Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Winston Churchill's coffin bearers. Ban on pop songs at Catholic funerals. Green and humanist funerals.

The 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill's death last week brought a welcome spate of programmes, including Churchill: The Nation's Farewell, presented by Jeremy Paxman on BBC 2.  The programme was done with Paxman's inimitable flair, and he recounted the dramatic story of how the coffin bearers could have dropped the coffin as they carried the it up the steps of St Paul's Cathedral.

The eight Grenadier guardsmen carrying the coffin up the steps had a difficult enough task, in bearing a lead-lined coffin weighing a quarter of a ton. When 82 year old Lord Attlee stumbled on the steps ahead of them, the bearers had to make a sudden stop and the coffin slid off the shoulders of the front two bearersTwo additional soldiers at the back, known as pushers, fortuitously stopped the coffin from falling down the steps.  

One of the bearers, Lance Sergeant Lincoln Perkins  said he and the other bearers suffered from crushed vertebrae for years from carrying the coffin.

Pope John Paul II lying in state 2005 in St. Peter's
on a draped  funeral bier 

Many people still choose to be buried rather than burnt, and it is a striking fact that many undertakers in this country employ elderly bearers, without mishaps, but it is always a worry to watch them. Trolleys known as biers are now used whenever possible on health and safety grounds.

Brocklands Woodland Burial, Settle, North Yorkshire

The trend for green funerals is growing, and coffins made of willow, bamboo, sea grass or cardboard covered with wool reduce the weight. Natural burial grounds  in the UK are an alternative to cemeteries, and humanist ceremonies are also gaining ground.

Natural Legacy cardboard coffin has an outer wool cover

Golden Leaves Funeral Plans state on their website that 40% of UK adults over 50 want a countryside resting place rather than a cemetery, 30% prefer bright colours to be worn at funerals, 20% want pop songs, not hymns  and 50% have not discussed these wishes with loved ones.

The most popular pop songs at a funeral are My Way, Amazing Grace and What a Wonderful World, but have been banned in various places world-wide, notably by the Catholic church last month  in Jersey, and earlier in Melbourne, Queensland and Dublin.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

100 reasons to vote for the UK Independence Party? Campaign email. Ukip candidates for Cornwall in the general election on 7 May.

The current betting odds on the general election on 7 May are taken from Ladbrokes, and UKIP are certainly to be reckoned with, in third place, way above the Liberal Democrats and the rest.

Next General Election

Who will win most seats?
N.Ireland MPs and speaker do not count.
Liberal Democrats

I received the following campaign email giving 100 reasons to vote UKIP in the general election.  I have been on their mailing list since I wrote about Ukip candidates standing for the general election in Cornwall on Thursday 7 May. 
  • Julie Lingard, a private landlord and property developer: North Cornwall.
  • Dr Robert Smith, 61, an educational and child psychologist: Camborne and Redruth.
  • Bradley Monk is studying  politics: South East Cornwall
  • Dr John Hyslop, a consultant radiologist at the Royal Cornwall Hospital: Truro and Falmouth.
  • Graham Calderwood, a lawyer: St Ives
  • David Mathews, former Restormel councillor and trustee of STAK (St Austell Community Kitchen): St Austell and Newquay

The campaign email made some good points and asked for donations in a jokey, non-greedy fashion: 

"With 100 days to go, why not give us a few quid based on the number of seats you reckon we’ll win?"  

100 days till the election, 100 reasons to vote UKIP

Published Jan 27, 2015

With 100 days to the election, here are the first 10 of 100 great reasons to vote UKIP 

And we’re delighted to announce that while we could probably come up with a whole lot more, we’re today providing 100 REASONS TO VOTE UKIP that you can send on to your friends, family, and colleagues. Here’s the TOP TEN to whet your appetite.

1. Get Britain out of the European Union1. Get Britain out of the European Union
2. Get control of immigration with an Australian-style, points-based immigration system
3. £3bn more, annually, into our NHS which desperately needs it
4. Scrap tuition fees for students studying Science, Tech, Engineering, Maths, or Medical    degrees
5. Pay greater attention to elderly care across the country
6. Cutting £9bn from our foreign aid budget
7. Give the people the ability to “recall” their MPs, without parliamentary or MP approval
8. Stopping our endless, foreign wars
9. Promoting a British identity, as opposed to failed multiculturalism
10. Allowing existing schools to become grammar schools

P.S. It wouldn’t be a campaign e-mail without us asking you to chip in a few quid, would it?
With 100 days to go, why not give us a few quid based on the number of seats you reckon we’ll win?
11. Ending PFI privatisation of the NHS, proliferated by Labour and the Tories
12. Ensuring our armed services are properly equipped for when we do need them
13. Establishing a Veteran’s Administration to look after those who looked after us
14. Encouraging inward investment with growth markets, not JUST the failing Eurozone
15. Overcoming the unfairness of MPs from devolved nations voting on English laws
16. Cutting bureaucracy, red tape, and wasteful spending from government departments
17. Cutting the same bureaucracy that hinders small businesses and entrepreneurs
18. Supporting our farmers with a Single Farm Payment Scheme
19. Ending the burdensome “green levies” that have added £000s to our energy bills
20. Scrapping the poorly planned HS2 project, saving up to £50bn
21. Opposing tolls on public roads – we’ve already paid for them
22. Supporting bus passes for pensioners with the support of local authorities
23. Foreign vehicles to require Britdisc passes to contribute to our roads they use
24. Ending the use of speed cameras as revenue raisers – they should be a deterrent
25. Protecting our green belt
26. A central list of brownfield sites for developers
27. Houses on brownfield sites to be Stamp Duty exempt on first sale
28. VAT relaxed for redevelopment of brownfield sites
29. Local referenda for large-scale development, if triggered by 5% of electorate
30. Introducing the ability for citizens to initiate national referenda
31. Withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights
32. Reversing the government’s opt-in to the European Arrest Warrant
33. Negotiating bi-lateral agreements to replace EAW
34. No votes for prisoners
35. Full prison sentences should be served, parole on case-by-case basis
36. Replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights
37. Official documents to be published primarily in English
38. Cracking down on honour killings, female genital mutilation, and forced marriages
39. Reviewing the BBC licence fee with a view to reducing it
40. Taking non-payment of the licence fee out of the criminal sphere
41. Amend the smoking ban to promote choice for ventilated smoking rooms
42. Opposing plain packs for cigarettes, which has had no impact where trialled
43. Promoting the employment of young, British workers
44. Repealing the Agency Workers Directive
45. Encouraging councils to provide more free parking on High Streets
46. Simplifying planning regulations for long-term empty commercial properties
47. Extending the right of appeal for micro businesses against Revenue and Customs
48. Negotiating bespoke trade agreements with EU member states and worldwide
49. Reoccupying our seat at the World Trade Organisation
50. Abolishing inheritance tax
51. Introducing a 35p income tax rate between £42,285 and £55,000 – taking many public sector workers out of top rate of tax
52. Setting up a Treasury Commission to make sure big corporations pay their way in taxes
53. Abolishing the Dept of Energy and Climate Change and rolling retained functions into DEFRA
54. Introducing an Apprenticeship Qualification for students who don’t want to do non-core GCSEs
55. Scrapping the arbitrary 50% target for university attendance
56. Students from the EU to pay the same as International Students
57. Introducing more power for parents: OFSTED to investigate schools on petition signed by 25% of parents or governors
58. Guaranteeing a job in the police, prison, or border forces for anyone who has served 12 years in the Armed Forces
59. Priority social housing for ex-service men and women, and those returning from service
60. Veterans to receives Veteran’s Card to ensure they’re supported in event of mental health care and more
61. All entitlements to be extended to servicemen and women recruited from overseas
62. Establishing a National Service Medal for all those who have served
63. Encouraging local authorities to buy out their PFI contracts where affordable
64. Ensuring GP’s surgeries are open at least one evening per week where demand permits
65. Ensuring migrants have NHS-approved health insurance until they have paid into the system for 5 years
66. Ending hospital car parking charges
67. Replacing bureaucratic watchdogs with locally elected health boards for more transparency
68. Stopping the sale of patient data to big business
69. Ensuring a high standard of English speakers in the NHS
70. Amend working time rules to give trainee doctors, surgeons, and medics better environments
71. Encouraging and protecting whistleblowing to get to the bottom of poor performance
72. Ensuring migrants have jobs and accommodation before they can come to the UK
73. Migrants will only be eligible for residency after 10 years’ working here
74. Reinstating the primary purpose rule, bringing an end to sham marriage migration
75. No amnesty for illegal immigrants, or those gaining UK passports via fraud
76. Protecting genuine refugees by returning to the UN Convention of Refugees principles
77. British companies to be prioritised to deliver foreign aid contracts
78. Repealing the Climate Change Act 2008 which costs the economy £18n per year
79. Scrapping the Large Combustion Plant directive and redevelop UK power stations
80. Supporting the development of UK Shale Gas with proper safeguards
81. No new taxpayer subsidy for wind farms
82. Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy
83. Allowing parliament to vote on GM foods
84. Reinstating British territorial waters
85. Food to be labelled with country of origin, method of production, method of slaughter and more
86. Ban live animal exports for slaughter
87. Scrapping the Bedroom Tax
88. Child benefit only for children permanently resident in the UK
89. Future child benefit to be limited to first two children only
90. Ensuring an initial presumption of 50-50 parenting on child custody matters
91. Safeguarding visitation rights for grandparents
92. Supporting a streamlined welfare system and a benefit cap
93. Enrolling unemployed benefits claimants into workfare or community schemes
94. Placing revenues from shale gas into a Sovereign Wealth Fund to ensure future growth and security
95. Emphasising the immediate need to utilise forgotten British infrastructure like Manston Airport
96. No cuts to frontline policing
97. Prioritising social housing for those whose parents and grandparents were born locally
98. Reaffirming British laws, rather than allowing dual-track legal systems for minorities in the UK
99. Promoting patriotism and the importance of British values in our schools
100. Rebalancing Britain’s economy

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

What Car? Car of the Year 2015: Škoda Fabia.

The Škoda Fabia has just won Car of the Year for the second time and best Small Car 2015 in the What Car? awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.  There were 16 categories of awards, including a Safety award . The Best Green Car award was missing this year.

What Car? now seems to have gone on an economy drive, as the winning cars on their website all seem to have been photographed indoors with digitalised arty backdrops compared with last year's photos of the winning cars in glamorous outdoor locations. 

Škodas were once derided during the 1980s owing to their dated image, but they were reasonably priced and reliable. When we wanted to upgrade our 2CV for a Škoda, our youngest son persuaded us not to, fearing he would be a laughing stock at school.

In 1991 the Czech company Škoda joined forces with VW, which had a 30% share. This caused a turnaround in public perception and by 2000 Škoda  became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group. Success came in the same year when the Škoda Fabia first won the What Car? car of the year.

What Car? Car of the Year 2015 
Škoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 90 SE
and Best Small Car 

What Car? editor, Jim Holder, said: 'We’ve driven and evaluated all of its rivals and, whichever way you cut it, the Fabia is the most rounded small car on sale in the UK today.'  John McIlroy, the Director of testing, wrote:: “The Fabia undercuts rivals such as the Fiesta and Polo on price, but beats both for space and practicality. The 1.2 TSI engine is punchy efficient too.”

The Škoda Fabia has a turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine,  touchscreen display and a ‘Mirrorlink’ system to sync with Android phones for sat nav.

Second-hand deals in  Škoda Fabias 1.2 TSI 105 SE look to be a good bet, with prices from £4500.  

Best City Car  
Hyundai i10 1.2 Premium

The Hyundai i10 1.2 Premium has cruise control, a leather steering wheel, Led running lights, 14-inch alloy wheels, standard five-year warranty and roadside assistance, plus reasonable fuel economy.

Best convertible 
Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.4 TFSI 150 Sport

The Audi A3 Cabriolet is the Best convertible for the second year running, and its new 1.4 engine is economical to run.

Best coupé
Audi TT 2.0 TFSI Sport
£25,000 - £35,000

This new version is lighter and has more power. The TT also has one of the finest cabins of any car, and a Virtual Cockpit display behind the driver, similar to the one in a Lamborghini Huracan. The TT is also a fabulous ownership proposition. Such strong desirability means it’ll depreciate far more slowly than its rivals.

Best electric car 
Audi A3 e-tron
£20,000 - £30,000

The Audi A3 e-tron has a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor which runs for 30 miles before the petrol engine kicks in, at which point you’re free to do as many miles as you have fuel for.

Best estate car
Ford Mondeo Estate 1.6 TDCi 120 Econetic Zetec

The new Mondeo Zetec  has DAB radio, climate and cruise control, power folding mirrors, and an 8.0-inch touch-screen. It is good value and cheaper to run than most of its rivals, thanks to CO2 emissions of just 99g/km.

Best executive car 
BMW 520d SE automatic
The BMW is the best mid-range executive car, bar none, with improved emissions and an excellent eight-speed gearbox.  

Best family car 
015 Skoda Octavia 1.2 TSI 105 SE

The Škoda Octavia 1.2 TSI SE also won this category in 2014. 

No other family car offers such a strong mix of talents, with good practicality, superb quality and low running costs.  It’s also cheaper to run than almost any of its rivals, whether you’re a private or company buyer, with low CO2 emissions and brilliant finance deals. It also has a 590-litre boot which is far larger than its rivals 

Best Hot Hatch
Ford Fiesta ST-2

Hot stands for high-performance. The Ford Fiesta ST-2 has a 1.6-litre turbo engine, Recaro sports seats and a good-sized boot.

Best Large SUV 
Range Rover Sport SDV6 HSE
more than £40,000

The 288bhp 3.0 V6 diesel engine gives  the Range Rover Sport good acceleration, and there is  sat-nav, leather, climate control and parking sensors. "In a class of its own."

Best luxury car 
Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetec L SE Line
less than £70,000

The S350 is a quality car, with a 3.0-litre diesel engine and appealing running costs; none of the Merc’s rivals can match the comfort and technology available here.

Best MPV 
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso 1.6 e-HDi 115 Exclusive

Citroen has seven seats yet plenty of space and a powerful 1.6-litre diesel engine, climate control, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and sat-nav.

Best small SUV 
Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 110 N-tec 2WD

Last year’s overall Car of the Year is still What Car's favourite small SUV.  It’s great to drive, classy inside and good value – particularly as a company car. The Qashqai continues to impress, with a well-finished interior, a chassis that’s well suited to the majority of Britain’s roads, and a 1.5-litre diesel engine. The  Qashqai is equipped with sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, DAB radio, keyless entry and a lane departure-warning system.

The What Car? Safety Award 
Land Rover Discovery Sport

The judges of the What Car? 2015 Safety award were Matthew Avery, research director for Thatcham Research, Professor Peter Thomas, Loughborough University’s Professor of Vehicle Safety. and Murray Mackay, who started the Birmingham Accident research Centre in the ’70s. 

The Land Rover Discovery Sport was crash tested by Thatcham Research on behalf of euro New Car Assessment Program/NCAP. The damage is the result of a 40mph frontal impact, and its best overall NCAP score of all cars tested in 2014 has helped earn the Discovery Sport the What Car? Safety Award.

Car of the Year Reader Award 2015
Honda HR-V

Readers were given a choice of 16 cars to vote for. The HR-V will go on sale in late spring 2015.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Marine fly-tipping is a world-wide problem. Further legislation for boat registration is needed. Truro river and Fowey harbour. The Thames. Abandonment Procedures.

Captain Paul Thomas

Harbour masters all over the world are plagued with the problems of dealing with abandoned boats. Cornwall is no exception and Captain Paul Thomas, the harbour master of Fowey, has recently spoken out about his frustration and the prohibitive costs of removing abandoned boats from Fowey harbour. "Leaving a boat to rot is simply marine fly-tipping and we're not having it." he told the Plymouth Herald

Captain Mark Killingback

Last year the harbour master of Truro and Penryn, Captain Mark Killingback, told the West Briton of his difficulties in locating the registered owners of rotting boats, prior to carrying out costly abandonment procedures in his efforts to clear Truro river.  

“It’s when they stop paying us and we can’t find them that we look into abandonment. Money is tight and boats are not cheap to run. If they are not tended and the moorings break they may find themselves in the navigable channel.” 

This yacht opposite Trennick Row has been rotting away for years

I have a vested interest in the boat above as it is near my house, and in view of the recent publicity in the local and national press about abandoned boats in Fowey harbour I went to see the Moorings Officer of Truro and Penryn,  Paul Ferris,  who told me that he is now in contact with the owner who had been ill, hospitalised and gone away.  

Tracking down the owners of abandoned boats in this country is difficult as boats frequently change hands and not all boats are re-registered.  Further legislation for registration and re-registration is needed. People buy boats with good intentions, sometimes on a whim but subsequently regret their purchases - (This is a similar scenario what is going to happen next week, when pets will be given as Christmas presents).  The costs of mooring fees, maintenance and insurance often prove prohibitive, and Cornwall has suffered the recession more than most other parts of the country. 

Boats moored along the river Truro before 1999 are not subject to fees, in which case the owners are under no financial pressure and parts of the foreshore on both sides of the river belong to private owners, one of whom is Lord Falmouth. 

Residents and businesses on both sides of the river Truro on Malpas Road and in Newham are well used to boats in various stages of disrepair which have been eyesores for years. 

Not all is doom and gloom
 Cavatina is clearly much loved and cared for
Newham businesses and flats are in the background

This picturesque old French fishing boat, Durundal, has been stranded 
on the corner of Boscawen Park for years, 
but at last a new owner has started to paint it

Boats on Sunny Corner seem to be better tended

Boat for sale on the Malpas Road side

In 2009 Andrew Graham, waterway operations manager of the Thames, gave a good account to Get Surrey of abandonment procedures regarding the removal of a cabin cruiser, Canoo C, above Sunbury Reach.

Canoo C

“There is a strict process for dealing with sunken, stranded or abandoned boats. It starts with locating the registered owner of the boat, as they are responsible for removing it in the first instance..This avoids us spending taxpayers’ money unless absolutely necessary. If the owner either does not remove the boat within an agreed reasonable period, or does not contact us in reply to our notice to remove it, we will take enforcement action. If the owner cannot pay the costs, the boat will be sold to recover costs incurred and safeguard taxpayers expense. It is disappointing to see how some people drop all responsibility for their property and cause unnecessary disruption for others who use the waterway. The fact that irresponsible owners will still have to pay the costs of the operation or lose their boat sends out a strong message that disrespecting the laws of the River Thames will not be tolerated.”