Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The accident

A post from my sometime correspondent, David Burke.  Warning: somewhat gruesome ...

Working in Farnborough meant that it was easy to get home to Hook. However, before living here we were in Guildford and the journey was not so easy.

I did find a route over Ash Ranges which was very nice, in the country, just fields, rural and quiet with not too much traffic. I used it a lot to get home in the evening, it was a nice way to wind down after work. But I stopped using it after the accident.

It was a shocker really: the car was badly damaged and there was a lot of blood although I was able to clean it up afterwards. But it shook me up a lot. Put me off the route really.

There is a funny little double bend on the road where it passes under the railway. One moment you are driving parallel on one side of the line then under the bridge and you are running parallel on the  other side. After the bridge I pulled up the hill, so I wasnt travelling fast. It was a clear night, autumnal, no rain but it was dusk and it was a bit difficult to see clearly outside.

It was warm in the car and I must have been day dreaming about the boys at home because I almost didnt see the first one dash across the road in front of me. I touched the brakes and suddenly the other one was there in front of me. I hit him hard and there was a crunch and I saw the bonnet bend and rise up in front of me, then he was rolling from the impact, feet twisting in the air and I hit him again, oh no, and then he was gone.  

I pulled up quickly on the verge and ran back. He was on the road just behind the car, partly in the ditch, I bent down and saw that his eyes were open and then they closed and his body went limp.  I was shaking from shock and feeling sick but I looked around: no other cars thank goodness.  

What to do? 

Dont leave him here, take him away in the car. There was some blood on his shoulder soaking through the heavy coat. I opened the boot and started to pull him to the car. I was shaking like a leaf. He was very heavy and dead bodies are notoriously difficult to handle but I got his head  over the sill then bent down and lifted his feet over the lip and into the boot.  Then I saw the lights and heard an approaching car and slammed the boot lid shut, trying not to look too guilty.

Our house in Guildford was a semi but it had a detached garage where I could deal with the body.
My wife was horrified at what was in the boot but I got her to help me to drag the body into the garage and I set up a noose hanging from one of the beams. We lived then in an area where this sort of thing was not unknown so I got one of  my neighbour to come over to help me. We tied the noose round the body and stripped off the coat. I could then see the black bloody bruise where the bonnet had hit him. We cut his head off and started to cut him up into steaks and chops as well as the bigger cuts.

We shared the venison between us and had some wonderful meals for the rest of the year. But repair costs for the car were horrendous.

David Burke

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Carols for Politicians

God Rest

God rest Parliamentarians
Let nothing you dismay!
Despite the deep austerity
We have increased your pay.
Expenses are just history.
“Recall” has gone away.

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

Jingle Bells

Dashing through your dough, in a socialistic way,
Taxing as we go, laughing all the way.

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Balls on a spending binge, debt rising very high,
What fun it is to tax and tax and bleed the wealthy dry!


Mansion tax.  Borrow max.  Make the bankers pay.
Tomorrow’s kids will pay the cost, so let’s enjoy today!


Gurning Ed, looks well fed, smug and free of stress.
He’ll waste all your money then let Tories fix his mess.

White Christmas

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
With every UKIPper I know
Where the borders tighten
Skin colour lightens
Close to the purity of snow.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
Immigrants should be put to flight
So that all your Christmases are white.


Hark! The party whips ensure
You’re politically pure.
MPs need to understand
Independent thought is banned.

Reselection pays the rent,
Forget your constituents.
Open primaries insist
Choosing from the party list.
Hark! The party whips all call,
Keeping their MPs in thrall.

Deck the Hills

Deck the hills with housing folly
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Making Brandon Lewis jolly
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Treasure not the countryside
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Keep on building far and wide
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Though the voters say “Enough!”
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Keep on building; call their bluff
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Cheerfully ignore their cries
Fa la la la la, la la la la
We’re voted out? What a surprise!
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Friday, December 05, 2014

Cooking the Books

On 18th November, Premier Foods' Chief Executive, Gavin Darby, sent a letter to its suppliers requesting they pay thousands of pounds to remain on the supplier list.  I like the idea.

Dear Mr Darby

I am aiming to work with a smaller number of strategic suppliers in the future that can better support and invest in my limited grocery budget.
I will now require you to make an investment payment to support my budget.
I understand that this approach may lead to some questions.
However, it is important that we take the right steps now to support my future expenditure on groceries.
May I suggest an initial cheque for £100 to cover the 2015 calendar year?  Without this I may not be able to continue my commitment to Oxo, Bisto and other Premier Foods brands.
I remain
Yours financially

Monday, October 20, 2014

Nothing doing

In the next plan period, we need zero new houses in Hart.  Here's why.

Declining fertility rate

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the number of children each woman has is declining rapidly.  The current rate is 1.85; the minimum number needed to stop the population from dropping is 2.1.  This means that in the course of a generation (all other things being equal) we might expect the a population of 100,000 to decline by several thousand.  In case the link on this page disappears with the ONS updating their web site, here's the key graphic:

This declining fertility rate will lead to lower demand for houses.

Baby Boomers

Baby boomers are loosely defined as those born in the 1946 - 1964 period: a period where in the Western World, the fertility rate leapt as couples started families after the Second World War.  Over the next 20 years, most of these will
  • downsize (frequently moving to houses away from the London commuter belt)
  • move into care homes (note: care homes are not counted when calculating the houses in the Local Plan)
  • pass away
In any event, the result will be that an unprecedented number of homes will become available.  The aging of the baby boomers will lead to increased supply of houses.


The divorce rate, which grew in the 1970s and 1980s, roughly levelled off in the 1990s and has been on a downward trend since about 2004.  Consequently, the expectation that divorce is leading to one household becoming two is less valid.  There were 165,000 divorces in 1995 (the peak) and just 118,000 in 2012.

Simply put ...

Based on Hart's own requirements, we do not need any extra houses in the forthcoming plan period.  Indeed, houses will become freed up over the next 10-20 years as fewer children are born, people stay together in marriages and the baby boomers downsize, move to care homes and pass away.  These houses will be available for immigration, whether from other countries or other counties.

So why are the government and Hart making us build thousands more?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Eagle has crash-landed

My word!  Two posts in one day!  But I couldn't resist.  After all the fuss about Lord Freud, it appears the general public can see though the political correctness to what really matters ...

Send in a gunship

In the jingoistic days of the British Empire, upon which the sun never set, it was apparently standard practice to send in a gunboat if there were local disturbances.  It's not clear how that might have worked in, say, Afghanistan, but let's move swiftly on.

It's tragically true that in the last few decades the the super powers has shown how easy it is to win a war but not the subsequent peace, whether in Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq.  Short of conquering and holding the world, a notion both morally unacceptable and impossible in practice, it becomes necessary to decide a practical approach to containing threats.

This is, at least in part, where governments of the last few years have proven inept.  Our national defence forces have been reduced to the point where famously tight-lipped military leaders have started to raise alarms.  A few examples:
  • We are building two aircraft carriers.  Yet we have just six Type 45 destroyers in the Royal Navy: how will these defend the carriers while carrying out other missions at home and abroad, and allowing time for refitting and training?  (The original plan was for twelve Type 45 destroyers).
  • Our army has been shrunk so much that it is less than half the size of the forces evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940.  The Siege of Basra, where British forces had to withdraw from the city under attack from militias, shows how weak our forces have become.  The situation in Helmand province in Afghanistan was similar.  Smaller forces have meant that the Army has been assigned tasks with inadequate personnel and equipment.
  • The RAF has fallen below 40,000 personnel, its lowest level in decades.  Questions remain over the future of military aircraft: manned vs unmanned (remotely piloted vehicles); fighter vs helicopter; transport aircraft and heavy lift helicopters.  An indication of lack of UK military capability is that the Anglo-French effort to support the freedom movement in Libya depended on US armed support.
The new gunboat?
This is not to decry what our forces have achieved.  There are notable successes in the recent past but typically these have been in smaller, well-defined missions rather than prolonged conflicts; for example, Operation Barras in West Africa in which hostages were rescued in a classic operation.

As I have written this blog entry, I have become increasingly puzzled as to what we could actually use our armed forces for.  Are six destroyers and thirteen frigates enough to defend the UK, especially given their planned roles in foreign seas?  Can the RAF deploy enough power fast enough to turn a major conflict to the benefit of the UK?  Is the Army large and well-equipped enough to win convincingly against a significant foe and in counter-insurgency situations?  Can we fight and win wars rather than just battles?

The answers to these and similar questions are likely to be secret.  As a UK citizen, however, I would like to be confident of three things: that our armed forces will only be deployed where there is a vital national interest that cannot be secured by peaceful means; that our forces will be deployed in such means and numbers as to win overwhelmingly at minimum risk; and that those members of the armed forces (and their families) harmed in the course of duty will be properly cared for.

And if today's version of a gunship is an Apache helicopter rather than a frigate, so be it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tesco ... going .. gone

Dear Sir Richard Broadbent

I thought it was careless when you lost your financial director, but things have got far worse than that.  Allow me to explain.

We have friends coming around to lunch.  More like family really than friends, except I don't like all my family (and they don't all like me) but these friends seem to like us a lot because they keep coming around.  Or perhaps they are just freeloaders.  Who knows?

Anyway, I thought I would make them an apple pie.  It is so easy.  After getting the wife to cut up the apples and peel them, and remove the cores you then get her to do something else with them that involves egg and milk and flour and baking for a while.  I had no idea cooking was so simple.

However, in among the flour and eggs and milk and apples is a critical ingredient.  Cinnamon.  We had run out of cinnamon so I walked down to Tesco to buy some more.  All they had was stick cinnamon.  Not the powder version, which is not only good for baking but also excellent for throwing in the eyes of unwanted door-to-door salesmen.

Now you can't make apple pie with stick cinnamon.  I mean, just think about it.  Every time someone took a bite, shards of the stuff would go flying everywhere and who wants to eat dessert wearing protective goggles and body armour?

So I made a cunning plan.  If I bought stick cinnamon and put it in a bag and hit the bag with a hammer enough times I would have powder cinnamon, right?  I asked the assistant who was unpacking boxes of Tesco substitute food where I could find hammers but he said you don't sell any.


Move to backup plan.  This is a dessert that uses the best biscuits in the world as a base.  Yes, I know that link goes to your competitor, Ocado.  Can you guess why?  That's right: because there aren't any dark chocolate Hobnobs in my local Tesco store.

Hold on.  I know.  I'll make them a jam tart.  We have all the ingredients at home except for the one crucial item: Hartley's No-Bits Apricot Jam.  No, you really cannot accept any substitutes here.  Which is why we won't be giving them jam tart, because there isn't any Hartley's No-Bits Apricot Jam in my local Tescos.

By this stage I had begun to realise there wasn't going to be enough time to make Boeuf Wellington.  Never mind, I thought.  I'll just pop around to the deli.  What?!?!?  Where's the deli?  Gone to where?  Chineham?  How the hell am I meant to walk there?

Fall back plan: buy some of that lovely fish from that helpful and pleasant man at the fish counter.  Golly, I thought the fish counter was here.  Where is it?  Oh, that's in Chineham, too, is it?  How very convenient.  Lacking fresh fish, how about a large tin of John West salmon?  Oh dear.

Now, Richard, I guess that finding a new FD is a tricky task.  But there is something worse than losing your FD.

Losing your customers.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Agony Uncle

Yesterday I was indirectly contacted by a young lady who is worried about Michael Gove's reforms to education and asked what she could do.  I thought I would put the question and reply here, to make it more widely available.

Dear R

You wrote

What about those of us that are underage and cannot vote (I'm 16) but are constantly terrified that Michael Gove is going to find some new way to turn our education upside down? What can we do? I was wondering if you have any advice about how people my age can get involved politically? Thanks.

Great question. There are so many things!  Here are just a few:
  • Register to vote

    You may not be able to vote yet, but you can register from the age of 16.  You can do it here.  In most parts of the country, elections are held every year: parish, district, borough and county councils as well as national and EU elections.  This year, on May 22nd, it will be district / borough and EU elections.  By registering now, you can ensure that when you turn 18 you don't miss out because you've left it too late to do the paperwork.

  • Organise an education debate

    It's important to hear both sides of a discussion.  So why not invite Michael Gove and his Labour opponent, Tristam Hunt, to  have a debate at your school?  You may not get them, but this being election season, you might!  And if you don't, then invite the next level down: you can see who they are about half way down this page for Labour and about half way down this page for the Government.  There's a formal structure for debates which your teachers can probably tell you about: if not, by all means ask me.

  • Write to your MP

    Any decent MP (and despite what you hear in the news I suspect most of them are pretty decent) will welcome letters from people who live in their constituency, even if they can't yet vote.  The more letters they get, the more likely they are to be effective in raising the matter with Parliament.  Tell them what your concern is; use examples and facts; explain what you want them to do.

  • Question

    You say you are terrified by what Michael Gove might do.  You might be right.  But you might find out that there are benefits you are not aware of.  Change isn't always bad or good, but it often is uncomfortable.  So if someone tells you that there is something bad (or good) about the changes, ask them why they say that.  Check the facts.  Get away from the emotion.

  • Don't neglect your school work

    Whatever you may think of the government, don't get so involved in politics that your school grades suffer.  After all, this is about getting you the best possible education.

There is so much more, but how about that for a start?  You could also join your favourite political party: all parties are desperate for members, especially young members.

You asked "What can we do?"  The answer, one way or another, is to get involved.

Best wishes

Monday, January 06, 2014

Me, the Devil and Kiev

I received a heart-rending email from my Neighbour earlier today.  Here's the email trail that followed:
6th January 2014 at 03:23

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, my family and I came down here to  Kiev, Ukraine  for a short vacation,unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed all cash,credit card and mobile phone were stolen off us but luckily we still have our passports with us.

We've been to the Embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all the bad news is our flight will be leaving in less than 8-hrs from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills.

I'll need your help (LOAN) financially of £2,500 . I promise to make the refund once we get back home. Please let me know if i can count on you and i need you to keep checking your email because it's the only way i can reach you.

I love these emails, but I seldom have the time to give them the TLC they so richly deserve.  But in the spirit of New Year I thought I should try.  So here we go ...
6th January 2014 at 08:47

Sure thing, Dave.  What do I need to do?

6th January 2014 at 08:51  

I'm so glad to read from you,I need £2,500 . but if the whole amount can't be covered, I would gladly appreciate any amount you can put in to help. you can have the money wired to me via Western Union. Have it wired to my name and present location, here are the details you need to have it wired to me..

Name: David xxxx
Address: Tarasa Shevchenka Blvd, 37/122, Kiev, Ukraine
City:  Kiev
Country: Ukraine

   I still have my passport here with me to claim the funds.Once you are done with the transfer at the western union e-mail me the Confirmation details(MTCN) for the pickup of the funds.

Waiting to read from you soon.

Hey, he wants to read from me.  So I'll give him something to read.  Let's see if he is really linked into a hotel ...
6th January 2014 at 09:05

Hey Dave

The money isn’t a problem.  If you need more let me know.

However I looked around.  The nearest  Western Union is 45 miles away and my car’s in for service.  However, I could electronically send the amount to the hotel.  Which hotel is it?

Take care, buddy.

6th January 2014 at 09:10

The Major problem is that the Hotel c-card is faulty and needs to be fixed, the best way you can send money to me is via Western Union, you can locate a Western Union by looking at their website www.westernunion.com/locator or you can get it done online using your c-card just visit their website, Let me know if you're having any difficulties getting it done so i can put you through it.

E-mail asap.

OK, a bit coy about the hotel.  Not really surprising.  But I care about Dave and he's offered to put me through it so let's get a phone number ...
6th January 2014 at 09:40

Hi Dave 

I've tried but I am struggling. Can't figure out how to do it. Can I phone you?

6th January 2014 at 09:44

don't have access to a phone here in Kiev, look out for any Stores around you they might have Western  Union in there, keep trying.

I'm getting bored now.  Let's have a final bit of fun ...
6th January 2014 at 14:04 (note: this was sent by me)


I am on duty at present and cannot get to personal mail.

If urgent, please contact me at the National Cyber Crime Unit http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/about-us/what-we-do/national-cyber-crime-unit or on the switchboard 0370 496 7622 who can put you through to me.
and, strangely, there's been no reply to that last email from me.  Just as I thought we were striking up a close friendship, or at least a commercial one.  Sad, really.

FYI: if you get this kind of email, I suggest you forward it asap to the domain name it came from.  For example, I forwarded this original email to abuse@aol.com.  Similarly there's abuse@yahoo.com, abuse@gmail.com and so on.  If you tell the domain owner, they will generally monitor or suspend the account.