Comment Moderation

Rather tediously I’ve managed to attract an anonymous troll who seems to have been prompted by my previous post. 

With blogger, there’s an option to ban anonymous posts – some kind of registration is required instead. However I refrain from that, largely because I want to allow comments to be as hassle free as possible and I very much welcome feedback even if it is critical.

But it is with some reluctance I’ve had to turn on comment moderation. This means that while all genuine posts will be published, there may be a slight delay in publication.

I apologise for the inconvenience.

If You Want To Be Strictly Accurate…

An interesting phenomenon which becomes apparent when being an established blogger is the nature of the readership – it never fails to amaze who actually reads the bog. Despite being dismissed as “electronic version of pub gossip”, bloggers can sometimes make a real difference.

With this in mind it’s interesting that for the first time this blog has had readership from the European Parliament. Since my previous post was published yesterday on why a 2015 EU referendum cannot happen the hit rate from the EU Parliament has been very significant.

It’s hard to pin down influence of course, but sometimes media reports which belatedly begin to write about very familiar themes in similar language can be difficult to explain away as mere coincidences.

An example would be in a piece in today’s Telegraph; 11 things we’ve learned about Jeremy Clarkson. The piece relates to Top Gear’s Stig delivering a petition to the BBC’s London headquarters to call for the return of the show’s host, Jeremy Clarkson, while being transported on this – pictured below:

The vehicle is virtually identical to the one which was used during a protest outside the UKIP Spring Conference in Margate back in February:

It was universally described as a tank, however as EUReferendum noted:

If one wonders just how naff the Daily Mail can become, one just needs to visit the headline of their piece on the Ukip spring conference in Margate. There, we are told, the Ukipites were “gatecrashed” by “NAZI dancing troupe goose-stepping through Margate in front of a Second World War tank”.

Notwithstanding any other errors, the vehicle in question is not a tank – it is an Abbot FV433 self-propelled gun. And it is not of World War II vintage. It was actually introduced into British Army service in 1965. I remember it well as, about that time, I was nearly flattened by one when it came hurtling down a track on which we had pitched our tent (don’t ask).

Therefore and rather interestingly half way down Telegraph piece today, we have this by the author of the piece Anita Singh, Arts and Entertainment Editor:

A man dressed as Top Gear’s Stig has delivered the petition to the BBC’s London headquarters in a tank (or self-propelled artillery, if you want to be strictly accurate).

This provokes two interesting observations. One that given the media as a whole have described it as tank, that Anita Singh acknowledges accurately it might be something else such as self-propelled artillery – of where there is only one source to report this – suggests strongly blogs are read.

The second is the dismissive tone of describing self-propelled artillery as “if you want to be strictly accurate”. These are two completely different types of military vehicle.

To give an analogy, in the spirit of Clarkson and Top Gear, we could say that the car pictured below is obviously a Mercedes-AMG GT which has 4.0-litre V8 biturbo and produces 462hp. This allows it to achieve 0-60 mph in as little as 3.8 seconds.

But of course “if you want to be strictly accurate” we would note the picture is actually one of an Enzo Ferrari.

What a good example that is of a newspaper publicly acknowledging that “being strictly accurate” is an optional extra.

Captain Ranty

Going by twitter it appears that the blogger Captain Ranty has sadly passed away. Captain Ranty was a vigorous and very honest blogger and his blogging popularity was vividly highlighted to this blogger by the fact he was simply one of the biggest traffic sources to this blog via his blogroll. The hit rate was staggering.

Captain Ranty’s philosophy and belligerence of “Freeman stuff, Lawful Rebellion stuff and Random stuff was always an inspiration. However it’s been clear for some time that his recent posts have expressed a deep personal sadness. Perhaps in this context he’s done something silly. I don’t know.

Although I never had the pleasure in meeting him, he will be much missed in this corner of the internet. But we’ll carry on the fight in his name.

Goodnight Captain…

London

Mrs TBF and I have just returned from spending a nice relaxing few days in London, not only celebrating our anniversary, but a chance to be away from work – and in this blog’s case politics.

Thus with this in mind, I’m keen to leave aside temporarily the political problems of the “Westminster bubble”, and begin with what can be described in an unusually English upbeat observation that London as a city to explore and visit is, in my view, one of the finest in the world…albeit with some understandable failings.

I have visited London on so many occasions since my childhood and have frequented not only most of the usual tourist parts, but sporting venues, conferences and other copious personal related ventures. Yet it constantly amazes me that no matter how many times I visit, there are always great areas and places that I have never been to or even heard of.

One of the reasons, and the most obvious, is that London is rather large, not as much as some other world cities admittedly but its size is significantly disproportionate to the size of a relatively small island. But alone this cannot describe London’s appeal. Los Angeles is also a large sprawling city yet it is the worst in my experience I have ever visited – in short it’s a dump.

Many tourist city guides tend to recommend visitors stay in relatively safe ‘tourist areas’ – with a dash of common sense – and in contrast warn of the dangers of completely separate “never visit after dark” areas. LA manages to combine the two along just one street (Hollywood Boulevard) …epitomised by the Hollywood film Pretty Woman, where the film attempted to glamorise the best bits of LA by having Julia Roberts play a prostitute. So size is clearly not everything.

Another advantage with London is that it simply has a lot of history; peppered as it is with thousands of historic properties, as well as four World Heritage Sites (Greenwich, Tower, Kew and Westminster) adding in scheduled ancient monuments and historic parks. What other major world city has such a comprehensive and informative blue plaque scheme allowing casual visitors to connecting buildings with the past?

This is the city I have long known, yet despite being largely familiar with London it was interesting that on this occasion it was the first time we visited the capital properly while utilizing a wheelchair. Navigating a city with the limitations that a wheelchair poses reveals a different aspect of a city, its culture and all the nuances which emerge. Not all of it initially obvious.

In our post in June last year criticism was made of wheelchair access regarding Brussels and in particular – and rather ironically – EU buildings. In contrast it can be safely argued that wheelchair access on London’s public pavements is largely spot on in comparison.

Gently sloped dropped kerbs with tactile paving are abound. It’s worth noting that tactile paving not only helps those who have sight disability to find the edge of the kerb but also acts as “foot traction” for those pushing trying to tame a ‘runaway’ wheelchair on a slope in wet weather which could otherwise lead to slipping and falling over.

And blimey isn’t London ‘hilly’- perhaps memories play tricks but it isn’t as flat I had always thought it was. I guess it should be obvious that being on a flood plain, and much of it being built around the Thames, that areas of London unsurprisingly slopes significantly towards the river, but it doesn’t truly become apparent until you have to push a wheelchair away from the river – essentially uphill.

Whenever I have previously visited London I have opted to use the Tube to travel around London. For obvious reasons on this occasion due to better accessibility we stuck to London taxis. I’d forgotten how good they were.

Each taxi came with its own ramp, the drivers were unfailing polite and helpful and they put themselves out to the most extraordinary inconvenience to drop us off to make Mrs TBF’s life a little easier, to the extend of holding up a road of busy traffic. Another ‘interesting’ feature of them, as Bill Bryson noted, is they cannot drive more than 200 feet in a straight line before charging down another obscure street you never knew existed.

Another attraction of London, and a major tourist one is its pubs. Old London pubs can be a particular nuisance if you are tall, as most of the toilets are ‘downstairs’ which requires not only navigating restricted stair access but low ceilings when in the facilities.

Invariably also these same pubs have steps outside the front door which provide a further obstacle for wheelchair bound customers. Yet many pubs were helpful with ramps and lifting. However it’s with some irony that the more modern pubs which had removed steps for a slope for the front door didn’t carry on that thinking for the rest of the pub.

A classic example was the Slug and Lettuce in Leicester Square, despite no steps into the premises, all of its ‘wheelchair access available seating’ was of the tall chair variety, pictured below:

And that helps a disabled person how? We suspect it’s not malicious just a lack of thought- undoubtedly they’ve figured out, along with many other ‘concept’ pubs, that tall chairs and standing increases the alcohol consumption.

Public buildings, in contrast tend to be better and go out of their way to help even if for very obvious reasons medieval ones like cathedrals and castles do not lend themselves fully to those who don’t have complete mobility. Here Westminster Abbey was no exception.

Of all the major London attractions I’ve always been reluctant to visit the Abbey in the past due to its ongoing standing prohibitive cost, despite being someone who greatly admires and extensively enjoys visiting medieval buildings. The Abbey, even by London standards, is expensive. It is sad that this is the case for anyone interested in British history, architecture and as an active place of worship. The expensive entrance price doesn’t allow photography inside even without a flash.

However for a wheelchair user, along with a carer, the entrance was free – mainly due to large parts of the building being inaccessible. Thus, after many years, I was able to take in, and appreciate, the internal architectural delights of the Abbey (in the absence of the somewhat overpriced entrance fee I gave a voluntary donation).

The volunteers within the Abbey though couldn’t have been more helpful, even with little details like providing, without prompting, a hands free version of the audio guide to those whose hands are tied up with pushing wheelchairs.

So what to make of Westminster Abbey itself? Oddly despite its religious heritage, and more recently the wedding of William and Kate, the Abbey really feels more like a memorial to Britain’s more famous figures than a place of worship.

What is noticeable from the outset is the incredible number of memorials, plaques and statues to famous rulers, artists, and poets that has been packed into the building. In this sense no other Abbey or Cathedral in England is like it and as consequence the religious imagery is much less noticeable here.

Given the overwhelming tributes within the building to leaders of establishment – Prime Ministers, Kings etc – it leaves us puzzled why the tribute is not reciprocated in the form of formal contributions to its upkeep:

What is less well known is that Westminster Abbey receives no regular funding from the Crown, the Church of England or the government.Neither a cathedral nor a parish church, Westminster Abbey was established as a ‘Royal Peculiar’ in 1560 by Queen Elizabeth I. The Abbey is outside the jurisdiction and responsibility of the Church of England and the Government. In short, this means we must seek our own financial support.

So instead an overpriced ticket paid for by the hoi polloi it is. The Abbey, among many others, serves as the final resting place of Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and Laurence Olivier, and also features memorials to William Shakespeare, Admiral Horatio Nelson, Jane Austen, and Oscar Romero (who are all buried elsewhere – Jane Austin for example in Winchester). 

My personal view having wandered around is this desire within an Abbey to have so many plaques, especially in Poets’ Corner, largely of non-religious nature contrary to its function becomes borderline tacky and I would include, slightly controversially, the grave of the Unknown Warrior pictured above. More a tourist existence than a dignified tribute.

An interesting architectural feature, and again rather unique and largely unseen on television coverage of royal occasions, is use of iron stabilisation bar supports around the central part of the Abbey to prop up the pillars which disappointingly suggests a fundamental instability of the original Gothic structure.

Anyway I’m glad I’ve seen it and equally pleased it didn’t cost Mrs TBF and I £40 to enter.

Moving on from Westminster Abbey, just along the road, we had a quick look at New Scotland Yard. Not surprisingly for a fortified Police Station the place was adorned with CCTV, fences and intimidating looking Policeman guarding every entrance. They probably guarded the front entrance as well but it was hard to tell where the front entrance was. Unwelcoming NSY was, and as I’ve noted before much can be garnered from a building about an institution’s culture.

But still there was always the iconic revolving triangle sign to observe:

Which now appears right in the middle of a public pavement; outside the confines of NSY, on its own, which at the time I visited was patrolled by a PCSO:

So the iconic sign is in a public space with plastic plod to look after it, but the rest of the building is not easily accessible by members of the public and is guarded by proper plod. It’s not quite how it looks on television. We should know our place.

Ultimately though London, despite its quirks, is pretty kind to those who are wheelchair bound, including the British public who were very helpful.

Mrs TBF and I rounded off a pleasant few days by going to see Shaun the Sheep The Movie – this review is pretty much right. What a delightful, funny and ‘British’ film it is.

Essentially it is a 90 minute silent stop motion film made for under 10’s which is an impressive feat in itself. It’s obviously been made with loving care and to keep the adults amused it sneaks in plenty of references to films such as Taxi Driver, Shawshank Redemption, Silence of the Lambs and Chopper.

After it had finished we caught a cab only to hear Farage on the radio regarding a little local difficulty in Rotherham.

And so back to the real world with a bump…

EU Referendum Blog

It appears that for reasons unknown that EU Referendum has suffered a massive denial-of-service (DOS) attack deliberately targeted at the site, thus access over the last 24 hours has been unavailable.

Update: From Complete Bastard:

EU Referendum blog is down again and it’s a big attack. Somebody REALLY doesn’t like us. Our host can’t do anything about it so we are in the process of moving to another provider (again).

Update 2: http://www.eureferendum.com now appears to be working normally

What is clear is someone is not happy at all. This is a deliberate, and very directed attack – the UGG site appears be acting as cover…

Cameron: Being Less Than Candid

Witterings from Witney back in June requested a meeting with his MP – David Cameron – in order to try to take him to task on being less than candid on matters EU.

Yesterday WfW had such a meeting with his MP. Time constraints meant, due to the involved subject matter, a verbal meeting would be inadequate to cover the issues sufficiently, so instead a dossier was handed over to Cameron in person to reply to in writing.

The contents of the full dossier submitted to Cameron can be found on WfW’s blog, where, in themes familiar to us, questions have been asked about the “veto that never was”, the “European budget cut that never was” and that “Norway is not governed by fax”.

Interestingly WfW notes (my emphasis):

I only spent just over 5 minutes with David Cameron as I did not wish to give him the opportunity of providing a short verbal response, wishing him to commit himself to a written response. Skimming through, he repeated that he had vetoed a treaty and cut the budget; although he made no mention of negating any bailout. The section on Norway appeared to ‘stop him in his tracks’

A couple of interesting points emerge here. Cameron is happy to reiterate inaccurately to a constituent that he vetoed a “non-existent” treaty yet at the time in 2011 he could not make the same commitment to the House of Commons.

On a slightly more optimistic note, having spoken to WfW last night, it appears that the arguments against the “Norway governed by fax” may have come as something of a surprise to Mr Cameron. It leaves us wondering whether he has been poorly briefed on this matter.

Sometimes it shouldn’t be underestimated how ignorant most MPs are about the EU and how much they are susceptible to a meme that is well established and doing the rounds by those with prestige.

The view that ignorance not conspiracy is often the cause is understandable particularly when we consider that the eurosceptic movement is not immune to this either, as illustrated by the continuing nonsense over November the 1st.  The below graphic is doing the rounds on Facebook:

Thus if Cameron has been poorly briefed he might subsequently have a “Pauline Conversion”. We suspect not of course and his written responses will be interesting. But one thing remains true – thanks to WfW Mr Cameron can no longer deny he wasn’t told…

Brussels

Blogging will be light this week as I’m away for my birthday (the one where life starts apparently). I’ll be spending it in Brussels. Before readers begin to suspect I’ve lost my marbles, my reason for going is not this, but instead to visit locations associated with Belgium’s most famous reporter, having been a lifelong fan.

No doubt, through very gritted teeth, I’ll go and see the European quarter, though I like to put it on record should any terrorist incident arise during my visit it wasn’t me…

Normal service will return shortly