Thursday, 12 November 2009

Word is getting further round!

Since I started 'blogging' on the 30th of August, I have got into a diary-style routine of including local and national news items and commenting on matters of interest to myself and, hopefully, to others. Nearly all of the 'comments' relate to my likely candidature as an independent for South East Cambridgeshire in the up-coming General Election, whenever that is to be, and the local and other issues that I and my supporters feel strongly about. It is very clear that at least some of those issues are now being debated and discussed to a greater extent then ever before and it may be that my 'blog' is encouraging debate and discussion. I certainly hope so, for an informed and interested electorate is extremely desirable and pretty well essential for democracy to work as it should. There is nothing that I hate more than canvassing the good people of South East Cambridgeshire - and I have a lot of experience of such canvassing - and being told on the doorsteps that 'I'm not going to vote: you're all the same.' Well, we are not all the same and this independent is certainly different from any others likely to be standing in our constituency.

Regarding the election date, my private guess (don't tell anyone lest I prove to be mistaken) is that the big day - 'Independence Day' for our constituency - is going to be the 6th of May, 2010, which, coincidentally, will be the 105th birthday of my late father, Ladbrook Walter James (Laddie) Woollard, who was born at Downing College Farm, Swaffham Bulbeck, on the 6th of May, 1905. Laddie's father (and my grandfather), Walter Clifton Woollard (1875 - 1942), was a farming tenant of Downing College, Cambridge, as had been his father (and my great grandfather), Joshua Samuel Woollard (1844 - 1929), who was born at Biggin Abbey, Fen Ditton. I wish those ancestors of mine were still around, if only to witness what could well be a rewarding and wonderful day for a Woollard.

The photograph is of my father when he was a pupil at Newport (Essex) Grammar School.


  1. There was an interesting 'leader' in yesterday's Daily Telegraph:

    "David Cameron's Tories must have the will to reform welfare

    David Cameron has shown he grasps the importance of welfare reform, but it will be a taller order for the Tories to drive the changes through

    In his introduction to the 1997 general election manifesto, Tony Blair proclaimed Labour to be "the party of welfare reform". The following year, the government sought to put flesh on that promise in a Green Paper, "The Case for Welfare Reform", which said that "individuals have a responsibility to help provide for themselves when they can do so; work is the best route out of poverty for people who are able to work". Admirable sentiments – but they remain unfulfilled to this day.

    It has been Labour's most expensive missed opportunity. Once in power, it went for the soft and lazy option of continuing to sign welfare cheques to its clientele – which has cost a total of £473 billion over 12 years. The country has paid dearly in other ways for this act of political cowardice. The number of people dependent on welfare at the end of the boom decade was almost identical to the number at the start – about 5.4 million (almost half of them on incapacity benefit, an unhappy legacy of the last Conservative government). There are 1.6 million children living with an unemployed lone parent, while the number of young people classed as Neets (not in education, employment or training) is nudging the million mark.

    This is policy failure on the grand scale and to its credit the Conservative Party is filling the vacuum. The exemplary work of Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice has provided David Cameron with coherent measures to tackle poverty and inequality by simplifying the discredited welfare apparatus that has helped embed them. In an important speech last night, the Tory leader set out the philosophical underpinning of this programme by exposing the malign consequences of Labour's "big government" approach. He argued that it was no coincidence that while this Government has expanded the reach of the state more than any administration since Attlee's, the poorest have become poorer and inequality has grown. Why? Because today "the state is ever-present: either doing it for you, or telling you how to do it, or making sure you are doing it their way". The state has smothered self-reliance and personal responsibility and spawned a host of perverse disincentives that positively encourage irresponsibility. In today's welfare state, too many people are better off doing the wrong thing rather than doing the right thing.

    Hauling round this juggernaut presents a mighty challenge. Mr Cameron has shown he not only grasps the enormity of the task, but also has a sophisticated, multi-faceted strategy for tackling it. This is a good start; but it is also the easy part. Should he win power, the Tory leader must show he has the political will to drive these changes through, and that is a much taller order."

  2. And I wrote a piece in response:

    "He argued that it was no coincidence that while this Government has expanded the reach of the state more than any administration since Attlee's, the poorest have become poorer and inequality has grown. Why? Because today "the state is ever-present: either doing it for you, or telling you how to do it, or making sure you are doing it their way"."

    That is an interesting observation but, when I was a Conservative County and District Councillor in Cambridgeshire, I often found that people wanted the state or 'authority' to do more for them and that voluntary organisations and individual voluntary efforts were often absent or not up to the task when people most needed them. We must not forget how helpless and neglected people felt and how helpless and neglected many people were before the inception of the Welfare State.

    In my love of what prevailed in the past, I have often admired the best of the old plantation society of the Southern States of America, but I am more than aware that the paternalism of the best of the old plantations was too often counter-balanced by raw exploitation on the worst of them. In this country, I would not wish to go back to our brand of paternalism where, on the farms for example, 'the men' were well looked-after as long as they worked well and as long as they and their families tugged their forelocks. I know of this, for I witnessed it.

    In the village wherein I live now, I know of individuals who took care not to get the wrong side of the deservedly well-respected squire and/or his equally deservedly well-respected tenant farmers, but the forelocks had to be tugged all the same. The doctors, too, were well-respected, but none of them, so far as I am aware, were in their profession and owning their practices out of altruism. They were in it for the half guineas - or more from those who could afford it - and the indigent and the work-shy and the disrespectful often took the hindmost. The great thing about the Welfare State is that it cares for those whom society doesn't much like, not just 'the deserving poor.'

    David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith, both of whom are much younger than I, should read as much history as they can and they should talk to the elderly - those who still recall the neglect by society of those whom society didn't much like or care for.

    The silly old socialist, Mr Attlee, expanded the state by pursuing nationalization to an absurd extent. His old Labour government even took over the lorries of road transport firms - an absurdity hopefully never to be repeated - but his government also put in place welfare that was state-provided and that no number of old 'Lady Bountifuls' nor charitable efforts could have done. The admirable and old Christian teaching, 'Love thy neighbour,' doesn't always work in practice, as some of us have seen in modern-day America.

    Mr Cameron should not throw the baby out with the bath water or he will drown in deep electoral water himself.

  3. A letter of mine that has appeared elsewhere was published again in today's Ely Weekly News (a paper that is going ahead by leaps and bounds with lots of good stories by my friend Jordan Day):

    Stallions of fens are a sick joke

    Sir, Photographer Geoff Robinson was extremely lucky to get close enough to photograph the wild Polish konik stallions fighting at Wicken Fen (Stallions caught sparring in the fens - Weekly News, October 22).

    He was also fortunate that they went after one another and not him.

    Other visitors to the National Trust's extensive lands in the fens should be very wary. The trust itself advises that these animals should be observed "from a respectful distance". A single stallion, even from a tame breed, can be unpredictable. Several stallions, of a wild and untamed type, can be dangerous.

    Your readers may be wondering why we have wild horses in the Cambridgeshire fens. The koniks were brought in at great expense by the National Trust and, along with Highland cattle from Scotland, are supposed to be helping to re-create the old Fens on thousands of acres of hitherto fine food-producing land.

    These "native" breeds are frightening the lives out of the native fen villagers and are regarded as a sick joke by food-producing farmers.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm, River Bank

  4. One of the most vocal supporters of the so-called 'Wicken Vision' is Mr Tony Juniper, formerly of Friends of The Earth and now 'The Green Man' of the city of Cambridge, where he has high hopes of becoming its M.P. Tony has taken advantage of there being something of a vacuum in the city's politics by publishing the following in the Cambridge News letters columns:

    Time right to elect a Green

    David Howarth's shock decision to step down in the next general election means that both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are currently now without a candidate only six months before the election has to be called.

    David Howarth has been a hard working MP, but his departure presents an even greater opportunity for a new agenda for Cambridge.

    I believe there are solutions to the big problems that would benefit Cambridge. For example, the city could play a leading role in the development of the clean and efficient technologies of the future.

    We could develop a leadership role in showing how it is possible to deliver affordable housing, modern infrastructure and commercial development that also enables high quality green living. There is little point in paying lip service to sustainability without practical positive change on the ground. This agenda would be underpinned by the Green Party's well developed and progressive policies on the economy, education, defence and public services.

    In the Euro elections last summer, the Green Party secured 18 per cent of the city's vote, a share greater than Labour. With David Howarth's departure the city seat is now even more marginal.

    I hope the people of Cambridge will see this as a major opportunity to create change by electing the country's first Green MP, unencumbered by old ways of doing politics and with a real passion and track record for creating positive change. I am already working hard to convince the voters of Cambridge I am able to do that job.

    Tony Juniper
    Green Party Parliamentary
    candidate for Cambridge
    Belvoir Road

  5. Mr Juniper has often had a go at me, so I gave him one back in the most local of our local newspapers, the Burwell Bulletin, that has now being in existence for a whole year, thanks to its editor and my friend, Pat Kilbey:


    Predictions for the future show that we need our farm land

    Friends of the Earth are predicting that a loaf of white bread will cost £6.48 in 2030 and that the price of a pint of Pilsner lager will be £18.48 in the same year. They are also predicting that 'millions more people will go hungry here in the UK alone.'

    But Tony Juniper, the former executive director of Friends of the Earth and the Green Party's parliamentary candidate for Cambridge, is enthusiastically in favour of removing from food production thousands of acres of our finest Cambridgeshire fen land for his latest pet fad - the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision.'

    Is it me that is stupid in attempting to defend farming in Cambridgeshire or is it Mr Juniper and his fellow Greenies? I leave it to your readers to judge.

    Geoffrey Woollard.

  6. And my friend, Alan Seymour of Ely, has also had another go at Mr Juniper in today's Ely Weekly News:


    Food argument is just ridiculous

    Sir, Having rendered thousands of acres of fertile, arable fenland impotent for the purposes of cultivating vegetables, the National Trust have now introduced dangerous wild konik stallions, freely roaming and often stampeding Highland cattle, to their recently created "Wicken Fen Vision".

    In the midst of this mayhem, the Green Party's Tony Juniper, a vociferous supporter of the absurd "Vision", claims that the solution to the country's dependence on food imports, whilst facing an ever increasing population, is to "have a look at how much food we give to animals for meat, rather than eating it ourselves (News, October 22).

    If such ridiculous nonsense persists, both will eventually become extinct by means of starvation.

    A Seymour
    Morley Drive

  7. Lastly, for today, the good old Ely Standard excelled by published a 'for and against' feature on the so-called 'Wicken Vision.' For this I have to thank the paper's excellent editor, Debbie Davies:

    Wicken: The great debate

    Wicken Vision is a 100-year project by the National Trust to create a landscape scale nature reserve and green lung for Cambridgeshire and the East of England, covering 53 sq km, from the existing Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve to the outskirts of Cambridge. The Vision will see the re-creation of a mosaic of fenland habitats to help protect and conserve endangered species of wildlife. During the last decade more than 400 hectares of land has been purchased and the process has begun of returning this land to natural fenland habitat. The East Cambridgeshire community is split on whether the loss of agricultural land is a good or a bad thing. This week, we asked Ben Gibbs to put the case for the vision and Geoffrey Woollard to argue against.

    Ben Gibbs explains why he is in favour of the Wicken Fen Vision.

    So, why am I in favour of the Wicken Fen Vision. Firstly, I've enjoyed visiting the reserve for as long as I can remember, and I have a deep respect for the National Trust.

    I also feel strongly that we need organisations like the Trust to identify and preserve our natural and cultural heritage where it is endangered by other parties, or where it needs a little to get by on its own.

    The National Trust's plan at Wicken is to create a new nature reserve of wetland, grassland, scrub and woodland, eventually including about 20 square miles of land - currently in mixed use - between Cambridge and Wicken Fen.

    The land, which has lost nearly 36 million cubic metres of soil over the last 200 years through the erosion and drying associated with intensive agriculture and drainage, will be slowly returned to its natural fenland state, creating a much needed habitat for many threatened species of wildlife, helping reinstate the peat soils and reducing carbon loss.

    In addition, the new reserve will create much-needed recreational space for residents of a county that has significantly less accessible countryside than the national average.

    The Vision will provide new resources for visitors on foot, cycle and horseback, creating a network of footpaths and circular routes, and eventually providing a safe and virtually traffic-free cycle route from Cambridge to Ely.

    I believe - and it would appear that a majority of people in the region agree - that the Vision is well planned, and that the National Trust can be trusted to carefully manage the transformation, preserving the area's important heritage sites and Lodes and avoiding the 'junglification' that Mr Woollard harps on about, whilst returning the fen to its natural state.

    I do not believe that the Vision - which, after all, accounts for less than 0.1% of the UK's arable farmland - can be said to threaten the UK's food security, which depends more on reducing food waste and improving efficiency. Rather, I feel that Cambridgeshire as a whole will benefit greatly from it.

    Ben Gibbs

  8. The Great Debate (continued):

    Geoffrey Woollard argues against the loss of agricultural land.

    After the National Trust decided in 1999 to buy and partially to flood up to 15,000 acres of Fen land between Wicken and Cambridge, neighbours demanded, 'Why don't you do something?'

    I had retired from local politics and I said, 'I'm retired: you do something!'

    But I subsequently attended 'consultation' meetings organised by the Trust in the villages that I had represented on Cambridgeshire County Council, realised that the decision had already been taken and that, far from 'consultation,' the meetings were indoctrination exercises.

    With my local knowledge and my sympathy for those to be adversely affected, I decided that the Trust should not have its way without a fight. So I put some points publicly:

    It is wrong for thousands of acres of the most fertile and productive Fen land to become a welter of water and weeds and an unkempt jungle of elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles, the most vigorous and virulent forms of plant life in this part of Cambridgeshire.

    Though larger landowners may willingly dispose of their property, others see their livelihoods and inheritances threatened and devalued and their families' futures uncertain.

    For those unwilling to sell out to the Trust, neighbouring lands being sold and partially flooded will inevitably raise the water table elsewhere and undermine, threaten and devalue other properties.

    As a Trustee of the 'The Little Chapel in the Fen,' I have a duty to ensure that it is not undermined nor threatened by flooding.

    The Trust is taking on more than it can economically and managerially cope with.

    Nothing has changed since and the latest news on national and world populations and food security lead me to believe that I have been too moderate in the past.

    We can not spare the very best Fen farmland to fulfil unreal dreams.

    Save Our Fens!

    Geoffrey Woollard

  9. The November meeting of Swaffham Prior Parish Council took place last evening and it was an unusually lively one, thanks in part to the new member, Mr Paul Latchford, who works for May Gurney, a large infrastructure services company based near Norwich. Paul exhibited his buildings expertise when we fell to discussing much-needed repairs to the ancient village pound (or cage) on Cage Hill. With advice and funding from East Cambridgeshire District Council, it looks as though the work will proceed in due course.

    The annual budget was agreed in a matter of minutes, largely because of the trust that the rest of us have in one of our colleagues, Mr Steve Kent-Phillips who, not to put too fine a point on it, is regarded as our financial wizard. The fact that he is extremely responsible with the Council's money is an added bonus. Not many parish councils have the benefit of such wizardry and good sense and we are grateful to Steve for it.

    The trees in the churchyard were debated once more. Some of us had met on site earlier in the afternoon with Ms. Cathy White, the District Council's very helpful and professional trees officer. The outcome of the earlier meeting was that Ms. White was adamant that the large lime tree should not be messed with, except to keep any new suckers trimmed, but that cutting down the now-famous 'weedy cedar' could be a candidate for her list of jobs to do. She did indicate that this would not be a high priority because the funding allowed to her was and is principally used up on 'Elf 'n Safety' issues, i.e. where trees are dangerous to the public and/or to buildings. Everybody present seemed to understand and accept this, but we didn't have the benefit at that point of Mr Alastair Everitt's wisdom.

    Mr Everitt, though still my friend and supporter in many matters, is a ruthless campaigner against certain trees that obstruct certain views and had even gone so far as to report in the Swaffham Crier, our first-class village magazine, that 'Geoffrey [me], with support from Steve [Kent-Phillips], has always opposed the wish to see the church.' I thought that this was outrageous misrepresentation in that, whilst I had said somewhat flippantly that I didn't give a monkey's if people could not see the St. Cyriac's church clock from the street at certain times of the year, i.e. when the lime tree is in full leaf, I had never alluded to the church tower in like manner. And I said so in the meeting. Whereupon there erupted not one but two rows. I further said that I had had it facetiously suggested to me that a good way of ensuring an even better view of the church(es) from the street might be to demolish Anglesey House. I also said that I had even thought that this house should be demolished with Mr Everitt in it. (I should perhaps point out that Anglesey House is a very fine home believed to date from the 16th century, formerly the dwelling-place of Mr Everitt and, many years before, my great uncle, Charles Yorke Woollard). The council was divided but eventually voted as to the majority in favour of following Ms. White's policy with regard to the lime tree and also agreeing with her with regard to the 'weedy cedar,' despite it having received a reprieve at the last meeting. I suppose this reversal of a decision recently arrived at is just about legal, but only just. Let's hope that the poor cedar appears very low on Ms. White's list of priorities. The council eventually agreed that it had had enough of churchyard trees and it was decided with something of a roar of approval to have the matter dropped - hopefully for a very long time.

  10. Partly in order to be constructive rather than critical and partly because I was and am worried about such matters, I raised the reported tragedy of the Pilkington family of Barwell in Leicestershire. A Ms. Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter, Frankie, had died, apparently by Ms. Pilkington's own intention, in a fire, and it had appeared that the two of them had been victims of persistent abuse from yobs in their village. I had made a note of criticism of members of Barwell Parish Council and Ms. Pilkington's neighbours, wondering out loud how it was that nobody knew anything nor did anything to help. I said that I thought that, in a small village like Swaffham Prior, we parish councillors needed to keep our ears open all of the time - easily said, but less easily done. I also mentioned that my wife Sue had recently come across a lady from Swaffham Prior who had had to shell out over £40 for a taxi to take her to her doctor at Burwell and I wondered, again out loud, whether something along the lines of the doctors' car service which had existed for many years at Swaffham Bulbeck might be emulated in our own village.

  11. Yesterday to Norfolk, the County of the 'Turnip Taliban' - the sneering nickname for those local Tories who appear to be resistant to the efforts of Conservative Central Office and David Cameron to ensure that Elizabeth Truss is not de-selected as the Tory candidate for the South-West Norfolk constituency in light of recent 'revelations' about her.

    I know nothing of Ms. Truss. But I do know that Conservative Central Office can be insistent in its attempts to get the 'wrong' candidates parachuted in to so-called safe seats. And I also hear that the Cameron clique is very insistent - in the name of 'diversity' - to parachute in to such as Norfolk even more unlocal and unsuitable people. If I were Mr Cameron, I would back off from fighting rural Norfolk. These people are tough and determined and not be messed with. They need their own choice of local Conservative candidate, not another from the London 'A' list.

    The reason that Sue and I were in Norfolk was that we had been invited to a double family Christening and lunch party, and very enjoyable it was, too. Neither Sue nor I were Godparents to either baby, but Sue has the great distinction of being great aunt to them both: they are two of her younger brother's eight grandchildren and both bonny babies. All in all, a great day.

    A further thought: if Mr Cameron pursues this 'diversity' business to its ultimate degree, how long will it be before a local Conservative Association is told to 'select' a gypsy 'traveller'? That would go down like a lead balloon in Norfolk, where the County's 'diverse' society includes quite a large number of 'travellers.'

  12. I had a letter published in today's Cambridge News. It concerned hunting and hare coursing and was a response to one from Mr Peter Croft that appeared on the 6th of November and the latter was in response to one from Mr Michael Michalak, my anti-hunting ally from Burwell. Mr Michalak often writes on these subjects. Therefore, to put my own letter in context, here is a transcript of Mr Croft's letter which, I warn my own readers, is rather more crudely worded than one might wish. Mr Croft wrote:

    'Gun cull would save suffering

    I wish Mr Michalak (Letters, October 29) would understand the facts.

    As I pointed out to him and your readers (Letters, August 24), animals in the wild die deaths of far greater horror and cruelty than anything inflicted by hunting. Predators pick out the eyes as the softest tissue then proceed to the male genitals as the next softest tissue.

    If Mr Michalak is so concerned about saving wild animals from pain in death will he advocate an immediate cull by shotgun of all birds and wild animals in the country so that they do not suffer unnecessary pain on death? If not, what is he saying?

    His objections are purely class warfare based on the factually unbased belief that hunts and run by what he calls a "Victorian squirearchy" which, as I showed in my earlier letter, no longer exists.

    Peter Croft
    College Fields
    Woodhead Drive

    My letter, as published today, reads as follows:

    Hunts are not nature's way

    Michael Michalak, who is a friend of mine, is quite capable of answering Peter Croft, whom I don't know, but may I respectfully suggest to Mr Croft that the reason why some of us get steamed up about fox hunting and hare coursing is that they are not natural, i.e. they do not occur naturally in nature.

    They are the organised 'sports' of certain people who enjoy taking part in that which leads to 'the kill'. If this were not so, drag hunting would satisfy those who participate in fox hunting.

    Of course, nature itself is only too natural, and Mr Croft is correct in pointing out that it is also cruel.

    Though I have a murky past myself and have enjoyed the 'sport' of shooting, I have come to the view that humans killing creatures for pleasure is not natural.

    I now believe that humans should know better than to mimic the natural cruelty of nature.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm
    Nr Upware

  13. To Prickwillow this afternoon for the Annual General Meeting of the Swaffham Internal Drainage Board. Mr Henry Hurrell, a staunch ally of mine, was re-elected chairman, and Mr Jonathan Graves, another staunch ally, was re-elected vice-chairman. Mr Hurrell asked if anyone else wanted to be chairman and I responded by saying that, yes, I would like to be chairman but only when I am older and more experienced. This brought forth the first laugh of the afternoon. Several more followed.

    Most of the matters under discussion were routine but the report of the Board's engineer, Mr Ross Chilvers, was received - as always - with great interest. Mr Chilvers is clearly the master of his task and Mrs Jean Heading, the Board's finance officer, is clearly the mistress of hers. It is good to deal with capable and competent officers in any organisation.

    I deliberately put the cat amongst the pigeons at the end of the meeting when, under 'Any Other Business,' I innocently inquired as to who or what is the largest landowner in the Board's area. Without doubt, the National Trust is, exceeding even the holdings of Mr David Thompson and Mr Hurrell himself, and this was confirmed. I then remarked - and got away with it - that Mr Hurrell obviously draws a substantial sum annually from the Rural Payments Agency, in his case to ensure that he grows proper crops and takes good care of his land, which he does.

    I then - innocently again, of course - asked Mr Chris Soans, the National Trust's man on the Board, how much the Trust is drawing from the R.P.A. and similar sources for letting its land go to rack and ruin. I said that when I get the answer, even if it means using the Freedom of Information Act, I intended to go public with it. Watch this space!

  14. I received this evening a congratulatory telephone call from Michael Michalak regarding my hunting and hare coursing letter in the Cambridge News, and messages from other supporters including the following:

    I like it! Very well put!

  15. To Burwell for my annual medical check-up (which, for my American readers' information, is free of charge) and to collect a repeat pill prescription for Sue (also free of charge - the pills, not Sue). The Burwell doctors couldn't be better nor more helpful. The only 'problem' attendant on attending their surgery is that, for me at least, it is as much a social event as a medical one. Once again, I saw many people whom I know and, when asked how they were, all replied, 'Fine, thanks.' One was tempted to inquire why they were there at the doctors' surgery, but one withheld such inquiries for obvious reasons. Amongst those whom I saw was Mrs W., a dear lady of Swaffham Bulbeck who is in her eighties and is a widow. She and her late husband were well-known for having had a wonderful marriage but he died at the age of only 71 and she still misses him desperately. We discussed children and grandchildren and we put the world to rights. Then in walked Mr A., of Burwell, whom I had not seen for several years and who is clearly not as young as he was. We swapped notes on matters of mutual interest. Whilst I was talking to Mr A., there came in another and different Mr A., from Reach, a very good friend who has had some serious health problems but who now appears to be a great deal better. The second Mr A. and I swapped notes on the many matters of mutual interest that we have. My doctor then called me in and we went over all of the things that he and/or I could think of, even including some matters of Parish Council interest at Swaffham Prior.

    'Our' road (Great Drove/High Fen Drove) in Swaffham Prior Fen was completely closed for the whole of yesterday in order for the County Council to effect much needed patching where the road had sunk due to the constantly-shifting peat subsoil. (The National Trust claims that our Fen peat is disappearing at a rate of knots: if this were true, the Fen droves/roads would have been right down and on solid clay many years ago). Anyway, greatly to my surprise, Great Drove was open again this morning and I pay tribute to the Council - and to County Councillor David Brown - for getting the patching done at an opportune time and in rapid manner. The worst of the dips have been filled and my Jeep's speed can now be maintained at about 30 m.p.h. instead of the 20 m.p.h. to which it had been reduced by the dips and bumps. I actually prefer people being 'restricted' to about 30 m.p.h. as we don't then see idiots racing their vehicles along the straight stretches and that is why I am always the last to complain about the state of the droves/roads. My guess is that the County Council will be doing more work in due course, however, as the work that has been done so well and in so short a time can only be described as patching.

  16. I know that many families throughout our land have suffered losses in the Afghan conflict that has been going on - and on - for eight years, but the Cambridge News has announced a local loss today, that of Rifleman Andrew Ian Fentiman. Go to -

    The announcement reads as follows:

    Cambridge territorial soldier killed in Afghanistan

    A Territorial Army soldier from Cambridge has been killed in Afghanistan.

    Rifleman Andrew Ian Fentiman from 7th Battalion The Rifles (7 Rifles), attached to the 3 Rifles Battle Group, was killed as a result of small arms fire whilst on a foot patrol near Sangin in central Helmand province on Sunday. He was 23.

    Rifleman Fentiman was born in Cambridge, he read mechanical engineering at the University of Leicester and worked as a regional sales manager for Team Studio Ltd, a software firm based in Huntingdon.

    He intended to return to his civilian job after he had completed his tour of duty.

    Tributes have been paid to Rifleman Fentiman, known as “Fen”, who volunteered to serve in Afghanistan to follow his dream of becoming an officer in the regular military.

    He leaves his parents, Kevin and Lynda, a brother, Adam and a sister, Elizabeth. Rifleman Fentiman joined 7 Rifles as a Potential Officer in 2007 following two years at East Midlands Officer Training Corps.

    Having volunteered to serve with 3 Rifles Battlegroup, he completed an assault pioneer course in May before being mobilised in June 2009.

    Rifleman Fentiman attended training at the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre, in Chilwell before joining A Company 3 Rifles during Pre-Deployment Training.

    He quickly proved his mettle, earning high praise from training staff for his reactions during a demanding exercise in Norfolk.

    Lieutenant Colonel Nick Kitson, Commanding 3 RIFLES Battle Group, said: "Rifleman Andrew Fentiman was one of the welcome volunteers from our Territorial Army brethren, in this case 7 Rifles, who have answered the call to come out to Afghanistan with us.

    "It was an honour and a great act of commitment that he chose to accompany us and share the burden.

    "A real ambassador for the great British public that supports us so well, he was up for the challenge and gave of himself selflessly.

    “A university graduate, he was something of a novelty to his platoon. Bright and enthusiastic he fitted in instantly.

    "I have infinite respect for the commitment and sacrifice of this brave Rifleman who had so many opportunities ahead of him yet chose first to serve his country and his regiment.

    “He was liked and respected by all and will be sorely missed as he now makes his way home to his family. Our thoughts are with them and all of his loved ones at this most difficult time."

  17. (continued):

    Lieutenant Colonel Paul Uden, Commanding Officer 7 Rifles, said: "The loss of Rifleman Andrew Fentiman is a terrible shock to everyone in the Battalion. My thoughts and those of the entire Battalion, are very much with Rifleman Fentiman’s family at this dreadful time.

    "He was a young man of 23 who played a full role as a TA infantryman, and was a popular and committed member of E Company, 7 Rifles.

    "I spoke to him before pre-deployment training about his hopes for the future and his desire to eventually commission.

    "He went to Afghanistan to gain experience as a first step to achieving his goal of commissioning and I have no doubt that he would have made a very good officer. He was keen, committed and determined to succeed."

    Lieutenant Ben Heap, 7 Rifles, said he had a “kind, gentle and cheerful manner” and “showed great consideration for others in everything he did”.

    He said: “He was obviously happiest most when working alongside his section in the most challenging of circumstances, while still remaining to be a source of morale in the face of adversity.

    “He died alongside his friends doing a job he loved."

    The latest casualty comes after details were released about the death of another soldier in Afghanistan who was based at Carver Barracks near Saffron Walden, as reported on Cambridge News Online last night.

    The serviceman was from 33 Engineer Regiment, and was part of the Counter-IED Task Force. He was killed by an explosion on Sunday near Gereshk, in Helmand province. No further details have been released.

    The Cambridge News permits on-line 'comments' to be made and I have commented as follows:

    Stop it now, Mr Brown!

    234 Brits have now been sacrificed without Osama bin Laden having been 'smoked out' (George W. Bush's Afghan war aim), the Taliban being limited to an extremist fringe, or the Afghans having their 'nation' rebuilt. We have wasted men, money and matériel, most of all men. Gordon Brown's latest plan is a step in the right direction but, between his up-coming conference and a complete withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan, more and more of our men and boys will lose their lives or be dreadfully injured.

    Stop it all now, Mr Brown.

    My sincerest sympathies and kindest condolences go to the Fentiman family of Oakington. Let them be the last to suffer thus.

  18. My meetings today included an invaluable one over lunch with Mrs Mairi Hayworth, an inveterate and invigorating campaigner against cruelty to animals, particularly that perpetrated by those taking part in fox hunting and hare coursing, and, of course, I found her company both helpful and stimulating. Mairi and I are on the same wavelength and, though Sue and I had not met her face-to-face before, we were both extremely impressed. I won't go into the sort of detail that we discussed - even for this blog - but I am convinced that the meeting and the being on the same wavelength will be helpful to my own campaigning. I only hope that what I am able to do here in South East Cambridgeshire will be of some assistance to what Mairi is trying to accomplish nationwide which, in short, is nothing less than the kiboshing of the Cameron/Hague/Herbert-led plan to 'un-ban' these disgusting so-called 'sports.' Her website is at -

    Lunch, by the way, was at The Old Fire Engine House at Ely. This nationally-renowned eating place is, in my opinion and that of thousands of others, one of the finest restaurants in East Anglia. It is so lovely having such a famous establishment almost on one's doorstep. My very good friend from Wicken, the famed fen artist Anthony (Tony) Day, was also there (though not for our meeting) and I guess that he was finalising arrangements for his forthcoming exhibition of new paintings, the private view of which is at the restaurant's gallery on the 2nd of December. The exhibition itself runs from the 3rd of December through to the 23rd of the month and then into January. If my readers want to see the work of a gentleman of true genius, then go to it during that period.

    The Old Fire Engine House's website is at -

  19. Two letters appeared in today's Ely Standard, a long and helpful one from my Burwell friend, Barry Garwood, whose passion is walking or cycling through the Fens with his dog, Flash, and the other from a 'Mr Maclean' of Sutton, who seems to miss the points that I and Barry Garwood and my more knowledgeable local allies have been making:


    Trust plan may see many routes lost

    The debate over National Trust plans for Wicken Fen is becoming polarised. The need for a nature reserve is being set against the need for agricultural land. However, for people living in the area concerned, there is more to the argument.

    The nature reserve consists of large fenced enclosures, where herds of non-native wild horses and highland cattle are left to roam. Numerous paths that were previously open to all are no longer useable by dog walkers or horse riders because of the attention of these herds. These include the path between Wicken and Burwell as well as parts of Reach and Burwell Lode banks.

    Latest National Trust plans are to fence off land from the outskirts of Reach across Burwell fen to Wicken as a single enclosure. The proposal includes replacing Burwell Bridge with one that animals can use freely. The effect on local people will be that they can no longer walk or ride through the fen between the villages of Reach, Burwell, Wicken and Upware, without going through a large herd of large and unpredictable animals.

    Farm from improving access for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, many routes are being lost.

    Although the cycle path between Wicken and Lode will be a new route, access to it is being limited. From Burwell, it can be reached by Newnham Drove, which now has a locked gate at the point it meets National Trust land, or by Hightown Drove, where gates, cattle grids and herds of wild animals roaming on the road are proposed. Whilst tourists may be able to cycle between Wicken Fen and Anglesey Abbey, local travel through the fen is being hugely disrupted.

    Meanwhile, all the tall trees in the area are being cut down, to prevent crows using them as a vantage point to prey on ground nesting birds, whose nests are regularly trampled by the cattle and horses. The Vision appears less of a nature reserve and more of a badly managed zoo than the National Trust care to admit.

    Much has been said of the fertile farmland that will be lost to the Vision. Few who walk or ride in the area will have gone far with encountering a crop sprayer, working alongside the path. Usually they continue as people pass, which is not to everyone's taste! If the land is so fertile, surely local farmers could grow organically, without chemical sprays. This would result in higher prices for the crop, as well as more local support for their point of view.

    Barry Garwood
    Ness Road


    Regarding the Wicken Fen expansion, the National Trust states quite clearly that "we do not have powers of compulsory purchase nor do we seek them" (

    Since all the local landowners are, apparently, opposed to the project, then they won't sell their land to the National Trust. Therefore the expansion won't happen. So Mr Woollard et al can stop writing letters and find some more useful outlet for their energies.

    Mr Maclean
    Red Lion Lane

  20. And there were three more letters, of very mixed relevance and quality, in today's Ely Weekly News:


    Keep ponies out of argument

    Sir, I reply to Geoffrey Woollard's letter of November 12, 'Stallions are a sick joke'.

    Photography has come a long way since W.H. Fox-Talbot's time. They use telescopic lenses now.

    With all due respect to Mr Woollard, stick to the point; your argument is about land that you do not want flooded because it is prime food-producing soil, not because of some ponies or cattle.

    Alison Arnold


    Thanks to trust for fen walks

    Sir, I have, on several occasions, walked at Wicken Fen, which is a place I love, and feel that we are lucky to have in this area.

    I have often bumped into the wonderful konik ponies and the highland cattle. I have never seen on my walks anyone being frightened by the ponies. In fact, they seem very friendly and have never seen people being chased by them or the cattle. I always keep my dog on a lead when approaching them.

    We are very lucky to have the National Trust at Wicken giving us these lovely walks for us all to get out into the countryside to walk and cycle.

    Marion Scott
    Swaffham Road


    Great show but please, no rants

    Sir, My letter to you has two purposes.

    The first is to commend ADeC (Arts Development in East Cambridgeshire) for organising Jeremy Hardy's visit to the Maltings on Friday. He is clever, perceptive and very funny, and he entertained the packed house for over two hours. It was an excellent show. Thanks to Jeremy Hardy and ADeC.

    The second is to try to displace Geoffrey Woollard's continuing rant against the National Trust from your letter pages for just one week - a forlorn hope?

    John Shippey
    High Street

  21. The letter that pleased me the best today, however, was printed in the Cambridge News and was from a Mr John Doland, whom I hadn't heard of before, but who is my friend for life (if he wants to be). Mr Doland writes what I would wish to write but he does it better than I could or would:


    Waffle cannot defend hunting

    Peter Croft would have us believe that there is no justification for the ban on hunting with dogs.

    To vindicate his argument he regales us with the gory details of what happens to the old and infirm animals in the wild - as unpleasant as it is, that's nature.

    Fox hunting serves no useful purpose, it's just entertainment for those who delight in chasing a defenceless animal to exhaustion so it can be torn apart by a pack of hounds.

    If the unfortunate beast escapes and goes to ground, the huntsmen are so sporting they dig it out so it can be killed. It matters not one jot whether it's young or old, fit or infirm.

    No amount of waffle from Peter Croft can conceal the fact that hunting with dogs is nothing more than a repugnant leisure activity, an anachronism. Perhaps he would welcome a return of otter hunting, cock fighting and bull-baiting for good measure.

    John Doland
    Robin Close
    Bar Hill

  22. I feel somewhat sorry for those who are not 'internet savvy,' for they miss much.

    As is probably apparent, I rather enjoy 'blogging' and reading other people's 'blogs' as well. An ordinary 'blog' is really not much more than an on-line diary and my 'blog' is just that - an ordinary 'blog.'

    Yesterday, however, I was sent a link to one of the most spectacularly hilarious 'blogs' that I have ever seen - or heard (I'll come to that directly). The address is -

    I made a slightly facetious 'comment' on the above regarding the fictional (I think) tale of Sir Henry Bagshotte, Bart., a Tory of 'the old school' (What old school? Any old school), and his attempts to be selected as a Tory parliamentary candidate.

    Anyway, as a result of this comment an on-line conversation ensued and, to cut a long story short, I have been propositioned by a splendid fellow called Mike who wants me to do a 'podcast' on the process of standing for Parliament. I have expressed willingness to do this on the grounds that any publicity is good publicity (as someone once said). If and when my first 'podcast' gets done, my friends and supporters will not only be able to read my words but also hear them on said 'podcast.' (I can almost hear the groans already).

    The point that I am trying to make this morning is that, without the internet, the likes of me 'blogging' and doing a 'podcast' would be impossible.

    This 71-year-old is way behind his grandchildren in being 'internet savvy,' but it's enormously amusing trying to catch up.

  23. It's nice to note that my NoToHareCoursing E-Petition is making good progress. Friends and supporters are being very helpful and I am very grateful.

  24. I received a most marvellous message from the daughter of a very good friend of mine who died earlier this year at much too young an age. He and I, as two little boys, were at prep school together and she told me that she had heard Rolf Harris on the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and that they had played 'Two Little Boys.' Apparently it was said how special the lyrics are and how the song personifies in a very unique way true friendship between what Rolf termed 'blokes.' The daughter asked me for the words, which I was honoured to supply.

    I had spoken at my friend's funeral and had concluded my tribute to him with the last verse of the song. The full lyrics follow:

    Two little boys had two little toys
    Each had a wooden horse
    Gaily they played each summer's day
    Warriors both of course
    One little chap then had a mishap
    Broke off his horse's head
    Wept for his toy then cried with joy
    As his young playmate said:

    "Did you think I would leave you crying
    When there's room on my horse for two
    Climb up here, Jack, and don't be crying
    I can go just as fast with two
    When we grow up we'll both be soldiers
    And our horses will not be toys
    And I wonder if we'll remember
    When we were two little boys"

    Long years had passed, war came so fast
    Bravely they marched away
    Cannon roared loud, and in the mad crowd
    Wounded and dying lay
    Up goes a shout, a horse dashes out
    Out from the ranks so blue
    Gallops away to where Joe lay
    Then came a voice he knew:

    "Did you think I would leave you dying
    There's room on my horse for two
    Climb up here, Joe, we'll soon by flying
    Back to the ranks so blue
    Can you feel, Joe, I'm all a tremble
    Perhaps it's the battle's noise
    But I think it's that I remember
    When we were two little boys"

    Why can't songs with lyrics like that be produced today? All we seem to get now is headache-inducing 'thump, thump, thump' or, if the words can be heard at all, utterly banal nonsense. (Am I getting to be a bit like Victor Meldrew?).

  25. Depending upon one's point of view, an article in today's Sunday Times is either cynical or shocking. I was shocked.

    The article describes a scenario where the Prime Minister, supposedly for electoral reasons, announces soon a date or dates for British withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    The whole article is at -

    and is headed "Afghan pullout is ‘election ploy’ by Gordon Brown."

    The text is as follows:

    Gordon Brown has ordered defence chiefs to find a way of pulling some troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2010, according to senior defence sources.

    They say he wants to be able to tell voters before the expected election in May that a partial troop withdrawal will begin by Christmas next year.

    The move will be justified on the grounds that British soldiers will be handing over areas of Helmand province to Afghan troops, say the sources.

    It is designed to wrong-foot the Tories and capitalise on opinion polls which show that more than 70% of the public are opposed to keeping British forces in Afghanistan.

    Defence chiefs are dismayed. General Sir David Richards, the new head of the army, has repeatedly warned that British troops will need to remain in Afghanistan for a long time.

    Richards told the BBC last month that troop numbers would not begin to come down until at least 2014 and even this was “an ambitious target”.

  26. (continued)

    He is determined that the army should not be seen to have failed in Afghanistan following its humiliating withdrawal from Basra in Iraq earlier this year.

    The plan to pull out troops follows the prime minister’s recent announcement calling for a conference in London early next year to decide “the next phase” of the military strategy in Afghanistan. It is just one of a series of defence announcements designed to outflank the Tories, including pre-empting the post-election strategic defence review promise by all three main parties.

    Ministers have told service chiefs to make radical cuts that will reduce budgets by 25%. They include cutting 25,000 service jobs, selling off a number of RAF and army bases, slashing the number of new Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and downgrading one of the navy’s new aircraft carriers.

    The RAF will be worst hit, losing 10,000 of its 41,000 personnel, plus Harrier and Tornado aircraft. The army will cut 10% of its 100,000 troops, the navy will lose 5,000 of its 38,000 force. The cuts will be announced in January as part of the 2010 planning round, leaving any strategic defence review with little room for manoeuvre.

    A series of government announcements has been sketched out by Lord Mandelson as part of an attempt to turn around Brown’s perceived failure to back British troops.They will begin over the next few weeks with official confirmation of 20 new Chinook transport helicopters and plans for a replacement for the vulnerable Snatch Land Rover.

    Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said a Conservative government would refuse to be held to any announced withdrawal: “If we are elected, we will follow the advice of our military commanders, not a timetable for Labour’s electoral campaign.”

    What shocked me was Liam Fox's statement, and I have commented on line as follows:

    "We will follow the advice of our military commanders"

    That is an early indication of a shocking abdication of power by the Conservatives and means, in essence, that General Sir Richard Dannatt's successors could have untold and unheard of influence over a Conservative government. Ministers must continue to decide what happens, always with the House of Commons in mind, and generals should carry out ministers' decisions. In the case of Afghanistan, the sooner that Labour ministers (or Conservative ministers) decide that all of our boys should be brought home the better. We have lost a pointless war and our sacrifices have been in vain. That is the truth and it needs to be said, especially to the gung-ho Dr. Fox.

  27. The recent revelations of the red revolutionary past of Eric Pickles, now the reasonably respectable chairman of the Conservative Party, were mildly amusing though not entirely surprising as I have heard from another source that Bradford politics were pretty rough in his early days. It was very good fortune for him to land in Brentwood and Ongar as the constituency's M.P.

    The revelations reminded me of the various defining moments in British politics that I have witnessed. Pickles is said to have made his right turn from Communist to Conservative in 1968 following the Soviet suppression of the liberal reforms introduced by Alexander Dubček in Czechoslovakia.

    Czechoslovakia also figured in the first defining moment of my life, though I didn't know it at the time. It wasn't the annexation of the Sudetenland by Germany following the Munich agreement in 1938 - an understandable if not necessarily commendable act that returned German government to ethnic Germans - but what followed: the effective takeover of the rest of Czechoslovakia by Hitler in the Spring of 1939. I was nearly a year old.

    The next defining moment for me was when I realised that the Socialist nationalizations of Clement Attlee's old Labour governments were just another name for stealing. I don't like and have never liked people stealing things from other people, least of all governments stealing from their peoples.

    Like Eric Pickles, 1968 was another defining moment for me, but the constituent parts of former Czechoslovakia have risen again and are now embraced by the European Union. The latter has had one great benefit to the peoples of Europe: we have had no wars amongst ourselves since its inception. The EU has its critics, but peace between European nation states is truly wonderful and greatly to be cherished.

    I might have mentioned before that I am a big fan of the diaries kept by the late Richard Crossman, M.P. (1907 - 1974). His 'Backbench Diaries,' published posthumously, include extensive and day-by-day commentaries on those other great defining moments that coincided in 1956 - the violent Soviet suppression of the then hopes of Hungary and the abortive attempt by Britain, France and Israel to oust the dictator Nasser from Egypt and to regain international control of the Suez Canal.

    Crossman describes to a 'T' the political contortions of his own Labour Party under the leadership of the late Hugh Gaitskell, the terribly rifts in the then Tory Party led by the then Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, and the ignorant and dangerous bungling of the United States under President Dwight Eisenhower and his anti-British Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles (he of the international airport at Washington, D.C.). At one point, the U.S. was allied with the U.S.S.R. at the United Nations against Britain, France and Israel. All one can say with the benefit of hindsight is that, if only the U.S. had seen then the benefits to the world of ousting Nasser, a lot of later problems in and around the Middle East might not have emerged.

    Dulles, obsessed with 'colonialism,' neither understood Hungary nor did he see at the time who was right regarding Nasser and Suez. It has been reported that President Eisenhower in his old age was asked what was the greatest mistake of his presidency: he replied, 'Suez.'

    I take comfort from the fact that my mind has never changed on what happened in 1956 but, amazingly, there were people then who left the right to become leftist luminaries later. That year seems to have been a defining moment. I was 18. Eric Pickles was 4.

  28. I have only just seen last Saturday's Burwell Bulletin. There's a good letter in it from an old friend of mine. I have thanked him!


    Over population crisis

    The chances of my being around in 2030 are remote, so I won't ever know for certain - but my friend Geoffrey Woollard may be correct in publicizing Friends of the Earth's prediction of enormous price increases in basic necessities about that time.

    If so, this will be solely due to the failure of the Friends and world governments to address the real problem, which is over-population.

    That is the direct cause of poverty, and also of of almost every other ill that inflicts us all today. Homo sapiens has bred like rabbits and is already beginning to drown in its own excreta.

    Unless serious action is taken to restrict the planet's birthrate, the effects of having more than twice as many people on Earth as it can sustain will inevitably result in shortages and price rises. But that will be only a minor annoyance.

    The actuality is that over-population will cause more world-wide strife and famine, which will be more serious than having to pay £18.48 for a pint of lager. Incidentally, what will that be in Euros - which by then we will be forced to use unless our daft so-called government gets us out of the EU?

    Robert Rodrigo

  29. For better or worse (and it's great fun so far), I have joined Facebook. Go to -

    and have a laugh at my expense!

  30. The 'big news' of yesterday and today is the issue of additional temporary liquidity which was provided last Winter by the Bank of England for the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) and which, in my opinion, is being blown out of all proportion by such as Dr. Vince Cable, who has his own political axe to grind. This was not 'taxpayers' money': it was additional and temporary liquidity provided by the lender of last resort - the said Bank of England - and it was and is the Bank of England's job to ensure that the whole banking system is kept going in such crises. The Bank and Ministers did an outstanding job and I commend them.

  31. There's an excellent letter from a Mr Les Walton, of Soham, in today's Ely Standard. I think that I might know Mr Walton and I think that he might be on my side of the 'Wicken Vision' argument, but he certainly raises an even bigger issue, namely, the future of all of the lowing lying land in our part of the country.


    Geoffrey Woollard Is Entertaining But Check Out The Environment Agency Website

    May I take this opportunity to thank Geoffrey Woollard for the entertainment he has provided in recent months with his ever more inventive criticisms of the National Trust proposals for the expansion of Wicken Fen over the next 100 years.

    I am afraid though that he may be tilting at the wrong windmill. If he were to spare a few minutes on the Environment Agency web site he would find a consultation document called The Great Ouse Tidal River Strategy. The full document is very detailed but contains two main proposals which are rather alarming.

    The first deals with the plan to reduce the amount of silt in the river beyond Denver Sluice. This has been building up over the past 50 years and is now at level which is restricting the main river flow. In times past, the channel was dredged but this is not fashionable now because it is expensive and "the channel may silt up again". I used to try a similar excuse to get out of washing my hands as a child but mother would not accept it. The agency hopes to deal with the silt by changing the management of the water controls at Denver and hoping for heavy rain. The other contentious proposal is to allow the level of flood protection offered by the South Level Barrier Bank (that is the bank which stops the water from the Bedford River flowing into the fen) to decline from the present 1 in 120 risk to 1 in 20 over the next 70 years or so. The bank would then be maintained to provide a 1 in 20 risk level. If this plan is adopted, there is likely to be more acres of wild and natural fen in 100 years' time than the National Trust can imagine. In response to last week's letter from Eddie Holden, the drainage system is at the moment much safer than it was in 1947 despite the points I have made above. The council does not need to buy lots of boats just yet!

    Les Walton
    Hall Street

  32. And the Ely Weekly News published another one from me:


    Battling to save next generation

    Sir, To John Shippey of Haddenham (Great show but please no rants, Letters, November19), I say sorry if my interventions in the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' controversy seem like rants.

    I have been battling this batty scheme for eight years, just a little longer than our poor armed forces have been involved in Afghanistan. And whilst the latter have suffered grievous losses for little gain, I have succeeded in getting the Wicken Vision debated in the columns of this and other newspapers and elsewhere.

    The reason I have succeeded is because the debate resonates with this paper's readers, many of whom recognise that we cannot afford as a nation with an ever-growing population - some home-grown and some due to immigration, to lose our very best food-growing fen farmland to what the trust seems to want - a thistle-growing reserve that is good for neither man nor beast.

    Oh yes, and I have recently discovered that the Trust, the largest landowner in these fens, is being supported in its thistle-growing by the European Common Agricultural Policy through our own Defra. When I find out how many hundreds of thousands of pounds are involved I will let you know.

    To Alison Arnold, of Ely (Keep ponies out of the argument - Letters, November 19), I say that I am trying my hardest to 'stick to the point' - the point is as set out above.

    And to Marion Scott, of Burwell (Thanks to trust for fen walks - Letters, November 19), I say please do be careful when around those wild horses and cattle. Even the National Trust says that we should exercise caution when in the animals' company

    To your more silent readers I say your future and the futures of your children and grandchildren are at stake. We must not permit misguided mistakes to be made by those who are set above us.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm

  33. I've had a novel experience today. I did my first podcast. I described myself to the interviewer as a virgin podcaster. I have no idea how it will sound or whether it will do me good or harm, but it will appear on the internet later - so I'm told - and my readers (and listeners) must judge for themselves.

  34. Well, aside from a few coughs (I am recovering from a cold and am still a bit croaky), I am quite pleased with the result of having recorded my first podcast yesterday. The interviewer was Mr Mike Semple Piggot, a well-known legal eagle who has many other interests - including podcasts.

    The thing can be heard at -

  35. I received the following from a loving and lovely relative:

    Well I’m blowed!

    You did good cousin Geoffrey!!!!

    I’ve just spent a useful few minutes with you on the pod and a mug of tea. I have to say – seriously - that I’m very impressed. It was an excellent interview and I’m proud to see a Chalkley [descendant] standing up for his principles.

    It’s a good thing you’re not in Salisbury. Although Robert Key MP and his Tory hunting pals would have a fight on their hands, it would play havoc with my loyalties to the Lib Dems! Here I am, an active member of the local executive, happily working towards the next election. I’d have to quit my post and make myself a red, white and blue rosette!!!

    On the subject of MPs expenses, we have discovered that ‘our Robert’ has designated his home of many decades as his ‘second home’. We have paid for his wondrous new kitchen and other ‘secondary needs’, but even more importantly we have so far this year paid more than £10,000 for his food bill and for one or two other items it will be hard to explain away!! It appears that one’s ‘second home’ is able to command funds for all sorts of things deemed necessary for the upkeep of an ‘Honourable Member’.

    When you’re elected, how about having your second home in Salisbury Geoffrey? My ‘umble flat is in desperate need of a new kitchen!!!

    Much love, Cousin Dot

  36. My son has written from the United States (where he lives and where they make the matter of 'image' a serious one to consider) and says:

    "I think you should replace your photo on your blogs and facebook with something more 'human.' Couple of reasons: 1) You're not smiling in the picture - do you want to come across as unfriendly/humorless, as this pic suggests? (it actually looks like you're saying 'I am running for political office and somebody forced me to take this b****y picture, but there's no way I am going to smile'; 2) The 'look' - with tweed jacket/tie reminds me of your typical Conservative politician - the landed gentry/lord of the manor look. If I was your media consultant, I'd say ditch the photo and get a pic of you with an open neck shirt, smiling. Seriously - people take note of these things. It's all about marketing these days."

  37. So I changed my 'blog' and Facebook picture. I don't think that it is much of an improvement. I was described as 'handsome' by someone who saw the previous one!

  38. I reckon I've been right in defending the so-called 'Turnip Taliban' of Norfolk, the hard-working and loyal local Tories who have been put down and put out by David Cameron's 'A' List of Candidates and the imposition of members of it on unwilling Constituency Associations. We had a lovely bunch of Sue's Norfolk relatives to lunch today and it was confirmed without doubt that the likes of Gillian Shephard and the late Sir Paul Hawkins, both excellent MPs for South West Norfolk in their days, were much more to Norfolk's liking than some London think-tanker like Elizabeth Truss.

  39. A leading article in The (London) Times today says:

    "Intolerance of Islam

    The Swiss vote to ban minarets is an attack on religious liberty

    Switzerland’s cosmopolitan and sophisticated electorate voted yesterday to inflame tensions and violate religious liberty. In a referendum launched by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, a comfortable majority supported a ban on the construction of minarets.

    If confirmed, the ban will be enshrined in the Swiss Constitution. The least of the objections to this destructive and pernicious decision is that it has embarrassed the Swiss Government and will provoke fierce diplomatic opposition. More fundamental, the ban on minarets — the spires from which the faithful are called to worship at the mosque — completely misunderstands the nature of a secular, constitutional democracy.

    One interpretation of the Swiss vote that should be swiftly dismissed is that it shows the populist dangers of direct democracy. Historically, there are many examples of the resolution of longstanding disputes by putting them to a vote of the entire electorate. A plebiscite in Schleswig in 1920 divided the province peacefully between Denmark and Germany, and thereby banished an issue that had sparked three wars in the previous century. The constitutional status of the mainly French-speaking Jura region of Switzerland was resolved by the use of referendums in the 1970s.

    The referendum held yesterday is different from these. Instead of seeking to balance the conflicting claims and allegiances that characterise modern democracy, it targets one group for discriminatory treatment. The “yes” campaign played on fears of militant Islam. Its posters depicted a woman clad in a burka, alongside a forest of minarets that resembled missiles.

    There are only four minarets in the whole country, and none is used to call the faithful to prayer. There are some 350,000 Muslims in Switzerland, or 4 per cent of the population. Most bear as much similarity to the theocratic fanatics of al-Qaeda and the Taleban as Archbishop Rowan Williams does to the snakehandling sects of Appalachia. Many come from the Balkans, where a Muslim population recently suffered ferocious persecution under the genocidal designs of Slobodan Milosevic.

    Among the most important statements on the nature of a free society is the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson. It enshrines in American government the principle that there be no religious test for public office. Public service is open to anyone of any faith or none. Removing sectarianism from public service and religiously divisive symbols from public life is an important principle. Attempting to banish religious observance from private life is a democratic outrage. Yet that is the only rational interpretation of the perverse judgment of the Swiss electorate.

    A liberal society cannot countenance claims that the sensibilities of particular religious groups take precedence over, or even rank alongside, the ability of a free press to publish and artists to work free of intimidation. The libertarian issue in Switzerland is exactly the reverse. An attempt to stigmatise a religious faith and restrict freedom of worship has gained popular approval. In the name of defending the principles of a constitutional society against religious intolerance, Swiss voters have adopted intolerance. That is more than a paradox: it is a calumny."

  40. And I have commented on-line as follows:

    "I believe that bringing Thomas Jefferson into this discussion is ridiculous. That great man was minded to be tolerant towards all of the varieties of the Christian religion as well as to non-believers. I don't suppose for one minute that he ever envisaged a large proportion of the population of Virginia (or Switzerland) being adherents of Islam. It's a measure of how much change - for the worse? - that has occurred since Mr Jefferson's day that the Swiss wanted a referendum on what, to them, are a nuisance and/or offensive - minarets, not Muslims. I applaud the result of the referendum and I hope that it sends a strong hint to others, Islamic and otherwise, that some European countries have had enough - of minarets."

  41. A package arrived in good time for Christmas from our American son. I wrote to him as follows:

    The ****** that you ordered for us has arrived safely but, unfortunately, there was a customs charge (for the Gordon Brown retirement fund, I suppose!). Despite that, thanks very much indeed.

  42. I have a new great nephew. My sister telephoned at about 7.45 a.m. to say that G******* gave birth to a baby boy at about 11.30 last evening. She had heard the news from W***** who telephoned her (my sister) from Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, where he is serving in the British Army.

  43. I'm having a busy day but I made time to tune in to Prime Minister's Questions on TV. What I witnessed today induced me to have second thoughts on standing for Parliament at the next general election.

    The reason for those second thoughts is very basic and quite simple: do I really want to descend in life and to be a part of the bear-pit that is now the House of Commons on PMQs day?

    There was too much petty point-scoring, too much shouting and much too much of 'us' versus 'them' with 'us' or 'them' respectively being right or wrong depending on the respective party line. I didn't detect a single 'independent,' more's the pity.

    I was also appalled - again - by the appearance and behaviour of certain 'honourable' members who had either 'had a very good breakfast' (Mr Speaker Bercow's words, not mine) or were, to all intents and purposes, utter and total nuts.

    On third thoughts ................................... !

  44. To Swaffham Bulbeck last evening and more particularly to the charming home of Mr and Mrs Loder Bevington, where Mrs Bevington (Julia) played host to a meeting to discuss the affairs of the Bulbeck Beacon, a village magazine that is delivered free to every house in the Parish and that has been going strong for more than 43 years. My good friend, Mr Ron Butler, and I were in at the beginning of this enterprise and we regaled those present with a bit of what is now ancient history. Another good friend, Mr Mark Lawrence, who has held (and still holds) the post of business manager, added to the history, he having been 'in business' for the magazine for around 35 years. Mark also brought us up to date with the financial situation and I am very pleased that, thanks to him and to our many supporters, the finances of the magazine are sound. I have been a not-very-active chairman for a similar number of years and, as I now live in the Parish of Swaffham Prior, I thought it opportune to hand over to someone younger who lives in the village. The new chairman is Mr Christopher Welton, whom I described as a pillar of Swaffham Bulbeck's establishment. Though I shall continue to be one of the team of deliverers of the Bulbeck Beacon, I wish the new and active leadership well and have every confidence in it.

  45. Our local newspapers, usually full of 'stuff' on a Thursday, were unusually thin today. One letter, from yours truly, appeared in the excellent Ely Weekly News:


    Sir, Justin Scully, paid to boast on behalf of the National Trust, may be justifying his job by such boasting, but the Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve having had a "36 per cent leap" to a total of 36,000 visitors at that once-peaceful place points up perfectly the fundamental contradiction at the heart of the Trust's so-called Wicken Vision.

    If the vision is successful by the trust's standards, it will draw thousands more visitors who will frighten off the wildlife.

    If it is not successful and few additional visitors come, then what is the point of the huge loss of food production from our fertile Fen farmland and the expending of over £100 millions on such as buying up the land and letting it go to ruin?

    The Cambridgeshire Fens are full of wildlife, partly because of the diversity of the existing habitats, some man-made, some made by nature. Indeed, I have often said that there is more wildlife in my quite wild back garden, which lies close to the River Cam, than at Wicken Fen itself. Perhaps that is because my garden is quiet and has few visitors.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm

  46. And the same letter, slightly modified, has been published in today's Cambridge News.


    'Wicken Vision' is contradictory

    Mr Justin Scully, paid to boast on behalf of the National Trust, may be justifying his job by such boasting, but the Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve having had a '36 per cent leap' to a total of 36,000 visitors at that once-peaceful place points up perfectly the fundamental contradiction at the heart of the trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision'.

    If the 'Vision' is 'successful' by the trust's standards, it will draw thousands more visitors who will frighten off the wildlife. If it is not 'successful' and few additional visitors come, then what is the point of the huge loss of food production from our fertile Fen farmland and the expending of over £100 millions on such as buying up the land and letting it go to ruin?

    The Cambridgeshire Fens are full of wildlife, partly because of the diversity of the existing habitats, some man-made, some natural. Indeed, I have often said that there is more wildlife in my quite wild back garden, which lies close to the River Cam, than at Wicken Fen itself.

    Perhaps that is because my garden is quiet and has few visitors.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm

  47. I sent out the following letter today:

    Dear Editor,

    What is the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for? - A good question in our Cambridgeshire Fens!

    Your readers will know that I am not a big fan of the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision,' but I had assumed until recently that this silly plan to take fine food-producing Fen land out of production relied for its funding on the National Lottery, generous grants (of taxpayers' cash) from such as Mr John Prescott, M.P. (in his former role as Deputy Prime Minister), and money given by members of the Trust and others.

    Having been prompted to delve further and having threatened to invoke the Freedom of Information Act, I have now been informed by the Trust that the so-called 'Wicken Vision' is also supported to the tune of many thousands of pounds annually by the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) through the latter's various schemes that are believed by many to have been intended for the support of European agriculture. I receive a relatively small sum myself and most of my land is farmed well (with the help of a neighbour) and is used for food production. I recently commended a much larger-scale neighbour for his fine farming and remarked that he will soon receive a substantial sum on the basis of his farming his land properly and his keeping it in good heart.

    The National Trust has now owned up to expecting to be in receipt of at least £121,000 per annum for practising the opposite of good farming. It is busily applying for much more money in years to come and, all, so it seems, for letting land in its hands go to rack and ruin and growing thousands of thistles.

    Any idiot can grow thistles. Growing thistles is extremely easy. It needs no European CAP encouragement nor support.

    This is a European CAP scandal and this European CAP scandal needs to be exposed. Please help me to expose it!

    Yours sincerely,

    Geoffrey Woollard.

  48. And soon received this response:

    Dear Geoffrey,

    How scandalous!! And well done!

    Love to you and Sue


  49. And another from the Deep South:

    Hi Geoffrey,

    You can tell your other friends that even in Louisiana thistles grow with no help, and eventualy will take over pasture land. They are extremely hard to get rid of. I know because I had to do the work, years ago, when I bought this property. Their root system is very thick and deep.

    Then we also have nettles that sting your skin when you walk by one.

    I used to keep my almost 5 acres mowed and looking like a golf course. Even hit a few golf balls at times. But when the price of gasoline hit the $3.00 range, and I wasn't getting any younger, I let it grown "au natural". I now have a fine stand of pinetrees, wicked briars and various other scrubby things. They cover maybe 1 and a half acres. And around here deer like that sort of cover along with various other critters.

    So that's why I can fully relate to your situation. Letting wonderfully cared and tended to property go to shi* is a sin, especially when some other busy-body or Mr. Know-it-all thinks that they know better.

    Around here there is a "red-neck" phrase that I've heard and use at times, "I hate dumb-bastards". Excuse my language.

    Carry on, and Merry Christmas,


  50. And another from Wiltshire:

    Hello Geoffrey

    Good for you!! Are you starting a petition? If so I’ll be here to sign it.

    Those b*****s in the National Trust have to be brought to book!!

    Cousin Dot

  51. And another from a former Mayor of Cambridge:

    Jolly good. Keep it up. Don.

  52. According to the BBC's 'Countryfile' website -

    - there's going to be a bit on 'Wildlife Crime'
    on Sunday's programme at 7 p.m.

    "Wildlife crime has increased across the UK, rising by fifty per cent in the last year. This is according to the National Wildlife Crime Unit, formed three years ago to co-ordinate the fight against countryside criminals. For this week’s investigation, John Craven joins officers from Lincolnshire police as they target hare coursers in the county. He’s involved in a blue light pursuit, and confronts one group of men who claim they are merely out walking their dogs."

    As I know a bit about this sort of thing, I have already put a 'comment' on the site, as follows:

    All hare coursing is disgusting and completely unlawful!

    'NoToHareCoursing' [says]:

    I am posting this before Countryfile goes out, but my guess is that what will be portrayed is some rough-looking people trespassing on farm land and using their greyhounds to run down English brown hares. This is a type of hare coursing that has always been 'illegal.' My experience of witnessing hare coursing goes back more than fifty years and, prior to the passing of the Hunting Act 2004, there were two types of hare coursing, one 'illegal' (without the landowner's permission) and one 'legal' (organised and with the landowner's permission). These so-called 'sports' were and are disgusting, particularly from the point of view of the poor hares, but the Act made both the formerly 'illegal' hare coursing and the formerly 'legal' hare coursing completely unlawful. Supporters of the so-called 'sports' are not happy and it appears that hare coursing enthusiasts have been attempting to test the law. (Ms. Clarissa Dickson Wright, from Midlothian, Scotland, and Sir Mark Prescott, Bart., of Heath House, Newmarket, are reported to have admitted attending one hare coursing event on March the 2nd, 2007, near Nunnington, North Yorkshire, and another the following day near Amotherby, also in North Yorkshire). MPs of all parties are known to 'dislike hare coursing intensely' but it is feared that there might be moves in the future to undo the Hunting Act 2004 so far as it affects hare coursing. All hare coursing is now unlawful and there should be no misunderstanding on the part of the public regarding both trespassing and cruelty to the endangered English brown hares through them being coursed. I believe that, in the interest of the hares - and that of our own better natures - we should ensure that all hare coursing remains unlawful for ever and that the police should be supported in their efforts to suppress the so-called 'sport' completely. I ask all readers of this comment to sign my NoToHareCoursing E-Petition at -

    If you decide to sign, you will be in caring country company, for I am a '95% retired' farmer and most of my country friends support me on this issue. Sadly, my MP, Mr James Paice, the 'shadow minister of agriculture,' does not, and that is why I am likely to be opposing him (as an independent) at the next election. Mr Paice says, somewhat illogically, that he dislikes 'hare coursing intensely but would be reluctant to ban it because of my libertarian instincts.' By that logic, we would still have bear-baiting and cock-fighting. We British led the way in banning the slave trade and in banning slavery in the Empire, we led the way in banning bear-baiting and cock-fighting, and we led the way in banning hunting and hare coursing. We must continue to make progress and not let our civilisation take a backward step.

    For more details, go to -

  53. General Sir Richard Dannatt, soon to be a Cameron government minister if the rumours are right, has written an article in the Sunday Telegraph, as follows:

    "A deadline for withdrawal in Afghanistan plays into the enemy's hands

    President Obama made the right choice, but we must see the mission through, says General Sir Richard Dannatt.

    After three months of waiting and debating, President Obama finally announced his conclusions on Tuesday about the future of the campaign in Afghanistan. In all, 30,000 additional US troops are to be deployed, with the balance of what General Stanley McChrystal requested to be supplied by the rest of Nato – an interesting challenge.

    At first glance, and perhaps at second glance, this decision is greatly to be welcomed. It is the positive response that those of us who believe in the importance of the Afghan campaign had been hoping for, sending the unambiguous message that the West sees success in Afghanistan as the highest security priority for our fractured international society.

    The president's announcement was not met with unequivocal praise, and certainly not universally welcomed among his own Democratic supporters on Capitol Hill, which must set the warning signs flashing. Nevertheless, the die is cast. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has chosen the path of war and set his face on prevailing in a military test of strength in South Asia with the Taliban – the front-line representatives of those who support the extreme militant agenda of al-Qaeda.

    For those who are brave enough to acknowledge it, the Islamists' long-term objective is clear, although deliberately understated: the restoration of the historic Islamic caliphate, running through South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and up through south and south-east Europe. The problem is that it is not time-dependent: they are prepared to follow a timetable far longer than those in liberal democracies can accept. As the insurgents often say, we may have the watches, but they have the time.

    This is why, while I welcome President Obama's statement of intent – that we will succeed – the talk of a timeline for withdrawal was misjudged. From my own experience, I remember how the Dayton Agreement that ended the Bosnian war committed Nato to just a one-year mandate. The people were not impressed. As many of them asked us in December 1995: "Why should we support you, if in 12 months' time you will have gone?" It was a fair point, and substantially constrained the degree of success that Nato forces initially achieved. So we must not fall into the same trap this time.

    Away from such strategic considerations, Afghanistan is, for our military, a here-and-now issue. And the cost is high. Earlier this week, it was my sad duty, and privilege, to present Elizabeth Crosses to the immediate next of kin of several members of one of our recently returned regiments, which lost six of its number in southern Afghanistan during the summer and autumn.

    Nothing can bring back those who were lost. But the Elizabeth Cross held by each family will always be a reminder of someone who fell in the service of our Queen and country, and a lasting symbol of the nation's gratitude.

    For the families of our soldiers this recognition is vital. But for our Armed Forces, the immediate task is to complete our mission in Afghanistan. Just in the last few days, the international community has renewed its determination to succeed in that country. And succeed we will, because succeed we must. Any other outcome would give a huge boost to those who seek to change our values and our way of life, through terrorist tactics and a shameful distortion of one of the world's great religions.

  54. (General Dannatt continued):

    There is an increasing awareness that this is a conflict truly conducted among the people – the people are the environment, the background to everything that the military is doing. We also know that it is a conflict that is about the people – about the people's hearts and minds, as we seek to persuade them that there is a better way of life than falling, once again, under the repressive extremism of the Taliban.

    It is a fact that, in the areas that have been cleared of a Taliban presence and then held securely, a better life can be and has been built. We need to get this message out: in those areas, bazaars are bustling, schools are opening, wells are being dug and farmers are switching away from poppy cultivation and towards growing wheat and other food crops. The Helmand poppy crop, for example, was down by about a quarter last season.

    So of course we need to win the hearts and minds of the people in Helmand. But perhaps more critically, we also need to win the hearts and minds of the people of this country, too. The biggest threat to our success in Afghanistan is not the Taliban, but a loss of will by the people at home to see this vital task through. We must maintain the will to win, and break the will of the Taliban to continue.

    But this conflict is not just among the people and about the people, it is for the people as well. And not just the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the wider South Asia region – it is for the people of the West, and for the people of this country in particular. No one wants to see terrorism back on our streets because we allowed Afghanistan or Pakistan to become failed states and a haven for terrorists who seek to change our way of life.

    So, what must be done to succeed? President Karzai must demonstrate that his government is worthy of support, while the Afghan security forces must be developed to the point that they can take the lead. The extra troops announced by President Obama will mean that we can hold the areas we have cleared of Taliban more securely. This will reassure the local people and enable development work to progress faster. We will also be able to increase the numbers of troops training and mentoring the Afghan National Army, thereby accelerating the speed at which they can take the lead in security operations.

    In the meantime, talk now of a withdrawal or troop reductions in Afghanistan is premature. We must show first that we are succeeding. In particular, the media must believe we are succeeding, and report comprehensive progress as it develops. The current fixation on casualties runs the risk – if over-reported – of eroding our national will to continue. This would be a tragedy.

    Of course, the overarching campaign plan must have demanding timelines, linked to the achievement of clearly stated security and development goals. But these should be for internal guidance, and not be allowed to become widely publicised yardsticks that gain disproportionate and damaging significance if not achieved. Strategic patience is difficult for liberal democracies, but impatience, with an eye on the domestic ballot box, is what the insurgent always counts on. We must not score that own goal. For the people of Afghanistan, and the people of this country, the stakes are too high."

  55. And I have commented on-line as follows:

    "Don't forget that Obama is under pressure from sensible people right across the political spectrum in the U.S. who recognise clearly another Vietnam when they see it. I don't think that it matters a damn if there is an announced timeline or not because the fact is that this was a lost campaign before it even started. The initial idea, as put over by George W. Bush, was to 'smoke him (Osama bin Laden) out.' Special forces could and should have done that smoking out and it was always going to be pointless to throw armies at a different target - the Taliban - that would always retreat under pressure and attack when not. The Afghans (Taliban or otherwise - and who can tell the difference?) want us out. All of those lives and all of that money have been lost and should be written off. We should get out with a new timeline, like tomorrow."

  56. Well, it was gruesome, as anticipated, but I have actually witnessed worse in my time. However, Countryfile did a good job and I thought that John Craven's question - "Why do they do it?" - was very apt. The point applies not only to hare coursers but also to fox hunters and all others who get their perverted pleasures from pursuing and tormenting our wildlife. Now we must do all that we can to ensure that hare coursing and fox hunting are not 'unbanned' by any incoming Cameron-led Conservative government and also to ensure that all of our rural police forces attach top priority to catching the scum who perpetrate such cruelty in the practice of these so-called 'sports.'

  57. There's a story in some of the papers to the effect that badly injured soldiers 'snubbed' Gordon Brown when he attempted to visit them at Selly Oak Hospital. Quite frankly, I doubt if this was their intention when they drew their curtains. If I were to be seriously injured or seriously ill in hospital, the last people that I would wish to visit me would be politicians - of any party. No, that's not correct: the last people that I would wish to visit me would be Charles and Camilla. Think about it: would you?

  58. The media in general are making me sick tonight (written at 6.30 p.m. South East Cambridgeshire time). There's extensive reporting of the 100th British death in Afghanistan this year. What about the 99th, the 98th, the 97th, and so on, right back to the first death all those years ago? All are now forgotten because we have hit the hundred again. The total of British deaths is now two hundred and thirty seven and the total of British injured is unknown. And what for? Initially so that we would be seen to support George W. Bush and, later, so that we could kid ourselves that our British troops 'over there' were and are making our British streets safer for us 'over here.' We were and are well and truly kidding ourselves. I want our British troops brought home immediately and a closer eye kept on the likes of Leeds, Leicester, Luton and London, where our 'home-grown' terrorists plot their evil deeds.

  59. Two of my friends, Michael Michalak of Burwell and Stuart Wilson of Little Wilbraham (yes, my friends represent 'a broad church'), are having an argument in the letters column of the Cambridge News regarding the existence of God and what His (Her?) attitude might be to blood sports. Fortunately, neither Mr Michalak nor Mr Wilson have mentioned my name, though it was me who played something of a part in earlier Cambridge News letters debate on blood sports. So, whilst I still have strong opinions on blood sports, I am not going to get in on God arguments. I think it's probably best to steer clear of really serious controversy if one wants to retain one's real friends.

  60. I have had a busy morning, making a number of calls in Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode and Longmeadow, Swaffham Prior village and Burwell, and the call in Longmeadow was to get my hair cut at Andy's. Andy Hayward is a great guy and fits me in almost at a moment's notice. I have found a website where one can 'review' such as Andy's and I have left the following favourable words at -

    "Andy's is brilliant!

    I have just come back from seeing Andy at Longmeadow and from getting a good haircut. Andy is a great guy and Andy's is a great place for a haircut."

  61. Another book review for Amazon:

    Spilling the Beans - by Clarissa Dickson Wright

    This book 'ain't a mucher,' I'm sorry to say!

    'Spilling The Beans' is an amusing title and the dust cover portrays the author ('hideous' in Roy Hattersley's reported comment, though I don't commend him, either), but the work itself ain't a mucher (as some of us country folk say). One wants to be generous to an author who has suffered a lot and, by her lights, has come through to have a 'splendidly enjoyable life,' but her account is clearly not consistent with the facts in some places, and is not well-written or edited. Clarissa Dickson Wright's fans will still love it, I suppose, but I was pleased to put it down at its end and then to get on with some decent reading.

  62. This is my pre-Pre Budget Report (written at 10 a.m., i.e. before Mr Darling has spoken in the House of Commons).

    First, the news media are saying that the Chancellor's three top priorities for future spending are to be hospitals, schools and the police. I have no problem with any of these, provided, in the case of 'hospitals,' that this is not an indication that the rest of the NHS is to suffer disproportionately; that in the case of 'schools,' that this is not an indication that pre-school education and further and higher education are for the chop; and that, in the case of 'the police,' that this is not an indication that the border agency is to be down-graded just at the time when its activity and importance need to be up-graded.

    Second, I note that the three top priorities do not include the defence budget. I understand that defence expenditure is usually treated differently in any case and I would certainly not wish for the government to cease proper funding for our armed forces and their equipment but isn't this the right time to re-consider the billions of pounds being spent on and in Afghanistan. If we had not got this commitment, our armed forces could be withdrawn and our expenditure reduced dramatically.

    I believe that the Conservatives will continue to criticise the Government for spending too much and for having such a large deficit. But I often wonder what, if anything, they would have done differently in order to extricate this country from the enormous international financial mess, the beginnings of which were in the United States, where 'NINJA' (no Income, no Job, no Assets) lending to trailer trash ran riot.

    Would they have vetoed, for example, the car scrappage policy which has without doubt been the salvation of the British car industry and been of great help to local car dealers such as Marshall of Cambridge?

    And, whilst all parties are happy to bash the bankers, would the Conservatives have let our best banks go to the wall for lack of liquidity? When the history books of this extraordinary period are written, I have a feeling that the record of a Government which took action will stand proud against those who advocated inaction.

  63. This is my post-Pre Budget Report (written after much of the TV coverage of Mr Darling's speech, etc., in the House of Commons).

    All in all and given the circumstances, I thought that the Chancellor did pretty well, making some announcements that had been well-trailed beforehand and some others from far up his sleeve.

    However, I have to say that, whilst I admire Mr Darling's confidence regarding the much-needed reduction in the deficit, there is something of a 'but' in my mind. I just hope that his forecasts bear some relation to the reality to come.

    (Incidentally, it was gratifying for me to see - on Sky News - Lord Skidelsky, a former Conservative peer who publicly opposed NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia, as did I, endorse the Chancellor's strategy).

    As I had earlier commended the car scrappage scheme, I am equally enamoured of the new domestic boiler scrappage scheme: this should be another winner and will assist many people who would, like me, leave things be until the old boiler packs up.

    Eschewing a bank windfall tax was also wise, though the bankers' bonus tax will only be OK if no long-term damage is done to the City of London and those who work there - for us as well as for themselves.

    I found that Mr Darling was worryingly vague regarding his much-trailed three top priorities for future spending that are to be hospitals, schools and the police. There needs to be more clarification here or the voters will feel betrayed by Tory-type cuts. Upping National Insurance contributions represent an obvious and less-hurtful increase in the Government's income, but the 'take' must go to where most people think it should go - to the NHS.

    I cannot resist having an inaudible (to you) titter at this point following Mr Speaker Bercow ticking off the Tory MP Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk), whose ancestor, John Bellingham, assassinated Prime Minister Spencer Perceval in 1812 and who (Henry, that is to say) has annoyed me on several occasions. This chinless wonder was addressing a pro-hunting meeting at a Tory Party Conference several years back and I, as a Conservative representative then, heckled him. The MP, whose sound was too much for Mr Speaker today, had the nerve then to call me 'unsound': I'll never forgive nor forget this intentional insult.

    George Osborne (he of the Bullingdon Club) followed the Chancellor and produced a spirited Oxford Union response including the memorable line: 'Never trust a Labour government with your money again,' which was very reminiscent of the arguments of the 1950s and 1960s, but which may not resonate as much with today's voters.

    The Tories have two real problems in their criticism of the government. First, there is always the danger of them being seen to talk Britain down and, second, because of their Oxford Union style and language, one can't help one's mind wandering back to the now-suppressed but easily-found photographs of Cameron, Osborne and Johnson in their over-the-top finery at said Bullingdon Club. Am I being fair? Time will tell.

    By the way, at the tail end of Prime Minister's Questions, which preceded Alistair Darling's statement, I was overjoyed to witness Emily Thornberry state (in the form of a question) that the Tories would be making a terrible electoral mistake by backing a return of fox hunting. I haven't really liked Emily up to today, but I will admire her intensely from now on.

    Gordon Brown came out with the best one-liner of the day. In touching on the subject of renewable energy sources, he declared that the Opposition's policies as applied by certain Conservative-controlled District Councils were 'all wind and no turbines.'

  64. There's a letter in today's Ely Weekly News that makes reference to me by name and, though I don't understand the point(s) being made, I reproduce it here:


    Plants are just selective weeds

    Sir, In reply to Geoffrey Woollard's letter (Battling to save next generation - November 26).

    Actually, all plants are weeds. When you allow and grow certain plants rather than others you are then managing your land to the selective weeds you wish to grow. There's no bad weed, just your perception of it.

    People's values will determine the choices they make and I even quote those which "now believe that humans should know better than to mimic the natural cruelty of nature".

    I think you will find that the National Trust is having to come in-line with other European countries that have long-standing policies on reserves, not the other way round.

    Alison Arnold

  65. Sue laughs at me (which is good in that it means that I mustn't take myself too seriously) on Parish Council nights. She says, 'Are you going to your club, then?' Well, to be honest, I have always enjoyed involvement with Parish Councils - for twenty years at Swaffham Bulbeck, and now at Swaffham Prior - and it is true: I do regard membership as being a bit club-like. It is also true that, whilst we Swaffham Prior members argue and disagree quite often, we all get on OK personally and there is a desire to serve our village that runs like a thread through all of our proceedings.

    Last evening's meeting was no exception to the rule and we again had the benefit of comment and advice from David Brown and Allen Alderson, respectively our County and District Councillors. One of our number, Mrs Sandra Gynn, was unavoidably absent (she teaches and had a big school function to attend), but the rest of us buckled to with a will and with the help of our excellent Clerk, Mrs Karen King.

    As I had come to the meeting via the village of Reach, I reminded the Council of my concerns regarding the state of the Reach Road railway bridge. (This used to cross the old Cambridge to Mildenhall line, long since disused and with the track removed). I am convinced that the structure has sunk in the middle. Cllr. Brown is going to get County Council experts to examine it - again.

    Following Cllr. Alderson's report, I asked if he had any influence with Sanctuary Hereward Housing, the association that now owns most of the former District Council dwellings. It appeared that he was not satisfied with the amount of influence that he and the Council now have and I then expressed some doubt about the District having sold its housing stock to Sanctuary Hereward. We didn't pursue that, however, but I did explain that a person living at The Beeches, a former Council housing development for elderly people, had asked via another party if a hand-rail could be installed beside the path that runs through the middle of the development. Allen Alderson took the point on board and was privately passed the name of the person. Knowing him, I am sure that he will follow it up.

    Sad to relate, the maintenance of the ancient village pound (or cage) on Cage Hill appears to have run into difficulty. Our Parish Council understood that the specialist work and the professional costs involved were going to be covered by grant aid from East Cambridgeshire District Council. Having already spent a total of £935.70 on professional costs, we now find that the District is doubtful about the grant aid. We had voted to continue in good faith and we now fear bad faith on the part of the District. Both District Councillor Alderson and County Councillor Brown (who is also a District Councillor) understood the problem and I hope that a solution can be found before good relations are put at risk. I believe that everybody chipped in on this one - Chairman John Covill, Vice-Chairman Andrew Camps, and Messrs. David Almond, Eric Day, Peter Hart, Steve Kent-Phillips, Paul Latchford, and yours truly.

    It being the last meeting before Christmas, our worthy Clerk produced mince pies and drinks at the conclusion of the meeting and this was much appreciated. We fell to gossip and reminiscing and I was fascinated, as was young Paul Latchford, to hear Eric Day talk about his long service with the Parish Council as a member and, for a period, as Clerk. Eric is coming up to his 88th birthday, and he also served his country in the Second World War. He isn't boastful but we heard a bit about his exploits in Normandy in June, 1944, followed by those in Belgium and Germany and, later, North Africa. Eric is and always has been one of my heroes.

  66. Swaffham Prior Parish Council (continued):

    Though only one member of 'the public' (my old and dear friend, Mr Michael Limb), was present, there was no reporter from the Swaffham Crier and I have tried to telephone the usually regular Mr Alastair Everitt to ascertain if he is OK. No contact thus far.

    It has been said that the House of Commons is the best club in the world. I happen to think that the United States Senate in the days of, say, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, must have been quite something, but Swaffham Prior Parish Council still takes some beating. Sue is right!

    I have given very serious thought to what I would do about my membership of Swaffham Prior Parish Council in the event of my being elected as MP for South East Cambridgeshire. Fortunately, the monthly meetings fall on the second Thursday of every month and that helps, as most Members of Parliament make their way home on Thursdays and I would be very reluctant to give the Parish Council up. Moreover, because I attach so much importance to the work of Parish Councils in general, I plan to get myself invited to attend from time to time other Parish Council meetings (including Soham Town Council and Ely City Council) in the Constituency. Party political MPs keep in touch with people partly through Party political meetings and social functions. As an independent, I would not have this need and, in any case, I would prefer to see cross-sections of the various communities rather than politically-biased types who are often very unrepresentative of 'ordinary' people.

    Abraham Lincoln is said to have said, 'God must have liked ordinary people, for he made an awful lot of them.' 'Honest' Abe was also right!

  67. Some of my neighbours are pheasant shooting today. Since I am so 'anti' hunting and hare coursing, I am often asked what are my attitudes towards fishing and shooting. Despite living in the Fens and close to the Cambridgeshire Lodes and the River Cam, I do not fish and I have never fished; I know very little about fishing; I have no worthwhile opinion on fishing; many of my friends fish and I would not wish to ban fishing. I was a shooting man; I am no longer a shooting man; I prefer to see such as pheasants go unshot. I am, therefore, uneasy about shooting. However, many of my friends still shoot and I would not wish to ban shooting. I am not a natural banner. But, we British led the way in banning the slave trade and in banning slavery in the Empire, we led the way in banning bear baiting and cock fighting, and we led the way in banning hunting and hare coursing. My preference is not to ban anything more for a while but my intention is to do all in my power to stop Conservatives and others 'un-banning' hunting and hare coursing. We must continue to make progress and not let our civilisation take a backward step.

  68. Whilst looking something up else on Google - as one does - I accidentally discovered references to the late President de Gaulle (1890 - 1970) of France. His wont was to retire to Colombey-les-Deux-Églises to await his country's call. As it happens, my dear old Swaffham Prior has two churches in its one churchyard. Would it be too presumptuous to say that I am awaiting my country's call at Swaffham-les-Deux-Églises?

  69. One of my hobbies is the study of family history and, nowadays, this study is made much easier by the internet and by using a good program. My program provides me with easily accessible information at the press of a button and, according to the death records I have, this day - the 13th of December - was a sad one for both my family and Sue's.

    My great grandfather, Noah Chalkley (1828 - 1884), who farmed in Hertfordshire, died at too early an age on the 13th of December, 1884, as is shown by the following newspaper notice:

    Newspaper Cutting from The Hertfordshire Mercury, December, 1884:


    Chalkley. - 13th inst., at Bragbury End, Datchworth, Noah Chalkley, aged 56 years.'

    I guess that because poor Noah died at so early an age, he hadn't made a Will. Consequently, his affairs were dealt with by 'Letters of Administration':

    Noah Chalkley's Letters of Administration:
    Be It Known, that at the date hereunder written, Letters of Administration of the personal estate of Noah Chalkley, late of Bragbury End in the Parish of Datchworth in the County of Hertford Farmer deceased, who died on the 13th day of December 1884, at Bragbury End aforesaid, a Widower and intestate, were granted by Her Majesty's High Court of Justice at the Principal Registry of the Probate Division thereof to Sidney Chalkley of Stevenage in the said County Gentleman, the lawful Uncle and one of the Next of Kin of the minors hereinafter named, and Henry Campkin of Datchworth Bury Datchworth aforesaid Farmer the Curators or Guardians duly elected by, Emma Florence Chalkley Spinster Noah Henry Chalkley, Sidney Albert Chalkley, Francis William Chalkley, Maurice John Chalkley, and Sarah Elizabeth Chalkley Spinster, (respectively minors) the natural and lawful Children and only Next of Kin of the Said Intestate for their use and benefit and until any of them shall attain the age of twenty one years, they the said Sidney Chalkley and Henry Campkin having been first sworn well and faithfully to administer the same.

    Mary Ann Ilott, Sarah Chalkley, William Chalkley, and Georgiana Chalkley the only other Next of Kin of the said Minors having duly renounced their Curation or Guardianship and consented.

    Dated the 12th day of May 1885
    Gross value of Personal Estate £2264 - 1 - 0

  70. And Sue's great great grandfather, Thomas Catchpole (1823 - 1908), who was a sheep dealer and farmer in Suffolk, died on the 13th of December, 1908. His death merited a notice as well as an extensive newspaper obituary:

    Newspaper Cutting from the Bury Free Press, December, 1908:


    Catchpole. - On December 13th, at West Hill Mills, Bury St. Edmund's, Thomas Catchpole, aged 85 years.'

    Newspaper Cutting from the Bury Free Press, December, 1908:

    'Death & Funeral of Mr Thomas Catchpole.

    A Well Known Suffolk Octogenarian.

    It is with sincere regret we record the death of Mr Thos. Catchpole, of West Hill Mills, Bury St. Edmund's, which occurred suddenly on Sunday. The deceased gentleman had suffered from an attack of gout early in the previous week, but had so far recovered that he was able to come downstairs on Thursday, and up to Sunday morning he appeared to be in fairly good health, having regard to his great age. On Sunday morning he got up as usual, and had breakfast, but about eleven o'clock he was suddenly seized with indisposition. He was carried upstairs to bed, and medical assistance summoned, but he passed peacefully away about twelve o'clock. Mr Catchpole, whose imposing figure and genial manner were well known in the town and district, had attained the advanced age of 85 years. He had lived in Suffolk all his life, and at one time was engaged in farming on a very considerable scale. In his early years he occupied a farm at Stanningfield, and subsequently held farms at the same time at Hawstead, Whepstead, Higham, and Moulton. He also carried on an extensive business as a dealer in sheep, and in this connection he was very widely known, and made a great many friends but he had outlived a great many of his contemporaries. Formerly he was a large consignor of sheep to the Old Horringer Fair, now held in Bury St. Edmund's. In 1889, Mr Catchpole relinquished farming, and came to reside at West Hill Mills, where he has since carried on business. Throughout his business career he worked very strenuously, and was a fine example of the old time English agriculturist. In his time he had held various public offices, including that of churchwarden at Stanningfield, Hawstead, and Moulton; and he was also at one time a member of the now defunct Thingoe Board of Guardians. Mr Catchpole leaves a widow, he and Mrs Catchpole having this year celebrated the 64th anniversary of their marriage, which took place in October 1844. Of a family of twelve children, six survive, three sons and three daughters.

    The funeral took place at Hawstead Church on Thursday afternoon. The Rev. Leslie Mercer, of Hawstead, officiated. The first part of the service was held in the church. The hymn 'Peace, perfect peace' and the 'Nunc Dimittis' were sung, and the 90th psalm was chanted. Miss Wright, who officiated at the organ, played Chopin's funeral march, and at the conclusion of the service, 'I know that my Redeemer liveth' (Handel).

  71. (continued)

    The chief mourners were Mr E.H. Catchpole and Mr A. Catchpole (sons), Mrs Pearl, Mrs Frost, and Mrs Millbank (sisters [sic]), Miss Catchpole, Miss Millbank, and Mr Herbert Catchpole (grand-children).

    Others present included: - Mr Geo. Orbell, Mr G. Marsh, Mr Pratt, Mr H. Snell, Mr E. Denny and Mr T. Denny (Welnetham), Mr J. Fyson (Chevington), Mr W.E. Land (Bury St. Edmund's), Mr Thurlow (Horringer), Mr F.P. Abrey (Sudbury), Mr Willoughly Wright, Mr Wilfred Wright, Mr and Mrs J.H. Bonner, Mr Denny (Lawshall), Mr J. Death (Hawstead), Mr J.C. Death (Whepstead), Mr Alfred Bridge, Mr Fredk. Bridge, Mr Ernest Bridge, and Mr Edwin Bridge, and P.-c. Jolly.

    The coffin, which was of polished oak with brass fittings, bore the inscription: Thomas Catchpole, Died, December 13th 1908, Aged 85 years.

    There was a large number of choice floral tributes, including the following: - From his widow. In fond remembrance of a dear and loving father, from Sarah and family. In loving memory of a dear, kind father, from Ernest, Alice, and family. In loving memory, from Arthur, Kate, and family. From the Rev. Leslie Mercer, in memory of an old friend. Hawstead Rectory. In affectionate remembrance, from Mr and Mrs Abrey and family. With fondest love and deepest sympathy, from Jim and Ada. Sent in deepest sympathy, from Emma Guignet. With deepest sympathy, from S. Catling. 'Until the day breaks'. In memory of a kind master, from Jane. In ever loving remembrance, from Robert and Julia Mayhew, Edmondsbury, Anerley. With sincere sympathy, from M.L. and J.H. Bonner. With deepest sympathy, from Mr and Mrs J.P. Parkington. With ever loving memory and deepest sympathy, from Mrs Fuller and family. With sympathy and fond remembrance, from Tom and Minnie. In loving memory, from Pollie and Joe. Mr and Mrs H.R. Land's sincerest sympathy. 30, Churchgate Street, Bury St. Edmund's. In loving remembrance, from Cousin Lizzie and family. In kind remembrance and with deep regret, from Mr Pask and his sons. With deep regret and sincerest sympathy, from Mr and Mrs and Nellie Rollinson. In loving memory, from Alec and Minnie. In remembrance of a life-long friend, W.E. Land. From Carrie and family. Mr H.G. Frost was the undertaker.'

  72. Also, on the 13th of December, 1948, there appeared in The Times the obituary of Dr. Marjory Stephenson, who was Sue's fourth cousin three times removed and was born at Burwell in 1885, a daughter of Alderman Robert Stephenson (1847 - 1929), another cousin of Sue's and a great great uncle by marriage of my sister's husband, who was Burwell's first County Councillor and the first Vice-Chairman (later Chairman) of Cambridgeshire County Council.

    Newspaper Cutting from The Times:


    Dr. Marjory Stephenson, Sc.D., F.R.S., one of the most distinguished exponents of the comparatively new science of chemical microbiology, died yesterday at Cambridge at the age of 63.

    She was born on January 24, 1885, and was educated at Berkhamsted School for Girls. For eight years after she had graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1906, she taught and did research in biochemistry, first at Cambridge and then, as Beit Memorial Research Fellow, at University College, London. From 1914 to 1918 she worked for the British Red Cross Society in France and Salonika, and for this service was made a M.B.E. In 1919 she returned to Cambridge, where she later became a member of the scientific staff of the Medical Research Council and an Associate Member of the Governing Body of Newnham College.

    She remained in the biochemical laboratory for the rest of her life; there she was a leading spirit in the school of biochemistry that was built up by the late Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins. Her own particular field was the metabolism of bacteria, and she was one of the main founders of the science of microbiology. Her many important papers on this subject and her monograph "Bacterial Metabolism" established her as a world-wide authority and brought numerous scientists from abroad to work in her laboratory in order to learn her approach to microbiological problems. Her success in building up an important unit for teaching and research was recognized by her appointment as Reader in Chemical Microbiology. She was one of the first women to take the Cambridge Sc.D., and in 1945 she and Dr. Kathleen Lonsdale had the distinction of being the first two women (apart from Queen Victoria) to be elected to Fellowships of the Royal Society. It was typical of her that she deplored any emphasis on the fact that this distinction had been granted to a woman.

    She felt very strongly that all aspects of the study of the chemistry and biology of bacteria, viruses, yeasts, microfungi, and the protozoa should be unified; because of this she played a large part in the founding of the Society for General Microbiology, of which she was elected president in 1947. Her scientific interest was not confined to chemical microbiology; she was vigorously concerned with many branches of biochemistry and was for some years a member of the committee of the Biochemical Society. In particular she took great delight in skilful gardening, and this led her to encourage research on various aspects of plant biochemistry, particularly those concerned with the growing of fruit trees.

    Apart from the value of her own research she also had a profound influence upon others. Much of her teaching was disseminated by the scholars from abroad who worked in her laboratory, but more important was her influence on her numerous pupils, many of who are now distinguished scientists.'

  73. My nephew has returned safely from his latest tour of duty in Afghanistan. This news is in today's on-line Daily Mail at -

    And the story (which has three lovely pictures in it) reads as follows:

    'That's my boy: Army Major returns home from Afghanistan to see baby son for the first time

    By Daily Mail Reporter

    This is the moment an Army Major was emotionally reunited with his family, including the 10-day-old son he had never met.

    Major William Waugh was among 88 soldiers who were greeted by family as they returned to Tidworth Barracks, in Wiltshire, yesterday afternoon.

    The brave soldiers from EGYPT, a tank squadron of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, had completed a six-month tour of duty in war-torn Helmand Province.

    Safely home: An emotional Major William Waugh holds his baby son for the first time with wife Georgina

    Their return comes five months after the successful completion of Operation Panther's Claw, which represented the bloodiest period of battle in Afghanistan.

    Three soldiers from the squadron were killed during the posting; Trooper Josh Hammond, Corporal Lee Scott and Trooper Brett Hall.

    They were killed in two separate incidents when their vehicles were destroyed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

    Georgina Waugh, met her husband, 35, with their three children including 10-day-old Harry.

    She said: 'I have been emailing William pictures of our new baby but he has not been receiving them, I think he has only seen one picture and that was when I first gave birth so he is very excited about meeting him for the first time.

    'I am a bit nervous about seeing my husband but really looking forward to it, he is a fantastic father and I am so glad he is home safe, we can now look forward to a nice Christmas with the five of us together.

    Tour: Major Waugh was among 88 soldiers from the tank squadron EGYPT who returned to Tidworth Barracks in Wiltshire

    Daddy's home: The soldier gets a kiss from wife Georgina and hugs from sons Oliver and Charlie

    'It has been really hard with him away but I try not to watch he news and if I do I watch it late at night so that my children can't see anything about Afghanistan it make them miss him more that they do already.

    'But when he gets back we will take each day as it comes and enjoy the festive season together.'

    Major Waugh said: 'It is pretty amazing to see my son for the first time, I feel very emotional at the moment, but it is just wonderful to be back, it is fantastic to see my family.'

    The tank squadron's role is as Viking Crews, included supporting the Black Watch, Welsh Guards and Light Dragoons Battlegroups.

    EGYPT also found itself providing mobile and armoured support to the hold-and-build phase of Panther's Claw, protection for the vital re-supply convoys, and discrete missions to find and disrupt insurgent activity in conjunction with the Infantry battlegroups inside the Green Zone.

    Major Waugh added: 'Although we are a small, independent subunit EGYPT has remained tight-knit, aggressive and robust despite its comparatively high losses.

    'Camaraderie and black humour has seen it through its darkest days.

    'The men shall have time to reflect on their achievements and to mourn their fallen comrades before taking some well earned leave over Christmas and New Year.'

    The Squadron will exchange its desert combats for their traditional black coveralls and revert back to Challenger 2 tanks.'

    And I have commented on-line as follows:

    'I am especially proud of Major Waugh as he is my nephew (my sister's younger son). His and Georgina's little boys are my great nephews. Major Waugh and his men have done their bit and I am very relieved that they are now home. Sadly, some lost their lives or were injured 'over there.' I hope and pray that all of 'our boys' who remain in Afghanistan come home safely - and soon.'

  74. My nephew is in the news again today, this time in The Sun. Go to -

    The report reads as follows:

    'Baby, Daddy’s home

    This is the moment Major William Waugh returned from Afghanistan and met 10-day-old Harry - the son he had never seen.

    He was among 88 soldiers from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment who have just completed a six-month spell in war-torn Helmand Province.

    Wife Georgina, 36, who greeted the dad of three with a kiss at Tidworth Barracks, Wilts, said: "I'm so glad he's home. We can look forward to a nice Christmas."

    The Duchess of Cornwall, Royal Colonel of 4th Battalion The Rifles, praised troops' "unswerving courage and professionalism" as she presented campaign medals at Bulford Camp, Wilts.'

  75. My recent letter regarding the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' was published in devastating form in today's Cambridge News:


    CAP cash given for bad farming

    What is the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for? A good question in our Cambridgeshire Fens!

    I am not a big fan of the National Trust's so-called "Wicken Vision", but I had assumed until recently that this silly plan to take fine food producing fenland out of production relied for its funding on the National Lottery, generous grants of taxpayers' cash from such as Mr John Prescott, and money given by members of the trust and others.

    I have now been informed by the trust that the so-called "vision" is also supported to the tune of many thousands of pounds annually by the CAP through the latter's various schemes that are believed by many to have been intended for the support of European agriculture. I receive a relatively small sum myself and most of my land is farmed well and is used for food production. I recently commended a much largerscale neighbour for his fine farming and remarked that he will soon receive a substantial sum on the basis of farming his land properly and keeping it in good heart.

    The National Trust has now owned up to expecting to be in receipt of at least £121,000 per annum for practising the opposite of good farming. It is busily applying for much more money in years to come and, all, so it seems, for letting land in its hands go to rack and ruin and growing thousands of thistles.

    Any idiot can grow thistles. It needs no CAP support.

    This is a European CAP scandal that needs to be exposed.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    River Bank

  76. There is a powerful piece in The Times today:

    In the battle to save cash, should the first casualty of spending cuts be war?

    Carl Mortished: World business briefing

    The helmet was not a good fit and the flak jacket fell several inches short of Gordon Brown’s midriff. Some poor sap in supplies failed to obtain vital co-ordinates for the Prime Minister’s brief sojourn in Kandahar over the weekend. To be fair to the Ministry of Defence, it has bigger procurement headaches, not least a budget shortfall over the next decade of £6 billion. This could rise to £36 billion, almost equal to our current annual spending on the Armed Forces.

    Our game of fantasy weaponry has finally ended. The DVD is broken and the computer has crashed. The MoD’s budget — given a cursory rubber-stamp in the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report last week — is running at an annual inflation rate of 2.7 per cent and that doesn’t include the regular extra financial welly for fighting wars. The current budget of £38 billion includes a £3.75 billion uplift for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The nation’s finances are a wreck: the budget deficit will be almost 13 per cent of GDP, as high as in Greece, next year. The Government is spending tax revenues it hopes to earn decades from now — from business activity that probably doesn’t exist today. Meanwhile, the MoD is planning to build aircraft carriers and arm nuclear missiles. These will deter enemies whose identities are not yet even hidden in an as-yet unpublished dodgy dossier.

    The National Audit Office has put the MoD’s procurement fantasy through a wringer. In an effort to squeeze its Colonel Blimp ambition through the keyhole of affordability, the department has been deferring and delaying projects, like the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. That has saved £450 million in the short term but the delays just build up costs in the longer term, says the NAO, resulting in a cost increase of £1.2 billion. Further rises are affecting new submarines and aircraft, a result of the stop-go in procurement programmes.

    How long can this inflationary armaments build-up continue? Aircraft carriers and submarines won’t help Britain fight a Kiplingesque battle on the Northwest Frontier against tribesmen with guns. Defence expenditure got only a brief mention last week, just a note that a further £2.5 billion will be added to the contingency reserve for war (on top of the existing £3.75 billion). In an attempt to make it look faintly prudent, the Chancellor said there would be another attack on civilian jobs in the military, but civvies don’t cost as much as soldiers. They don’t wear helmets and flak jackets.

  77. (continued)

    The Prime Minister dares not even whisper the word “slowing” with reference to defence spending, let alone talk of cuts, while men are dying. Yet, sooner or later, he must get a grip with this leviathan. In the Pre-Budget Report, the Chancellor ring-fenced health and education from cuts and he erected a Maginot Line in front of defence. Together, those three account for more than a third of total government spending. Small wonder that the financial markets are beginning to get nervous about Britain’s finances.

    Oddly, Britain might be better off if it were Greece. On the verge of a “junk” credit rating and threatened with fines by the EU, the Greek Prime Minister, a socialist, has been forced to announce a cut in defence spending. Greece’s military aggrandisement has been out of control for years. Fans of Greek holidays often wonder why tiny Aegean islets have long runways fit for an Airbus; the adjacent park of squat, battle-grey fighter jets is the giveaway. At 4.7 per cent of GDP, Greece has one of the highest rates of defence spending in the world, greater even than the US, and it is the consequence of Greece’s endless cold war with Turkey.

    But its Prime Minister has decided Greece’s bloated military must take the pain to save the public sector. No such decision has yet been made here but we cannot postpone for long the tough game of swapping billions. Hospital, anyone? Or Eurofighter Typhoon?

    It is easy to laugh at Greece’s mad mission to defend its islands from Turks. It might be more sensible to consider which islands Britain is prepared to defend to the bitter end. This country has fought distant wars for centuries but until the twentieth it fought mainly for profit. When Britain won a war, it won twice over in loot and trade.

    In Iraq, there has been no moral victory and, as yet, not even oil spoils — only tenders for contracts of doubtful value. If the cost of these ventures is so high for little or no return, surely it is time to review our investment in war.

    And I have commented on-line as follows:

    "This is a powerful piece and I commend it. It strikes me that our old imperial wars were often more than affordable for the reasons that Carl Mortished mentions but that, say, World War II, was never affordable though we still had to fight it because our survival as a civilised state was at stake. The Afghanistan adventure falls into neither imperial nor survival category. It is not affordable either and as our survival is not at stake 'over there,' it is surely time that we called a halt to it on financial and manpower grounds and brought our boys home. And, besides, greater threats to our survival as a civilised state are to be found in the likes of Leeds, Leicester, Luton and London."

  78. My friends (including Debbie Davies, the excellent editor) at the Ely Standard have published today another letter of mine:


    Expose CAP scandal

    Your readers will know that I am not a big fan of the National Trust's so-called Wicken Vision, but I had assumed until recently that this silly plan to take fine food-producing Fen land out of production relied for its funding on the National Lottery, generous grants (of taxpayers' cash) and money given by members of the Trust and others.

    Having been prompted to delve further and having threatened to invoke the Freedom of Information Act, I have now been informed by the Trust that the Wicken Vision is also supported to the tune of many thousands of pounds annually by the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) through the latter's various schemes that are believed by many to have been intended for the support of European agriculture. I receive a relatively small sum myself and most of my land is farmed well (with the help of a neighbour) and is used for food production. I recently commended a much larger-scale neighbour for his fine farming and remarked that he will soon receive a substantial sum on the basis of his farming his land properly and his keeping it in good heart.

    The National Trust has now owned up to expecting to be in receipt of at least £121,000 per annum for practicing the opposite of good farming. It is busily applying for much more money in years to come and, all, so it seems, for letting land in its hands go to rack and ruin and growing thousands of thistles.

    Anyone can grow thistles. Growing thistles is extremely easy. It needs no European CAP encouragement nor support.

    This is a European CAP scandal and this European CAP scandal needs to be exposed.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    River Bank

  79. I am not a member of the League Against Cruel Sports, but I have been sent a copy of a press release from the League. I find it pleasing.

    League Against Cruel Sports

    Press Release


    2330hrs, 16 December 2009


    In a landmark legal ruling, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Hunting Act does not breach human rights legislation.

    The case, brought by the Countryside Alliance and Brian Friend, 70, of Axminster, rested on whether or not the Hunting Act 2004 breached the rights to a private and family life, freedom of association, and protection of property. The court rejected all arguments.

    The court rejected arguments that the Hunting Act infringed an individual’s right to a private and family life on the basis that hunting is a public activity and it is not integral to an individual’s identity. The judgment also made clear that the ban on hunting had “not created serious difficulties for earning one’s living”.

    Welcoming the ruling, Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports said: “This is a victory for common sense. No-one has the right to chase and kill animals purely for sport. The Hunting Act is a landmark piece of animal welfare legislation and today’s decision sends a clear message to politicians and the hunting community alike that the ban on hunting is here to stay. People gaining twisted pleasure from hunting live animals should be considering their human wrongs rather than their human rights.”

    An Ipsos-MORI poll in September found that 75% of the public support the ban on fox hunting, and 84% and 85% support the ban on stag hunting and hare hunting respectively.


    Notes to Editors

    1. Further details can be found in a press release on the ECHR website at

    2. The polling by Ipsos-MORI was commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the League Against Cruel Sports, in September. It can be found online at

    3. The League has ISDN facilities.

    For further information, please contact:


    Louise Robertson, Deputy Head of Campaigns & Communications

    Mobile 07980 232287

    League Against Cruel Sports Press Office

    Telephone 01483 524250

  80. Swaffham Prior Fen is very wintry this morning. We have about four inches of snow and a very sharp frost. I put it down to global warming!

  81. To Soham via Wicken - not because I wanted to venture forth but because I had to - and the roads were rutted and very dangerous all of the way. My thoughts were with all those who also have to travel by road in this rough weather. My thoughts also went back to the days when each village had its own snow plough and local farmers were charged with (and paid for) clearing the snow before it became rutted and dangerous. Those old methods worked well and it's a pity that they are no longer in operation in South East Cambridgeshire.

    Despite the above, the whitened Fen landscapes were magnificent and the Fen skyscapes - the sun shining bright - were equally so.

  82. My cup runneth over today, for there are two excellent anti-National Trust 'Wicken Vision' letters in the Cambridge News, the first being a work of genius from my dear friend, Tony Day of Wicken. His words speak for themselves and from his heart:


    Preserve calm and beauty

    It was a mob confrontation in 1638 that secured the future of Wicken Fen for the village population.

    It was their cherished resource of fish and wildfowl, their reeds and peat for fuel and it would have been lost at the cost of much suffering.

    We won our fen where others lost theirs at that time of committed drainage and it remained at the service of villagers even after the National Trust took over in 1899.

    But from the 1920s the taking of sedge from the fen was stopped and scrub began to take over. Peatdigging continued outside its boundaries until 1939.

    No person was barred from the fen, nor were they encouraged to enter unless engaged in scientific studies.

    Wicken Fen was a silent place during my childhood in the village, a place haunted by moth sheets at dusk, lamp-lit, its solitude sacred.

    When I returned to live in the village in 1976 I was invited on to the local committee, meeting some of those dedicated naturalists who were busy here in my youth.

    But soon plans were being laid to open the place up to all and sundry.

    Boardwalks were to be laid and a charge for admission and I resigned in protest. The rot had set in.

    And how it has set in since! The cry today (Friday, 18 December) is "there's something for everybody in Wicken Fen", a capitulation to commercialism so far without an outcry from the naturalists of today (Friday, 18 December).

    Further, of course, there is the plan to extend the policy through the murky "Wicken Vision" backed by huge sums of lottery money and misguided minds, amounting to nothing better than a desecration of a landscape beautiful as it stands and of increasing need to this country for growing food.

    And what does this "vision" amount to? Well, sorry, I can't tell you, for it's one big muddle of notions that contradict one another.

    It cannot be for wildlife with all these other ideas for human invasion and recreation for all, under the banner of the National Trust. And what trouble it bodes for those living near - for a hundred years ahead.

    And what appalling loss to food production at a time when the country needs more and more.

    A wasteful, dreadful scheme, then, that would inevitably destroy so much and provide nothing worthwhile in its place.

    We have a calm, beautiful landscape here now with broad spaces for wildlife and we should cherish it as it is and oppose the disruption that is threatened.

    Anthony Day
    Pond Green

  83. And the second is from my very supportive friend, Alan Seymour of Ely:


    Where does he stand on fen?

    Quite clearly, the Green Party's Tony Juniper has rigorously campaigned for the deliberate flooding of arable land in the belief that it would become a haven to attract insects, in preference to cultivating vegetables.

    Now that the National Trust has developed his Wicken Fen "Vision" into a commercial theme park by introducing wild Konik stallions, stampeding Highland cattle, organised activities, boat trips, self-guided trails and the "new sport of stand-up paddle-boarding", it is incumbent upon Mr Juniper to reveal whether he still supports the expansion of this decimation of prime fertile farmland. Despite the fact Mr Juniper is vying to become an MP, a straightforward "yes" or "no" would be nice, please.

    Alan Seymour
    Morley Drive

  84. A good bit of news from the League Against Cruel Sports: "The Countryside Alliance is still talking of a wholesale repeal of the [Hunting] Act [2004], when the talk of the Westminster corridors is not about that at all. The political reality is that hare hunting, stag hunting and hare coursing are all already regarded as political no-hopers because way over 80% of voters support the bans and oppose repeal."

  85. Another book review for Amazon:

    Bad Hare Days - by John Fitzgerald

    This man should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

    Though I am honoured that John Fitzgerald is now my friend on facebook, I wish very much that I had read his book earlier, for he and his book are inspirations to those of us who have been battling the barbaric 'sport' of hare coursing for years.

    I feel so inspired by John Fitzgerald's story of courage against almost unimaginable odds in his native Ireland that I think that he should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Unlike Barack Obama who has done little thus far, John Fitzgerald has done much for the humble hare and for humanity and he deserves greater recognition - at least from all lovers of wild animals.

    'Bad Hare Days' describes in extremely graphic and horrific but almost matter-of-fact detail John Fitzgerald's nigh-on-three-decade campaign against cruelty, against bigotry, against hypocrisy and against much of the Irish 'establishment.'

    I say cruelty because, whilst some people regard greyhounds chasing and tearing apart hares as a 'traditional' British (and it is and has been predominantly British) 'sport,' others have long since seen it as sheer cruelty.

    I say bigotry because, whilst the cruel 'sport' of hare coursing has been practised in both England and Ireland by out-and-out rogues and ruffians, it appears that in Ireland, even the Catholic priesthood and others in the countryside otherwise looked upon as 'respectable' and 'respected' have supported it and, worst of all, have participated in it. These people are neither respectable nor respected and they are bigoted in their opinions and practices. The priests and the politicians, in particular, should have known better - much better.

    I say hypocrisy because it is evident from both John Fitzgerald's book and my own long experience in England that there are misguided hypocrites in both Ireland and England - misguided hypocrites who seem to believe that they and their greyhounds are in some manner superior to the poor and gentle and mild-mannered hare. They appear to believe that God provided the latter to amuse the former. God help them, for it appears that they cannot help themselves.

    The dreadful difficulties that John Fitzgerald has had with An Garda Siochana (the Irish police force) and the Irish Special Branch, both of whom appear often to have sided with the hare coursing 'establishment,' mirror to some extent my own in much earlier times with the Cambridgeshire Police, some of whose people it was difficult to work with. Time out of number I have been told on the telephone that 'we are a bit short of resources this morning, Mr Woollard.' This was shorthand for 'stop bothering us: we have better things to do with our time than attend to cruel rural crime.' Thankfully, things have improved in recent years, partly due to local police initiatives and partly, of course, to the fact that all hare coursing was made unlawful in England and Wales through the Hunting Act of 2004.

  86. (continued)

    John Fitzgerald's campaigning in some respects also mirrors my own. Whereas he has been fighting the curse of hare coursing for nigh on three decades, I have fought it for four. Whereas he has seen some success, I also have seen some success. But whereas he is to be praised for never giving up, I retired from active farming (and pursuing hare coursers) in 1995 partly because the menace of hare coursing was getting me down. I gave up at that point, but John Fitzgerald battled on with uncommon bravery. I continued in desultory style to support those who brought about the British ban on hare coursing (and fox hunting), but I only came to life again when I realised that, if the Conservatives win the next General Election, they are almost certain to undo the Hunting Act 2004, to 'un-ban' fox hunting and, maybe, to 'un-ban' hare coursing as well.

    Taking the magnificent example of John Fitzgerald into battle, I now intend to do all that I can to prevent these barbarians prevailing. We British led the way in banning the slave trade and in banning slavery in the Empire, we led the way in banning bear baiting and cock fighting, and we led the way in banning hunting and hare coursing. We must continue to make progress and not let our civilisation take a backward step.

    Thank you, John Fitzgerald, for your courage, for your campaigning, and for your wonderfully well-written book chronicling both your courage and your campaigning.

    Needless to say, this wonderful work warrants five stars.

    For readers who might be interested in my own campaign, please google "NoToHareCoursing"

  87. John Fitzgerald has been generous enough to comment on the above as follows:

    Re: Bad Hare Days

    "Thank you so very much for that Geoffrey. You are an eminently decent man and I can see you've given so much of your life to helping make this world a more compassionate place. I hope you didn't find the book too depressing. I deliberately focused on those oddly comic incidents to lighten it up a bit. Even in the worst of times there are the lighter moments! Happy Christmas to you!"

  88. Message posted [by 'Auntie Prue'] on the BBC Archers discussion [at 'The Bull'] website:

    Welcome Geoffrey.

    We usually invite newbies to partake in a cyber drink of their choice.

    ... and congratulations for starting the [NoToHareCoursing] petition in the first place.

    Reply posted:

    I'll have Ribena, please!

  89. The outcome of an interesting case has just been reported in the on-line edition of The Times:

    BAA wins appeal against forced sale of UK airports

    Elizabeth Judge

    BAA, the airports operator, today won its appeal against a Competition Commission ruling that it must sell three airports.

    In a major victory for the Spanish owned airports operator, the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) ruled against the Competition Commission's demand that BAA's control of airports in London and Scotland should be broken up.

    The Competition Commission ruled in March that BAA's ownership of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted in London had resulted in poor service for passengers and airlines.

    It also said that BAA's control of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports was detrimental to Scottish passengers.

    The Competition Commission demanded BAA should dispose of Gatwick, Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow within two years. The group has already sold Gatwick without waiting for the Competition Appeal Tribunal's verdict because it wanted to use the money to slash its £10 billion debt mountain.

    Today, BAA was successful in its argument that it had suffered "apparent bias" at the hands of the Commission.

    It complained that one of the Commission's panel members, Peter Mozier, was also an adviser to the Greater Manchester Pensions Fund. The fund was backing a proposed bid from Gatwick by the Manchester Airports Group.

    Although Professsor Mozier stepped down from the commission's investigation, BAA said his involvement demonstrated bias.

    Mr Justice Barling, the appeal tribunal's president, said it had reached its decision on the alleged bias of Mr Mozier with "the greatest reluctance."

    He said: "Our conclusion is not that Professor Mozier...was actually biased but that a fair-minded person would have concluded there was a real possibility of bias."

    However, its grounds that the Competition Commission had not properly taken into account the effects the recession would have on the sale of the airports failed.

    The appeal tribunal panel said it proposed to allow further argument over the apparent bias ruling "unless the parties can reach agreement on it."

    Both BAA and the Competition Commission are now expected to put forward further evidence to the tribunal.

    In a statement, BAA said: "We are pleased that the Competition Appeal Tribunal upheld our appeal on the grounds of apparent bias. Further discussions should now take place with the Competition Commission, as the CAT suggests, to determine the appropriate response to this judgement."

    Industry experts said the decision raised questions about whether the airports operator could take legal action against its sale of Gatwick. BAA, they said, could yet decide to sell one Scottish airport anyway to raise further cash.

    Such rulings against the Competition Commission are relatively rare. The Commission said it had seen its decisions overturned only twice previously this year - once in the case of the Tesco so-called "competition test". The other case was related to an appeal by Barclays over payment protection insurance. In both instances, the Competition Commission was ordered to undertake more work on the cases.

    BAA, which is owned by Ferrovial, the Spanish infrastructure group, had challenged the ruling on two grounds.

    It said there was "apparent bias" in the commission's decision and that the demand to sell off the airports within two years and during a recession was unfair.

    A spokesman for the Competition Commission said: "We are carefully studying the implications of this decision."

  90. And I have commented as follows:

    I have no brief for BAA nor for Ferrovial, but I am pleased that the appeal has been won because I do not believe that anyone or any entity should be compelled to sell their or its lawfully-owned assets. That smacks of expropriation and it also recalls too much of old-style Socialism that I had thought was dead and buried in Europe.

  91. To the snow-bound City of Ely twice in twenty-four hours.

    I went yesterday afternoon to make a number of calls, most especially to see my friend Tony Day's exhibition of paintings at The Old Fire Engine House restaurant. Tony's outstanding artistic ability is a good match for his letter-writing skill and I pay tribute to both.

    Another special visit was to a very dear lady friend, widowed earlier this year. Christmas is not easy for such as she but, fortunately, she has a splendid son and a lovely daughter who are doing their best, despite their own awful loss, to keep things going for their Mum. 'Keeping things going' is obviously easier said than done and I often wonder how I would cope in a similar situation. Probably not well.

    I also did a bit of last-minute shopping at the big Ely Tesco. Some people run these giant supermarkets down but I was only too conscious in the short time that I was there that hundreds of others were getting their goods and paying over thousands of pounds. Those people were not stupid and neither is Tesco a poor store. It's a very good one and I got just what I was after - a present for a brother-in-law who is 'difficult' to shop for. He's OK in every other way, but he's so 'difficult' to shop for that Sue delegated the task to me.

    Today's trip was to the District Council offices and was for one purpose only: to collect the new registers of electors for both the South Cambridgeshire and East Cambridgeshire areas of the South East Cambridgeshire parliamentary constituency. I was informed by E-mail that they were ready for me to collect and I am very grateful to the good people at East Cambridgeshire District Council for helping me to prepare for the general election and for doing it so promptly.

  92. I am very pleased to have received some solid support from Paul Flynn, M.P. (Labour, Newport West). I am not a Labour supporter, but Paul and I think similarly on fox hunting, hare coursing and Afghanistan. Paul's own blog is at -

  93. My friend Robert (Bob) Rodrigo of Burwell, a retired author and journalist of considerable repute, has written a very good letter for the latest Burwell Bulletin. I have written to him and have said that he's hit the nail on the head again. Though I don't dislike wind farms - in the right locations and provided bird life isn't harmed - I particularly approve of Bob's line on world population. Here is the letter:


    Population control and effects on climate change

    When Mr. Craske referred to population increases of billions in the next few years, he reached the heart of the most significant of world problems. We already have twice as many people as the planet can support. There is not enough agricultural land, water, space, or infrastructure to take on more. Population increase is a major disaster.

    Whilst our Masters in the talking-shops of Westminster and Brussels are concentrating on climate change, they are avoiding the real problem. Climate change is certainly happening. That is a fact. It is a recurring phenomenon. We have had at least ten swings from extreme heat to extreme cold in the Earth's life. Not one of those has been the result of human activity - the last of them occurred before damaging human activity could have existed. We have no reliable evidence that human activity is a cause of what is happening today.

    Now we are spending large sums and causing huge disturbances worldwide in a bid to stop the unstoppable - climate change. The people who benefit from this are those who have shares in companies that erect hugely inefficient wind farms, and other vested interests. The advantages to the community are minimal and disadvantages in terms of noise, disfigurement of countryside and damage to nature, are significant.

    Much money is being poured into schemes to minimise the damage caused by climate change. It would be far more effective it it could be used to stop humans breeding like rabbits - which many serious environmentalists have been enunciating for several decades.

    If there really is any significant link between human activity and climate change, it is not the size of the individual carbon footprints which is important - it is their number.

    Robert Rodrigo,
    Hatley Drive, Burwell."

  94. I received a most moving message today. I have edited it a bit and have hidden the sender's name, but the gist of it is as follows:


    I have visited your BlogSpot and am interested to learn of the possibility of you throwing your hat into the political ring.

    I share your views about James Paice, a hardworking, decent MP who does his best within the constraints of the party machine. It would not do for him to rock the boat on controversial issues such as immigration, crime/punishment, political correctness and hunting/coursing. I have written to him a number of times on such issues and always get a polite answer basically agreeing with me, but that is as far as it goes. Of course this is a safe Tory constituency and most people will go on voting as they have done before. We call ourselves a democracy but most of our 600 odd MPs vote as their party wants them to, the Iraq war being a supreme example of the wishes of the majority of the electorate being ignored.

    I think we do need an Independent MP and I would certainly support you if you decide to give it a go. Even if you are not successful, which realistically is the likely outcome for the reasons already given, it would give you a chance to make your views known more widely.

    Good luck - R******."

  95. The Ely Weekly News, one of our most enjoyable and informative local newspapers, has today brought out an edition dated the 24th of December. It contains my letter regarding the National Trust and the scandal of the Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' being supported by the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The letter follows:

    Sir, What is the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for? A good question in our Cambridgeshire Fens.

    Some of your readers know that I am not a big fan of the National Trust's so-called Wicken Vision, but I had assumed until recently that this silly plan to take fine food-producing Fen land out of production relied for its funding on the National Lottery, generous grants (of taxpayers' cash) from such as John Prescott MP in his former role as Deputy Prime Minister, and money given by members of the trust and others.

    Having been prompted to delve further and having threatened to invoke the Freedom of Information Act, I have now been informed by the trust that the Wicken Vision is also supported to the tune of many thousands of pounds annually by the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) through the latter's various schemes that are believed, by many, to have been intended for the support of European agriculture.

    I receive a relatively small sum myself and most of my land is farmed well (with the help of a neighbour) and is used for food production. I recently commended a much larger-scale neighbour for his fine farming and remarked that he will soon receive a substantial sum on the basis of his farming his land properly and his keeping it in good heart.

    The National Trust has now owned up to expecting to be in receipt of at least £121,000 per annum for practising the opposite of good farming. It is busily applying for much more money in years to come and, all, so it seems, for letting land in its hands go to rack and ruin and growing thousands of thistles.

    Any idiot can grow thistles. Growing thistles is extremely easy. It needs no European CAP encouragement nor support.

    This is a European CAP scandal and this European CAP scandal needs to be exposed.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm

  96. And I have received a very nice follow-up message:

    "Tis better to have tried and failed than never to have tried".... well done with yet another v sensible letter in today's weekly.... what a false use of CAP money to SPEND on weeds and rubbish.... surely there are more-deserving farm causes than destroying good ag. land.... and then the NT being PAID to do it! BUT the NT wields a LOT of power (were it not for the fact that our son pays for our membership, I would cancel my subscription from now on!)

    Rest assured that you have put up a Good Fight.... and enjoy the Christmas Festivities. Lorna and Mike D

  97. Wicken Fen has been alluded to in The Independent. There is published an article by Tony Juniper, entitled "Review of the Year 2009: Climate change," and here is the link to the article -

    Mr Juniper is described as 'an independent environmental adviser and the Green Party's General Election candidate for Cambridge.'

    I couldn't resist commenting, as follows:

    "He ain't independent. He's dependent on cronies like the Prince of Wales. And, if he (Mr Juniper) wants to be taken seriously in Cambridgeshire, he (and his crony, the Prince of Wales) should drop support for the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' which is planned to remove from food production thousands of acres of the finest farm land in the country. We have a population of sixty-one millions and, with a world population fast moving towards nine billions, it is not only foolish, it is a criminal and selfish act to cut down on our own home food production. Or don't air miles mean anything to Mr Juniper (and his crony, the Prince of Wales)?

    BTW, when I see the names of Tony Juniper and Charles Windsor linked, I don't see green, I see red!

  98. 'Tis the night before Christmas - and time for me to devise a festive message.

    My memories of childhood Christmases include having read to me Beatrix Potter's 'The Tailor of Gloucester.' It nearly always brought tears to my eyes, and it still does. I recommend this little book, even to older folk. The tale is obviously about a tailor in the ancient City of Gloucester and, with the mayor's new coat wanted for Christmas Day and still not complete by Christmas Eve, the poor old tailor mutters to himself (and to the listening mice behind the wainscot) the famous line, 'I am worn to a ravelling … I am undone and worn to a thread-paper, for I have no more twist.'

    Very sadly, a story has recently emerged to the effect that Miss Potter based her best-known and best-loved tale, in part at least, on an actual happening. It appears that there really was a tailor, by the name of Pritchard, and that he employed a number of assistants all of whom got tight in the tailor's shop on Christmas Eve and were, perhaps inadvertently, locked in the shop for the night by the tailor. So, for those of my readers who know and love the tale of 'The Tailor of Gloucester,' it seems that it wasn't the mice who came out from behind the wainscot to finish the mayor's coat: it was his half-tight assistants who had no option but to do the job. I still prefer the Beatrix Potter version.

    Sue and I wish all of you a very happy Christmas.

    We especially think at this time - and at all times - of our soldiers in Afghanistan, and we wish that they were all here at home. We think, too, of our soldiers' families and friends.

    We also think of the officers and staff of the National Trust engaged in promoting the so-called 'Wicken Vision.' We feel sorry for them as they perform a thankless and useless task but the disagreement between them and us and our allies is not personal.

    And we even think of the fox hunters and hare coursers who will, without doubt, be out in force on Boxing Day. May God help them, for it appears that they cannot help themselves.

  99. I usually eschew letter-writing on Christmas Day but I was so upset that I had to get one written right away. It is to Gordon Brown, it reads as follows and it is self-explanatory:

    Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, M.P.,
    Prime Minister,
    10 Downing Street,
    London. SW1A 2AA.

    25th December, 2009

    An incorrect and unjust rejection of a petition to 10 Downing Street

    Dear Prime Minister,

    I recently created and submitted a petition to you via the excellent 10 Downing Street website. It concerned Afghanistan. On Wednesday, the 23rd of this month, I received notice from the ePetitions team that my petition had been rejected, the reason being that it duplicated or overlapped an existing petition. The 'existing' petition was cited as -

    I draw your attention to the fact that the above 'duplicate' or 'overlapping' petition no longer exists for signing purposes. The deadline for signing it was the 14th of November, 2009. (For the record, I have no connection whatever with the creator of the above petition nor am I colluding with him/her or anybody else. My petition was created and submitted by me and me alone).

    I believe that the rejection of my petition was incorrect and unjust as it neither duplicates nor overlaps any other that is signable. The rejection was also unjust because no other like it now exists for signing purposes and people who agree with me will wish to sign an appropriate petition.

    I therefore protest against the rejection and appeal to you to ensure that my petition is re-instated as soon as possible so that it may be signed on-line by people who agree with me.

    My petition presently reads as follows:

    We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to: 'Bring 'Our Boys' Home from Afghanistan'

    Whilst it is true that all of our soldiers are volunteers, whilst it is true that most if not all of them love army life, and whilst it is almost certainly true that the adventure involved in such as Afghanistan is appreciated by many of them, it is also true that, thus far, 242 of them have been killed in that adventure and that unnumbered of them have been injured. Of course, that is all part of being in the army and being in the army is bound to be risky. But whilst 'our boys' are running the risk of being killed or injured in Afghanistan, relatives and friends at home are going through their own hell. If it was for some advantage, we are sure that those of us at home would be more than willing to suffer our hell. But nothing has been achieved out there, nothing is being achieved, and everybody knows that nothing will be achieved. Afghanistan is a lost and very expensive cause and we still say to the Prime Minister and/or to his successor, 'Bring our boys home.'

    Assuming that you are able to ensure that my petition is re-instated, I further request that it be up-dated insofar as the number of British deaths is concerned, that number being 243 at the time of writing.

    I refuse to believe that the rejection of my petition was or is politically motivated as there are many petitions on the 10 Downing Street website that are much more critical of your Government. Moreover, some of them are surprisingly rude. I do not hold with rudeness, even in politics.

    May I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year.

    Yours sincerely,

    Geoffrey Woollard.

    Enclosed: E-mail re. rejection.

  100. Christmas and our relatives and friends have been good to Sue and I. There is much to be thankful for at Chapel Farm.

    So far as I am concerned, nearly everybody knows that books are always appreciated and I mention especially having been given: a beautiful volume about old Cambridge packed with pictures from the Cambridgeshire Collection; a second-hand work (written around 1943 and 1944 and published in 1946) from the pen of the late Mr James Wentworth Day in which (as it appears from the chapter headings) the author rails against the then hated War Agricultural Executive Committees (the 'War Ags') and the very real prospect (in 1946) of land nationalization; a true gem - 'The Book of Huntingdon' (by Christoper Dunn) - whence came some of my forebears and in which book some of my cousins are mentioned; and a marvellous collection of cartoons reproduced from 'The Oldie.'

    Touching upon Mr James Wentworth Day (1899 - 1983) reminds me of having met him a time or two at Wicken, in which village he lived for several years. I looked upon him as something of a fraud because he gave the impression of being practically aristocratic whereas we locals knew that, had his mother not been a Miss Staples and his grandmother a Miss Aspland, both grand old family names in Wicken, he would have had less cause to have 'airs.' Nevertheless, the old boy could write well and he could be very amusing, despite his antiquated opinions. I remember being with him and other friends at Wicken on one occasion in particular many years ago and arguing politics as was - and is - my wont. Mr Day put a hand on my knee - which worried me a little at the time - and said, 'My boy, the country should be governed by dukes and bishops and farmers,' to which there was no obvious answer.

  101. This is a family blog and I don't usually include bad language, but there is a piece in today's Sunday Times that caused me to comment. The piece, containing bad language, is about Mr Otis Ferry, an 'amateur whipper-in.' It reads as follows:

    'Otis Ferry: What I think of anti-hunting 'idiots'

    The professional huntsman and son of singer Bryan Ferry on leftie Britain, spending last Christmas in prison and Simon Cowell

    Camilla Long

    Otis Ferry with his hounds near Shrewsbury He is the son of rock star Bryan Ferry and works as an amateur whipper-in for the Middleton hunt in Yorkshire.

    Even before we reach the sofa in the sitting room of his mother's Kensington home, Otis Ferry, the 27-year-old pro-hunting firebrand and son of the Roxy Music singer Bryan, is in a state of barely bridled agitation. Agitation at the hunting ban. Agitation at Tony Blair. Agitation at lefties; at the way the whole country is going "lefter". But mostly, he's agitated at Simon Cowell, he gasps. He has just seen the X Factor maestro "on Newsnight, talking about the five key issues affecting people in Britain today", he says.

    "The war in Afghanistan, knife crime ... and fox hunting! He said, 'It's got to be banned.' Well, Simon, it is already banned. Oh. Banned properly. Just the most bizarre thing you've ever heard. Unbelievable."

    Unbelievable, because a few days shy of hunting's biggest annual event — thousands turn out to watch Boxing Day meets — even the joint master of foxhounds for the South Shropshire hunt is amazed that hunting is still getting such airtime.

    "We're in the middle of the biggest f***-ups in British history, the economy," he continues, focusing his shrewishly handsome features on me and exasperatedly swinging his Converses up onto the coffee table. "The sheer shitness of our country ... Hunting affects 0.0001% of the population, and then you've got Cowell and some woman [Emily Thornberry MP] standing up and saying, 'Can we have our PM's assurances that he won't let his government repeal the ban on hunting?'"

    He pfffs through his teeth. "I mean, get a grip! I spend half an hour every Wednesday listening to important issues on prime minister's questions, then you have some bitch from Islington ... As for Cowell, he's just a greedy, ruthless money-grabbing, celebrity-hugging . . ."

    Dry, hot, intense, incoherent: Otis Ferry just wants hunting left alone. He has campaigned tirelessly against the ban since it was implemented by Blair in 2004. A professional huntsman for more than 10 years now, he finds it "ridiculous" to be "living in an industry that is illegal", he says. He has been arrested several times: once, for trying to stick pro-hunting posters on the walls of Blair's Sedgefield house; again in 2004, after he and seven friends famously stormed the House of Commons in protest just ahead of the ban. And he spent last Christmas in prison on remand following an alleged incident involving hunt saboteurs, an experience "I try to block out", he says now.

    So he's glad that David Cameron, who has hunted in the past, recently said that a Conservative government would put the issue of repealing the law to a vote. But still, he has his reservations.

    "I met Cameron three years ago at a fashion dinner," he says, as his mother Lucy Birley, a former model, brings in a tray of tea. "I sat down next to him at the table, and, yeah, I think he was just trying to be polite but at the same time didn't want to talk about what I wanted to talk about. So I just thought, 'F*** you.' But I still do everything I can to help his campaign."

  102. Otis Ferry (continued):

    He says he feels "very sorry for the Conservatives" and the decision they face. "The majority do not understand hunting and therefore they don't like it. I can totally understand that. If I was told there was a barbaric sport where animals got killed, you dress up and it's all for your perverted pleasure — as it's dolled up — I'd think, 'Gah! Horrific, let's imprison people'."

    Well, 75% of the population apparently still think that, I say, according to a recent poll by YouGov. "Well, if you've got a lot of morons following Simon Cowell," he says, sharply, and suddenly I can see why the acid-tongued poster boy for the pro-hunting lobby — not only the son of a rock star but a Burberry fashion model, too — was such a spoil for the authorities back in 2007. After a scuffle with some hunt saboteurs — people he describes as "idiots" who "try to turn the tension up by intervening and filming and being provocative, shouting, 'Oi, you fat, stuck-up tart'" — he found himself snatching a camera from two women, running away with it, wiping it, and returning it, and promptly getting arrested for common assault and robbery.

    Things got further out of hand when he allegedly telephoned one of his employees to tell him to keep quiet about the incident, and was arrested again nearly a year later for perverting the course of justice. This Ferry hotly denies, but the alleged witness-nobbling gave the police an excuse to argue that he should not be granted bail when he was tried for the initial charges. He has since been cleared of this charge, as well as robbery and common assault.

    "I haven't got a total understanding of what went on," he says now, "but no one could believe the lengths they were going to." Anyway, matters got even heavier when the judge refused him bail, meaning that he was sent to HMP Gloucester for 4½ months, something that he now describes as "the Labour government's payback time for me making a fool of them".

    In his eyes, they are "still very embarrassed about the fact that hunting is still so popular" and still smarting from the Commons incident. In an unprecedented breach of security, Ferry and his friends eluded detection by dressing as builders. They stormed the chamber, intending to stage a sit-in to prevent the hunting bill from going through. It was "amazingly exciting", says Ferry. "I've never had an adrenaline blackout quite like that. I nearly fainted."

    Anyway, what with the storming of parliament, and a 2005 incident in which Ferry managed to get within yards of Blair and shout abuse at him — "he just grinned" — the police finally had their man. The hunter became the hunted: suddenly, there he was in the prison showers with 400 drug dealers, rapists and robbers.

    "I was petrified," he says. "But they were perfectly kind to me, fascinated about hunting, my life story. About five of them were tossers, and some of the screws were absolute arseholes". But as it turned out, his boarding school education prepared him admirably for prison, which, he says, was "namby-pamby" by comparison.

  103. Otis Ferry (continued):

    Still, he was ashamed. "I was ashamed because I'd let myself get into that position." His parents were mortified. "You feel you have betrayed them for making them have to come and see you in prison clothes. It was just so humiliating. My dad came and visited me in prison and that was probably the nicest thing that happened, because Dad is very image-conscious. When you're a musician, image is everything; the last thing he wanted to be associated with was imprisoned children. I really felt terrible, because everything we do has a bearing on Dad and his image and it's pretty selfish to get in trouble because it always ends up as 'Bryan Ferry's son'. So when he came and visited me it was a huge sigh of relief."

    Anyway, after about a month "I totally adapted", says Ferry. "Became a vegetable." He was offered drugs, lots of drugs. "Everyone was on drugs and it was very sad. A guy in the cell next door to me smoked pot and at one stage I was slightly tempted. But then I thought, why spoil 20 years of purity?"

    Ferry admits that while he is very good at "jumping up and down" and making a point, a lot of his views are "strong, and as for standing for parliament, I am far too outspoken and far too unusual". He has no plans to storm the house again — "You can't do the same party trick twice" — but when I ask how far he would go, he says: "Blow myself up on a bus?" before laughing. (Gosh, does he realise what he's saying?) "I think I've done pretty much everything to show how passionate I am."

    His mission now is "saving rural England", he says. "We have such a magical country which is fading so quickly. I'm really not racist, but immigration is a huge issue for me ... I don't understand how it works and hate the thought of being accused of depriving poor Mrs Punjab of her [right to come here] but we're all packed onto this tiny island, and I genuinely believe we are maxed out. But no one is brave enough to say there are too many people in this country."

    So what would he do? Kill them after chasing them across the countryside? "Something that's unpopular, I presume," he shrugs.

    As for the anti-fox hunting lobby, "I'd just love to round them all up and get them in a Clockwork Orange-style cinema and try to clear this mental block they seem to have." They might say the same thing about you, I say. "Yeah, but who lives in the countryside? Who sees the rights and wrongs of how animals are treated every day?"

    "I'm not some kind of pervert," he says. "Are you a pervert for watching a cheetah pulling down a gazelle? Are you a pervert for watching David Attenborough? Is David Attenborough a pervert?" He flips open his laptop and shows me a recent episode of the BBC's Countryfile on hare coursing in which John Craven referred to the watching of hare coursing as a "perverse pleasure". "No, John," he shouts at the computer screen. "Do the f****** investigation properly!" He pauses. "I sent him the dictionary definition of 'perversion', but he hasn't replied yet."

  104. Otis Ferry (continued):

    Okay, I say, not a perversion ... what about plain old cruel? "Life is cruel," he says, flatly. "Death is cruel; you can't get away from that."

    Yes, but you don't need to encourage it. "You can't ban something because you don't think it needs to happen," he says, slightly illogically, but he presses on. "It's about degrees of cruelty. The government's own report found that hunting was the least cruel method of fox control. Shooting doesn't guarantee you're going to kill them. To favour that method of control over one where the fox is admittedly chased, admittedly probably absolutely shits himself but ultimately has a 70% chance of living ... It's incredibly fair on the foxes. It's not some romantic spiel that's been dreamt up by some fat old aristocrat. It's just sad that the scarlet coats and the pomp upset people so much."

    Ferry himself is pretty no-frills, living an extremely spartan existence in a small cottage with two dogs, on a small salary occasionally swelled by fashion swag. "Yeah, I get the piss taken out of me a bit for it," he says of his catwalking jobs as a male model. "But I don't care about things like that at all. My image doesn't matter."

    Hunting is his life; he rides out three days a week, 90 times in a year. Initially mad about fishing, he became hooked on hunting at 15. He has always been "fascinated by wildlife". He admired David Attenborough, "but then I saw him on Loose Women and I had to turn it off because he was flirting with these fat, ugly women. I thought, this is not the David Attenborough I want to be dreaming of . . ."

    Does his father agree with his views on hunting? "Yeah, totally," says Ferry. "I think I'm allowed to say that."

    The eldest of four boys, Ferry admits that he finds it difficult having a famous father, "because whoever you meet, whether it's a girl in a nightclub, or someone in a library, you have to give your name at some point. Even from a very young age, it was, 'Oh, you're no relation to Bryan?' You get, 'Oh, you do look like him.' But I'm sure people have much worse things to worry about".

    He was devastated when his parents split up after 20 years of marriage in 2002. "I was very sad," he says. "It really, really upset me. I didn't speak to my mum for a whole year, because I felt it was my mum who was in the wrong. I think my dad wanted — I don't really want to talk about it that much — because I felt, you know, that Dad was the victim and Dad was, I think, very keen to keep the family together and he wanted the family together. But as it's turned out, it's much better that they are happy than battling on. I think that marriages that battle on, keeping up a brave face ... It was right. But at the time, it was very hard to stomach."

    His relationship with his father is "sort of" good, he says. "We are both pretty strong-minded." Anyway, he does not spend much time with his family, preferring to stay in Shropshire. The city "kills me", he says. In fact, he has not been at home for Christmas in 10 years, he says, because of hunting on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

    After that, it'll be back to normal, emailing John Craven and stalking Simon Cowell. "I will just have to try and find him," he says with a glint in his eye.'

  105. And my comment on Mr Ferry follows:

    Who does this fellow think he is? Readers of The Times surely need more respect from this supposedly well-educated 'amateur whipper-in' (the latter sounds like he's a mate of Max Mosley). If my mother were around she would say, 'Wash your mouth out with carbolic soap, young Ferry.'

  106. An initial perusal of the new registers of electors for both the South Cambridgeshire and East Cambridgeshire areas of the South East Cambridgeshire parliamentary constituency has surprised me in two respects.

    First, the constituency that I know so well is even more populous than I had thought. I had guessed that there were/are around 75,000 electors. It transpires that the total is already in excess of 83,000, which means that yet another re-distribution is on the horizon.

    The first general elections that I was actively involved in were those of 1964 and 1966. In those days, the late Mr Francis Pym (who was subsequently ennobled as Lord Pym) represented what we locals called 'old Cambridgeshire' and this stretched from Bassingbourn and Gamlingay in the west to Newmarket and Soham and Isleham in the east. I admired Mr Pym and worked for and with him for many years. I well recall his being upset by 'losing' a large part of his constituency at a previous re-distribution and there is no doubt that our present electoral system encourages the building of personal bonds between an M.P. and his or her electors. This must not be lost.

    The second thing - not unconnected with the first - that has struck me is that several 'villages' in Cambridgeshire are now almost 'towns' if measured by size. Burwell, Fordham, Fulbourn, Haddenham, Histon & Impington, Linton, Milton, Over, Waterbeach and Willingham - not forgetting the real old town of Soham and the great City of Ely - have grown by leaps and bounds, whereas some of the smaller settlements have seen no growth at all. Has this enormous overall growth gone too far, I ask myself?

    I want our local economy to thrive and I will do all that I can to promote our County's interests, but I also want a slowing down of inward migration to Cambridgeshire (and a slowing down of immigration nationally). I also want to see some growth in some of the smaller settlements in South East Cambridgeshire, if only to ensure that vital local services in the villages are kept going.

    There is nothing much more tragic in my own local government memory than the time when, as a County Councillor, I was in on the decision to close the school at Wicken. Now there is neither shop nor post office in the village and the place is poorer for it.

    It was even more tragic at Lode (though I was not involved in that decision-making) as the school there, hitherto housed in the Broughton Memorial Hall which was built for the use of the village (and for the people in Longmeadow) by the late and beneficent Lord Fairhaven, was closed by the County Council at about the same time as the District Council was deciding to permit the building of Fairhaven Close, a very pleasant development where many children now dwell. There was something very cock-eyed about what happened then and I know more about it than I am prepared to write in this blog. There are others who know that I know more, too.

    Of course, an M.P. can not determine how much development there shall be in his or her constituency nor where it shall be, but he or she can attempt to influence what happens. If elected, I plan to attempt to influence the decision-makers to make haste more slowly in the whole of Cambridgeshire and to spread more evenly around what further development there may be.

  107. The latest alleged terrorist activity to affect air travel to and from the United States is especially annoying and worrying for Sue and I. We used to fly quite frequently over there and with barely a qualm, certainly no trouble. On one of Sue's recent trips to see our son (we usually go separately now because of our animals here at home), she was pulled over for further examination by the U.S. people. She was tempted to say - though I am pleased that she didn't - that they should concentrate their attentions on those who have the appearance of possible terrorists, not elderly, grey-haired and white English ladies. Of course, one can't say such things nowadays because it's not P.C. (politically correct).

  108. There are several on-line discussions/arguments that are very much alive at present. One, basically about blood sports, is to be found at -

    and is run by somebody by the name of Giles Bradshaw. He wants to debate whether the Hunting Act 2004 could or should be amended or 'improved' by 'unwhipped' MPs.

    I have said that I know the Conservatives very well. Enormous pressure will be put on existing MPs (if any other than Cameron, Hague and Herbert are re-elected following the expenses scandal) to toe the so-called ‘free vote’ repeal line and it is most unlikely, in my opinion, that more than a handful of electable Conservative candidates will have the opposite and honourable intention (like Ann Widdecombe). Even if there are more, they will be ‘away’ or ‘off sick’ come the crucial vote. The Countryside Alliance practically runs the Conservative Party these days.

    I have further advised Mr Bradshaw 'to get a life.'

    However, a friend of mine ('mhayworth') is persisting with the man and has just posted this:


    Let me ask you a theoretical question since you keep bringing up the issue of democracy. I’ll use a subject that I suspect will bother you more than the hunting act.

    Let's say that those who controlled the child porn industry infiltrated a major political party and then offered do free campaigning and leafletting for all child porn enthusiast candidates in order to swell the ranks of the incoming MPs – all the time pretending to be those who care deeply about the welfare of children.

    Lets say that this particular party, being masters of hiding their desire for child porn had all the resources at their disposal to get the pro-child welfare message out to the newspapers every day. Lets say this party was leading in the polls and had a good chance of winning the next election.

    How would you then go about improving the child porn legislation? Would you recommend holding a vote amongst MPs knowing that their ranks had been artificially swelled?

    Or would you first work on exposing them so you could gather the public support necessary to make the democratic process work as intended?"

    Which I thought was pretty good stuff, so I posted the following:

    "Game, set and match to mhayworth!"

  109. A couple of weeks back, I wrote an E-mail to our friend and neighbour at Swaffham Prior, Mr Michael Marshall, and included in my message the following sentence:

    "... the only way that 2010 could be as glorious as 2009 for the Marshall family would be if you get your greatly deserved 'K.'"

    The New Year's Honours List has been published today and Sue and I are overjoyed to see that Mr Marshall has got his 'greatly deserved' knighthood. The honour is 'for services to business, charity and the community,' and we can testify to the kindness and generosity of both Sir Michael and Lady Marshall as they followed with active interest the recently-completed re-roofing project at 'The Little Chapel in The Fen,' which stands at the end of our garden and of which I am one of the trustees. Michael and Sibyl (we shall have to become more accustomed to their new titles, at least for formal affairs) contributed generously to the project and I and my fellow trustees and all of those who love the Chapel will for ever be in their debt. And, besides, there is another reason for being pleased for the Marshalls: they are such a fun couple. I have telephoned Sir Michael to congratulate him and Lady Marshall. He sounded the same as ever - quite normal!

    Sir Michael follows his late father, Sir Arthur Marshall, who was also knighted (in 1974) and died in 2007 at the age of 103.

    Mrs Marcia Miller, another resident of Swaffham Prior, a volunteer fund-raiser for the British Red Cross Society in Cambridgeshire, and the widow of the late Professor Jack Miller, also becomes an M.B.E. I have telephoned Marcia, too.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.