Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Yorkshire flag, Death Row and Clarence White

The rabbit has returned from a short break to notice a bizarre story as regards the Yorkshire flag (above). For overseas readers, Yorkshire is the largest English county and the population are - erm - a singular lot (I can say this as a Yorkshireman) and have local pride coming out of their ears. A local patriot by the name of Andrew Wainwright took to flying the white rose flag. The result: a summons by Ryedale District Council. The 'reason' was that the flag supposedly constituted advertising (advertising of what remains obscure) and was thus subject to a planning charge. The result was general uproar, ridicule and the mass ordering of Yorkshire flags by Mr Wainwright's fellow villagers. THere has been a happy ending, however. The summons was withdrawn in the face of general derision and the Flag Institute (a body I confess I had never heard of before) has registered the Yorkshire flag as an official emblem and thus exempt from planning permission. The newly officially sanctioned flag is to be carried in triumph on foot from Hull to York to arrive in time for Yorkshire Day - 1st August.

A victory over jobsworths with apparently nothing better to do.

On a more sombre note, I return to Texas Death Row - I have been forwarded an online petition for a new trial for a Texas Death Row prisoner named Reginald Blanton - I would ask all bloggers of goodwill to sign the petition and pass it on. The link also gives some information about the case including the bizarre, and apparently uniquely Texan, 'jury shuffle'.


As my posting on Texas Death row is now deeply buried in the dread 'Older Posts' here is the link...


Finally, and for no particular reason other than the song came to mind the other day, here from the beginning of time is a grainy clip of the late Clarence White of Byrds fame (killed by a drunk driver) with Truck Stop Girl. All together now (well those of you of a certain age anyway)

But he was so young/and on a ten city run/in love with the Truck Stop Girl...

Friday, 25 July 2008

Assorted musings...

A strange story from New Zealand - a 9 year old girl is in court guardianship there so that her name can be changed. The name her parents gave her? - Talula Does The Hula from Hawaii. At this point I pause to beat my head against the wall. The judge gave other examples of bizarre names in his ruling including Fish and Chips, Stallion, Sex Fruit and - erm - Violence. Now my general rule on officials telling people what to do is I'm against it. Here I make an exception. Being a child/adolescent is difficult enough without having to drag baggage like that around. As for the parents? Moderate words fail me.

Another tiresome example of the professions joining in with officialdom in mindless bossiness has surfaced. The British Medical Journal pronounces that bigger families are as environmentally dubious as patio heaters or gas guzzlers. Oh get lost you arses! This kind of medical pontificating is not confined to the printed word. I heard a mother of 6 on the radio saying that after the birth of one of her children she was gratuitously asked by some medical professional what she was going to do to prevent the next one. She told the medical professional where to get off. Quite right too. There is apparently 1.91 children per woman in the UK. If the rate fell to 1.7, the population would halve in six generations. Hardly an overpopulation crisis. Affluent people tend to have small families. If you are in a poor country and children are your social security system cum pension policy and infant mortality rates are high, you have lots. Remarkably, this state of affairs continues despite the strictures of the British Medical Journal. The rabbit is a father of 2 for the record.

Strange goings on as regards the clip posted on Monday. First the clip was taken down by YouTube and then Memphis Steve (link to left) reports that the link to the clip is blocked at his place of work. What is going on here? the clip is at least still up on the B'tselem website - http://www.btselem.org/english/Firearms/20080721_Nilin_Shooting.asp - A modest proposal: could all bloggers of goodwill copy, paste and stick the link up on your blog. It seems the only answer to the deleters and blockers.

I'm off for a break in rural Bucks so no new postings for a few days but a random parting shot: why are there so many blokes wandering about in Argentina rugby shirts these days? Is it some sort of ironic statement or are we being stealthily invaded? just asking...

Monday, 21 July 2008

Without comment

I try to avoid blogging on the Middle East - it brings the crazies out to play but this clip from the occupied West Bank should have the widest dissemination possible. Comment is superfluous - but feel free to comment!

I did wonder about putting up something to the effect that some people may find this clip disturbing - but that's exactly why it should be seen.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Beer and other musings

Top blogger Earl (link to left) confesses to being a beer snob. Well if it's confession time - me too! Here are five particular faves:

1. Hobgoblin (Wychwood) - my current fave. A rich ruby ale. The Wychwood brewery's marketing/PR is amazingly good with the 'afraid you might taste something lagerboy?' poster being a modern classic.

2. Old Peculier (Theakstons) I've been drinking this since I was a teenager and had a bottle last night. A strong, dark sweetish beer.

3. Old Speckled Hen (Morland) Nice name - nice beer.

4. Dragon Stout (Red Stripe) - a very strong (7.5%) very sweet stout imported from Jamaica. It used to be very hard to get hold of now it's all over everywhere like a rash.

5. Stinger (Hall & Woodhouse) - an organic beer with tie in to all round good thing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

And with one exception, that's all English stuff. I said in a comment to Earl that Europe was the place for beer. One good thing about Belgium is the beers (he wrote resisting the obvious jibes about Belgium) - wonderful stuff, many coming from a monastic brewing tradition. Honourable mention is also due to the German beer purity law - the Reinheitsgebot (1516 and the oldest food quality regulation in the world - those clever Bavarians again!) - water, barley and hops and that's it. No mucking about! The Reinheitsgebot was repealed in 1987 but is observed voluntarily by the great majority of German breweries.

Moving on, to my embarrassment I neglected to mention in last Thursday's posting the role of my line editor in the crime novel. Damn, she's good! Deadly in fact and the book would be much worse without her input. Should have said so in the first place.

A strange story via Jailhouse Lawyer (again link to left). The local Amish are in a spot of bother with the State of Kentucky. They refuse to display flashing lights and an orange triangle on the rear of their horse drawn vehicle as required by state law (this sort of ostentation contravenes their religious beliefs and they use reflective tape and lanterns instead). Seven Amish are facing criminal charges, three other are appealing convictions for the same thing and the American Civil Liberties Union has sprung to their defence. Now, like 99.9999999% of humanity, this belief strikes me as bizarre but they are them and that's how they feel on the subject. There is a general point here - the right to believe whatever you like and put it into practice if you do no harm. There is no suggestion that the Amish have done any harm by their alternative safety measures. Maybe the State of Kentucky could let just them be?

Strange newspaper headline of the day from the sports section: "Wenger wary of 'killing' youngsters". I should hope so too...

Strange sporting event of the week: the selection by England of total unknown Darren Pattinson. Huh?

Grumpy Old Man type enquiry: why does no-one take any notice of 'no junk mail' stickers on letterboxes these days?

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Jilted John and other stuff...

Jilted John had better be explained for overseas and younger readers. He (real name Graham Fellows) was a one hit wonder in 1978 with a quirky byproduct of the punk era. The one hit was also called Jilted John - a tirade against his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend Gordon. One line stuck in everybody's heads: 'Gordon is a moron'. It got to number 4 in the UK charts to general bemusement. It sounds like it was recorded by a teenager in his garage - I wouldn't bet against it having been. So matters rested for decades.

Then we acquired a Prime Minister, first name Gordon. The satirical possibilities of Jilted John were realised. This clip is by the improbably named Herr Kamel. It also looks like it was produced in a teenager's garage and I was tutting disapprovingly at the spelling mistakes. It has its moments though - Clare Short and John Reid appearing to give varying manual demonstrations of the dimensions of the Prime Ministerial appendage. Near the end, there is the announcement 'Andrew Neil was not harmed during the making of this film'.

Why not?

Completely different topics now. The long promised update on the crime novel. I have completed the edits. The cliche is true: the writing is in the re-writing. My tendency to get a word or phrase in my head and repeat it (I think - or at least hope - this is pretty universal) is truly alarming. In particular, I discover I have a fixation with the word 'eventually'. The editing has resulted in a huge cull of eventuallys. A few were spared but not many. Spotting sentences that add nothing to the narrative flow but rather interrupt it has been a necessary task. Conversely, I have got carried away with myself here and there and added detail. Anyway, that's my best shot for now and the agent has been e-mailed. Experience tells that agents invariably demand further re-writes. It's as if they feel they aren't doing their job if they don't. I'll report on progress or lack of it.

I haven't done an Old Bailey Chronicles in a good while. Yesterday's featured case, a murder trial from 1742, is far too long to copy and paste. But take a look - it makes a fascinating read - http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?div=t17420909-37.

As a parting shot and for no reason other than to improve the musical quality after Jilted John, here are Sly and Robbie with Shine Eye Dub.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


Lots of serious stuff in the news of late, so naturally something not very serious. No less distinguished a body than the Fabian Society wants the word 'chav' banned. The use of the word "chav" should be banned by the media and individuals with left-of-centre politics because it betrays a "deep and revealing level of class hatred' they pronounce.

For overseas readers, the nearest US equivalent to this peculiarly English word - now passed from slang into the mainstream - would be 'trailer trash'. The origins of the word are a matter for debate but the most accepted theory is that is derives from the Romany word 'chavi', which simply means child. The characteristics of chavdom are low socio-economic class, appalling dress sense and a tendency to criminality. Female chavs are sometimes described as 'pramface' - a refererence to their precocious reproductive habits.

Is there a serious point here? Ermmmmm.....

Social contempt is hardly new. the term 'oik', now only used ironically, was the equivalent to chav for previous generations. Snobbery is a deeply unattractive trait and those with wealth, power and position sneering at those with none of these is an unedifying sight. Getting political for a moment, the Labour Party has long ago abandoned its working class roots and the white working class has in return a sense of - well - abandonment. Those not wholly alienated from the political process (understandably - what's in it for them?) are easy prey for the likes of the BNP, who have cleverly tapped into this sense of alienation and abandonment. The problem is hugely bigger than smartass remarks at middle class dinner parties.

Does banning chav from the public discourse help? I don't think so. I'm reflexively against banning things - there's far too much of that sort of thing about. Maybe the Fabian Society would be better occupied applying its mind to more serious issues of social fracture and alienation.

Friday, 11 July 2008

A bit of law...

I have had the occasional complaint (but not many) that I don't do enough law on this blog. So here is link to a podcast I did with Charon QC (link to left) last night. You can listen me droning on for about half an hour about witness anonymity if you've nothing better to do. The best moment was when I clumsily clicked away a link just before Charon asked me a question on the clicked away material. I fumbled to get it back. 'Oh, light a cigarette' I said as I fumbled. Click! The Charon lighter can be heard loud and clear. Those in the know will appreciate that no Charon podcast is complete without a cigarette being noisily lit.
The picture above is called Nine Pleaders by Jedd, who is a retired Police Officer who has made a second career as a cartoonist and artist. You may recognise the character fourth from the left. The background to the picture is the now mercifully long gone dock brief system. Barristers would turn up at court without any cases and sit and wait hoping to be assigned by the court to represent some defendant incapable of paying for their representation. If selected, they went to the cash office on completing the case and were given a guinea for their exertions. If not selected, they went home - or back to chambers - empty handed. Brutal stuff...
Nice spats, though!
A short sporting digression:
Cricket: didn't England do well yesterday? 309/3 and a Pietersen ton. So much for the much vaunted South African pace attack! Okay, that's tempting fate...
Football: like all people from Leeds, my hatred of Manchester United knows no bounds - for example those of reason - but I almost sympathise with them at the moment. Almost, but not quite. Their star striker, Cristiano Ronaldo wants away to te late Generalissimo Franco's fave team - Real Madrid. Man Ure point out that he has signed a contract with them. Ronaldo complaints bitterly of 'slavery'. Excuse me??? His contract is worth over £100,000 a week. If that is slavery, bring it on!!! I further read that he is out of action for 10-12 weeks following an operation. So that's £1-1.2 million plus for hopping around on crutches. Nice work if you can get it.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

From the BBC via Jailhouse Lawyer

Teenager finds bat asleep in bra

A teenager who thought movement in her underwear was caused by her vibrating mobile phone found a bat curled up asleep in her bra. Abbie Hawkins, 19, of Norwich, had been wearing the bra for five hours when she plucked up the courage to investigate.

When she did, she found a baby bat in padding in her 34FF bra. The hotel receptionist said she was shocked but felt bad for removing the "cuddly" bat. "It looked cosy and comfortable and I was sorry for disturbing it," she said.
She was sitting at her desk at work when she decided to investigate the strange movements in her underwear.

"I put my hand down my bra and pulled out a cuddly little bat.

"That shocked me very much at the time, but it scuttled off under the desk into the dark. I was shaking from head to toe. It looked quite cosy and comfortable in there so it was quite rude of me to take it out. When I realised it was a bat the first thing that occurred to me was how did it get in there.

"I felt quite sorry for it. Perhaps I should have left it there and given it a good home. I did not notice anything as I put my bra on. The night before I had had one or two drinks and I was getting ready quickly.

"The bra was in my drawer but it had been on the washing line the day before. When I was driving to work, I felt a slight vibration but I thought it was just my mobile phone in my jacket pocket."

The bat was captured by one of her colleagues and released.

the shipping forecast...

As a regular listener to Test Match special, I am used to the five minute interruptions for The Shipping Forecast. I don't mind at all. I have no interest in shipping and only the most rudimentary idea what the forecast is on about. It doesn't matter. It's pure poetry. Here's today's, Just enjoy..
The general synopsis at 1300:
Low Forth 998 expected Forties 994 by 1300 tomorrow. Low northern Ireland 998 expected Humber with little change by same time.
The area forecasts for the next 24 hours:
Viking North Utsire:Northeast veering east or southeast 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times. slight becoming moderate, occasionally rough in north Viking later. rain or showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.
South Utsire:South or southeast 4 or 5. Moderate. Rain or showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.
Forties:Cyclonic 5 or 6, occasionally 7 in west. Moderate or rough. Rain or showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.
Cromarty:Northeast backing northwest 5 to 7. Moderate or rough. Rain or showers. Moderate or poor.
Forth:Cyclonic becoming northwest 5 to 7. Moderate or rough. Rain or showers. Moderate or poor.
Tyne Dogger:Southwest, veering northwest later, 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times. moderate, occasionally rough. Rain or showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.
Fisher German Bight:Southwest 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times. Moderate, occasionally rough. showers. Moderate or good.
Humber Thames Dover Wight:Southwesterly 5 or 6, occasionally 7 in Thames and Dover later. moderate, occasionally rough. Showers. Moderate or good.
Portland Plymouth Biscay:Southwest veering west or northwest 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times. moderate, occasionally rough. Showers, but rain in south Biscay. moderate or good, occasionally poor in Biscay.
Fitzroy Sole Lundy Fastnet:Southwest veering northwest 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times. Moderate, occasionally rough. Showers. Moderate or good.
Irish Sea:Southwesterly veering northwesterly 5 or 6, occasionally 7 in north later. Slight or moderate. Rain or showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.
Shannon Rockall Malin:North backing northwest 5 or 6, occasionally 7. Moderate or rough. rain or showers. Moderate or good.
Hebrides Bailey:Northeast backing north 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times, becoming variable 3 or 4 in west Bailey later. Moderate or rough. Occasional rain. Moderate or good.
Fair Isle Faeroes:Northeasterly backing northerly 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times, but 6 or 7 in southeast Fair Isle. Moderate, increasing rough in Fair Isle. occasional rain or drizzle. Moderate or good.
Southeast Iceland:Northeasterly 4 or 5, becoming variable 3 or 4 later. Slight or moderate. Occasional rain or drizzle. Moderate or good

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Say, is this Balmoral???

I keep pinching stuff from Ron Knee's blog. I'm sorry officer, sorry Ronald, I couldn't help myself...

So Hat Tip in order and on with the explantion. Overseas readers, ever dreamed of a romantic holiday in Scotland? You should you know! Just to whet the appetite here is a typical day in a typical Scottish holiday camp. Bet you're packing already! This camp is run by something called Haven Holidays whose official website offers 'everything an adventurous and fun seeking family is looking for'. So it would appear. The bloke in the white T-shirt is her father. I wonder if he has ever considered a career in the gentle sport of gut barging. Brochure no doubt available on request.

On a completely different topic, Bozzer foolishly didn't take any of the helpful tips on this blog as to how to dress for Gay Pride. Big mistake! Instead he wore a pink stetson. Doesn't he look a muppet???

Saturday, 5 July 2008

4th July...

A belated 4th July greeting to all American readers. It's just an ordinary day here and I spent it tearing around English seaside resorts - to visit courts not beaches. Anyone who accepts the challenge to get from Margate to Brighton in rapid succession by rail is plainly a little crazed but I got away with it. The evening was spent recuperating over Pimms, beer and vin blanc with former pupil and former senior clerk among others. Damage: not too bad ;)

Especially for the 4th July - I came across the clip above on Bug-Eyed Earl's blog (link to left) so Hat Tip in order. It's Brad Neeley's 'Washington'. Brad Neeley is a cartoonist and animator who - why am I not surprised? - had something to do with South Park. This clip always cracks me up...

Parting shot - Brucie and Pals performing Darlington County at the same Paris concert as my very first Yer Rock and Roll posting. Tenuous link: it's a song about a bad day out on the 4th July...

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Yet more random stuff...

The fine looking fellow above is named J. Neil Schulman. What the 'J' stands for remains obscure but I assume it is not rhyming slang in the manner of J. Arthur Rank. Hank (Downtown Guy - link to left) reviews dystopian ficton in his blog. He reviewed a novel by J. called Alongside Night. He didn't like it much and said so. So far so what? Well - enter the author into Hank's comments box in the highest of high dudgeon. Toys flew out of the pram left, right and centre. Our man's dignity - which is plainly immense - was offended. Take a look at the exchanges - they are hilarious.

I can understand that a bad review can hurt. It takes a lot of effort to write even a poor book but self-justifying huffing and puffing is not the way to go about it. Either what Ernest Bevin once described as a 'complete ignoral' or more subtle forms of revenge are in order...

Next topic: this one is rather like shooting fish in a barrel as everyone agrees about this one. Everyone except Imperial College, that is and the more voices raised against the injustice they have done the better. Majid Ahmed is a straight A student and a volunteer with disability charities. He wants to be a doctor. He applied to study medicine at Imperial College. They turned him down - not on academic grounds but on the ground that at the age of 15 he had an isolated conviction (now spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act) for a not particularly serious burglary. Cue generalised uproar. Everyone agrees this sucks but Imperial College have dug their heels in. They will not reconsider. I hope some medical school has a more decent and less boneheaded attitude and offers him a place. It's hardly unusual for fifteen year old boys do dumb things, saying nothing about their worth as adults. Everyone deserves a second chance.

Not having Sky and with Channel 5 playing up on my livebox, my cricket following this season has been largely via Test Match Special on radio. I notice that we are on short rations as regards Henry Blofeld's commentaries. It is suspected that this is policy. By way of explanation, Henry comes across as the ultimate upper class twit. He gets the players' names wrong, misdescribes the action and launches off on digressions on such topics as pigeons, buses and - erm - fruitcake (old ladies send him cake to sustain him through a hard day's commentating). Now if Henry wants to witter on thus, that's just fine by me. His catchphrase - 'my dear old thing' - addressed to whoever he may be speaking to at the time always brings a smile to my face. The man is a national treasure. The BBC apparently disagrees - they want 'younger' and more 'inclusive' commentators and Henry is being shunted to the margins. Memo to BBC: more Henry not less you dolts! I notice Phil Tufnell is commentating this year. Now I would pay to listen to Tufnell and Henry commentating in tandem...

Henry Blofeld - we are not worthy...