Saturday, February 16, 2019

ISIS; Shamima Begun - Return to the UK or not?

The question about whether the UK should allow Mrs Begun to return to London given her travel out to Syria four years ago and her involvement with the terror group ISIS during that time, is vexing many in this country.

On the one hand she witnessed human heads dumped in  buckets after many people for example journalists, who had been captured by the terrorists were murdered by beheading or otherwise yet she did not apparently protest at the time nor does she express any regret now. 

On the other hand she is almost nine months pregnant now having lost earlier babies through malnourishment; she was only 15 years old when she left the UK for Syria and her parents or at least her father, calls for government help in securing her return.

Reading ordinary people's views about the question of Mrs Began's return, the thought strikes me that the views really divide into old testament and new testament opinions. The Old Testament view is often that of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" or to put this in another way: "you have made your bed so now have to lie in it". The New Testament approach on the other hand is  to "turn the other cheek", ie to allow the woman to re-enter the UK if that is what she wishes to do.

The position is far from clear cut, for example it seems that Mrs Began married a Dutchman so presumably  Holland would be a possibility for her and her child depending upon the attitude of her husband's family. If she came back to the UK she  would be closely questioned by the police and criminal authorities, then perhaps tried and  sentenced to imprisonment for a while leaving open the question of who would look after her baby during all of that time.

Mrs Begun's family in the UK, at least her father, wants the UK government to bring her back to this country. Leaving aside the question of what the family were up to when she was planning to leave for Syria and the funding she would have needed for this, presumably the family have the primary responsibility to raise the fares for her travel back to London eg by crowd-funding or even arranging for a representative to travel to Turkey and beyond to assist her?

My own view on this far from straightforward matter however is that the UK government should adopt the New Testament approach. Not only will this be a sign about the country's abhorrence of  the ISIS thugs but also would be a sign of our own civilised ways of acting. 

Mrs Begun might have to suffer a trial and imprisonment if found guilty but she might also become aware of her own misbehaviour and seek to make amends.  After all is that not exactly what Saul  did on the road to Damascus  which he travelled to pursue and trap those who were following Jesus, who he had never met? Along the  way following a revelation which temporarily blinded him, he was converted and murdered no more Christians but instead thenceforth  furthered the cause of Christ.

Saturday, February 09, 2019


Recently at the suggestion of maytrees min I watched the film "Lion" which she and mrs maytrees had seen two years ago,

The film proved to be absorbing. Lion was about a small 5 year old boy in India, who with his older brother went out for the day to scavenge for their poor mother and family. The two boys initially lay on top of coal on a coal train passing nearby their small village. They were spotted by the train guards so left the coal  train and arrived at a large passenger railway station. There the 5 year old boy Saroo was tired out and refused to move from the station bench he was resting on despite his older brother's entreaties.

Eventually the older brother after instructing Saroo to wait for him on the bench went off to find scavenging work.

After most of the day had passed Saroo became anxious but when his older brother failed to return he decided to take shelter in a nearby empty passenger train. Unbeknown to him the train was scheduled to be driven 1600 km or so to another part of India to be scrapped.

Unfortunately after he had made himself comfortable resting on a seat in one of the empty carriages, the train doors were locked and Saroo's long journey began.

Eventually after reaching  Calcutta Station he managed to escape but then began a number of frightening episodes which he survived before being placed into a large orphanage. The orphanage itself had many dangers including those of child abuse,  which Saroo managed to avoid.

All attempts to find his family failed partly I suspect because Saroo could not properly remember the name of the town of his home or even his mother's full name. He was then put up for adoption. 

A couple from Tasmnia who spoke no Hindu but only English adopted him and and took him to Tasmania.  The trials tribulations and successes that affected him and indeed a more difficult fellow Indian who the family also adopted, were remarkable. He went to catering college for a while, met a girl there and fell in love.

He began to fret about his own background following some hazy memories; sadly dropped out of College, left home, rented a flat  and  pinned up on a wall in the flat an huge map showing possible villages 1600km around Calcutta which might have been his childhood family residence.

All the while his Tasmanian parents and girlfriend remained loyal to him. 

(Spoiler below so avoid reading for those who are to view the film)

Eventually Saroo had his eureka moment and identified the village. He returned there and found his mother and learned from her and his sister that his older brother had been killed by a passing train  all those years ago, whilst he  Saroo was sleeping on the station bench. 

His Tasmanian parents later came over to meet his birth mother and family, with those scenes being beautifully acted.

An absorbing true story.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Feast day of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple

Mass at dawn this morning, commenced with a gathering of the 20 or 30 or so people attending at the Sacred Heart Catholic church Wimbledon, at the back of the church.

Michael, the Jesuit priest celebrating the mass, reminded us that it was 40 days after Christmas and invited us to light candles after which we processed to the pews and he to the altar. 

Quite a  moving yet quiet celebration  which Michael's brief sermon provided further enlightenment upon. 

Jesus as a  40 day old baby and later as a 12 year old boy was presented to the Temple by his mother and father in accordance with the Jewish practice. An old man Simeon,  understood that he would not die until he had seen the Lord. He saw and recognised Jesus as the Lord and thus fulfilled the prophecy about him.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Pollen Street Social

The brother of mrs maytrees and a Malaysian consultant medic who currently works in the NHS Birmingham, came down from Birmingham to join mrs maytrees maytrees min and myself for  1pm lunch at the Pollen Street Social - Pollen Street London W1.

Finding the Pollen Street Social  ("PSS") is slightly difficult as the street is not only little more than an alleyway in London's Mayfair district, but  the alley also happened to be closed for engineering works although there was room - just - for pedestrians to walk through to the restaurant. Maytrees min however simply used her iPhone to guide us easily from Oxford Circus Underground station to PSS (5 minute walk).

PSS is relaxed about its diners' attire and the restaurant was full at lunch time essentially meaning that  reservations are essential. Mostly the diners were rather younger and trendier than yours truly, but the whole atmosphere was uplifting.

I will not detail all 5 of the selections we made. but mainly mention  my own, other than the sweet chosen by mrs maytrees.

The PSS had an exotic non alcoholic aperitif menu as well as for alcoholic drinks. I chose a delicious green lemonade made with kiwi fruit lemon and limes. The wine  chosen with the lunch was  Pouilly-Fuisse which we all enjoyed.

For starters, mine was a Paignton Harbour crab salad, apple, coriander, lemon puree and brown crab on toast. 

The  main course I chose, was roasted red legged partridge, mulled beetroots, mushrooms & innards pearl barley, beetroot & mead reduction.

Mrs maytrees' sweet course comprised  a delicious black currant Eton mess which was so tasty that maytrees min who had requested an extra spoon, ate almost as much as her mother whose dessert it was supposed to be.

Between courses several small  contrasting tasters were provided which proved very appetising.

Coffee (Pouchong green tea for me) was accompanied by many different sweet delights.

We were not rushed and indeed did not finish dining until about 4pm.

Overall a great way to meet and dine together. Slightly pricey though so really for a special occasion such as in our case a family reunion for mrs maytrees.

I decided to take a longer walk back to Green Park Tube  (about 15 minutes away) and was impressed by the  number of people obviously enjoying themselves, passed on the way to the station. Maytrees min and mrs maytrees needing less exercise than I, decided to take an Uber home but the tube and train were rather faster, for I arrived home despite walking to Green Park and from Wimbledon Station, well ahead of the Uber.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

German Spirit and Friendship

The letter to the Times yesterday from many leading German politicians and I believe,  a well known and great German football player,  recalling the acts of bravery by the UK alone in Europe for a while in WWII, and asking the UK to remain in the EU was kind and thought provoking.

Today's Times has  number of letters in response the most amusing of which reads:

"One of the letter's signatories is the great goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. The British nation, to a man would overturn Brexit and remain in the EU if Germany would promise to stop winning all the penalty shoot-outs." (Edgar Moore).

Another correspondent (Professor Shaun Gregory of Durham University)  more seriously though writes applauding the Germans' letter but goes on to say:

"...but the horse has bolted. Had Germany not unilaterally junked the Dublin III Regulation in 2015 in the Syrian refugee crisis, had it offered David Cameron more in 2016 before the June referendum, and had it slowed the pace of the EU project to respond to rising national populism, we would probably not be in this mess."

Also in the Times is a leader in which the paper reminds readers of how popular Tony Blair was  shown for example  by his winning three general elections. The Times does accept that he was wrong about the weapons of mass destruction issue in Iraq though believes that to have been an honest mistake. 

Possibly though, The Times leader is intended to ease the reader into reading more favourably, their subsequent two page article by Tony Blair,  in which he calls for a second referendum on the Brexit issue. 

That in my view would be a serious error, unless perhaps, the two choices this time, are to accept the withdrawal proposals negotiated with the EU or to leave with no agreement, given that the decision about whether to Remain in the EU or leave, has already been decided in a referendum, with the  one of the largest turnouts if not the largest turnout, in British history, in favour of the latter.

The spirit of the Germans' letter to The Times yesterday, of warmth and friendship with their British neighbours is of course reciprocated and will be what ever Brexit or even heaven forbid Remain, bring.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Old School - Others Views

Having attended at a now long since closed boarding school as a pupil in what was then called the "B" stream I had assumed that most of the pupils in my year whether in the "A", "B" or "C" streams found it reasonably bearable. 

In November 2017 there was a get together over dinner at the old place (now an hotel) by members of our year. The School closed in 1967 when our year was the last to leave. Interestingly although I was unable to attend the dinner following a  serious cycling accident - now recovered - most of the year members who are still living, attended, some 45 old boys. Surprisingly after so many years, friendships that were made at school in the 1960s have endured; several have died though including one in the 9/11 atrocity and another sadly earlier this month.

Following the death of Michael McGreal a few days ago there was a spate of emails firstly of course expressing sorrow and sadness at Michael's death and recalling incidents when we were all boys at the old place. Secondly though the emails moved on to life at the old school itself.

To my surprise many who I had regarded as strongly supportive of the school and who seemed to thrive there signified that in fact they loathed the place and some were bullied. One old friend wrote to me saying (names removed):

It was a great pity that you couldn’t get to the reunion because of your cycling injury, I was very reluctant to go as I felt it would dredge up too many memories and nostalgia but I am very glad I went. It was a great night, friendly and inclusive and it was good to see that most of us have turned into reasonably adequate human beings. Those in the C stream in particular all seem to be barristers, CEOs, businessmen and financiers which I’m sure would be a big surprise to those teaching them at the old school. For me it was a massive surprise to find out that the many of us had an unhappy time at the old school. During our time there it seemed to me that everyone else was confident, successful and happy and I thought I was the only one who was feeling repressed, inferior and out of my element, but it seems many others were feeling the same but none of us recognised it in the others. I met N... at the reunion, he was in the second eight with us although I hardly remember him at all from the old school. He hated his time at the old school and spent the whole time trying not to be noticed and in particular not to come to the attention of any of the Js. He has a farm near Newhaven and Anne and I sometimes call on him and his wife June for a meal if we are catching the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry. I have also been in contact with M... lately. It turns out that he had been working in Leeds which is close to where I was in Wakefield. I only found out when my daughter had a placement with him during her training as a clinical psychologist. M... was a consultant neurologist and neither of us knew that we lived so close to each other. I had lunch with him recently after he posted about the sad loss of his daughter with a heart condition. I’ve exchanged a few emails with N... as well. To my astonishment he ended up marrying a French girl and training as a GP in France! He worked in pharmaceutical research in Switzerland and is now relocating to France. Quite a few of us seem to live here, C... P... N... for example but I don’t see them. Anne and I live in the Charente, between Bordeaux and Cognac and you are most welcome to visit. N... and June  stayed for a night while passing through the area in September.

I feel that anything I achieved in life was in spite of the Js rather than thanks to them. Their job seemed to be to put us down, put obstacles in our way and tell us that we weren’t capable. There seemed to be a culture of preventing us trying what they felt we couldn’t achieve, even John ... who was a good and respected teacher was very reluctant to give me the extra maths coaching required to allow me to take Biology A level with Physics and Chemistry according to Beaumont rules. Luckily I was able to persuade him, and it gave me great delight when G... (may he R.I.P.) had to announce with a sour look on his face that I was receiving a prize for being accepted into Cambridge. In a way I have to thank him as he had literally sneered and scoffed when I told him my ambition and told me to forget about it, so I was determined to do it to prove him wrong. Classic reverse psychology I suppose but it wouldn’t work with everybody and I’m sure he didn’t mean it in any positive or benign way.

Still it would also appear that most of us turned out reasonably well eventually. Also it has to be said that education in post WWII Britain has since moved on considerably, so that for example, the dreaded ferula or beating of boys with a cane by the captain of the school have long since been outlawed. "A" "B" and "C" streaming of pupils  would these days, surely not  apply either.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Amazon and Shopping in Local Shops

Having decided that a metal jug was needed for our coffee maker for the easy making of  cappuccino or even just real coffee with hot milk, I did a tour of several local shops, one of which has been in the news recently, given the effects on their sales of Amazon and the like.

The first shop or store as our American friends call them, was Debenhams  in Wimbledon. Debenhams was recently reported to be on the brink of insolvency though was saved for the time being by Sports Direct taking a large stake though so far the chain has not been fully taken over. In any event the Wimbledon branch seemed  quiet  for a  Saturday though staff were very friendly. I was given possible locations for purchasing the metal jug. 

The nearby Costa cafe, which had several metal jugs in use for their own coffee sales, was perhaps unsurprisingly, unwilling to sell me one of theirs. They were/are a  thriving business, which  sadly in my view, has just been taken over by Coca Cola.

Lakeland is a well laid out store with friendly staff, one of whom told me that my  request for a metal coffee jug to use with a real coffee maker, was one which several other people had enquired of her about. Sadly though, Lakeland  do not (yet?) sell small metal jugs though I was pleased to see the store was pretty full of shoppers.

TX Maxx was next. This operates from the former Woolworths site in Wimbledon Broadway but seemed to concentrate on ladies clothes with a few pots and pans on the first floor. Small metal jugs for coffee makers, were not for sale there either. There were a fair number of mainly female shoppers present,  so clearly a demand for the products the store sells.

Robert Dyas layout is rather higgledy-piggledy but attracts shoppers like yours truly and lo and behold a small metal jug ideal for use at home with a real coffee maker was found. At first I thought that the price of  £7 was slightly expensive, which I nonetheless paid. Subsequently it transpired that £7 is a fairly good price - see further below.

Amazon which out of interest I then checked next was surprisingly rather more expensive for a similar jug at £8+ though  its smaller jugs were less expensive.

Amazon has made inroads into British shopping but provided that shops and stores are flexible  enough to cater for changing demands, local shops  in my view, should have have decent futures.

ISIS; Shamima Begun - Return to the UK or not?

The question about whether the UK should allow Mrs Begun to return to London given her travel out to Syria four years ago and her involvemen...