Thursday, 31 May 2007

Grammars again!

Two headlines in tomorrow's Telegraph.

"Tories in U turn over Grammar schools" and, in breaking news

"Almost 100,000 taught in failing schools"

Once again I iterate that Cameron is right, to fuss arse over a couple of hundred grammars that are now largely safe from ZanuLab inspired extinction at the expense of hundreds of thousands of failed children is preposterous in the extreme. What the fuck has gripped the Tory party?? Your goal, my friends, is to rescue the countless thousands from intellectual and vocational poverty created by Labour's mismanagement of education, not to pontificate over a natural given. Fucking grow up you spineless cunts! Do what's right not what feels comfortable!!!

Fiona again

I'm in love and I just can't explain how good it feels.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Muslim and civil liberties groups reacted with horror

Said the Daily Mail, playing completely into the hands of muslim and ultra-left wing groups about civil liberties. Let's just get some things straight here.

a. The Daily Mail is a really stupid newspaper that often unknowingly promotes its own betes noir through total ignorance.

b. I abhor and denounce this renewed attack on our liberty with all my might.

The new political landscape seems to be polarising into an authoritarian/libertarian rather than a left/right one, albeit that there are strong parallels. Let me make my position clear I am a libertarian to the core of my being. I chose to fight and potentially die, my compact with the British people is that I am here to defend their rights. Paramount amongst those rights is the right to seek liberty from the state as long as you recognise and contribute to it. Labour appears to seek to destroy that bond and I'm not going to let it happen.

Britain is a paragon of individual liberty, the agglomeration of which is a democracy for and by all. I will not allow these NuLab turds to destroy that enviable historical legacy.

Music Again

Yesterday, in the car, 5Live Grand Prix coverage has finished, there's no cricket on R4LW and can't be faffed to plug in the MP3 so flip the dial to R2. There I found that old CAMPanologist Dale Winton playing some sort of album chart. When I turned on he was playing Jethro Tull and swiftly followed it with a track from King Crimson, hardly R2 material but top drawer!! That track led my thoughts to Greg Lake and onto ELP. Once home I thought I'd have a look on You Tube to see what ELP was on offer. Well fuck me sideways with a barge pole if I didn't discover amongst many excellent things, a fantastic live performance of Pictures at an Exhibition with the band, and Carl Palmer in particular, clearly enjoying themselves. Have just finished listening and am a happy man! Some of the other stuff is great too. Highly amused by how much of a porker Greg Lake is in some of the later videos but his voice has matured magnificently and adds some real depth and gravitas. At times, the musicianship leaves you open mouthed in awe.

I'm a regular poster on a Bath Rugby website called ERE. You Tube, in a similar but clearly different way to ERE, is a real example of the recent democratisation of the internet. I can now say what I like about rugby when I like, blog to my heart's content on the issues of the day and watch/listen to almost any music I like.


Am now going to search for some King Crimson!

More on this later perhaps.

Grammar Schools-Cameron is right

What a fantastically interesting issue. My gut feeling, after a beer or two is I should do this extempore and see how it goes.

I am a grammar school boy. In fact I'm the classic example of the current debate's poor kid made good. I was born into a very poor family, probably out of wedlock although my mum refuses to concede that 45 years later. My father was an arse of the first water and, as he's now dead, I will not go into detail, suffice to say he left us when I was seven and I never missed him.

From a very young age, I harboured a desire, inspired by my grandfather, to join the Navy. My primary school years were up and down. I attended an infant school and two separate primaries. I was bright but un-preposessingly shy due to my background. I passed my 11 plus with ease and went to Weymouth Grammar. But, but.... I passed partly because I was an august baby and therefore had a potential 11 month march on my class mates because age in year was considered important at 11 plus.

Still, I got into Weymouth Grammar and instantly, er, floundered. I initially struggled academically but also struggled socially with people who were very different from me. I ended up in a low set. I was bullied incessantly from 12 to 15. Hmm, Over time I realised I was clever, I could do things and worked my way up the "pecking order". I ended up doing my maths "O" level at 13 and getting a B, because I was good. Subsequent "O" level activity was mixed and I ended up with 7. Average. But in that time I'd fought my way to acceptance, it was hard graft and often literally painful but I became well liked. The minor point here being that grammar schools are not, and never were, paragons of virtue and harmony, they can be as tough as any comp.

I moved on to the sixth form and was adamant that I was going to to do Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry as my core subjects. I was advised early on to drop chemistry,primarily 'cos I'm a lazy bastard, I did not demur. 3 half decent A levels later I joined the Royal Navy as an Officer.

Result for Grammar Schools! Er, yes, 30 years ago! Let's fast forward

My son Ben is the son of a Grammar School boy and a Grammar School girl.... let's hold onto that idea.

Ben goes to the local comp. It's ostensibly one of that hateful twat Campbell's "bog standard" comprehensives but yet it's not. Thanks to a visionary head and stunningly well utilised investment, it's a school to die for in the area. And yet, bizzarely, due to the town's mining history it's not seen as being as good as Bath Schools! I would send anyone to his school it's a place of real quality.

As for him? He's top in his year in Maths, Science and (er) Technology (woodwork I think). He didn't quite make the national maths challenge finals in London but he was, by a league, "best in school". At 13 he realises that he needs to have all the talents and works really hard at English, he's good at it but by no means perfect, he continues to strive. He's also a fabulous rugby player and wants to join the school's CCF. In short, a well rounded pupil in a good school.

So. Where are we? Right where David Cameron is as far as I'm concerned. He is utterly right to call the the grammar school debate "sterile". Yes I was a grammar school boy but my son is doing better at his state school than I ever did. Let's be grateful he's the product of a parental past that was grammar school based, and move forward to what creates a culture of excellence in all our children. Ben's school aggressively "sets" its pupils and gives them individual targets EVERY SINGLE YEAR! This is, I think, Cameron's vision and it's one I utterly endorse.

So my conclusion, albeit a little obvious, is that where I once trod, Ben is now following. Today's good comprehensives can, and do, deliver the same level of performance as my school back in the 70's. Let's just teach to ability, let's let talent flow, and let's fund the right class sizes to do that.

Parents should be up in arms that less than a third of comps are like that despite so called "record government investment." Therein lies the scandal, not that grammar schools may or may not have a viable future but that this government cannot, or more likely will not, see the wood for the trees.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Let's talk nuclear, if only 'cos it pisses off the lefties!!

I'm a naval officer. I'm a marine engineer. I happen to be what we call a surface engineer, i.e. my propulsion plant is either electric motors or gas turbines. Just hang on to the global warming theme there for a moment....

Many of my best engineer friends went into nuclear submarines. They're not only still alive, they not only have normal, nay, exceptional children,i.e, they're not prematurely sterile, they are, without exception, advocates of nuclear power. And it's because they believe.

So what? you might say, with some justification. Well the so what's to me are twofold. One, through brilliant design and amazing technical support, our nuclear plants are the best run on the planet (ask Putin how he's doing and how polluted the arctic ocean is) and two, safety is absolutely paramount, even when it is occasionally of nugatory value and excessive cost, because that's what the populous expects.

Nuclear power, through the civilian programme and through the excellent military regime is an unbelievably safe form of power generation, those who oppose it are either always going to oppose it or are scientifically challenged and should read more.

Coming full circle, in my last ship, due to diesel generators and gas turbines, we contributed more to global warming as one platform than all the nuclear subs on the planet put together.

Let's have a proper debate. Nuclear is a Global and Green option. Full stop. Those unwilling to engage in a genuinely scientific debate are known to me as fuckwits and need not apply!!

Freedom of Speech and the MSM

Melissa we've got our eye on you and you don't seem to be a very nice lady. Shame.

Melissa Cassandra

your ambition clearly outweighs your ethics, shame on you.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Rugby and Football

Now let me start with an historical point. Up until the middle of the 19th century there was only one "football" the point was that, depending on what public school you played it in, the rules were different. Thus "Rugby football" originated in, er, well you know, but "association football" originated in......................ETON!!! FACT!!!

Point number one therefore is that the "working man's game" is in fact a product of the country's most elite school. something for Tony Bliar to ponder and Dave Cameroon to celebrate.

Point number two is that, as a Bath Rugby fan I, with 9,000 of my fellow supporters descended upon the Twickenham Stoop yesterday to watch our European Challenge Cup final against Clerment Auvergne, known to their fans as ASM. Took the Bath U13s up from Great Pulteney Street about 1230 in a big coach and had fun on the way up with the parents imbibing gently in alcohol of varying quality and volume. After a pee stop in Reading Services our driver informed us that we should stop drinking as there were police checks on the motorway. These "roadblocks" were clearly set up to catch football coaches and we did indeed pass one on the M4, we were tarred with the same brush. The worst thing that happened on our coach, and indeed throughout our contribution to a thoroughly friendly match, was that some boys put chewing gum in each other's hair. I'm so glad our constabularies thought us so important over the course of nearly 11 hours that we had to be checked in case caring and attentive parents were daring to sup alcohol. Pathetic Thames Valley Police, utterly pathetic.

Point three is that we had an absolute ball with the ASM fans. West Country and Sud France combined in an enjoyment, nay celebration, of our sport that transcended national boundaries and language. ASM fans went home flying Bath flags from their coaches, we swapped beer, photographs, hand shakes, and hugs, and actually tears too!! At no point in the day did we exchange animosity. It could never have happened, full stop.

Point four is therefore a question that I intend to return to soon with my take on the answer to the question that is "why are football and rugby, given their genetic provenance, so diametrically different in their philosophy, attitude, loyalty, fan base and outcomes?"

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Prince Harry and Deployment to Iraq

Hmm, has Sir Richard Dannatt just created the Army's "HMS Cornwall" moment? I am deeply disappointed that, for reasons I understand but do not agree with, Harry will not be going to Iraq. I think there are a number of issues here and I'll try to deal with them chronologically:

When Harry joined Sandhurst he would have been "sponsored" by a regiment and it was therefore plain that he was joining the Blues and Royals. The Army's forward planners would have know that the "Arms Plot" would have had his regiment deploying to Iraq in the timescale he was due to take up a post as troop commander. It appears there was no forward planning/thinking as to how this might be handled when it happened.

Once it became public knowledge that the Blues and Royals were deploying but that Harry might not, why did the Mod not "table top" all the possible scenarios and devise a more elegant exit strategy than the one we were presented with today?

I feel for Dannatt post the Cornwall incident. Having fucked up big time over the easter weekend, our not so able Defence Secretary felt extremely vulnerable and told Dannatt in no uncertain terms that the Harry decision was his and his alone. what a cowardly cunt! I'm told Blair also ran like fuck from being associated with the decision. Dannatt's words are carefully constructed but I detect a hint of his frustration with the politicians running away.

That said, I feel he's made the wrong decision and has fallen short on moral courage. Given that the two princes were joining the Army, a coup as the mighty Royal Navy usually attracts Royal signings, there was a natural expectation that they would both do what soldiers do, and that at the moment is fight hard in major trouble spots!! Whilst I appreciate that the William question is easy to handle, "no the future king will not deploy to a war zone", the Harry equation was always more subtle.

Dannatt has effectively told Britain what Tony Blair has been too venally shy to admit, Iraq is fucking dangerous and normal people shouldn't go there! Well us military types are not normal, we understand we might die and we are trained and prepared to take these risks head on. It's what we do. By joining the Armed Forces you enter into a compact with the 60 Million people in this country in that you say to each and every one of them "I will die to ensure your security". Dannatt today has effectively said that is a qualified compact depending on who you are. I am deeply uncomfortable with that as I think Harry probably is too.

The military ethos is unique and, to those not within it, occasionally baffling but it creates a British Armed Forces that are, I absolutely assure you, held in awe by friends and enemies alike. The phrase "they punch above their weight" is pertinent but doesn't even begin to describe our impact compared with our resources. We are universally acknowledged as the best and today's announcement has chipped away at that in a way that has some short term effects but some massive bearing on how we might conduct ourselves in the future.

I'm worried.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Children, Academia and Sport

Up Front Caveat - This post may subsequently change because it's late, I'm tired and just a wee bit pissed.

Right. Much is said about the physical prowess, or actually not, of our benighted youth. Let me tell you a small tale of a 13 year old of my acquaint who proves that most of the stuff purveyed by the press on this topic is just bullshit. His school is almost exactly a mile from home; come rain, come shine he walks to school a minimum of 10 miles a week. He is one of the standout players in his school's rugby team and, in season, plays 2-3 hours a week for his school. Now the cricket season has started he puts his all in for Lansdown CC, charging in as a bowler every friday. He's 13 years old, 5'4 and the best part of 10 stone. someone might say he's a bit chunky but he's not, he's all muscle and presence, brought about I suspect by a love of milk and a burgeoning love of sport!!

But most of all he plays rugby for the Bath Youth section and, last night picked up the award for most improved player of the season. To watch his face as he was given that well deserved accolade was both enervating and humbling.

Ben is also one of the very, very, very brightest children at his school, a state comprehensive of the highest quality, and is thriving academically.

In short, he plays rugby with boys of exceptional skill and no little academic ability, and those who display great sporting prowess but who are not destined for Oxbridge, all enjoy God's sport. In short, I, through my son, see the best of young sporting and academic talent in my area and, despite Swiss Tone and the clunking fister, find it in rude health.-

These children are fit, healthy and very educated.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


Ok, on the grounds that I always intended this blog to be rather eclectic, hererwith some musical thoughts.

My "core" musical taste has always resided in the 70's/80's rock/prog genre with bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Genesis, Yes, Magnum etc dominating my musical tastes. I introduced them to my son who, over time has paid me back in spades. After years of being just into rock of my era I'm now listening to, in ascending order of magnificence, Kasabian, Razorlight, My Chemical Romance and, stunningly of all, Muse. To have effectively missed 10 years of musical education and to come back to a band like Muse is stupifingly wonderful. Black Holes and Revelations tips The Black parade to best album of the last 12 months but by 'eck it's close. Rock music is truly alive and as well as it's been for 15 years. Praise be, because it moves me like nothing else!!

NuLab is the Price We've paid for Replacing Political Idealism with Functional Managerialism

And what's worse is that they're completely shit at managing!! I had a long chat with one of my tutors on my MSc back in 2002 about the rise of managerialism and the impact it might have on the place of "ideas" in politics. Sadly I have largely been proved right in that the NuLab managerialist approach has created an ideas vacuum across the Union. Thus we see UUP/SDLP mainstream politics in Ireland replaced by the more polarising UDP/SF mix. Similarly in Wales and strikingly but not decisively in Scotland in the separatist vote surging dramatically. In England we have been surprised by the rise in UKIP voting and utterly gobsmacked by the advances of the BNP in the south east.

I put all of these down to a managerialist approach by ZANULAB that has created an utter ideas vacuum in British politics. Civil Servants manage, politicians traditionally create the idealogical framework in which they (civil servants)sometimes deliver. To uses SPADs in particular but the politicisation of the Civil Service in general to deliver a party-centric agenda devoid of all idealism galls me greatly.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are and have always been, utterly devoid of real political ideas and their managerialistic approach has done more to polarise modern politics than anything since early Thatcherism but without the clear benefits thereof! Indeed I lay a charge at the feet of the Liar and his disappearing henchman, that they, an avowedly centrist party, have made British politics the most extreme it's been in living memory by their deliberate creation of an idealisic vacuum.

Monday, 7 May 2007

The Infantilisation of Men

Just spotted this on Iain Dales wonderful site. Quite keen to address some of these "priorities" head on.

Make improving the educational attainment of boys a political priority. Sadly, this has already been done but to negligible effect. Is it an education issue? I think not explicitly. When I was at primary/junior school the head was male and we had several male teachers. Thanks to a number of social pressures, not least the utterly irrational fear of "paedos" these schools are almost utterly devoid of influential male role models. I'm going out with a primary school teacher and she rarely meets male equivalents. We are allowing a whole generation of boys, often already devoid of live-in fathers, to grow up in a uniquely feminised world. Fiona, like almost all other teachers of young pupils is talented, dedicated and wholly committed to what's best for each individual but she is not able to provide a male role model and wouldn't confess to attempt to. My son is in the lucky position at secondary school of having some seriously good male teachers who provide excellent, if slightly un-PC guidance. His PE teacher absolutely adores him and the feeling is mutual but, as they support different rugby teams, has no qualms about calling my boy "scum" when discussing rugby. To some this is beyond the pale and out the other side,I know, because I know my son and his teacher, that this can ONLY happen because of the bond they have. His maths teacher reminds him daily that his nearest rival in being top of the class is a girl; the competition is friendly but intense. There's some good "male" teaching out there but it is inexorably being marginalised. So in essence, yes, let's have political impetus behind male attainment at school but ffs let's not target the schools themselves, this is a societal issue and needs to be addressed on a broad front. We need to understand all the cultural influences on boys and young men, not just legislate about how schools treat boys.

Make the state recognise/support male domestic violence victims. Have not been on the end of this, albeit my recent divorce showed her skills at psychological warfare(!) and am sure it is hell on earth for those victims. I guess that a) it's just an equality in law issue and b)they might suffer in the "role model" stakes.

Improve care and funding for prostate/testicular cancer sufferers. I think we have to change our own male attitudes here first. "Grin and bear it" usually means you'll die these days and far too many men still believe bad things happen to others. Once we have the right attitude to seeking help early, might I humbly suggest death rates might go down? That said it is a societal truism that a female death is somehow worse than a male one.

Support Anonymity for men Accused of Rape, Unless Found Guilty. No beef with this one, the law is skewed and the dramatic increase in malicious accusations suggests a review is needed. personally I would extend this to all but the most trivial (I mean legally) indecent assault cases too.

Improve Care and Support for Men Suffering from Depression. Bingo, spot on, absolutely. I'm there now, this blog helps, so does my doctor who is magnificent. And yet, and yet...... at work it is not seen as an illness at all, I'm a bloke, I should pull myself together c.f. cancer! Medical care and support are therefore not the issue per se, it's once again that societal view that men just have to take it on the chin and get on with life. Let me tell you, depression is massively debilitating and affects all aspects of your life. It's care and support at work that is frankly non-existent. Bearing in mind my profession, that's pretty galling!!

The rest of it is, as others have said, is more a set of demands than a political agenda. To have resonance it needs to be more positive both in outlook and outcome and also less strident in tone. My worry is encapsulated in my title; men have serious problems that they need to address both individually and societally and I empathise with some of them. But for fucks sake, please don't try to turn me into a victim or infantalise the role of men in society. Try that approach oh putative "minister for men" and I will surely hunt you down.

chin up!

Wednesday, 2 May 2007


Still lovely, still wonderful, still mine. So lucky to have gone from despair to perfection in so short a time. Thanks gorgeous! xxx

Current Ops

I posted a place marker to comment on Jonothan Band's missive to the Naval Service after the Cornwall affair. Having seen it, and Alan Massey's er, effort in the Sunday Telegraph, I feel I would be merely commenting behind the agenda so will not be adding my tuppence worth at this juncture. Stand by if a decent man like J Band is forced out by the failings of others, you may not then be able to hold me back!!

However, on an entirely different (rugby!!) site, I was asked to comment on the current position viz lack of tactical vehicles (WMIK)in Afghanistan. I responded thus;

Right then,

Herewith the diatribe!

WMIK are used by 16AA Bde and 3CDO Bde (ie Paras and Royal Marines) because they are light mobile forces that lack serious firepower (i.e. tanks)and need the ability to "hit and run". Hence the WMIK is a cut down land rover with a 1/2" machine gun mounted on a turret ring, it brings lots of additional firepower, a "force multiplier" as we would call it. Sadly, because Defence is usually skint (I'll come back to the usually) we bought enough WMIKs to support EITHER the Paras OR the Marines, not necessarily both. This is to do with warning times for major war where the assumption was we'd have a lot of notice and be able to buy "stuff" if it was going seriously pear shaped in the world. Ergo, between big wars, we'd sort of have enough to go round for the occasional bout of foreigner bashing.

Well the truth of the matter is that, since 1997, the British Armed Forces have been operating at a level well above that required or, more importantly, funded by government plans. In only one year of the last 10 have we sort of been operating at the right level. Overstretch in spades.

This has many consequences. The largest current UK military contingent in Afghanistan is 3Cdo Bde with 800 Naval Air Squadron (Harriers), 3Cdo Bde HQ, Brigade Recce Force and a whole host of "blue uniforms" in support roles. Yes, the Royal Navy, and a pretty large chunk of it too. The Army and, lets face it, to a significantly lesser extent the RAF, (LOL) are so stretched in Land ops on two fronts that significant numbers of Naval personnel are doing Land force ops in support of our Marines. The fact that Royal and the NAS are out there is not too unusual but the requisite numbers of Naval augmentees is unprecedented.

Other corollaries? The money for ops (not enough 'cos the treasury always argues, cavills and snipes) is quite rightly being heavily concentrated on Land ops on two war fronts (again I stress ops above our true funding limit) so the Navy is being hollowed out. We are hardly able to put ships to sea, never mind fight them. Want a topical example? well you're going to get one anyway! HMS Cornwall (my old ship) of current infamy is capable of carrying not one but two Lynx helicopters but guess how many she deployed to a war zone with and guess why! In other words, continuous air cover with specialist air to surface missiles could have been available. Seems a decent deterrent to me!

We, and I truly mean all the Armed Forces are juggling Governmental and Societal expectations with massive overstretch and actually diminishing resources. Service Chiefs have been warning of both tactical and strategic failure for some time but, whilst we "get by" on the grounds of levels of professionalism and courage that don't exist ANYWHERE ELSE in the world, the government can take a fiscal risk against our lives. Mark my words, that equation is in the balance like it never has been before since 1933.

Light aside, my Admiral recently said it was quite right that current funding went to "the Army and those parts of the RAF associated with Operations". Nearly wet myself laughing!! p.s. That's what we'll do because we always do, keep laughing......'til we die.