Entertainment!

I promised my patient yeomen a rather lighter subject matter in my next block – and here it is. There have been the odd mutterings that I really should blog about something other Vulture Funds. (Note 1) Well fret not my activated yeomen, for tonight I shall shake my magic staff and grant your wish.

For the next couple of weeks, our small town holds it’s Literary Festival. Last night was the open mike night for local writers, so I got my chance to step into the Limelight for my seven minutes of fame.

There is nothing I like more than an opportunity to get up onto my hind legs before a captive audience – so I pop along every year and treat those less fortunate to a specially commissioned piece of local interest that I have drummed out while under the influence of the dried frog pills.

This year, the event was compeered by the UK All Stars Slam Poet 2006, Rob Evans. There was a good selection of local writers and the standard was very high and the laughs many. (Note 2)

So, if my yeomen are suitably captive, I will share with you my contribution.

Reginald Molehusband Lives

Oundle is a quiet, almost sleepy market town. The modern world snakes past along the bypass leaving the town virtually untouched. While other places may embrace change, here in our delightful rural backwater, we doggy paddle around in eddies of the 1950s.

Yet a hidden menace has struck into the heart our community. Almost unnoticed, we have become a hotspot of a horrible virus. What makes this all the more heartbreaking is that most of us remain totally unaware of its presence while it has reached near epidemic proportions.

Sadly, those untouched by this debilitating disease treat sufferer's wrath and ire. I am here to implore you to treat the poor unfortunates with more sympathy.

An empty chair, an open mike and a captive audience – my idea of heaven.

When the virus was first identified in Surrey in the 1960s, the press labelled it Molehusband Syndrome. As it spread, the Government took firm action to stamp it out. To begin with there were public information films (Note 3). These films became television adverts. When society began to rebel against sufferers and baying mobs arrived to taunt the afflicted, the government enacted laws to test all seventeen year olds in attempt to isolate the cause. To tackle new infections they introduced wardens. The actions were generally successful and it dropped out of the media spotlight.

Sadly, Oundle's strain of Molehusband's Syndrome is a mutation, but worse, our populace seem sadly unaware they of their infection. I would hate to cause panic, but look at those around you. They could be carriers.

Now please, stop shuffling in your seats and trying to put some space between you and your neighbour. You! The lady at the back. Please put away that industrial sized vat of bleach.

Molehusband syndrome is easy to spot. Medical science has moved on and now it is fully treatable. There is a cure if you catch the signs early enough.

One of the earliest symptoms is the sudden urge to trade in your sensible and reliable little hatchback. Despite only travelling from the edge of town to school and occasionally organising shopping expeditions into Peterborough, sufferers find themselves drawn to 4 x4 dealerships. In the most extreme cases sufferers purchase vehicles the size of small industrial units.

If Molehusband Syndrome is allowed to continue unchecked, subtle psychological changes kick in. The brain starts to block out the presence of any vehicle smaller than there own. Sufferers drive through narrow gaps oblivious to oncoming traffic and causing other drivers to take evasive action.

The next time you find yourself forced to drive on the pavement in West Street, don't shout at the 4x4 driver that forced you off the road. Try and find your compassionate side. The poor unfortunate is suffering and requires a condescending smile and ironic wave.

That 4x4 driver will probably be suffering memory lapses. They can find themselves staring at the indicator stalk on the steering column for hours, totally unable to recall why it is there This shouldn't be confused with BMW and Mercedes drivers. Those believe they have an exemption from having to use indicators.

In the most severe cases, sufferers from Molehusband syndrome become convinced that there legs are incapable of supporting them for more than a few minutes at a time. Such is their confusion; you often find them inventing parking spaces where none exist, double parking or even leaving their car on the pavement to ensure that they can obtain their shopping before collapsing in an unsightly heap.

So, my fine citizens of Oundle, please treat the afflicted with care and understanding. The next time you feel the urge to yell at the inconsiderate driver of a 4x4, remember that they are simply ill. When you see their monster truck abandoned in the town – and if you can reach - leave them a sympathetic note under their windscreen wiper – along with the number of a good doctor.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Although I should point out that Roger Helmer MEP did respond to my blog of earlier this week and he left a comment on my mirror blog. I have responded to his comment by email. This may be a very strange dialogue – but it is a dialogue and nears the status of a debate. As people have pointed out, Roger Helmer did have the courtesy not only to respond but to state his view clearly and to take up a position on the topic – even if he is wrong. Click to return

NOTE 2: I had to ask several people to find out exactly what Slam Poetry was all about. I eventually discovered it was competitive poetry and then had several unfortunate visions of duels between poets where they beat eachother up with volumes of their collected works. I should know better than to mix beer with the dried from pills. Click to return

NOTE 3: It strikes me that many, especially my Merkin readers will be a little confused over all of this. You have to be a certain age to remember the public information films they used to show on the TV, but on of my favourites was one that taught people how to parallel park. Although the original film has been lost, you can still watch the video from the link in this news article (Yes, I know I used this link before). Click to return

Just a little test to see what happens I doubt anyone will notice this tucked away her. If they do, I’m sure they’ll keep it secret. You will, won’t you? You won’t be sorry.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

My cute enjoyed the event last night. He left early though, said something about catching a bite to eat before all the good girls were in bed.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Some Things Make Me Spit

I fear that I may be about to upset this fine gentleman.

Representation of the people, for the people.

Fine yeomen, I am particularly riled. Fingers are hammering keyboards and nicotine gum is being masticated to within a mere whisker of existence.

Those of you who have been following the growing crusade against Vulture Funds will have realised that I am a little steamed up over the fact that such funds are accepted so readily by our elected representatives.

Well today, I found a site that allowed me to email my elected representatives in the European Parliament. The site is actually very good. If you are British and fancy finding out more about your elected representatives, why not Click Here. (Note 1)

So, I used the opportunity to discover my elected members of the European Parliament and then write to them about my concern over Vulture Funds. Two have replied, Bill Newton Dunn and Roger Helmer.

Unfortunately for Bill Newton Dunn, the worthy ex-owner of a spoon factory and father to a journalist with Murdoch’s Evil Empire, the response of Roger Helmer has me spitting blood! So much so, I feel the need to share with you their views on the matter.

Bill Newton Dunn looking wistful as he remember the myriad delights of spoons – or perhaps he is just dozing off after a good expense paid lunch in Brussels.

Roger Helmer’sresponse was ”people and countries shouldn't contract debts unless they are able to repay them. If all developing countries could write off debts, then no sensible lender would entertain them. Equally, writing off debt tends to favour rulers of profligate countries who have looted state funds, and to penalise the thrifty” - which seems to totally avoid the issue of how Vulture Funds prey on third world nations by inflating the debt. He compounded his error by then being totally condescending and adding ”Your compassion does you credit, but you need a more hard-headed approach in the real world.” (Note 2)

For the record, Roger Helmer represents The Conservative Party .

Bill Newton Dunn on the other hand didn’t give me the metaphorical pat on the head and say ‘come back when you grow up, Sonny’ message. His was far more laid back – as you would expect from a Liberal Democrat and defector from the Conservatives. His approach was much more of it being somebody else’s problem and he was loathed to interfere with the independence of the judiciary – again totally missing the point! I was calling for a change in the law so the judiciary could exert their independence in such matters.

So far this journey into our democracy in action is proving very frustrating! At least these guys had the courtesy to reply – the only two who have!

Sorry I went off on one again, didn’t I?

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Not only does the site return you the name of your elected representatives and give you a handy form for emailing them – it also provides you with a very good summary of their record and for MPS – a list of interests and expenses. It is a really interesting site and well worth sitting down with a cup of coffee and exploring. Click to return

NOTE 2: Roger Helmer is of course a fully paid up member of the real world. On his website you can see a picture of him doing an interview bemoaning how difficult it is to get the EU to stump up the funds to pay for Euro sceptic bumper stickers printed. What is more important Roger? You getting a chance to get some sticky pieces of paper printed or the lives of the poor in the developing world? Click to return

My cute mascot’s is just waiting for an opportunity to invite the MEPs to dinner at his castle to chew the issue through properly.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

To Mum, with love on Mothering Sunday.

My Merkin yeomen, may suddenly have that slight empty feeling in the pit of their stomach. They may find themselves with that sense of slight panic that they have forgotten something really important. Well, don’t worry my fine friends. Mothering Sunday is the same and yet subtly different from your Mother’s Day. Although both have taken on the tag of being a Hallmark Holiday.

So, in common with the rest of the UK, I would like to wish my my Mum a very happy mothers day, send her all my love and show her that she is in my thoughts not just today, but every day. (Note 1).

I suppose in retrospect, I should eat humble pie at least once a year as I probably wasn’t the easiest little boy to drag up. Mind you, I think she ended up doing a pretty passable job.

Now, as any self respecting Merkin will tell you, the US Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May. Indeed this does seem to be the most popular date. The link I gave above shows the dates different countries celebrate their mothers. The most interesting thing I noticed was that Belgium doesn’t appear to have a Mother’s Day – unless you live in Antwerp. In France, just when Mother’s Day falls seems particularly complex.

Simnel cake is now eaten at easter, but traditionally this was eaten on the fourth Sunday in Lent, Mothering Sunday.

Whatever the date, perhaps it would be best if we just take a few moments out to remember our mothers. The lucky ones amongst us who can should perhaps take time out to give her a call. (Note 2)

After you have told your mother how much you love and appreciate her, you might want to make yourself a cup of your preferred non-alcoholic beverage, cut yourself a slice of Simnel cake and read more about the origins of Mothering Sunday.

Alternatively, you may wish to spend some time helping mothers in the developing world by campaigning against the horrors of Vulture Funds. Merkins can contact your Senators and Representatives. You may even want to email the White House at ‘’.

Anyone can sign the petition on ipetitions.

If you are a British resident or a British citizen living abroad, you can add your name to the petitions on the Number 10 website. Such is the delight of technology, there has ended up with more than one petition and you can find them here and here. If you can spare the time please sign both.

IMPORTANT : The number 10 website sends you an email to confirm your email address. Some junk mail filters treat this email as spam. If you don’t get a confirmation email with a link to confirm your signature – please check in your junk mail folder!

Sorry I keep banging on about Vulture Funds, but I find the whole idea immoral.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Of course given that I doubt that my mother has used a computer for years (if at all) and would look very blankly at you if started talking about blogs and personal spaces, this could be a rather pointless exercise. Still, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it? Click to return

NOTE 2: In one of those rather amazing turns of history, Anna Jarvis campaign tirelessly to get the US to introduce a holiday to mark Mother’s Day. In 1914 she succeded and US President Woodrow Wilson introduced Mother’s Day. Was Anna happy? Well, yes an no. When she saw how commercialised it became she spent the rest of her life trying to return it to the original meaning. It’s an amazing story and you can read here. Click to return

My cute mascot’s Mummy taught him how to brush his teeth to keep them pearly white and strong.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

I'm Still Standing

Any blurring is purely the fault of the photographer and not the structure.

Nursery Rhymes at sunrise.

Yes, my magnificent yeomen, I am back from my little sojourn to the capital. For you it was probably a welcome break from my nagging, but for me, it was a two day business meeting which kept ridiculous hours. I don’t really mind early starts or late finishes, but when you have to have both plus an evening out on the town, then it does tend to wring you out a touch.

In one of those strange paradoxes, I find London would be great if it wasn’t for all of the other annoying people who always seem to want to travel on the same trains and buses at the same time as me. (Note 1). The whole experience normally nudges me towards a bad mood.

Cannon Street in the heart of the City of London in the early morning.

Still, I had my camera with me. I took the opportunity to grab a few shots as I traveled around. The picture above is Cannon Street so early in the morning that it actually looks pleasant. It doesn’t take long for the street to fill with workers intent on doing their crazed wilderbeast impressions.

Cities generally don’t look good in the cold light of morning. But save their best for the night.

The two shots of London above show how it transforms. The daylight picture shows London in its dreary workday attire. The other shows how it slaps on a touch of glamour and transforms itself once the sun goes down. (Note 2)

Both of those pictures are of the monument to the Great Fire of London of 1666. The Great Fire following hot on the heels (can I convince you that pun was unintentional?) of the Plague. So the City of London built the Monument I know and love - which is actually a scientific instrument in disguise. In researching this blog, I also discovered there is a second monument marking where the fire stopped.

The entrance to St Pauls taken at  Night with the flash switched off and the setting on Auto. Another picture of St Pauls this time forgetting to turn the flash off.

Another monument to the Great Fire is St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was built to the design of Sir Christopher Wren. This is just one of 53 churches he designed for the re-building of London after the fire.

Oh, I never really explained the first picture. That is looking South across London Bridge of the “London Bridge is falling down…” song. Yes, I know, you really didn’t need to know that.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: If you ever want to experience one of the most appaling comutes, travel from Kings Cross Station to Bank on the Northern Line. At peak times it is difficult to believe that so many people could be crammed into the same steel casing of hot, fetid air. Even more amazing the whole journey is conducted without acknowledging the person with their nose in your armpit. Oh, if you are a Harry Potter fanatic, Kings Cross Station is where the Hogwarts express departs from. Click to return

NOTE 2: I heard that! How was it out there who suggested that I may have used perspective to make the daylight picture look worse? As if I would. Count yourself lucky that I didn’t take pictures of the delights lurking in the alleys and in doorways. Think about them for two long and you will find it hard to maintain your grip on breakfast. Click to return

My cute mascot is like London in that he is a creature of the night.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

A Tree Falls in the Forest

It was the smallest of pebbles but the ripples spread fast.

You are truly amazing!

You wonderful, fantastic yeomen have made the last few days an emotional journey for me. Thank you. Your responses to my blog on the rather nasty, tacky world of Vulture Funds has been incredible.

The response to the story has been huge and fantastic. I have received extra comments on my blog, there have been wonderful messages of support and so many of you have taken up the cudgel on this immoral practice. (Note 1).

As the weekend has gone on I have found more and more reading material, plus I have been blessed with support from friends and friends of friends on the subject – and it has been a really great experience. However, I should point out one misconception from the outset. I cannot claim any credit for starting anything. If anyone deserves credit for bringing this to public attention it is Greg Palast. You can also watch the original TV report from BBC Newsnight from his site.

In this rather emotional ramble, I am going to try and thank everyone who has responded to my call, give you a link to some of the people who have written their own articles or had their own ideas about the topic. I shall try to answer some of the questions I’ve had and respond to comments. I will also try to restore some balance by linking to some counter arguments. (Note 2)

The biggest problem is knowing where to start. The answer is with those who have made their own blog entries.

Sean produced an alternative slant on how to get your voice heard. As well as providing some useful links to how all you fine, concerned Merkins can contact your Senators and Representatives. He also provided some links to major news organisations and some standard letters to ‘cut & paste’ asking them to give the story some prominence. While I was waiting to fully come round this morning, I followed Sean’s lead and tried to email as many news organisations as I could think of. It is amazing how many hide away their contact details. Hidden in the comments section of this blog, Kerry suggested an email address for the White House of ‘’. Visiting Sean’s blog also comes with the added bonus of some excellent photography and fine commentary – so you should check it out.

Another fine blog entry came from Fuzzy Slippers. As well as being well written (as are all her blogs – even if she does seem to have an unhealthy appetite for giant sprouts) there are some excellent links included both to learn more about the topic and to get your voice heard.

Can you spot Nikki in this picture? Send your answer on a postcard to Tony Blair…

Despite being pipped in the contest for a Gold Star, (Note 3), Nikki D made a passionate plea for you all add your hoarse whisper to ours so that it becomes a roar. This plea being all the more heart warming because Nikki attended the “Make Poverty History” march back in 2005.

Kerry was one of the first to make her voice heard. She has set up a petition on ipetitions to highlight the problem. Anyone can sign this petition there are no exceptions – so if you haven’t already, please could you spare some time to add your name and comments?

There are others out there who have made the own contributions, updated blasts, signed petitions and fired off emails. All of which helps spread the word about this immoral practice – the more people who know about this the better!!! (Oh No!! I’ve taken to using multiple exclamation marks!!!! Someone pass the Dried Frog Pills, quick!!!!!).

Whatever your desiccated amphibian supplement of choice, the truth is that the powers will only take action if enough voices are heard. So the more people you can tell about this the better. So, please, spread the word.

If you haven’t already, please sign the ipetition - anyone can sign.

If you are a British resident or a British citizen living abroad, you can add your name to the petitions on the Number 10 website. Such is the delight of technology, there has ended up with more than one petition and you can find them here and here. If you can spare the time please sign both.

So where are we with all of this? Well, on the ipetition there are 53 signatures. On the Number 10 petitions there are 35 signatures on one petition and 24 on the other. In short – there is still more work to do! Hey, I even tried opening a question on Yahoo answers.

OK, I haven’t forgotten. I said I would offer you a counter argument on Vulture funds – well, here it is.

I shall end with a couple of other interesting links to the Jubilee Debt Campaign, a chance to email Donegal International to ask them not to collect the debt. Plus a chance to email Gordon Brown, the UK Chancellor (and some believe the next UK Prime Minister), to ask him to do something about it. I know I must be sounding boring now, but if you can spare the time… yackety, yackety.

Sorry I keep banging on about this, but my blood is still boiling.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: This cudgel being a short heavy stick used to beat people rather Nightswerve’s Velvet Cudgel which has the effect of transporting you to idealised realities where it is highly unlikely that such things as Vulture Funds would ever get to see the light of day. Click to return

NOTE 2: Such is the response, I’m not sure I will ever be able to thank everyone individually for responding. Such is the amount of reading, I am not at all sure that I have seen all of the contributions to the debate. Such is the emotion, I doubt that I have been able to remain objective. Click to return

NOTE 3: Nikki should have been a shoo in for a Gold Star. Her stint as milk monitor saw one of the most efficient distributions of dairy products EVAR. Despite being on of the best pencil sharpeners in the 360 world, she still failed to get her reward. Even though she suffered this injustice she manages to think of others. Click to return

My cute mascot would just love to put the bite on the Vulture Funds.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Portraying the Kicked Canine

Charles Ryder competes for the attention of Lord Sebastian Flyte with a Teddy Bear.

How the other half live.

I have a confession to make, my fair-minded yeomen. I have never read "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh. I cannot recall the television series when it was originally broadcast way back in 1981.(Note 1)

Despite Brideshead Revisited making Time Magazine's all-time greatest novels list and the British Film Institute's 100 Greatest Television Programmes, until today I didn't realise how the two main characters met. (Note 2)

The character of Lord Sebastian Flyte came from a wealthy and privileged background and in the TV series, was portrayed wearing the garb of the Bullingdon Club when he introduced himself in his rather unique and unconventional style to Charles Ryder.

I was surprised to discover that the Bullingdon Club survives to this day at Oxford. According to the Wikipedia entry, it is famed for its members' wealth and destructive binges. However, that fame had failed to impress itself on my consciousness, despite exploits occasionally finding their way into the media. (Note 3)

I'm pretty sure that most undergraduates, independent of university and means tend to indulge themselves to excess from time to time. Only it isn't quite so newsworthy when the students are at a 'lesser' university and from a less privileged background. It all goes to show that us Brits are still hung up over the class thing and tend to jerk knees when presented with such things.

The Bullingdon Dining Club of the 1980s. Back Row, 2nd Left is David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party.

The picture above is an 'artists impression' of a photograph that seems to have been mysteriously withdrawn by the copyright owners, Gillman and Soame (Note 4). Apparently, this has nothing to do with rumours that the Labour Party planned to use it in an election poster. Sadly for David Cameron and the Conservative Party, the BBC Newsnight program decided to let the cat out of the bag.

Interestingly, David Cameron isn't the only current Conservative high profile politician who, in those precious moments between studies, let of steam with the Bullingdon Dining Club. Apparently, Boris Johnson was also a member. I'll leave you to decide if images like this are going to play a bigger part in any election than the discussion of policy, but I think you can guess my cynical view.

Anything that David can do…. Back Row, 3rd Right is Tony Blair apparently making a rude gesture.

In the interests of political balance (and to be fair to the BBC they wrote a story about this photo too), I post the above picture of our current Prime Minister showing an equally unflattering pose. (Note 5)

For the more astute yeomen among my readership, I better point out that I do realise that it could be argued that I am perpetuating the current political trend towards image over substance.

I did consider that when I started out on the blog entry. Yet in the end, I couldn’t help but think that if someone from a council estate belonged to a gang which trashed each others houses and the local pub, they would be called a thug and there would be a baying (especially amongst Conservatives) that they be locked up and the key conveniently lost – even if it couldn’t be proved that he was actually involved in the mayhem. Besides, the way that the photograph became conveniently ‘unavailable’ smacks of cover up.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Way back in 1981 I had much better things to do than watch television. Well, that’s what I like to think. There I was a young, virile male in my early twenties – so life offered up a huge variety of temptations that would keep me away from the TV set. Yet, if I was honest, I probably decided that I wasn't prepared to watch a bunch of upper class twits poncing about and vegetated on the sofa as some alternative 'chewing gum for the mind' washed over me. Click to return

NOTE 2: For those of you who really need to know, Charles Ryder met Lord Sebastian Flyte when Sebastian vomited through an open window into Charle's room at Oxford University. Not having had the benefit of attending Oxford University, I would look upon this as a huge plot hole. I suppose this goes to prove I'm an uneducated peasant. Click to return

NOTE 3: Of course, I should find the whole idea of such excesses to be totally immoral. I should take the view that any student lucky enough to find themselves at Oxford University should realise how lucky they are and spend their entire time studying. However, I have to admit that when I was that age, I would have enjoyed such a lifestyle given half a chance. Click to return

NOTE 4: I've noticed there has been a trend towards publishing old school photographs amongst those on my friends list. For those of us who are steadfastly refusing to join in it is encouraging to know that it is possible to persuade our old school photographer from being persuaded to do so on our behalf. Click to return

NOTE 5: Sadly, I was unable to find a picture of Sir Menzies Campbell from his university days. It could be that back in those days photography was in its infancy and photographs tended to be formal portraits. Click to return

Boris demonstrating his contempt for Jamie Oliver by eating bread and dripping in front of a school dinner lady convention.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Your Help Please

The Make Poverty History campaign mobilised thousands to the cause – and politicians listened!

Will of the People versus Personal Profit.

Yesterday you got a very long rambling blog that talked about voting, democracy in action – and introduced you to the rather nasty, tacky world of Vulture Funds.

Well, my concerned yeomen, today I return to the topic. (Note 1)

You may not realise this, but when someone defaults on a debt, the person who is owed the money may decide that it is effectively lost and that they have no chance of seeing their money. Banks can call this bad debt and write it off against tax. (Note 2) Before they do this, the banks can pursue payment through various means including the courts and debt recovery agencies.

Another option is to sell the debt for pennies on the pound to another company who will then seek to recover the full amount of the debt plus expenses. These companies are forced to be more aggressive about collecting the debt.

The ‘Vulture Funds’ buy the really big debts from corporations and countries and then go after the debt very aggressively indeed using high powered lawyers and accountants.

Bono, one of the figureheads of the Make Poverty History campaign with Tony Blair.

The Make Poverty History campaign targeted the G8 Summit in Scotland when Tony Blair chaired the event. Bono and Bob Geldof managed to wring out some concessions from the leaders of the industrialized nations to provide debt relief for the poorest countries who were showing a commitment towards democracy and freedom.

Zambia was on nation that was identified as one of the beneficiaries of that Debt Relief – but that doesn’t worry the Vulture Funds.

The BBC Newsnight program broke the story how the Vulture Funds were putting all of that work at risk by going after the full amount of debts that were due to be written off. At the actual High Court Hearing, the judge found in favour of the Vulture Fund.

The ‘Vulture Funds effectively wiped out any of the benefits Zambia would feel from International debt Relief this year. Millions of Zambians would not see the benefits of improved infrastructure health care and education.

The owners of the Vulture Funds can rub their hands with glee as several millions dollars are added to the millions already in their bank accounts.

This is where I ask you nicely for your help (Pretty Please).

Kerry has set up a petition on ipetitions. Please could you spare some time to add your name and comments to the petition?

Stormscrossing left a comment in the original blog entry with some links to the Jubilee Debt Campaign. Among the interesting links he gave were a chance to email Donegal International to ask them not to collect the debt. Plus a chance to email Gordon Brown, the UK Chancellor (and some believe the next UK Prime Minister), to ask him to do something about it. It would be great if you could spare the time to add your name to those campaigns.

Then, you are a British resident (citizenship is not required), you can add your name to the petitions on the Number 10 website. Such is the delight of technology, there has ended up with more than one petition and you can find them here and here (There maybe more yet – I’ll keep the list updated).

IMPORTANT : The number 10 website sends you an email to confirm your email address. Some junk mail filters treat this email as spam. If you don’t get a confirmation email with a link to confirm your signature – please check in your junk mail folder!

Sorry for taking up so much of your time, but I feel this is important. I hope you do too.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: You will be pleased to know that this does not take the form of a test as I threatened yesterday. This isn’t out of any misplaced goodwill on my part, but because I am going to ask you to pledge a little of your time and energy to try to get our leaders to take action. Click to return

NOTE 2: So if a bank does a really bad job of assessing risk on a loan or doesn’t check that the loan can be repaid properly, they end up paying less tax – which means that governments have to get tax revenue elsewhere. So when banks lend badly we end up paying more!. Click to return

My cute mascot would just love to put the bite on the Vulture Funds.

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