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Saturday, 28 February 2015

Russia and Mr Putin?

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31669061 .

See http://www.aljazeera.com/ .

So what exactly is Mr Putin up to?

The best way to win friends around the world is to create a truly free and open society, to respect the views of all, to uphold the law created via a truly democratic process and not to pretend Russia is the USSR and in the 1950s.

The latest news from Moscow paints Russia as a nasty place. Whereas in the 1980s I wanted to see it, I have zero wish to go there now. It smacks of corruption and the KGB. Mr Putin, please join us and put the past behind you.

The world wants to be the friend of a free and open Russia.

Friday, 27 February 2015

New on-line shop - wonderful wire artwork

Some nice presents for your wife or partner?

From my French daughter-in-law:
Hi there,
I have finally come around to opening my shop on easy. Spread the word. Hope you like it.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SurleWire?ref=hdr_shop_menu

Stroke - further update

Several people have indicated that it could be 2 years before I feel better. My brain bleed was Sept 2013.  At the present rate of progress, I think they may be right.

I have several serious issues still and progress seems to be slow. What I don't know is how well I shall be finally. I am still hopeful that I'll get back to very nearly the state I was before my cerebellum brain bleed but I am sure no-one really knows.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

FTSE 100 and the 7000 barrier?

At only about 50 points to go, the FTSE 100 could well  go through the 7000 barrier in the coming days. This of course, assumes no sudden shocks. These are entirely possible and the share index could drop hundreds in a matter of days. In a way it is surprising it is doing as well as it is with a General Election now only a few months away and all the uncertainty over Greece and the euro.  It is almost as if  "the herd" is willing it higher.

I am no financial expert, but I can see the index crossing the 7000 barrier and then dropping back considerably later in the year. But who expected oil prices to drop so dramatically?

The May General Election

It looks increasingly likely that the next UK General Election will be a very close thing and the outcome close.  A hung parliament is a likely outcome.   Being a "first past the post" election, voting for the smaller parties could well result in a wasted vote.  So, it looks like I may be voting for the "least worst" option rather than the party I would really choose.

Last time I voted Lib Dem and I voted Green in the European elections. All I know is I shall not be voting UKIP. I don't like some Conservative policies and I find Ed Miliband a useless leader.  Hobson's choice?

Euro exchange rate

Every day the exchange rate of the pound to the euro gets more favorable. It means holidays in the eurozone are cheaper, cheaper imports from the eurozone, but more of a struggle to export goods from the UK to the eurozone nations.

Because of my health, no holidays to eurozone countries have been planned.   I expect the rate will have fallen by the next time we go to Europe.

Come the late summer  I expect holidays to Greece will be very cheap if they go over to the Drachma again.  I know the eurozone wants to hold on to Greece, but 4 months debt extension is no time at all.

Net inward migration into the UK

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31638174.

So, net inward migration is up to its highest level since before the last election. There is no doubt that some people are needed, but surely, on our small island, we should be able to decide who can live and work here?   I am not political and have never voted UKIP (to me this is just a protest party) but I can understand why there is a genuine concern over our rapidly rising population. Yes, it shows people want to come here as we have a relatively decent standard of living and a half decent economy that is growing.

The next government must address inward migration. The current government has totally failed. Our housing is over-stretched as are our public services. We have too many people.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Sexual offences claims

Tonight we heard, on the BBC news, that the enquiry into one of our leading singers is being extended. The singer concerned has denied any wrong doing.

I do think all concerned (accused  and accusee) should remain anonymous until the result of any trial is known. Only if the accused is found guilty should the guilty person be named. It must be awful to be dragged though the mill of public hate or doubt if in the end they are cleared of all charges. If found guilty then the accused should get deserved justice/punishment. If not guilty then the accused should walk free and not with a tarred reputation.

Certainly some people now coming forward have genuine cases that have a right to be heard.  However, some cases are historic and are very doubtful.

Morals were different in the 1960s and early 1970s. It is wrong to judge in 2015 morals of the long past. If we are talking about serious sexual crimes, and the evidence is good, then the cases should be heard. When I started work back in 1970 many girls got wolf-whistles and bottoms touched - this was the norm back then. Morals are different today.

HIV game changer?

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-31622337 .

At one time the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was a death sentence.  Now, with new drugs, more people are living with HIV and not dying. There is hope.

Anglesey Abbey

This afternoon we did (yet another) visit to Anglesey Abbey for a winter walk. The snowdrops looked magnificent all over the place. Although some daffodils are now dying, most have still to come out. Aconites and hellebores look good.

I have come to the conclusion that it is better to be disabled in a way clear to others than have a disability that cannot be seen easily. At Anglesey Abbey there were quite a few people who were clearly disabled. My wife says when I walk you cannot tell I have a disability. Inside I still feel like I am drunk, I tire easily and I still feel wobbly when walking.  My voice is still poor and swallow of thin liquids is poor.  Most people think I am fine now. I am still a long way from that although I still feel I am making slow improvements.

See http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/anglesey-abbey/ .

Round Church, Cambridge

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

My other blog on East Anglian churches was updated today to include "The Round Church" in Cambridge, which dates back to 1130AD and is one of the oldest buildings in the city.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Market stability?

The FTSE 100 closed about 37 points higher today, an all time high.  The pound is worth 1.365 euros. Apparently the Greeks have reached agreement with their creditors for a 4 month delay in debt repayments.

It remains to be seen if this is the end of the Greek crisis or just a postponement of the inevitable?

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Stroke after-effects

It is now 17 months since my cerebellum brain bleed. Recovery is much slower than I was expecting or had wished. Although my eyes, ears and limbs all work, there are a few things that may be effects of the bleed. These include a slowness to recognise spelling errors: sometimes it is the next day I spot the error. Also, my short-term memory seems to be somewhat worse. Overall, my intellect is fine.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Technical experts?

This afternoon, we had a visit from an old friend Chris who now lives in the Cotswolds but who used to live in our village.  She was being helped by my wife to send a Facebook message to another friend. Chris is certainly no IT wizard, bless her, but she and her husband Pete have hearts of gold which is far more important.

Friday, 20 February 2015

TV music?

Perhaps it is because I am getting older, but I find the background (?) music really really annoying these days.   For example, my wife is watching Musketeers at the moment, but it seems we have to have music in the background (?) for dramatic effect.  Many continental programmes are much better!  Personally, I'd like to turn down the music and leave the dialogue up. It is a sad day when you have to have subtitles on to understand the dialogue. This is not because of hearing defects. Why do we have to be treated as idiots?

Likewise I get seriously annoyed with many science programmes. Yet again, there is about 5 minutes of "meat" in an hour of programme.  Dumbing down! We are all treated as if we are 3 year olds and have no science background.  Maybe this is true for most viewers? Somehow I doubt this.

East Anglian Churches blog

Today we visited Isleham and Fordham.  Our blog has been updated to include these two places.

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Greece deal?

It looks like Greece has "won" a 4 month extension of its debt obligations, so they don't run out of money just yet. It still seems risky for Greece. At some point, not too far away in the near future, its creditors will want their money back.  It seems to me any deal just delays this critical point.

As they say, "you reap what you sow". Greece has lived too long way beyond its means and shortly their "chickens will come home to roost". Mind you, lots of other places including the UK have been living for far too long on borrowed money.

All nations have to live within their means.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31556754 .

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Flempton, Suffolk

This Suffolk church was open.  It is situated on the A1101 between Mildenhall and Bury St Edmunds.  It is famous for a window dedicated to the last lord of the manor. The parishes of Flempton and nearby Hengrave share the same vicar these days. The parish dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.  See http://www.suffolkchurches.co.uk/flempton.htm.

We ate next door (just behind the church) at The Greyhound pub where we enjoyed good, simple pub grub but with excellent service. Being right behind the church, I can recommend this pub. It looks nothing special but both the food and service were excellent.

See our blog about visits to East Anglian Churches .   We enjoyed the winter sunshine and temperatures of 10 degrees C.   The churchyard was fairly wild and rambling, but delightful nonetheless.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Ukraine fighting goes on

Why do so many not trust Mr Putin? He is ex-KGB allegedly and he still wants to impose his influence  on the countries that once formed the USSR. I'd like to believe his motives in Ukraine are honorable but I struggle with this.

Although the recent ceasefire is mostly holding, there is heavy fighting in the disputed Debaltseve region.  See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31511926 .

UPDATE 1045z 18.2.15: See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31519000 . It appears Ukraine has admitted defeat in Debaltseve.

Landwade

Today we did our annual walk of about 1.5km around Landwade. This time we had our little "London" grandchildren with us. The walk is always beautiful. The small private church is surrounded by a sea of snowdrops and aconites at this time of year. Although the walk was in bright sunshine, there was plenty of mud.

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Other blog updated

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Today we walked from the delightful village of Dalham up to the village church. I have updated our East Anglian Churches blog to include this.

Dalham is a truly beautiful village not too far from Newmarket. It is in Suffolk.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Ukraine's fragile peace

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31463007 .
See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31470645 .

The president of Ukraine is worried that the peace deal may not hold. It will require some trust and faith by both sides. Such moves are never easy, but peace is so much better than war.

I have no idea who is the real aggressor in this: clearly the Russian's are acting suspiciously.  At the same time some in the Russian speaking east want closer ties with Russia. A fair peace deal needs to ensure the will of all the people is respected.

Already it is estimated that around 5400 people have died as a result of the conflict.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Sepura shares heavy falls - why?

Shares in Sepura dropped quite a bit today. SEPU shares were at 143.75p today whereas they were 155p not long ago. I wonder if there was a reason?

See http://investors.sepura.com/prices-delayed .

Interesting that on this same day the FTSE 100 share index closed UP 0.67% today.

Polio like disease in the USA?

See http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/01/28/polio-like-condition-children/22478739/?hootPostID=3c49a40338b64dc035ebf25f06213336 .

Several children have been struck down by a polio like condition in the USA.  At the moment this is a mystery condition.

Hare Park, Chippenham, Cambs

Hare Park, Chippenham, Cambs
Today we took Lis's brother and his wife to the Open Weekend at Hare Park in Chippenham, Cambs. There were lots of snowdrops and aconites in flower.  The gardens were a picture of late winter, early spring. Luckily we missed the rain that came later.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Ukraine ceasefire

Has the bear won? After marathon peace talks about the conflict in East Ukraine, a ceasefire is agreed.  I hope this is a fair and just outcome and not Russia being a bully to its, ex USSR, neighbour. Putin comes over as a bully, although I am sure the western press may be biased against him.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31435812
and the Russian side? See http://rt.com/news/ .

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Last USA hostage dead in Syria

So tell me, how does killing an innocent aid worker, Kayla Mueller, guarantee "paradise" in an after life?

These barbaric people need treatment as most Muslims think they are just doing evil deeds. Nowhere I am told, does the Prophet say such deeds are permitted.  In our age, such barbaric acts have no place and win no friends. A change is needed. Peace and love always conquer evil.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-31375445 .

Cambridge on a winter Tuesday

Bridge Street, Cambridge
Every Tuesday I travel into Cambridge for my weekly U3AC course called "Digital Maps in the Computer Age".  I am enjoying the course very much.

Cambridge Punts
Usually I drive to the "Park and Ride" car park at Newmarket Road and get the bus into town. The U3AC course is at the U3AC headquarters in Bridge Street, which is about 30m from where the punts are on the River Cam. From here you can punt right up via St John's, Trinity, Clare and Kings College. The secret is not to leave your punt pole behind. It is easily done. Luckily the Cam is not too deep.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Mill grindstone

Outside "our" 200 year old windmill next door are a couple of very old grindstones once used inside the mill to grind corn. They hope to grind corn in the mill again later this year. I expect they will use new grindstones.

This is a photo of one of the original grindstones.

Debts UP since the crash

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31136707 .

Despite everything and plain common sense, the level of debt in the world has gone up since the crash and we risk yet another financial melt down. It seems to me that governments, companies and individuals all have to reduce their debts and live within their means. This means pain and some hardship. The trouble is it is possible to borrow money at very low cost at the moment. When this is no longer possible we'll all be in deep trouble.

Lies?

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31253409 .

It seems all politicians make rash promises before a General Election and then find out lots of reasons to sidestep them after they win power. I am no Conservative friend, especially after the news on the HSBC bank today, but the latest "promise" on paid paternity leave from Labour I take with a pinch of salt: pure electioneering gimmicks.

Drones

Increasingly, unmanned drones are being used for non-military uses such as aerial photography. I have seen some very good examples of this recently.

However, the military use of drones is also increasing and this is a concern. From the comfort of a control bunker thousands of miles away, controllers can "take out" unwanted individuals or groups without the risk of pilots being captured or shot down. This is open to abuse and error. It is "war by proxy". The worst that can happen is a few drones get shot down. The risk is totally innocent people are impacted or killed.

At the moment drones are mainly being used by The West.  What happens if terrorists get their hand on these?

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-31290147 .

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Pensioner bond extension

The very attractive 1 and 3 year NSI over 65 bond offer is to be extended to May. Many pensioners have already signed up as they pay, even after tax, high interest rates by modern standards. If this is an attempt to encourage saving in the UK, then it is working.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31241867 .

Saturday, 7 February 2015

High streets

The economic downturn and the internet have had a huge impact on UK High Streets. In some towns a fifth of all shops are vacant. Clearly the "model" will have to change.   Already there are far more coffee shops and similar. Maybe the internet giants will start to have more of a presence on UK High Streets?

Whatever evolves, town centres will be quite different in 10 years time. Maybe the John Lewis model will be the example? I.e. have some large city centre stores which sell goods but also a healthy, non-competitive, internet business too?

Perhaps more than most, book shops have suffered. Virtually any book can be found on the internet in just a few seconds. Even in Cambridge, quite a few bookshops have gone. Many small book traders prefer to do all their business on the internet.

Ukraine peace?

So far, this conflict has claimed at least 5400 lives. Lives simply wasted. The latest peace suggestions by France and Germany seem to have been largely rejected in Moscow.

Clearly some of the Russian speaking parts near the Russian border would prefer to be part of Russia. Surely some sort of agreement along these lines will be the basis for peace in the end? A lot of this is posturing. The Russians claim they are not directly involved. Many in Ukraine are looking to Europe for their future.  Compromse has to be sought.

The sooner all sides see sense the better for all.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31185027 .

Friday, 6 February 2015

Swaffham Prior

Today, in the bright cold winter sunshine (3 deg C) we visited Swaffham Prior in East Cambridgeshire. This village has 2 windmills and 2 churches . The churches are next door to each other in the same churchyard. Both churches date from the 13th century.

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Thursday, 5 February 2015

"On your side"

Ed Miliband does not come across as a charismatic leader, but then again, nor do the leaders of the other parties. Churchill was charismatic back in WW2.

At the moment I have no idea for whom I shall be voting at the next general election this spring here in the UK.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31139811 .

Ukraine peace bid

European leaders are trying to get a new peace deal for Ukraine, a crisis region where already 5400 lives have been lost. This is such a waste.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31143983 .

If ever there was an example of a futile war this is it. Russia denies involvement. Clearly the Russian speaking east of the nation seeks closer ties with Russia, whilst much of Ukraine seeks to be closer integrated in Europe. Civil war is not the answer.

Tesco and other supermarkets

From time to time we buy fuel and food from Tesco.  However, I am appalled that this supermarket chain allegedly, treats many suppliers very badly, paying some very late or too little as in the case of milk suppliers. I know Tesco is not alone and that some other supermarkets are also treating their suppliers poorly.

We customers are often complicit as we demand ever lower prices.  However, personally I'd be happy to have fewer lines to choose from and to pay a bit more to ensure suppliers are fairy rewarded.

Tesco is currently under investigation. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31143452 .

FTSE 100

Although down (slightly) on yesterday, the FTSE 100 seems to be recovering and should be back in positive territory this afternoon barring any shocks.

UPDATE 1410z:  Still gradually coming back. Still negative, but only just.

UPDATE 1735z:  FTSE 100 ended the day 0.09% up.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business/market_data/stockmarket/3/default.stm .

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Oil prices

The price of a barrel of oil seems to be rising again and stood at around $58 today. Maybe the oil companies will be increasing their prices very soon!  Most prices for domestic fuel have dropped  far less than the drop  in wholesale prices.

Visits - another blog!

Today we went out to Eye and Thornham Parva in east Suffolk.We ate at Beard's Deli Cafe in Eye. We have a blog to record our East Anglian Church visits. Although mainly for our own records (otherwise we'll forget!) it is a public blog, so you are invited to join us "virtually" and add comments if you wish. We hope to visit several churches each week.

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/  .

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Cambridge United v. Manchester United - round 2

This evening is the second "go" at the 4th round FA Cup match between these 2 teams. This one is at Old Trafford as the first tie at the Abbey Stadium in Cambridge resulted in a nil:nil draw.  A replay is great for Cambridge - think of the money for new players - although a win is perhaps far too much to hope.  Good luck Cambridge United!

See http://www.cambridge-united.co.uk/ .

UPDATE 2320z:  Sadly Cambridge United lost 3:0 to Manchester United. Never mind. It is certainly no disgrace to be knocked out by the much richer club. They must now focus on the league.

FTSE 100 end the day well up

The FTSE 100 share index ended the day up 1.32% up. It is not far off its highest ever figure for some time, but the markets remain very volatile and tomorrow it could well fall back again.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Saudi allies?

So, the Prime Minister says the Saudis are our friends. Personally, I think this regime is dreadful, especially the beatings and imprisonment of a moderate blogger. We are "friends" with this regime as they buy our arms and have lots of oil. We would not be friends if they were Belgium.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31098378.

No real snow yet

Although we have had the occasional snow shower, what we have had has not stayed on the ground for more than a few hours. Tomorrow I have to drive to the Park and Ride car park on the edge of Cambridge. It is possible there will be snow on the ground in the morning.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Only in "the land of the free"

Sometimes it would be hard to make this up, but a 3 year old reaching in his mother's handbag for an iPad managed to shoot both his parents with his mum's gun with the same bullet.  Thankfully, both are recovering. Gun freedom? As I said, "land of the free".   Albuquerque, New Mexico.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-31082294 .

Greek debt

In some ways I feel sorry for the ordinary Greek man and woman.  They are having to replay huge debts whilst their economy is doing very badly.  Many in Greece are experiencing real poverty.  They should never have been allowed into the Euro club all those years ago.  Tax avoidance had become a way of life in Greece and they are so far out of step with the economies of northern Europe. In many ways the Greeks expected it too easy within the Eurozone. Now they are finding out the hard way.

I very much doubt they will be able to re-negotiate their repayment terms.  If they leave the Euro now it will be very bad for Greece and hard on the Eurozone.  Sadly,with other indebted nations "in the wings" Germany and others in the Euro club cannot give in to Greece.  Tough times are ahead.

See http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/as-in-1942-germany-must-show-restraint-over-greece-10015905.html .   Apparently,Germany has misread Greece in the past.

Syrian news

The latest news from Syria of the beheading of the second Japanese hostage is meant to frighten the world.  Surely it must frighten those who carry out such acts against the will of the leader they claim to follow?  No virgins await these people in paradise.  More likely is hell.  Seek a different path. Love and kindness always overcome evil.