Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Not nice...

I am due to go into hospital for a colonoscopy tomorrow. This is something I've been through before and whilst it is for the most part painless there is still some discomfort with the air they pump into you - in fact, that can hurt a lot!
However, it's not the proceedure itself which is the worst part of this, it's the "bowel prep". The hospital used to send an industrial strength laxative called Fleet which, I believe, was manufactured by Satan himself. Two tiny bottles that you mixed with equal amounts of water and then attemted to drink without retching too hard. The taste was supposed to be ginger- lemon but was actually somewhere between salt water and raw effluent - in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they had simply collected the contents of the bottles from the puddles found on the decks of trawlers off the Fylde coast.
I was relieved to find out that the hospital no longer use Fleet, preferring instead a product called Klean Prep. My joy at this news was short lived when I realised that I had been faced with Klean Prep at a recnt CT Scan. Whilst the taste of it is not as bad as Fleet it's still pretty nasty in that it's salted vanilla (try to imagine that for a second) and this is compounded by the fact that you have to consume FOUR LITRES of the stuff!
I have just downed my first pint, made slightly palatable by the addition of half a bottle of lemon barley water. I'm working myself up to another one just now and expect the explosion to hit my guts sometime in the next two hours. A fun evening is planned!
Oh, and I've had noting except "clear liquid" since Sunday night...so I'm bloody hungry too!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A couple of things caught my attention on the news this week. Firstly, there's the Electoral Court which has convened in the Uppermill area of Oldham to look into allegations of electoral wrongdoing by Oldham Labour MP Phil Woolas. The Liberal Democrat candidate, Elwyn Watkins, has accused Mr Woolas of a dirty tricks campaign in the run up to the election by stirring up racial tension in order to win the white, working class vote - essentially, Mr Woolas claimed that Mr Watkins was courting Islamic extremists in the area in an attempt to win their votes.
This is the first time in almost 100 years that an Electoral Court has been convened in the U.K., the last being in 1911 when there were instances of violence and bribery in the Ireland Constituency of North Louth. Disputes over local elections are more commonplace but these are heard in front of electoral commissioners or magistrates. The judges rule on disputed polls, and in this case two High Court judges have descended on Oldham to hear the accusations. Mr Woolas won the election by a majority of 103 votes and Mr Watkins claims that the accusations made by Mr Woolas as part of his campaign were completely false and therefore in contravention of the Representation of the People Act 1983.
The case started on Monday and was due to last four days. A little bit of history in the making in this little area.
The second thing that interested me is the call for a campaign of "civil disobedience" by several trade union bosses at the Trades Union Congress this week (see here and here) in response to government spending cuts. They have intimated a willingness to instigate general strikes, with some going even further and calling for citizens to stage "sit ins" on the country's motorway network in an attempt to cause gridlock on a massive scale.
These leaders always talk a good fight. What is clear is that they will not be the ones at the front line of any "disobedience" - they won't be the ones putting themselves in a position where they can be arrested, or for that matter in a position where they lose part of their salary for going on strike. You can bet while the proletariat are on the picket lines they will be sat in their office making sure they're being paid.
However, it was the idea of civil disobedience itself that lodged itself in my mind. Whilst I'm not advocating any of what I'm about to say (an important statement given my chosen career path) there are some points that are worth mooting given the current economic climate. If the unions are capable of organising this on a large scale, and the population is willing to take part, what is to stop action being taken on a smaller scale?
If you think about it, statutes are acts of parliament given the power of law by the consent of the governed. But how many people actually consent to being fined for driving at 31mph in a 30mph zone? I think the answer is probably not very many.
There are so may laws out there that are unjust. How many people are actually aware of the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre? Set up very much without fanfare a few years ago, this government body uses the police to identify individuals who may be a "threat" to high profile individuals. A good idea on the surface, but who decides where the fixation is? It's not doctors any more, but this special unit. So, if I decide tomorrow to devote this blog to attacking the political decisions of members of the cabinet, and set up websites to do the same, not out of any mental instability but simply to exercise my right to comment, it may well be that this unit can decide that I'm "fixated" and have me held under mental health legislation. A good way to remove political dissent. And if you think I'm being ever so slightly paranoid perhaps you should have a look at Maurice Kirk's story.
So the laws are there, but what if the citizens of this country decided en masse to stop giving their consent? I don't mean there should be a complete free-for-all and a breakdown of civilised society. A simple return to the common law maxims of respect for the life, liberty and property of others. Those are simple laws that keep society in check. People are being fined for putting their bins out on the wrong day - how would concils cope if they tried to enforce one of these crazy fines only to find that all the inhabitants of a town reacted by putting their bins out on the wrong day? They'd never be able to cope with the administrative feat of fining everyone.
Taking it a step further, what if someone on your street was about to be evicted from their home. They'd missed a few mortgage payments because they'd been made redundant, no fault of their own, but were actively seeking work and would soon be in a position to get back into shape financially. But the bank won't allow them the time - possibly a bank that had been "bailed out" by the taxpayer. So, on the day of the proposed eviction the bailiffs turn up to find thirty or forty people peacefully barring entry to the property - no violence, just making it awkward for them. I know the bailiffs are only doing a job, but it's arguably one that profits on other people's misery. If this kind of thing started happening up and down the country, perhaps there'd be a stronger sense of community and the balance of power would start to swing back in favour of the people.
And this kind of thing can work. I had a friend who had his car clamped and had to pay a £70 release fee, which he could barely afford. He argued the point that the warning signs were displayed behind parked cars (this was some years ago) but the clamper remained unmoved and he had to pay the release fee. However, instead of getting violent he simply sat and observed the clamper and waited til he clamped someone else. When this person returned to their car to be greeted by the sight of bright yellow wheel clamp my friend put his recently hatched plan into action. He drove his car into the car park and parked it directly in front of the clamper's van. He then casually walked over to the clamper (who was clearly enjoying fleecing another motorist of £70) and told him that he'd be pleased to move his car and allow the clamper to get on his way so long as he refunded his £70 and took the clamp off the other vehicle without charge. The clamper was clearly not impressed and began to issue threats of physical violence. Now this friend used to be a teddy boy and was quite used to violence, so he remained impassive but did remind the clamper that the there was at least one witness to his threats who was hardly likely to be on his side were the police to be called. Funnily enough, the clamper saw the error of his ways and capitulated to my friend's demands. At no time was my friend violent or abusive - he just decided to make things difficult. So maybe a bit of civil disobedience can work...

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Take the power back

A video worth watching in my humble opinion. Ignore the strange visuals which I think are something to do with the peoplw over at http://www.oldholborn.net (always a good read). The voice which starts at about 1.03 in is David Icke's (although slightly manipulated) and is taken from the end of one of his seven hour plus shows. I've become a bit of a follower of David's over the past few years and whilst I agree that some of what he has to say is a bit "out there" a lot of the things he has to say make an awful lot of sense...

Embedding has been disabled so you'll have to click play and then click on the link to watch it on youtube.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A Couple Of Pictures

When I'm out and about I like to snap pictures of the things that I see, some of which turn out better than others! The wonder of digital cameras being just that, it doesn't matter how many pictures you take seeing as you not wasting "film". Thinking about it, I don't suppose my kids will know what "film" is!

Anyway, I digress. This first picture is the monument at one of the entrances to Harehill Park in Littleborough. The boys like to go there because of the tremendous speed they can get up on one particular roundabout! The park was built with funds raised by the local co-operative society and that is what the monument commemorates. I thought it looked quite pretty inside this arch of blossoming trees.
The picture below is of Peel Monument on Harcles Hill in Holcombe village, Bury. The monument is in honour of Sir Robert Peel, who was born in Bury and was Prime Minister of the UK twice from 1834-35 and 1841-46 and whilst home secretary was influental in the creation of the first modern police force (hence, "peelers" and "bobbies"). We took the boys and the dogs for a walk up the hill and I managed to take this photograph of the monument which is quite imposing when you get up there. I converted it to black and white for that "moody" feel!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Dave

Here's Dave the Rotten sat with N a few weeks after we got him...
Here's Dave the Rotten a few weeks ago, aged just over six months old. He's now taller than the other two with a good twelve months growing left to do!

Lancaster Castle

Today we took a trip to Lancaster Castle. The boys, being boys, always like the idea of going to a castle and the weather, being English and mostly wet, was more conducive to indoor activities. So we climbed in the car and headed up the M6 to have a look at this historic old building.The castle is still used as a category C prison and above is a picture of the prison entrance - on the tour you only get to see about a sixth of the prison. Its the oldest continually used prison in Europe and has a very long history, even back to Roman times (a piece of a Roman alter is on display in Hadrians Tower). The Pendle Witches were held here as was Rudolf Hess during the war and the trial of the Birmingham six was held the Shire Hall - a magnificent room which was formerly a civil court with heraldry adorning its walls. As a piece of trivia, the still active crown court is the only one in the country that is entered through a gift shop!
Above is a picture of the entrance to the gift shop and the start of the tour. It costs £14.00 for a family of four and lasts just over an hour. The guides are very informative and certainly know their stuff. As the castle houses a working Crown Court photography is not allowed for security reasons. This is also a good reason to go at weekend as your visit will then allow access to the court room where you can get a look at the original branding iron housed within the dock. The tour is definitely good value and incredibly interesting.


One of the creepiest moments was a trip into the Old Cells which were built facing inward and therefore there is no external source of light. You are given the opportunity on the tour to experience being locked in one of these tiny rooms. I ventured in with around ten other hardy souls and listened as the door was bolted and the light turned off - it was pitch black! So dark that you really were not able to see your hand in front of your face. It was a fun to experience knowing that I would be out of there in a minute or two but my mind did wander to the poor souls who were left to rot here for such heinous crimes as bankruptcy.

A look at the prisoner database on the castle's website reveals that a James Naylor was convicted of stealing two cows in Manchester in 1818, a crime for which he was sentenced to death! Luckily for him he was reprieved and it is likely therefore that he was transported to either America, the West Indies or Australia. In the same year a Thomas Dawson was convicted of horse theft although we are not told what his sentence was.


Around ten years ago the castle was being decorated and the painters apparently left their ladders unlocked. This gave two prisoners the opportunity to escape, one of whom was desperate to see his newborn daughter. They used the ladders to scale up onto the roof and then straddled them from the edge of one of the forty foot walls (above - the highest of any prison in the UK) as the alarms started ringing around them. The first prisoner made it across but the second wasn't so lucky and he fell the length of the wall. He did survive and the other prisoner was picked up a couple of days later at his mother's house. Both received and extra 18 months onto their sentence.

There's a magnificent church opposite the castle, which I sadly didn't get the name of but there's a picture below.



So there you go. I haven't even scratched the surface, so if you find yourself with a few hours to spare go and have a look. We drove, but it's only a couple of minutes away from the train station right in the centre of Lancaster!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Butterflies

A visit to Chester Zoo a few months ago gave me the opportunity to take some camera phone macro shots of the butterflies in Butterfly Journey. I've no idea what their names are (although the blue one would probably suit "Phyllis") except for the first one which is a Goliath Moth and was bloody huge! This was the only one that was behind glass, the rest were flying free.

Some of the colours are amazing like the pearlescent blue on this one...




Some look a lot more delicate than others, although I would say there aren't many that are very robust...







Sunday, 6 June 2010

More from the boys...

So much for regular posting - once every six months or so is enough I reckon! However, as everyone else is in bed, and the dogs are now fed and watered I thought it was about time to make an effort.

I'm not going to write a lot. I'm going to post a couple of pictures of the boys. Here's Nate on the lion at Heaton Park:

And here's Kai on its compatriot:

Lastly, a picture of the two boys playing in the river near our house tonight...they came home wet but happy!

video

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Update...

We dug the car out...it took some doing but we got there - mostly thanks to Paul, out local mechanic, but I did some pushing too! F and N sat in the car and stayed warm...

New Year, More Snow!

Here we are in 2010 (that's twenty ten...although not quite a second space odyssey) and were still can't plan for bad weather in this country. Ok, so it snowed some, then froze and snowed some more. Then it brightened up and dulled over again. Then there was a bit of sleet but it got too cold for sleet and it snowed again. Then, getting bored of snow the temperature dropped again and it froze over. When I went to take N out yesterday morning the ambient temperature according to the car was -7 degrees which was cold enough to mean that I had to scrape the frost off the inside of the car...

So, aside from the normal chaos that frozen snow over frozen snow over frozen snow causes we thought it couldn't get any worse. We spent last night watching a couple of films and F was all psyched up to head off to work bright and early until the snow started. Lots of snow. And then a bit more. And just for good measure a lot more snow. F did indeed set off for work this morning but after struggling for twenty minutes and getting no more than tw
o miles (so an average of six miles per hour there) she had to ring in to the hospital and tell them she wouldn't be able to make it..."That's ok" they said, "No one else has made it in either!" - and most of them live minutes away! F attempted to call into the local supermarket on her way back home but couldn't make it into the car park. (Incidentally, my car has been stuck up the road from us since Saturday when I had to park it there - I tried to move it yesterday and I may as well have been trying to plait fog). The hospital rang F later on asking if she would try to make it in tomorrow as they have had to cancel all operations for today.

The snow has meant no nursery for N, either. I spoke to K this morning and he was most disappointed that his was the only school in the area which was still open. So, we took the hounds to the river and let them chase the ducks, then we threw snowballs at them, and now, while everyone in the house snoozes I'm watching various vehicles attempt to tackle the hill in front of our house with varying degrees of success. I can't see it being too long before something goes a bit awry, leaving lots of tangled metal...

This picture was taken at some point last week so things are a bit worse now and you can imagine the fun that comes when traffic tries to get up or down that hill: