I think I’m slowly settling back into a more regular routine and hopefully, over the next few days, I will devote more time to writing – both my blog and my novel.
The arrival of the two newcomers into my family – Micky the Labrador, and ‘Sammy’, my new Korean ‘Phablet’ – are now much less of a distraction and today I feel more in the mood for writing than I have done for several weeks.
I suppose that since my operation, back in June, I have been trying quite hard to do a number of things, not least of which was ploughing on with my writing efforts, as well as doing my best to get fit and strong and back to normal; but the five day break in Nong Khai has made me realise how stale my mind had become. Micky and Sammy provided the perfect, opportunity – or excuse – to take a bit of a break.
During my break, I have not only spent much time exploring the mysteries of a new smart phone and wearing myself out trying to train an extremely active male Labrador in his prime, but I have been taking more trips out with Noo – shopping, meals. errands etcetera, and I have also spent a bit of time with friends.
I have always considered going out with Noo to be a bit of a ‘chore’ – one of the necessary evils of having a relationship – but I have to confess, that over the past few weeks, I have found these excursions to be very happy and enjoyable occasions.
We get along so well, and have a similar, zany sense of humour and we seem to spend most of the time laughing at each other and laughing together about this crazy world of Pattaya that we happen to live in. It has been a pleasure and a tonic, and I am resolved to never let myself get into such a rut that I allow myself to be stuck at home for weeks at a time without taking time out with my lovely partner.
I confess that Micky has been a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated, and my attempts to institute some basic training with him, have proved extremely demanding – to say the last exhausting.
Micky is as dear and friendly a dog as you could possibly imagine, and wouldn’t hurt the hair on the head of a baby – or indeed of my other dogs – but he has inexhaustible reserves of strength and energy, and my attempts to teach him to walk to heel, using a check-chain, have met with mixed results so far – but I will persevere.
Poor Cookie has become a stationery observer in all this frenetic activity, but the lovely old girl is so obedient that she puts the new young buck to shame. We take all four dogs on a walk around our village every evening – the two Shih Tsus on loose leads but so obedient with their little legs pounding away; then there is Cookie, who walks next to us without any lead and never tries to run away. Finally, Micky, who just struggles and pulls on the lead continuously and refuses to sit whenever I tell him to and Cookie runs over and sits obediently next to his obstinate new friend, to show him how it is supposed to be done.
The only positive result to come out of these training sessions so far, is the realisation that I am still a long way from being back to full strength, as after two or three days, I have found myself so exhausted, that I was worried for a few minutes that my heart was going into a arterial fibrillation again, but fortunately, it soon settled back to normal.
So I am reducing the length of these training sessions from over 50 minutes to about t10 minutes a day, until I succeed in getting Micky into a more obedient state of mind, and from this week I will renew my efforts on the writing front to try and get my novel completed by the end of the year. The weeks seem to flash past, so my year-end target is becoming less and less likely, but I won’t become obsessed by it, and if I do not finish it until January, then so be it – it’s not the end of the world.
Somehow, I have to find the right balance between having stress-free discipline, while at the same time, not allowing myself to become a slave to routine. If I need to take a couple of days off to take Noo out, or meet up with friends, or whatever, then I must learn to do it without feeling guilty.
I know – famous last words…..
The wasted Afghan billions – Woe is me!!!
Long-time readers of my blog will know that I have always taken a very pessimistic view on the west’s continued presence in Afghanistan – with my commentaries along the lines of : ‘WTF are we doing there?’; ‘Haven’t we learnt anything from history?’; and ‘Everything will revert back into a repressive, myogenic, cruel medieval society, the minute the Nato forces are gone’.
Trust me, it is not music to my ears when I now hear a growing groundswell of experts telling us that the west should have limited expectations of any long term progress in democracy and human rights in Afghanistan, once our gallant soldiers have packed up their last tents and jumped on the final black Hawk helicopter out of that nightmare of a country.
The grand plan of the west – to recruit and train Afghan soldiers to take over from the Yanks and Brits to keep the Taliban at bay, was never anything more than a distant pipe dream – a dream that most sensible, ordinary people had known for decades was total hogwash, but had somehow had escaped the attention of the clever politicians and wily generals in charge of our defence forces.
And we are now informed by a recent US Congressional report that Afghanistan will probably be unable to maintain the military bases its international backers have spent billions building after the NATO troops leave.
We are told that Kabul’s military forces have neither the staff, nor the expertise, to maintain or operate the hundreds of bases it will inherit from the coalition troops as they prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014.
Between 2002 and 2012, America has spent $52 billion to equip, train, house, and sustain the forces, including about $12 billion alone to build bases, yet as they are handed over as Nato troops withdraw, Afghans lack engineers and maintenance staff to keep them going, and struggle with procurement and logistics.
The report stated that only two fifths of Afghan operations and maintenance posts had been filled, and that the Afghan forces lack personnel with the technical skills that are required to operate and maintain critical facilities, such as water supply, waste water treatment and power generation.
It was also announced on Thursday that Congress would launch an investigation into $230 million worth of missing spare parts ordered for the Afghan army!!!
The British Afghan wastages – more ‘woe is me’
On the British front, we are told the unpalatable truth that a majority of schools and health clinics built by the British military in Helmand may be forced to close down because the Afghan government can no longer afford keep them open.
Millions of pounds were spent across the war-torn province over the last decade in an effort to win over hearts and minds and convince civilians to side with British troops rather than the Taliban.
However, a confidential report admits that Britain “built too much” during the wave of construction and that the Afghan government would not be able to sustain the costs of the extensive programme.
British officials have now reportedly been ordered to identify which facilities are “critical” to the people of Helmand and to begin closing down the others by the end of 2014.
The exact number to be shut is unclear but several dozen are thought be facing closure, with rural areas understood to be most at risk.
The tax paying British public are now told that, between the period of 2003-2008 we developed a very expansive view of how we could help Afghanistan, and many countries invested a lot in that mission, with the best of intentions. Further construction in Helmand has reportedly been halted until a sustainable budget programme can be agreed with the Afghan government.
All these millions of precious pounds have been utterly and disgracefully wasted in a war torn country that will never see any kind of sustainable peace, while so many humble folks back home are fighting a daily battle to put food on the table and have a roof over their head.
If the end result of all these billions was something positive and tangible for future generations of Afghans, then all well and good, but, we all know that is not and never will be the case.
Our politicians should hide their heads in shame … or better still… go out somewhere and shoot themselves.
Woe is me indeed…….
The British Euro wastages -yet more ‘woe is me’…
Talking about politicians wasting the UK’s hard earned tax money, it has now been established that Britain’s Department for International Development was ‘forced’ to give British taxpayers’ money to the EU and was powerless over how it was spent.
Brussels has insisted it does not “impose” its choice of aid projects on Britain but – a senior Conservative politician accused the EU of lying. ‘If you want an EU lie, this is a classic one,’ he said, ‘It is a 100 per cent lie. We have been arguing with the EU whenever we can that the money should have a poverty focus.”
An investigation into overseas aid by The Sunday Telegraph has revealed how £1.4 billion, one-sixth of Britain’s EU development budget, is diverted to the EU for its own schemes – many of them in relatively wealthy countries that the UK no longer believes should receive aid.
Examples of this are an investment into a £60 million tourist on the outskirts of Marrakech in Morocco. The project, which includes a water lagoon, 480 apartments, tennis courts, spa, restaurants and shops for foreign tourists, is owned in a joint venture between Morocco’s largest construction company, and the French company that runs Center Parcs on the Continent.
When it opens in 2014, the resort will boast solar water heaters, waste heat recovery systems, insulated walls and roofs and double glazed windows.
Then there is a hotel in in northern Morocco which is receiving an investment for a similar energy efficiency scheme. The EU, despite being asked repeatedly, has been unable to confirm the name of the hotel.
In all, Morocco, which Britain considers too wealthy to receive bilateral aid, is given about £120 million a year out of the ‘EuroAid’ budget – with about £18 million of that coming from Britain’s contributions.
British MP’s scandalous wastages – I am truly undone…
Those of my British readers will recall the recent MP’s expenses scandal, when it was disclosed that a large number of our illustrious members of Parliament had been fraudulently fiddling their expenses, some of whom actually ended up in jail, such was the outrageous extent of their criminal activities.
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, ‘new expenses’ guidelines were brought into force. Most of the chief offenders either voluntarily resigned from parliament, or were obliged to resign by virtue of their jail sentences, and it was generally assumed that a new general election with its new intake of MP’s would finally draw a line under the scandal.
We, the naïve, tax paying public, thought that our trusty MP’s had learnt their lessons and nothing like this would ever happen again.
Yet here we are, barely a couple of years down the line, and we learn about yet more ‘sharp’, albeit nominally ‘legal’ practices, by MP’s.
Firstly, we have the train fare scandal. MP’s are only permitted to claim for the cheapest train fare available for a particular train journey, which means, for all practical purposes, that they are obliged to travel by ‘standard’ class fare.
Yet our wily MP’s have discovered a ‘loophole’ in the system. It seems that certain ‘standard class’ fares, when purchased on the same day of travel, are sometimes -perversely – more expensive than a regular first class fare.. This because there is a sliding scale of charges for ‘standard’ tickets and passengers are ‘penalised’ if they wish to buy their ticket on the day of travel. Everyone knows that a huge amounts of money can be saved by buying your standard tickets in advance, yet politicians use this apparent discrepancy between the price of a standard ticket purchased on ‘day of travel’ and a first class ticket, as justification for claiming the cost of a first class ticket.
I wonder what percentage of our gallant MP’s train journeys are ‘spur of the moment’ trips, which may justify buying a ticket on date of travel? Not many – if any at all – I’d wager…
But then we have the even greater scandal of MP’s owning residential property in London – much of it purchased with mortgages reimbursed to them under the previous ‘expenses’ regime, and renting these properties out, while at the same time putting in an expense claim for living in rented London property.
To put it simply, the London properties they own, (paid for by the British taxpayer), are rented out for personal gain, while the MP’s live in rented property, the cost of which is also reimbursed by the British tax payer.
Talk about having your cake and eat it…..
But it gets worse. Some of these property owning MP’s are actually renting their ‘Tax-payer funded’ properties to other MP’s!!! And can you believe that our honourable speaker of the House of Commons, actually tried to supress publication of details of which MP’s were engaged in this highly dubious activity.
Just how murky can it all get??
Oh, woe, woe, woe, is me…
Obama, or Romney?
By the time my next blog is published, we will know the answer to this.
The money is on Obama, especially after the advent of Hurricane Sandy which effectively stopped Romney in his tracks and allowed Obama to be ‘Presidential’ and hog the headlines even more than he usually does.
But nothing is for sure… there’s not a soul at Fox News who doesn’t believe that Romney will win….
Frankly, simply because of my own strongly-held political ideology, I believe that Romney would probably make a better president in the overall scheme of things, but I actually doubt that it will make a huge difference whther it is Obama or Romney.
I suspect that whoever wins will make a huge effort to ‘cross the aisle’ and try to get bipartisan agreement on key issues, as without this, the USA will be in grave danger of ‘going to the dogs’. Obama will no longer be electorally beholden to the virulent ‘left wing’ of his party, and we already know that deep down, Romney is a ‘closet’ liberal Republican, who will probably find common ground with like-minded Democrats on a number of major issues.
So roll on the election and roll on the new administration, whoever heads it up.
Click here for this week’s collection of Mobi-Pics