Friday, 13 March 2020

Diary of a Plague year (Entry 2)

Well, Day 2 is bringing a mixed bag of emotions and news.

The Prime Minister’s announcement brought no real information and, for me, has sewn more seeds of confusion.

On the one hand we as a Nation are being told that we are moving to Phase 2 of the Government plan which is “Delay” Basically “Keep calm and carry on.”

In the same breath the Prime Minister is saying that “many more will lose loved ones before their time”

So is this really that serious?

The Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that this is a critical pandemic and Parliament will debate it… On the 23rd March so ten days’ time. If this is THAT CRITCAL then surely it should get priority?

Ireland and Scotland have banned public meetings, Ireland has also closed schools. The US has closed borders with Europe (not us for some reason… maybe Trump thinks because we left the EU we are no longer part of Europe. The World is talking about postponing the Olympics, the FIFA European finals. If you watch the media this could be up there with plague or Spanish Flu.

This country’s plan? Stay at home where possible and in your house you have to stay away from other people – if you have the ability sleep in a separate room and use another bathroom, use the kitchen separate to everyone else but it’s cool to go to a football match (Breaking, these are now banned.).

How serious is this outbreak? Apparently 1000 dead in Italy, 3000 dead in China, 10 dead in the UK, Tom Hanks isolated, Justin Trudeau isolated, Katy Perry Isolated, Nadine Dorries Isolated, staff urged to work from home, people to stay away from Doctors or hospitals – self diagnose where possible. Sounds frighteningly serious but at the same time no one seems that bothered in other ways.

Shops are selling out of things, last night Aldi in Gillingham had meat shortages and bread as well as a few other things. Since I moved out of home I’ve had to start again with a lot of things including that I no longer have access to a large source of tinned goods and pasta which we had stockpiled over the years. My flat is a bachelor/student style larder of what I will eat that week. I need to lay down supplies for a possible isolation.

I continue to muddle through. Maybe next week will bring more coherent news.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Journal of a plague year (entry 1)

Ok, so I have not written in this blog for four years apparently! I guess I've moved away from politics by quite some way.

What a time to reignite this blog eh?

I've not really been paying attention to the news over the last few months. Those of you who know me personally will know that I've been going through things in my personal life which have taken up a lot of my attention and time. I'd heard snippets of a new illness coming over from China and of quarantine but frankly that was pretty low on my list of concerns.

In my new flat I must admit that I don't have television. I have a pile of DVDs to watch but to be honest I have had no inclination. I am in the process of researching a book on pre-Dreadnoughts during World War One and so I have a literal pile of papers and books to be reading but again, I've not always got the inclination to do that either. I am more likely to be reading about World War One battleships than the news.

I work at the Imperial War Museum for the Security department... well the company that was outsourced to look after the security. As a public building and manned by civil servants there has been regular updates for Museum staff but I've been kept so busy that I have not had time to read all of them. My company has also released updates but beyond skim reading them and passing them to my staff I've not read all of them. In a way I have been blissfully ignorant of it.

Today though is the first time that I have really started to worry.

I've watched a lot of movies.

Probably too many movies.

Today I felt like I was in a zombie apocalypse movie.

These sort of movies have a certain archetype of characters including the person who saw it coming, the female victim, the loving couple and the guy who had no idea that anything was happening - suddenly I realised I was that guy.

I had noticed people wearing face masks from time to time in the streets in London but not really thought much about it.

I had heard of cases in other countries especially Italy as my manager had to cancel her journey home to see her family.

I had heard that Covid-19 was coming but so what?

Suddenly I have a moment of clarity when stood next to a man on the train reading the metro with a headline that read something like "159 dead in Italy"

I sat down at work and started reading the updated plans and statements and found myself asking;

Is this really as bad as they think it is?

The news hasn't helped with borders closing (Trump closes European travel but not the UK -
dumbass), schools closing, workers being advised to stay at home where possible. Then there is the death rate - currently 4300 (3000 in China) which is steep but not on a Bubonic plague level.

Then I caught a brief part of the Q&A on the BBC with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer who said that around 80% of the British population will contract the illness but should recover - oh and you can get it multiple times....

I'm not worried for me.

Probably famous last words but - I don't get ill. My constitution is frighteningly robust (and can be augmented with rum).

I am worried for my mother who is pushing 70 and more importantly I'm worried for my son,

You may or not know but George has a rare heart condition which has left him with half a heart, some epic surgery scars and a prederiliction to contracting illnesses which will hit him hard. Should he get a cold he can be laid up for a week, the flu maybe a fortnight, Covid-19 who knows? We had been originally told that Chicken pox could kill him (thankfully it didn't) or hospitalise him (again, he was fine).

I don't know what the future holds over this. It could be another SARs, it could be another plague, I don't think anyone really knows at this stage.

I don't think this will be a Dawn of the dead sort of thing but the way people are panic buying toilet rolls and hand sanitizer you wouldn't be blamed for believing it might be.

I'm hoping to form a bit of a weekly blog/journal of what is going on for posterity and also for my own joy.... Let's see what will happen.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Star Wars Rogue One trailer

Friday saw the release of the new trailer for this year’s Star Wars offering; Rogue One a Star Wars story and needless to say I am excited.

The movie is set just before the events of Episode IV (A New Hope) and is about the theft of the Deathstar’s plans and getting them to Princess Leia who of course is caught carrying them at the beginning of the first Star Wars movie when Vader aboard the ISD Devestator engaged her.

In the old Expanded Universe they were taken from the planet Raltiir whilst the Deathstar was constructed over the Penal prison at Despayrre which was destroyed during the test firing. Of course…. That was then… this is now.

With Disney’s takeover of the Star Wars universe the old lore is gone ( I may have mentioned this every time I have blogged about the new Star Wars developments and I promise I will stop moaning about it!).

So what makes Rogue One an appealing concept. Well for me it is an unknown – these characters are not the main canon characters and they are going up against the Empire’s best in a commando style mission to save the galaxy in the same sort of vein as Where Eagles Dare, Dirty Dozen or Heroes of Telemark which really appeals to the Role Player in me. Also as they are not canon characters it means that there is no guarantee as to who will survive and who will be killed off – there’s not even a guarantee that Jyn Erso, Felicity Jones’ main protagonist will make it to the role of credits. This makes the movie so much more enjoyable the first time you watch it. Let’s be honest, Family guy nailed it when they stated in “Something, something Darkside,” that “Don’t worry we have a ship of four of the main characters, I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

There have been complaints about having a female lead in some corners of Youtube which I find as confusing as those who complained about a black Stormtrooper (John Boyega’s Fin in Episode VII). It is good to see a strong female character in the lead in a Galaxy which up until recently was lacking serious female characters within the movie branch of the franchise. Jyn looks to have the edge and combat skills of Han Solo with just as much balls. Ultimately I cannot judge until that great day when I get to watch the movie in full – and review it – but let’s give her a shot. From the trailer’s I don’t think she is going to disappoint.

There are also people who are complaining that this is not Star Wars and there are no Jedi (except Lord Vader) but to be honest – yes it is. The Star Wars universe is vast with a multitude of different species and backgrounds all trying to live their lives and force users were always in the minority and of varying strength. The draw of Luke Skywalker, Vader, Yoda, Palpatine and Obi-Wan was that they were a minority and put them above the other warriors. The prequels almost overdid the Jedi aspect with them pretty much everywhere making them somewhat less special. Rogue One offers us someone else’s story in the same vein as the old “Tales of:” books from the EU. To quote the old Wizards of the Coast advert “What’s this guys story?” I want to see someone else’s struggle against the Empire, their motivations, their perils, loves, losses – it is a huge galaxy let’s see other aspects and explore new worlds and possibilities. Rogue One has vast potential here.

The Imperial hardware is, as always, very impressive looking with the ubiquitous Stormtroopers, a new version of stormcommando(?) and AT-ATs, armoured speeders and TIE/LN fighters with the rebels running around with cobbled together and “appropriated” gear showing the desperation they face against unrelenting Imperial materiel.

I love the piano and slowed down Imperial march building into the Star Wars theme which compliments the cinematic shots and art including the Deathstar eclipse of a sun. It looks really well shot and I’m hoping that it will play out into a two hour movie but I am excited.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The return of the EU

Yesterday revealed more interesting developments in the new growing history of Star Wars under Disney as I stumbled onto the trailer for Star Wars Rebels season 3.

Last year I wrote in horror that Disney had officially announced the death of the EU (Expanded Universe) so that they would be free to create without being tied to the books and sequels written and approved by Lucasfilm back in the 90s until fairly recently.

Basically my entire life appeared to be wasted and in a Deathstar style blast all my favourite characters, all my favourite starships and events were all wiped out with the click of a "send" button.

But it appears that this was not the end.

The EU had many great ideas and fan favourites like Starkiller, Grand Admiral Thrawn (the only alien Imperial Commander), Dark troopers, Mara Jade and many more. There was such a large number that it was some what inevitable that some might slip in to the new Star Wars canon. At first it was in small ways with Starkiller base in Episode VII, that Han and Leia's son turns to the darkside (Ben rather than Jacen Solo as it was in the original EU), the end of the Empire/New Republic conflict but now a whole character is back:

Grand Admiral Thrawn.

His biography is well known to fans of the old EU, especially the original trilogy by Timothy Zahn (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force rising and The Last Command) and he was one of the mourned lost characters as he had so much to offer and such a rich history and was a definite fan favourite.

The Disney Channel's Star Wars Rebels has already reached its third season (airing this autumn) and has been broadly excellent. It has used stereotypical characters from the old West End Games Star Wars Role Playing Game (Brash pilot, Bounty hunter, fallen Jedi, Warrior and Kid) and pitched them against the Empire who have slowly escalated their response in dealing with them starting with local commanders (Commandant Aresco and Task master Grint) up to ISB (Agent Kallos) and an Inquisitor (another nod to the EU which made great use of the Inquisitors) up to Grand Moff Tarkin. For season two it was escalated to Darth Vader.

I've not seen Season Two yet, I'm waiting for the DVD and a weekend off with the kids but from the clips I have seen on Youtube it looks quite dark with the return of characters from the Clone Wars cartoon series (Captain Rex and Ahsoka Tano) and Darth Maul as well as the Empire forcing the rebels to leave Lothal.

Season Three looks just as intriguing but with Vader seemingly taking a back seat, maybe he was to powerful a bad guy or as a busy Sith may have been called to another part of the Empire or it might have something to do with a dual between him and Ahsoka?!?

Thrawn appears to be as he was originally written by Zahn with his calm intellect using art and history to understand his enemy's method of thinking so that he can predict their reactions with his attacks being surgical rather than the usual Imperial blunt clumsy sledgehammer attacks.

His return gives me, and hope that the EU is still acknowlegable with the desperate hope that my favourate may return (although unlikely) but able to settle that a Legend of the old EU is back possibly opening the way for Pelleaon, the Captain of his Star destroyer Chimera but who knows, will have to wait and see!

Any way here is the trailer, what do you think?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Dear Tracey - why I'm voting remain.

Dear Tracey,

Hi, how are you? It's been a while since we've spoken over social media but I saw your post on Facebook and wanted to respond at length and felt a blogpost was a better format than a comment.

My regular readers, if there are any left, and yourself will know that I am a  supporter of yours across party
lines. I've always admired your hard work in the constituency and that all of your decisions have been well thought out. At the heart of all of your decisions is your heart, conscience and your constituency even if it goes against your party's position and that, in my mind is what a MP should do and why you have my support and admiration - if I lived in Chatham I would have, secretly, voted for you.

I'm pretty much in the same position as you. When I moved house some four months ago I lost all television signal. I also try to avoid newspapers as it is far to easy to gravitate to ones you agree with and dismiss those you don't as scaremongering and hokum. A prime example is yesterday's Daily Mail headline about the ten million Turks coming this way - a headline that hasn't been seen since the crusades.

I have also had some serious personal problems which almost cost me my marriage and I gave up my Liberal Democrat activities so lost that line of information.

I have spent a lot of time listening to my friends and colleagues and their opinions and beliefs, weighed things in my head and come out with a side that I am mostly happy with. 

I agree with you that both sides are guilty of scaremongering and manipulating figures and I've tried to ignore them as well - it isn't good for my stress levels.

Let me bring you to where I'm at.

Firstly, and I'm sure you know this, but Medway is more than likely going to vote out. Just a cursory glance at the last round of Euro elections and the Police commissioner's election you can see UKIP surging ahead. This shouldn't have an impact on your decision as I believe it has a local colleague but it is something you may have to contend with in time. 

Immigration is a problem in Medway, sometimes I feel it seems a bigger problem than it is. Although international is a problem, one that always arises when cultures collide and it is a separate debate that needs to be had. 

The concerns are very real though with the first being jobs. It is easy to gloss over and say that a foreign worker in a job is a Briton out of work but that is not always the case. I remember seeing a segment on the South East's Politics on Sunday about Romanian Fruit pickers. The reporter went to a local job centre to ask Britons if they would pick fruit only one person said yes. It seems no one wants to clean streets, work in supermarkets or at McDonald's - all valid careers (I've worked at two of the three).

I think blaming immigrants for the strain on services has also got flaws. When I was born in 1980 there were three hospitals and Canada house, now we have one that is struggling to meet demand. On the rare occasions I go to the GP with the children it is not a swarm of foreigners in the waiting room but white Britons with minor ailments that my parents would have self medicated. 

Successive British governments have cut hospitals and other services including the police and fire brigade as well as selling off social housing. It was only a matter of time before we reached this point and although it is easy to blame Europe for reaching it now it is hard to believe it could be avoided.

On the subject of cuts the EU also invests money into many projects and businesses across the nation and in Medway including youth and tourism projects. The BREXIT campaign would argue if we weren't in Europe and sending £Xm a year (whatever the final figure is) then the British government would invest in them. I find that a bit of a tall order especially in these times of austerity and the government would find "better" places for the money to go.

It is true the EU is far from perfect and there are many things that need reforming but there are also some great bonuses too.

As a member of a family of Police officers I cannot tell you how excited I am about the EU policing treaties that allow us to share information and issue warrants for those who commit crimes and try to hide abroad, no more buggering off to the Costa Brava after a jewel heist. A good example was a man who posted indecent images of children on the Internet. Within hours the Danish police had picked them up and using location and search tools were able to pin-point his residence and the following day the Leeds police raided his home.

There are other things, which you have listed including cleaner beaches, moves to enforce greener fuel, safety etc...

For me, I worry about economic uncertainties. Britain is no longer a global Empire that produces the majority of the world's ships or refined cotton. Should Britain leave we'll have to negotiate our own trade treaties with the EU, America and Far East but what do we trade? We can't fall back on the Commonwealth.

When I look at the Brexit I think of the first game of Connect 4 I played with my daughter. When she lost she folded her arms and refused to play any more. It is a priceless look that I'm sure you'll see it on Freddy's face in the near future - it is a priceless expression.

If I could use a football analogy;

You're playing in the Euro 2016 final against Germany, Thomas Müller takes a dive as he passes you and the Ref calls you over for a yellow card. Do you walk off the pitch, hang up your boots and refuse to play anymore OR do you protest the decision, fight to clear your name and carry on with the game?

I personally believe if our MEPs embraced the EU rather than refusing to do anything, as our current UKIP MEPs do, we might get more of a say. 

I look back at the state of Britain and Europe over the last century and there is a declining Empire, distrust of minorities, finances wrecked by bankers and general strikes as well as a continent ravaged with world war twice. I see a lot of what has happened before still happening now but things are improving especially with international cooperation.

I can't help thinking it is better the devil you know.

I want to make a sound decision for my children and their children and I hope that I have made it.

I know that you will make your decision after many hours of consideration with your heart and conscience without being pressured. 

I hope all is well with you and your new family.

All the best, and good luck making your decision.


P.s. Remember me when you are Prime Minister and you want a biography written - my publisher's always after new ideas and I'll write a very good one!  

Thursday, 21 April 2016

My Last goodbye.

I realised yesterday that I had made no grand announcement and didn't want groups like Medway yet again.
Labour jumping to the wrong conclusion. (1)

I have indeed left the Liberal Democrats.

It was not a political decision or a disagreement or because of local issues - it was due to mundane selfish reasons.

I joined back in 2009 and supported my party proudly, stood in two local elections and a by-election, represented the party at hustings and school debates. I believe in Liberalism to my very core and truly believe Tim Farron is the leader to take the party forward.

I was deeply disappointed last year with the results. I grew up in Gillingham South and love the area as much as I love Liberalism. Whatever I say will be interpreted as sour grapes by some so it's best I say nothing more.

I have now moved out of Gillingham South to another part of Medway, a part I know very little about and it is against my belief to stand for a ward I don't live in.

A new house, new life and personal problems at home mean I need to dedicate my time and resources elsewhere. I also have another book to write which is dominating my spare time. I've got some eight months and 80,000 words to write so as you can imagine I'm more than a little busy.

I also tire of the political sniping on Twitter. Every time I made a political statement or dared to question a Labour member all I got was "The LibDems.  Blah blah" or general crap (thank god for the mute button!) and frankly can live my life without it. Man I can live without it. The sniping is one of the things I hate about politics - it isn't about issues its all about one-up-man-ship and it is all really childish. I really won't miss that.

When my subscription ran out a few months ago it made sense to let it slide.

I didn't announce it before because... Well I didn't think it was worth mentioning as being a LibDem was not my defining facet - I always thought that was being Sophie, Ollie and George's dad.... I quietly changed my bio on Twitter to just be about my writing and went about my life retweeting political comments from all parties and thought that was it. 

By the by I'm not interested in joining any other parties, sorry. 

Oh by the way, I cancelled my White Dwarf subscription too if any one is interested...

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Raising money for British Heart Foundation

Last year my wife, Sam, did a sponsored De-Chox to raise money for the British heart foundation.

For a whole month she gave up chocolate in all its forms which for her is a HUGE deal but she was strong and succeeded in raising many monies.
This year she is taking Sophie along and our little five year old has vowed to be as strong as her Mum - even though her chocolate in take is fairly low anyway.

 For those of you who aren't regular readers my son George (14 months old) was diagnosed with Pulmonary atresia before he was born. The left atrium was non-existent and the ventricle that pushes blood to the lungs massively under developed. At three days old he had heart surgery to put a shunt in his heart and again at 8 months to turn his heart from a defective four chamber heart to an effective two chamber one. In three years he has to have a final surgery to complete this.

The British heart foundation were a great resource of information for us to research the condition and what needed to be done, meet other families who have gone through what we were about to go through.

Commonly you think Heart problems and you think of over weight people suffering heart attacks but it really does strike many. There are conditions that I'd never even dreamed of let alone thought one of my children would be struck with.

Sam has joined a couple of the support groups where parents with Heart babies can get together to talk, socialise and help each other through and there are some truly heart breaking stories with children, some only a few days old, in life or death states and sadly - not all are as lucky as George.

The Heart Foundation does so much good work in research and support to try and help sufferers and their families and is deserving support.
Sam's target is £75 and I believe she's almost made it - please help her, even if it is a few quid.

Do it for the kids, do it for yourself in case you get heart problems,  do it to make my life hell... Whatever floats your boat!

Here's her Justgiving page if you want to help.