Forgotten History - The Burning of Cork by British Forces

In 1920, during the Irish War of Independence,  the centre of the City of Cork was burnt by the  Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries, two British units set up to fight the Irish Republican Army.

"More than 40 business premises, 300 residential properties, the City Hall and Carnegie Library were destroyed by the fire. Over £3 million worth of damage (equivalent to €172 million today) was wrought, 2,000 were left jobless and many more became homeless. Many people were assaulted. Two unarmed IRA volunteers were shot dead in the north of the city."

The Black and Tans were set up by Winston Churchill. They and the Auxiliaries
carried out numerous atrocities in Ireland.

I doubt if one British person in 100,000 is aware of this astonishing incident. It has been kept very quiet. I have  read a lot of history but never read about it or seen it portrayed in a film [and what a film it would make] or television. 

A proud chapter in British history.

Italian Chapel at Scapa Flow

Scapa Flow is a natural harbour in the Orkneys, a group of islands to the north of the UK mainland.

During both world wars it was the main anchorage for the British Fleet. After the First World War over 70 ships of the German High Seas Fleet was scuttled there.

During the Second World War a group of Italian prisoners of war, who were held in Camp 60 overlooking Scapa Flow, converted an army Nissen hut to a chapel. In the first photograph you can see the corrugated metal hut behind the stone front built by the prisoners. The other two photographs show the stunning interior of the chapel.

Domenico Chiocchetti, who was the person responsible for the interior,
returned to Scapa Flow about twenty years after the end of the war with his two sons and repainted the plasterwork. I took these photographs when I visited the Orkneys to dive some of the World War I German battleships that were sunk in Scapa Flow.

The Orkneys are well worth a visit. In addition to being able to dive the wrecks of the German fleet there is a 4,000 year old village, a tomb with Viking graffiti inside, stone circles and lots of other stuff.

The sea paintings of Ivan Aivazovsky

Ivan Aivazovsky [1817-1900] was famed for his marine art. Just look at his portrayal of waves in these two paintings.

Burn the [male] witches

The misandrist hunting of supposed sexual harassers reminded me of the early part of this Monty Python sketch.

More Fake News

What the media reported -

" I saw a headlining story on the BBC about how Donald Trump had tipped a whole box of fish food into a pond full of carp during his trip to Japan, heavily implying he lacked the patience or intelligence to feed them slowly with a spoon as he was supposed to."

What actually happened -

"Moments before, Shinzo Abe threw his entire box into the pond and Trump simply followed suit, and all of this can be seen in the unedited clip. But major news channels like the BBC and CNN decided to go with a carefully edited clip which showed Trump looking foolish, and ran it on their front pages. Someone, somewhere in these organisations are quite deliberately making these decisions, abandoning all pretence of impartiality and accurate reporting."

See full story here.

It is sad to see organisations like the BBC throw away their reputation for impartial reporting. All because the liberal haters want to blackwash Trump and are willing to damage their organisations credibility to indulge their own political prejudices.

Does it not occur to them that all they are doing is proving Trump right when  he contemptuously dismisses their output as fake news.

Differentiated marketing

Sometimes an advertisement may attempt to appeal to widely differentiated markets.

Up to Schynige Platte

Schynige Platte is a plateau above the town of Interlaken in Switzerland. It is famous for its wild flowers and views, particularly of Interlaken and its two lakes.

We left our car in the large car park behind Wilderswil station and took the cog railway  to the plateau.  I think this is the only way of getting to the top, apart from walking. A single ticket costs 18 Swiss francs, so it is a pretty expensive trip, though the train journey is an enjoyable experience by itself.  The train stops part way up at Breitlaunen, where there is a hotel/hostel of some kind.

There is also a hotel on the plateau if someone wanted to do a few days of high level walking..


There are several walks around the plateau. There is also a famous walk from Schynige Platte to First, which is above Grindlewald. This is sometimes described as 'the' classic Swiss alpine route. It takes about six hours. Because a railway runs from Grindlewald to Wilderswil you can easily do a round trip involving rail, cable car and Shanks Pony [see the map above].


Schynige Platte offers superb views all around, but particularly of Interlaken and its two lakes.



We made the mistake of walking down from the plateau. It was ok for the first hour, which brought us to  the station at Breitlaunen.

The next two hours to Wilderswil were more trying, particularly because we did not have walking poles with us. The path is good and easy to follow, but three hours downhill was hard on my thigh muscles.

Great Dune of Pilat [Pyla]

The Great Dune of Pilat is in France, just to the south west of Bordeaux.  It is just what the photograph shows. An humongous sand dune standing all along on the coast, near to the mouth of the Bay of Arcachon. I have no idea what unusual natural forces have led to its formation, but it is worth seeing if you are nearby.

After you have slogged up to the top of the dune you can sit and admire the marvelous view. It was a nice day when we were there so it was all very pleasant.

You can see the dune marked on the map below. 

Links to some strange dunes in Japan and Brazil.

Arcachon is a pleasant seaside resort.  They rear oysters in the bay. Some of the oyster fishermen have built houses on the Ile aux Oiseaux [Isle of Birds]. You can see some of these in the final photograph. They are built on piles because the island is under water at high tide.

Forgotten History – The Killer Whales of Eden

Eden is a small town on Twofold Bay on the south eastern corner of Australia. The killers of Eden were a pod of about 30 killer whales who, between 1830 and 1930, cooperated with the whalers of Twofold Bay in hunting baleen whales migrating along the East coast of Australia.

The story is that the killer whales would herd baleen whales into Twofold Bay and then alert the whalers. They would then work with the whalers to kill the baleens. Their reward was the tongues of the dead whales. The leader of the pod was called Old Tom. To speed up the hunt he would tow the whaler’s boats out to the cornered baleen whales by gripping a bow rope in his mouth. After a whale had been harpooned Old Tom would hang on to the harpoon rope to tire the whale and prevent it escaping. The other whales would dive underneath the harpooned baleen to prevent it diving.

There is a Killer Whale Museum in Eden with Old Tom’s skeleton. If you take a close look at the picture you will be able to see that Old Tom’s teeth are worn down on one side from grasping the bow and harpoon ropes.

This all sounds like an Internet myth but I have been in the museum and seen Old Tom’s skeleton. The museum itself is a substantial operation and has been in existence for over 70 years. There have been a couple of books published about the story. There is also this website. If it is a hoax, it is a remarkable well done one.

The south east corner of Australia is off the regular tourist track. Most of the traffic between Melbourne and Sydney goes along the Hume Highway. If you have the time a trip along the Princess highway will take you past some spectacular coastline, including the excellent Ben Boyd National Park, and some interesting little towns.

Hotel booking sites

It has just been announced that hotel booking sites are to be examined by the UK's competition watchdog. This is long overdue.

I have only used Booking.Com so my comments only relate to that site.

I have used Booking.Com  to book hotels in the UK and overseas. Being able to book hotels through one site and compare prices, locations and reviews is very useful.

Recently they have been using pressure selling techniques to get bookings.  Messages are constantly appearing giving the impression that if users do not book immediately [IMMEDIATELY!!!] they might have to reconcile themselves to sleeping in a cardboard box. Research and careful consideration are not encouraged.

It did not use to be so but now the ethos seems  like that of a used car lot and not that of a trustworthy e-commerce site. Booking.Com is no Amazon.

Describing an hotel as 'Fabulous' happens far too often. To my mind an hotel has to be extraordinary to be described as fabulous. Recently I stayed in one that Booking.Com described as 'fabulous' but I would describe as no more than OK. Its price would have been justified if it had been fabulous, but it was not.

The problems at Booking.Com must lie with senior management.  Perhaps the company needs to bring in someone capable of building a trusted brand. Uber had to make changes. Booking.Com needs to do so voluntarily before they are forced to change their ways.

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 fifty years ago. Where everything was organised by and run for the benefit of the right chaps and the proles had been 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 way 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 - a game for aspiring missionaries

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