Friday, 29 January 2010

Up in the Air and. The Iraq War

While the horror of Haiti continues the quantity of TV images decreases although there are amazing rescues after two weeks, a large section of the capital’s population is moved to forty organised encampments and food and water are distributed for those who have their work, are too shocked and distressed to return to some semblance of normal life, cannot afford the escalating prices, or need the aid because there is no other food available. Medical assistance has also greatly improved with concentrated effort, not just to patch up and remove pain but to also save limbs and provide other operations which will enable individuals to look after themselves and their families more effectively in the future. The task of rebuilding the economy, of demolition and reconstruction, especially of family homes and schools is at least being planned alongside he work of identifying and burying the bodies and caring and protecting the children who appear to be without families. This is an important focus given the immediate wish for families across the world to foster and adopt and the risks of child exploitation given the darker side of humanity.

Wednesday was given over to the appearance of Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General at the time of the Iraq War, before the Chilcot Inquiry. The questioning was excellent and comprehensive covering all the areas of concerns, interest and relevance and he being one of the outstanding lawyers and advocates of his generation was well briefed and prepared. He also came over as a thoughtful individual unlikely to be persuaded against his better judgement. and her also convinced of the unusual ability to separate his legal judgements from his personal beliefs and inclinations. I say this having had great experience of lawyers over during lifetime.

In 1960 I saw how the full force of government directed law could turned on peaceful demonstrators and then as a child care officer was appointed to attend Juvenile, Family, County and some criminal Courts between 1963 and 1968 in a County and a London Borough. In 1980 at the invitation of a local authority, acting on the advice of the Health Ministry, I participated in a panel of Inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of a child in the community at which some fifty legal officers, QC’s barristers, solicitors and their clerks attended the opening and closing session to represent the authorities and agencies and the individual workers, while neighbours who complained and foster parents who had warned were unrepresented.
In one memorable instance a barrister argued and explained the importance of legislation designed to prevent children from entering or remaining in care as a justification for the actions of professionals in the case and when I challenged this, as a non lawyer, asking if the barrister was really say that this duty was equal to or overrode the duty to protect children in the community or when in care, it was admitted that this was a proposition, i.e. a try on.

As a senior and then chief officer working for a number of local authorities I had twenty years experience of working closely with lawyers, with some having considerable power, officially because of their role, such as in Cheshire, in the corporate management system when in their capacity as Assistant Chief executives they effectively controlled everything that was written and presented to the politicians. In other situation the power came from personality and connections. Then between 1992 and 2003 I had the experience when I found myself in the firing line or working on behalf of others and was appointed one of the leading law firms in the world, and an international human rights barrister to provide legal opinion, on a pro bono basis. These combined experiences has led to the view that most lawyers find it difficult to separate their personal beliefs, likes and prejudices from how they work, including looking to their own positions and advancement.

Lord Goldsmith could have earned vast sums of money while remaining in private practice before choosing to accept his position in the Labour administration. It is understandable that all those who opposed the war in Iraq want the inquiry to declare that British involvement was illegal, and as part of this for the inquiry to show that, The Prime Minister personally, and the Cabinet collectively, did not exert pressure for what they wanted to do to be declared legal and constitutional according to international law.

Lord Goldsmith explained at length and in detail, that there is a difference between something being lawful according the best interpretation of the rules and something being the right thing to do at the time or with the benefit of hindsight. His main contention was to go to the wording of the United Nations and which to my satisfaction he demonstrated that had the UN wanted to ensure that military action could not be taken with their approval without a further resolution then it should have said so, rather than using words which indicated their should be further consideration, which there was, although not a second resolution which would have meant the countries involved with the Security Council committing themselves to active participation. This was why France in particular was unwilling to agree to the second resolution but where representatives said in public and the first resolution provide countries with the legal means for action individual countries to intervene if they so wished. Accepting this position and that there were those who strongly disagreed and had argued accordingly at the time as well as subsequently. Lord Goldsmith faced the second major issue: why he then changed his position after several months of saying that the argument on both sides were finely balanced, and was it correct that he had been pressurised into doing so. He explained that he had been pressed to give a definitive opinion by the civil and in particular the Military who wanted to ensure that the position of the generals and the individual soldiers was covered in International law given the opposition and attempts to use the law to prevent involvement by other interests at the time. He denied categorically that pressure had been exerted by the Prime Minister directly or indirectly but said he had been influenced by what the British Ambassador to the UN had said to him on his visit there as well as by representatives of the US government. In an exchange about an earlier situation he conceded that when he had offered advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet he had felt it was unwelcome.

This brings me to the golden rule from my personal experience. If you are a politician or a senior officer in government, either national or local, you do not seek advice on the legality of what you want to do unless you are confident what the response will be. This does not mean you do not follow the advice if it is offered unless you can persuade a modified or different opinion to be given. Such are the unwritten rules of this particular reality. Tomorrow the former Prime Minister will be in the hot seat. I expect him to come out with all cylinders firing.

From the very serious to the ridiculous having tuned back in to Big brother Celebrity House as it reaches its final stages with last night two evictions, with a surprise, resulting in Davina entering the house as a surprise replacement albeit for an hour. Much of the programme appears contrived, and orchestrated

I have been working hard on the project during the past three days as well as tackling some basic house keeping projects. I need to get back to complete at least 100 new sets of work and more so if I am to gain ground lost over the past two years. One problem is although I have lot of records in a form which enables easy conversion into sets, the material is of interest which means I then devote hours time to reading and reflecting on issues, in this instance between seven and twenty years ago, and where some like press cuttings can be become part of the public work while most should or has to remain confidential within the lifetimes of those directly involved and in some aspects longer. It remains frustrating where one has information which might help relieve genuine injustice, but could also create injustice if communicated except in highly controlled circumstances. The process is therefore challenging and at times stressful for me so a few hours at time is all that I can cope with.

I enjoyed a bacon roll in mid morning and then a cottage pie before going out for some shopping and mid afternoon cup of tea at Asda Bolden before going to see George Clooney in Up in the Air. I arrived in good time hence the cup of tea and then discovered that the start time as ten minutes later than advertised. I do not buy snacks at the cinema on principle but because of the extra time checked what was now on offer and as horrified to discover that something like a large sausage toll and fizzy drink will cost £6.20 and a standard size popcorn box with two drinks is £8.45 with another £1 if you want to go large. A circular carton of the standard Pringles crisps was £2.90, with the supermarket price £1. Three scoops of ice cream cost £4.60 and 100 grams of sweets £1.18.

The film is excellent. George Clooney plays the star employee of a company which specialises in personally advising employees of companies why they are going “to be let go”, before handing them their severance package and requesting they clear their desks and hand over their keys. He spends almost every day catching an internal flight to a USA airport, undertaking the task, staying in a hotel before moving onto the next airport and assignment. He has reduced the amount of time he spends in travelling by perfecting getting through security and becoming a favoured traveller with the same airline, car rental firm and hotel chains. His ambition is to become 7th person to travel 10 million miles with the airline which gets him a unique travel status and perks. He had also perfected the way he breaks the news and tries to help the individual cope and see a positive side to what is happening to them although he also understands it is likely to be the worse day in their lives. He is also a star turn on the motivation lecture circuit asking those attending to imagine putting all their physical possessions into a backpack and then imagining its weight which they carry on their backs until they die, similarly the impact of friends, relations and close family. The message of all this is to divest yourself as much as possible if you want to make a success of your chosen work or interest.

This of course is a bastard philosophy perpetrated by the immoral and unscrupulous capitalists, the speculative traders and bankers and such like, akin to the Hitler’s and Stalin’s of the earth world, Christian fanatics in the past, Muslim fanatics to day, that it is legitimate to kill and ruin millions, for personal profit or for some belief or objective. The idea of minimalism is that you act in the present, then move on, never looking back, divesting yourself of photos and all other reminders of past experience to enable you concentrate on the future. My philosophy is to argue the opposite. What you do and who you do it with lives with you and then, and indeed lives within others and universe for eternity. While continual dwelling on past experience is an inhibitor upon engaging in new experience, it is undesirable and counter productive to try and deny the existence of one’s past experience although for some people, confronting the past is not of helpful and can be self destructive. This is an important point in relation to the film.

The film character practices what he preaches. He has a small apartment with no personal possessions, where he spend as little time a possible and has limited contact with his married sister and a younger sister who is about to be married. He has become used to having one night casual encounters with those who share in his lifestyle, that is until he meets one woman who appears to be as well travelled, and as fun loving and casual about relationships as he is. They have such a good time that they immediately try and find out when it might be possible for them to have a night together during their ceaseless travelling schedules.

Then two events occur which threaten to bring his lifestyle to a shattering halt. All the employees of the firm are brought back to HQ at the same time where the Chief Executive Officer announces that following the recruitment of a new trainee he has decided to implement a cost saving idea of undertaking the severance interview via a web can internet link thus reducing gravel and accommodation cost by 85%. The film does not disclose the back story of such an enterprise where senior executives of the firm will meet with the owners to negotiate the particular contract and obtains details for the particular severance package for the material to be printed together with any relocation information provided. Obviously by doing this aspect by teleconferencing it would be the logical step in further reducing costs.

This development not only threatens his way of life but undermines the ability to respond to each individual in as humane a way as practical. He demonstrates to the creator of the idea the limitations of her proposal with the consequence that he is forced to take her on the road with him to demonstrate the reality. She quickly discovers her limitations and he discovers her motivation. She was an exceptional business major who could have had the pick of offers made to her. However she chose the job because it appeared the best opportunity in the city where her fiancée lived and obviously the stay home idea was a high priority to her ambition to become a wife with a settled home and children. This falls apart when the boyfriend cannot cope with her constant absence and to cheer her up and to educate her on the realities of relationships and life in general they crash a corporate shindig together with the same casual relationship mentioned earlier. The relationship with this woman develops to the extent that he invites her to the family wedding where the groom gets cold feet and he is given the task of persuading the young man to change his mind. The wedding takes places and they have such a great weekend that he begins to change his philosophy and finds he can no longer go through with a seminar on his philosophy, walking out and taking the plane to ask the woman to settle down with him, now that the firm has decided to go ahead with the telelink approach.

To his shock he finds she is married with a family and the casual relationships and weekend break away was nothing more than escapism. To make matters worse he is awarded the 10th million traveller card on his way home and this only swerves to underline the falsity of his way of life until then and the enormity of the rejection.

However it is not all bad news for him because someone the young trainee interviewed has committed suicide and she resigns, paving the way for the telelink idea should be postponed so his way of life is restored although his feelings and understanding about the way of life has significantly and irrevocably changed. . He uses a million of his accumulated air miles to buy two round the world tickets for his younger sister and her husband and he gives the former trainee a reference which makes sure she is able to get her first choice occupational preference. It is sad ending for someone who does not set out to do harm and indeed in the postscript which many will consider odd, as several of those who he delivered the sack notice, admit they survived because they realised what was important to them was their loving and supportive relationships

It is obviously not as simple as that. I had reconstructed my personality and beingness through my work and therefore the loss of the work, prematurely, affected my being greatly, however although if took several years I eventually was able to realise myself more fully in a very different way.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Avatar and Babylon 5

Friday January 22nd 2010 became supreme fantasy day with a visit to see Avator and the lines drawn in Babylon 5. I was well prepared for the film and managed to get to the first showing of the day at 12.40 Cineworld Bolden where my seat voucher was accepted plus £1.80 for the 3D and 80p for the special glasses which one can keep. On my first visit to contemporary 3D after decades passing since the use of hand held cardboard with a red and green lenses I had paid the additional fees at the Dome Odeon in London and the glasses had to be handed back. There was also a significant improvement in the process as the screen size did not altar and the depth of viewing and the proximity to projectiles was significantly better. I was therefore greatly impressed with the 3D process.

The film was also publicised as the new benchmark for creating lifelike colourful and movement animation. The film lives up to expectation and is worth the ticket money for the combined experience. But what of Avatar as a film? Lasting two and half hour you are projected into a different world, actually onto a different planet and a conventional story of anti US militarism, colonialism and international corporation capitalism versus environmentalism and nature. Only the bankers were absent although greedy shareholders were not.

The concept was brilliant. A government supported with the latest weaponry mining corporation was moving over a planet stealing essential minerals by force of arms and exterminating the natives if they proved unwilling to get out of the way, but like the USA did to native Americans, the Brits to Africa and Asia, Australians to the aborigines, the Spanish to middle and Latin America, the Romans to Europe and the Middle East, China is doing now. The Russians and Germans were more ideological wanting totalitarian domination as well as economic wealth, as were the Catholics and the Muslims. And as with all conquering and exploiting races you begin with offering colourful beads and education. The brilliant part was create a creature with the same physical characteristics as the natives, a blue skinned lithe humanoid with a mane and tail and of great agility in terms of climbing and crossing the narrowest of pathways suspended at fantastical heights, but controlled by a human being who experienced everything that happened while encased in a communications pod within the breathable confines of the space station. The atmosphere on the planet is such that without breathing apparatus you not survive within a few minutes.

Sigourney Weaver is the Chief Scientist heading the contact project who before the film story commences had failed in an attempt to persuade the people to cooperate with the exploitation and semi destruction of their planet by through her own Avatar making contact and living with one of the tribes and learning each other’s languages. The tribes are primitive in wearing the briefest of clothing for functional purposes and film audiences, and use bows and arrow for hunting and protection from hostile creatures with whom they share the planet. However they are sophisticated in their understanding of nature and its interconnectivity. They have a unique ability to bond with creatures, such as a form of horses and a prehistoric type of bird. They are also able to connect with each other and their ancestors through a special kind of tree and they have respect for all life so that when they kill a creature for food or in self defence they and give thanks and mourn the passing. I was reminded by the work of James Burke and his book Connections.

The enterprise is run by a weak chief executive which is unlikely, and the worst kind of redneck general which is again unlikely, and the weaponry which includes large robotic vehicles for individuals and the helicopters and gun craft are all heavy metalled and cumbersome which is again unlikely. The story line is laboured and predictable and the script is basic. Some of the action sequences were self indulgent attempts to show what the latest film technological advances can do.

Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, is a loyal American serviceman who has lost the use of his legs in a campaign and comes out to the planet to replace his twin brother who had been trained to use the Avatar already in preparation. He has no difficulty in accepting the request to keep the General constantly updated with intelligence about the tribe to which he becomes attached and he also quickly gains the confidence of the science director. His first trip into the new world nearly ends quickly in disaster but he is rescued by the daughter of the head of the tribe after he appears to have a special connection with the environment and about which she is anxious to report to her parents. Her brother and the man she is expected to mate are hostile to the new arrival especially when the mother who is a kind of spiritual mentor assigns her daughter to educate the Jake Avator in their ways. He provides the kind of entree which the science director and the military have been seeking and both give him considerable leeway during a three month period to persuade the tribe to move to a different area as the corporation wants to mine the minerals which happen to be located under their homeland a giant tree within which they live. In order not to be under the daily control of the military and the corporation executives Sigourney moves the control centre for herself and Jake onto one of the floating mountains which is another of cinematic tricks in the film. Understandably working on daily basis in such proximity with the daughter of the tribal leader they become attracted and as is often the position of those who work undercover with a group or cult for any length of time the begins to identify with their comrades vales and objectives rather than retaining those of their employers or their own culture.

The situation comes to a head when the corporation starts to move onto the tribes immediate homeland without notice when their plea to be allowed to persuade the tribe to move is agreed but quickly fails, the General moves in to destroy the tree and then when the tribe supported by others resists, the General gets permission to bomb them and their home land especially the sacred tree of their ancestors. There is then a dramatic encounter between the highly organised and equipped military forces and the guerrilla forces led by the Avator who has admitted his original purpose and been ostracised until he manages to bond and harness the greatest bird in the sky as a symbol that he has the will and the ability to help them combat the corporation. There is then a battle of skill and wits in which the tribe are supported by creatures previously their enemies. When Sigourney is fatally wounded there is an attempt to transfer her psyche into the Avatar to make it an independent functioning member of the society but she is too weak although her being is incorporated into the tree. After they have successfully beaten the earth force in battle and driven back to their dying planet Jake successfully transmute from his disabled body in a fully functioning member of the tribe as the consort of the leader’s daughter.

The film has been long in the making with an initial script outline in 1994 and planning for production in 1999 but held back when the Director James Cameron of Titanic realised the technology was not yet available to realise the project as conceived, The film having reputedly cost half a billion dollars to produce and already raised a one billion presently running second to his previous epic Titanic. Two sequels are already planned with the usual spin offs of books, toys, including computer games DVD’s special Director’s editions and so on. Others will also seek ways to use the new technology and Sky has announced it is bringing 3D to TV.

Babylon 5 reached the point in the whole series when the two demarcations lines are drawn: Dust to Dust. Exogenesis, Message from Earth, Point of No Return, and Severed Dreams are episodes 6 to 10 of the third season. Dust to dust is a divertissement with a purpose. The Dust in question is similar to manufactured Promicin of the 4400, in this instance to create telepathic powers. The head Psi Corps investigator comes to Babylon aware that a large quantity of the drug is being traded and requires the help of the Commander. Sheridan who agrees but enlists the help of Minbari telepaths to bloc the agent‘s use of his power during the investigation. What is not discovered is that the shipment has been ordered by G’Kar and he uses a sample on Londo to establish his role in the recent war. He also has a revelation about the future following the intervention of Ambassador Kosh. Finding about Londo’s role leads him to physically assault the Narn Ambassador which leads to his confinement for two months. With the help of Security Chief Garibaldi Psi Corps are able to stop the transaction and recover the Dust and where outside the main action the audience learns Psi Corp had developed as part of its bid to gain power within the Earth Alliance. This is not the first time that audience is provided with information which the Babylon management team is yet to learn.

A second divertissement is Exogenesis in which the main story concerns an ancient civilization of beings, the Vindrizi whose primary functions is become personal recordings of all the information that has gone before. Their physical form is small so they inhabit willing hosts to travel the universe and on Babylon have offered a future to members of the underclass, and as in the 4400 not everyone is a suitable host.

In order to assess the suitability of someone appointed to the senior command, Ivanova, invites him to her quarters for a get to know you session suitability to become a member of the Conspiracy of Light. He is unsure of the nature of the invitation and brings some flowers which he pretends he found. Ivanova decides that he should not be invited into the Conspiracy and that the flowers were bought by Marcus who has been trying to date her.

In Messages from Earth, Marcus who has become the senior Ranger brings a member for the former Interplanetary Expeditions to explain that when working on Mars a space craft was uncovered which was of a construction that had not been seen before. From her description it is evident this was a Shadows Craft and that a few days later another arrived and both ships disappeared. She and the tam were ordered by Earth to keep what happened secret and since then the other members of the team has met their deaths and she was under constant threat. Now another vessel has been uncovered and earth force plans for a human to merge into the craft and then use it. Sheridan takes the Whitestar, the Minbari donated craft, to try and prevent Earth from making use of the Shadow Craft. Unfortunately they arrived just as the Earth pilot attempts to gain control but he is has not been adequately prepared and loses control of the craft which becomes unstable but still ale to destroy the base where it was located and to pursue the Whitestar. It is only a clever manoeuvre which prevents their destruction and which causes the destruction of the Shadow enemy. However before they can escape they encounter an earth ship which orders them to surrender and they have to make another speculative manoeuvre to get back to the Space Station. The episode includes a scene which marks growing intimacy in the relationship between Delenn and Sheridan. He speak of his childhood and as a young man studying who found rain on the roof as a way of getting to sleep when he was tense and before one important examination his father had got a hose to create the effect of rain on the roof.

Back on the space station the Nightwatch are being prepared for developments ahead and members asked to report anything suspicious about anyone whatever their position on the station. The absence of Sheridan from the station for several days is noted.

In Point of No Return the Earth Government announces a state of emergency and that Nightwatch is to take control of the security on Babylon 5 and that only vetted members of Nightwatch can become Members, thus posing a challenge for Garibaldi and some of the others although the majority sign on despite Garibaldi’s pleas and he is deposed and his deputy placed in charge. When Sheridan is ordered to comply, his superior puts it in terms which enables the Commander to work out that as the Order came via the political office, it was unconstitutional and with the help of G’Kar and his Narns they capture the Nightwatch Security, disarm and hold them in custody, knowing that they only have a matter of days before those on Earth regularise the position and give Sheridan a legitimate order and raise further issues about his loyalty to the new order.

General Hague announces his opposition and has commenced a counter coup with some support of other Earth space ships. The Senators barricade themselves after being abolished calling in the population to act as a human shield As a second story London who is tormented by his dreams has invited a wife of the former head of the Centauri on a visit to the station and she immediately wants to know his real purpose. He admit that he wants her to use her special powers to foresee his future. She agrees to do this at the end of the visit. She pleases Londo by saying that she does foresee him becoming the head of state, but she then shocks him and his former assistant Vir, even more so, by adding that he too will also become head of state with one following the other after the first has died. Prior to this Vir had returned to Babylon 5 on a visit from his special posting to Minbari. He is seeking Londo’s advice on his factually accurate report on the cultural and educations standards of the Minbari. The moral of the people and there general state. London wants Vir to fundamentally change the report because it is not what the new leadership would want to hear. After the news of Vir’s future he becomes suspicious and hostile towards his former assistant and friend. Vir is bemused by the prediction that he will become the Emperor

In the last episode of the week, there is open revolt against the new Earth Dictatorship among the colonial outposts and by General Hague and a small contingent of space fighting craft. After a battle between the forces, the General’s ship comes to Babylon for repairs, announcing that the General has died in the battle. The Earth Force has began to bomb Mars who are refusing to accept the orders of the new regime.

Coinciding with the developing crisis Delenn is informed that the Shadows are on the move and enlisting support from non aligned races and returns to the Minbar to speak to the ruling Grey Council of which she was a member for over a decade. They refuse to give her a hearing so she insists. Meanwhile Earth has sent a force to apprehend the General’s ship and take command of the Space Station. Sheridan debates what to do and consults his father back on Earth who tells him to follow his conscience and while not starting any conflict to make sure he is the one to finish. The station with the help of the General’s ship and its defence force repels the attack, but just when they breathe a sigh of relief, a further Earth battle group arrives and as Sheridan realises they have failed and will have to surrender, Delenn arrives with four Minbari fighting ships advises the Earth force to withdraw, reminding them that only one Commander managed to defeat a Minbari ship in the war, and that he was Commander Sheridan. They wisely withdraw.
The Commander announces that the station has become Independent of Earth and will allows anyone who wishes to leave to do so, including Nightwatch supporters. The Commander explains why the action ahs been taken and thus the battle lines for the future have been drawn

On earth in the reality of today, the Home Office has announced the second highest rate of alertness, which means a Terrorist attack is likely. The highest level is when an attack is known to be imminent. Fact frequently follows fantasy.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Atonement and Artland USA

I usually avoid programmes about contemporary art or going to experience contemporary art in buildings because it reminds me of the adequacy and limitations of what I do. Today waiting for Atonement to begin I watched Artland USA in which Toby Amies travels the USA looking at artists and their art and their were two successive visits which impressed me greatly. The first was to an artist who continuous creates pictures on a large expanse of sand using a rake or how. The pictures exist only from period when the sand is wet enough to create the work until the tide irradiates them and such is his commitment and enthusiasm for the work that he does not always climb where the entirety can be viewed and if wished photographed. This is homo sapiens creating art in the way the prehistorically beings attempted to engage with their environment in .a creative way. A similar approach although his work has longer physicality is someone brought up on a farm who realised at art school that he was not going to become a creative painter and has since created canvasses on agricultural land portraits and scenes using flowers and vegetables and where the creation evolves as part of the landscape, susceptible to weather conditions and the frailty of plants in relation to the forces of nature. Had I not paid to view Atonement before it left the box office screens I would have used the time to view the whole programme and then any others if they are available on line or at least to check on future availability.

Atonement is a good film but not a great film. I have not read the novel on which it is based. It interest me not as a film but as the work of a creative writer who as an adolescent misinterprets the behaviour of adults with disastrous consequences which results in one young man being ruined and beings sent to prison for rape of a 15 year old guest relative, and her elder sister who has fallen in sexual love with the young man, cutting herself off from the family. As a consequence of the Second World War the young man is able to enlist and has brief contact with his faithful and loyal lover before falling victim at Dunkirk and his lover and friend also meets an untimely ended as a consequence of another historically accurate event. It is only in later life that the young girl who was the author of the imprisonment of the young man and separation from his true love is able to face the truth of her actions and she uses to book to seek Atonement for her actions and to achieve a happy ending for the couple.

This is the core of my own work but where there is no pretending about myself and the implication of my thoughts and actions however unintentional and subject to the forces of human and physical nature. Because of this much of my work is confidential and will remain so although it is part of the whole work, much is also open and public although I use the work and experience of others as well as my intellectual and emotional response to their work and their lives to project and represent the confidential dimension.

In Bruges

This evening I decided to go and see the only performance of the day at Cineworld Bolden of In Bruges. It is a clever, unique, funny, poetic, honestly crude yet brilliantly subtle and dark as the blackest of black films. The film rightly has the severest adult rating because of horrific violence and some recreational drug use although the references to sex more in the mind than visual. One critic, Antagony and Ecstasy, staked a claim that the film is a near masterpiece, impossible to pigeon hole or predict, while Movie Boy stated that the In Bruges is a bravura, genre-twisting gem. The same critics draws attention that the Director achieves a great balance between a pitch black comedy, soul searching drama and riveting suspense without losing sight of the grander design. This is one picture that packs a wallop. The film is counter contemporary Hollywood culture in that it very slow paced in the first half and reminded of the sick joke told at one after dinner speech I attended when the first prize was a week's holiday in Beirut and second prize, two week's holiday.

Bruges is far from Beirut in appearance, a Medieval toy town, especially as Christmas, when the film is set. The key point in the story which is not giving away anything not already publicised, is that two Irish contract killers are told by their employer to lie low in Bruges for two weeks after one, on his first assignment accidentally kills a seven year old boy along with the intended victim, a priest. One, the experienced assassin is a sensitive and otherwise normal, gay man brilliantly played by Colin Farrell, find he is able to rest his soul in the city, while the inexperienced young heterosexual, is played with equal sensitivity and hilarious honesty by Brendan Gleeson, torturing himself to the point of contemplating suicide because he killed a child.

The film is a visual treat with stunning views of the city, backed up by a poetic music which captures the atmosphere of its outward appearance. Usually Belgium is considered a place to drive through having taken one of the sea ferry routes and I did this in 1965 passing through the country in half a day as part of the grand three week camping tour fist stopping in Germany, then to Austria, Italy, Switzerland and back home through France. It was in the eighties that made I made a proper visit to Belgium which included visits to the battlefields and war cemeteries, and on making a passing one passing visit en route to Bruges, decided to return for a full day.

I must confess, sorry the Bruges Tourist Board, but while it may be a base to tour into this part of Europe and if you are into old buildings and museums you could stretch your interest to a week in spend or summer, but two weeks, even as an old man, I think not when a comparative short distance away there is Paris, or if you are still into and capable there is Amsterdam.

Yesterday I commented on the shock of being confronted by a young mother who was addressing her son, and I suspect everyone else in her world, with the prefix f..k..g to every other word, Family man Ralph Fiennes and all three use f..k..g every other word, although my complaint against her was not the language but the verbal abuse and humiliation of her son, about the same age as the child killed in the opening credits of the film. If you cannot bear the use of f….g then stay away from this film, because its constant use by the two assassins, and their boss played for real by Ralph Fiennes is the mildest of verbal shocks as this brilliant script challenges the hypocrisy of every right wing homophobic and left wing politically correct fanatic there has ever been and no doubt will continue to be. Usually I feel guilty if I laugh at a joke by someone like the late Bernard Manning or the rude comic Chubby Brown, but in this film it is alright to belly laugh as much as you like because the jokes are funny, I rarely find that jokes cause me to laugh out loud but I could not and did not want to stop myself, and fortunately I was not alone.

The day began with feeling overwhelmed by choice, torn between on going work, special work, keeping in contact, the good weather and wanting some live cultural experience. I completed as much as I needed to before noon and made my way out deciding I would go back across the river, taking the ferry, and to go to the theatre or cinema on return. I bought a three half pack of prawn sandwiches at Asda. On the ferry I established that the new building on the Shields bank is the new telephone call centre. There are two buildings of red brick with giant loft size windows, almost church like. It is an impressive structure which is likely to become award winning. The only problem is that from the roadway above it peaks over the bank and this I suspect, is the cause of some local complaint by those who want keep everything the same and who obviously feared a similar kind of build on the private house side of the hill when I live.

It was another glorious day with the wind sharp but not unpleasant and as expected I was not feeling as energetic as yesterday so took the bus to North Shields station from the ferry landing and then the Metro to Whitley Bay This time I turned right instead of continuing towards the sea front and saw a barber shop and decided to have a trim. A café beforehand offered O.A.P's a hot meal for lunch for £2.50. I fancied the ham and eggs but decided to wait till after the hair cut. This is the most spacious well designed traditional gentleman's hairdressers I have ever experienced, lounge like with comfortable settees and full of football shirts and framed pictures of football characters and football events. A Sunderland shirt forms the rubbish bin to make its point about allegiance. The mature years barber had a full shaved head and the customer was also being scalped. I enjoyed a relaxed wait and then received exactly the kind of cut I was looking for. I then made my way to the sea front and found covered seating area by the bowling green and tennis courts to eat the sandwiches.

I had previously registered an entirely false impression of what Whitley Bay was like from my previous visits probably over two decades ago. It is much smaller with no traditional seaside atmosphere along the promenade, just private housing, hotels and self catering accommodation. Whereas at Seaburn Sunderland and South Shields there are fish and chip cafes and restaurants in every direction and a host of activities in and outside for children and teenagers, there appeared to be none of these at Whitley Bay, and the long slopes or steps from the coast road down to the beach does not make it an ideal location for the holidaying elderly. Having decided to make into a drink, drug and dancing night spot for the young adult I am not surprised that this culture quickly came into conflict with the responsible family centred residents of the local community. It is one the great hypocrisies of town planners and civic leaders that if you go with the flow of creating these nightlife ghettoes you are licensing drunkenness and drug taking, in the same way that anyone who make weapons needs wars and repressive government to continue to make their profits.

For at least the past decade I had a different image of Whitley Bay in my mind as a much more lively and traditional seaside resort. It also appears that some hotels outside the main street of bars and clubs leading to the front are boarded up through lack of use rather than noise sound proofing although the premises may have used as a late night dance club and then fallen into disuse.

I walked until reaching a point where there is only a footpath between the cliff and attractive private house. The first housing overlooks Whitely Bay and the second Cullercoats Bay which has a more traditional feel, although there is small area of gruesome looking flats and individual houses just before you get tot eh Bay itself. I then took a bus Tynemouth planning to look at the station perhaps taking a train to North Shields, taking a bus or even walking. I got off at the wrong place and kissed the station, and not feeling like walking got the bus first to North shields and then down to the ferry although I had to wait a good 20 minutes at the stop. I bought some grapes on the walk back and enjoyed a cup of tea on return, I decided to defrost the second part of the fish platter and the need for this governed the decision to go to the 9 pm picture show than the 7.30 theatre performance, especially as I could justify taken the car for the former and should have walked to the latter.

On return I watch part of a repeat of the Amy Winehouse programme before a South Bank show repeat from last year of the life of Humphrey Lyttleton, with love, which was a nice touch, although again there was no reference to his private life which is unusual these days. There was one interesting comment that given that he had become a genuine national institution and he greatest non classical trumpet played in UK ever, that he was never offered and award Duke Lyttleton being the obvious one. Perhaps he was and the romantic socialist in him turned it down and he admitted that it had taken him a few years to shed the unique culture and language of Eton and that he regarded it as sad those whose lives were such they needed to make a profession out of being an Old Etonian.

There was then time to watch a BBC eye recording of Politics to Day and Prime Minister's Question Time, attended by London Mayor Boris Johnson who is yet to resign his Parliamentary Seat. I thought the approach of the official Opposite leader was the right one and very effective but I also thought the Prime Minister gave as good as he got and edged a point's victory

Friday, 15 January 2010

The Thing from another world.King Kong and more Flood

Yesterday was a beautiful day but there was no inclination to go out and experience as there were important things to do here and other things to experience via the TV Newcastle at Home to Chelsea and the second part of Flood as if to remind that we should make the most of fine weather, and protect our planet in so far as we are able to do so. It was a day about the force of nature in various forms.

However as the day progressed and I learnt that Tuesday was to be special, sunny and warm, I resolved not to let the day slip by, whatever my priorities for work not completed. I resolved to go to bed as soon as I was tired, hoping to have a good night and rise early and therefore combine whatever work I had to of with going out. But where? To Newcastle to film the City. To Durham on the bus? Across the Tyne and continue my discovering of the other bank of Rivera. To Sunderland along the bank of the Wear towards Durham. Walking as much as possible. Taking the Metro, taking the Bus, Taking the Car into the real countryside of Northumberland, but to the somewhere on the Roman Wall.? I needed to have planned and I had not!

07.00 Up and play Hearts to wake up with coffee and a few games of chess. Followed by two rounds of toast.

7.30ish Write yesterday's Blog and more games of chess and hearts while get in the working grove. Make some communications Check what happened to Durham at cricket-they lost, and what is on TV later in the day. The replay of new Lost conflicts with last part of Flood part two which is another two hours.

10.00 Washed hair again with anti dandruff shampoo, clean top of inner glass door, need specialist cleaner to finish job. Remove four reams of card from wrappers for current use in work room, Bring down two more reams from upper store to hallway. Also bring folder to replace that used for culture 2008 where lack of concentration results in number on end display area instead of culture 2008. Will try and save the old folder for new use or for the sealed filing cabinet.

10.30. Prepare stir fry with noodles lunch. Measure water for noodles. Prepare mixture of one yellow pepper, half green from yesterday, one onion, mange tout asparagus tips and baby corn from cob, chilli sauce mild. Two thirds of chicken was cut from carcass yesterday and chopped into small pieces. Half today for stir fry and half tomorrow, possibly for curry, or second stir fry.

11.00.Publish and print yesterday's Blog,7 Check forthcoming birthdays, inbox and email and attend to some but decide to defer rest until completing the work in relation to medical records of birth mother, trying to find if there are more records together with those of are mother and if those from older aunt are still available. If these have medical information 1939-1950 will confirm that information re birthmother was destroyed. I assume that the same records are kept whether patient was private, state or pre 1948 subsidised.

11.30 Complete printing of birth mother's record report and have Bank Holiday midmorning treat of smoked salmon with horseradish and commence correspondence to accompany report .

13.30 The stir fry is great success, tasty and a more balanced dish than that bought for 50% greater cost previously and now sale at 100% more. The packet noodles is also the right portion to add to the mixture and I guessed the quantity of chilli sauce well so not only enjoyed the meal but felt a sense of achievement.

14.00 I watched the first of two Monster's films during the course of the day. The first was one of the originals after the war made in 1951 by Howard Hawk's although he was not originally credited. The Thing from another world. He directed and contributed to the writing of the film through his company Winchester Pictures and then released through RKO Radio Pictures.

A group of environmental scientists at the North Pole observe a puzzling event at a distance, and which upon subsequent investigation with the help of the USA airforce plane and team transpires to be a flying saucer buried in the ice. They accidentally blow up the craft before it can be examined which saved production costs in the days before computer graphics and the era of Star Trek and Star wars. The pilot has been frozen into solid ice when he leaves the craft and is taken back to the base to await instructions from higher command. The creature is then released when one of the airforce crew stupidly puts a switched on electric blanket over the block so he does not have to look at the creature through the ice, a blanket which the airmen needed in order to survive in below zero temperature necessary to keep the ice block from melting. A case for summary execution if ever one was justified! Worse still is come when part of the scientific team imperil the whole world after working out that the creature is intelligent life but developed out of vegetable matter with no emotions or moral abilities. Amazingly the creature although vegetable with regenerative powers, survives on blood - animal or human and the proposition of the film is that is an exploration craft to confirm the planet offers unlimited food supply. The film was made at height of the anti communist feelings from McCarthyism and the Korean War so the thing represented the Community threat, machine like and soulless. Eventually the airmen and the some of the scientists work out how to defeat the creature. It is fried but not stirred. The film ends with the appeal. " Watch the Skies everywhere, Keep looking, Keep watching the skies".

16.00 Newcastle put up a good fight in their last home match of season against Champion League Finalists and League title chasing Chelsea in the first half, when the Pensioners appeared under par. After the interval they demonstrated their superiority and scored two goals and now Manchester United have to win their last game or yield the title to Chelsea. As for Newcastle the game underlined the reality that only a reconstructed team has a chance of joining those competing for a top four place. My decision fourteen months ago not to renew the season ticket has proven to have been a good one, despite the arrival of King Kevin.

18.30 Earlier I started the evening meal with a glass of wine and a portion of peanuts, then a simple salad, followed by the last piece of the apple Strudel .
19.00 Earlier I had undertaken a further 300 photographs and completed the registration of 13 additional sets which reminds the mistake I made recently when I wrote that over 7750 sets had been completed overall, In fact it should read 7250. The total now is over 7300. Later I complete anther 130 photos.

I then commenced to watch Peter Jackson's King Kong having added all his films, available from the DVD rental firm to my view list. Not on the list is Heavenly creatures although I remember the film well as I do King Kong and it is the other films I wish to see. Jackson's film is the last version in a line of creations since the black and white silent version of 1933 which I have seen but I am uncertain about the Son of King Kong also made in the same year. King Kong vs. Godzilla 1962 made in Japan and in colour, King Kong escapes 1967 another Toho, Japan, production were followed by the 1976 Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges edition and. King Kong Lives in 1986 was made by the same company.
There has been a series of literary works which attempted to create a world of prehistorically animals Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 and The Lost World and Edgar Rice Burroughs 1918 The Land Time Forgot are the most well known which provided the back story for the film. There have also been numerous books about King Kong and Skull Island. In the Peter Jackson film I had not realised until today that Kong is played by Andy (Gollum) Serkis. He is also seen in the film as Lump the ship's cook, barber and surgeon who dies after fighting a group of worm like creatures.

Rather like Flood it is possible to question the length of the film over three hours I liked the film in theatre despite its length and the DVD provided the opportunity to take a detached view but I still found the relationship between beauty and beast moving. Mr Serkis went to great lengths to reproduce the movement of a gorilla decided that those in captivity were inadequate and went off to view creatures in the wild. The film has a simple message if you play with fire you will get burnt. While the gorilla is conquered humanity is diminished. Apparently the company was appointed after the initial public response with the film only taking over two hundred million dollars in the USA and costing over 200 million to make. However it made another $300 million from world distribution and close on $200 million for video sales and rentals. I appreciate this was only a $500 dollar profit less its publicity and marketing costs which are said to have amounted to $60 million. It is still 100% on the money invested. Jackson all sued a 3 D camera which is the "new" thing on the bloc and an HD DVD is also planned.

I was watching a film the other evening on a Sky Channel and in the corner a box appeared showing the same frame smaller size but in sharper definition which I assumed was HD. There was a significant difference but not sufficient for me to take out an HD subscription.

I wondered how the makers of Flood were going to fill the additional two hours of their second part and why it was being shown from nine rather than eight as on Sunday?. The answer was evident and some of the estimated 200000 bodies commenced to float past in the Thames, although subsequent scenes of unexpected survivors was meant to reassure all those presently living in the London flood plain and elsewhere. There was the attempt to balance those who died, Tom Courtenay would get a national hero's burial while the suicide of the chief weatherman suggested a Roman approach to professional failure was being recommended to all those at the top so blinkered that they cannot join all the dots even when someone provides them with the tools to do so. There were several fundamental flaws. There was a hint that there would be some road closures to enable rescue and evacuation vehicles to move north south and east west and vice versa across London as well as commandeering the M25, but everyone else appeared to be able use roads to travel in both direction when the state of emergency should have made all roads one way out of London filling up cars with people given the two hour warning. The other was the obvious one of using all buildings with floors above the estimated waterline, hence the appearance of so many people from windows and roofs should not have come as a surprise. Given that phone lines had to be cut to civilians in order to ensure good communications for the emergency services and that electricity would also go down, it does occur that everyone should be advised to have at least one battery powered radio to hand with a sufficient supply of batteries so to be able to receive instructions and advice. I was also amazed that attention was given to the inevitable looters, this would have been a waste of life savers and demonstrated the thinking in the box mentality which used to pervade central and local government but which I hoped had been eliminated and would continue to do so as albeit slowly the small local authorities are amalgamated in terms of units capable of being effective in the world as it is. Here in the North East the local elections were for the creation of the new unitary local authorities covering the Counties of Durham and Northumberland which means the transferring of public housing, leisure and local planning, as the counties already had responsibility for Education and Social Services. However there is still the need for building up local small scale teams to deal with local small scale emergencies and then for these teams to become part of regional and national structure if states of emergency are required.

However the big flaw in the production, which was necessary to maintain the aspect of a personal drama involving the key characters concerned the one solution to prevent the flood extending to whole of the London area. Tom Courtenay works out that if the Thames barrier is lowered at the right moment the force of water released from what had become a dam coupled with the changing tidal force would catapult the rest of the funnelling surge back into the sea. This was said which such conviction that I presume it is scientifically feasible although I immediately had questions relating to the height and width of the breach beyond the barrier gates. However because of the loss of electricity and presumably the lack of any effective secondary local generation, and which did not seem plausible, the gates had to be lowered manually and therefore this involved the heroes of professor, on and daughter in law being the only ones to do the task on their own with only one other helping military officer. Putting to one side the absurdity of this aspect it is only after they have gone off and are tackling the task that the central emergency team work out that the most effective way is to black the gates apart and this solution is only called off when the manual lowering works. This was a double incredulity. First that this solution was immediately considered and put into effect and secondly that it was called off. The programme makers could argue that the manual solution preserved the gates for future use but we were told that this was the only solution to prevent the further loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. I suspect the programme, times for maximum viewing attention over the weekend immediately after the Mayoral elections and before the Commons vote to give government power to detain people for longer than 28 days in certain circumstances without charge, was intended as softening up, It would not surprise me if within a year the government under public pressure mounted a series of trial evacuations from the centre of London and other cities. It will also have done no to persuading taxpayers to meet the costs of new coastal defences and new storm drainage systems

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Michael Clayton

16.00 Twenty years ago I attended an a top management course, primarily for business executives from around the world with an interest un general management, at a time when I had toyed considered become a chief executive and where at the end of which I was sounded out about becoming the chief executive of an a local authority which did not then provide a socials services function. For various reasons I decided to stick to my knitting and concentrate more on my creative abilities and interests in a back role rather a more up front leadership shoot for the moon, if not the starts, role. The whole course was designed to enable participants to understand more about their individual managerial strengths and weaknesses and how to construct an effective managerial team capable of winning performance in what was rapidly becoming a one form global economy. Six months after attending the course and digesting its material I prepared an over paper on what I thought were the implications for of the message for local government and sent the paper to a number of interests including a member of the then conservative cabinet, who decided that it was of sufficient interest to circulate around Whitehall.

During the course we had had heard from executives of major business and financial organisations and one of these employed a large number of researchers to develop new products as well as improving existing products to meet market conditions. These researchers were the life blood of the international company which was always on the look out for new developments which might become a 100 million dollar business enterprise which was then the model for a successful component part of its global interests. Within the research and development wing of the organisations was a small group of carefully selected creatives whose ideas could at times be no more than fanciful, but from this group also came the majority of new products which achieved the 100 million dollar market share benchmark for success. There was only one problem, a big one, the most inventive and original the creative the greater the unconventionality of their work and general approach to life, including their own set of rules to live by, and disregard for those laid down by society, churches and governments. It was therefore important for the hiring company to understand that such individual could become a liability in several ways, from selling out to a high bidder, to doing things in such a way which could damage the whole company and therefore it was important to have on standby those who could quickly eliminate trace of the involvement of an individual who crossed over the line in a damaging way.

All this came back to mind when this afternoon I decided to watch the film Michael Clayton on Sky Box office. If you do not know something of story beforehand it is important pay close attention to the beginning of the film because there are a series apparently disconnected scenes which only are explained later. The theme of the film is a familiar one. An international corporation finds itself involved in class action having caused cancer in the claimants. The company possesses a document signed at the highest levels which confirms their responsibility and therefore the objective is to use the legal processes to minimise the financial damages and on the advice advise of the their chief Counsel they hire what appears to be a medium size corporate law firm of between 500 to 600 which means it is not an International firm, so while it can handle a several billion dollar law suit it does involve putting all its eggs in the one basket. Failure reach a settlement which satisfies its client it will be a dead duck in the market place. The tactic in such instances is to ensure that the process of settlement takes over half a decade. This wears down the claimants, sometimes breaking the supporting lawyers of the claimant especially as this usually involves a no win no fee exercise, and if this does not work the claimants will eventually settle for an amount the company can stand, and sue confidentiality agreements to restrict the damage to the long term prospects the company as the agreement with be on the basis of not accepting liability.

The lawyer responsible for building the defence is played by Tom Wilkinson who has a nervous breakdown. The cause of the nervous break down is that eh has discovered that the company is guilty but also knows that it is guilty and proposes to use incriminating document he has discovered. When the Company's chief Council played by Oscar and Bafta award winning Tilda Swinton. She has one of those conversions with the company's fixers, the independent operatives who job it is to sort out the problems which can arise and which I referred to earlier. Being fiction, of course nothing like this happens in real life, they maintain surveillance on the legal firm the company appointed to help them and when they realise the chief worker has get hold of the evidence and is prepared to use against their employers, the Chief Counsel gives them authority to solve the problem once and for all. The problem is Michael Clayton played by the aging George Clooney. He is the fixer for the firm of lawyers and this means he is constantly getting his hands dirty. He is divorced but has regular contacts with his son, and for once the film includes a scene involved a grand parent and the extended family. Despite being the best at what eh does and consequently well paid, Mr Clayton has two problems which send him over the line between right and wrong. He has squandered his income on illegal card games although it is not clear if this is in response to the break up of his marriage or his natural propensity as a creative to push the envelop and constantly test his abilities against the rest of the world and expecting always to win. In one seminal moment he tells us that he is not going to be the kind of loser who finds that life is constantly dumping excrement all over him without cause. The other more pressing problem is that Michael has put up half the cash, all his savings, to help his brother who is among other things an addicts to set himself up with a bar. Alas the brother has raised his share from the mob, the bar is not a success and he mob want their money share back. As a consequence his own firm buy him off not knowing, perhaps they do that, that Clayton has to be dealt with as well as well as the lawyer with a conscience, now that is a Hollywood rarity. Michael escapes, gives the impression that he has died in the bomb which blows up his car and uses his force police force connections, his father was a cop, to achieve justice and the retribution. Well folks you have to believe that corporate and legal wrong doing is an aberration of the capitalist system and not embedded otherwise well you might begin to question the system and start putting Christianity into practice.

10.00 I have woken full of indecision about my day as I am tied to the house until the camcorder is collected for repair. The Sky Box office there is Michael Clayton and Atonement both Oscar nominated films which I have wanted to see but missed at the cinema for one reason or tother. There is on going and household accounts work although the supply of info for the tax man is slow is coming. I remain interested in the brief view of the long history of Calne, Wiltshire, England of Gibraltar and Andalusia, of Malta, of Genoa, and Surrey, where my family origins are understood or have been shown to have been rooted, looking connections ad explanations for what occurred to us as a family, and out of simple curiosity. I also have correspondence of different kinds requiring, meriting or which I would like to give attention, I have a good run recently in Hearts bringing the winning percentage from 14 to which it had dropped from 18 back to 16 and which included a run of three wins to the loss streak of twenty five. Alas progress on level two chess has not been as good with the highest run 47 games and two runs in the mid twenties, one coming to an irreversible end

10.15 My day has been reshaped by the early collection of the camcorda. It is cold and dampy outside. I enjoying playing with words from time to time. The interest which is now foremost is the realization that most of what has called Western Europe appears to have jumped from its primitive hunting, fishing, warring and cannibalistic lifestyle into cultivation of land and herding of live stock, the creation of burial mounds and burrows, places of worship using stonework, some with astrological significance, the development of wooden hill forts, then made of stone, the development of communities from villages into towns and cities, and the attempt to understand the nature of the visible world through observation and exploration, the memorising and recording of events, the development of economic and political management as well as military, not from the enlightenment and experimentation of the indigenous beings, the home sapiens of Western Europe but from the migrations of the, Greeks,, the Phoenicians and then the Romans, who moved northward in much the same manner as the ..early settlers on the east coast of Canada and the U.S.A then moved northward and south westwards, first by the rivers, then across country, including exploring the mountain passes, turning tracks into roads and then the impact of the railway, and then the, plane and then beyond the planet.

12.20 The spirits are low as the morning walk to Smiths was physical struggle, it was cold and the damp turned to rain as the house was approached. It is my fault for buy a house on the brow of a hill but I would not have it otherwise. The present plan is to watch Flog and the news and then one of the two Oscar films, Michael Clayton I think and later the Yes Minster DVD with America Idol result show and I suspect one of the lasses to go and then there were six. I will print some ancient stuff from the internet, have the stir fry for lunch and do one of the pineapples. Banana and custard with the salad this evening. Some letters via email and await the post.

13.55 beginning to feel better with myself after a good meal and the appearance of the young man from Carlisle with the voice that brings tears to your eyes has now been features on Look North TV now that is fame when the BBC is prepared to buy stuff from ITV. Obviously the lad and his mother has now got management. For a moment it looked as if I was not going to able to watch the film as I needed to my code which I could not find. I rang up Sky and it was fixed, moreover the lass said is there anything else I can help you with. I was tempted but I resisted.

23.59 Rest of day roundup I begin with Yes Minister. I never tire of watching the brilliantly scripted exchanges between Paul Eddington Jim Hacker and the extraordinary Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey Appleby and a young Derek Fowlds as Bernard Woolley as they say everything there is to say about what Cabinet Government and the role of the top Civil service was like in the early 1980's. I suspect Number Ten Downing Street became more like West Wing in the Times of Thatcher and Blair and I suspect some of the recent government disasters would not have happened if there were more Sir Humphrey's still around, than I suspect there are. The first episode of the second series in 1981 The Compassionate Society, summoned up all the worst aspects of the NHS in the sixties and early seventies. The episode concerned the discovery of a new 1000 bed hospital which had been completed for 18 months and was full of administrators, clerks, cleaners, some 500 in total, because if financial restraint there were no doctors or nurses and therefore no patients. Everyone in government and Health administration could see the positive aspects oft his situation which enabled the hospital to be run efficiently and sort out teething troubles which occur with every new building. The problem was that it was likely to be another year before the first patients could be admitted. I once attended the national conference of AWHA as the official representative of the Association of Child Care Officer and AWHA : The Association of Welfare and Hospital Administrators, which then run on Masonic lines and where in the sixties and early seventies administrators were often members of the Local Lodge. The trouble was that the administrators inhabited their own world and as did the Consultants although the top ones would sometimes meet together on the golf course or at the Lodge with nurses and patients regarded as being on a different planet. The memory of that conference was the dressing down given by the representative of the Association of Children's Officer about the attitude of AWHA towards professionalism and social work, a foretaste of the battles between child acre and welfare to come and which child care was to lose to the disadvantage of children in need over the next three decades. In the Compassionate Society the Government is under pressure to take in 1000 Cuban refugees but has not got the resources to fund their placement until the obvious solution of moving them into the hospital occurs to the Minister.. Hacker's finest hour me thinks. Goodness Gracious me 1000 migrants into the country in one year. Now those were the days.

(Listening to BB King Sweet Sixteen, Johnny Guitar Wat, Cutting In is a great track which I have not heard before of the artist and I will use this note to find out more about him sometime. Robert Johnson Kind Hearted Woman was good to hear again. Freddie King, Let the Good times Roll. Jessie Mae Hemphill is another artist whose name was unknown but I liked her rendering of Standing by my door. Guy Davis also had a good version of Step it up and Go as did Johnny Winter of Mean Town Blues.)

It is tempting to think that no one in Blair administration had seen the second episode in the second series Doing the Honours before the Cash for Honours issue came to the fore. The programme was created in the days when it was normal for those with money to make substantial donation to Oxbridge Colleges to create their own immorality or perhaps get a place for a relative who would otherwise not gain entry. Of course such things do not occur to day, for as the government survey has shown perhaps only a quarter of schools have been requesting ongoing financial donations from parents to jump the queue. The other déjà vu aspect was the decision to make overseas students pay the full whack of fees which would mean the college in question having to cram in British students to make up the loss of income. Nowadays most universities rely on an increasing chunk of overseas students to help fund their expansion and everyone in the UK outside of Scotland has to pay a greater part of their tuition fees with student loans. In this episode the emphasis is how to persuade his departmental heads to find 5% in real savings so he takes up his P.A's idea to withhold their nomination for honours unless they do. I cannot remember if it was in this episode or one of the others that Ministers is disturbed to find that the cut in staff numbers has been achieved by altering the way the numbers are presented. But Minister you did say you wanted the numbers cut, Humphrey complains, we did not think you meant a cut in staff! As Blair and Brown have discovered you get nothing but leaks of the reality of administration if you push for real cuts in people numbers.

(Listening to Elmore James sing Find my Baby, Carol Kane, Rock you baby, Joe Louis Walker and Blue Survivor; I particularly enjoyed Snooks Eaglin with Walking Blues. Buddy Guy plays an long instrumental into dedicated to the Late T Bone Walker, Depression Blues; Aretha Franklin sounds young with I never Love a man form her Greatest hits album. Willie Mae Big Moma's version of Hound Dog is superior to the Presley. Memphis Slim. I have a 50 year old Album, sings I you see Kay, built like a coca cola bottle.)

The episode The Death List was the least successful of the series in my judgement although the subject remains contemporary. It was shown on my birthday over twenty five years ago. The Minister has joined in the building opposition to living in the surveillance society and is responsible for a petition of a couple of million signatures, which is embarrassing because he is in fact the chief bugger, ie his department has been supplying all government department's with bugging equipment. He changes his tine when he finds himself on a terrorist hit list of three because of speculation that he is to become the Minister of Defence. But goes back to his original position when he is taken off the list when the terrorists find out he is keeping his present job.

(The great Ray Charles does the Midnight Hour, which is rare for me not to celebrate. Albert King Rub my Back, Lightening Hopkins a well known blues singer to me does his version of Mojo Hand, Must get my mojo into a Blog title sometime when I get it working for me. Lady Bianca on Spendin Money)

The Greasy Pole episode covers two themes, NIMBY, not in my back yard and the art of presenting controversial information in an acceptable way. The British Chemical company is about to secure a massive Italian contract to create a new plant which they wish to build on Merseyside using an inert form of the toxin dioxin which they have re-branded as Propanol. The development will create new jobs and improve exports, When the local MP demands to know the different between the two types of Dioxin Humphrey explains that this one is not inert. The episode ends with the Minister adopting the tactics of the Permanent Secretary to outsmart him.

(Irma Lewis's Black Water Blues begins with I am get up this morning and could not get out of the door is often just as I feel. Roosevelt Sykes West Helena Blues also begins with I keep watching the Mail Box which I have been doing over the past week.

Barbara Blue, I don't need a man like that has the feel of the Blues Brother's Band. J B Hutto dies a good version of the well known Sidewinder Johnny Mars If I had this woman is a great cri de coeur of many a man at 3 am in the morning.)

The Devil You know is one of my favourites of the whole series including Yes Prime Minister because it explores the depth of the relationship between Minister and Chief Civil servant and their need fro each other. The programme centres on the offer of a job in Brussels which would effectively end Hacker's ambitions at Westminster. I once was having a drink in bar within the Palace of Westminster when a couple of Government Minister's were having a discussion about what was being on offered in the current shuffle and where the insecurity of Ministers and would eb Ministers was all too apparent such is the only power of a Prime Minister to have some control over his Government Minister's and back benchers. There is also a great quote about the EEC which most members of all political patties subscribe although most not openly and which would not get past BBC censors today because of the racist offence involved " Brussels is a shambles, " says the Minister, " You know what they say about the average Common Market official: he has the organising ability of the Italians, the flexibility of the Germans, the modesty of the French, And that's topped up by the imagination of the Belgians, the generosity of the Dutch and the intelligence of the Irish."

(Magic Sam Every night and eve; Chris Thomas King Mary Jane passed by without commanding by attention; J B Hutto Soul Lover was also OK. Saffire' School Teacher's is hilarious and would not get on most broadcast channels and is the treat of the day.)

The quality of Life highlights the quick footedness required by everyone in government. This episode should have been dedicated to deputy leaders of the Labour Party of the future who take up the offer of the police to wear a flak jacket on a walkabout! Hacker under pressure to improve his public image accepts the suggestion of his PR adviser to visit a City farm not knowing that he has signed an authorization under delegated Ministerial powers which enables the Treasury Income tax officials to take over the site for a car park. This is a clever ploy of Sit Humphrey who has been promised a seat on the board of the bank when he retires but which is in jeopardy because the Minister is opposed to the bank raising its current offices by three floors. Another classic exchange is when the Bank chief says to the Minister, "Surely a decision is a decision?" He replies, "Only if it is the decision you want. If not it is just a temporary setback."

(Tampa Red I'm, a stranger here. Charles Brown Driftin Blues is a heartfelt plea I know only too well. BB King's The Thrill is gone was my favourite. Perhaps the great blues singer was Leadbelly although the track Noted Ride is of no interest. Pinetop's Perkins instrumental version of the classic Careless Love was highly enjoyable. So was the blue shouter Koko Taylor's I got what it takes. I thought I had also, but now I not so sure)

The final episode should be subtitled He that has a secret should keep it secret that he hath a secret to keep) A question of Loyalty. The episode centres on the Minister's appearance before a Commons Select Committee following a Washington speech on the government's ruthless war on waste only to find that someone has leaked to a the writer of new book examples of waste in his won department, such as a new building were a roof garden was added and a storage facility for insulated copper wire where the heating is kept at a constant 70c (the staff have been growing mushrooms as a perk since 1946) The Minister proposes that the Committee should hear the facts from his permanent Secretary as a punishment for not being properly briefed but when Sir Humphrey is appeared he bats the ball back to his Minister so they are both summoned to appear. The Minister then finds that the information in the books comes from a number 10 leak in order to focus on the lack of cooperation of the civil service so at the third appearance before the Committee, Hacker turns the tables strongly against his permanent secretary despite agreement beforehand to bat on the same side this time. The season closes with Hacker stressing to Humphrey that he has been a loyal to him and as Sir Humphrey has been during their time together.

(J C Burris City by the Bay. Jimmy Rogers Every Day I have the Blues comes second to my Jimmy Rushin version with the Basie Band from 50 years ago, Louisiana Red Everybody Laughs. I have several other tracks of Ida Cox Wild Women Don't worry lived up to expectations).

The Lives Saints

14.00 Ella Fitzgerald sings Stairway to the Stars on AOL Radio. I have an LP which I am too lazy to go upstairs to note its contents but it is 50 years of age, and I saw her sing live at the David Theatre Croydon in the late fifties. The next record is Billie Holiday Easy to Love. I also have at least one LP again fifty years of age and a 3 CD set with sixty records plus tracks on other compilations. I have just recovered from an after lunch nap and getting the camcorder ready for collection. As reported yesterday the fault C31. 40 came up on the view screen and according the manual I needed to contact the maintenance contractors Master Care policy who over the past four years have become the Tec Guys. They gave me a reference number and said a collection package would be sent through the post and this arrived lunch time waking me up from the nap as I was watching the last stages of Bargain Hunt, but I remember nowt. The packaging comprises two boxes and a bright outer plastic bag in the yellow livery of the carriers. It is a clever system involving inserting the camera under a transparent plastic film with flaps turned back to hold firm and sides which then slot into place. The next task is to create the holding box and insert the camera container and. I sign the pre-typed External Repairs Service Report, printing the name below. The is Job number form to sign, and note accessories if these have been requested. I have removed battery, recording tape and the stills short film writer/recorder. I also add my telephone number as requested. I take photo copies. I do not seal bag and telephone the carriers having to press any digit to get the first message but then press for the contract service. I give the contract number, some details of me, and confirm collection tomorrow and also give the address where the package is to be delivered, I then give the 16 digit individual package reference and I have a transport job number. I ask about the package, should I seal. The other person did not see the packaging but guess there was be instructions, There were not but two silver strips to be pealed away. It was ready.

Stevie Wonder and Ella sing You are the Sunshine of my life. Shirley Horn ( any relation to Lena?) sings Baby Please Come Home with a great sax solo. I like the sax and have at least on LP of who, not remembering bugs me. I stop writing to listen to what has developed into a great track. Louis Armstrong Sweet Lorraine. I have three Hot Five and Seven LP's, a three CD collection and numerous other tracks in compilation. Chris Connor who I have heard before sings Moon Ray. One upon time a regular on Sunday Family Favourites was Nat King Cole This will make you love me. I would go to Mass on Sundays, and then go for a walk with other relatives who were first cousins. We would usually go to one of the Parks, Beddington, Mellows, Carshalton with the Pond and Carshalton with large sunken area which was idea for playing cricket when there was only two of you because the ball would always run back down the backs unless you hit really hard and high. There was also the park Up Woodmanston Way past the Small holdings, or we would continue towards Purley to look at the large houses some had their own tennis courts.. There were also trips along the nearest edge to Croydon Airport which was London, Airport until Heathrow took over. Once a year we took a bus to Bluebell wood which was the other side of Cheam. Family Favourites was always playing when we got back. After we moved and KI was able to out on my own I would go in the summer afternoons to watch Wallington or Beddington. play cricket. Carmen McRae Three Little words is a well known song from adolescence. Another Billie Holiday, Baby I don't Cry over you. Chet Baker singing !!! Time after Time, he is a horn player and I did not know he sang. Nat King Cole I realise Now

14.45 The are two kinds of Freedom. Freedom from persecution, false imprisonment, poverty, violence and such like. These should never been taken for granted, but in the UK the majority tend to do so, because they also enjoy Freedom to, freedom develop their innate and acquired physical, spiritual, psychological, creative abilities to their maximum potential, to smoke and drink to excess, to gamble. This comes to mind because last night was full of enthusiasm for giving myself an updated review of British History since human beings inhabited the land, I am still enthusiastic but the day has taken a gentle stroll. Coffee and Toast, a few games of Heart and Chess. Correcting and publishing the Blog of the day, going out to Smiths for the British War Film Above us the Waves, buying some bread and milk on the way back. An early salad lunch with a little cheese and salami, olive tomato cucumber lettuce, followed by banana.

Le DeLaria Cool, Don't know her, not, my scene although she is good. Sounds if it comes from West Side Story. Stacey Kent, heard before inviting her special one to come with her under the Blanket of Blue. Great I will be seeing you in all the old familiar places George Shearing, I have a LP 30-40 years of age. I always think of you that way gee I know all the words I will be looking at the moon and seeing you.

15.00 Remember to keep a tally of coffees from new packet, four to-date to work comparative costs of home brew and outside purchase ready made. Time for a cup of tea and some prawns from shell.I love you for sentimental Reasons Nat King Cole. Tenderly know but not Johnny Hartman. Great a trad jazz Billy Holiday Travelling All Alone. The contrast with Sarah Vaughan and a big band, Just friends. And now just when I was to switch off and watch a film it is Begin the Beguine with Ella, I am with you under the stars and those swaying palms. A good way to end this session. There is eight hours of work to accomplish. 15.20

17.20 There are those of us and I am one who believe that if you enable people to heave Freedom to they will use it well, for the betterment of themselves and of others, A very different view of Freedom to was created by Chris Cottam and Rankin in The Lives of the Saints. They live in an atheist world without humanity and without soul where the scum of life hold sway. There are likeable beings in their film, the pregnant girl whom comes to the UK but the child is still born and is buried and who now spends her days cooking whatever and for who ever. She is full of guilt and sadness. The young tart who adores the young no mark waste of space son of the north London village terrorist, you know the kind the one who the police and politicians ignore because their victims are other lowlife no marks and no hopers, she is also the realist who gives her boyfriend's father an occasional helping hand, and she see the young urchin who suddenly comes into their world for what he is, a displaced urchin, needing good mothering, a dad, and some security.

The child is discovered by the film's token black whose role in life is that of an errand boy, the runner, placing bets, collecting drugs in a world where the mobile phone, the internet, the motor bike and scooter has long replaced two conspicuously legs. He is the first to treat the encounter the child and see him as an epiphany prepared to be tortured and killed rather than continue his former life., but unlike the first Christians he survives and becomes more laid back although as everyone is like sticks of rock in this film he can escape the lettering inside him. For some perverse reason he dumps the child on his employer's son and this gives the son the ability to forecast winners at the horses and dog track and workout which machine will payout when, something which I would have expected his dad to have told him actually depends on how the machine is set up, so its owners or leaseholder can take the pot once they know the regularity of its use, sorry if you did not know the machines are fixed. The financial success gives the son a sense of independence from his father who seeing his authority undermined wants the child. The son also decides he no longer needs a lower level of low life side kick and tells him to grow up and get a life. The combination of disgruntled parent and rejected sidekick is for the child to be kidnapped and for the sidekick to first beat most but not all living day lights out of the father, he loves it, I tell you he loves it, and then tricked into taking the child out of where he has secure, he panics and first shoots he child and then shoots himself. The young single woman who lost her child believes that her son has come to life again in the form of an alcoholic hobo which she takes her wing until he find her obsessive care too much and breaks for the open road. And the Catholic priest, well in the story of the return of the Messiah, a maker of miracles there has to be a Catholic priest who is going through the motions and passes his day by quietly dressing up as a woman. However when he meets the child he is inspired to give a performance or two at a local club until spotted for who he is and severely beaten up.

The point which the film wants to make is that people see what they wish to see and believe what they need to believe and for a time they might be inspired as they are by a piece of music, a book, or a film, but then they carry on as before. This is intended to communicate the belief that this means there is no human form interventionist God. The implications that you ahd better wake up and become realist and pragmatist and makes the most of whatever situation you rein rather than praying for a personal miracle./ I thought, until seeing the film about the film that the intention was to communicate that any second coming would be similar to the first, in that more attention would be given to the poor the poor of human condition and experience than the righteous and the trumpet showing worthy, that the presence would not be recognised and there would be a crucifixion in a contemporary manner, with some of those closest thinking first how to save their skins and distance themselves from the troublesome priest. Sadly I was mistaken and the message is that much darker and pessimistic. Most of the individuals in this film are already in hell. It was a fitting reminder that we have to continuously on our guard on the day that a number of young men were charged with the murder of a young boy in the Toxteth area of Liverpool and several other members of their families and local community have been interviewed on suspicion of being involved in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

20.00. It been a few hours coming but I needed to digest what I had read last. I had no previous knowledge that many of those who settled in the Wiltshire countryside had travelled from Mediterranean lands. According to John Bowle Stonehenge was developed to enable the religious expression of new people, migrants, bronze bearing warriors, originally from the Iberian Peninsular and that an axe created on the Greek Island of Naxos around 1500 BC was found at Calne the home town of my mother's family for over 400 years

22.00 Between 1500 and 150 BC my impression is of two phases of development. The first was one of economic development as communities produced more than they needed in order to trade with others, especially for metals, and commenced to create the hill fort as a place to defend their community. In the second phase there was less trading and more local community development, caused by the change from bronze to iron which was more readily available in most areas of the Britain. Thus from the time regarded as prehistory it was trade and economic development, the availability and control of raw materials, and the acquisition of land, and the use of surpluses not just to improve living condition but to indicate wealth and power. However whatever the progress made Britain remained a primitive peoples compared to the Egyptians, the Greeks and Phoenicians and that given the abundance of metals in the Iberian peninsular it is not surprising that the first city port of Europe was established in Andalusia at Cadiz. Along the Spanish coast from Gibraltar and the Spanish homeland of my maternal great grandmother. There are records of the Phoenicians and the Greeks, the Iberians living in Gibraltar, My father's name is Grech, of the Greeks, because the Island of Malta is sixty miles from Sicily this was the main route by which the Greeks came to this small rocky series of islands, think Isle of Wight and where the resident population is three hundred thousand to-day. And then came the Romans. See also Malta An Island Republic Editions Delroisee and Gibraltar Maurice Harvey

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Mae West and much more

08.30 on a Sunday morning will not be considered by the moral descendents of those who hounded Mae West from films and radio to be debating her virtues, so I will begin by restricting quotations to the most neutral.

A man in the house is worth two in the street
(Belle of the Nineties).
Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.
Between two evils I always pick the one I've never tried before
(Klondike Annie) .
Don't marry a man to reform him, that is what Reform schools are for.
Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.
He is the kind of man who picks his friends- to pieces.
He is the kind of man and woman would have to marry to get rid of.
His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.
I don't know much about politics but I recognise a good party man when I see one.
I never loved another person the way I love myself.
I used to be Snow White and then I drifted.
I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.
Love conquers all except poverty and toothache.
Marriage is a great institution but I am not ready for an institution.
Men like women with a past because they hope history will repeat itself.
Its better to be looked over than overlooked.
It is not the men in my life I count, but the life in my men.
It is not what I do but the way I do it, it is not what I say but the way I say it.
She's the kind of woman who climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong.
There are no good girls gone wrong, just bad girls found out.
Too err is human but it feels divine.
To much of a good things is wonderful.
When I am good, I'm very very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better
(No Angel).
When women go wring, men go right after them.
Women are as old as they feel-and men are old when they lose their feelings.
Why don't you come upstairs sometime and see me?
(She does him wrong)
You are never too old to become younger.

May West was born in 1893 and died at the age of 87 in 1980. She was the most notorious of the Hollywood screen ladies employed to shock with their blatant sexuality as the great depression spread across the known world. Marlena Dietrich was one, Jean Harlow a second and Barbara Stanwyck a third The father of Mae West was a prize fighter, policeman and detective. Her mother was a corset and fashion model. One grandmother and other relatives were Roman Catholic. He mother was Jewish a Bavarian Jewish Immigrant and the family became Protestant. She went on the stage at 5 and performed professionally in Vaudeville at 12 as the Baby Vamp. She was encouraged by her mother who thought everything she did was fantastic. In her early twenties she commenced to write direct, produce and star in her own plays. And in 1927 she was prosecuted by city officials on the grounds the work was obscene and sentenced to ten days in jail. She was taken to dinner each evening by the Prison Warden, gaining two days off for good behaviour and media attention enhanced her career.

She then wrote a play about Homosexuality was performed in New Jersey but banned from Broadway. Her view was that talking about sex and sexuality was a human rights issue and her work poked fun at social strictures. Her works were always controversial but the publicity packed houses. He most successful work was Diamond Lil produced in 1928. She was 38 when she was offered a motion picture contract so the men of Hollywood knew what she had to offer and which could be exploited. Although her first part in a film with George Raft was small she was allowed to rewrite her scenes. In her first scene a Hatcheck girl exclaims Goodness what lovely diamonds to which Mae replied, Goodness has got nothing to do with it. Raft commented she stole everything but the cameras and did not work with her again.

Such was her success in Night after Night that she was able to bring Diamond Lil to the screen as She done him wrong in1933 and the film should also been seen for Cary Grant's first young role. The picture was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. So was her second film with Mr Grant, I'm no Angel and the two films saved Paramount from bankruptcy and she became the highest paid woman in the US second only to William Randolph Hirst. However her frank approach to sex and human relations outraged traditional moralists and in 1934 having failed to make alcohol prohibition work, attention was turned on the cinema and her films became heavily edited with the consequence that she increased the number of double entendres which also became more subtle. Her film It aint no sin was retitled Belle of New York. Her film Going to Town 1935 was also a great financial hit revealing the hypocrisy of the privileged rich class. Klondike Annie 1936 attacked religious hypocrisy She worked with Randolph Scott and then W C Fields in My Little Chickadee (1940) and although she is to have disliked the script she made the film to keep the producer from bankruptcy.

In 1937 she appeared in a radio play and a line " I remember our first date and the splinters to prove it" created panic among the radio censors but what caused the most furore was when she appeared in a Garden of Eden Sketch and she told Don Ameche on live radio, Get me a big one I feel like doing a Big Apple. She was banned from NBC and it was a decade before she was allowed on radio again. In what are described as her middle years she made occasional public performances of different kinds such as the Oscars in 1958 singing Baby its cold outside with Rock Hudson. Her autobiography was a success but it was not until 1970 when aged 77 that she appeared in her first film for a quarter of a century Myra Breckinridge that new generations took an interest in her work and it became the thing to do to invite her social events and private parties. She was described as the eighth wonder of the world. In her last decade she was answering fan mail and listed her [home number so fans could call her up and see her sometime.

10.00 Sunday The life of Mae West and Marie Antoinette could not have been more different although there are more similarities might usually be considered. First the facts. Marie was one of fifteen children of the Royal House of Austria who was engaged for aristocratic and political reasons to her second cousin when she was twelve and he fourteen. Three years later when she was 15 years old she was married by proxy in Austria on April 19th 1770 with her brother standing in as her bride groom. She was then handed over to the French on an Island in Rhine on May 7th and literally stripped of everything, Austrian, clothes, her pet dog and her friends and on May 16th she was married to the boy prince and future King of France who was more interested in hunting than girls. Not so the King whose favourite woman was a common whore who he had given a title so she could attend court which was full of the aristocratic nobles of France who led the high life at the expense of their people. Antoinette's mother and the King of France were quiet explicit about her role. She was to breed a son, preferably several and daughters who could further the incestuous hold of the Monarchy over the people's of Europe. The marriage was not consummated for seven and a half years, until after her husband had become King and she Queen of France. One has every sympathy for the couple. After the husband left her bed, the women of the bed chamber arrived, the Queen was stripped naked and dressed by those present in their order of seniority. Dressed and hair style attended, the couple had their breakfast in full view of the court and were expected to spend their day with courtiers and then be accompanied to the bed chamber where the following morning there would be a state report whether marriage had been consummated.

France and Austria had been enemies and the fifteen year old was expected to help build long standing good relations. The new King was then encouraged to help the Americans in their independence revolution against the British and there are those who argue that it was the cost of the war which resulted in the people France starving through shortages of bread. Marie Antoinette never said Let them eat cake but it was the kind of spin doctoring which the French revolutionaries were much better at than the arrogant and self confident Aristocracy.

So how did Ms Marie cope with all this, well basically as anyone would do at her age with a good credit card. She shopped, shopped and shopped, she eat the finest foods and watched the best of entertainments and she liked to gamble and play lots of games. Because the marriage was not consummated she was initially riddled with doubts about her sexuality but when that was overcome she realised the full sexual potential and personal power. There are those who argue that it was her subsequent decadence which led to the downfall of the monarchy. If it was then she paid the full price as at least her husband was given the opportunity to prepare his case before his trial and execution. Marie who had been regarded many as a foreign spy was a useful scapegoat for those on their way to take power from those who had power and then continue to exploit the people, taxing them to fund their personal extravagances and sending them into battle from which only a minor percentages would survive unharmed in body and spirit.

The closest I have been to witnessing revolution in my homeland was not at Suez crisis, or over acceptance of the nuclear deterrent, or even over the War on Terror, but in the days following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The next part of the Judicial summing up concentrated on the allegations of a conspiracy for her unlawful killing.

"Letters from Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh to Diana are said to be of importance because of what the Duke said. If they were nasty letters, it is said that they evidenced the Duke's attitude towards Diana and thus point to a wish on his part or others on his behalf to get rid of her. They were part of the so-called evidential planks on which Mohamed Al Fayed sought to implicate the Duke in a conspiracy to murder Diana and on which it is said others may conceivably have acted on his behalf, believing it to be his wish to get rid of her. It was also suggested that because there were no letters from the Duke found amongst the possessions of Diana, that they could have been destroyed because of their inflammatory content. Let us examine the state of the evidence about the letters. Copies of some letters came to light when Rosa Monckton read about the inquests and realised that what she had might be of potential significance. Rosa Monckton, you will remember, met Diana through Lucia Flecha de Lima and got to know her from about February 1992. She says Mohamed Al Fayed's suggestion that she befriended Diana in order to pass on information to MI6 is absolute fantasy, although it is accepted that someone close to her is connected to the Secret Intelligence Service. She says she does not think Diana knew of this. If you accept Rosa Monckton's evidence and that of others who knew them, she and Diana became close friends. In the spring and summer of 1992, the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana had hit very difficult times. Fortunately you do not have to explore the rights and wrongs of why it broke down, but you may think that the breakdown put Diana in a particularly difficult position, having previously been within the cocoon of the Royal Family but thereafter being on her own. Because of who she was, she was unable to break out and start a new life in the way she may have wanted. Maggie Rae, her solicitor, said that she thought Diana lived in a very odd environment and was lonely. She felt like she was up against a big machine; she had a small staff When the first letter arrived from the Duke in June 1992, Diana got in touch with Rosa Monckton and sought her help in drafting a reply. Rosa Monckton explained that she drafted replies to a number of letters from the Duke over that summer. She could see how people might have got the wrong impression about the content of the letters because Diana's first reaction on receipt of a letter was generally to be upset, but they
were in fact very supportive and trying to help, she said. Diana had faxed a number of letters to Rosa Monckton and she, in turn, provided me with copies of those faxes. She also provided copies of drafts she had compiled for Diana to use in answer and these she produced before you. Following receipt of what Rosa Monckton had in her of possession, inquiries of the Palace revealed that the Duke of Edinburgh had copies of the letters he had written to Diana and also the original responses from Diana. So we have had what Sir Miles Hunt-Davis (the Duke's private secretary) tells us, on the strength of what the Duke has told him, is the complete correspondence between the Duke and Diana It lasted between 18th June and 4th October 1992. My office asked for a complete set of correspondence and Hunt-Davis in turn asked the Duke. Copies of the letters from the Duke to Diana and the originals from Diana to the Duke were provided to me. Because of the personal nature of the letters and the fact that they are irrelevant to the issues that you have to decide, most of the contents have been redacted and you have just seen the beginnings and the ends of the letters, together with a few intermediate extracts. I say that the rest of the content was irrelevant because it provided no support whatsoever for the suggestion that the correspondence was nasty, vituperative or unpleasant. It is common ground that these were not nasty letters. Commander Jephson saw some of them and thought they were well intended. Paul Burrell saw them also. He described them as "At times blunt, frank and quite cutting, but they were nevertheless quite supportive". He emphasised that the Duke was not a nasty man. The question is whether there were any other letters that were nasty and disparaging of Diana. Rosa says she was not shown any other letters, and if there had been any, she is sure that she would have been. And if, for example, there had been one after the Martin Bashir Panorama interview, Diana would have wanted her help to answer it. Burrell explained to you that correspondence between the two covered a short period. We have seen six letters from the Duke and five from Diana, and Burrell's recollection was of a exchange of that order, all taking place in 1992. You will remember also that he was asked about a quotation from one of them found in his book, which was identical with a section that you had seen. The suggestion that the Duke had written nasty letters to the Princess has surfaced from time to time in the press. Hunt-Davis explained that the normal approach of the Duke of Edinburgh to inaccurate or defamatory press material is to ignore it. That, you may think, is a sensible approach for members of the Royal Family to adopt. They might otherwise be very busy endlessly putting out denials and corrections. But, uniquely, the Duke decided to put out a press statement on 23rd November 2002, which I think we can put up on the screen [INQ0058969]. He put this out because of the untrue and indeed hurtful and scurrilous allegations that were circulating In that press statement, the Duke located the correspondence to 1992 (as have others who saw it) and denied any suggestion that its tone was unpleasant. but that has happened to the originals of those letters from the Duke? Rosa Monckton said she did not know where Diana kept this very important correspondence, but she believed that Diana did keep it because she wanted history to know that she had tried to save her marriage. The striking reference, as you will recall, by the Duke, to his not being a marriage guidance counsellor gives the flavour of what the correspondence was about. There is some evidence of what happened to the original letters from Prince Philip and indeed one from the Queen towards the end of 1992, saying there was now a need for Diana to get divorced. That letter from the Queen followed Diana's interview with Martin Bashir shown on Panorama. Diana gave the correspondence to Mishcon, who in turn gave it to Maggie Rae, who put the letters in her safe at home. Maggie Rae read the letters and recollects nothing unpleasant about them. They were more in sorrow than in anger. Diana asked for and was given the letters back in 1997, not long before she died. Thereafter we pick up the story with the wooden box, to which I shall come shortly, but that shortly will be after our break. So we will resume again at 5 past 3. (2.50 pm) (A short break) (3.07 pm) (Jury present)
LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Members of the jury, a correction. I think I said the Queen's letter was in 1992. It was after the Bashir interview. It was in 1995, not 1992 Just before I come to the wooden box, what about other letters? Mr Mansfield says that it is astonishing that there is this small clip; there must have been others. Where are they? What evidence is there that there were any other letters anyway? You may think very little. The only person who claims to have seen any is Simone Simmons. You will have to decide whether Simone Simmons is an honest witness and, if she is, whether her evidence is reliable. You may think that Simone Simmons believed what she was telling you. Not everything she said supported a conspiracy theory, but you may think that some of what she described was rather weird or eccentric. Her evidence is important from the viewpoint of conspiracy theories and I shall deal with it in some detail in due course. But as to the letters, she told us that at the end of 1995, he and Diana were analysing handwriting with the aid of a book on graphology. Diana had quite a few letters from the Duke. She drew Simone Simmons' attention to two that upset her. She said hat one was dated 1994 and the other, probably, 1995. One was handwritten, one was typed. One was on larger paper. Diana read out one of them, mimicking Prince Philip's voice as she did so. Simone read the other one. The Duke, she said, made cruel and disparaging comments about the propriety of Diana's conduct. you did not hear the precise nature of the comments because that was not relevant and might cause distress. What is relevant is that if Simone Simmons' evidence is correct, the observations were exceedingly inflammatory and derogatory, cruel and disparaging, but there is no suggestion that they contained a threat of any kind Indeed, she went out of her way to emphasise to you that the Royal Family would have done nothing to hurt Diana. Simone does not know what happened to the letters thereafter. She says Diana told her she gave the originals to Bashir. It took a while to get them back, if she ever did. She handed them over Simone Simmons explained, when her car was parked next to Bashir's Land Rover in a car park somewhere in the West End of London. We have not heard from Bashir in person, but his comments have been read to you. He has a vague recollection of seeing some letters from the Duke of Edinburgh. If there had been any strong language in them, it is likely he would have referred to them in his interview, he said, but he did not. He does not possess and has not possessed any letters between current or former members of the Royal Family. Simone Simmons says she believes there was correspondence with the Duke before and after 1992, but that the derogatory letter was just one page The handwritten letter was the one Diana read out; it was the smaller one, on headed paper. But, she says, she was not really interested in the Duke's letters It was, she said, Prince Charles's letters that were fascinating. What interested the two of them was what could be deduced from the handwriting. Simone Simmons also gave evidence that the Duchess of York had received nasty letters from the Duke. Simone Simmons said she did not see any of the nasty letters that Michael Cole claims Prince Philip wrote to Sarah, Duchess of York, yet we heard uncontroversial evidence from the Duchess of York that she had never received any such letters. When Simone was cross-examined by Mr Horwell, it was pointed out that there were differences in the account that she had given to the Mail and what she had said in the witness box. Whether those differences help you to decide whether she is truthful and accurate is a matter for you. You may think it is significant that, even on her account, there was no threat to kill or harm Diana in these letters. This evidence is said to go to motive, but saying nasty or disparaging things against someone as, you may think, some distance removed from a threat to kill or injure. Taking her evidence at its highest, does it really take the murder theory any further? But perhaps, most critically, it seems clear enough that Diana showed the correspondence both to her solicitors and to Bashir in 1995. She clearly thought the correspondence important and, having seen it, I can well understand why. Had there been any anything of the nature suggested, surely she would have been very keen that her solicitors should be aware of it. After all, they acted for her in connection with the formal separation in 1992 and then
the divorce proceedings which were completed in the summer of 1996. Similarly, when planning the Panorama interview with Bashir, had there been any dynamite in the correspondence from the Duke, would she not have shown it to him? Although you may have difficulty with much of the evidence from Burrell, if the Duke had addressed nasty correspondence to Diana, is it not likely that she would have shown it to him? I turn next to the wooden box. Burrell says Diana showed him Prince Philip's letters and her replies. They were kept in a wooden box in her sitting room. If that is true, she must have kept copies of her replies. Prince Philip's letters were received, he said, over four to five months in 1992, but he says he saw them in 1993. They appear to have been typed on distinctive paper with an old-fashioned typewriter. They were signed "Pa" and were not nasty or disparaging although, as I have said, they contained what he described as constructive criticism
He was right that they were signed "Pa", and as have indicated, there is an extract quoted in his book which is the same as a passage that you have seen. Significantly, you may think that he was quite clear that the whole of the correspondence was completed in 1992 and was emphatic that, had there been more, he would have seen it. He said that in the final years of her life, he saw all Diana's correspondence. Had there been anything of the sort described by Simone Simmons, he would have seen it and he did not He also gave evidence that Diana herself had put out a press statement as to the absence of nastiness from Prince Philip. The statement said that the suggestion that the Queen and the Duke had been anything other than sympathetic and supportive was untrue. Burrell says that he did not keep copies of the Duke's correspondence or Diana's replies and does not have the originals. Diana kept letters from the Royal Family in a mahogany box. Burrell said he had not seen the letters from the Duke since Diana's death. Burrell gave evidence to you that he laboriously copied out letters from the Duke and other members of the Royal Family during his years of service with the Princess and that is why he was able to quote from such material in his book. you may remember that one of the quotations (not from a letter from the Duke) even contained an error which had apparently been faithfully copied by him. He denied taking the letters or photocopying them. He did tell you that he had burned what he had after he had completed the book. Additionally, Mr Faux told you that Burrell had burned correspondence from Buckingham Palace not long after the collapse of his trial. His apparent recollection, so many years after
the event, of the typeface and crest on some of the letters is, you may think, fanciful, especially as he accepted that the thought was planted by Benson and Macnamara when they saw him before passing on his details to my office. It might be thought, however, that after that trial Burrell was keen to get rid of anything that others might think he should not have.Whether it included the originals of the Duke's correspondence, perhaps we will never know for sure, but you may well find the suggestion of staying up late to copy out what were after all, long letters rather hard to swallow Burrell was at Kensington Palace with Lady Sarah McCorquodale when the box was discovered. They found the key in a tennis racket cover and opened the box Detective Inspector Milburn's note suggests Prince Philip's letters were in the box. This contradicted by Lady Sarah, but she cannot account for why Milburn recorded their existence in his note if she did not tell him they were there. Burrell and Lady Sarah put the box in the small service lift and he last saw it when Diana's belongings were packed up and sent to Althorp. Whilst Mrs Shand Kydd apparently shredded a lot of documents, it is said that she would not have destroyed anything of historical significance, like the Duke's letters. Any unshredded correspondence went to Althorp, the Spencer family home. This did not include any letters from the Duke of Edinburgh. Lady Sarah has recently been through all the papers held at Althorp and, apart from a letter of condolence to Diana on
the death of their father, there is nothing from Prince Philip. Milburn was involved in the Burrell prosecution. On 20th November 2000, he went to Lincolnshire to see Lady Sarah because he wanted to establish ownership of a dhow believed to have been stolen. The police had information that Burrell had been seen at 3.00 am removing items from Kensington Palace, including, you will recall, a wooden box. Lady Sarah showed Milburn the box, but he did not look inside it. On Lady Sarah's account it was empty. He was looking for a dhow, not letters. Lady Sarah's evidence was that she had asked Burrell to look after the contents of the box for safe-keeping the day they opened it. She expected him to take the contents to his home, which was at that time only 200 yards away. the opening of the box would have been in March 1998 at the earliest. She never saw the contents of the box again, although she asked Burrell for their return on two or three occasions later in
1998. He told her they were in packing boxes in Cheshire and he would get them to her, but he never did. when Milburn was in Lincolnshire in October 2000, he made a list of what Lady Sarah told him were the contents of the box and they included "Letters Prince Philip" and "Correspondence in box taken by Christmas". Lady Sarah said that she was 100 per cent confident that there were no letters in the box when it was opened and she did not tell Milburn there were letters from Prince Philip in it. She asked Milburn to ask Burrell for the contents of the box. Lady Sarah explained that she took the empty box home when the apartments were being cleared. It was in the service lift and appeared to have been forgotten. It was a tiny lift and there was nothing except the box in it. Burrell told Milburn he did not know where the documents were and Lady Sarah had not asked for them back. So the question remains unsolved. What happened to the originals of Prince Philip's letters? It is odd that Milburn should have referred to them if they were never in the box, but Lady Sarah is adamant that they were not there. You may think the most likely destination for those letters is Burrell or perhaps they were shredded by Diana's mother. Be that as it may, and wherever you think they went, it is difficult to see that they contain any expression of feeling on the part of the Duke that advances the conspiracy argument. There have been other suggestions that are said to support the Duke's antipathy to Diana and to the Al Fayeds. You will remember that some time was spent in evidence with both Hunt-Davis and Lord Fellowes on something called the "Way Ahead Group" and especially its meeting on 20th July 1997. A newspaper report had suggested that Diana was top of the agenda and that a file on the Al Fayeds was produced by the security services. It is true that Hunt-Davis thought it quite likely that there was some discussion at the meeting of the perceived damage to the Royal Family. I have seen both the agenda for that meeting and the minutes. They were produced through Fellowes. I have decided not to disclose their contents because they were irrelevant; that is to say they provided no support for the allegations contained in the newspaper report. Diana was not on the agenda, neither were the Al Fayeds. You heard through intelligence witnesses that there was no such file produced on the Al Fayeds. The minutes said nothing about either; and for good measure the next meeting was not scheduled for September (as suggested in the newspaper article) but months later. The Way Ahead material thus provided no support for the suggestion of the Duke or any other member of the Royal Family being hostile towards Diana or the Al Fayeds. Then it was suggested that there may be some significance in Diana ceasing to be styled "Her Royal Highness" on her divorce in the summer of 1996. Quite how that concerned the Duke of Edinburgh as opposed to all other senior members of the Royal Family has never been clear. Fears and the Mishcon note. It is said that Diana feared for her life and that this has relevance to the collision. There is evidence of her fears and it is necessary to examine this evidence in a little detail. Perhaps as good a starting point as any is the evidence of Roberto Devorik, the Argentinian with whom she was good friends. He lived in London for 30 years until 1995 and met Diana in 1981. Their contact was once or twice a month. Like others, he fell out of favour with Diana from time to time. You may think he was someone who had considerable insight into Diana's character and who has absolutely no axe to grind. He said Diana went through highs and lows and at times felt very alone. She had a quicksilver temperament and could easily manipulate people, but without malice. She had many unhappy periods in her life and a lot of pressures. It was only when she was down that she spoke about her preoccupation with death. On 18th February 1992, he was at a film premiere. The film involved marital infidelity. Diana said to him, "My in-laws think I am mad and my husband agrees with them and wants me in a home". On another occasion, she told him she wanted to "leave the cage". Sometimes she said things like "They want to kill me" and it was very difficult to know if she was speaking seriously. He said he may have said to her, "Who, the Prince of Wales," knowing she would say "no" because she loved him. Another time, at a party, she said she was sure that Prince Philip was involved with the security services; "After this, they are going to get rid of me". Devorik said that was her point of view. They went downstairs and the party continued. It was difficult to tell with her if her remarks were in jest. On another occasion, she said she would end up like Mary Queen of Scots and be chopped. Devorik said he travelled with her a lot but never feared any irregularity, as he put it, or anything to make him feel uncomfortable. Once, when travelling to Italy, they were in the VIP lounge at the airport where there was a picture of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Diana looked at he picture of the Duke and said, "He really hates me and would like to see me disappear". But Devorik added that the Duke came in and out of her favour quite often. In the plane, she talked about being blown up and said that they were slowly taking her kids -- letting her know when she could have them. She said "They only need me for official functions; then they drop me in the darkness". He advised her to get legal advice. He said that once she mentioned a conspiracy to harm her to make way for Charles to marry Tiggy Legge-Bourke, but Devorik said that the description of these incidents did not in themselves give a fair reflection of his relationship with Diana and how she was. You may think that Devorik was an honest witness who knew Diana as well as most outside the family. You must ask yourselves if his is an accurate account of events. There is no obvious reason why they are not. You will have to ask yourselves whether these statements of Diana or some of them are a true account of the way she really felt, but you will also bear in mind Devorik's evidence that he never felt she was going to be killed. He never felt any sense that there was something wrong. Things were often said in a light hearted way. He repeated three times in his evidence that he had never felt any danger at all. He also said that one of the things that really made Diana angry was that she felt the divorce decision was finally made by virtually everyone except herself: the Queen, Prince Charles,the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury, for example. turn next to what Mohamed Al Fayed had to say on this subject. One might have thought that if Diana had really feared for her life, she would have mentioned it to Mohamed Al Fayed at the time of the conversation with him shortly before the crash, when he said she told him she was pregnant and engaged. Further, this, above all, would have been the time when, if Mohamed Al Fayed's contention is correct, Diana's security should have been stepped up. Yet you may recollect that Mohamed Al Fayed said in evidence that, when he told Klein, soon after the deaths, "they've killed him", he said that that conclusion was based entirely on what Diana had told him that summer. His evidence was that Diana had expressed fears to during the summer. Those fears related to that the two of them, in Balmoral, organised an assassination in Paris using MI6. It was, he said Prince Philip who ruled the country behind the scenes. No doubt Diana did talk to Mohamed Al Fayed during the time she was on holiday and you may think it is a fair inference that she said something about her relationship with the Royal Family. However, you have only got Mohamed Al Fayed's word that she expressed fears about Prince Philip and Prince Charles and it is for you to decide on the reliability of Mohamed Al Fayed's evidence. If he thought there was anything in the fears, why were there only two bodyguards provided by him? What did Burrell have to say about this topic? He claims to have been very close to Diana. He says not everyone knew everything, but he was pretty well informed. You will probably want to take with a pinch of salt many things that he said in evidence because of the inconsistencies and, you may think, lies in what he told you, but that does not mean that nothing that he said can be of any value. He said Diana and Prince Philip had a mutual understanding at the end of her life. She and Prince Charles were on very cordial terms at that stage too We have documentary evidence of Diana's fears in the form of the Burrell note. Burrell has given different accounts of how it came into his possession and there may be some doubt about its date, the document itself being undated, but the wording of the note is there for you to see. Burrell said he had conversations with Diana in which she expressed similar sentiments, although there were no other similar notes or letters. Burrell told you he had no knowledge of the Mishcon note. Diana told Burrell she was a problem and the Royal Family did not know what to do with her. Again you may think there is some truth in that. It was put to Burrell and he agreed -- and you may think there is a good deal of force in this too -- that if he had handed the Burrell note over to Buckingham Palace, the Princess's fears would never have been made public, not least because the Mishcon note would probably have never seen the light of day. But you do have evidence that Diana expressed fears to various people, and it is up to you to decide what to make of them.Finally, Burrell said that if he had taken Diana's note seriously, he would have taken steps to urge her to protect herself Michael Gibbins, Diana's comptroller or private secretary, said that Diana never discussed private matters with him. Colin Tebbutt, her security driver, said he had never heard her express fears for her life. Rita Rogers, you may remember, say she passed on information and predictions she had received from the spirit world. It was suggested that she was responsible for putting ideas into Diana's head. indeed, Rita said she was confident of the accuracy of the information she was passing on. It was she who raised the subject of Diana's brakes having been tampered with and she who was worried about the Audi. However, she said the subject of abdication, Tiggy and Camilla, mentioned in the Mishcon note, did not come from her and nor did the information in the Burrell note. Simone Simmons said Diana told her on many occasions that she was going to be bumped off. Once her brakes failed in the rush hour and she was sure they had been tampered with. After that, she sent Simone Simmons a note saying, "If anything happens, MI5/MI6 will have done it". Her brakes were tested and, according to Simone Simmons, the problem was heavy wear. Simone Simmons destroyed the note. Simone also referred to a phone call Diana received at Kensington Palace. She, Simone, put her head against the receiver and listened for two or three minutes. Diana was being criticised for involvement in the landmine campaign. The caller said, "Accidents can happen" and Diana just said, "I am going". Diana said the caller was Nicholas Soames MP and she would sort it out in her own way. Soames denies any such conversation. Was Simone describing a threat or a criticism? Did such a conversation take place at all? At any rate, there was no mention of the conversation in her first book. There are some weird features about Simone's evidence. She specialises in energy healing and says she cleaned Diana's flat of bad energy. She had many long telephone conversations with Diana -- one lasting for ten hours. Simone Simmons said she was still communicating with Diana. She had given her a lot of information, but it was difficult to talk about it. In November 1996, Simone had a premonition about a crash in a Mercedes. It was, she said, an accident that was not an accident. The Mercedes was dark blue and there were four people in it. She had a vision of a small explosion at the rear. She used to telephone Diana saying something was going to happen. However, there was no contact between them after June 1997 as they were not speaking. Fears were never discussed with Rodney Turner, the director of Jack Barclays and a friend of Diana. He said the Burrell note came as a bombshell to him. Diana did, however, jokingly say to him, in 1996, "It is not the IRA after me, it is my husband". Steve Davis was Diana's personal chauffeur until March or April 1997. She never expressed any fears to him about cars being tampered with. He did the normal checks anyway. He never heard of a brake failure nor was he asked to check the brakes
Colin Trimming, who was one of Diana's protection officers, said she never spoke to him about fears, nor was he aware of any specific threat. On the other side of the coin, she wanted her protection removed, something that happened gradually with time and was strongly resisted by the Metropolitan Police. Ken Wharfe never saw any correspondence with the Duke of Edinburgh. Diana never made derogatory remarks about him and, indeed, thought he was quite a good father-in-law. She freely said he was surprisingly supportive of her. Wharfe said he thought Diana was viewed by the Palace as a serious and escalating problem. She outshone the rest of the Royal Family and irritated Prince Charles. Wharfe was sceptical of Diana seeing therapists. He thought this might be where she had got the idea of being killed on the road. The Mishcon note, which we will now put up and is anyway in your bundle, has been a central feature in the evidence. It arose out of a meeting at Kensington Palace on 30th October 1995. Mishcon is no longer alive and cannot throw any light on the issues that have arisen surrounding it, but you have heard from others. Present at the meeting, apart from Mishcon and Diana, were Maggie Rae, Sandra Davis and Patrick Jephson. You have the note and may like to look at it again at your leisure. Maggie Rae saw Diana subsequently. She had a pervasive belief that "they" wanted to put her aside, but she would not say who "they" were. She also said several times that the Crown should skip a generation. Maggie Rae saw Diana on a number of occasions in connection with the divorce, and it is pretty obvious that, in the autumn of 1995, Diana's feelings were running high. Maggie took the same view as Lord Mishcon. There was no evidence and she did not see that what was worrying Diana was possible While Diana was serious about her fears, they were something she would mention rather than a dominating theme of her conversation. Maggie Rae never asked Diana who she thought was going to kill her. Whilst she accepted that it was a possibility that there had been vitriolic letters from Prince Philip which Diana had not wanted to show her, Maggie thought Diana believed what she said, but that it was unrealistic. It was at a particularly low point in her life Sandra Davis also attended the meeting on 30th October 1995. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce Maggie Rae and Sandra Davis to Diana for continuity. She too said this was not the only occasion on which Diana spoke of Prince Charles not inheriting the throne and Diana being got rid of. She did not say who was trying to get rid of her. Sandra was of the opinion that Diana was, as she put it, deadly
serious about her fears, but she nevertheless never mentioned the source of her fears. Jephson was Diana's private secretary from 1990 until 1996. He said that Diana consulted astrologers and sometimes put faith in their predictions. It was an astrologer who had predicted that Charles would never be king and who also predicted a helicopter crash. He said that she saw plots everywhere and was also preoccupied with Tiggy Legge-Bourke whom she believed was pregnant. There is a conflict between Jephson's evidence and that of Davis. Jephson says that when Diana believed that her brakes had been tampered with, he got Davis to check them but nothing was found Jephson could not remember the meeting giving rise to the Mishcon note, but he did not dispute the note. He did remember a private word with Mishcon afterwards. He agreed he may have said that he half-believed Diana. He said he was more concerned with the fact that these
things were being said than about their content. He wished to know why she was saying them. By saying what she was, she was playing into the hands of the Royal Establishment, who were suggesting that she was mentally fragile and a liability to the Royal Family. An open expression of disbelief on his part might have prevented her sharing future concerns with him. He could not find any reliable evidence of her fears and was confident that her reactions were not those of someone who truly feared for her life. She gave no indication what her reliable sources were. She was a complex individual in a unique and difficult situation and he did not really know what was making her say these things. Lady Sarah McCorquodale says that Diana did not speak to her of her fears or of an accident or of Tiggy Legge-Bourke. Her true mood was not conveyed in the Mishcon note. You will remember that Lady Sarah drew our attention to a photograph from around the time of the note showing the three sisters sitting happily in the back of a car and laughing. Unlike Patrick Jephson she did not even half-believe what Diana said. She pointed out that Diana had huge mood swings. Finally, on this topic, Fellowes said that he never saw any animosity on the part of the Duke of Edinburgh towards Diana. you will have to consider whether Diana did truly fear for her life, if she did, whether such fears were justified and, if they were justified, whether they amount to any evidence from which you can draw the inference that somebody may have wanted to kill or harm her Bugging and surveillance. is argued that the issue of bugging and surveillance is linked to Diana's fears about her physical security. There is no doubt that Diana believed her communications were being monitored, nor was she alone in this belief. Let's look at the evidence. Going back to 1989, it is established that a phone call between James Gilbey and Diana, who was at Sandringham, was intercepted. This has become known as "Squidgygate". Who were responsible remains, to this day, unclear. We spent some time looking at the evidence. You heard in particular from Fellowes and Sir John Adye, the head of GCHQ at the time. Various documents were produced, including records of what was said by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. You may think that all of the evidence that you have heard and read indicates that whoever it was that listened to the phone call, it was not the security services. there was a lot of time spent in our considering whether there was an investigation into this and, if not, why not. Although the call took place in 1989, it did not become public until the latter half of 1992 and the documents we looked at related to the first months of 1993. There was also the interception, also in late 1989, of a call between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, which became public at the end of 1992 or early 1993. You have heard about the various meetings that took place to consider what should be done. Mr Mansfield's point was that criminal offences had been committed and there should have been a criminal investigation at the very least, if not a criminal prosecution. But it had happened some years before and was it really in anyone's interests to go down that road? It was pointed out that the four participants in the telephone calls no doubt preferred that what had happened in the past should be allowed to rest and what was important was that something similar should not recur. That certainly was the way Fellowes saw it. You will remember Prince Charles's reservations and the decision of the Home Secretary that there should be no criminal investigation. You may think that a detailed investigation now of what happened in 1989 and 1992 is of little assistance in assessing who was responsible for a crash in 1997. Among those witnesses who told us Diana believed her phones were bugged was Lady Sarah, whom she told that she had had her apartment swept twice. Grahame Harding was told by the Duchess of York that Diana thought she was being watched. Harding was asked for his assistance and he met Diana at Kensington Palace in 1994 and did, he said, four sweeps, which he described as four limited sweeps in four months. He was never asked again. His equipment detected an electronic signal indicating a possible bugging device behind the wall in Diana's bedroom. However, there was no disturbance in the wall and he did not know what was behind the wall. The wall divided Diana's room from a room occupied by Prince Charles. It could have been perfectly innocent, but he believed at the time that it was a device. A day or so later the signal had gone. Ken Wharfe was, for a time, Diana's bodyguard, and he told us that in May 1993 Kensington Palace was checked for bugs. Four people came to Kensington Palace under the guise of carpet cleaners for the purpose of debugging the premises. This had, he said, been arranged by the butler on the recommendation of the Duchess of York. The four men were arrested when they asked to see the mainframe computer of the communications network. Wharfe said that Diana told him on several occasions that she felt that she and others in the Royal Family were being monitored but he did not see the subject as a really serious issue. The carpet sweepers found nothing. Wharfe assumed there would have been in investigation into Squidgygate. Indeed, Diana told him that the Queen had asked for investigation. He thought there was a possibility, but it was only his surmise, that GCHQ were involved in Squidgygate. Another possibility was the media, but he favoured the former. Wharfe was on the look-out for evidence to support allegations of bugging but he did not find any. He thought GCHQ would be monitoring members of the Royal Family because of heightened IRA activity. Well, members of the jury, again, assumption and belief is one thing: evidence is another. He said his information about conversations being routinely recorded came from Diana and he assumed it to be correct. Then there was Jephson. He said he was "quite aware" Diana's communications might be monitored by the security services and shared Wharfe's belief that members of the Royal Family might be routinely monitored, but he had no specific evidence. It seemed, he said, quite sensible to advise her that her calls might be monitored by the security services among others. It was his assumption that they would be interested from the point of view of her protection. He did not believe there was any sinister plot with Squidgygate but thought her communications might be being monitored by the security services. He advised her that her calls might be overheard and you will remember the evidence that she changed her mobile telephones regularly. Friends who were out of favour did not get the new number. Jephson was aware of her premises being swept, but was not officially notified. He learned about it unofficially. He said that Diana saw plots everywhere. She believed her brake lines were cut and also was preoccupied with Tiggy Legge-Bourke. She told him in December 1995 that she believed Tiggy was pregnant. At the conclusion of his evidence, Jephson summed the position up, saying that in advising Diana to be careful about what she said on the phone, he was thinking as much of casual eavesdroppers as of any organised monitoring scheme. Then there was Burrell. Diana believed she was being bugged and he believed it too. He thought it highly likely that people were watching her and listening to her. Mr Benson, Mohamed Al Fayed's general counsel and legal adviser, said that he had no doubt whatsoever that Diana's movements and telephone calls would have been constantly monitored. This information, he said, came from persons in or connected with the security services. You will remember that he as cross-examined about that. Raine Spencer said that Diana felt her phones were being bugged and, likewise, her home. She always seemed very conscious that she was being watched. On 18th October 1994, one of a series of meetings was held with Deputy Assistant Commissioner Meynell, the head of the Royalty Protection Group at the time. We have a note of the meeting. You may think it is very difficult to be confident of recollections about what happened over 13 years ago, but the note, which was counter-signed by Condon, having subsequently discussed the meeting with Meynell, records that Diana knew her phones were being tapped and she was certain the same applied to her vehicle. She had proof of tapping because she had set traps said, on four occasions and got what she described as "the necessary evidence". But the problem was that she would not let them have the evidence or agree to anything being done. There was a suggestion that this was a tease on the police and that her bluff was being called. It is pretty clear that she was something of an ongoing problem to the police, who wanted her to keep her protection whilst Diana wanted the freedom to be without it. There is a note of a meeting with Meynell back on 13th September 1993, when she wanted the removal immediately of four protection officers. There was another meeting on 1st February 1994, the record of which says she valued her freedom and could not be persuaded to change her mind. Condon said that it was his wish that she had protection, and if she had had it in Paris, three lives would not have been tragically lost. It suited her not to have protection, but she was not prepared to give specific reasons. In 1994/1995 and in 1996, when the IRA ceasefire broke down, the police very stridently suggested that it was a good time to reintroduce her security. Condon suspected that she thought the police were not on her side. In late 1993 and early in 1994, Lord Condon and Fellowes were in almost daily touch about it You may have detected some ongoing tension between Diana and the police. Meynell had a clear recollection, and he was quite adamant about it, that he instructed Polsa team, from the Palace of Westminster, to do a search at Kensington Palace. However, there is no surviving document to corroborate this and nor is there any real clarity when such a search may have been carried out. All this, you may think -- but it is a matter for you -- is hardly surprising bearing in mind the years that have passed, and anyway, where does it take you? After the October 1994 meeting, Condon briefed the Home Secretary, having talked the position through with Meynell. The position was clear, that Diana was not prepared to assist. The police could only help, Condon said, if she was prepared to let them. Finally, the Metropolitan Police were not authorised, nor did Condon seek such an authorisation, to intrude into Diana's life. Hasnat Khan said in his statement to the Metropolitan Police that he did not believe his calls were being bugged and that he had no evidence that the authorities had any interest in him. He seems to have been the one person who did not jump to conclusions and make assumptions. Members of the jury, I think that is enough for today. Giving you some kind of progress report, I am very nearly halfway through what I have to say to you in summing-up, although there are parts of what we are going to go through tomorrow that will have to be taken rather more slowly because of the particular detail in them. That includes some of the toxicology evidence and also evidence with regard to the collision. I think I shall have finished, if my present estimate is accurate, pretty early on Wednesday morning and you will then be retiring to consider your verdicts. Would you please now retire? You can go home, obviously, but please bear in mind the warning that I have given you. Be particularly careful not to talk to anybody about the case and bear in mind the warning that I have given to you about talking to each other in small numbers, other than the jury as a whole. We will continue tomorrow morning at 10 'clock.(4.00m) (The hearing was adjourned until 10.00 am 14 on Tuesday, 1st April 2008) INDEX (Crown copywrite with reproduction of whole sections general authorisation)