Good riddance to both of them

Israel to join US in quitting UNESCO.

 Good riddance to both of them.

Yet another example of the Israeli tail wagging the American dog.  I wonder when it is going to dawn on the US public that corrupt politicians are spending US lives and gold to serve the interests of another country.

Perhaps it has already occurred to them.

I suppose they are no great loss to UNESCO. Israeli tail wagging over the Iranian nuclear deal is much more serious.  Why would the US behave so irresponsibly?  I suspect payments to corrupt politicians, and not only from Israel.

Saudi Arabia has recently agreed to spend $15 billion to buy Thaad missile systems from a consortium consisting of Lockheed Martin Space Systems [as prime contractor] and Raytheon, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Honeywell, BAE Systems, Oshkosh Defense, MiltonCAT and the Oliver Capital Consortium. Lots of interested parties in that deal. Lots of money to spread around.

The Brexiters plot to oust May as UK Prime Minister

The people behind the Brexit campaign want to get rid of Theresa May as Prime Minister and replace her with Boris Johnson [or someone similarly pro Brexit]. They are conducting a covert campaign to achieve that objective. The first step is to force May to resign and thus trigger an election for a new Conservative Party leader [and new Prime Minister]. They are using anything they can, however absurd, to apply pressure.

For example, May had a coughing fit during her speech at the recent Conservative Party Conference. That, some are apparently arguing, is yet another sign that she must be sacked. Coughing during a speech, their media hirelings argue, is clear evidence  that she is totally incompetent.

Once they force May's resignation the key to their success is the process by which the Conservative Party elects a new leader.

Step 1 - Conservative Members of Parliament select two candidates. Boris Johnson would be almost certain to be one of the candidates, even though most Conservative MPs despise him. He would get enough votes to get on the short list. It would not matter who the other candidate was.

Step 2 - Conservative Party members in the constituencies would vote on the two short list candidates. Since most party members are older, more right wing and more pro Brexit than their MPs, or the general population, there would be a good chance that Boris would be elected party leader.

Step 3 - The Conservative Party has the most votes in Parliament so whoever is elected as the new party leader would become the new Prime Minister. There would be no need for a General Election. The lucky winner would then have five years remaining of the current parliament before a general election would have to be held.

Plenty of time to arrange the right kind of Brexit. One that would get  rid of those tiresome EU regulations on workers rights, environmental standards, product quality and competitive bidding. A chance to get back to the kind of Britain we used to have. Where everything was organised by and run for the benefit of the right chaps and the proles knew taught their place. Lets call it Boris World.

Being able to organise whatever Brexit you want is the prize and getting rid of May is the way to win the prize.  No wonder somebody is running a smear campaign.  I have no love for Theresa but the alternatives are much worse.

If you think the process by which someone can become Prime Minister without having to win a General Election is a little strange you may remember that Teresa May became Prime Minster through this process. The previous Prime Minister resigned. May stood as leader, and since there were no other candidates, she became the new party leader and Prime Minister. The party members in the constituencies never had the chance to vote. Nor did the UK electorate.

Some people found it suspicious that Boris Johnson did not stand as a candidate. Did someone give him a choice? Stand as a candidate and if you win you will be Prime Minister. If you lose you will get nothing. Do not stand as a candidate and we will make you Foreign Secretary. Did that happen? I do not know but it is hard to see how he became Foreign Secretary on merit..

Ups and Downs in India.

Ups and Downs in India is a Snakes and Ladders type board game. It was produced in 1930 by the Church Missionary Society. I have the board but not the box, tokens or instructions.

Players start at a British training college and then, after a bit of medical training its on the steamer to India.

In square 59 the missionary uses a magic lantern show to make converts. I try the same thing when I am trying to recruit people to my Satanic cult. A quick puppet show, a few tunes strummed on my ukulele and they are ready to worship the Horned One.

Any trouble makers who don't sign up are stoned as in square 57. Nothing like a brick in a sock to persuade people to abandon their old gods.

Square 62 - Tigers and leopards used to kill a lot of people even in the 1930's.  In the early1930's Jim Corbett's shot the two man eating leopards of Kumaon [they had killed 525 people], the Champawat tigress [434 kills[ and the Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag.  His books are well worth reading. He observes that by 1930 there were probably only about one tenth of the leopards and tigers there had been 40 or 50 years earlier.   Link 

A missionary could have done more good with a big gun than a magic lantern.

I am not sure how many young people wanted to become missionaries after playing this game. The pictures of shortages and sickness must have put some off.

Apparently the Church Missionary Society thought malaria was caught from heavy rain. No mosquito nets visible in square 34. That is strange because Ronald Ross won a Nobel Prize in 1902 for discovering the link between mosquitoes and malaria in 1890.

And then the happy ending.

Ebay and fraud

The UK's Guardian newspaper has an excellent article that claims that eBay and PayPal are failing to deal adequately with buyer fraud.  It gives examples of buyers who appear to be exploiting lax eBay and PayPal systems to steal from sellers.


I have been buying and selling on eBay for years. It used to be ok, a good place to dispose of surplus items.  I have returned to selling after a break of a couple of  years and have found a very different situation.

I have several items for sale.  I know how to set prices and write descriptions. I have 100% positive feedback. In the past the items would have sold quickly. Now eBay produces

1.  time wasters and idiots.

2.  lots of offers to buy off eBay for cash.

3.  very few genuine buyers.

I am very dissatisfied with eBay.  I think they need to change, but will they?  I doubt it.  They have a de facto monopoly. Why should they.

The Guardian has reported another example of an eBay and PayPal related fraud

I lost £1,165 to eBay fraudster when selling my electric guitar

[In this  article Guardian advises that 'Our advice is never sell an expensive item on eBay without demanding the buyer pays cash – in person. The risks are too great of doing otherwise.']

Another strategy that some sellers might be able to follow is get a buyer through eBay but then sell off eBay for cash. That cuts both eBay and PayPal out of the loop and makes some frauds impossible.

eBay and PayPal would not collect their commissions, but they would only have themselves to blame.

Update 8th October 2017

I have a £500 plus item for sale on eBay. So far there have been four fraudulent attempts to buy it. In each case the fraudster has used an account with a 100% feedback record.  In each case the attempt has failed because I insist on collection in person by someone with photo ID [e.g. passport or driving licence].

eBay have suggested that I insist on immediate payment. This means the item remains on sale until payment is received. Of course, that does not prevent most forms of buyer fraud but it does ensure the item remains on the market and avoids the need to relist.

Hiding from Britain's surveillance state

A whistleblowers guide contains advice on how to blow the gaff on government misdeeds without being outed by Britain’s secret police agencies.

The guide contains a lot of well considered and useful advice.

For example, if you plan to telephone your story to the media.

“Ever since the days of IRA or INLA bomb attacks and fake bomb hoaxes, all  public phone boxes can be pin-pointed within seconds (often before the phone call has finished) if they are calling certain phone numbers, including all the main newspaper, tv and radio stations.

The same is true for 999 Emergency Service calls, which show up immediately they are answered, on a touch screen graphical information system map.

If you plan to hand over documents to a journalist.

Choose your photocopier carefully. Many photocopiers, especially colour ones, have built in anti-counterfeit US currency routines in the software. Many also have hard disks which record a copy of all ducuments copied on the machine.

Some combined photocopiers and printers are capable of printing tiny yellow serial numbers (e.g. Canon) on each sheet or a special series of dots (e.g. Xerox DocuColor, which makes tracing which machine was used to help to "leak" a document, if the original printout or photocopy is seized, quite a bit easier.

Many typewriters, computer printers and photocopiers do leave characteristic wear and tear imperfections on the documents they produce, which a forensics laboratory may be able to match to a machine a work or your personal machine at home, if it is ever seized as evidence in a "leak inquiry".

What about photographs?

“Your source or the "anonymous" publisher of a leaked document online may use a scanner to copy the document, but they may instead  use a smart phone or digital camera.

There is  make / model identifying EXIF metadata embedded in the  digital images taken by most types of  camera. These may be used as evidence if your camera is seized during a leak inquiry investigation.

There is even facility for Global Positioning Satellite latitude and longitude data to be stored within this metadata which may provide clues or evidence as to your identity or that of your confidential source.

The mobile phone is as vital tool in state surveillance.

Do not use your normal mobile phone to contact a journalist or blogger. All phone calls are recorded in the UK. The police will have access to your number, the number of the person you are calling, your location and the duration of the call. In some cases the content will also be recorded.

Buy a cheap pre-paid mobile phone from a supermarket or some other anonymous source.

Do not buy the phone or top up phone credit using a credit card or  make use of a supermarket loyalty card [if you have any sense you will not have a loyalty card].

Do not switch on or activate the new mobile at home or at work, or when your normal mobile phone is turned on (the first activation of a mobile phone has its physical location logged, and it is easy to see what other phones are active in the surrounding cells at the same time.

Do not register your pre-paid mobile phone, despite the tempting offers of "free" phone credit.

Do not store any friends or family or other business phone numbers on this disposable phone - only press or broadcast media or blogger contacts.

Set a security  code on the phone. Even when turned off your phone will regularly ping nearby cell towers, providing a record of where you have been.

Physically destroy the phone and the SIM card once you have done your whistle blowing. Remember that your DNA and fingerprints will be on this mobile phone handset.

Do not call from a public call box.

On the 20th November 2006 the UK's Mirror newspaper reported that -


BT plans to put thousands of spy camera recorders in its phone boxes and beam suspects mugshots to police.

Cameras stationed on top of lampposts near the kiosks will send images to hidden digital video recorders inside the booths.

Suspects photos will then be messaged almost instantly to hand-held digital assistants used by police and emergency services.

The scheme is already being tried out in Tower Hill, East London, and is due to start in the Midlands soon before going nationwide.

Redcare Vision, BT's engineering arm, said: "The current climate of unease with regards to the safety of our streets has led to a need to expand the CCTV network across the country." 

What is clear  is the extent of the UK’s surveillance state. It is also clear that the state has all the laws and apparatus it needs to prevent inconvenient stories reaching the media.

Do you want to bet that they are not using those powers? Ostensibly the surveillance apparatus has been created to protect us from terrorist. In reality, it has been created to help the government suppress dissent and prevent embarrassing exposure of their activities.

The media has been really stupid not to alert people to the risks of surveillance. Just wait for them to start to whine when they notice that their confidential sources are drying up.

Mrs May as Violet Elizabeth Bott

Theresa May, the UK's Primer Minister has threatened to be 'a bloody difficult woman' if she does not get her way in Brexit negotiations with the EU.

That puerile threat reminded me of Violet Elizabeth Bott, a character in Richmal Crompton's 'Just William' series of children's books.  Link

The lisping spoiled daughter of the local nouveau riche millionaire, Miss. Bott forced a reluctant William and his Outlaws to allow her to join them on their adventures, by threatening: "I'll thcream and thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick" if she did not get her way.

 Since Mrs. May has almost no bargaining chips to use in her negotiations with the EU perhaps her strategy will involve being sick over Jean-Claude Juncker.

"Jobby" Johnson steps in it again

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson continues his role as the Conservative Government's  'King of Gaffes'.

"Politicians from across the spectrum have rounded on Boris Johnson for suggesting the UK could join any US military action against the Syrian regime without parliamentary approval."  Guardian.

It was funny when he used to play the clown on light entertainment programmes on the television.  Its not funny any more.

Iron Mountain hideaway

From this article on the Iron Mountain storage facility.

'In the sixties and early seventies, Mesick said, people sometimes slept in the mine: it contained fallout shelters, built and maintained by Iron Mountain for executives from Exxon, Shell, and other big companies. 

One especially elaborate shelter, he said, had sixty-five hotel rooms, each with a private bath, and a large cafeteria with a commercial kitchen; in the mid-century-modern bedrooms, curtains obscured the concrete. According to Mesick, in the event of nuclear war, some executives, along with their families, would have been evacuated by helicopter from New York City. “They’d hired local folks to tend to them, to cook for them, to clean for them,” Mesick told me. “Their idea was to wait out the storm while the debris and radioactivity were going on overhead—then they were going to come out and sell oil to everyone who was left.” 

Every now and then, Mesick recalled, the executives would run a “live exercise”—essentially, they’d come and hang out for the weekend.'

It's good to know that the really important people would have been safe.

Dean Village, Edinburgh

Dean Village is one of the most attractive parts of Edinburgh. It is a ten minute walk up Queensferry Street from the west end of Princes Street in central Edinburgh.

Several centuries ago the Water of Leith was dammed and water powered flour mills set up in the village. At one point there were 11 mills.

Now the former mills and workers tenements have been very attractively restored to provide housing.

Telford's magnificent 106 feet high bridge is just down river from the village and the Water of Leith Walkway passes the village. It is a 3.5 mile walk along the walkway from Dean Village to Leith. The Dean Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art are close to the village.

The area has now become an attractive place to live.

This flat was recently for sale.

The flat is rather small has only  one double bedroom and one single bedroom/box room but it went on sale at offers over £265,000

ISIS gets an air force

..and a navy too.

How to get the US military to act as your stooges.

Step 1 - stage a gas attack and get the Western politicians and media to blame it on the Syrian Government.  Do not bother to falsify any evidence. Nobody will ask for it.

Step 2 - watch in glee as the US Navy launches cruise missiles against Syrian airbase.  Thank Allah for making stupid people.

Step 3 - listen to Trump threaten to bomb Syrian government if another gas attack occurs.  Congratulations, you have just been given a blank check.

Step 4 -  stage another gas attack.

Step 5 - repeat until WW3 breaks out and all infidels are destroyed.

Did Russia hack the US election?

In a Guardian podcast ex MI5 agent Annie Machon explains the story behind the fake news.


Then as now.

STEPHEN: I am sorry, sir, that you force me to forget the respect due to you as my father. I am an Englishman; and I will not hear the government of my country insulted.

UNDERSHAFT [a munitions maker]: The government of your country! I am the government of your country. I and Lazarus. Do you suppose that you and half a dozen amateurs like you, sitting in a row in that foolish gabble shop, can govern Undershaft and Lazarus?

No, my friend: you will do what pays us. You will make war when it suits us, and keep peace when it doesn't. You will find out that trade requires certain measures when we have decided on those measures.

When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is a national need. When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military.

And in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers, and the delight of imagining that you are a great statesman.

Government of your country! Be off with you, my boy, and play with your caucuses and leading articles and historic parties and great leaders and burning questions and the rest of your toys. I am going back to my counting house to pay the piper and call the tune.

Major Barbara. A play by Oscar Wilde. Premiered in 1905.

Who took all the money? Why am I worse off than my parents?

Why are most of us becoming poorer?   Why don't the young people of today have more to look forward to?  Why are they burdened with debt and struggling to find decent work? Why do they seem destined to become poorer than their parents?

There are some short term factors at work. They will pass. More ominously, there are long term processes at work which will not pass but will make things worse.

The quoted text below is an edited extract from a column by Richard Wolff in The Guardian.

He was writing about the US, but I think the same forces are at work in the UK. The process is just more advanced in the US.

"Workers enjoyed a rising level of real wages that afforded their families a rising standard of living. Ever harder work paid off in rising consumption. The rich got richer faster than the middle and poor, but almost no one got poorer. Nearly all citizens felt "middle class". A profitable capitalism kept running ahead of labour supply. So, it kept raising wages to retain employees, across the 19th century until the 1970s.

Then everything changed. Real wages stopped rising, as  capitalists redirected their investments to produce and employ abroad, while replacing millions of workers  with computers. The  women's liberation moved millions of  adult women to seek paid employment. Capitalism no longer faced a shortage of labour.

Employers took advantage of the changed situation: they stopped raising wages. When basic labour scarcity became labour excess, not only real wages, but eventually benefits, too, would stop rising. Over the last 30 years, the vast majority of  workers have, in fact, gotten poorer, when you sum up flat real wages, reduced benefits (pensions,  etc.), reduced public services and raised tax burdens."

So, until the 1970s workers enjoyed rising living standards because the demand for labour exceeded its supply. Unemployment was low, people could easily change jobs and real living standards increased year after year.

Then, according to Wolff, three factors changed the labour supply and demand relationship.

Fake News

Having purveyed fake news for decades the British press is getting frightfully annoyed about fake news on the internet. Nobody hates a liar more than a than a lying hypocrite.

How dare these internet scallywags lie to the public. That's the prerogative of the government and the media. How else can our rulers maintain the false consciousness that is so essential to the maintenance of a well policed state.

One of the reasons that some people voted to leave the EU was that some British newspapers had been printing lies and distortions about the EU ever since we joined. The sustained drip, drip of poison finally had its designed effect.Of course, Brexit will be  bad for most people, but some chaps expect to do very well out of it once they are free of all that annoying EU regulation.

The Economist has a nice piece from Cory Doctorow identifying the most prolific purveyors of fake news about the EU.

EU lies and the British tabloids who told them

 Private Eye has a cartoon which neatly skewers the hypocrisy of the Daily Mail [and the stupidity of its readers].

Sikunder Burnes

I have just finished reading Craig Murray's superb biography of Sikunder Burnes.

Burnes was a British officer, an explorer and a key participant in the Great Game [to keep the Russians out of India]. He took part in the invasion of Afghanistan and was murdered in Kabul.

It is an excellent read. So is Craig Murray's blog -

Obama - in as a hero, out as an ass-clown

The Obama Democrats tried to smear both Russia and Trump with the absurd and unsubstantiated election hacking story and the expulsion of Russian diplomats. Instead, Putin has made them look like a troupe of clowns by acting moderately and sensibly.

Obama regime decides to end on a sad and sour note

The Obama regime decides to end on a sad and sour note  by accusing Russia and its demonic leader of hacking the US election. Hint: Clinton only lost because Trump was helped by Satan Russia.

No evidence has been produced and nobody claims the emails that were revealed were untrue. Its just that the public were not supposed to see behind the curtain.

Nobody, apart from a few whining Democrats, thinks that the emails had any effect on the election.

Get over it, you crybabies. You lost and most of what you did is going to get undone.

All, all of a piece throughout;
Thy chase had a beast in view;
Thy wars brought nothing about;
Thy lovers were all untrue.
'Tis well an old age is out,
And time to begin a new.    

The Secular Masque  By John Dryden

Queen Theresa speaks on Brexit

Greetings my subjects

I am fighting to take my country out of the European Union and restore our sovereignty.

Of course, sovereignty is best exercised by a wise and benevolent ruler.

I have therefore decided that -

1.  Parliament will not be allowed a vote on the [advisory] referendum. They would only get it wrong and if I do not implement Brexit Boris the Roundhead may topple me off my throne.

2.  All negotiations will be conducted in secret. It would only make my subjects unhappy if they knew what was going on.

3.  Parliament will not be allowed a vote on whether to accept or reject the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. See 1. for my reason for this decision.

The BBC and Lord Janner

This BBC article has the following biography of the paedophile Lord Janner.

  • Born in Cardiff in 1928
  • Served in the Army and studied at Cambridge before becoming a barrister and then QC
  • Labour MP for Leicester North West and then Leicester West from 1970 until retiring in 1997, when he was made a life peer
  • Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2009
  • Suspended from the Labour Party in April 2015
  • Ruled unfit to stand trial over allegations of child sexual abuse on 7 December 2015
  • Died two weeks later, aged 87
Nothing much there to explain why he should have so miraculously escaped prosecution for his crimes. Or, explain why he was given a peerage when he should have been given a prison sentence.

Here are a few more biographical details that the BBC clearly didn't consider relevant.

Chairman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews
Vice President – The Association for Jewish Youth
Vice President – The Jewish Leadership Council
President – The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women
Advisory Board – Community Security Trust
Vice President – The World Jewish Congress
Chairman – The Holocaust Educational Trust
Director – The United Jewish Israel Appeal

Merkel's responsibility for migrant deaths

Does Merkel have any responsibility, legal or ethical, for the migrants who drown whilst trying to reach Europe?

In the USA they have the legal concept of 'attractive nuisance'.

"The attractive nuisance doctrine applies to the law of torts, in the United States. It states that a landowner may be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on the land if the injury is caused by an object on the land that is likely to attract children. The doctrine is designed to protect children who are unable to appreciate the risk posed by the object, by imposing a liability on the landowner. The doctrine has been applied to hold landowners liable for injuries caused by abandoned cars, piles of lumber or sand, trampolines, and swimming pools. However, it can be applied to virtually anything on the property of the landowner."
The idea is that even if the children are illegally trespassing on your property and you have put up signs to warn them off you might still be liable for any injury they sustain.

If you substitute 'desperate people' for children and  'Germany' for 'swimming pool' you can see the relevance of the doctrine.

When Merkel announced an open door policy for migrants she created an attractive nuisance which was sure to draw both refugees from Syria and economic migrants from all over. Inevitably, many drowned whilst trying to cross the Mediterranean.

In the USA the attractive nuisance doctrine creates a civil liability, not a criminal offence. As far as I know there is no equivalent doctrine in Europe so Merkel is in no danger of paying for the  folly of her actions.

Merkel may be able to skip merrily away from her responsibility for migrant deaths but she should not be able to avoid the blame for the damage she has done to the European ideal.

She behaved with gross irresponsibility and has done immense damage to European unity. To take one example. The United Kingdom will soon be voting on whether we should continue in the EU or leave. The Eurosceptic arguments have been greatly strengthened by two pieces of evidence.

1. That the EU has been totally unable to deal with the migrant crisis. Its flabby response has been exacerbated by its most powerful member behaving with blind disregard for the common interest.

2. Germany has far too much power.

One thing is clear. Merkel must go. She has been able to stay in power so far because of a peculiarity of the German electoral system but the Germans must act to ensure that she goes ASAP.

How on earth did she not see that her actions would draw millions of the desperate, the greedy and the violent to Europe?  The British response to the Syrian refugee crisis is the right one. It has two parts.

1. Giving hundreds of millions of pounds to support people in refugee camps.

2. Only accepting migrants from refugee camps and then only people in certain categories, families and not violent young men in their twenties.

If German had adopted the same policy it could have taken as many refugees as it liked but avoided all the deaths and political damage.

Monte Piana in the Dolomites

During the First World War the Austrians and Italians fought over this flat topped mountain. The Italians had one part of the plateau and the Austrians the other. A narrow bridge called the Forcella dei Castrati [?] connected the two parts. You can see the two parts and the bridge in the photograph below.

The plateau is now an open air WW1 museum, with reconstructed trenches and bunkers.

A former Italian military road runs up from a car park near Lake Misurina to Refuge Bosi at 2206 meters. Private vehicles are not allowed on this road, so you must either walk up or take a shuttle bus. These buses give a fast and exciting ride. The road runs around the side of the mountain and is steep and narrow, with no barriers between the road and eternity.

Refuge Bose has a small museum that is worth visiting at some point. From the refuge take path n.122 which runs off to the left. This runs around the edge of the plateau and passes a number of tunnels and bunkers created by the Italians during the war. A torch is useful at this point.

Once on the plateau there are lots of paths and you can just roam around looking at the restored WWI trenches, tunnels and bunkers. There is a marked historical trail which will lead you past the best bits.There are a couple of short stretches of grade one via ferrata in this area.

See also

Strada delle Gallerie

Via Ferrata Lagazuoi Tunnels

Map of walks and via ferrata

Pollution from coal power stations

Which country is producing the most carbon pollution from coal powered electricity generators?

Yes, you have guessed it -it is China. Closely followed by the good old USA.

Blue circles represent the total carbon emissions in millions of tons from coal fired power stations. The outer ring represents a country's total emissions from coal, oil and gas power stations. The white area is therefore the emissions from oil and gas fuelled power generation.

Note that Australia produces more pollution from coal powered stations than the UK, despite the UK having about four times the population.

The Berlin Wall - an old lie exposed -

During the Cold War the East Germans put a barrier through Berlin [and all along the border] to stop people 'escaping' to the West.

Here we have a photo of an East German soldier jumping the wire.

It was all clear evidence of how bad life must be over there and how cruel the regime.  We were told that very few people managed to escape and only at serious risk to their lives since the East German border guards would shoot at anybody trying to cross the Wall.

That was all a lie. People were crossing the border by the bus load.

Between 1964 and 1989 some 33,755 political prisoners and 250,000 of their relatives were sold to West Germany, for a sum totalling 3.5bn Deutschmarks.

People were also traded for commodities such as coffee, copper and oil.   However, neither side wanted the public to find out - the GDR because it didn't want to appear weak and West Germany because it didn't want to be seen supporting the communist regime.   So the operation remained clandestine - people were traded in darkened nooks of the underground railway, the U-Bahn, or sent across the border in buses with revolving license plates. The number plates would switch at the checkpoints, so as not to arouse suspicion on the other side.

So, no need to tunnel under the wall or cut your way through the wire. All that was needed was money.

The truth is revealed 40 years later. It makes me wonder what lies we are currently being told.

Minard's Maps

Most people will be familiar with Minard's famous map of Napoleon's Russian campaign.

Here are two more of his maps.

English coal exports 1864

Global migration 1858

England saved from Heffalumps

Andrew Parker, Director General of MI5 [aka the Security Service] and head of Britain's secret police  warned that Britain was facing its gravest threat from fanatics and his agency had foiled six major plots to attack this country in the last year – the highest he has ever known. Mr Parker is trying to persuade Parliament to gives his organisation even more surveillance powers.

Here at MI4786 [and two thirds] we have had another successful year keeping the country free of heffalump attacks. Our department foiled 17,689 heffalump plots to launch attacks on our country. If even one of these  attacks had succeeded millions would have died.  I am confident we can continue to defeat heffalumps if our budget is doubled and we are given the power to enter any property and strip search any person we choose [and I am given a knighthood when I retire].

Mr Parker would undoubtedly claim that the fact that in Britain only one person has  been killed by a terrorist in the past ten years demonstrates that MI5 is putting its funds and sweeping powers to good use.

However, here at MI4786 [and two thirds] we have ensured that not even one person has been killed by heffalumps in the past twenty years and that demonstrates that we are even worthier of more of everything.

Death in the Long Grass

You may have seen the 1996 film The Ghost and the Darkness with Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer. The  film was based on Lieut.-Col. J. H. Patterson’s book 'The Man-Eaters of Tsavo'. The man-eaters were two lions who killed 135 construction workers on the Uganda Railway in 1898 before they were shot by Patterson. The film is a typical Hollywood product but the book is worth reading. It is now out of copyright but  I found a copy on the internet. Patterson goes about slaughtering the wildlife, as they did then, but the wildlife has several very good attempts at slaughtering Patterson.

Reading it reminded me of Peter Hathaway Capstick’s 'Death in the Long Grass'. This 1977 book is about Capstick’s life as a big game hunter in Africa. It is an excellent read. The book is still in print and can be obtained from Amazon. I managed to obtain my copy from a charity shop for 70p.

Capstick describes several encounters with lions and mentions that packs of man-eating lions were common, especially near the Great Rift in Central Africa. The Ubena man-eaters had been operating for ten years before they were all killed. A game office called Rushby  wiped out the Njombe man-eaters, a pride of fifteen lions, which were thought to have killed 1500 natives and colonists. Rushby described the hunt in 'No More the Tusker'. Unfortunately the book is now out of print.

A paper [The Science of ‘Man-Eating*’ Among Lions Panthera leo With a Reconstruction of the Natural History of the ‘Man-Eaters of Tsavo’]
by Julian C. Kerbis Peterhans and Thomas Patrick Gnoske refers to Rushby and the Njombe pack.

A fully grown lion is 6-8 ft long [head and body] and about 4 ft tall.  The natives would have stood little chance against such creatures.  Video.

Capstick has some wonderful anecdotes about lions and other African predators. Its clear from what he writes just how deadly these cute Wildlife Special creatures are in their own environment. He thought that crocodiles alone were killing ten Africans a day at the time he wrote, usually women who had gone down to a river bank to collect water. Also, how little chance anybody would stand against them unless armed with a powerful rifle. Capstick was experienced and well armed but he acquired 300 stitches, three severed tendons and a cut femoral artery during his career.

From another source

"Zambia’s lions had a far worse reputation during the bygone colonial era than did the Tsavo lions. In the far north on Lake Mweru, there was an old boma (government outpost) called Chiengi, about 160kms from Mporokoso, and it was in this area that some man-eaters periodically set up a reign of terror, and they were never beaten. One particular lion, which regularly killed natives in the vicinity of Chiengi Boma, became known as Chiengi Chali. During 1909 alone, he killed ninety locals. For a long time, attempts to bring him to book failed, on one occasion he actually leapt into the courtyard of Sealy the District Officer’s house, but escaped before Sealy could get in a shot.

Efforts to bring Chiengi Chali’s reign of terror to an end were stepped up, with fires being lit and guards posted, but it was to no avail, he just went on killing. Chiengi Chali was not intimidated by very much and broke through the thatched roofs of village huts or forced his way into already lit up doorways. For a long time, he managed to avoid trap guns, yet stole the bait attached to them."

Read more here.

Jim Corbett wrote a series of books about hunting man-eating tigers [Man-Eaters of Kumaon] and leopards [The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag] in India. One tiger had killed over 400 people. A woman was taken from her hut by a tiger.  The tiger entered via a small window, took the woman from amongst her family as they slept on the floor, and left with her body through the same small window. A flower pot in the window was still in place when the family woke the next morning.


John Carey  is a British literary critic, and former Merton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. He is the editor  of the Faber Book of Reportage (1987). This was published in America as Eyewitness to History, Harvard University Press, (1987).

The book [700 pages in paperback] is a collection of over 250 reports, starting with a report of the plague in Athens in 430 BC and ending with a report of the fall of President Marcos in 1986.  In between there are reports of a dinner with Attila the Hun, the torture of a Jesuit in the Tower of London, the Confederate bombardment at Gettysburg, the execution of Nazi war criminals and the My Lai massacre.

Some of the reports are several pages long. Others are only about a single page or even half a page.

The book is still in print. It is a superb read and I recommend it to you.

I found the book after reading Carey's autobiography, The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life (2014).

Carey is also the editor of  The Faber Book of Science (1995). That was published in America as Eyewitness to Science: Scientists and Writers Illuminate Natural Phenomena from Fossils to Fractals, Harvard University Press, (1997).

Glasgow's Lost Docklands

The  Clyde runs through Glasgow and connects it to the sea.  There used to be lots of docks on the river; some for building and repairing ships, others for loading and unloading cargo.

Some of the docks were very close to the centre of Glasgow. The small Kingston docks [below] were only a few minutes walk from the Central Station.

Two of Glasgow's biggest docks were only a short distance down the Clyde from the Kingston. The Princes Docks is on the left and the Queens Docks on the right. These date from the time when hordes of dockers swarmed into ship's holds and manually handled cargo.

Some of the shipyards are shown in the photograph below. You can see the Harland and Wolff shipyard on the upper left and some dry docks on the lower left.

In time containerisation and South Korean shipyards did for the Glasgow docks.

In an excess of tidiness the City Council filled in many of the docks.  Now, having seen what other cities have done with their docklands they really wish the had not been so hasty.

Interesting Gorges in Spain

The El Caminito del Rey (The King's little pathway)has now been restored and is open to visitors. In the second photograph you can see the old [very dangerous] path underneath the new one.

Walkers on the old path
Here is a post about another interesting gorge.

I have not tried either of the above but a few years ago I did walk the Cares Gorge Route in the Picos de Europa National Park. The park is in northern Spain and has several good walks.

Codes that changed the world

The BBC has an interesting series of radio programmes about computer languages such as COBOL, FORTRAN and JAVA.

They are available to listen online from here. I could not find any downloads.

The Mincing Machine - Fort Douaumont, Verdun

In 1916 over 250,000 French and German soldiers were killed in the Battle of Verdun. A further half a million were wounded. In term of casualties it was one of the worse battles in human history. Some of the worse fighting was around the French fort at Douamont.

Fort Douaumont was one of a number of forts built [according to the Sere de Riveres system] near the small town of Verdun. The French had decided to abandon these forts because they believed they were too vulnerable to artillery. However, when the Germans easily captured Douaumont the French were seized by an overwhelming desire to get it back. Over 100,000 men were killed or wounded before the fort was recaptured.

I visited Fort Douaumont about 8-10 years ago, and revisited this year during a trip across Northern France. Visitors can stroll on top of the fort [which is heavily pockmarked from artillery fire], and tour the internal galleries. More galleries have been opened since I first visited and one of the gun turrets can now be visited.

The entrance to the fort.

The galleries


Whilst the Germans were occupying the fort a cooking fire ignited grenades and flame-thrower fuel and 600-1000 soldiers died [different websites give different casualties numbers. I think a sign at the memorial below gives a figure of 975]. The bodies could not be taken outside the fort because of French shelling so they were walled up in a tunnel. The site is now an official German war grave.


The toilets below were not installed until after the battle. One can only wonder what conditions were like inside the fort when there were over a thousand men inside and no sanitary facilities.


Fort Douaumont is one of the most important WW1 sites but it is deteriorating and the French government needs to spend some money on restoration and preservation.

Other WW1 sites nearby

Fort Douaumont is shown to the top right in the aerial photograph below. The large site is the Ossuary and is the subject of a separate post.

The site at Fleury devant Douaumont is a large memorial and museum [with a good library and shop]. All three are worth visiting. By following our GPS we managed to repeatedly get lost, though as can be seen from the aerial shot the three sites are close together.

There are many other relics of the war in the area.


Sterioscopic photographs

When I first visited Fort Douaumont they had a number of sterioscopic photographs on display. These were amazingly vivid, one in particular. It showed a French artillery crew resting by their gun. Though the photograph was only black and white the 3-D effect and sharp image made the Frenchmen look very alive. They looked like people you can see any day in the streets, but better looking and more sophisticated.  Probably most of them were later consumed by the 'mincing machine'.

The stereoscopic photographs had gone from Fort Douaumont when I visited recently but there were a large number on display at the Ossuary.