Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A country fit for heroes to live in?

This year will mark the 65th Anniversary of the D-Day Normandy landings. Every year, a number of those who took part and are still alive to remember D-Day make the crossing to France to see the beaches and coastal areas where they fought and where so many died for their country.

In a year when many of our D-Day veterans will have seen pensions and savings income cut and devalued, a few asked the British Government for financial assistance to make the trip and were turned down because 'it is not a significant anniversary'.

It now appears that they have backed down, and the MoD has agreed to help, but not before it was revealed that Gordon Brown had said he and/or his ministers would attend celebrations in Normandy 'if invited'.

There are huge security costs whenever senior Government members or Royal personages travel abroad, which is going to be far greater than the paltry amount that was being asked to pay a few ferry fares and hotel bills.

What could Gordon Brown have been thinking? How could he possibly imagine that he or any Government member have more rights to be in Normandy on 6th June this year than the veterans who want to travel to remember those who fought on the beaches, drowned trying to swim ashore or were shot or blown up in the water or on land.

A national newspaper has also stepped in to help fund the trip, but an offer of Lottery money was rejected. A representative of The Normandy Veterans' Association said that they did not want the Lottery Fund to take credit for funding the trip at the last minute after the Governent initially refused to contribute.

The sooner this selfish and inept bunch of politicians are kicked out of office, the better it will be for Britain and those who have defended our country and made great contributions to our proud history.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

...and here is the weather forecast...

I don't expect BBC news presenters to appear in immaculate evening dress any more, especially in the case of radio presenters - people don't even believe me any more when I tell them it was like that in the past. I do, however, expect a modicum of professionalism from those who are paid to do a job from my license fee.

I am getting really annoyed with sloppy and careless presenters who mis-read weather forecasts on Radio 4, particularly the ones who just have a line or two of summary (mostly NOT summery!) forecast to read at the end of the news.

I recently listened to one of them saying that 'rain was spreading FROM the east this afternoon' - complete reversal of fact!

What they should have said was either ' rain spreading east' or rain spreading from the WEST'. Don't they even bother to look at the actual forecast and use their common sense rather than simply reading a piece of paper or auto-cue?

I also get annoyed with the ones who refer to the shipping FORECAST as the shipping BULLETIN and tangle up the names of shipping areas or coastal reporting stations.

Please BBC give all your news presenters who don't have full meteorological qualifications at least a basic course in weather terminology, and get them to check the forecast website before their broadcast, so they can relate what they have to read to what is going on outside their cosy studio.

For the shipping forecast presenters, make them learn the shipping areas, coastal stations and inshore areas off by heart and be able to identify them on a map before they get anywhere near reading a forecast.

Or perhaps there is a joker in the pack who likes to trip up unwary new presenters by putting extra commas and spaces in the forecast so we get nonsense like "Dogger, German, Bight, Humber, Thames" or mis-type or mis-spell places leading to rubbish like 'San Deety' for 'Sandettie'.

For the information and interest of those outside of the UK who follow my blog, my local sea area is Wight and where I live is located between Selsey Bill and Lyme Regis, in fact very close to Selsey Bill and my local weather reporting stations Chimet and Cambermet are very useful as an add on to the Met.Office especially for small boat sailors like me.

I don't know if there is ANY kind of a dress code for radio presenters any more. Maybe imposing one would remind them that they have an important job to do and that all kinds of people around the country, on land as well as at sea still depend on the BBC to give them accurate weather forecasts, not all of them having easy access to websites at the exact place they work.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Moorings and Millions

On Friday evening I went to the my sailing club's Annual General Meeting. Having served my time on General Committee at the club, I know how hard it is to set fees at a level that reflect the move in prices for the things we have to pay out, business rates, gas, electric, water etc. , to carry out the projects which members say that they want done to tight budgets and to save for the future and against major unexpected expenditure.

You could regard it as a microcosm of running a country. We have 'political parties' within the club broadly representing the fields of activity that we operate, cruisers of various sizes on moorings, racing dinghies, day cruising boats kept ashore etc. Mostly we live peacably side by side and get on with what we personally like doing most.

Inevitably conflicts of interest do occur of various proportions from quite minor tiffs over who gets prime spots in the boat park, to disagreements whether major projects or expenditures should go ahead at all and absolute essentials like what sort of beer we should have in the club bar.

Fortunately spring is on its way and hopefully we'll all be too busy soon actually sailing to argue with each other over anything much beyond the rules of yacht racing.

This year, cruiser owners were asked to pay a one-off extra £20 to cover the cost of a new mooring buoy as part of the increase in their fees. I sat and listened as our Treasurer went meticulously through the accounts then asked for the questions which I knew would inevitably come.

Sure enough, someone asked about the very modest rise in mooring costs. This person does not have the largest boat in the club, but it isn't the smallest either. Anyone who can afford a boat that size can easily afford the extra £20 for the new buoy, plus the few more pounds percentage increase and I was fuming as he whinged on about it. It was pointed out that club moorings are considerably cheaper than open-market conservancy moorings in Chichester Harbour, if indeed he could get one in such a convenient spot and that as the buoys were bulk purchased, he would have had to pay a lot more for such a good product if he had bought it himself.

Thinking about it afterwards, I drew a comparison between this sulky club member and Sir Fred Goodwin who is sitting pretty on a pension of nearly three quarters of a million pounds a year, having brought one of the country's major banks to near collapse. Sir Fred is waving a contract saying that he is legally entitled to this money and isn't giving any of it back or forgoing even part of it in the public interest. Less than one sixth of that sum would pay off my entire mortgage and he is getting that EVERY YEAR until he dies, potentially another 50 if he reaches his centenary.

He could have got the public back on his side by offering to invest some of it where it would serve the common good, like perhaps helping to fund a housing association for people who can't afford a mortgage even at today's low rates or to simply give some of it to charity. I have no doubt whatever that he has sat down with his accountant this and worked out ways to pay as little tax on his pension as he possibly can, so we shouldn't expect to get much back that way.

How do you feel Sir Fred when you see people in Zimbabwe picking up single grains of corn to eat because the greedy and tyrannical Robert Mugabe has demolished the entire agricultural output of his country.

How would you feel Sir Fred if someone who had lost their entire life savings in the crash of your bank came and banged on your door and asked for a sub? Or what if someone who had lost their home after being made redundant due to the RBS bank crash, parked their caravan on your well manicured lawn?

Comic Relief Day is on its way. Let's have a little less conspicuous greed and self-interest please.