Modern Morals and Ethics

Has compassion completely disappeared from the modern psyche do you think? One of the photographs emanating from the troubles in Harare last Friday showed a woman lying unconscious on the pavement, surrounded by photographers, none of whom were doing anything to assist her.

Yes I know many of them would have been journalists intent on getting their stories and photographs out to the world (which of course wasn’t really interested!) but surely even journalists have a moral duty to help someone who is obviously badly injured. When I was covering the Zimbabwe farm invasions for the Sunday Express, I saw a great deal of horror (read my book Soldier No More) but I tried to assist where I could.

Mind you I am by no means sure that there is any honour left in the journalistic profession nowadays. Reports are sent in without being checked out and published when Editors get even a sniff of a story. When they are proved wrong or wildly inaccurate, no corrections are published except occasionally in a tiny paragraph hidden away in the back pages.

For instance, last week we read about a British woman visiting the Caribbean who was raped and murdered by an intruder. The said intruder allegedly set her on fire to kill her. All suitably horrific and the report even reached the BBC evening news.

What a load of twaddle it turned out to be! Police investigations revealed that the woman had set herself alight in an accidental kitchen fire. Why oh why are these stories not checked before reaching the public eye? Again, I saw no apology from the Beeb for getting their facts so horribly wrong.

An incident over the weekend that caused argument in this household was the felling of Australian batsman, Steven Smith by a vicious ball from the ‘English’ (he is actually West Indian) quick bowler Jofra Archer. It was a truly brutal blow and I was told in no uncertain terms by my Other Half that Archer should have been prosecuted for attempted manslaughter. I did not agree because cricket is a dangerous game and people do get hurt and sometimes killed. I lost a friend to a cricket ball during the Rhodesian war. Neil went on regular call ups and had been in many firefights with the enemy, then he died while fielding close in to the batsman. That is fate and every cricketer at whatever level accepts the risks.

There were two distasteful sequels to Smith’s injury however. Firstly, most of the online newspapers played the film sequence over and over again, obviously hoping to tittivate their readers. How can anyone get pleasure from seeing a young man get so sickeningly struck? I really don’t understand it.

Smith was brave though. Although he was led off the field by the medical staff, he came back as soon as a wicket fell and came agonisingly close to a Lords century. Although obviously still very groggy, he battled on till he was out at ninety-two – a stalwart effort indeed!

Then came the second distasteful sequel. As he walked back to the dressing room through the Long Room (possibly the most hallowed room in sport) he was booed and heckled by a member of the MCC. That really was despicable and thankfully, the member was ejected from the place. I hope he will have his membership taken away but fear that will not happen for fear of breaching his ruddy human rights or right to free speech.

Talking about ethics or the lack of them in the modern world, I couldn’t help laughing aloud when I read about a Mother and Father from the Midlands who sent the RNLI a bill for a £7 lilo after their child was saved in a helicopter rescue.

Why anyone would entrust the safety of their child to an inflatable lilo I have no idea but the lifeguards were stunned to be sent an invoice by the girl’s mum and dad.

Mike Carter, president of the RNLI branch, said a rescue helicopter had to be used to save the youngster when she got into a precarious situation.

“A family visiting Porthleven purchased a lilo from a local shop and went to the beach. There was an off-shore wind and the parents immediately experienced their child waving goodbye as the lilo went further and further out.

“The coastguard scrambled the search and rescue helicopter which was soon on scene. The diver jumped from the helicopter and saved the child. He instantly put a knife through the lilo to save any further drifting and they were both winched to safety.”

All well and good and the parents ought to have been intensely grateful for the rescue of their child. But no, they were obviously incensed that the lilo hadn’t been returned so off went an invoice.

The Commanding Officer of the RNLI rescue station immediately wrote back to the couple.

‘I will be happy to pay your invoice on receipt of payment for the helicopter rescue which amounts to £7,000.’

Needless to say, no response was received.

I am constantly being told off because I really don’t enjoy people anymore. I prefer my own company to that of most folk, but is it really any wonder with incidents like these going on all the time?

British Reaction to Zimbabwe’s Pain

Yesterday was another bleak day for Zimbabwe and her people. Yet again, the streets of Harare were filled with unarmed, running and screaming people, being chased by riot police using their baton sticks again and again. There was an early but unconfirmed report of one person being killed by police, but I spent much of the day watching footage of the riots and cringing inwardly when people who fell down were repeatedly beaten on the tarmac where they landed. One middle-aged lady was filmed on the ground and desperately trying to get away from two policemen who were beating and kicking her. Demonstrators and bystanders sitting on the pavements were also beaten for no apparent reason. There were no cars being stoned, no tyres being burned, no shops being looted and no signs of any violence from the demonstrators, making the reaction of the police all the more reprehensible.

In the week running up to the demonstration. eighteen political activists and MDC officials were abducted and tortured ahead of the planned and announced in advance ‘March for Change.’ It was the same scenario as in the days of Robert Mugabe and the days when I reported on farm invasions for the Sunday Express. Zimbabwean contacts and friends have sent me accounts of armed men coming at night, people being abducted and taken away in unmarked vehicles, then badly beaten on the soles of their feet before being left helpless on roadsides. Others have simply disappeared.

There was an oblique warning of the events to come earlier in the week. Speaking at Monday’s Heroes’ Day events, President Mnangagwa said, “Government is finalizing special remuneration packages for the men and women in uniform, the military salary concept, and other incentives to cushion them from the hardships that have affected the country’s workers.”

With that promise in mind, it is little wonder that the police force who I was once so proud to serve laid into innocent demonstrators with such enthusiastic brutality.

Since the 30th July 2018 when Mnangagwa was officially elected president, Zimbabweans have been living in a state of continual, daily deterioration marked by anxiety, fear, and chronic economic hardship. Those poor souls who have managed to get together a few US dollars and put them into banks, building societies or other financial institutions have seen them shamefully and illegally converted by the government into Zimbabwe bond dollars, which are basically coloured pieces of worthless paper. In fact, the bond dollars have lost ninety-eight percent of their value in just twenty weeks. Ordinary citizens can’t afford medical treatment and medicines anymore; fuel prices have gone up seven times this year and food prices have quadrupled and are still rising daily. Only this week, the price of fuel rocketed to $9.09 per litre. At current exchange rates, that amounts to £7.53. There would be riots if fuel cost that much in Britain.

This week the World Food Programme said that nearly two and a half million people in rural Zimbabwe need emergency food aid and this number will increase to five and a half million in the next month or two. The government estimates another two and a half million people in urban areas also require food aid, bringing the total to almost eight million – over half of the total population. A WFP spokesman said, “We are talking about people who truly are marching towards starvation if we are not here to help them.”

Yesterday in Harare, people already marching towards starvation, also marched towards baton sticks and extreme violence. They knew it too but bravely stood up to the pain of being beaten with those baton sticks, which are ostensibly truncheons, but in fact are long cudgels that cause a great deal of damage.

I expected some form of outcry from Britain and other western governments but on the BBC news last evening there was a twenty-second clip showing Zimbabweans – almost all of them men – at an ‘illegal demonstration in Harare’ being led away by remarkably controlled and non-violent cops. Needless to say I have found nothing in the newspapers this morning!

Wake up Britain. This is a land that your ancestors converted from virgin bush into a prosperous country that was given away to corrupt despots like Mugabe and Mnangagwa by the generation of British politicians immediately before the current load of squabbling schoolkids in Westminster.

Britain has been good to me and I am grateful for that, but Zimbabwe is my home and I feel a deep sense of shame that the people there are being hung out to dry by the people of Britain.

Unfortunately at my advanced age, all I can do is rant and write to the newspapers but if enough of us do that, something might – and only ‘might’ I’m afraid – get done to curb the excesses of the Zimbabwean government.

Although I long for Mnangagwa and his cronies to be brought to book, (The Hague perhaps?) I know in my heart that it won’t happen. We live in a self-pitying rather than compassionate world I’m afraid and a few – a very few – British politicians feel a deep sense of shame at what their predecessors have done to innocent people.

If they were to express that shame in any way, they would offend the great unwashed of the present snowflake generation.

Stop the world please. I am deeply ashamed of it and want to get off.

CITES and Celebrities

Here we go again. CITES (The United Nation Commission for Investigating Trade in Endangered Species) are meeting again next week in Switzerland. These junkets are held every two years and always in exotic locations. I have no idea how they are financed, but they do little for the Fauna and Flora they are supposed to be protecting.

This year the thorny question of allowing limited trade in ivory and rhino horn will once again be put forward by Southern African countries, but the host nation have already said that they will veto it. Others will doubtless follow their lead despite knowing little or nothing about the elephant and rhino problems that currently prevail.

CITES itself is made up of one hundred and eighty-three disparate nations, only half a dozen of which have seen elephant or rhinoceros in the past few thousand years.

The ivory ban was brought in at the end of 1988 and I was in this country at the time. It worried me desperately and I spoke out against the proposed ban both in print and on Channel 4 television. All I received for my pains was a vast amount of hate mail and the knowledge that I was battling against sentiment rather than practicality. The ban was duly put in place and my gloomy forecasts soon came to pass.

In 1988, a kilogram of raw ivory was worth seven US dollars. In 2019, that ivory can only be bought on the black market and will set you back well over two thousand US dollars. It was surely inevitable that this would happen. Once a commodity that is in demand is banned officially, the value of that property jumps through the roof and in the case of ivory, this has led to the near extinction of an iconic species. At the moment, Africa is losing an elephant every fifteen minutes and unless the demand for ivory is stopped or at least lessened, they will continue to die despite the best efforts of many dedicated men and women on the ground.

I am afraid that it is a fact of life and all the pontificating by ‘celebrities’ or those idiotic young princes, William and Harry won’t lessen the slaughter or bring it to an end.

I think it is fairly well known that I personally despair of ever getting good governance in Africa, but I had to agree with President Masisi of Botswana who this week wanted to know why ‘people from the West’ lecture him and other African leaders on how to cope with their elephant when their own elephant populations were killed off millennia ago.

Masisi himself has recently re introduced licensed elephant hunting in Botswana and is considering whether a culling programme should also be put into practice.

The immediate reaction in the western world was shock and horror. Comedians, film stars, politicians and assorted ‘celebrities’ – including the princes – were up in arms, but none of them shares or possibly even knows about the dangers that face rural villagers when there are too many elephants in an area. These dangers are very real to the folk on the ground and most of them won’t be happy until the last elephant is dead. Who can blame them? Having seen elephant damage – and bodies of elephant victims – on many occasions, I certainly cannot.

The African countries where there are still elephants are almost all – Botswana could be an exception – in desperate financial straits. In Zimbabwe, there is widespread starvation yet the government holds many tons of legally acquired ivory in its storerooms. At the moment, they sell baby elephants to China, Pakistan and the Middle East, a practice that horrifies me but it brings in money.

If the ivory ban is revoked or eased, the money raised from current ivory stocks could feed people and help with the conservation of elephants and other wildlife species. It might even ease the pressure on those elephant families whose babies are kidnapped and sold off to zoos. If that doesn’t happen, people will continue to starve and mass slaughter of elephants will go on until there are none of them left.

Exactly the same situation prevails with rhino horn in South Africa. Tens of millions of pounds worth sit in storerooms, gathering dust and doing no good to anybody. Breeders like John Hulme who probably owns half the rhino remaining in the world, are likely to go out of business through lack of funds. This surely cannot make sense, yet the chances of the CITES delegates upholding a vote to overturn or change the current bans next week remains remote.

Wake up world; forget the sentiment and be practical. Elephants and rhino are wonderful animals and I spend a large part of my life lecturing on the former, but this situation just cannot continue.

Enjoy your luxurious conference you one hundred and eighty-three CITES delegates (I won’t mention the inevitable ‘hangers on’) but please see sense for a change. Let those few folk who know and understand elephants and rhinoceros speak and ignore the bunny-huggers, fanatics and ‘celebrities’ looking for publicity.

If practical decisions are not made next week, both elephants and rhino will disappear for ever.

A Gentle Meeting

A month or so ago – 13th July to be exact – the tone of my daily rant was markedly different from the usual weary cynicism at the state of the world. I was actually nice about people, mainly because when I had been in trouble, they had rushed to help.

The day before that rant – and for once I wasn’t really having a go at the world – I had been sitting on a bench in Torpoint with my friend Margaret who is in the latter part of her eighties. Margaret inexplicably passed out, I dialled 999 -first time I have ever done so – and that was when the help arrived.

The real heroine of that day was a lady called Rachel, who brought poor Margaret round before the ambulance arrived and kept her calm while at the same time, soothing my own somewhat jangled nerves.

It took me a few days to identify Rachel. She turned out to be a Careworker with Torcare Homes and yesterday I brought her and Margaret together for the first time since that traumatic afternoon.

What a lovely meeting it turned out to be. We presented Rachel with a miniature orchid and a copy of In Livingstone’s Footsteps, duly signed by the Author – me. She was very appreciative and although she initially refused lunch, we enjoyed a gentle meal and a lot of talk.

I had only known Rachel over less than an hour of pretty traumatic time, but she proved to be a genuinely nice lady. The reason for the miniature orchid was that she had told me via email that she lives on a boat, but it turned out to be a hundred-and-eighty-foot former coal barge that was a great deal larger and roomier than my Princetown house. I could have presented her with a ruddy bamboo damnit! As Margaret also spent a couple of years living on a boat, they shared a great deal of experience.

From my point of view, Rachel’s personal life over the past few years closely mirrors mine so all in all, it was a truly excellent meeting that I hope will lead to more.

When the waitress came to lay the table, she commented on the little orchid and I explained that Rachel had come to our rescue and this was a very small thank you meeting. That of course made me all weepy and embarrassed at my own weakness. Not long afterward, when neither Rachel nor I could open a bottle of Elderflower cordial, I took it back to the reception area and asked for a replacement.

Huh! The girl behind the desk promptly twisted the damned top off the bottle, adding to my embarrassment. I am not a small man and I boxed for my country, yet this slip of a girl showed me up. She explained that she used her left hand, rather than her right. So did I as I am a natural corry-fister, but the lass explained that one should always use the ‘wrong’ hand in those circumstances. I can’t wait to try that out although I have my doubts. She was probably just stronger than me. Anyway, we both ended up laughing somewhat helplessly.

So all in all, it proved an excellent meeting. Margaret was able to meet her rescuer – I was but a helpless bystander at their original meeting – and I showed Rachel that my ‘Little Old Lady’ is really a ball of fiery energy rather than the sheet-white, comatose figure with a barely functioning pulse that she met a month ago.

No, I haven’t suddenly become a sweet and gentle old toppie who loves his fellow man. Tomorrow I will get back to my ranting, but for now I have to admit that some people really are rather nice.

Rugby, Sexism and Unholy Alliances

It has been a good weekend for international rugby union. The two top-ranked teams in the world took hammerings, New Zealand losing badly to Australia and Wales losing equally badly to a makeshift England team. In Argentina, South Africa played well to beat the Pumas and lift the Southern Hemisphere league title. Refereeing throughout was good and although there was some argument about the sending off of New Zealander Scott Barret, the general opinion was that the referee was justified in doing so.

For me, the only blot on my rugby watching weekend came with the BBC presentation of highlights from the England v Wales game. The match itself was a good one – for England supporters at any rate – but it was spoiled for me by the raucously unsporting nature of the crowd and by the lady commentating.

I don’t know who the lassie was but presume she must have been a prominent player of the ladies’ game, now retired and acting as a pundit. She seemed to know her stuff, but she didn’t stop talking for one moment. Yes, viewers need to know what is going on but we also need the odd break to appreciate the rugby. The great Scottish rugby commentator Bill Maclaren was a real expert. He knew exactly when to speak and when to remain quiet. Let’s hope this lady develops a similar style with experience, but personally I wish that for the moment at least, Aunty Beeb would forget political correctness and use her at ladies’ matches rather than matches like that of yesterday. I know that sounds sexist but it is not meant that way at all. She will learn faster if she is commentating on her own form of the sport.

As for the Twickenham crowd; they used to be renowned as fair-minded and sporting but over recent years, the baying and the booing has predominated. Yes we can switch off the sound, but I feel that Twickenham now ranks with the cricket citadel of Edgbaston as mere homes for yobbery.

For all that, it was an excellent helping of international rugby and bodes well for the forthcoming World Cup in Japan. There is so little to choose between the top half dozen teams that it promises to be a real humdinger of a tournament. I can’t imagine that crowds there will be anything but polite, fair-minded and sporting either.

But this being Monday, it is a question of coming back to the ‘real world.’

Last week, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell put Labourites into a spin by hinting at a pact with the Scottish Nationalists in order to put Corbyn into No 10. What a furore that caused. Imagine it – the Poison Dwarf allied to an avowed Marxist. There would be civil war in no time.

I ranted last a few days ago about Blow-waved Boris allowing Scotland to go their own way and I still feel that would be the best solution. There are fifty-nine MPs from North of the border in the Commons and that is probably fifty odd too many.

But why you may ask would the possibility of a pact with the SNP put Labourites into a spin. Well it would in one fell swoop demolish Labour’s credentials as a Unionist movement.  It certainly infuriated their Scottish members.

The Edinburgh MP, Ian Murray said McDonnell’s ‘utterly irresponsible comments betray our party’s international values.’

And so they do. Until the arrival of Corbyn and his clique, Labour was implacably opposed to the SNP. In fact, Terrible Tony’s government introduced a Scottish Parliament largely as a means of dousing the flames of nationalism and keeping the SNP at a distance. 

In the same vein, the Scottish Labour Party campaigned ferociously against the cause of independence in the 2014 referendum, their stance epitomised on the eve of polling by Gordon Brown’s passionate defence of the union.

“What we have built by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder,” he thundered and he won his point. 

But Corbyn just isn’t like that. A puerile revolutionary devoid of patriotism, he instinctively shares the SNP’s anti-British agenda. Let’s remember that this is a man who failed to sing the National Anthem on his first appearance as Opposition leader and has stood in tribute to dead IRA terrorists. He supports terrorism around the world too, so does anybody but a few fellow fanatics like McDonnel really want him to lead the nation?

And just like Labour, the SNP is riddled with hypocrisy. 

The Nationalists whitter on about the wishes of the Scottish people but refuse to accept the 2014 result, which was meant to be a ‘once-in-a-generation decision.’ They blether and moan for independence from the English, but still want to be ruled by Brussels. That surely does not make sense. Why would any sensible Scot wish to remain in the EU single market but want to leave the far more valuable UK market?

In fact the more I ponder on it, the more I feel that neither the Labour leadership nor that of the SNP have a clue as to what they are doing.

God help us all if somehow their proposed new association brings them into power and puts Corbyn into No 10. Zimbabwe under Emmerson D. Mnangagwa would probably be a safer and saner place to live.

Going back to the thorny matter of sexism for a moment, it seems that the barmy Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas wants to pick a cross-party alternative government made up entirely of women. This cabal of Amazons would fight to avoid Brexit and keep Britain in the EU. Her reasoning for this blatant sexism is that ‘women are more likely to agree to a consensus than men.’

I presume the voters from wherever-she-comes-from must have faith in Ms Lucas, but she really does come out with some childish nonsense at times. In any other field of endeavour, she would probably be carted away to rest in a padded cell – or at best, a darkened room.

Justice and Politics

It is reported today in most of the newspapers that prime minister Johnson is to crack down on crime and sentencing of criminals. In fact, he is to sort out the entire justice system, creating more facilities to house prisoners and scrapping the current policy of allowing criminals out as soon as they are halfway through their given sentence.

All well and good Mr Johnson but I fear you need to go much, much further. In another piece today I read that a judge has been publicly reprimanded by a Tory Cabinet Minister for advising a criminal to lose weight and get a job. Well-meaning advice it was too as the man was grossly overweight and had to be helped in and out of the dock, but inevitably this worthy made a formal complaint that the judge had used ‘abusive language.’ His complaint was upheld and now he will doubtless be entitled to compensation, which the taxpayer will stump up for.

On receipt of the allegation, Recorder Julian Malins QC flatly refused to agree that he had done anything wrong. Having stood up for himself, he was given a formal warning by the then Justice Minister and Lord Chancellor, David Gauke. The official public notice from the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, highly damaging to a judge’s career, says that, in reaching their decision, Mr Gauke and the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, ‘took into consideration that the Recorder failed to acknowledge the inappropriateness of his conduct.’

What on earth is ‘inappropriate’ about that for God’s sake?

Mr Malins, an experienced barrister, told reporters that he has no regrets. The defendant involved had appeared in Court forty times in thirty-five years, had accumulated sixty convictions and served several prison terms, including a lengthy sentence for GBH with intent. But on the day he came before Mr Malins, it was for a lesser matter and he was told he could go free. At that point the man interrupted proceedings to say a weight ‘had been lifted from my shoulders.’

Mr Malins replied: ‘You had better not worry about the weight off your shoulders but should rather worry about the weight on your body.’ The defendant then asked the judge to repeat himself, which he did.

Mr Malins, who is five foot ten and weighs just over twelve and a half stone responded to the complaint from this individual by politely telling the defendant in detail that he needed to lose weight and get a job. He explained this was for his own sake and the good of society.

As for the claim of abusive language, Mr Malins says: ‘I reject that suggestion absolutely. On the contrary, the advice which I gave him was sincere, well meant, and, I believe, very good.’

I fear modern Society is becoming more ridiculous by the day. Please can we bring a bit of grown up thinking into our governing bodies. The only thing you can be sure of in this country now is that the state will always rule against common sense.

We have a political class, epitomised by Mr Gauke which, when asked to choose between a learned judge and a frequently convicted criminal, sides with the criminal as if they are on an equal footing. This is patently ridiculous damnit!

The state machine seems to see its job as to negotiate between ‘society’ and ‘offenders’ whose misdeeds are not really their fault, but are explained by poverty, abuse or some other fashionable misfortune. And it reserves special nastiness for anyone who tries to behave as if things were still as they used to be. The householder who defends himself against a burglar is more severely investigated than the offender. The parent or policeman who administers instant justice with a clip around the ear to an unruly child is hauled before the Court for assault. This is because such actions threatens the monopoly of pathetically soft ‘justice.’

Individuals act sensibly at their peril I’m afraid so please take care. If dangerous evil comes your way, do not expect our current establishment to take your side and defend you. If you dare to defend yourself, it will in all probability be you who ends up in the dock.

As for the ‘Conservative’ Party and Ministers like Mr Gauke, can someone remind me, what do they stand for? We are led to believe that a general election is just around the corner. If it comes about, I have no idea as to which box should contain my X. I have nothing against prime minister Johnson. He has yet to prove himself and makes encouraging noises. The alternative would seem to be Corbyn who has repeatedly proved himself to be pathetically useless and politically dangerous.

Or I suppose one could vote for the Lib Dem harpy who is so loudly determined to go against the referendum result, although I shudder when I listen to her fatuous ranting. No, I fear that my vote will almost certainly go to the Brexit party – more in despair than hope I’m afraid. They don’t seem very organised as yet, but they look to be made up of some honourable individuals who might – and only might – bring a modicum of common sense back in British life.

In the meantime, life goes on and my daily trawl through the news sheets does nothing for my wonky blood pressure.

Gloom and Doom

I think I must give up watching the evening news or trawling through the newspapers every morning. It really is too depressing. Even on fine sunny days – and we haven’t enjoyed too many of them lately – media people will find something to worry or complain about.

A few weeks ago, it was ticks. It was the local evening news and a woman was brought in front of the camera to explain how she had been bitten by a tick two years ago and it had thereby ruined her life. Then a professor was wheeled in to say that the warm spell – and it wasn’t actually hot – would cause many more people to be out and about on the Moors. She said it was ‘a high-risk situation.’

What alarmist sort of boloney is that? Yes there are a few ticks on Dartmoor, but they don’t amount to a problem for wanderers. But we must all beware or tick-borne calamity will surely befall us.

The news reader went on to advise us exactly what not to do when bitten by a tick. Under no circumstances should you pull the ruddy thing off as you may leave part of the mouth in your skin, thus spreading Lyme disease. Nor must you try and kill it as this ‘might’ make it vomit into the wound. It seems there is only one way to remove the tick that is drinking happily from your leg and that is with a specialised tick removal tool.

A what? That does not sound the sort of gadget that most of us carry around and even my trusty Leatherman doesn’t have one in its assortment of gadgets, but I will try to remember it in future.

The best solution is of course not to get bitten in the first place. ‘Experts’ assure us that we should wear light-coloured clothing and apply loads of insect repellent. We must also tuck our clothing into our socks. Shorts weren’t mentioned for some reason yet down here in Devon, three quarters of the male population seem to be in shorts on even the coldest of days.

I must have removed thousands of ticks from my skin over the years and when I was under the tender care of the Tropical Diseases people after my Zambezi walk, one of their tests showed that somewhere along the way I suffered from tick fever. Is that Lyme disease I wonder? Fortunately perhaps, I was in such poor condition most of the time that I didn’t know.

And here is the best bit from that news snippet. After you have been for a walk on the moors, you must thoroughly examine your entire body and get someone else to ‘inspect the areas that are hard to see.’ These pathetic doom mongers are suggesting that after you have been out for a stroll, you should strip off and have your other half ferret around in your undercarriage for evidence of marauding ticks. Unless one is still young and sprightly that does not sound like much fun – particularly for he or she doing the ferreting.

In an average year about sixty million people do not contract Lyme disease and perhaps a few hundred do. It probably serves those few hundred right for not taking proper precautions or perhaps for not having someone else available to inspect their wedding tackle for ticks after a walk. Why for that matter, did they not invest in a tick removal tool?

Why oh why can’t we celebrate and enjoy the rare times of good weather in this country without having our enjoyment flattened by news readers and so-called experts. Ten years or so ago – it might have been longer – a B.B.C newscaster called Martin Lewis suggested that the nightly news bulletins ought to contain at least one cheerful item. Strangely enough, Mr Lewis disappeared from our screens shortly afterward and his suggestion has never been taken up.

You understand now why I don’t want to watch or read the news anymore. Mind you, I will probably have to or I might run out of complaints about politicians and the modern world.

That would never do!

Talking about fine weather, we certainly don’t have any today up on the Moor. It is blowing a gale and raining in an almost horizontal direction. I drove in to nearby Yelverton this morning to undergo a blood test – not for Lyme disease I hasten to add – and when the nurse had taken half my arm out, she asked how I would be spending my day.

‘I shall put my feet up, puff happily on my pipe and wrap myself around a glass or three of gin,’ I told the lass and she smiled a little nervously.

It sounded pretty good to me at the time but I ended up talking about ticks instead.

Life does jump around in surprising ways at times! Where oh where did I put that gin bottle?

Scottish Independence

I am half Scottish and proud of it. Although my Father’s antecedents are shrouded in mystery, my maternal Grandparents originated in Edinburgh before heading out to India and then Durban in South Africa.

So it is that I thrill to the sound of bagpipes, shed the odd tear when Flower of Scotland is belted out at rugby matches and long to go back – only for a visit mind you – to those gaunt hills and crags above Glasgow.

The only problem with Scotland is the politics. From that puffed up pratwinkle, Ian Blackford in Westminster to the Poison Dwarf running the SNP, they seem to have got themselves into a bit of a mess. I am not even sure about the Conservative leader, Ruth Someone-or-the-Other across the border. She gave birth a few months ago but she is married to another woman. How?

Now it seems that fifty-two percent of Scots are in favour of having their independence which surely offers Boris Johnson a great opportunity. Give it to them damnit! Let them throw their lot in with Europe. Think of the money it will save the rest of Britain. Yes, they will take their oil with them, but I don’t suppose England, Wales and Northern Ireland benefit much from Scottish oil companies, while the global giants like Shell and BP will doubtless build new refineries to the South and pipe their stocks in there.

The SNP though reckons that economically, Scotland will be fine with Independence. I am not so sure since their public spending is thirty-three percent higher per head than it is in the South East of England. Yet on its website, the party claims that Ireland is independent and is the ‘fourth most prosperous country in the world.’ Quite how they come to that conclusion, I am not sure but as Ireland are likely to suffer most from a no deal Brexit, all will probably change.

And despite my ancestral pride, I have to admit that Scotland contributes little to our daily lives. The military will suffer somewhat as the Jocks make tigerish soldiers and the price of whisky will doubtless go up, which for me would be a tragedy.  However, I can be strong when necessary and will forego my nightly tipple (s) for the sake of stability in this soggy little island.

There is also the advantage that Scotland becoming a foreign country would make it ‘abroad’ and therefore a desirable place for holidays, despite the lack of sunshine. If necessary, bring the border further south and give them a bit more. See how they manage to pay for it all. That would have the added advantage of allowing the Northern constituencies to be governed by the sort of left wing, wetland habitat, save-the-bat and build-more-wind-farms government they seem to enjoy so much.

Above all, it would stop the Poisoned Dwarf making long and rambling speeches about what a disaster Brexit is going to be. They could also take back their MPs like Blackford and England would never again have to suffer under a Scottish prime minister. Blair and Brown were both from north of the border damnit and look what they did between them to this country.

Come on, Boris. They don’t like you or any other English folk so let them do their own thing. The money saved will do wonders for the NHS, the police and everything else.

Mind you, the Poisoned Dwarf did make a fairly telling observation this week. She said that dialogue with Theresa Maybe was appallingly difficult. The said Maybe apparently cannot deviate from the prepared script in her head so that even a complimentary remark about the shoes she was wearing went down like a lead balloon. No wonder the Europeans rang rings around her.

I don’t suppose PD will have the same difficulties with Johnson, although even he fell foul of her at their first meeting, which she described as ‘frosty.’ He stood back to allow her to go in through the front door before him as any man brought up to have good manners would do, but she felt that was ‘condescending’ and probably sexist.

I was brought up in a gentler age I’m afraid. Men gave way to women and showed them every courtesy, but that seems to have gone out of the window in the twenty-first century. I am all for equality between genders, but I will continue to offer my seat to ladies in crowded places and continue to use all the little courtesies, I was brought up to use.

If not, I am likely to receive the odd lightning bolt from the heavens where my proud-to-be-Scottish Mother is hopefully watching over me.

America Firearms and More Hypocrisy

There were two more firearm massacres in America this past weekend and already the ‘celebrities’ are railing against the President, the gun lobby and firearms in general.

To me though, the problem lies far deeper than the ready availability of firearms in the U.S.A. When my three oldest Grandsons were teenagers, I would find myself horrified when I watched them playing their video ‘games.’ Each of these so called games was an orgy of violence and killing that left me worrying about the effect it was having on young minds.

I rarely watch television or go to the cinema, but every so often I see an advert or a trailer for a forthcoming production and again, it is rarely anything other than violence. It seems that the more killing and explosive scenes that can be squeezed into a production, the more successful it is like to be. What does this do to young minds?

My boys all developed into fine young men but what about boys or even girls with any hint of mental instability. These ‘games’ and films are readily available to all teenagers in the supposedly developed world and must do a great deal of harm to developing minds. This harm occasionally explodes into the sort of mass violence we witnessed in Texas and Ohio over the past couple of days.

A great deal of what Donald Trump says – particularly in his tweets – is crass bullying and nonsense, but in this case, he is correct. Gun massacres in America are due more to mental illness than the gun culture.

Like most boys growing up in colonial Africa, I lived with guns and as a young man, I was involved in a nasty war which necessitated firearms for everybody. I don’t like these weapons and I fear them, but it is not the firearm at fault when anything goes wrong, it is the person wielding it. His or her state of mind is the ingredient that leads to trouble.

Yes the Americans need to tighten up controls on purchasing of lethal weaponry but that alone will not stop the massacres.

‘So what has this to do with hypocrisy,’ you will be asking.

Well, one of the best selling firearms in the world is the Glock handgun. Millions have been sold to governments, official agencies and individuals, making the inventor, one Gaston Glock a billionaire many times over.

Last week, the worthy Mr Glock celebrated his ninetieth birthday with a glossy party organised by his thirty-eight year old wife, Kathrin. The guest list included many worthies who have publicly spoken out against firearms in the not-too-far-distant past.

These included the supermodel Naomi Campbell and a singer Leona Lewis, both of whom attended a protest rally in Los Angeles last year.

That arch hypocrite Hugh Grant was also there, as was Dame Joan Collins. In fact, after the party, Grant flew out of Austria in a Glock private jet. It seems he is a bit of a regular at Glock’s parties, having attended at least of three of them previously. He seems to have forgotten his moral outrage after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in which thirteen people were murdered. Then he begged America ‘to look into its soul.’

Look into yours Mr Grant or for Pete’s sake shut up.

Dame Joan Collins has been similarly forgetful, though perhaps more forgivably as she is eighty- six. After the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 in which twenty children and seven adults were shot dead, she tweeted: ‘I hate guns.’ The killer in that incident, Adam Lanza shot himself with a Glock pistol he had been carrying throughout his rampage.

It’s all very perplexing to me. Why did these people go to the party? Are they so fond of Glock, and his wife that they overlook the dubious source of his wealth? It’s possible, I suppose. Some people do have strange friends. But the worthy Gaston doesn’t sound much of a charmer by any standards.

Probably they hoped their presence wouldn’t be noted by nosy journalists, and that their double standards, which surely merit the charge of hypocrisy might pass unnoticed.

In case anyone should imagine all that free champagne and fine food is making me envious, let me just say that discussing climate change with the likes of Katy Perry and that posturing nit, DiCaprio would be my idea of hell.

To me it is all somewhat bewildering but reminiscent of the three-day climate change ‘conference’ in Sicily that I ranted about a few days ago.

Is it possible that the super-rich and very famous do not believe that they are bound by the same rules that they urge the rest of humanity to observe? No, I fear they just live in a self-obsessed bubble that takes no notice of the rest of us.

Whatever the case, these people only succeed in undermining the cause they affect to support, because living by the values you proclaim is the best way of getting other people to follow them.  

If you want to persuade people to reduce their carbon footprint, don’t wander around the world on private planes or helicopters. If you want others to take your strong views on gun control seriously, don’t attend a party thrown by a billionaire firearms manufacturer.

There are a few who speak out and also practise what they preach. After that idiotic actress, Emma Thompson jetted into London from Los Angeles to support the Extinction Rebellion protest, she was chided by climate change scientist Kevin Anderson, who pointed out she could easily have paid for a billboard poster in Piccadilly to get her message across. Anderson bless him hasn’t flown since 2004. 

This is possibly a bit extreme, but his example is more likely to persuade us towards his cause than Ms Thompson’s behaviour. She is in the business of advertising her virtue — like those gilded luminaries in Sicily — without making any sacrifice at all.

Personally I am not too keen on the sixteen year old climate change activist, Greta Thunberg. She lectures too much, but at least she tries to follow her own recommendations. She hasn’t flown since 2015 and travels outside her native Sweden by train or boat.

All of us are guilty of hypocrisy in little things. But at least most us do not blithely ignore what we advocate. So far as saving the planet is concerned, we do our little bit without too much fuss, buying fewer plastic bags, and just about coping with the complexities of recycling

Even our self-important politicians are virtual innocents by comparison with Google’s carbon-emitting climate change busybodies and the gun control enthusiasts glad-handing Gaston Glock.

God protect the rest of us from the cant that is spouted by so-called celebrities. In fact, God help us from celebrities altogether.

Rewarding Failure

It seems to me that nothing succeeds in British public life better than failure. Take the case of Bernard Horrible-Howe, the former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Since his retirement Horrible-Howe, who is still only sixty-one has been entitled to a taxpayer-funded pension with a pot worth a reported £6 million. This has enabled him to buy two luxury homes, one in Dorset and the other in Switzerland.

Earlier this week, when reporters visited to ask about the disastrous police inquiry into alleged VIP sex abuse which happened during his time in charge, he angrily ordered them to, ‘Leave my property immediately!’

During the shameful Operation Midland enquiry, £2.5 million of public money was wasted, and the lives of innocent men and their families torn apart but that does not seem to have worried Horrible-Howe. Since leaving the Met, he has accepted seven private sector positions. These include ‘consultant’ roles across industries as varied as banking (for HSBC), insurance (for a firm called Towergate), computing (Excession Technologies) and security (the cyber-security firm Glasswall) as well as Guardiar, a company that makes fences.

He’s also done ‘TV and broadcasting’ work for American network NBC, and is on the books of the production company, Tigerlily, for whom he recently made a Dispatches documentary about legalising cannabis.To the dismay of the civil liberties lobby, he’s also an ‘adviser’ to Carbyne, an Israeli tech firm seeking to sell controversial tracking devices to the UK Government. Meanwhile and somewhat ironically, given that he was the police chief who virtually criminalised contact between his officers and the Press, Hogan-Howe also ‘works’ at Powerscourt, a PR outfit offering ‘reputation management’ for powerful and often controversial clients. All this while he’s already taking an estimated £180,000-a-year from a public sector pension.

For a former Copper – even a very senior one – this cannot make sense. What does he know about building fences, let alone all the other things he is being ‘consulted’ on?

As a member of the House of Lords, Horrible-Howe is also entitled to expenses and he takes full advantage of that.

In February, he claimed £3,355, having attended Parliament twelve times. Over the past year, his expenses bill was £21,642, for eighty-two appearances. It seems he has realised how to make more easy money. Just turn up at the Lords and put in a claim.

Horrible-Howe has also pursued a lucrative sideline of public-speaking. He’s on the books of two agencies, Chartwell and the London Speaker Bureau who have arranged for him to give talks — believed to be for five-figure fees — to U.S. arms firms, Indian police officers and a gathering of lawyers at Italy’s Lake Como. Anyone who has witnessed his wooden performances at a lectern might justifiably wonder what they’re paying for. Pezazz, the man has none!

The websites of these agencies dub Horrible-Howe (they don’t actually call him that) as a man whose ‘career has been characterised by high achievement.’ What achievement damnit? He has overseen some of the biggest fiascos managed by the Met and in the process ruined a number of innocent lives with Operation ruddy Midland.

I have ranted about that before and the entire operation ought to have been scrapped within weeks. I know Horrible-Howe was egged on by Tom Watson but as Commissioner of the Met, he ought to have had the gumption to stand up to a mere politician.

The falsely accused politician, Harvey Proctor feels Horrible-Howe is ‘an exceptionally narcissistic and weak man’ whose decision to take so many private sector jobs has made him appear ‘too eager to join the gravy train rather than make good the damage over which he presided’ and that he appears to have ‘sought private sector jobs like a moth circling a light bulb.’

Says it all really! All these lucrative ‘jobs’ are merely rewards for catastrophic failure.

Going briefly back to the Google ‘camp’ I mentioned yesterday. I have no objection to the High and Mighty – they think so at any rate – enjoying themselves at a great party, but I do object to them lecturing the rest of us on how to run our own lives and in the process, benefit the world.

Take the Royal Twonk with the red hair. It transpires that to reach Sicily, he took a private jet and a helicopter in each direction. To make up for the carbon footprint (whatever that means) of his travel arrangements, he would need to plant one hundred and ninety thousand trees for each leg.

Get planting Mr Windsor and I would suggest you keep your shoes on this time. Feet are never pretty to look at.