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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Monday, September 21, 2015

This morning, we have the news that Britain is establishing increased economic activity with the Peoples Republic of China.. and this has raised some eyebrows and prompted discussion of what the implications of doing business with a 'Communist' regime might be..
And it struck me, that we in fact no longer live in a world divided by geographical boundaries, but rather in a world governed by economics. The Chinese will be involved in the building of a new nuclear reactor for us.. a design of their own. They hope to develop a worldwide market for their reactors, indicating they're less interested in ideology and it's spread worldwide, but more interested in industry, and it's saleability.
It seems that we have created a worldwide community dependant on the free flow of ideas and development, and while we still struggle with all this religious nonsense and the terror accompanying it, we are moving away from the mindset that 'faith' is a good reason to go to war. In fact, the only region supplying men and women willing to kill or be killed to support their religious ideas is the Middle East.. or, to be more precise, the Muslim populations around the world..
If we can only mature enough, this too may end. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Greece and it's adventure with the EuroZone..
This issue has been a long-standing topic for my writing..
I need say no more than I have in the past.. nine years I've been warning about the impact of the financial crisis on Greece..

Have a gander back through a few of those years..

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Memory's a funny creature..
 I can recall the summer of '59 as clearly as though it was yesterday.  My father had won a 45 foot grand banks fisher, which had been brought down the St. Lawrence, through the Great Lakes, up to the Kawarthas via the Skugog Riven and the Trent Canals. A full house, aces over queens.
It was a good time; my father was an engineer and the manager of the local Dominion Viscous, a plastic pioneer plant. I never had to think about money; we lived in a big old Victorian house on a hill in a good neighbourhood and my friends and I spent our endless summers playing in the woods behind our house, and the sand pits, a vast desert just half an hour from our front doors.
But the boat. 
It was called 'Manka', which is Algonquin or Chippewa for the Canada goose. It had been well converted into a cruiser which would easily sleep 8, if you were all friends. Powered by two massive, or so I thought at the age of 8, Grey Marine 440 cu/in engines, the Manka could, if pushed, hit 30 knots.
 I was in positive awe of my father, never had he had such stature in my eyes before. I mean we had had our moments, during summers at Balsam Lake at our cottage. He taught me to play cribbage and whist as we wiled away the odd rainy day during the summer holidays. 
 But this boat. This was on an entirely different level. I pictured sailing up the Skugog, up the Trenton Locks to Balsam Lake and our old place. I pictured the looks my summer friends would give us as we moored at our dock, and the fishing trips we'd take to the middle of the lake. I pictured an adventure.
Well, it turned out, that there was a problem. It had originally been a salt-water boat, and being in fresh water for a number of years, had caused the keel, from stem to stern, to rot. So, my father, who was still my image of John Galt (I had read Atlas Shrugged over the previous Spring), hired a long-bed trailer and a Peterbilt , loaded and braced that boat on the trailer, and hauled it through not only downtown Lindsay, but up the steep grade of Albert Hill. We lived at the top of Albert Hill, of course. It took them 5 hours of a Saturday morning, and required not only the permission of City Council, but the attendance of several cops on motorcycles, and as I rode along with my father in the cab of the hauler, several choice expressions found their way into my developing lexicon.
But, after toil and trouble, the route was negotiated with no more than frayed nerves, and the boat, still on it's flatbed with it's bracing holding it upright, as though waiting for Deucalions Flood, stood in our driveway. We had, in retrospect, a huge courtyard, and that 'damned boat' as it became known, took up most of it. Now, as I mentioned, Dad was an engineer. He examined the damage to the keel, crawling the length of the boat past my mothers protests of 'it's not safe Leon' to poke an awl deep into the rotten wood, and quickly decided the Manka was grounded. Literally. However, being the do-it-yourself type, he went to work calculating what material he could use to replace the rot, and after a week or so of thought, decided concrete would be the ideal material. He had considered ordering an oaken beam that would run the length of the boat, but the price was, even then, extortionate. He thought if the Romans could build Rome using concrete, he could cast a new keel for our boat.
He built the form in less than a week, and then we had the added excitement of an actual cement mixer taking up what was left of the room beside our house, as the keel was poured.
My friends were fascinated, and I found them showing up at the house just to look at the 45 foot beached whale of a boat in our driveway. It became the topic of conversation in most of the barbershops, Masonic and Kiwani's  Lodges, and anything else my father had contact with. Most were of the opinion the boat would sink like a stone, what with all that pavement weighing it down, but there were some who booked passage with my father for the maiden voyage. 
I was one of those, with a guaranteed berth.

It strikes me, that those endless summer days, that the social development of the adult male begins in earnest. Friends made during those pre-teen years were almost as close as family, yet as only a few years passed by as we continued on our various roads to adulthood, after only a grade or two had been achieved, we had seen our bond fade, almost losing form and shape until it was only an amorphous memory, with days we thought would be imprinted on our very beings slipping away into fragmentary glimpses of a shaft of sunlight seen through the eyes of a nine year old.
The re-launching of Manka was a momentous day. One of those which promised to be turned and honed by the emery of time. My father had invited all his friends down to Al Wilson's dockyard for a barbecue and general pissup, and to me, from my vantage, it seemed most of the town had shown up to watch this concrete hybrid settle slowly to the bottom of the Skugog and drink my fathers beer. Of course, my friends Larry Lancaster, Brian Broome, and Peter Hall were with me, enjoying the inattention and using it to clamber from stem to stern, touching every item on the boat we thought might be of importance, and being pirates intent on highjacking this worthy bucket.

Friday, May 08, 2015

'A most amazing result' is how one pundit has put it..
David Cameron and the Conservatives have been elected to form a majority government in Westminster. In the wake, Ed Milliband of Labour, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats and Nigel Farage of UKIP have all resigned as leaders of their respective Parties.
To make this particular election even more interesting, Scotland, almost all of Scotland, voted in the SNP. Fifty-six of fifty-nine seats followed the Nationalist banner, increasing their presence in London from 6 in the last government, to this staggering number.
While the Conservative majority is outright, it is slender, and with issues the likes of the European Referendum coming up, the backbenchers will take on a long awaited prominence. 
I cannot find it in me to envy the Conservative Whips in this Parliament. But I am comforted by the outright majority David Cameron has wrought..
Let's see what evolves.. if nothing else it should be.. interesting..

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Now it's not that I miss the feel of an old hat, but with our General Election a week away, it demands attention, if only to record current sentiment.
It was back in 1979 when the Labour government of Jim Callaghan was ousted in a vote of non-confidence.. Callaghan made one comment that is forever engraved in political bon mots, to the effect that 'it was the first time turkey's voted for an early Christmas'.. Never has that epithet been more apt as in this election, in particular in Scotland. 
The latest polls indicate the SNP could sweep the country, taking all 59 Scottish seats. Mind you, the leader of that Party will not be among those standing for a job in Westminster, she'll be too busy pulling the strings in the back rooms of both Hollyrood and the Palace in London. But what amazes me as one who considers himself British, is the weight a separatist group has gained. 
Sadly, it is a close parallel to the rise of the PQ in Quebec.
Point being, when all's said and done, is this rise of 'nationalism' we've seen of late throughout Scotland, is counter-productive, and the continued pursuit of independence by a major political force will only lead to years of unrest and division. And now to make it even more insulting to the rest of the UK, a block of Scots will now hold significant sway on issues which don't even concern them or their constituents.

This is a trend which cannot be allowed to develop into the status quo now in place in Canada, where it was agreed the entire country would be officially bilingual, with the exception of Quebec itself. Where the Quebec Assembly could pass a Bill 101, while the other provinces were bound by Federal Law.

Not here. Not in Scotland.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Not long now 'til the General Election, and this one's going to be hard to call.. It's expected David Cameron will maintain a plurality in the Commons, but an outright majority is a long shot. The one thing the Conservatives have going for them, is their economic long game. It's demonstrated results indicate a steady recovery, albeit a slow one, and this should be enough to give the Conservatives another kick at the can.
The problem looming, is the majority projected for the SNP here in Scotland. That Party could take as many as 60 seats, all in Scottish constituencies, representing a sizeable voting block in Westminster. They, under Nicola Sturgeon, will be led to oppose anything the Tories propose, and while they're nowhere near as influential now to cause any worries in the blue camp, the possibility of there being a marriage of convenience in future votes makes them a annoyance.
Nine days and we go to the polls.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A point worth considering.. it may well be one of the symptoms of ageing.. that the most profound thoughts on life, the past, the future, come just at the cusp of sleep.
I find, as my eyes are finally really losing focus, that my mind is gaining.. that the acuity of what could be called revelation is vastly heightened past the mundane levels of the day.

If I could but drag myself from the comfort of my bed, and make my bleary way to the computer to record these weighty thoughts, I could possibly found a religion.

In fact, having dragged that old saw out from it's dusty jacket, the concept of 'faith' is often one of the many flashes darting through my mind as in the dark I lay. I'm becoming more and more aware of my own mortality, as an actual entity.. Not quite the elephant in the room stage, but growing faster than a Labrador pup..
I have watched many of those who were close enough to me in age to be called contemporaries slip away this year. Many were prominent, too many familiar and known to me. Now the thought of leaving this shell does not give me pause whatsoever. I cannot believe the 'spark'.. both literary and literal.. which is in each of us, can be destroyed. It's analogous to a house being removed from the electrical grid. The power from that house merely returns to the flow, until there's another light to be lit.
Sounds more new-age than I'd like it to.. I suppose I'm as close to a follower of the Albigensian Heresy  as anything else.. Be that as it may, it is a 'faith'. It affords me peace, in that death does not frighten me. I have attended the funerals of enough of those close to me, to understand a basic fact; death comes for all. 
And if all those who have gone before can take that step with equanimity.. who would I be to do less.

And I'm not even in my bed yet..

Thursday, March 26, 2015

This day deserves marking before it comes to an end..
Today the second of my children left this island, and returned to Canada. My youngest son joins his slightly older sister in forging a life in what I still believe, even after 20 years, is a gentler place.
Canada is not paved with gold.. it is not a paradise.. it is however a country which allows you to make the best of yourself if you're willing to put the effort in. Ability is appreciated and rewarded, at least for the most part.
I wish my son all success. I am sure and safe in the firm belief all my children are prepared.
Sure. From this keyboard to God's printer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The oddest thoughts pass through the head, as the clock speeds it's way towards midnight..
I wonder, at the marvels of the quotidian day, reduced to fragments of memory which wisp-like float through the mind.. How many of the interactions we face remain exactly as they happened.. how many are redacted to excise the unpleasant.. how many are exaggerated to enhance the pleasure we felt..
The mind's our best line of defence against the constant barrage of nonsense taken in by eye and ear.. and the best defence when our mouth opens and tripe flows forth..
Amazing. No doubt it's what keep politicians sane.

Politics. How dry and dusty can a topic be.
But, we on this island go to the polls on the 2d of May, and the hustings are in full swing. There's no need to go through the various Party Manifesto's.. no need to examine every plank in their platforms.. They are essentially all the same, perhaps with minor variations on a theme..
It seems the Conservatives hold a very slight lead over Labour.. But fringe parties the likes of the SNP (Scottish Nationalist Party) and UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), both jokes 18 months ago, could well be King Makers in this new Parliament. Under the leadership, such as it was, of Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats who have traditionally been the also rans, are about to disappear, eliminated in Scotland by the SNP and in England by UKIP.
Yet, while we're teetering on the brink of an horrendous coalition, the majority of Brits simply don't give a damn.

It's a statement in itself, that ennui can set in so strongly, when the man on the street has lost all belief in the system that governs him, and those elected to run that system. 
It's a bitter pill to swallow, this knowledge our personal situations will not really change regardless of who is in power.
Two months, a little less actually, to decide which Party is the least of all evils.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Upon reflection, I feel my stance on nature/nurture could be misunderstood. I am not suggesting our collective morality has imposed a situation upon those who become fringe hangers; I am suggesting a certain mentality can be swayed to extremism in reaction to the various stimuli provided by those the impressionable mind encounters. Be that ridicule, physical bullying, or simply being part of a suspect race, it all contributes.
But it says something about a cause whose dogma must be propagated behind the barrel of a gun. It says something about those who follow that cause that they are willing to pull the trigger. They have condemned themselves by their actions, and must be subject to the legal pro forma and then executed.
But, the followers who came from Britain must give we who remain , cause to examine our own devotion to our own cause and to what length we will go to preserve it.

Monday, March 02, 2015

To most of the world, those who live on this island are seen stereotypically. There are many variations and gradations on the themes, but all have at their kernel an overweight, pint drinking darts throwing football watching bloke who'd have your back in a fight. Probably.
It wouldn't be politic to go into how we see those from the US or Canada, or India, or Central Europe. Maybe as a follow-up.
However, we, even with our inherent cultural differences, see ourselves as tolerant, sensitive, yet determined people. We are fair. We accept those among us from lands far away as positive additions. Differences in faith are not questioned; tolerance is paramount in being 'British'.
We're neither the stereotype the world may hold, nor that we're determined for ourselves.
We wonder, how three teenage Muslim girls could throw their life on this island away to fly off to Turkey, and then take a bus to the Syrian border to join Islamic State jihadists. We wonder how the man video'd beheading several people for the benefit of those who feed on propaganda could turn out to be a Londoner, a man who grew up and was educated here in the UK. The man known to his family and friends here as Mohammed Emwazi is now 'Jihadi John' to both the world, and his confrères.
We, in the collective sense, made this man. Somewhere along the line he decided to abandon being British, and committed himself to an ideal into which he could fit comfortably. We have had several incidents involving those who believe themselves to be following the dream of establishing a Caliphate over the past couple of years, and while we in our comfort can surreptitiously snigger at the US with it's race problems, we must become more introspective, for ours are worse.
We are not as tolerant as we believe ourselves to be. We are not as accepting of foreign ideas as we tell ourselves we are. We are not a society of equals.
Not that any country can make that claim confidently, regardless of constitutions or bills of rights.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Perhaps it comes from growing up in Canada, with it's laissez faire attitude and a sense of 'right' which had been distilled from British roots with a dash of European flair thrown in for good measure..
But I find it disturbing to be bombarded with the oddities and sexual predilections of our celebrities. From politicians through the ranks of children's entertainers, we have had a five year parade of those named and shamed and prosecuted, for historical sexual misconduct dating back into the 70's.
Now I'm certainly not implying that such behaviour should go  unpunished.. but the relish with which the British public, clamouring that no stone to be left unturned in the search for these fossilized miscreants, reads reports from those claiming to have been the target of one public figure or another, leaves me somewhat sickened, tell the truth.. It's schadenfreude personified. 
In the gentler atmosphere of Canada, such things are recognized as horrific crimes, and those found guilty of such actions as paederasty are quietly locked away, with the victims left in relative peace and quiet to try and deal with the effects with the help of freely offered psychiatric support. There is not a running commentary on the trial of the accused, and so slavish delight expressed by the media when they're sent off to rot in jail. Just a sense of justice having been served.
In contrast, this Britain laps eagerly at daily reports of gruesome detail.. terrible suffering.. both from the victim and the now geriatric accused.
Gary Glitter has been sentenced to 14 years for historic acts of sexual abuse. This alone would have been sufficient.
But his trial, and the trials of several others, have kept the great unwashed entertained for more than 5 years now.
I say enough. This airing of filthy linen for the amusement of hoi poloi, needs to come to an end.

I do realize to expect positive reaction to this is bucking history.. such trials have been aired publicly in this country since before the case of Oscar Wilde, who by the way was sent to Reading Gaol for two years for 'gross indecency'.
We do love to see our perverts exposed.
Makes one wonder if the media is really the mirror in which we see both ourselves, and the world around us..

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Now, think carefully.
What would you say, if the question 'how good do you feel about life in general' was put to you?
We have, on this island, an air of suspicion which has wafted in like a mist, falling on everyone's shoulders. There are cliques forming in many camps.
While we in Scotland have recently put political fervour behind us, for the most part at any rate, the parliamentary kettle is bubbling merrily away in England. It could be considered disturbing to watch the growing support for what used to be a marginal party with limited appeal blossom into a force which could conceivably form a substantial presence in the Commons come the 3d of this May. The United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP, has snatched seats in by-elections from all of the established parties, and it's leader, Nigel Farage, has graduated from a joke, to a powerful joke.
We have been told our economy is recovering; little seems to have changed as far as the ease with which the average household income stretches. We have been told being 'British' carries a responsibility by the media and David Cameron; we are told several times a week of how British football supporters have disgraced themselves abroad and at home, and of British men and women running amok. We are maintaining; we look over our shoulder guardedly. 

But never you mind..
Put on the kettle.. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Time to get back to the simple musings of a simple mind.

It's interesting to note, that should one care to cast an eye back to that which was written as far back as 2006, or perhaps even 2005, could have been written today..
Odd how that old French saying is so often born out.. plus ca change, plus que le meme chose..

These days, when an ear is turned to other's conversations when the volume of the communication makes it impossible to do otherwise, the general tone is one of confusion and, dare one say, fear. 
The Almighty (and perhaps the almighty) knows well the pressures facing today's man on the street. The ubiquitous presence of those who would run amok; the terrorist hidden in plain sight posing as your neighbour. An economic situation which, when looked at from a birds-eye perspective, indicates a snail trail towards a faint light which we have been told is the end of the tunnel, but which offers nothing in the way of an immediate relief. The knowledge that those in education will, in all likelihood, have to leave the country to use their knowledge to gainful effect. The inevitability that those who are presently employed, will face years of deep debt before they then have to realize a diminished old age due to a diminished return on their investments in pension funds. A host of emotional taxing effects, which when listed, stretches away into the infinite.
And, this generation.. this present population, feels somewhat personally affronted..
One can add to this list of pressures the lack of knowledge of history. Knowing this has been the constant situation for all of mankind through all of it's history affords a modicum of.. perhaps fatalism is the word.

But, not to worry. 
You put on the kettle, and we'll have a nice cup of tea.

As a coda.. watch the developments at the meeting of the Eurozone Finance Ministers which starts.. officially.. at two this afternoon..
There is a draughty window open, and this house of cards is vulnerable.

Another trend which is developing throughout Europe.. notably in the UK and France.. is the 'radicalization'  of Muslim youth. I must add this is a new word to describe a new situation.
The Met has issued a BOLO on 3 young women, one of them 15, who are thought to be on their way to Syria to join IS.
Now it's not what one would call a bad thing, for youth to be interested in, and active in, their faith. However, the bastardization of the tenets of Islam by those who use the Q'ran as justification to murder innocents is beginning to work it's way into the Zeitgeist furthered by social media, and when it begins to become an issue which is turning our young into modern Brownshirts, it becomes an issue which deserves the attention of all of us.

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