2013 – March

Wednesday 27th: In Australia driving to have dinner with the McBirnies we heard the ABC radio reporting that English Ipswich Town FC have banned a Mark McBirnie from being given players’ signed shirts. How strange that our national radio news should carry such a insignificant news item during our short journey and what a coincidence in the name.  My friend though, when I was enquired about this alleged black sheep in the family knew instantly that Mark ‘McBirnie’ was spelt differently (such a small clan you see) and he was right. The name was McBurney, so no coincidence at all unless you believe in aural coincidence…

Tuesday 28th: So those great footballing nations Oman and Montenegro march on toward World cup glory leaving Australia and England in their wake. It is a funny old game and it can drive you mad.

Thursday 21st: If there is a golden rule in war or politics it should be ‘never  ever ever tell your enemy/opponent what you are going to do’.  In the Parliament of Australia today was a perfect demonstration of why not. Forewarned (by him) Julia Gillard trumped the ex-Labor (I hate the fact the party cannot spell labour) leader and her (as from today now-ex minister) Simon Crean in an absolutely brilliant display of political manoeuvring. She did what he said on live TV she wouldn’t (and had time to plan because he forewarned her) and succeeded to do so with real panache in Question Time. At the end of the day she remained Prime Minister. This despite a no confidence vote in the House of Representatives and opinion polls reflecting a shocking defeat for her party at the next election. Love her or loathe her she has a whiff of Machiavelli about her.

Saturday 16th: A new Roman Catholic Pope and the adjective most used to describe him so far is ‘humble’. Matthew said ‘by his works ye shall know him’ and although not a Catholic I already like the cut of his jib. I hope that through his example and with his spiritual leadership of a seventh of the world’s population we will all be the better for his appointment. Also this week a different billion plus people in China have new leaders. Let’s hope that they too will prove a blessing…   

Tuesday 12th: I bought some ‘natural sultanas’ from the supermarket yesterday. I know the Chinese are making artificial eggs (apparently they are cheaper to produce…) but I have yet to hear of unnatural sultanas. Perhaps they yell profanities at you from their shelf as you wheel the trolley past and select their ‘natural’ cousins or maybe they believe the ABC isn’t biased or gang up on their nice currant neighbours!

Saturday 9th: In 1973 I joined a navy which provide its nation with both strategic (deterrent) and tactical nuclear weapons capabilities. I never imagined that many years later I would be in agreement with a leader of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Bruce Kent) and in disagreement with the views of an old colleague, Admiral Lord West of Spithead. The latter once lost my money in the Gibraltar casino but that is not why I disgree with him about replacing Britain’s Trident class of ballistic submarines. Nor is it because the bill will be at least 15 billion quid. Equally, unlike Mr Kent, I am realistic enough to doubt that in a world with Israel and its neighbours that there will ever exist a world in which nuclear weapons are extinct.

However what exactly what does the British independent nuclear deterrent protect? The world, and in particular Britain, has changed dramatically since 15th June 1968, the start of HMS Resolution’s first Polaris patrol. In the interim the Royal Navy has decommissioned shipborne anti-submarine nuclear depth bombs and politicians have overseen the staggering decline of conventional forces. Britain has joined the EU and bent a knee to the European Court of Human Rights. Today it struggles to demonstrate its own independence and sovereignty from the continent of Europe. Bruce Kent questions what use is a nuclear deterrent against the nuclear armed asymmetric terrorist? Millions of Britons live abroad outside any nuclear umbrella while Britain’s land mass contains millions of foreign nationals.   So the deterrent is incapable of protecting the nation state or millions of British Citizens. To me, once a believer, it has truly become a case of the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’.

Friday 8th: ‘Sfunny old world. In Oz there is a pretty 22 year old running to be the youngest ever Federal Parliamentarian while a letter by Margaret Callan to the Australian newspaper (intentionally or not) suggests male Liberal politicians cannot represent or understand women. In the UK the comedienne Katy Brand is defending all aspects of free speech, but only up to a point… so many people seem to want it all ways. Well I would be happy to be represented by a 22 year old or a nonogenarian. Male or female, pretty or ugly. I do believe there are some limits (and costs) to free speech but please can we end the hypocrisy and say exactly what we mean and if that means someone is a bigot, sexist or downright boring fine but lets not throw people into prison for their puerility unless they insist Frankie Boyle is in the ‘arts’ or that every exhibit in MONA has artistic merit! Rant over (for now).

Wednesday 6th: Such a beautiful dawn on the river this morning. I hope I didn’t disturb anyone while I was paddling away, whistling the old UK radio 4 medley of Danny Boy, Men of Harlech, Greensleeves, Rule Britannia etc.  It reminded me of another dawn in early 1974 off the West Indian Island of Bequia. On a glorious calm morning we rose early to witness HMS FEARLESS steam around a Canadian frigate at anchor with a lone piper on its bridge roof and no one else visible. A truly moving, magnificent sight and a stirring sound with which to start the day. That was in the era when the Royal Canadian Navy was simply ‘Maritime Command’ and all Canadian forces wore the same green uniforms. A political castration worthy of a communist regime not their 1968 Liberal Party. Miraculously in 2011 the ‘Royal Canadian Navy’ name was reinstated. You may well ask what is in a name? For a navy it is the little acorn ‘identity’ from which a strong oak will grow over decades with branches of loyalty, morale, comradeship etc.

Saturday 2nd: Can anyone justify receiving a bonus for simply doing the job they are paid to do and doing it to the best of their ability? I understand ‘Golden Helloes’ and loyalty payments for extending a contract with your employer but bonuses? The Royal Bank of Scotland this week announced losses of about $7.5 billion and, wait for it, bonuses of over $900 million. No wonder a lot of people hate bankers!

Friday 1st: According to those antipodeans (the majority) who ignore equinoxes in favour of an artificially imposed calendar, there went Summer and today welcome to Autumn. As if by magic the last two days did appear Autumnal with a welcome day of showers to add some badly needed water to our tanks and a drop in temperature with a strong Southerly breeze blowing all day yesterday. Why, one of us was even allowed to have a bath, a luxury denied to last month’s pommie visitors. I reckon our water now stands above 25% of tank capacity once more.

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