Absent without leave

That’s what I’ve been on here – so long since I wrote anything. I need to make amends. This post though, is a hotchpotch of things going around in my head. You are cautioned that it may or may not make sense.

This year, 2014, has been momentous for lots of reasons. There are people in my life who I just couldn’t do without, especially my partner Tim. And it goes without saying that my two gorgeous children, Kezia and Aleck, plus my wonderful grandson, Finlay, bring so much joy. I am truly blessed.

Bill (left) and Ben
Bill (left) and Ben

Last year we adopted two kittens into the family, Bill and Ben, and they are doing wonderfully well. They’ve grown a little since this picture and are completely barmy;  they fit in well :-)

No matter how many different kinds of beds, blankets or duvets we get for them, they prefer to sleep anywhere but on them! They love laying and playing on the spiral staircase and both have been known to fall between the steps and land on whoever is sitting on the settee there!

LARSThis year we adopted a boy into the family – a huge big boy called Lewis! He is a Golden Retriever and is decidedly quirky in his ways. We love him to bits and when we got him, it was through Twitter, when an appeal for a new home was featured. He had been in a car accident and had broken his hind leg in three places, which is now fixed with a plate and screws. He also suffered water on the brain and a punctured lung. Bless him, we had to give him crate rest for the first six weeks and then take it very, very slowly with his walking. He has gone through more X-rays and lots of prodding and poking but we are so happy with his progress. Couldn’t have a better vets than we do, Acorn House Veterinary Surgery, they’ve been wonderful. He was two years old on 1st November so in dogs’ years he’s now fourteen and that would explain why he’s like an unruly teenager.

Had some fascinating and fabulous travel adventures, but they’re for another post and will be on thatspr.

World Book Day

Finlay, my grandson, goes to an amazing little school in the shire of Buckingham and to celebrate the fact that today, 6th March, is World Book Day, all the children were asked to choose a character in a book they enjoyed. And would they come to school dressed as that character.

Finlay as Willy WonkaFinlay loves Roald Dahl books, as did his Mummy and Uncle when they were little. His choice of book was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and his choice of character was Willy Wonka. He is reading the book, has seen the film (the original and better one) and has seen the stage play in London.

Finlay lives near Aylesbury and the great co-incidence with his choice is that Roald Dahl lived in the shire of Buckingham, at Great Missenden from 1954 until he died in 1990.  In Dahl’s honour, the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery was opened in November 1996, at the Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury. There is also The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden. 

I am lucky enough to pick Finlay up from his school on Wednesdays and take him to school on Thursday mornings. Today in he went as Willy Wonka, complete with stick, chocolate bar and the golden ticket.  Apparently, all his class mates wanted to walk with the stick!

Walking into the playground is always a pleasure. The children start in the reception class and go through the primary years. There are always lots of laughing and playing children, it really does brighten your day – and these eager and hopeful children. And if you listen very carefully, you can hear the tinkling of little bells and angels’ laughter.

So, imagine how much more exciting the playground was this morning – it was just an absolute pleasure and such a joy to see them all strutting around in character. Princesses, pirates, witches, bugs, birds, aliens, Buzz Lightyear, Harry Potter, the Enormous Crocodile, Matilda and many, many more.  And the teachers were all dressed as skeletons! Such a creative and empowering school.

They inspire me and cheer the whole day – and long may they do so.

Fairies, Pixies and Milton Keynes

Kezia & Finlay on the train going through the Winter Wonderland
Kezia & Finlay on the train going through the Winter Wonderland

Yesterday morning, I met my daughter and grandson in Milton Keynes, and it was magical :-)  Middleton Hall always looks fabulous at Christmas and this year is no exception.

The theme was ‘The land of enchanted dreams’. Fairies, Pixies, naughty Goblins and talking trees were everywhere.  It was busy, in fact it was exceedingly full of human beans, both small and tall. All, apart from the odd grumpy one, were happy and smiling.  The children were in awe and the parents and grandparents were really enjoying themselves.  Being a Grandma now, I can understand my Mum and Dad standing watching Kezia and Aleck when they were small with a huge smile on their faces.  Very proud of my two and just love them to bits – Finlay too, of course.

We had a lovely lunch over there and did a little shopping, well you have to, don’t you?  We also took Finlay to Build A Bear Workshop.  Great idea, but huge queues – you choose and then make your own teddy bear or other animals.  I managed to resist but Finlay chose one and he is going to be registered as Thomas!  They get a birth certificate when you’ve done that; they have a passport for travelling – and there are just loads of different clothes for them, all by you as you queue!  Very clever merchandising. Near that is the Disney shop and in the new part with the cows there, there is the Lego shop.  We went in both, just to look and to give Finlay a break from clothes, hats, make-up, etc. He’s a good boy, not that I am biased at all!

It is indeed, a most wonderful time of the year.

Feeding the ducks & the Coastguard Service

Yesterday morning, Finlay and I walked down the village to feed the ducks.  We have, in our village, the lovely Riverside Gardens where you can go and relax by the river, wonderful place.  It was a beautiful, hot and sunny day and I think the ducks were sheltering from the full onslaught of the sun as they were nowhere to be seen when we got there. We waited and watched the cows on the other side of the river but no ducks, swans or geese came swimming our way.  Finlay decided he wanted to throw the bread in anyway, and the ducks could eat it later.  We took turns and watched the bread float swiftly away from us, downstream. “How will the ducks know where it is?” was Finlay’s question; and that started me thinking about the Coastguard.  We watched the bread float quite swiftly down the river on a hot and calm day.  In a sea full of storm waves, what chance would anyone have of working out where it was going?  None whatsoever, except for an experienced coastguard with the local knowledge of the currents and tides.  And if the Transport Minister gets her way, we will be losing half of them!  Such a ridiculous idea; I will not give it the dignity of calling it a plan as there were not even risk assessments carried out for each coastguard station that is going to be closed down. And the ones that are being closed are amongst the busiest of all of them. The Shipping Minister, Mike Penning, gave a wonderful and very successful argument as to why the fire service could not possibly operate safely if they had regional offices – and now he wants to give the Coastguard Service a national centre – arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  Take a minute to work that one out please, the Fire Service could not possibly operate safely with regional call centres, plus post codes, road names, buildings and all the usual landmarks; whereas the Coastguard Service will be able to operate with a national call centre, plus ………… diddly squat really, except for currents and tides! Local knowledge is absolutely critical when there is an incident on or near the sea.  I could tell Finlay the bread would be going past the houses and would probably get stuck at The Ford, but only because I know the village, I grew up here. But I would never be able to pinpoint broken ships or bodies in the seas that surround our scepter’d isle – not in a thousand years!  I give thanks and much respect to the Coastguard Service and all associated with them.

SOS :Save Our Coastguard Stations: SOS

Swansea Coastguard Station

New Year 2012 was spent on the Gower Peninsula in Wales and was made more special by dropping in to visit the Swansea Coastguard Station. The seemingly, periously perched Station is situated at Tutt Head, Mumbles and is responsible for a large and hazardous operational area, including Marsland Mouth, North Devon/Cornwall Border to River Towy, Camarthen.

To put things in context with the recent Costa Cruise ship disaster off the Italian coast, have a look at the last post (SOS – Save Our Souls – Please!) and thank goodness that it did not happen off our coast now that we no longer have the four special tugs stationed around the coastline – our first line of defence against any potential oil spills.

Swansea Coastguard Station is currently the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre for the area.  It would be the responsibility of the Coastguard to co-ordinate the rescue attempts that we have watched on the TV and web, should this have happened in their geographical area. And what if they are not there?  What is the proposed alternative?

At the moment, Swansea has many more incidents than Holyhead and Milford Haven stations combined!  A frightening statistic made up of boats overturned/in mud, people in water/stranded, surfers and suicides, to name but a few. Why Swansea is so successful in responding to these incidents is the local knowledge the coastguards have from living and working in the area. It is the same with all Coastguards Stations, local knowledge saves lives.

Wall map showing the large area of responsibility in England & Wales for Swansea Coastguard Station

You would not expect an experienced and knowledgable London cabbie to know landmarks in a place one hundred and seventy-five miles away, so why would you put the lives of people in the Swansea area, in the hands of the Southampton Station? No offence meant to the wonderful people stationed there, but equally, Swansea would no more know their way around Southampton landmarks than the Southampton team would in Swansea’s area.

So, for example, when there are two caves with exactly the same name but in totally different locations and people stranded with the tide coming in ~ which do you go to?  Lives count on the decisions made and, if the person responding to the call has no local knowledge of that particular area, then they may possibly choose the empty cave rather than go to where the stranded people are.  And if the ship or person is at sea and they can only say where they are by what they can see ashore, again, only local knowledge can save the day – and the people! Especially when you realise that the strength of the currents can take people and boats quite a few miles in just half an hour!  So the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) needs to be gauged against the position they will be in, otherwise no-one and nothing will be found.

Not sure how the MCA will be able to achieve the statement on its website;

Our highly trained Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre personnel are ready to respond to emergency calls 24-hours, 365 days a year for the UK coast and surrounding waters. Our primary aim is to reduce incidents through prevention activity, education and improved regulations while maintaining effective enforcement.

Well, they will be able to respond to incidents but not how their vision sees it;

Our vision is to be the best maritime safety organisation in the world, committed to Safer Lives, Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas.

At Swansea Coatsguard Station, we met four fantastic team members; all of whom were expert in all things to do with the Coastguard Service and the area of responsibility of Swansea.  It was a privilege to see around the station.

The ‘cave’ is a classic example for the Maritime Minister, Mike Penning, MP for the landlocked Hemel Hempstead constituency, to take notice of.  Would that he would pay more heed to the needs of the people and not the need to balance budgets! The irony of the matter is that Swansea was one of the Stations saved on the first listing, but someone decided to change that for the second listing, even though Swansea met all the original criteria of road and rail links, communication systems and recruitment. Sometimes with civil servants, it really is a question of where has common sense gone! Politics and budgets should bear no part on decisions that may have an affect on our lives, seems morals and standards get left behind.

Working in the travel, tourism and hospitality sector myself, if anything happens to any visitors to our wonderful isle, well, it would be an absolute disaster. Both for the people involved and for the tourism industry as a whole.  Great Britain is so wonderfully unique because it is an island with a mixture of picturesque and dangerous coastlines.  Extremely dangerous around the area of reponsibility for Swansea.  And if the proposed changes do go ahead, then the Milford Haven Coastguard Station would have to take on the responsibility of the Swansea Coastguard Stations, meaning they would have more than twice their current geographical area to look after, and with no extra personnel – not fair on anyone.

Since reading the first news of these ludicrous proposals, I have been privileged to make friends with some wonderful people on Twitter and Facebook who are involved in the campaign to ‘ Save Our Coastguard Stations’.  Two of the best would be Dennis O’Connor and Lou Pooley ~ great ambassadors for the Coastguard Service and very unhappy to have to be campaigning against the proposed cuts within the Maritime Coatdguard Agency.

That it should not be happening is a given – and  yet another example of the damaging and dangerous decisions this  ‘Greenest Government ever’ is making.  The current fad for the phrase ‘Keep calm and carry on’ would be the thing to do but how can you keep silent when you, and so many others, can see the potential problems and disasters these proposals would bring.  Notice the use of the word would, not could, that’s not correct; it is definitely ‘would’.

Have a look at the great new website ‘CoastguardSOS.com‘ – and please make signing the petition to save the Coastguard Stations, the next thing you do after reading this!  Spread the word, make our coast safe for our children and our grandchildren.  Edmunde Burke once said,  ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’ ~ we’re not necessarily talking about evil, but we are talking about the sanctity of life!

So, let’s make sure all these wonderful, dedicated guys and girls are going to be part of the Coastguard for as long as they want to be and for as long as we need them there – which would be never-ending!  What are you waiting for? Sign that petition!

SOS – Save Our Souls – Please!

I wasn’t going to write a post today but I have to in response to an article I read in The Independent – it’s about pollution disasters and the withdrawal of the four tugs that protect this Island of ours.

Since the calamitous oil spill disaster from the tanker Braer in Shetland, in 1993, (a total of 84,700 tonnes of crude oil spilled into the North Sea after the MV Braer ran aground and a total of £45 million was paid out in compensation), we have had four special tugs stationed around the coastline – our first line of defence.  Now the Government has decided not to fund them any more, as of the end of this month.  This flies in the face of advice from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, many MPs, the House of Commons Transport Select Committee and the recommendation from Lord Donaldson’s report after the Braer disaster.

In 2008, the consultancy Marico Marine,  produced a report which stated: “The United Kingdom appears to have little option but to continue its involvement in the contracting of emergency towing vessels.”

“Lack of capability within the commercial tug and towage sector (in effect, market failure), European Union obligations and societal expectations (zero tolerance of major marine environmental incidents) combine to dictate the need for this contingent capability.”

It added: “In cost benefit terms, averting one major shipping disaster and environmental incident of the scale of the Prestige [the oil tanker which broke up off the coast of Spain in 2002] would justify a contract price far in excess of that currently being paid until its expiry in 2011 and beyond.”

Apparently, the Maritime Minister, Mike Penning, thinks differently.  The many years of experience of experts, and all the detail reports written, count for nothing against Mike Penning’s fifteen months in the job!  If this move had a positive point anywhere, it may be digestible; but the fact is, it will only save £8 million, a paltry sum compared with any oil disaster that has happened.  So now it is basically fingers crossed that nothing untoward happens!

Tom Harris, MP for Glasgow South, sums it up well,

“It is completely crazy. It is incredibly irresponsible to be without these emergency vessels, even for a day. I sympathise with the need to look after the public purse, but that cannot come before lives and before the environment. This is a very dangerous game the Department for Transport is playing.”

Mike Penning, MP for the landlocked Hemel Hempstead constituency, is also responsible for the potential closure of some of our Coastguard Stations. This is even more irresponsible and unbelievable. Eight of them are threatened, Brixham, Clyde, Forth, Liverpool, Portland, Swansea, Thames and Yarmouth.

Can you imagine the scenario if these were closed? You’re on holiday in the beautiful county of Norfolk and you decide to go for a walk along the cliffs near Yarmouth. The grass is slippery and you stumble and fall off the side of the cliff and are inaccessible to be rescued from the cliff top. When the emergency call is put through to the Coastguard, it will not be a local person with local knowledge who answers the phone, it will be someone in Humber, which is, according to the AA route planner, 197.8 miles away and would take 4 hours and 36 minutes by road.

The person who answers the phone will not have local knowledge of Yarmouth and, as we all know, local knowledge saves lives. That co-ordinator will have to look up where you are saying the incident has happened. Precious seconds, even minutes, are lost ~ and so will lives be. Putting peoples’ lives at risk is indefensible, no amount of penny pinching is worth that. Our Coastguards go out in all weathers, as does the RNLI, putting their own lives at risk to save others. The men and women on the front line of our emergency services are all heroes, every single one.

The new website for The Maritime and Coastguard Agency proudly says on the front page;

Welcome . . . to the new home of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.  Our vision is to be the best maritime safety organisation in the world, committed to Safer Lives, Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas.

Our values are Safety, Professionalism, Trust and Respect.

The values are superb and, at the moment, the public has trust and respect for their safety and the professionalism of all Coastguard personnel. As for the vision, how can it be the best maritime safety organisation in the world when eight strategically positioned coastguard stations are potentially to close? It is an oxymoron. And what if the modern day technology goes down ~ how on earth will it be possible to do anything?

There is a national petition against the closures which 15 thousand people signed the first time it was made public. It is new and needs your signature to make those numbers become many thousands. There is not much time left in this consultation period but, if we make enough noise, perhaps it will be heard by the people making decisions and not fall on the deaf ears of the Secretary again.

Please, please, please sign the petition!

Gary McKinnon is free, well not yet!

More than three months ago I wrote a post ‘Who is Gary McKinnon?‘ and the following day (25th May) President Obama said Gary’s fate should be decided in the UK. I started the post with this ~

What a momentous day is has been for Gary McKinnon and Janis Sharp.  This afternoon, President Obama, said that the fate of Gary McKinnon will be decided in the UK and not the USA.  A very brave decision for him to make and one, for which, I am sure everybody concerned with the case, will be eternally grateful. Now it is down to Theresa May, in her role as Foreign Secretary, to come forward with a proposal and decide what will happen.  Fingers, and everything else, crossed!

You would think in our just and democratic society, oh yes that is what Britain is supposed to be all about, Gary would have had a case heard by now, but that is not the case.  Despite David Cameron and Nick Clegg making definitive statements about how wrong it would be for Gary to be extradited to the US and how they would do all in their power to fight this miscarriage of justice, Gary has heard diddly squat.

Well, that’s not entirely true, Theresa May has said she will have experts spend time with Gary and then report back to her.  This hasn’t happened and the people that have been put forward are not experts in Gary’s particular illness. It really does not instill confidence in our justice system, nor in this government that David Cameron & Nick Clegg now lead! Empty promises are something politicians are extremely adept at.  My Dad said that once you enter politics, your integrity becomes questionable – how sad and how true.

These are my personal opinions, and as a Mum, I would be tearing my hair out now.  Nine years of mental torture, with the threat of a 70 year jail term in the US if extradited, have been an awful sentence served by Gary already.  Janis Sharp, Gary’s Mum, never ceases to amaze me with her integrity and strength.  Unfortunately, Theresa May is not a Mum, perhaps if she had children, she would understand the horrendous situation of the family better and would be more compassionate about getting something done as soon as possible.

While this awful US/UK extradition treaty is in place, this situation could be applied to anyone who is a British citizen. In fact it has been in other cases, such as Richard O’Dwyer.  The US need provide no proof to ask for someone to face their justice system in their country.  Whereas, should Britain, or any other country for that matter, want to question one of their citizens, there is a solid brick wall put up straight away.  That is how it should be here, not us pandering to whatever the US wants – British citizens deserve the full protection of its government and justice system.  Have a look at the freegary website and you will see all the reports and different ways you can help.  You could write to your MP and ask him/her to sign the Early Day Motion 2388 Extradition of Gary McKinnon – it all helps.  Meanwhile, early on in July, David Cameron was asked in Prime Minister’s question time, by Gary’s MP – David Burrowes, what was happening.  The response ended with

The case is now in front of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has to consider reports about Gary McKinnon’s health and well-being. It is right that she does that in a proper and effectively–I am sorry to use the word again today–quasi-judicial way.

Just how much time does ‘quasi-judicial’ take?  Theresa May doesn’t have children and cannot imagine what it must be like to be stuck in this nightmare, but David Cameron and Nick Clegg do have children and I am sure they would fight tooth and nail to get this resolved quickly should it be one of their own.

Please may we see Britain delivering justice and human rights to its own citizens – NOW!

A weekend of fun

Kezia, my daughter, came over with Finlay on Friday evening.  And that was the start of a fun-filled weekend.  I am so lucky to be a Grandma, Finlay is just delightful.  He was four in April and is at an age when everything is to be challenged!  Kezia tells me that I am too soft with him, that I was much stronger with her and Aleck!  I have to admit, she is right!  I can remember when Kezia was 13 and she and I did not see eye to eye on a lot of things; I went round to see my lovely Mum for some tea and sympathy.  I told her that Kezia was driving me mad and she just gave me a huge grin and said “Payback time, darling!” Ha! So true, I thought, as we both collapsed with laughter!

Friday evening, Kezia went out with Aleck and some other friends for a drink, or three. So Finlay and I got busy building a little town for all the small figures and animals he has here.  We had a farmhouse, a big pond, and a field for all the animals.  He just loves animals.  Lea, the putty tat, looks very apprehensive when Finlay comes to stay ~ he just loves to stroke and cuddle her.  The time just flew by and suddenly, or so it seemed, it was way past his bedtime! Off we went upstairs and read one book and then, we both just fell asleep!

Saturday dawned bright and dry, great!  Kezia had stayed over at Aleck’s so Finlay and I picked up where we left off with the animals and then went shopping.  The day was one for the Village Fair and I’d said I’d go down and help the Colts and/or the Clapham Show stand :-)  Both were well organised and up and running when Finlay and I arrived.  Finlay was very happy to be able to see some animals there and to hold a week old lamb :-)  The young Clapham Colts football teams were giving a fabulous tournament display.  Lots of people were there and I saw three people that I had gone to primary school with!   There was a set of stocks there that needed to be filled, the consensus was that should one certain person turn up and go in there, there would be a huge queue to throw the wet sponges! Alas, it wasn’t to be.

There was a car boot sale there too and we managed to bag a lovely Thomas the Tank Engine bike for Finlay to keep here. So lucky!  After that we went home, changed and the three of us went to a birthday party, woo hoo!  Absolutely lovely friends in Sharnbrook, Julie and Nick Welch, were having a party at their house for their daughter, Charlotte.  A bouncy castle, huge barbecue and lots more was there ~ all to celebrate Charlotte reaching the age of 25 :-)  A fabulous time was had by all.  In the evening we went home and turned the TV on for the first time that day and relaxed watching Pinnochio. What a great film.

Yesterday did not dawn sunny and bright ~ it was raining; in fact, it rained all day long. It was Open Farm Day 2011, when many farms up and down this wonderful Isle of ours, opened their gates to the public to show what they do. So a good and bad day for the farmers, good for the rain and open day but bad for all the outdoor activities that had taken so many weeks of preparation. No worries, it was still good ~ and so many puddles to jump in!  And 3 hog roasts on the go :-)

Yesterday evening, we were all quite tired, well Kezia and I were, Finlay seems to have an unlimited supply of energy! Anyway, we put the dvd machine on and watched the film,  Gnomeo and Juliet ~ hilarious and quite touching all at the same time.  The roll call of stars was pretty impressive!  To bed, perchance to sleep afterwards ~ Finlay needed quite a lot of persuading that it was time to sleep!  Kezia and I, not so much so, not that much later!

Today, two alarms went off at 5.40!  Kezia has to get back to the shire of Buckingham and get Finlay ready for school before her horrendous A41, M25, A1 journey to work in Welwyn Garden City – deep joy! And me? I’m still sat here in my jimjams, on the computer, writing this and chatting to the fabulous peeps on Twitter and Facebook.  Thinking, what a lucky girl I am :-) Guess I’ll shower and dress sometime soon ;-)

Who is Gary McKinnon?

What a momentous day is has been for Gary McKinnon and Janis Sharp.  This afternoon, President Obama, said that the fate of Gary McKinnon will be decided in the UK and not the USA.  A very brave decision for him to make and one, for which, I am sure everybody concerned with the case, will be eternally grateful.  Now it is down to Theresa May, in her role as Foreign Secretary, to come forward with a proposal and decide what will happen.  Fingers, and everything else, crossed!

I wrote the following blog yesterday before this was announced and I’d like to share it, so here it is –

Most of us are aware of the name, Gary McKinnon, but do we know the man?  I have not met Gary, nor his incredible mother, Janis Sharp.  I have supported the case against extradition though and this is my personal take on it.

What I do know is that the British government has Failed (with a capital F)  in protecting and respecting this citizen of this, supposedly, democratic and just isle. 10 years on now and nothing has been resolved. Gary was convinced that UFOs existed and was looking throughout the internet for proof that they did.  During this time, between February 2001 and March 2002, he was able to gain access to United States military and NASA computers.  Gary says he was able to gain access to machines that were set on a default password, meaning that they had no firewalls or cryptic passwords.  Now that to me, who is not a computer geek, seems absolutely ridiculous when they were high security military and NASA computers.  An enormous oversight on the part of the US personnel.  Must have been very embarrassing to them.

Gary has been painted by the United States as an extremely dangerous hacker who caused incalculable damage and shut down their systems for 24 hours.  True, Gary left messages about how easily he got into the computers and notifying them of the danger, and once he even left a message which was critical of US Foreign Policy.  But please, to have open and unsecured computers at that level, quite simply, beggars belief!

In my humble opinion, the US Government should have thanked Gary for alerting them to the glaring omissions in their security systems,  rather than go on a vengeful witch hunt. However the thanks did not come, the witch hunt did – in November 2002, Gary McKinnon was indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia, with the scenario of Gary being imprisoned for up to 70 years in a US jail!  Look at that date, that was nearly 9 years ago!

In June of 2005, Britain enacted the 2003 Extradition Act and later that year, the US Authorities began extradition proceedings.   What also began in June 2005, was for Gary to live a nightmare.  He became subject to bail conditions including having to sign in at his local police station every evening and to remain at his home address at night. In addition, he was banned from using a computer with access to the Internet.

To say all this has had a detrimental effect on his health is an understatement. In August 2008, Gary McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. It is an autism spectrum disorder, which has been compounded with Gary’s clinical depression.  Gary still cannot use a computer with internet access and is now under the care of a Psychiatrist.

Why our Government of the time ever signed an Extradition Treaty that allowed the US not to need to provide contestable evidence for the extradition of a British subject, goodness only knows. That is not protecting our citizens and it certainly is not a sign of a special relationship.

Whenever I think of this situation, I am taken back to the scene in ‘Love Actually‘ where our Prime Minister discovers moral fibre and strong leadership qualities:-

Press Conference Reporter: Mr. President, has it been a good visit?

The President of the U.S.: Very satisfactory indeed. We got what we came for and our special relationship is still very special.

Press Conference Reporter: Prime Minister?

Prime Minister: I love that word “relationship”. Covers all manner of sins, doesn’t it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, erm… Britain. We may be a small country but we’re a great one, too. The country of William Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham’s right foot. David Beckham’s left foot, come to that. And a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward, I will be prepared to be much stronger. And the President should be prepared for that.

Now, I’m not likening Barack Obama and David Cameron to the characters portrayed; however, if would be a wonderful and welcome surprise for everyone in this isle if our politicians kept their word!  Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg were very supportive of Gary McKinnon’s situation, before they came into power, and pledged to review the extradition process to make sure it did not remain all one-sided.

Look at these two quotes and tell me whether or not they have kept their word.

David Cameron – “It should still mean something to be a British citizen – with the full protection of the British Parliament, rather than a British Government trying to send you off to a foreign court”….(July 2009)

Nick Clegg  – If he boards the plane to the U.S., it is almost certain he will never set foot on British soil again, doomed to pass out the rest of his days in shackles on a foreign shore. This is nothing short of a disgrace” ….(August 2009)

And we mustn’t forget Gary’s Mum, Janis Sharp.  Throughout all this she has remained dedicated to fighting for her son not to be extradited, in a dignified and determined manner.

As a Mum, I cannot imagine the pain she has endured and still is enduring.  All the promises, all the raised expectations, and what have they come to?  Janis is scared, and rightly so, that if Gary is extradited he would commit suicide.  How do you try and live a normal life with something like that hanging over you?

She is a courageous woman and I’m proud to be her friend on Twitter.

President Obama is currently here ~ it is the ideal opportunity to sort this matter out, once and for all.  Gary has served a prison term, he has undergone many years of mental torture now ~ he deserves to be a free man :-)

My little warrior hero

I just love being a grandma, fancy that!  A few years ago I would have said perish the thought, as it made me think of being old.  Well that is entirely wrong, because when you have a little one with you, you can get away with so many things!

My beautiful daughter, Kezia, gave birth to Finlay James on 23rd April 2007. For England the date is St George’s Day and he was born in the shire of Buckingham, however, as Britain is a wonderful melting pot of lots of ancient races, seems apt as he has English, Scottish & Irish in him :-)  Finlay means warrior hero, which is definitely appropriate!

I am so lucky as I get to look after Finlay one day a week and often see him at weekends.  He was four last month and is fascinated by animals, farming and seeing how far he can push the boundaries :-)  This weekend he was telling me that he wants to build a great big aeroplane to take all the different animals in to a new safe farm, where he can look after them and they wouldn’t be hurt at all.  He has a very caring & sharing nature ~ either that or he knows something we don’t, it does sound slightly familiar!

Last week, as we walked through town, he said that we shouldn’t step on the cracks!  Ha! Can you imagine skipping through town on your own doing that and just getting smiles from passers-by?  I think the men in white coats would be coming!

So here’s to our children and grandchildren, our future :-)  And flying kites and jumping in puddles!