Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Family and friends - it's time.

The Rigbys are spending the summer holidays visiting, and being visited by, as many of the multitude of Rigby relatives and friends as possible in the few weeks between now and the end of August.

Because of this Mrs R doesn't expect to be either near her computer, a newspaper or a television very often - which will actually be quite a nice change. She's sure the world will carry on turning and, maybe, the sun will keep shining too.

Just think, last August the Libyan was sent home to die - but didn't. Teddy Kennedy did die, and the government of the day was telling us we were unpatriotic to criticise the MoD ... and ministers and their chums tried to dirty the character of General Dannatt and, of course, Mr Brown went to Afghanistan for a photo-op.

It all seems a million light years away.

One of the nicest things about this summer is that it is Mr Brown-free. It makes quite a nice change really. Mrs R wonders, sometimes, if he'll ever get his book written - he does seem to have 'missed the boat' a bit, because others have got their word in first and whatever does end up being published is likely to look either a bit jaded and weary, or as yet another attack, designed to wound and hurt others whilst he tries to retain the upper hand. But, frankly, Mrs R doesn't care, and she has absolutely no interest in reading a single word of his memoirs. Why bother? We've all lived through those thirteen years and are suffering the consequences of his 'prudence'.

And that, really, is why all the British Rigbys are spending the summer visiting each other and staying for a few hours, or a few days - long enough to talk without embarrassing silences, but not long enough to be in the way. You see, without exception all the Rigbys and Rigby-friends are a bit strapped for cash these days.

One thing that would be nice, a bit of a sweetener in these stony-broke times, something small to help make a lot of people feel as if they count - even though Mr Clegg has already dismissed the idea - is to revisit the smoking ban. You see, although not many Rigbys smoke tobacco there are enough who do to make going out in a group a bit of a chore. It's no longer 'fun' when some need to get up and walk outside a pub, and it's not nice to be sitting in a beer garden having a natter with friends only to be accosted by moaning non-smoking total strangers who complain that their 'fresh air' is being polluted by a whiff of smoke. They could, after all, go inside where there's a guarantee, enshrined in harsh laws, that says the insides of pubs and clubs have to be totally smokeless. It's what they wanted, but now, because of the sunshine, they want the outside too. It spoils things a bit, even for the non-smoker Rigbys and Rigby-friends.

It would be nice, don't you think, if the coalition could offer pubs and, maybe even eating places, the right to choose whether to be smoke-free or not. Then people could choose whether to go to those places, or not.

Mrs Spelman said, only yesterday, that all women should be free to choose the clothes they wear, even though others might disapprove of, or are even fearful of the look of, certain items of clothing. Her thoughts were endorsed by Mr Damian Green. They said it's about choice. It's also, Mrs Rigby thinks, about living with the consequences of making certain choices - because women who wear face-hiding burquas might find they can't go into a bank, or can't go and talk to an MP - they might have to get somebody else to do it for them, which could sometimes be a bit awkward. But, it's their choice.

The coalition has hinted that nobody should be heckled or nagged or legislated and fined into submission. So, if a pub or club chooses to allow smoking it could quite easily have big signs outside, same as places in many other European countries, and people can choose whether to go through the door - or not. That's the grown-up way, isn't it?

So, let's hope, that along with the sunshine and the other 'freedoms' we're all meant to be getting back, let's see the government treat grown-ups like grown-ups.

It's time.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Gurkhas, bravery, and the rules of modern warfare.

A Gurkha soldier from 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles has been "sent back to England to face disciplinary action" because he removed
... the head off (sic) a dead Taliban commander with his ceremonial knife to prove the dead man’s identity
The soldier faces disciplinary action because ...
He is understood to have removed the man’s head from the area, leaving the rest of his body on the battlefield.

This is considered a gross insult to the Muslims of Afghanistan, who bury the entire body of their dead even if parts have to be retrieved.

British soldiers often return missing body parts once a battle has ended so the dead can be buried in one piece.
The dead man's head was removed because ...
[The Gurkha's] unit had been told that they were seeking a ‘high value target,’ a Taliban commander, and that they must prove they had killed the right man.

The Gurkhas had intended to remove the Taliban leader’s body from the battlefield for identification purposes.

But they came under heavy fire as their tried to do so. Military sources said that in the heat of battle, the Gurkha [unsheathed his kukri ... after running out of ammunition] and beheaded the dead insurgent.
It's an 'academic question' but, if the soldier had - because he'd run out of ammunition - used his knife to kill the Afghan this would probably be a story of great bravery and medals would be awarded.

But no, let's try to demoralise the soldiers even more by being 'politically correct' and culturally aware during enemy action, and conveniently forget the Gurkha's culture, and forget that the Taliban will happily behead hostages and record their actions to show the world what they did. The Taliban likes trying to frighten 'their enemy' into submission by doing things they know we westerners consider to be barbaric. Is it possible they will be amused to learn that one of our soldiers is being disciplined for beheading a corpse?

Mrs Rigby thinks it's important to remember that only three days ago we were mourning the loss of three soldiers of the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles. (pictures Mail)

Major James Bowman was shot dead whilst sleeping in his tent. Lieutenant Turkington and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun were killed when the murderer fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the shipping container used as the base's operations room. We have not been told of non-fatal injuries suffered by other soldiers.

And who did this? It was a 'rogue' traitorous soldier of the Afghan National Army - who has since been in contact with the BBC giving his excuses and attempting to justify his actions.

That 'soldier' is, apparently
... now the subject of a massive manhunt led by elite SAS troops.
Who will, Mrs R guesses, give him either a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates when they find him, and maybe even offer him counselling to ease his trauma.

Ambush Predator has written about this. Mrs Rigby is only doing so because she spotted a link on All Seeing Eye to a poem. The poem offers an insight, showing the stark contrast in military 'ethics', and enemy action, between now and when Rudyard Kipling was earning his Nobel Prize for Literature. Kipling knew of the fierce loyalty of the Gurkhas, and how they might be expected to react to the death of one of their Officers - although this fictional poem is referring to the Indian Army of the time.
The Grave of the Hundred Head
by Rudyard Kipling

There's a widow in sleepy Chester
Who weeps for her only son;
There's a grave on the Pabeng River,
A grave that the Burmans shun;
And there's Subadar* Prag Tewarri
Who tells how the work was done.

A Snider* squibbed in the jungle,
Somebody laughed and fled,
And the men of the First Shikaris*
Picked up their Subaltern dead,
With a big blue mark in his forehead
And the back blown out of his head.

Subadar Prag Tewarri,
Jemadar* Hira Lal,
Took command of the party,
Twenty rifles in all,
Marched them down to the river
As the day was beginning to fall.

They buried the boy by the river,
A blanket over his face -
They wept for their dead Lieutenant,
The men of an alien race -
They made a samadh* in his honour,
A mark for his resting-place.

For they swore by the Holy Water,
They swore by the salt they ate,
That the soul of Lieutenant Eshmitt Sahib
Should go to his God in state,
With fifty file of Burmans
To open him Heaven's gate.

The men of the First Shikaris
Marched till the break of day,
Till they came to the rebel village,
The village of Pabengmay -
A jingal* covered the clearing,
Calthrops hampered the way.

Subadar Prag Tewarri,
Bidding them load with ball,
Halted a dozen rifles
Under the village wall;
Sent out a flanking-party
With Jemadar Hira Lal.

The men of the First Shikaris
Shouted and smote and slew,
Turning the grinning jingal
On to the howling crew.
The Jemadar's flanking-party
Butchered the folk who flew.

Long was the morn of slaughter,
Long was the list of slain,
Five score heads were taken,
Five score heads and twain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
Went back to their grave again,

Each man bearing a basket
Red as his palms that day,
Red as the blazing village -
The village of Pabengmay,
And the "drip-drip-drip" from the baskets
Reddened the grass by the way.

They made a pile of their trophies
High as a tall man's chin,
Head upon head distorted,
Set in a sightless grin,
Anger and pain and terror
Stamped on the smoke-scorched skin.

Subadar Prag Tewarri
Put the head of the Boh
On the top of the mound of triumph,
The head of his son below -
With the sword and the peacock-banner
That the world might behold and know.

Thus the samadh was perfect,
Thus was the lesson plain
Of the wrath of the First Shikaris -
The price of a white man slain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
Went back into camp again.

Then a silence came to the river,
A hush fell over the shore,
And Bohs that were brave departed,
And Sniders squibbed no more;
For the Burmans said
That a white man's head
Must be paid for with heads five-score.

There's a widow in sleepy Chester
Who weeps for her only son;
There's a grave on the Pabeng River,
A grave that the Burmans shun;
And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri
Who tells how the work was done.
Snider = British military rifle.

jingal = "... an 1880s enlarged copy of the Remington Lee Bolt action rifle (original calibre 45/70 or 43 Spanish)which were made in .60 calibre by Tientsin Arsenal, which also made the ammo ..."

samadh = can be directly traslated (sic) as shrine or death shrine

Subadar = An Indian Army mid-rank infantry officer equal to a Captain.

Jemadar = An Indian Army cavalry or infantry junior officer equal to a Lieutenant.

Shikaris = game hunter. Quote from e-book "Under ten viceroys; the reminiscences of a Gurkha" by Nigel Gresley Woodyatt.
"Every Gurkha is supposed to be a shikari. It would be much more correct to say ALL are shikar lovers, but only a very small minority has any real knowledge of game.
When you do get a shikari he is good, as good as they make them, and quite fearless. ..."

More about Kipling from Wikipedia

Starry, starry nights?

The Mail has highlighted the 'fears' of an increase in road accidents when some motorway lights are turned off between the hours of midnight and five in the morning. Turning off some lights is meant to both save the environment and quite a bit of money.

According to the Campaign for Dark Skies the idea has already been trialled in some counties, with no increase in the number of road accidents and, where urban lights have been turned off it has been deemed a success ...
... "A year on year comparison for April 2006 to May 2007 [when street-lights were left on all night] and April 2007 to May 2008 [when street-lights were turned off at midnight] has shown that night-time crime has almost halved in Saffron Walden and reduced by over a third in Dunmow."
Mrs Rigby's experience is that, when it's raining and there are bright metal halide lights, it's almost impossible to see white road markings and also, at the end of a run of bright white lights, her eyes take a moment or two to adjust to the sudden darkness.

She has noticed that, in brightly lit urban areas, car headlights are almost invisible, and she thinks it's easier to see cars at night when there's no street lighting - simply because it's possible to see their headlight beams approaching a junction or from around a bend etc. etc.. It's because of this some of the unlit winding rural roads near Rigby Town seem safer to use during the darker winter months.

Mr Eugenides, however, spots an interesting conundrum
So we live in a society where head teachers make kids wear goggles to play conkers and policemen are forbidden from rescuing drowning people on health and safety grounds... and then they make you drive at 70mph in pitch darkness to save the polar bears?
Hmm, it almost makes Mrs R wonder who'll be first to trip over on a newly darkened motorway and then blame the lack of street lighting - and after that maybe all cars will have to be preceded by a pedestrian waving a red flag. Or did they do that once before?

Friday, 16 July 2010

Carne Ross & Chilcot

... there was no deliberate discussion of available alternatives to military action in advance of the military invasion. There is no record of that discussion, no official has referred to it, no minister has talked about it. And that seems to me to be a very egregious absence in history, that at some point a government before going to war should stop and ask itself are there available alternatives.

As my testimony makes clear, there was an available alternative. All that argument about tightening sanctions and stopping illegal breaches to me amounted to a very viable, robust alternative to military action that would have had the possible effect of undermining the Saddam regime, and certainly would have prevented any major rearmament ... The fact that that deliberation, that consideration of alternatives, did not take place is, to me, a disgrace.
Taken from Mr Carne Ross*'s statement to the Chilcot Inquiry.

Please read other extracts from his statement over at the Guardian

Mr Carne Ross is ...
... the Foreign Office "whistleblower" who resigned after speaking out about the war. He worked as a British diplomat at the UN and, in a submission to the Butler inquiry (which was originally secret, but which was subsequently published in 2006), he said that officials did not regard Iraq's WMD programme as a threat to the UK.
His 17 page witness statement opens with a tribute to Dr. David Kelly.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

St Swithun's weather.

Hosepipe bans and cricket always seem to be the modern equivalent of a rain dance. Mrs Rigby can't deny that the gardens of Rigby Towers were in desperate need of more than a drop of rain because, despite regular dosing with watering cans, some of the larger shrubs were beginning to suffer what might be permanent damage.

And now, of course, it's St Swithun's Day. Stories tell us that the Saint had been buried in the churchyard outside the Priory Church of Sts. Peter and Paul and St. Swithun as he had requested, until some more serious folk decided he'd be better inside the rather splendid shrine they'd built for him - so they dug up his bones and moved him indoors. The saint wasn't, apparently, too pleased and so made it start raining and he made it carry on raining for 40 days.

British 21st century man, who is unlikely to mark the calendar by saints days, doesn't like this sort of tradition, so we're now told how 15th July is merely a marker for stuck weather systems and patterns and, because of the way these things work, the weather on that day could continue for the next few weeks - or not.

Mrs R thinks it's rather nice to know that St Swithun's verse ...
St. Swithun's day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
St. Swithun's day, if thou be fair,
For forty days 'twill rain na mair.
... is mirrored by weather traditions elsewhere in Europe. For example.
In France they say Quand il pleut a la Saint Gervais Il pleut quarante jours apres - If it rains on St. Gervais' day (19th of July), it will rain for fourty days thereafter.

In Germany the Siebenschlaefer or seven sleepers day (July 7th, after the Gregorian calendar) refers to the weather patterns of the following seven weeks.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Unpleasant people.

Sometimes, when looking at other blogs, you learn about people whose behaviour make you wonder how they managed to end up being paid out of the public purse. More often than not, if you're anything like Mrs Rigby, you just shake your head and 'move on' - because that's what you're meant to do these days isn't it? And because, well, we've seen it, or something similar, all too many times before.

Some people somehow manage to 'get away with an awful lot' of unpleasantness, both online and in the real world. They seem to be able to 'get away with' a lot more than ... than most people. It's hard to work out why, maybe sometimes it's really because of 'who they are' and sometimes it's because of 'who they know' and who's looking after their interests. At other times it could be because they're so belligerent, so caustic, so full of themselves and so, errm, horrible, it'd be hard to choose which particular bit of behaviour or verbiage to target and condemn - so we leave them be.

One such person came to Mrs R's notice in this post at GrumpyOldTwat's blog. In amongst the comments is one from Subrosa, who says
Do you now believe if a red rosette was stuck on a monkey they'd vote for it? (Apology to monkeys).
It makes Mrs Rigby ask herself that if that particular person was the best choice of candidate for Local Government, then what were the worst like?

Anyhow, if you'd like to learn more about this individual perhaps you'd like to follow Mrs R's footsteps by first going to GrumpyOldTwat's place then stroll over for quite a surprising read at Harry's Place. Once you've picked your jaw up off the keyboard maybe you could take a look at a couple of posts at Corrugated Soundbite here and also here. (Don't forget to read the comments).

When you've digested all that, with the help of a cup of coffee or something a little stronger, perhaps you'd like to pop back to GOT's blog and follow some of the highlighted links - there are quite a few.

Oh, and a P.S. - you did remember to read all the comments belonging to all those blog posts, didn't you? If not, it's worth backtracking and doing so.

And to think, this man was elected to a position in local government. He helps shape local policies, he is a so-called public servant ... and, because of the way the last government 'sorted out' local funding, we all contribute towards the financial pot from which he draws his wages, even though he may not work, or live, anywhere near us.

Ed Balls R4 interview

Reading this on Coffee House it would be easy to believe that Mr Ed Balls is a reincarnation of Mr Brown. Thing is, Brown's apparently alive and well, well, alive, and is mostly somewhere in Kirkcaldy where he's writing his memoirs and being paid to be an MP - except when he goes to the zoo.

Here's the beginning of the John Humphrys/Ed Balls radio 4 interview. You can read the whole thing over at the Coffee House
John Humphrys: There are two big questions in British politics, the 1st is whether the coalition can hold together; the second is whether the Labour party can hold together. It’s not quite that simple for the obvious reason that the coalition is two parties, and the Labour party isn’t, not officially anyway. But for years it was divided between those who supported Blair, and those who supported Brown. And the question now as the party struggles to decide who to choose for its new leader is whether it can heal that division. It hasn’t been helped by Peter Mandelson, Lord Mandelson’s, book about to be published, and he’s got a lot to say about it. Ed Balls is one of the leadership contenders and he was about as close to Gordon Brown as it’s possible to be and he’s with me. Good morning to you.

Ed Balls: Good morning John.

JH: Do you regret those years of division?

EB: I don’t regret at all the national minimum wage, three-and-a-half thousand Sure Start children’s centres…

JH: No, that’s not what I asked you, I asked you about the division.

EB: But, John, what we had in the last 13 years is a Labour government which achieved more for jobs and social justice, did more redistribution than any government since 1945. I think put our health service on a sound footing, transformed education, so we had the best generation of teachers ever. I think it was a profoundly successful government. And the fact is there were times when Gordon Brown and Tony Blair had disagreements and arguments, but out of that creative tension came some huge achievements and I think the Labour party is very proud of what was achieved in the last 30 years, 13 years and .....
Ever had that feeling of Déjà vu?

Read the rest, you know you want to!

(P.S. Edited to quote more of the transcript)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Sham consultation.

It would appear that this site is as empty a gesture as was this one.

Mr Clegg has decided to close the debate on some issues. He has decided that he will not look at reviewing either the death penalty or the smoking ban.

Interesting sort of parallel really, pairing these two regulations or laws. We all know that, in reality, discussion about the death penalty in Britain is little more than empty words. However, we also know that many other EU countries have ensured that people and businesses have the freedom to choose whether to allow smoking on their premises - or not. Britain, and British people, are not to be allowed to even discuss the issue. The debate is, apparently, over - even before it began. It seems an astonishingly illiberal approach.

There is so much to say about this but Mrs R is taking the easy route of merely pointing to the eloquent opinions of :-

Dick Puddlecote
Frank Davis

It's worth, as always, taking the time to read not only the posts but also the comments.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Christian Professor’s hand hacked off for ‘blasphemy’

Christian Professor’s hand hacked off for ‘blasphemy’
A group of unknown assailants severed the hand and the right arm of a university professor accused of defaming Mohammed months ago. ...

According to the police, Prof. TJ Joseph, was returning with his family from Sunday service when a group of people in a Maruti Omni van drew up beside him stopping him close to home. After forcing Joseph to get out of his car, they attacked him with knives and swords, then cut off his hand and right arm throwing them away after about 200 meters.

The professor was immediately transported to a hospital in Muvattupuzha and then to another specialized in surgery, where doctors are trying to mend his severed hand. The professor has also suffered deep wounds to his body and is in need of plastic surgery.

Joseph ... a professor at Newman’s College, Thodupuzha, is free on bail. Last March he had prepared a questionnaire for examinations in the private college and according to the Muslims had included questions offensive to Muhammad.
Ugh! This is yet another thing that Mrs R can't write about without feeling nauseous, and having managed to discuss the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani she has to repeat her belief that such 'punishments', it doesn't matter who they're carried out by, are barbaric and should have no place in the 21st century world.

Britain and 'the western world' moved away from proselytism and doesn't think apostasy is such a big deal, because we're used to having the freedom to choose a faith, or not, and there are all sorts of national and international laws that enshrine the right to freedom of speech and expression - so it's awfully difficult to be classed as a heretic.

It's because of all these things that, when we hear or read about people being punished or threatened because of their religious beliefs, we're left almost open-mouthed. Very many people think it really is time the high-ups in some parts of the world caught up. It's time they learned from Europe's old mistakes and realise that sensible people don't look back at, for example, The Inquisition, with awe and wonder, we view it with contempt and are actually much more likely to turn to the release of humour - and think of Monty Python!

Human nature doesn't change that much. Humans are innovative and inquisitive, and often want to rebel against overbearing authority. It doesn't matter how powerful the particular individuals, theologies or organisations thought they were at the height of their power, historians will always, eventually, mock, belittle, deride and criticize bullies and thugs who abused their positions of authority - not least because it's also human nature to think something that has banned is interesting and appealing, and worth investigating to see what all the fuss is about. So being too pushy can be a bit counter-productive in the end.

Mrs Rigby knows that this incident is no joke. It's merely the latest of a long line of indefensible persecutions of Christians by power-hungry and intolerant Muslims who want to have their own way.

If you'd like to read more (and Mrs R really thinks you should) please stroll over to Real Street for more information and comment.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Battle of, and for, Britain.

Between 10th July and 31st October 1940 a battle raged in the skies above Britain, mostly over England. Parts of the country were flattened by German blitz bombing, which is why the centres of some port towns and cities, for example Liverpool and Southampton, have so few ancient buildings.

During the 'Battle of Britain' the country was protected by "The Few",
'The Few' were 2,353 young men from Great Britain and 574 from overseas, pilots and other aircrew, who are officially recognised as having taken part in the Battle of Britain.

Each flew at least one authorised operational sortie with an eligible unit of the Royal Air Force or Fleet Air Arm during the period 10 July to 31 October 1940.

544 lost their lives during the period of the Battle, and these are marked by an asterisk (on The Battle of Britain Roll of Honour).

A further 791 were killed in action or died in the course of their duties before the wars end ...
In a speech to the House of Commons on 20th August 1940 Churchill praised these young men
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".
Some today would have us forget those times, and forget the astonishing and selfless bravery of those 2,927 men. Mrs Rigby can't forget, because she wasn't alive then, but she is very aware of the importance of those battles and is also aware of what might have happened to Britain had we lost the war.

Some say we are still fighting a battle for Britain, others say there's no point because politicians have surrendered our sovereignty to Europe. But, well, this is Britain after all, and we don't take kindly to takeover bids, no matter how subtle they may be.

So let's remember those brave Airmen, and their ground crews, and the men in the factories who worked long hours to make the planes, and the munitions workers who made the bombs and bullets. Let's also remember the men and women of the Civil Defence and all other non-combatants who 'did their bit' when called upon to protect this country from harm - and they did it without computers too!

We Rigbys would like to say, "Thank you," and would like to share these two videos.

This is a "Battle of Britain. Tribute to the Few" with music 'Conquest of Paradise' by Vangelis.

This is an extract from the film "Battle of Britain"

(P.S. Edited to add link to Roll of Honour)

Standing room only?

Sometimes reporting errors can make you smile.

From this BBC report about a fire near Heathrow, where "50 firefighters are containing the scene". The report tells us that
More than 200 people were evacuated from the area
Mrs Rigby thinks they must have been living in remarkably cramped conditions because
A five metre exclusion zone is in place
Five metres?

That's about, oh, (5x3) +10% = 16ft 6 inches.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

'We stretch our hands to the people of the world. No matter who you are or where in the world, save our mother.'
The plea in an open letter written by Sajad Ghadarzade and his sister, Farideh, whose mother faces death by stoning.

Mrs Ashtiani's case has been written about in many blogs and in many newspapers - none have condoned the punishment. William Hague, our Foreign Secretary, has rightly spoken for the people of Britain by saying he is 'appalled'.

As a result of the international outcry it would appear that the stoning has been at least postponed, although the lady still faces the death penalty - for adultery. Adultery is a word rarely used in the western world these days, morals have become looser. During the last century Western 'society' became more tolerant of sexual misdemeanours and wanderings - except for the few who are supposed to 'uphold standards' such as the Royal Family and some members of government, but adultery and sex outside marriage is no longer taboo, no longer an offence apart from offending dignity.

Mrs Rigby is strongly opposed to the death penalty in any form. She doesn't believe it is a suitable punishment for any crime, and she doesn't think any person, no matter how legally important they may be, should be given either the power or the right to instruct 'the authorities' to take the life of any individual - no matter what they may have done wrong. As for stoning, Mrs R finds it hard to think of a more horrible, more barbaric, more terrifyingly brutal, means of execution. Taking a life in this way demeans not only the individual being put to death, it also demeans those carrying out the punishment and indicates nothing more than a lust for power, for power's sake, in those who think this punishment is appropriate. Stoning to death, carefully contrived to be successful by ensuring the victim is buried in a hole in the ground, is a means of killing that should have stayed consigned to the history books, and let's hope this is where it is returned.

The authorities in Iran and indeed many other Muslim countries are trying to rule by fear - in other words they are trying to tell their populations that if they don't behave in a given way then they will be punished and may be given the ultimate penalty. Mrs Ashtiani is being used as an example, in an attempt to enforce a moral code of behaviour where women are subservient and, it appears, where women get the worse punishment for sexual offences - because in Iran and other Muslim countries it's women who are meant to keep themselves covered up, so they don't make men do naughty things. In a way it's no different from somebody in Britain telling a girl who's been raped that, because she wears short skirts, she was 'asking for it' - and it shows an unpleasant mindset that suggests that some men can't control their sexual appetites and so shouldn't be punished when they err.

A system of government, indeed any system of government of whatever political or religious hue, that tries to rule its population by legislation and through fear of consequences, no matter how petty, trivial or brutal has to be condemned, because that form of government is nothing more than dictatorship.

And if you haven't already signed the protest letter and would like to, it's here.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

iMac Cat

Taken from There I Fixed It!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Section 43 and photographers.

You may recall the incident less than a fortnight ago when young Jules Mattson was taken to one side by several Police officers during the Armed Forces Day events in Romford.

It appears that it's happened again, a mere 10 days later, and this time in London - when he was photographing Cadets near Buckingham Palace. He had "received approval from the cadets' supervisors as he was shooting images for the cadets' website". (link to BJP)

The Police have, perhaps, at long last been told that using Section 44 is out of bounds - because the BBC tells us it was ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights in January 2010 a fact that was brought to the public eye again in June 2010 when the BBC announced that "Thousands of anti-terror searches were illegal" - but didn't mention that the last government had lodged an appeal against the earlier ruling, which was lost.

Today the Police chose another section of the Terrorism Act 2000 - they chose to use Section 43. But this isn't the first time. (Also mentioned here in February)

Here's what Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (link OPSI) says :-
43 Search of persons

(1) A constable may stop and search a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist to discover whether he has in his possession anything which may constitute evidence that he is a terrorist.

(2) A constable may search a person arrested under section 41 to discover whether he has in his possession anything which may constitute evidence that he is a terrorist.

(3) A search of a person under this section must be carried out by someone of the same sex.

(4) A constable may seize and retain anything which he discovers in the course of a search of a person under subsection (1) or (2) and which he reasonably suspects may constitute evidence that the person is a terrorist.

(5) A person who has the powers of a constable in one Part of the United Kingdom may exercise a power under this section in any Part of the United Kingdom.
Mrs Rigby thought it was odd that a teenager, legitimately taking pictures in a very public place could be 'reasonably suspected' of being a terrorist. She has absolutely no idea what the young man might look like, but she thought he must be very unusual, perhaps of striking appearance, perhaps wearing outlandish clothes, and maybe looking a bit unkempt?

Perhaps like this a younger version of this chap? (image Telegraph)

Or maybe he looked like a youthful tramp - such as the one at the front right of this picture? (image HeraldSun)

Perhaps he was tidy-ish, but was smoking a cigarette - like this chap (source)

Mrs R isn't at all sure whether the famous people pictured above might be 'reasonably believed to be terrorists', but the Police must have reasonably thought Jules was one, from either his behaviour or his appearance - otherwise they shouldn't have detained him. That is what the law clearly says.

Here's how some people who know Jules Mattson describe him ... According to this person who says ...
I know Jules and he couldn't really be any more the opposite of the above description. He's polite, courteous and very unobtrusive as he goes about his business.
and another person says ...
knowing people who teach him and help him and guide him while shooting along side him, and his dad being a well know photo journalist, he is trained very well from what I am told and remains very quiet and invisible where he can, I am talking about marc vallee, david hoffman and many other well know shooters. I doubt he was causing any trouble at all. I feel a harassment case coming on very soon.
So, maybe today some 'MOP'* pointed to Jules and his camera and said that he was a terrorist, maybe somebody or other has complained that the pictures on his Flickr pages are unsuitable (they're of politicians, and protests, and other things like that) or maybe somebody has told the Police they're not happy with his blog?

Who knows? It seems that earlier today the Police weren't too sure either because (link to Amateur Photographer)
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police did not have a record of the incident when contacted by Amateur Photographer this afternoon.

There's a saying, isn't there, it's something like "Once is an Accident, twice is a Coincidence, and three times ..."

MOP = Police-speak for Member of the Public.

Just noticed that the same issue is mentioned by Al Jahom along with some other tidbits - please read what he says.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Arming the Police?

Because of the actions of one Raoul Moat, Inspector Gadget has written a piece that seems to call for routine arming of all Police
The actions of this individual, and the police response outlined above (recalling all officers to stations for fear of further casualties) proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the current unarmed police service in Britain is no longer fit for purpose.
and ...
Northumbria Police has had to bring in ARVs from other Forces so as to offer a measure of protection to citizens and officers alike.
Within the comments we can read that,
... all unarmed (the vast majority) of Northumbria officers are grounded, apart from going to “I calls”(I take it they will know which ones are genuine and which is a trap).
The call for routine arming of all Police seems to be widely supported by comments left, so Mrs Rigby, naturally, jumped in with both feet and wrote this. She wouldn't normally repeat comments she's left elsewhere, but this is an exception.
With the greatest of respect to you all, because you do a grand job, and I can see my comment comes after some who are asking for Police to be armed, but maybe you don’t understand why we ordinary mortals are a bit bothered to hear even more talk about having ‘all police armed’.

You see, it’s because we read about things like this (inserted extract ... "One of the hostages was then apparently shot by mistake with a Taser...")

We think most people will recover from being hit by a tazer, we fear that being mistakenly shot if wrongly identified will result in a very different outcome. And, you see, some Police are already telling us it’s illegal to take photographs and some of those are being a bit too pushy about it too. How long will it be before a photographer is tazered for arguing about his or her rights, or for pushing back when a police officer wrongly grabs their expensive camera?

Some people are a bit concerned that some – only some – Police are a bit more worried about looking after themselves, or covering their own backs when they make a mistake, instead of looking after us ‘members of the public’.

We know it’s only a few bad apples, but in the wrong hands a gun is lethal. That’s how we ended up with the knee-jerk legislation that made British gun laws so stringent.

There are lots of legally held guns in this country, their owners are very careful to keep themselves legal. But, you see, as somebody else has pointed out, our gun laws are so strict that decent people and aren’t even allowed to pursue a challenging hobby they once enjoyed. Some of our excellent Olympic shooters have to train in France – yet this chap managed to get a weapon within 12 hours of being released from jail.

How could he do that? It’s against the law!

Aren’t your demands to be armed yet another knee-jerk reaction? We don’t hear you calling out for the same when ordinary folk, including children, are shot dead. Be honest, and ask yourself if you’d be making the same demands if this man had stopped after murdering Chris Brown.

Would PC Rathband have been able to use his weapon, if he’d had one? Would it have made any difference?

Why aren’t we hearing more about pressure and significant efforts to prevent and shut down the illegal gun trade?

The important things now though are to hope PC David Rathband makes a full recovery and the maniac who shot him is quickly captured before he does any more harm.
So why is this comment repeated?

It's because 'Smithyknows' replies to 'Mrs R', 'Crux' and 'JuliaM' with this,
So if you consider how rare it is that fires actually occur why do most people have smoke alarms?

Most rtc’s are minor but most people have airbags.

So why can’t I- who faces danger more often than I have ever had an rtc, a house fire or any kind of such near misses- why can’t I be afforded the same protection of safety when facing seriously armed individuals.

Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes.

Once you have dealt with incidents of such violence or volatility that you are chuffed you’re still alive, tell me your opinion.

Do I not have the same Human Right to Life?
It would be very easy to fully fisk this comment and to take up space on Insp Gadget's blog to do so, but that isn't really fair, so Mrs Rigby is responding here on her own blog.

First of all, Mrs Rigby has not, can not, and does not want to 'walk a mile' in a Police officer's shoes - but she has family and friends who have, and who still do. And she knows which of these individuals she would trust to be 'routinely armed'.
Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes.
But, 'Smithyknows', you aren't walking in our shoes are you?

You don't know who we are. You don't know how we live our lives. Nor do you know what we, our families and friends, 'do' to make a living - you're making a sweeping assumption that all apparently non-Police commenters know nothing of policing, violence or firearms, and because of that you're claiming that we can't relate to the issues raised when you call for Police to be routinely armed.

You're also suggesting that you should be allowed to protect yourself because of your job, when you know of Britain's very restrictive firearms legislation - drawn up as a reaction to serious incidents, rather than being carefully thought through. Maybe if that law was rigorously enforced then this current 'arming' debate wouldn't be happening, and there wouldn't be questions raised elsewhere about allowing ordinary people, who some Police refer to as MOPs, being permitted to carry firearms or sidearms - and thus being able to protect ourselves when we go about our everyday lives, and when we're doing our jobs, or visiting the park (can't find the link).

Talk about being disconnected! Have you any idea how cynical and self-seeking that looks?

You want a gun because your job is sometimes dangerous. Yet, in the heat of the moment and wanting to join in the debate you don't seem to have thought it through. Or have you?

To make us really understand how tough and dangerous your job is you compare the protection afforded by an airbag and a smoke alarm with a firearm - even an infant will know which of those three tends to save lives and which, in the wrong hands, will take a life.

If you're successful, who'll be next to make the same demands? Will it be the fire brigade, paramedics, night club bouncers, security guards, parking attendants – anybody with a badge who comes into contact with those terribly dangerous MOPs who could turn awkward when they don't want to do as they're told?

And then how long would it be before all these 'official firearms users' are allowed to have them at home - just in case some nutter MOP (who isn't allowed to have a firearm because it's against the law) takes a dislike to them, the job they do, or doesn't like the look of their uniform?

And in the meantime, law-abiding MOPs who go out for the day and take a picnic with them, get their forks taken away - when they visit a museum, because presumably somebody has decided that cutlery is a dangerously offensive weapon.

We are told the Police form a service that is ...... a varied, multi-layered, responsive institution working to ensure your safety - the 'your' refers to us MOPs, it isn't inward-looking, self-protecting.


There are currently 168 comments left on Insp Gadget's blog please take the time to read them, if only to see how they highlight what seems to be a widening chasm opening up between the Police and those they're supposed to serve - because the Police is still called a Service - and that's what we expect, a service. And, oddly enough, we also expect them to know the law.

And, as an aside, it's important to remember that we MOPs tend to follow instructions, especially at airports which we're told are very dangerous places these days. We take off our shoes and belts, and bracelets, ear rings, rings and watches whilst waiting patiently in the 'security' queue and we put indescribably small liquid items in a see-through bag. Sometimes we get frisked because a filling or a metal screw in a knee has panicked a machine, or maybe it's because there's a target to chase. We often have our hand luggage publicly dissected by uninterested officials who don't even speak to us and now, at some airports we can be x-rayed - refusal means not being able to travel. All this is meant to deter the bad guys, so we do as we're told.

So why is it that Mrs Rigby hasn't a clue what she and her family, as ordinary members of the public - MOPs - are supposed to do if, and when, one of those 'routinely armed with scarily big guns' black-uniformed Police she sees at an airport shouts out a warning and then instantly opens fire? Should we try to run and hide? Should we throw ourselves to the ground, and try to merge with the floor? Or are we meant to turn into statues in case any small movements are seen as threatening and we're mistakenly identified as a 'target'?



Mrs Rigby has just visited Fraser's soapbox and read about "Teens using nutmeg to get high!" To think she bought a pack of half a dozen nutmegs only yesterday, it's a wonder the supermarket police didn't question her motives.

Our cooking ancestors knew a thing or two. Not only did they know that nutmeg will calm an upset stomach, but that too much would 'cause excitement' - and that's why it was never meant to be liberally used in the same way as pepper. It could also be why it's been 'traditionally' sprinkled over the top of otherwise fairly bland rice pudding or bread and butter pudding.

Oh, and Mace does the same - that's the dried 'blade', the outer casing of the nutmeg 'seed'. Hmm, you really needed to know that, didn't you?

I suppose there might be a law against it soon! - If there isn't, it'll show that this lot are a bit less reactive than the last lot.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Packed lunch

When the little Rigbys started school we paid for school dinners, because it seemed like a good idea. But, for several reasons, it didn't go too well and junior Rigbys ended up joining the packed lunch brigade.

Schools in Rigby Town don't have kitchens. Food is cooked elsewhere, 'centrally', then packed onto heated trolleys and delivered in a van. The young Rigbys and chums were given culinary delights such as a portion of cheese, baked beans and chips, followed by a slice of cake and custard. Sometimes there was pizza, plain sort of pizza with a smearing of tomato sauce and sprinkling of cheese - with chips of course. Sometimes there was pasta, with an indescribably bland sauce. Another time there were baked potatoes, filled with beans or bolognese, and chips. There was never a choice because, of course, only the right number of meals were ever delivered to the school, anything more would be wasteful - and because of this hungry children soon learned that being either at the front or tail end of the queue was always a bad idea because 'spoonfulls' or 'scoops' of food tended to contain less to eat than for those served out in the middle of the queue.

The other thing the little Rigbys disliked was the way they were expected to eat their food. You see, it's served on trays that are meant to double up as plates. They are hard plastic things with compartments for each 'bit' of the meal, which meant that beans spilled over into custard if the serving was either careless or hurried. And believe me, there's nothing a little Rigby likes less than custard flavoured with baked beans or tomatoes.

We Rigbys know from friends that children attending school in an adjoining county are given a mass produced 'packed lunch', comprising a sandwich, a yoghurt and a 'piece of fruit'. The sandwiches are always two slices of white 'plastic' bread with the thinnest of indescribably tasteless fillings that won't deteriorate if not kept chilled. The best flavoured yoghurts, naturally, go to those at the front of the queue, with the tailenders ending up with plain. The fruit is almost always an apple, because children won't eat green or mottled bananas and don't understand pears.

The decision to close school kitchens was made at county level, it was meant to save money because the 'old' kitchens needed upgrading to comply with the latest standards. Centralised cooking was also meant to save money, because mass purchase of ingredients is meant to be cheaper, and one large kitchen is supposed to need fewer staff than required to man many small kitchens. The authority that decided to do away with hot dinners altogether did so, apparently, on H&S grounds - because of the potential consequences of an equipment failure in a delivery van which could have led to food poisoning. So, all in all the bean counters and elves were probably happy, and the kids missed out.

The kids missed out because parents are led to believe that their children are provided with a 'proper meal' at lunch time, something similar to their meals at home. Parents imagine that their children will at the very least be allowed to choose between one or two menu options, options which cater for not only the personal likes and dislikes but also all the various 'allergies' suffered by increasing numbers of youngsters. But in many cases this simply isn't true, it doesn't matter how many 'menu plans' are sent home, because the powers that be can simply change their minds. Many children, when confronted with a school meal, are simply expected to eat what they're given, or go without. It doesn't matter a jot what dear Mr Oliver has to say about it, the penny - and baked bean - counters know what they're doing and in the end it's they who dictate policy.

Imagine, if you will, going to have your lunch and being told what you must eat. Imagine being told you can eat 'that' or go hungry - even if you (or your parents) have paid for your meal in advance.

Then imagine a regime that allows adult 'dining room assistants' who maybe only work for one or two hours a day to enforce these same rules on large groups of children, some as young as five.

We Rigbys dumped school meals quite early, and turned to packed lunches. Ours is a fairly unusual way of putting them together - to offer the children a variety of 'things' each evening with which to fill their lunch boxes, including sandwiches or rolls. Nothing, of course, is allowed to contain even the chance of a hint of essence of nut, because somebody somewhere in the school has an allergy - so no peanut butter, no sesame thins, no cashews, no peanuts and not even multi-seeded bread, just in case an unknown child suffers anaphylactic shock.

Our little scheme ensures that the little Rigbys never, ever, open up their lunch boxes to find something they don't want - it's meant to encourage them to eat a reasonable amount to keep them filled up until they get home, instead of sitting there nattering. You see, children's tastes change almost from hour to hour and like a petulant moggie they'll actually go without rather than eat something they don't want or like - or that their friends say isn't nice. They don't care in the least how much something's cost, they don't care if it's 'healthy', all they care about is whether it tastes nice - at the time.

Would we Rigbys pass the lunch box inspectors test? Probably not, but what we can do is balance a snacky fill-em-up type of lunch with a decent evening meal - and that's something the school dinnerists seem to forget.

Mrs Rigby would like to ask two simple questions of those who think it's reasonable to inspect children's lunch boxes, and who will remove anything that doesn't pass the test from the child's lunch box - meaning they could go hungry.
1) Is this really the way to treat children?

2) Would you like Mrs Rigby, or indeed anybody else, to inspect any one of your daily meals before you are allowed to eat it?
If the answer to either of those questions is negative then they should keep their noses out of what parents provide their children for the one meal a day on the 190 days that they attend school*. And, maybe, they should investigate the institutional meals provided in places like this - and see if they'd get away with their dictatorial policies there.

* Most people these days eat 3 meals a day, which is 1095 meals in a non-leap year.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


Sorry is often the hardest word to say, and actually mean it.

Maybe Mr Burns MP got it right when he apologised for referring to Mr Bercow (who claims to be 5ft 6ins tall) as a "stupid, sanctimonious dwarf" by saying,
"If I have caused any offence to any group of people then I unreservedly apologise because that was not my intention."
Another apology hitting the headlines is the case of Bristol councillor Shirley Brown, who is black, and who didn't see what was wrong with using a cultural insult to a fellow councillor who is Asian when she said,
“In our culture, we have a word for you... and I am sure many in this city would understand, is [sic] coconut. And at the end of the day I just look at you as that.
A 'coconut' by the way, is a term referring to somebody who 'isn't really black or brown' even though that's their skin colour because they're 'brown on the outside and white in the middle'. It means, according to this urban dictionary
Coconut is British slang for a non-white person who collaborates with the white establishment.
That definition may explain why Shirley Brown is reported to have said
“How can I be racist? I’m black.”
It might also explain why her initial apology was deemed unacceptable and the case ended up in court where
Simon Cooper, the chairman of the bench, declared himself “satisfied that there was a potential for, albeit minor, public disorder and stimulation for racial hatred”. He found Shirley Brown guilty. She was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £620 costs.
The reason for her outburst in the first place? Oh, that was because Mrs Jethwa
... thought that to spend £750,000 on education about the slave trade in the middle of a recession made no sense
There's a heck of a lot more Mrs R could say about all this, but for a change she won't - although she does think three quarters of a million is a lot of money. It's money that will probably have been taken from local people in Council Tax or Community Charges, and so should be spent very wisely on local issues or projects that benefit the whole community, whatever their age, gender, race, colour or creed.

Does that make Mrs R racist?