Saturday, 31 July 2010

A Neglect of Justice

The majority of stories in the news these days are of the depressing kind and if one were to pay anything other than scant attention to each and every one of them, one would be in a perpetual very dark place indeed. However, one story this weekend made me very angry.

In 2002 Ian Huntley murdered two ten year old school girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, England. In 2007 he was told he would serve a minimum of forty years in prison for his horrific crimes. He had been attacked frequently by inmates of Wakefield Prison and was moved to HMP Frankland, a Category A high security men's prison in 2008. Earlier this year he was attacked again and had his throat slashed.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed Huntley was now taking legal action against the Ministry. It is believed he is claiming £20,000 for injuries suffered and a sum - put at £60,000 in one report - for failure to uphold the duty of care.

The Soham murders shocked the nation nearly a decade ago. Huntley, who was a school caretaker, even appeared on television news at the time appealing for people to help find the killer. It's for cases like these I firmly believe this country should bring back the death penalty. Forty years in prison at the taxpayers expense is not justice. Ceasing the right to live of someone who destroyed two little girls and their families is. Now, the do-gooders in this world - and there are plenty of them - will point out that taking someone's life is barbaric, that people like Huntley need help, blah, bloody blah. The families of those two little girls have a life sentence imposed on them thanks to this evil cretin - the social workers, criminal psychologists etc might want to think of the barbaric nature of Huntley's crimes and the pain and anguish he has put those families through.

They won't of course. I can picture some sleazy solicitor rubbing their hands at the thought of taking this case on, quoting human rights legislation and winning thousands of pounds for a convicted murderer and one of the most hated men in Britain. Naturally, this solicitor will disregard any moral stance and take a fee...

Compensation for neglect of a duty of care for a man who many people would like to see dead. If this man is awarded any compensation it's not just a duty of care that will have been neglected. Justice and morality will have been too...

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Cultural Lessons from the G20 Summit

The American: businesslike, unwilling to be distracted. The Canadian: self-absorbed and disconnected from reality.

The Italian and the French: "BOY, LOOK AT THAT ASS!"

The Importance of Socrates...

The Monty Python boys at their best.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Carry On Countdown (or back to the 70s...)

The Ranter hasn't been sleeping well of late. Perhaps it's my age or the ceaseless worry of family life or the static mountain of work at the office or a combination of all these but the days when I used to sleep for seven hours uninterrupted are long gone. I wake up at least twice during the night and have little need for an alarm clock as my brain seems to have its snooze alarm set to go off at around five in the morning - every morning.

Thus it was today as I awoke at 5.10am and, try as I might, couldn't get back to sleep. So I made some breakfast and scanned through the twilight zone that is early morning television. At 5.30am, Channel Four were showing a repeat of the words and numbers game Countdown, hosted by the ebullient Jeff Stelling - he of Sky Sports News fame. Much as I like Jeff, my attention was drawn to Dictionary Corner where the former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies was sitting. Sharron was Britain's golden girl in the 1980s - and stunningly attractive. With her long, flowing hair and wonderful physique she was many men's fantasy (including me) Thirty years on and she still looks wonderful.

As the contestants on Countdown tried to rearrange letters to make a word, one of them suggested a seven letter word - panties. Cue sniggering from the audience and a little smirk from Jeff who then asked Sharron what she had come up with. 'I had panties down too, Jeff' the golden girl replied with a cheeky smile and the sniggering became raucous laughter. It was akin to a Carry On film - I half expected the ghosts of Sid James and Kenneth Williams to appear chortling 'Stop messin' about!' My hopes of heading back to bed and returning to some form of sleep completely disappeared at this point with Sharron's sultry image lodged in my brain. Yes, I realise I'm coming across as some sort of dirty old man here but at my stage in life I'm grateful for small mercies...

There's something quite nostalgic about early morning television, particularly on ITV. While the main channel has the inane babbling of GMTV, it's supplementary channels ITV3 and ITV4 are showing old programmes from decades gone by. ITV3 shows the comedy On the Buses from the early 1970s before early editions of Heartbeat and Goodnight Sweetheart from the 1990s. ITV4 goes even further with reshowings of classics such as The Saint, The Champions and Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) from the late 1960s and The Professionals and the still eminently watchable The Sweeney from the 1970s.

These programmes are a reminder of the quality British television used to produce. As a child in the late 1960s/early 1970s I was a huge fan of Randall and Hopkirk (deceased). It was the story of two private detectives, one of whom died but came back as a ghost to help his partner. Watching it on a Sunday afternoon on an old portable black and white television was the highlight of my weekend (I know, I had a sheltered childhood...) To see it again forty years later - where the hell does time go? - had rekindled all kinds of memories.

Rather like Sharron Davies' statement but that's another story altogether...

Friday, 23 July 2010

Standing Up for Scotland

Scottish ministers and officials have turned down a request to attend a US Senate hearing next week over the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and the Scottish Prison Service's medical chief Dr Andrew Fraser were invited. Senators also invited Westminster former justice secretary Jack Straw.

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was jailed for life for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 which killed 270 people, most of them Americans. He was released by the Scottish government in August 2009 and allowed to return to Libya on compassionate grounds, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. The Scottish government maintains that the release was solely because of Megrahi's terminal illness and had nothing to do with a prisoner transfer agreement between the UK government and Libya.

From the BBC News Website

It's almost a year since Mr al-Megrahi was released from Greenock Prison. Yet still the controversy over his release rages - mainly from our cousins across the pond. The recent explosion from the BP oil rig off the east coast of the USA has caused environmental disaster for parts of the country - and has turned into a political football. Some US senators suspect that BP lobbied for Megrahi's release last year to aid its chances of getting oil deals with Libya. It is, therefore, open season on BP in the States and some US politicians see any link, no matter how tenuous, between Scotland's decision to release Mr al-Megrahi and the now hated BP as a means for political gain - a chance to make a name for themselves.

Even the Prime Minister of this country - David Cameron - declared on his visit to his chum President Obama - that releasing Mr al-Megrahi  was 'completely wrong'. Then again, Cameron is leader of the Conservative Party and is maintaining a party tradition which began under Margaret Thatcher of sticking the boot into the Scots at every opportunity.

The Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has rightly turned down the 'invitation' to go to Washington to explain the actions of the Scottish government. MacAskill released al-Megrahi on the basis the Libyan is terminally ill. There is an argument for suggesting al-Megrahi was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and was wrongly convicted in the first place but that's another debate. As it did this time last year, Scotland has stood up to the USA. It was a decision devolved to the Scottish government. Whether they agree with it or not, US senators and David Tory Boy Cameron should respect that decision instead of jumping on whatever political bandwagon happens to be passing this week.

Amidst the growing anti-British - and perhaps anti-Scots mood - in the US it's worth remembering there are British soldiers dying in Afghanistan and Iraq in the so-called fight against terrorism. And it's perhaps also worth recalling how many US dollars found their way to the fighting fund of the IRA in the 1970s and 80s.

The so-called special relationship between the USA and UK is showing signs of strain. David Cameron could alleviate this by giving those 'Scots upstarts' what we really want - independence. Then he could lap dance for the President until his heart is content...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

A Morrissey Classic

This song reminds me of my days in Aberdeen....

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Worst Group Rant No. 94 (change at Dalkeith)

BBC photo

Princess Anne was in Aberdeen today opening the new First Bus depot in the Granite City. I do believe that's my old boss in the photograph above - the one in the suit. It's nearly 21 years since I worked there and a lot of water has flowed under various bridges since then. I wonder, however, if Princess Anne had travelled to Aberdeen by one of First Group's infamous trains. Probably not.

I have blogged here several times about 'Worst Group' and their notorious bus services in Edinburgh. I now use Lothian Buses although I have, on occasion, dared to take a First Bus service from Dalkeith to Auld Reekie. Here was the timetable for such a journey the other week:

07.40 Service 86 due to leave Mayfield terminus
07.43 Driving sitting at said terminus finishing the sudoku puzzle in the Metro newspaper
07.46 Service 86 departs...
07.50 First rude comment to passenger who dared to complain the bus was late
07.51 First swear word from driver
07.55 Due at Dalkeith town centre
08.05 Arrives Dalkeith town centre
08.10 Woman with child in buggy can't get on as the 20 year old bus does not have a facility for the buggy.
08.11 Driver advises woman 'there'll be another bus along in a few minutes' Translated that means 'tough luck, dearie...'
08.15 Bus breaks down at Sheriffhall Park and Ride
08.16 Second swear word from driver
08.17 Second rude comment to passenger who dared to complain
08.18 Third swear word from driver.
08.20 Driver makes radio contact with bus depot
08.23 Depot replies - don't expect a replacement bus until a week on Tuesday
08.24 Fourth swear word from driver
08.25 Several swear words from irate passengers who leave the bus.
08.27 Said passengers board Lothian bus service number 49 and head into Edinburgh city centre
08.28 Fifth swear word from driver
14.00 Worst Group announce passenger numbers on their Edinburgh bus services drop dramatically...

Some things never change....

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Woeful Wednesday

I hired this Eastern European woman as a house cleaner the other day after hearing that they were efficient workers. It took me by surprise that it took her 5 days just to hoover the upstairs of my house. Turns out she was a Slovak...

You know, my garden is full of weeds, the grass is about three feet long and it's a complete mess. I’ve half a mind to phone the police and tell them that Peter Tobin used to live in my house...

Apparently, one in five people in the world is Chinese. And there are five people in my family so it stands to reason one of us is from China. It's either my mum or my dad. Or my elder brother Colin. Or my younger brother Mao Tsetung. But I think it's Colin...

The Glasgow intelligence test. Name a fish that begins with S. Answer: Single...

Did you hear about the duck that laid a white egg with brown speckles? She did it for a lark...

What's the difference between England keeper Robert Green and Cheryl Cole? Cheryl caught something in Africa...

I went out for a meal with a girl the other night. She asked if I wanted to go Dutch. So I kicked her in the chest, hacked her shins and cried at the end of the meal....

I was walking along Princes Street the other day when I spotted a chap with fangs wearing a dark cloak. He was attracting plenty attention when suddenly a ten ton load of smoked salmon, sandwiches, sausage rolls, vol-au-vents, chicken wings, tomato salad and crisps descends on him from a great height and knocks him to the ground. 'Aaargh!' he croaks, 'it's Buffet the Vampire Slayer...!'

I hear there's a new sushi bar opening in the middle of Edinburgh that caters exclusively for lawyers. It's called Sosumi...

Okay, I did say it was woeful Wednesday..

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Running for Cover

Edinburgh. Early July. The middle of the local trades fortnight. Which can only mean one thing as far as the weather is concerned - rain. I met my mother for a bacon roll in Edinburgh's city centre today and while the calendar said it was July it may well have been October. Damp, misty, far from warm - in fact, it was dreich.

Now we're less than a month away from the start of the world's biggest and best arts and cultural festival so Auld Reekie is already full of tourists - not that Scotland's beautiful capital city is ever without visitors from near and far. The rain doesn't deter those visitors from venturing from their stylish hotels and bed and breakfast establishments (and Travelodge...) however it does mean the visiting hordes unleash that weapon of manners destruction - the umbrella.

In Scotland, when it rains many people either use A, an umbrella, or B, wear a hood. Now clearly these are not the only alternatives. Nor are they mutually exclusive. In the middle of Edinburgh today in the rain I had opted for option B. If everyone else had chosen the same option then this rant would not be on your screen, distracting you from your Facebook page/emails/porn. But they hadn’t. And herein lies the problem.

Ignorant, gormless and downright stupid people carrying umbrellas - let's call them tourists - put people at risk. How? Those damn metal spikes for one. Whose idea was it to put metal spikes on an implement designed to be held somewhere around eye level? (probably an Englishman) And does this implement cure cancer or help make hydrogen into a usable energy? Nope. It protects people from the sweet loving rain that waters our gardens, fields and allotments. Now if one had full visibility in a street chock-a-block with tourists wielding umbrellas then things might not be so bad. A little dicey perhaps, but I think we could keep the casualty figures down in the low teens if we all stayed alert.

An ever growing number of people with umbrellas simply don't think. Mr Overweight American Loudmouth and his equally overweight partner amble side by side along Edinburgh's North Bridge - 'Gee, ya see the castle, honey?' - with umbrellas the size of a small gazebo sticking out on to half the street. Do they move to allow us mere locals to get by and get on with our daily business? My arse, they do. Street etiquette is fast   disappearing in any case but people with umbrellas not only don't consider what injury they may inflict on their fellow pedestrian - they don't seem to care either.

There is always, of course, option B. The hood. It's a far more sensible and indeed practical way to protect your napper from getting wet while walking in a busy city street where metal spikes are constantly coming at you from all directions. And there's far less chance of forgetting to take your hood with you after you've had a pint or three in one of the multitude of Edinburgh pubs. How many folded umbrellas have been left in Edinburgh's drinking establishments, I wonder? Now I have been known, on occasion, to take an umbrella to work. But I like to think I am considerate whilst doing so and not so stupid as to leave it lying in some bar somewhere (by the way, if the office cleaner happens to read this don't throw it out, I forgot to take it home on Friday...)

So, next time you head out in the pouring rain - and in Scotland this is a far more regular occurrence than is necessary - and you decide to take your umbrella, please consider other people. Before you have their eye out...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Pope Visits Glasgow...

The Pope comes to Glasgow and gives a sermon to the masses who have come to see him. Looking at the huge crowds before him, His Holiness asks "Anyone with 'special needs' who wants to be prayed over, please come forward to the front by the altar."

With that, wee Jimmy got in line, and when it was his turn, the Pope asked, "My son, what do you want me to pray about for you?"

Wee Jimmy replied, "Your Holiness, I need you to pray for help with my hearing."

The Pope put one finger of one hand in Jimmy's ear, placed his other hand on top of his head, and then prayed and prayed and prayed. He prayed a great prayer for Jimmy, and the whole congregation joined in with great enthusiasm.

After a few minutes, the Pope removed his hands, stood back and asked, "James, how is your hearing now?"

Wee Jimmy answered, "I don't know. It's no' 'til next week....."