Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Of Experts and Expertise

I frequently make the remark - "Of course you realise I am an expert in everything - the problem is I am the only one who thinks it".  I get a few laughs because it is taken in good heart, and I don't mean it.  The greatest problem is that the world is full of experts to the extent that the true meaning of the word is rapidly being lost.  On the other hand the world is very quickly running out of people with expertise as we become daily more reliant on technology and machinery to perform some basic tasks. Sadly gone are the days of being  able to standby and watch an expert carpenter, builder, blacksmith, signwriter and many other skillful people  creating masterpieces of crafstmanship and who can rightfully be called experts. What has really brought this diatribe on is my perception of the hordes of experts I come across on my jaunts to rugby internationals, and the so called expert disection of the game in the bars and conversation in the workplace days after the event. The same applies to the pundits who chop up  every move, tackle and referee decision in so many of our games of whatever shape or size the ball, or event is. The downhill skier and ski jumper is an example to my mind where a great deal of expertise, and personal madness is a prerequisite. Taking a further example - what about a fighter pilot hurtling through the valleys of Mid Wales. The Lake District and the Highlands of Scotland at almost ground level where split second decisions are taken in regular training to gain expertise and become experts.   To continue  on the same theme, consider the expertise of the Surgeons who carry out such intricate surgical work whilst we are out cold having signed away our lives in the knowledge that we will be treated by an expert. The armchair experts who rant and rage about the performance of individual players on the sportsfield have little or no perception of the hurt that can be inflicted on individuals.  No thought is spared for the consequences and impact on the individuals confidence.  Obviously when a team effort depends on the expertise of individuals, results and expectations can quite properly be discussed. Character assasination is surely another matter.  In Wales this weekend we will enjoy an international rugby match with two teams doing their absolute best to win.  The standard and expectation for a good home result is high.  The standard and experitise of both teams should be about equal.  Statistically the experts are mainly opposition. Whatever, some 77,000 baying experts will descend on Cardiff a mixture of home and visiting supporters.  There will be millions of armchair experts many of whom will never have had the sniff of a blade of grass let alone put on a rugby shirt.  To all aspiring experts I have a simple request - forget it until you can really claim to be one - forget the rants on Facebook - enjoy the game - recognise the winners whoever they may be.  AND Finally if you are a Welsh Supporter - LEARN TO SING THE WELSH NATIONAL ANTHEM IN THE LANGUAGE OF HEAVEN - YOU WILL LOOK SO PATHETIC MIMING OR PRETENDING TO KNOW IT WHEN YOU COME UP ON THE BIG SCREEN -

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Some more reflecting

I quite often have a review of current affairs and situations whilst musing alone. Most often when the weather is indifferent, and not much else to do other than read the paper, listen to the Radio , watch the news, and not infrequently have a shot at history.  At school history was a great bore as we were expected to learn most of it from handouts. Some of these were handme downs from previous failures such as me. The overall GCE success rate was not very high either amongst the more determined of us.  The modern history of the time was WW1 and WW2 and sadly did not merit much attention as that was something I could have contributed to in abundance. So - as today saw the 11th hour of the 11th day pass by once more it was right to pause and spare a few thoughts. The rain cascaded from the heavens most of the morning as if to jog me into thoughts of what it must have been like in those trenches in Flanders and elsewhere.  Shelter in such short supply and battles raging all around!.  I managed a hearty breakfast, and lunch, and all the while it poured down determined to remind me again of what it must have been like 100 years ago.  My thoughts spread to WW2 and the unbelievable atrocities committed in the concentration camps in Europe, and the Prisoner of war camps in the far east.  How man could inflict such awful carnage on man defies any worthy explanation.  In war we British have not exactly come out unblemished either. As if to make the morning fill up with more sad reflection there were images of recent British casualties on Facebook, and on radio a programme highlighting the effects of combat stress.  During the years of the operations in Afghanistan I was, (as were so many others) moved to tears at the sight of repatriation of fallen at Brize Norton. All the while I used to make infrequent visits to the MOD websites in which were recorded the casualty figures.  These were quite often several weeks old. The statistics painted an awful picture of what was taking place.  Somehow,  deliberately or otherwise these figures were never openly discussed.  Passing some time with a member of 3 Rifles who had been seriously wounded brought home at first hand what the young men of today's military have to prepare for and sadly endure.  To have one's  bowell shot out and live the rest of life with a colostomy bag does not bear thinking about. True, believe me!.  Isn't it strange how we can all get lulled in to the "it will never happen to me" feeling.  Talking through the experience with my new found friend stirred something which has made me a very appreciative individual.  Reading this one might conclude that it is time for the men in white coats to pay me a visit.  Not at all, I champion everyone of these countrymen of ours. Imagine then last Saturday on my pilgrimage to the International Rugby match travelling by train.  Leaving Pembroke at nine o clock the train journey should have been uneventful.  The timing was perfect, no delays along the way and arrived at Cardiff on schedule.  The journey was however marred by the boarding of passengers along the route.  The sight of so called Rugby Experts, exponents of the game, boarding the train at various stations en route  armed to the teeth with packs of favourite lager/beer, and consumed in haste, so as to be properly tanked up prior to arrival in Cardiff was extreme.  All this before what used to be normal opening hours for pubs.  Indeed by the time we arrived at Bridgend the croaking Calon Lan of Max Boyce fame was reduced to an unidentifiable chorus of foul language, and discordant effort at singing.  Land of song by damned!. The raucous arrival in Cardiff was added to by a further element of the tanked up 'boyos' who bellowed their way through the streets of Cardiff to further the refuelling process. And so it went on,  even in the stadium where there were Royal Guests, and lots of other eminent Welsh VIP's.  The bellowing, and booing during the taking of place kicks was surely not the way to behave. It was a good game of Rugby. My return journey from Cardiff as far as Carmarthen was if anything worse than my outward.  By now, fuelled by the distress of having been beaten by the Australians again, (only just), plus the after match refuelling, things were pretty dire.  Cursing, shouting, and urinating between carriages, some questionable 'romantic' performances. All this happening openly in the presence of ladies, and children. It was supposed to be a family day out also.  Please believe me it was not pleasant, and on top most of these fuelled idiots had the temerity to complain about the cost of the match ticket!! Heaven help. So, here I have a contrast of situations. Bravery, and Sadness on the one part filled with Gratefulness for Sacrifice and Determination, and on the other Disgust for what we have allowed ourselves as a nation to degenerate into. A society where we are now tolerant of unimaginable behaviour.  I am not straight laced but surely sometime sooner rather  than later we will have a jolt to bring back some common sense.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Pas-times

As a young lad I was encouraged to learn countryside skills such as hunting, fishing, nature, craft, and a host of other little things to amuse oneself.  Learning how to make a whistle from a piece of a Sycamore sapling, especially in springtime when the sap was running.  That required a penknife which most young boys, and men carried daily with never a hint or threat of stabbing any one other than using it to skin a rabbit,  or gut a fish. My first fishing rod was literally a twig with some fine line, gut, hook and a worm.  The success rate was very low at first but perseverance and learning the craft of knowing where a trout might be lying waiting for some morsel to pass by soon produced results. More often than not a tiddler, and occasionally something big enough to take home and show the specimen before it was cooked.  Whatever was caught and taken home was never wasted.  Similarly, rabbits were in abundance and caught by trapping or snaring. Boxing day being a particularly good day for a catch. Again the same principle applied - whatever was caught was for the pot.  Such was the respect one had and learnt for natures produce.  Much later in my life hunting became a bad word to such an extent that learning countryside craft skills no longer exist.  Rabbits have more or less been eradicated by the introduction of myxomatosis, an awful disease to see.  On the other hand several species which had been tolerated and dealt with as pests as they ravaged the chicken runs, have now become protected, and there is a possibility in my view that they could very well become once again 'pests'.  Certainly the Grey Squirrel is having a pretty bad press for its traits of killing birds, and sapling trees and attacking the Red Squirrel.  Recently there has been a furore about the decline of the wild salmon in our rivers.  That, despite the high cost of being actually allowed to try and catch one.  There was once upon a time when my Great Grandfather and his mates caught salmon by fair means and foul to feed hungry mouths and even taking to smoking salmon in the large chimney spaces which every cottage had. The rivers and streams which once abounded with trout have been contaminated with slurry run off and pesticides.  Some streams have dried out through 'global warming'.  So it is said. Having seen virtually all the little pleasurable countryside tricks of the trade eroded I now find that there is yet another skill under attack.  I mean sea fishing.  I have been a rather infrequent sea angler for many years and enjoyed the many hours by the incoming tides waiting more often not in vain for that monster from the deep.  The same principle applied of taking what one caught for the pot.  Alas that now seems to be something which will be consigned to the deep along with the stock of equipment accumulated over many years. The Times Headline  "Anglers face EU limit of one sea bass per day".  Going on my experience of seeking out the elusive big bass at the rate of one a day is impossible.  Firstly because they are not around to catch every day of the year; and secondly when they are 'in season' the stocks simply do not exist. Take notice that the threat of reducing the anglers catch to one a day comes not from our illustrious mandarins, but from that other place - Brussels - yet again.  The poor sea angler of our shores does not stand a chance against the hordes of vessels which creep inshore under cover of darkness with navigation systems shut down to evade detection.  So one a day is now virtually one a year.  With the bulk of fishing  vessels trawling our grounds coming from the continent and catches being landed there daily it is not surprising that stocks of fish have depleted to dangerous levels.  So! here we have it once more, our traditions, our crafts, our basic way of  life is being determined by the gravy train in Brussels.  No wonder then that our yougsters prefer the xbox to a good walk and nature lesson in the country side and sea shore. UKIP?. Sorry I'm still a Tory.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

SOME MORE REFLECTIONS

Over the last  couple of months having enjoyed the Great British Summer mostly lounging around the Pembrokeshire  County watching the world go by time has finally caught up and it is probably  good to sit back and put some thoughts together.  today for example I would normally have been the Church Organist in the Priory Church in Pembroke at 9.15am and then Organist in United Reform Church in Pembroke at 11am.  This of course leads to a double recipe of thoughts for the day from not totally opposing angles.   Sufficient to say that we sing from the same hymn sheets, we read; learn; digest  appropriate extracts from the Bible and those in attendance go away feeling a little more at ease within than when they arrived.  This is of course entirely personal to the individual and I would be the last to go thumping the Great Book to anyone, as I have fallen by the wayside so many times, to try and impress what a good boy I have been or even am would be absolutely hypocritical. Nonsense. None of us can.  However there have been some real up and down goings on within the community and the country since I last had a moan.  Scotland, by a majority decided that staying together was a better political place to be, than going it alone and having to fend for themselves in an unexplored jungle. A canny race the Scots, they know which side the bread is buttered. Nevertheless ever since the decision was declared there has been discord in the ranks and the political scene is, if you don't mind me saying, a bloody shambles.  Everything in the garden isn't so rosy in Wales either.  The mix up in Scotland has seen a surge in the rethinking of the National position amongst the Politicians with a renewal of the, can I say with tongue in cheek, a feeling that Home Rule could yet be round the corner.  There is the confusion in the Welsh Assembly over more devolution, poor education, poor health service, etc; etc.  Oh! and what about the state of the Local Authority in Pembrokeshire with slush funds being found to enable a quick exit by officials.  The situation is not much better in the adjoining County as well. Friends, there is worse to come, because the Welsh Assembly Government now wants to reduce the number of Local Authorities.  War is about to break out on that front because so many high paid officials and councillors will lose out!.  Now if we are expected to believe that there is going to be a root and branch sort out, we must believe that snowballs can survive in hell.  Moving to the centre of events in Westminster it seems to me that the population of this country of ours is totally confused as to where we are going to go.  I am a Tory.  At the moment I don't know why.  I cannot get my head around the notion that we can be governed by 'Career Politicians'.  They may very well have been to the Grand Universities of the land and have studied Confucius, Plato, Marx, and hundreds of others of grand ideas but they certainly have not been to the 'University of Life". Jones the Butcher in Newtown taught me that one!.  Judging by the way some of the grandest have frittered away our money; behaved themselves personally; and politically and ending in jail does not give me any confidence that we have the best process.  Moving to Europe where the biggest gravy train ever continues to roll along. Each day spilling fortunes into the pockets of the hordes administering the European Union whilst the most energetic part of the day is taken with sleeping and dining.  All this has been going on, whilst at the same time Europe and the Middle East is in chaos, our withdrawal from Afghanistan (Praise the Lord for that) is underway with mission incomplete (I am trying to be kind), but very very pleased that we are doing so. Well dear reader, you are probably thinking what the hell has brought this on.  I will tell you.  I passed many sporting grounds this morning on my way to Hospital.  No Priory or Tabernacle today for me.  The sports grounds were almost to capacity with children and parents goading the little ones into sporting combat.  The Priory, Tabernacle, and the other places of religion, could I say on reflection, were almost empty I can guaranteed.  Genesis, Exodus, Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John did not receive much of a hearing today. So what was good about today?  The National Health Service in Wales is not dying it is not in free fall.  It is working flat out.  A clinic arranged on a Sunday with truly professional caring staff and expert Doctors to take care of ME! and treat me to screen me and many others to prevent us from having bowel cancer.  They will be doing the same tomorrow and the dayafter.  It didn't hurt, it didn't cost me a penny.  I am so grateful to them all for their time and skill!