Saturday, December 17, 2005


It's a Maltese blog, the cut of whose jib I like.

But then I've been a fan of the Maltese ever since reading as a teenager Ernle Bradford's The Great Siege.

Malta is one of the oldest Christian nations on Earth - Christianity dating from St. Paul's shipwreck on the Island. Although under Arab rule for 200 years (the Maltese language is Arabic-influenced - for example, the old capital was Mdina, 'the city'), the excellently named Count Roger the Norman restored the old faith.

The Siege of 1565, when the Maltese under the leadership of the Knights of St John defeated the much larger Ottoman force of Soleyman the Magnificent, was one of the key moments in European history, as this, along with the siege of Vienna, marked the limit of Ottoman expansion into Europe.

(I like to think that Peter Briffa is related to Luqa Briffa, a member of the Maltese cavalry at the time of the Great Siege, mentioned as having shown exceptional skill as a horseman and inordinate bravery).

The Gurdjola site also links to the Gutenberg project, who have made available the complete poetry of Sir Thomas Moore.

Moore, most famous for romantic Irish poems like The Minstrel Boy, was an Orientalist. His long poem sequence Lalla Rookh contains a description of a religiously-motivated killer which seems relevant today to the Zarquawi school of head-chopping.

One of that saintly, murderous brood,
To carnage and the Koran given,
Who think thro' unbelievers' blood
Lies their directest path to heaven

Friday, December 16, 2005

2 + 2 = ???

It's a Scottish hat-trick of posts from the Peter Lovenkrands of blogging.

These two stories were top of the BBC Scotland news page at lunchtime today. I wonder if by any chance they could be related ?

GP cover 'worst in poorer areas'

People who live in deprived areas get less help from the health service, a study has warned. Glasgow University researchers found the poorest parts of Scotland's towns and cities had 11% fewer GPs and less access to health promotion programmes.

This was despite evidence of a far higher rate of ill health.

I like that 'despite' - as if sick people magically attract medics. Perhaps the poor health is a consequence of the shortage of health staff.

But perhaps not. Next on the page :

Assaults on NHS staff increasing

More than 20,000 assaults were carried out on NHS staff in Scotland in the past year, figures have revealed. Statistics from health authorities given to BBC Scotland show continuing high levels of physical attacks, aggressive behaviour and verbal abuse.

The Royal College of Nursing said, despite zero tolerance campaigns, assaults were becoming more frequent and more violent.

The Scottish Executive said violence against NHS staff was "unacceptable".

I wonder which areas have the highest rate of assaults ? Would they by any chance be the poorer ones that Glasgow University researchers are so worried about ?

"There were 11% more GPs in the more affluent areas compared with the more deprived half of the population.

The researchers said that although they found larger numbers of practices in the most rural and deprived areas, this reflected the higher proportion of single-handed and small practices in these areas.

They also found that these practices tended to have younger doctors, fewer female doctors and less involvement by GPs in extra voluntary activities compared with affluent areas."

I see. Older doctors and female doctors tend to avoid these areas - and the doctors who do go there don't seem to want to do extra voluntary activities. Why could this be ? Let's see what Professor Graham Watt has to say :

"Practices serving the most deprived areas are less likely to volunteer, possibly because they are so consumed by dealing with increased levels of morbidity, without increased levels of medical manpower, that they are unable or unwilling to take on additional activities"

The poor medics are just so busy laying out the bodies and treating the sick that they just don't have any time for all those extra goodies. And the absence of the old and the female ? Er ...

I guess the important bit is "without increased levels of medical manpower", otherwise known as 'more money please'. I do like the way publicly funded organisations call for more money for each other. Glasgow Uni, BBC, NHS in a little virtuous circle. We all know how little money is spent on the NHS.

Makes you wonder if they left the 'T' off the good professor's surname.

Still, never mind. Where the great brains of Glasgow have struggled and failed, this blog can bring you a scientific and medical breakthrough.

After minutes of intensive research by a dedicated team of one, looking at that same BBC Scotland news page, I can reveal the dramatic discovery of a link betwen poverty, poor health and assaults on NHS staff, hitherto entirely unknown.

Alcohol takes toll on Scots NHS

Scotland's drink problem is worsening with a significant rise in emergency admissions to hospitals over the past eight years, a report shows.
In some cases the figures have more than doubled, according to NHS Quality Improvement Scotland.

Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald said Scotland's culture of heavy drinking was placing an increasing burden on the NHS.

Apparently high rates of alcohol consumption are indicative of both a high level of violence and a high level of ill health. I think this could be just what Scotland's politicians are waiting for. I can almost see the strategies being rolled out.

"Mum, don't do that"

Writing about Scotland yesterday brought something back to me.

It was February 2000, and we were in the Central Belt, driving between Glasgow and Stirling, on our way for a week in Glenlivet. We like the Highlands and Islands, spending a week there most winters and summers.

The football coverage had finished, the kids were half asleep and we had another 200-odd miles to cover. Nearly time for 'Take The Floor' - Scottish country dance music on BBC Scotland. Give the kids a taste of the vanishing culture of Scotland - whether they like it or not. On a long journey I claim 'droit de driveur' over the stereo.

Time for the seven o'clock news - which brought me straight back to present day Scotland.

"A mother has appeared in court charged with throwing her six year old son to his death from the fourteenth floor of a Glasgow tower block"

Apparently she'd woken the kids up in the middle of the night then thrown one off the balcony. She was said to have 'drug and alcohol problems'.

This cheerful item was followed by the story of two 'security guards' who had tortured one of their colleagues to death in a Leith flat over a three day period - apparently for amusement.

Well, I thought - who needs Irvine Welsh when you can just pick up the local paper ? At the time I think I'd just finished reading 'Filth' - the heroic tale of an ordinary copper fighting the neds of Edinburgh in his own idiosyncratic style.

The car was warm, children sleepy, on our way to hills, snow, air, a little house by a church (and a distillery) in a Catholic valley - a different world from the schemes we could see from the M8. The contrast between the Scotland of our destination and the Scotland we were driving through was striking.

I looked up the story this evening. The mother, 26 year old Allison Campbell, got five years. She must have been free for two years now, given that you only serve half your sentence.

FIVE YEARS ? Is it just me that finds the sentence unbelievable ? Jeffrey Archer got four. You can get five years for smacking your child. Or possessing a firearm with no intention to use it. Apparently those offences are on a par with picking up a sleepy little boy and throwing him from the fourteenth floor. Worse than throwing, if possible. There was only a small gap in the security netting. She must have forced the child through. 2 am. Fourteen floors. Six years old.

"Mum, don't do that"

Ms Campbell is doubtless a disturbed person - 'vulnerable' in social-workese. But I think I'll reserve my sorrow and pity for that poor child rather than the person who so cruelly killed him. So she's got problems ? Since when did being a drinker and drug abuser count as mitigating circumstances for someone having charge of children ? Shouldn't they be aggravating ones ?

Walking free around Glasgow, going to the shops, on the buses, maybe out for a drink, is a woman, not yet 30, who chucks little kids off balconies.

We've seen plenty of recent murders by killers or other criminals let out early. I see Anthony Walker's killers were also on early release.

Watch this space for Ms Campbell. The Scots would have known what to do with her once.

UPDATE - what is it with Scottish mothers called Alison ?

A mother has pleaded guilty to beating her young son to death with a golf club on Christmas Day.
Alison Gorrie, 36, bludgeoned her five-year-old son Brendan and then threw herself out of the window of her Edinburgh flat, falling onto the courtyard 30ft below.

Thank God this Alison's got no kids.

No wonder they're worried about a falling population.

Poor Brendan Gorrie and Derek Campbell had something else in common apart from their murderous mums. Neither lived with a father. Good to see that "the Scottish Parliament has backed plans to speed up divorce following a Holyrood chamber debate."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stephen Twigg "Incapable"

Took them a long time to work that one out.

Whae's Like Us ?

We have to congratulate the Scots on breaking all records - for homicide. With 134 a year in a population of five million-odd, compared with around 858 in 2001/2 for England and Wales with their 55 million population. I make that around half the rate south of the Border, at 16 per million compared to Scotland's mighty 27 per million. Is it just coincidence that Labour have held power there uninterrupted for the last forty years, creating an underclass of considerable dimensions ?

Glasgow manages a rate of 55 per million.

What's so impressive about these figures is that, despite some notorious cases, they've been achieved with little help from their ethnic minority population, who contribute nearly 20% of the homicide suspects for England and Wales (out of 2,605 homicides (table 3.6) committed over a three year period, 495 were cases where the principal suspect was described as black, Asian or 'other'). When we remember that the 'white' population will include Albanians and others from parts of Eastern Europe with a cultural bias towards violence, the native English and Welsh, while still much too murderous for my liking, are positive angels compared with the natives of the Land O'Cakes.

Still, fret ye not. New Improved Scottish Labour have a cunning plan, involving giving homicidal teenagers free housing in an unsuspecting community - sorry, involving a new strategy to "challenge the culture of violence" in Scotland.

She (Scottish Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson) said that, among other measures, Strathclyde Police's Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) would be expanded to create a national "centre of excellence" to share violence prevention best practice across Scotland.

Rolling out initiatives, sharing best practice, centre of excellence, build on the approach - bingo ! All we need is an 'evidence-based' 'homicide Czar' to 'move us forward into the new millennium' and I'll have a full set of managerial buzzwords.

Cathy Jamieson may be totally crap at actually doing anything but she's got the language off brilliantly.

I think this photograph bears a reprint.

Picture by Stephen Mansfield for the Scotsman

Scots Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson successfully launching a campaign against anti-social behaviour.

No Wonder They Hate Us

New outrage for the BBC to report.

In other news - murders, stabbings etc.

Elsewhere - as ever, Mick Hartley is your one-stop shop for the latest on Lebanon, Darfur and China. Apparently the next AU (African Union) summit is to be held in Sudan - next month.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


"My least favourite radical chic interviewee: the talented but humourless Ute Lemper. Ensconced in a luxury suite at the Savoy, she embarked on a lecture about the downtrodden masses, and was so busy talking about how East German workers were exploited that she forgot to even acknowledge the existence of the maid who'd put a tray of tea in front of her." - Clive Davis

In the immortal words of Linus - "I love mankind - it's people I can't stand !"

And by the silence of Poll Pot, a lady who is usually pretty good at returning emails, it appears she did indeed send her kids to private school. What a hypocrite. As they say in the Black Country - "she's as two-faced as my a*** !"

Light Blogging

Due to pressure of work and tonight's school play.

Just a couple of BBC snippets. I haven't followed events in Sydney closely (try Tim Blair) but I caught a BBC TV news report last night which described the beach bums as 'neo-Nazis and white supremacists'. I wouldn't have thought there were that many such in the whole of Oz - they looked pretty ordinary youth to me. Looked like the sort of thing that in India or Aston would be called 'intercommunal' - with the big difference that nobody's dead.

The execution of Tookie Williams (loads of commentary at Cobb) has been all over the BBC - where murders of Britons rarely make the headlines. I'm still waiting for any of the BBC descriptions ('reformed gang leader and author' seems to be the favourite) to mention the four dead people of whose murders he was convicted.

UPDATE - sorry - he's a 'former gang member' i.e. ever since his arrest, and a 'peace campaigner'. Main item on R5 news.

UPDATE 2 - when the sentence was carried out, Radio Five news did actually mention the people he'd killed. Not their names or anything like that - just the number four.

UPDATE 3 - I see from the Englishman that the Royal Marine who got kicked in the head during their attempt to win the Turner prize has said his assailant is a 'good mate'.

Monday, December 12, 2005

One For Aged Hippies

Are The Polyphonic Spree a Principal Edwards Magic Theatre for the Noughties ?

"The Beginning Stages Of ..." is very 1970. The Asmoto Running Band go to Abbey Road.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Blogging the BBC on Buncefield

08.45 : The boys got up at 7.40 to watch 'Match of the Day' - the only time the telly ever goes on in the morning. Ten minutes later they're back upstairs.

'It's not on, Dad - there's been an explosion in a refinery near London'.

So I got up, fearing a terrorist attack, and have been watching off and on, in between lighting the fire, cooking breakfast and feeding hens. Susan and two of the kids are in London.

They may as well have put MOTD on with occasional scrolling news subtitles . There's little hard information coming out of the scene, so apart from the admittedly spectacular pictures BBC TV are reduced to saying the same things over and over again. Occasionally a new snippet emerges (Total oil spokesman - 'I can confirm that all our employees are accounted for' - How many is that ?' - 'Two') and is added to the mix. Otherwise, big plume, heard as far as Guildford, not an aeroplane (as in 'power surge on the tube'), there have been casualties.

They can't leave the story to develop, so they use what creative talent they have to find new ways of telling us the same thing.

UPDATE - the England Project were there.