Saturday, July 19, 2008

Shouldn't that read "wrong baby" ?

Nurse gave wrong woman abortion


An impressive resource, this. I wonder why I've not heard of Michael Hughes or his site before ?

This website is hosted by a former detective sergeant in the Metropolitan Police who worked inside the British criminal justice system for in excess of 25 yrs - including 6 years in one of Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institutions. This has given him a wealth of insider knowledge as to the workings of the CJ System - and the necessary authority and ‘streetcred’ to become the author of a True Crime & Political hard backed book entitled,


Law, Disorder & Injustice to Victims in 21st Century Britain

(This book has received excellent book reviews from a retired Crown Court Judge, a former Senior Probation Officer, the Legal Editor of Jane’s Police Review - part of Jane’s Information Group - a widely read and very long established weekly Police publication - and others - See BOOK REVIEWS)

There are 808 pages in this book, spread over 24 chapters.

What Really Happened In Croydon ?

When news breaks about something like the "litter rage" attack on two police officers in Croydon, the place to go is often the comments section (if it exists) of the local paper.

Sure enough, the Croydon Guardian :

Posted by: Iain, Purley on 10:56am Fri 18 Jul 08
I saw it. It was a mob of black youngsters - both male and females - who went completely crazy. It wasn't obvious what the row was about.
So far, alas so predictable. But an hour later (I've trimmed the comments to those who claim to have been there) :

Posted by: DJW, croydon on 11:58am Fri 18 Jul 08
I didn't see inital confrontation but all i saw was the police man excessively hitting the girl with the baton and then jumping around and hitting people who were trying to restrain the girl themselves this is what obviously angered other people and led to everyone chasing him around and attacking him

Posted by: mark, selhurst on 12:00pm Fri 18 Jul 08
I was there and saw the whole incident from the very start. The police officer attacked the girl first and it escalated from there. If a man was to assault a 15 year old girl with a metal pole you would say that he should be locked up, so why should he get away eith it just because he's a policeman. He broke the law and he should be punished.

Posted by: sian, london on 12:08pm Fri 18 Jul 08
i saw the attack myself, and it was nothing of the sort as to what has been printed. the police were handling the teenage girl appaulingly and 2 passers by challenged the police about such brutal behaviou towards a minor.

Posted by: Colin, London on 12:24pm Fri 18 Jul 08
Don't believe a word that "DJW", "mark" and "sian" say. What a strange coincidence that three people - all of whom claim to have witnessed the confrontation - should happen to chance upon this site within 10 minutes of each other. This is obviously one very sick individual using multiple IDs to smear the police and deflect our anger away from the savages who committed the asault.

Posted by: Roberta, Croydon on 12:56pm Fri 18 Jul 08
The police did not attack the girl - they did grab the girl but only after she attacked them. She was abusive and swore repeadetly at the two police officers who were just trying to keep the streets of croydon clean. Why was she in central croydon at 3pm along with other teenagers and the behaviour of the adults was appaling. And we wonder why the black teenagers are ever becomming an ever increasing problem on Croydon streets if this is the way there elders behave. I am absolutley disgusted and am seriously thinking about getting out of Croydon - a place where I was born.

Posted by: mark, selhurst on 1:37pm Fri 18 Jul 08
Despite what Colin says, the fact remains that I was there and did witness the whole incident. Whether you want to believe it or not, the officer attacked that young girl and anyone who thinks they were correct in there actions should go and take a long hard look at themselfs. She is a young girl and he is a fully grown man, would Colin and the rest of you be happy if a adult male assualted their daughter, I for one would not.

Posted by: mary, croydon on 2:24pm Fri 18 Jul 08
First of all im really sick of people lying and making up stories, I was there and I saw the policeman hit the young lady many times with a baton,because she dropped rubbish the policemen attacked her. It upsets me how so many people are telling lies and it is a shame that the police officer will get away with it. Ihate to say it but I feel because the young lady is black the public are defending the policemen.

Posted by: Tony, London on 2:53pm Fri 18 Jul 08
Your attack on these teenaer are without warrant, I know both of these teenagers personnaly and consider them to be very motivated intelligent children. I ask my self how could a simple task but a couple of inept (I guess community officer) cause such a problem. Instead of blasting the teenagers maybe we should be looking at the stupidity and antagonistic attitude of the police. I would call on us to demand a police enquiry!

Posted by: mark on 3:15pm Fri 18 Jul 08
Nobody has the right to assault anyone this includes the police. There's a correct way of dealing with littering, I'm sure that grabbing a young girl by the throat, hitting her repeatedly with a metal baton and spraying her with cs gas is not one of them. Furthermore, what you haven't been told is that another innocent girl who was there, was also hit in the head with the baton causing her head to be split open. So do you feel that this is justified because it was purportrated by the police. As I said before, I WAS THERE. WAS YOU.

Posted by: mark, selhurst on 3:37pm Fri 18 Jul 08
All of you bleating on about race should grow up. This is not a issue of race but of a fully grow man attacking and assaulting a young girl. Also the officers were not set upon by the crowd, they only tried to get the girl away from the beating he was giving her. lets me make one thing perfectly clear, ASSAULT IS AGAINST THE LAW, the officer broke the law and just so you know it was not about race, one of the officers was mixed race and the other was white. So it clearly was not about two white officers being attacked by a group of black people.

Posted by: marie, south croydon on 4:36pm Fri 18 Jul 08
Actually anne, the a ambulance was called and attented to the girl. The police refused to call an ambulance and it was the communitee that had to come together to get her medical attention. If the communitee coming together to help a young girl who is being brutally beaten by two male police officers with batons is classed as a yob of people then something is seriously wrong. If it was your child you would want someone to step in. If not then you must not care about your children.

Posted by: Poonam, croydon on 8:56pm Fri 18 Jul 08
Let's release the cctv footage to the media. I was there and I am indian so not racist but the behaviour of the girl was so bad I would not repeat what she said. The police tried to call her down when her friend went crazy and suddenly a group of older people got involved. Release the cctv footage much like they did with the football fans who fought outside a bar so we can make up our mind having been in both situations I found wenesdays situation a lot more frightening but will it happen or will we not want to upset the black community. Answers on a post card.

Posted by: george, london on 9:47pm Fri 18 Jul 08
I was there and saw everything. The police were peacefully trying to trying to calm this girl down, when the mob intervened. The police only pulled their trunchons when they were attacked by this mob. Shame on you racists trying to slur the police.

Two points (apart from the delightful "I am indian so not racist"). Either the story which is in pretty much all the papers today is a pile of nagombi, or one (or more) individuals are lying through their teeth to make it an issue of "police brutality" - the sort of thing that 10 or 15 years ago would have had Lee Jasper leading an angry demo outside the local nick. The commenter(s) are reasonably literate - they're not written in txt spk brap brap language. I guess the paper could check the IP addresses of the posters, and this isn't going to be a case of 'we'll never know what really happened' - the CCTV footage will presumably give all the answers. I'll be interested to know if it's the police or the commenter(s) who are being very naughty boys.

See also : Croydon, Croydon II.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"the religion set forth by Her Majesty"

" ...outside London, the universities, and a few great towns, the average parson in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign was not an impressive figure. Sometimes he had kept his benefice by conforming under Edward VI, changing his creed under Mary, and finally accepting what a rural bench once described as “the religion set forth by Her Majesty” as the only way of earning a living" - from Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

The British government is to fund a board of Islamic theologians in an attempt to sideline violent extremists. The move will see Oxford and Cambridge Universities host a group of scholars who will lead debate on key issues such as women and loyalty to the UK. Under the plans, the two universities will bring together about 20 leading thinkers, yet to be named, to debate critical issues affecting Muslims in the UK. The Department for Communities is responsible for the government's strategy to combat violent extremism, known as "Prevent". It will provide funding and support for the project but maintains that the board's work will be completely independent of political interference. The board's work will focus on examining issues relating to Islam's place in Britain and obligations as a citizen.

Hmm. "The religion set forth by Hazel Blears ?"

Ms Blears said the department's support for the project emerged out of debate with Muslim communities who asked ministers for help in supporting the work of key thinkers across the UK. "We have made significant progress working with communities to build an alliance against violent extremists," said Ms Blears. "We have a responsibility to ensure that our young people are equipped with the skills they need to stand up to violent extremists and help them understand how their faith is compatible with wider shared values.

Hmm. As Lord Carey has said, we are living in dangerous and potentially cataclysmic times. And this is our government's response.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kelly Hyde verdict

A teenager has been found guilty of murdering a young woman as she walked her dog along a bridle path. Adrian Jones, 17, beat Kelly Hyde, 24, from Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, around the head with a barbell. Jones did not know his victim and police said they still did not know his motive. He sobbed in the dock as the verdict was read out.

I should think he did. His previous evidence gave the impression that he never really thought anything could happen to him. I'd wondered if there was a backstory. Turns out that although only 16, he already had a conviction for stealing a car and using it to chase cattle round a field until he hit and killed one. Once he'd have gone to Borstal for that - and Kelly Hyde would still be with us. Her poor mum and dad.

Is that a face stud under his lip or a particularly nasty spot ?

"police said they still did not know his motive"

The things that go round a teenage male's head are not always the nicest thoughts in the world. If you smoke skunk alone I wouldn't think they'd improve. I doubt the internet has improved things either - too much dark stuff out there.

However, all is not lost for her killer. I would be amazed if he's still inside in ten years. And while he is he'll have all the dope and barbells he wants. It was a majority verdict, btw - which would not so long ago have meant a not guilty verdict. Of course there's no saying there would have been the same outcome then.

UPDATE - 11 years before release (12 and he's already been on remand for one). The good people of South Wales think it's nowhere near enough. More background - he also had a previous conviction for dishonesty. And I wonder where Mr Jones' father is ?

The court heard that Jones had been living at Mill Terrace with his mother and younger brother and sister for about six months before the murder. Also living there last September was his mother's boyfriend.

Because of his age, neither the judge nor barristers wore robes or wigs during the trial - and his mother was allowed to sit in the dock with him.

Remember Kylee Dibble ? The good-time girl from Barton Hill who let the wrong chap into her flat some three years back? She was beaten to death, her piggy-bank broken into and the flat set alight. The jury couldn't agree a verdict in the trial of Nicky Robinson, a 23-year old from the same estate, who in evidence admitted that he'd been there the morning she died. There'll be a retrial.

New English Blog On The Block

This Royal Throne of Kings. Is he talking about my bathroom ?

Elsewhere ... I think it's time to start spreading what cash I have through a few more banks. The signs are not good.

Look at the gold price. David Farrer must be pleased about his switch into gold some years back.

"a spy in the house of God"

Cobb on the call of the Old Religion :

The Baptist Church around the corner from me changed their name to reflect a beachy lifestyle, and they get their liturgy from a company in Indiana that comes complete with Karaoke and Powerpoint presentations. It's all a little flaky to me. Why? Because I've seen the discipline of the rite. I've prayed the Stations of the Cross, I've known the calendar of Epiphany and wondered where the bells went in the Episcopal church after the Mystery of Faith. I understand, recognize and respect the discipline of the Catholic Church. It was LOGICAL. And that logic was not a post-hoc rationalization of this or that oddment, it was real theology practiced by very intelligent men, who by the way taught me computer programming, biology and physics too. You don't often think of that in any other religion do you?

I don't know if or how I will get back to Catholicism, but I have a feeling it may be inevitable.

Didn't Take Long, Did It ?

I pointed out the other day :

"If Cameron gets his way we'll see the same sort of thing happening (with possession of knives) as happened with mandatory sentences for guns - retired head teachers, hikers and the like being banged up as police and prosecutors pick the low-hanging fruit."

The Dumb One points out it's already happening - not the banging up, but the arrests and harassment. The stories are depressing. We are ruled by idiots.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Behold, a miracle ! An NHS dentist (a Croatian one, to be precise) has appeared and is taking on patients. The first near me for some fifteen years. A few years back I looked on NHS Direct for a dentist and the nearest was about 30 miles away - I think at Brize Norton over the other side of the Cotswolds - or was it at Heyford ?

There used to be loads, of course - but some time in the 1990s they all went private.

And whether this is just improvements in drugs and techniques, or the application of our tax revenues, or a bit of both, I know not - but a couple of weekends back I was at a gathering of elderly uncles and aunts. Two had been successfully treated (10 years back) for breast cancer, one for bladder cancer only last year, and four had had successful cataract ops. Forty year back they might not have been with us by now (if you get my drift), or they might have been half-blind.

So "give due where due's due" as my mother would say.

(Don't want to be too positive ... last weekend I was at another gathering - chocker with medics - I think 5 GPs and a consultant. Got strong negative feedback on Mr Darzi's Polyclinics.)

Shoot The Sub-Editor

Poor elderly people are twice as likely to die as the richest

I can see what he's trying to say, but I thought the probability of dying was 1 (i.e 100% of us will die) no matter how much money you've got.

A Couple of Daisies From The Curate's Lawn

Peter Hitchens said in "The Abolition of Britain" that "Britain is the only virgin in a continent of rape victims".

'Twas Bastille Day on Monday, and the troops of the Republic paraded in front of the presidents of Syria, Palestine and Egypt.

Also that day a colleague returned from his holiday in the Vendee - the pretty bit of France just below Brittany, and site of the first truly modern massacres - a blueprint for future genocides.

When the Catholic people of the Vendee rose against the anti-clerical French Revolution, a policy of extermination was decided on by the young Republic - and ruthlessly carried out. Perhaps half the population were killed.

The French general Francois Joseph Westermann penned a letter to the Committee of Public Safety stating “There is no more Vendée. It died with its wives and its children by our free sabres. I have just buried it in the woods and the swamps of Savenay. According to the orders that you gave me, I crushed the children under the feet of the horses, massacred the women who, at least for these, will not give birth to any more brigands. I do not have a prisoner to reproach me. I have exterminated all. The roads are sown with corpses. At Savenay, brigands are arriving all the time claiming to surrender, and we are shooting them non-stop... Mercy is not a revolutionary sentiment."

"Mercy is not a revolutionary sentiment". We were to hear those words a few more times in the next couple of hundred years.

"Not one is to be left alive." "Women are reproductive furrows who must be ploughed under." "Only wolves must be left to roam that land." "Fire, blood, death are needed to preserve liberty." "Their instruments of fanaticism and superstition must be smashed." These were some of the words the Convention used in speaking of Vendee. Their tame scientists dreamed up all kinds of new ideas - the poisoning of flour and alcohol and water supplies, the setting up of a tannery in Angers which would specialise in the treatment of human skins; the investigation of methods of burning large numbers of people in large ovens, so their fat could be rendered down efficiently. One of the Republican generals, Carrier, was scornful of such research: these 'modern' methods would take too long. Better to use more time-honoured methods of massacre: the mass drownings of naked men, women, and children, often tied together in what he called "republican marriages", off specially constructed boats towed out to the middle of the Loire and then sunk; the mass bayoneting of men, women and children; the smashing of babies' heads against walls; the slaughter of prisoners using cannons; the most grisly and disgusting tortures; the burning and pillaging of villages, towns and churches.
They really were modern men and women, those revolutionaries.

Back in the UK, some confusion in Guardianista land. Is, as Poll Pot asserts, everything getting better and better, thanks to those dedicated social workers ? Or, as Jeremy Seabrook would have it, is everything getting worse and worse - thanks to the evil forces of capital ? We'll let you be the judge.

Dalrymple. What is Poverty? is an old piece, but completely relevant to the debate.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"The only thing I have is me"

One of my hobby-horses is that since the Cultural Revolution, adolescence lasts from about 14 to 43. Then it's time to grow up. Which is just about bearable for us chaps but a bit tricksy if you're a girl who then decides you want babies. Even more if you topped a couple in your youth.

Tracey Emin is 45.

She's been depressed for months pondering her life, the “children thing”, she tells me, again and again. It's getting to her. Where are they? Why doesn't she have any? Will she ever?

One thing that astonishes her is how much she has changed recently. She can't believe she's the same person who told Jeremy Paxman in 1997 that if she were in charge of Britain she would introduce 24-hour drinking. I asked her what would be on her wish list now and she comes out with a whole roll of sensible suggestions such as more cycling routes and tennis courts, better schools and never having said “yes” to the Olympics. She's annoyed that despite all the taxes she pays, the quality of life in Britain is so bad; that it can be dangerous to walk down the street at night.

She first noticed this change about two years ago and it's been at the root of all her blackest moods ever since. When she was younger she made a pact with herself to have her first baby at 40, once she had £1 million in the bank and had passed her driving test (“If you've ever been brought up poor, without food, without heating, without plimsolls, with holes in things, with no Christmas presents or Christmas, you do not ever want to have children to be in that situation.”) So now she's passed her test, has a property empire of sorts - bought a place for her mother - but still no kids. In an interview last year it looked as though she'd accepted this state of affairs, but she seems wobblier now: “A few months ago I got very scared about the idea of dying alone, getting old alone because not many people do it - they have families.”

“When we first got together when I was 32 I said to him ‘when I'm 40 I will want to have a baby'. And then he left me when I was 39!”

Has she written off the prospect of having children at all? “Every day I'm writing it off. I'm adjusting to not having them. I knew it would do my head in around the time...And also I got p***ed off because I'm quite a good woman so I was thinking, ‘but I'm obviously not good enough to have someone's children'. It's pretty irritating. Never have been. No one's ever wanted me to.”

The future is freaking her out and even the present she's finding hard to cope with. She always thought the brilliant thing about not having kids “is that you can do what the f*** you like, but I don't want to do what the f*** I like. I can do anything. I can travel around the world, I can stay up all night drinking, I don't have to answer to anyone. But I don't want to be like that anyway.” For the first time in her life she's bored when she goes out, would rather be at home reading a book. “I do all the charity work and, sometimes I question the whole big scheme of things. How does it all work? What's it all for? If I was a grandmother I'd have this other kind of arc where things go but I don't have an arc. The only thing I have is me.”

This is what she meant in her photographic self-portrait, I've Got it All, which shows Emin giving birth to a pile of banknotes: “I was saying I haven't actually got anything, that's it. There's no other level of fecundity that's coming out of me except this material one. The raw stuff, the thing that propels people through life, that's not happening to me.”

Fate Is The Hunter - Ice II

Ernest K Gann is co-piloting a DC2 passenger flight from Nashville to New York. The plane is icing up and our heroes are in trouble :

"We're getting out of this!

Hughen pounds his feet on the rudder pedals. They are immovable. The rudder, far back on the tail of the ship, is frozen. There is, of course, absolutely nothing we can do about it. Yet by constant movement Hughen has kept the ailerons free, so a turn is still possible. He must execute the turn very slowly, taking great care not to bank more than a few degrees at a time, for at this speed and with the efficiency of the wings so damaged, a turn can be the introduction to a spin from which, under the circumstances, there can be no possible recovery.

I watch Hughen start into a slow left turn. At once the air speed slips to an agonizing one hundred and five. The ship has abandoned the easier porpoising and is bucking viciously.

Hughen is a man tiptoeing along a very tenuous wire. The wire is swaying crazily in the wind, he is being bombarded with stones, and if he loses balance for one second, we are done for. How can this all have happened so suddenly? Fifteen minutes ago all was as it should be.

"Call Nashville. Get emergency clearance at five thousand. Tell them we are returning on account of heavy ice. Accumulation fast ... clear ice."

I repeat the message into my microphone, trying to control the tendency of my voice to become a quavering falsetto. One hundred miles per hour. Altitude four thousand eight hundred feet. Still sinking. Maybe if I refuse to look the readings will go away....

There is no reassuring reply from Nashville. I can only assume they received our message and will clear all other planes from our altitude.

A sudden, terrible shudder seizes the entire aeroplane. At once Hughen shoves the throttles wide open and the nose down. The shuddering ceases. Hughen wipes the sweat from his eyes.

"She almost got away from me ! "

The incipient stall has stolen an additional three hundred feet from our altitude. We must not risk a repetition, and yet the engines cannot remain at full power for ever. But Hughen leaves the throttles where they are.

I crank the loop desperately although the hope of hearing anything is dissolved in noise. I abandon Knoxville and again experiment with Columbus, which is so much farther away. Then quite clearly I hear a new whine, distorted yet unmistakably genuine. It is interrupted by the code letters C.O. - Columbus!
At once I tune to Charleston and find it also readable.

"I have Charleston and Columbus! Fix in a minute!"

I don't know why it seems so terribly important to know where we are. What is important is our altitude, a factor we can do nothing about. If it continues to diminish, our position is of little consequence. Both Hughen and myself would be indifferent as to which of the Blue Ridge Mountains we actually hit.

I manage to take two good bearings when Hughen at last completes his turn. I plot them at once on the chart. Hughen glances at the two intersecting lines I have drawn. They show us to be approximately fifty miles to the north of Knoxville—directly over a long hump in the mountains. There is a peak somewhere in this area. Its summit is marked as four thousand one hundred and fifty feet. We are now at four thousand five hundred feet and still sinking. Even as we study the chart we are approaching or leaving the vicinity of the peak. Which it is, we cannot know until I plot another fix. There is no way to make an aeroplane wait.

"Take another shot in two minutes."

In two minutes the effort might be entirely superfluous.

Both engines suddenly begin cutting out—first one and then the other. For one awful moment they both subside together. And there is a silence which is not really a silence but a chilling diminuendo of all sound. This is the way you die. At three minutes past two in the morning.

Fate Is The Hunter - Ice I

We Have Been Here Before ...

2008 - "Ministers have confirmed plans for more targeting of 110,000 "problematic" families in a bid to cut youth crime."

2001 - "... the estimated 100,000 persistent criminals, said to be responsible for half of all crime, would face serving all their sentences instead of being released early."

Like this guy.

The Government has improved its checks for prisoners who are given early release after a violent Suffolk man stabbed his pregnant girlfriend just hours after being allowed to walk free from jail.

Derek Burns was let out after serving just over two weeks of a 16-week sentence for assaulting his mother-in-law and went straight back to Bury St Edmunds - where he plunged a 25cm knife into 23-year-old Leigh-Anne Hammond's back in front of their four hysterical children ...

... although Burns had previous convictions for violence he had never used a weapon before.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fate Is The Hunter - Ice I

It's the mid-30s and the regularly scheduled plane, a DC-3, is grounded for maintenance. A DC-2 is substituted for the passenger flight from Nashville to New York. Ernest K Gann is co-pilot to Captain Hughen, who's unhappy about the weather reports ahead.

I spend some five or ten minutes at my paper work. When I look for the moon again it has vanished. There is not even a glow in the sky. Instead we are wrapped in vapour which swoops round the snout of the DC-2 and whips against the windscreen. Then we must be in the front which the meteorologists had located almost exactly. They explained that it would lie nearly stagnant in a long trough extending from the Blue Ridge Mountains as far north as Baltimore.

There is a new roughness to the air and I become vaguely uneasy. Hughen is absorbed in his instruments and I soon become aware that he is paying particular heed to the outside-temperature gauge. It stands at thirty degrees.

I remember from my days at Lester's school that this temperature is supposedly ideal for icing conditions. Meteorologists are frank in confessing their inability to forecast the existence of ice in a cloud mass. They seem positive about one thing only. Any cloud holding a temperature between twenty and thirty degrees harbours the potential of ice. It might be there. Or it might not.

The air is still not rough enough to require the passenger seat-belt sign. There are jolts, but they are few and far between. Our first warning is an insistent hissing in our earphones. It builds rapidly until it becomes an abrasive squealing, the nasty and continuous scratching of fingernails along a slate. The screeching becomes a howl and the range signal of Knoxville is buried in it.
Hughen, pained at the sound and consequent lack of guidance, presses his lips tightly together.

"See if you can tune in Knoxville on the D.F."

The direction-finder is a completely separate radio installation and is controlled by a tuning dial and a small crank for turning the receiving loop. By cranking the loop a bearing may be taken on any convenient station and thus a navigational line of position established. Because of its construction the loop can often bring in signals when the regular antenna fails its purpose. I crank the loop so that its position is best for receiving Knoxville. Nothing. Only the hideous sound of those fingernails. Both of us press the head-phones hard against our ears. Nothing.

"Try Roanoke."

I retune the receiver and rock the crank back and forth a few degrees at a time. Again, nothing penetrates the screeching.

"Try Charleston."

I tune the receiver quickly and crank again. Nothing. Nothing .. . nothing.

"Give Columbus a shot."

Yet again ... nothing. There is no break or recognizable signal to be plucked from the strident discord. We are swallowed in a crazy region of utterly useless sound.

I have been so preoccupied that I have given little heed to the windscreen. Now it has become opaque. Our world ends in a grey panel approximately eighteen inches from our faces.

"Start the de-icers."

I flip the switch above my head which will activate the rubber boots, then turn on the landing lights to observe their operation.

So this is true ice. It looks more like piecrust. The rubber boots, pulsing ponderously like elongated hearts, break the piecrust off in great flakes. The rhythm is a slow one, allowing the ice to form in a thin layer before it is torn apart and spat back at the night. There is also ice forming on the rim of the engine cowling and the propeller hub. It does not seem to be more than half an inch thick. Hughen is concerned although I can see no reason for being so. This is as nothing to a thunder-storm.

Suddenly someone is throwing stones at me. There is an erratic banging upon the fuselage just behind my seat. I instinctively twist and dodge, then realize the hammering is also behind Hughen.

"Shoot some alcohol on the props! "

Of course. The propeller blades, like the wings, are accumulating ice, which is retained only until centrifugal force whirls it off. Chunks the size of baseballs are being hurled against the resounding aluminium. And since one blade retains more than another, the delicate balance of the three-hundred-and-eighty-pound propellers is disturbed. An uneven vibration seizes the entire ship. I turn a valve marked "props" and labour strenuously at a hand pump just behind me. At once the cockpit becomes pungent with the smell of alcohol. My pumping will send the liquid to the propeller blades and supposedly free them of ice.

The vibration is increasing in spite of my pumping. The racket of banging ice is becoming a fusillade. The air is still not unduly rough but unless the instruments and the seat of my trousers are lying, the ship is beginning to porpoise in an unbelievable manner. Hughen is having a very rough time with the controls. The sweat is dripping from his cheekbones and he is breathing heavily.

"' Try Knoxville again ! On the loop!"

He is afraid. His voice is controlled, but there is the constriction of fear beneath his control. The ordered words come like pistol shots.

I stop pumping, tune the D.F.'s radio to Knoxville frequency and reach for the loop crank. In doing so, my attention is caught by the air speed. One hundred and twenty miles an hour! Only a few minutes before, we were cruising at one hundred and seventy. Yet Hughen has not touched the power. A queasy sensation passes through my stomach. My hands are suddenly hot and throbbing. These I know to be the beginning signals of fear. I cannot seem to stop them. One hundred and twenty. We must not lose any more. With a load of ice this ship will cease to fly at one hundred, possibly even sooner.

What the hell is wrong with those fancy de-icer boots? They are not performing the task for which they are intended. Come! Function!

I glance furtively out of the window at my side. The leading edge of the wing is now one long, unbroken bar of ice. And it is clear ice, rumpled as if there were rocks beneath.
Yes, the de-icing boots are working. But they are expanding and contracting beneath the sheath of ice and consequently useless! The ice has accumulated too fast for them.

I try with all that is in me to hear Knoxville, allowing the squeaking to sear my brain as I listen for the treasure of a signal. I must hear it, for now a new threat is evident. I am dismayed to see that the altimeters read a mere five thousand feet. We have lost two thousand. The rate of climb shows we are sinking at a steady two hundred feet per minute. At such a rate we will descend to sea-level in twenty-five minutes.

Hughen moves the propeller controls to full low pitch. Now I realize that he has every reason to be afraid. We cannot possibly descend to sea-level or anywhere near it unless we are ready for surrender. The Blue Ridge Mountains are buried in the night below. We are already below the level of the highest peaks.

"We're getting out of this!

Hughen pounds his feet on the rudder pedals. They are immovable. The rudder, far back on the tail of the ship, is frozen.

Knife Crime Nitwits

I despair.

Tories - "Anyone caught carrying a knife without a good excuse should expect to go to prison, Tory leader David Cameron says"

Labour - "teenagers arrested for carrying knives may be forced to visit victims of fights in hospital"

The problem is not teenagers carrying knives - the number has almost certainly gone down considerably in the last 50 years (I would imagine that most Scout jamborees in times past featured about 30,000 teenagers and men all wearing knives on their belts). It's the propensity to use them that's risen.

If Cameron gets his way we'll see the same sort of thing happening as happened with mandatory sentences for guns - retired head teachers, hikers and the like being banged up as police and prosecutors pick the low-hanging fruit.

One of my biker friends - a big chap with very long hair - always wore a large knife on his belt. Never stabbed anyone. They're useful things if you lead an outdoor life - and he did, always off camping or to festivals with the tent on the back. When I moved out of London he helped me move my things in his old Transit. On the way to my Streatham residence he stopped in a Clapham pub for a beer and half the bar emptied !

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Repent And Be Saved !

Back at you, babe ! We've become used to what seems like the annual disruption of Christian meetings by homosexual campaigners. Here the Guardian readers at prayer in Giles Fraser's Putney parish get a bit of extempore preaching. I'd better make it plain that I disapprove of disrupting religious services, even when they're full of Guardianistas who are going to hell (we are all sinners at risk of that). One should stand outside, leaflet and engage. But of course, as Mr Peter Tatchell would no doubt point out, you don't make the news that way.

Minister Ben Bradshaw was there. I must say I had no idea he was a Christian. I see his dad was a vicar. And his brother is Jonathan, the comfortably off poverty specialist.

One Woe Doth Tread Upon Another's Heels

When Gordon Brown told us all to stop wasting food immediately before flying off to an umpteen-course G8 dinner, those of us interested in such things wondered what on earth his political advisers were thinking of. You can't expect GB, who does as PM have a lot on his plate (groan) to have the time to think about everything "what's this going to look like ?", but where were the people who are paid to spot approaching banana-skins ? They can't be very good.

Now this in the Sunday Times, if true, throws a glaring sidelight on Brown's administration.

A still ambitious cabinet minister was telling me the other day that the slogan “British jobs for British workers” had been a surefire hit with every focus group. Thus market-tested, Brown proudly launched it in his first Labour party conference speech as leader. After he repeated the pledge, Brown’s former liberal friends in the press poured a great big bucket of manure over his head. Many compared the slogan with British National party propaganda. One Labour MP called it a recipe for “employment apartheid”. Another wedge, another loss of liberal support.

A few points here. First, I can easily believe that the slogan was a surefire hit. After all, if you throw most BNP policies at focus groups, without telling them the source, they're pretty popular. (I would have thought that Brown's scheme was actually illegal under British and EU law - anyone fancy advertising a job to British nationals only ?)

But - it was obvious that while it might cheer up some core Labour voters, this would enrage the core Labour activists - the teachers, academics, social workers, housing benefit support officers, anti-racist 5-a-day smoking cessation co-ordinators and other horny-handed sons, daughters and transgendered dependent children of toil. Once again, where were the Alistair Campbell-equivalents and Downing Street policy units ?

If Blair had made a speech like that, he'd have been prepared for the outrage, would actually have played it up and had his responses ready. The row would have been deliberately manufactured to position him as a guy with the voters interests at heart, his own supporters used as props - assuming, that is, that there was political advantage to be gained by so doing. GBs people appeared to have been surprised by the furore. If there was a planned follow-up aimed at positioning True Brit Gordon against the liberal multicultis, it passed me and everyone else straight by.

Point three - the Cabinet ! You have from the evidence to assume that at least one cabinet member was aware of the speech well in advance. I'd have thought others would have been too. Why didn't anyone say anything ? After all, if a good focus group rating is all that's required, I look forward to GBs next speech on the death penalty, the abolition of early release, and stopping mass immigration. The minister/s must have known this wouldn't go down well with the Guardianistas - why did no-one speak up ?

Four possibilities

a) they did and he ignored them
b) they thought it was a bad idea but kept schtum because they couldn't think of anything better
c) they thought it was a good idea as well - which seems to indicate such a distance from reality in an entire cabinet that I can hardly credit it.
d) they didn't even think about it

You have to remember he was still riding high in the polls at the last Labour conference, so I'm assuming no one kept quiet hoping to see him put his foot in it. All the possible options reflect badly on GBs back office - and on his Cabinet.

"Fate Is The Hunter"

While The Right Stuff may be a better work of literature, Ernest K Gann's Fate Is The Hunter is easily the best book on flying I've read. Amazon UK's customers seem to think so too - 38 reviews and 37 are five-star. Gann himself was quite a character - starting out in the film industry, he became pilot, sailor, author, artist and conservationist.

The Right Stuff is in a way only incidentally about flying and space. It's about America, about character, exceptional people and exceptional bravery - but not just bravery. "The right stuff" was the highest combination of bravery, determination, skill and experience :

"... the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the experience, the coolness, to pull it back in the last yawning moment - and then to go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day ... A career in flying was like climbing one of those ancient Babylonian pyramids made up of a dizzy progression of steps and ledges, a ziggurat, a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep; and the idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that pyramid that you were one of the elected and anointed ones who had the right stuff and could move higher and higher ..."
Wolfe was writing about an extreme. But the Right Stuff still exists at the lower levels of the pyramid - if indeed it's fair to talk about lower levels. Wolfe's characters, pushing the envelope at every opportunity and with a career death rate of 25% plus, aren't necessarily best suited to ferrying passengers or freight day in, day out. Gann's pilots (mostly) don't go pushing the envelope - but the envelope will still come to push them, and it's then that the right stuff will show (or fail to show) itself. And just as the elected on the ziggurat never talked about the right stuff but in code, so do simple phrases like 'reliable' come to mean a lot more than turning up on time.
"I have over eight thousand hours of flying, and every time an unusual event occurs in the cockpit, I'm brought back to the characters in this book."

" Without question, the one book that lets us know how each and everyone of us feels about the love we call flying."

"As a career aviator, I have experienced countless moments -- lifelong memories which I thought would go forever uncommunicable. Gann has done the impossible -- he has captured them on the written page to be shared by all."

"I have carried it with me in my flight bag for over twenty five years."

"I am a military pilot with 2500 hours and 13 years in fighter and heavy aircraft. This book is right on the money; I couldn't put it down."

" When people ask me why I fly, this is the book I tell them to read."

"Pilots know that flying is not just transportation but a way of learning who you really are, the stuff you are made of. This book is clearly Gann's masterwork. After reading the chapter on thunderstorms, I thought that there was just no better aviation writing and I still had half the book to go. Of course, then came the chapter on flying in ice."

Over the next week or so I'll post some condensed chunks from the chapter on flying in ice. It's the mid-30s and the regularly scheduled plane, a DC-3, is grounded for maintenance. A DC-2 is substituted for the trip from Nashville to New York. The flight proves to be Gann’s first encounter with icing - and almost his last.

Fate Is The Hunter - Ice I

Fate Is The Hunter - Ice II