17 April 2011

Good morning to you all and hopefully your day and week will be gloriously delightful. We’ve had a week which has been just marginally on the right side of tolerable, I suppose. It’s been colder, greyer and breezier than last week with the wind from the northeast rather than from the Saharan sands of last week. Having said that, yesterday was very pleasant and today looks like it could similarly be grand. I feel another Sunday bike ride coming.

Unfortunately from the gardeners’ perspective, the April showers have yet to materialise.  Ms Playchute planted my broad beans and a couple of other things in the raised beds this week and now needs some precipitation to help them all get started. Wouldn’t it be handy if it rained at night and was gloriously sunny during the day?

Exciting news this week – we were walking on Thursday around the Edgecote estate and were dive-bombed by two swallows recently returned from their migration to South Africa and back. They’ve not yet made an appearance over Byfield as far as we have noticed (after all, it is about three miles further north) but we’re expecting to see the “scouts” any day now. It will be lovely to have them back.

Those of you who foolishly check the Weakly News more than once a week will have discovered that we made an additional posting on Friday – Beryl’s Paintings. Most of you will know from our Christmas news that Pen’s mum Beryl has recently taken up oil painting. Several friends and relatives have asked to see some examples so we’ve posted photos of half a dozen of them here. I think she’s done really well and I particularly like the light on the trees in the second to last one on the page. Your comments welcome!

I guess most of you outside the UK won’t have heard much about the News of the World telephone hacking case. The News of the World is owned by Rupert Murdoch and his News International Corporation and last week they finally admitted and accepted liability for carrying out the illegal interception of voice mails from what could turn out to be hundreds of politicians, celebrities, sports personalities and the royal family.

This all started five years ago when a News of the World reporter and a private investigator were convicted of illegally intercepting telephone messages between Prince William and his various aides. It turns out that the newspaper published a story about a knee injury he had sustained, the news of which had not been released by the Palace. Curious as to how the News of the World had discovered the news, investigations revealed that the paper’s Royal Editor, Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator had illegally intercepted voice messages between the prince and his aides. The two were jailed for a few months and that was the end of the story. The News of the World carried out an “exhaustive” investigation and announced that the whole sorry episode was the responsibility of two “rogue” reporters. No one at the News of the World or News International knew anything about it and, of course, no one of any significance was in any way responsible; it was just these two tapping into Prince William’s aide’s phone and that was the end of it.

Why do people seem to learn nothing from the past? As with Nixon and Watergate, it’s the attempted cover-up which brings you down.

Soon after the initial case, allegations began to seep out concerning others whose phones were allegedly tapped. At least two non-royal individuals who complained to the News of the World that their phones had been hacked quietly received substantial settlements (£700,000 in one case and £1m in the other along with, naturally, a gagging clause) yet still the newspaper was saying it was only these two rotten apples. Gradually, more and more cases emerged and it now seems that as many as 3000 public figures may have had their voice mail hacked.

One of the more interesting aspects of the case from a conspiracy theorist’s perspective is the way in which the Metropolitan Police carried out its own “exhaustive” investigation and, surprisingly given what’s coming out now, came to the same conclusion as the News of the World – this was all the work of a rogue reporter and a private investigator acting completely on their own without the knowledge or approval of those higher up the food chain at News International. John Yates, the acting deputy commissioner at the Met who was directed to “establish the facts” of the case insisted that there were only a handful of illegal interceptions and announced that there would be no new investigation. It now seems that Yates, in “establishing the facts”, merely asked the News of the World whether there was anything further to investigate. When he was told by News International that there was not he took their word for it.

And yet still, the allegations continued and evidence of substantially more illegal interceptions began to leak out. Late last year the New York Times published a story alleging that telephone hacking was rife at the News of the World. Finally, in January of this year, amid continuing pressure, the Met announced a new investigation headed up by an independent barrister and this seems to have opened up the floodgates resulting in News International’s begrudging apology and admission of liability.

Now, surprisingly, they are very keen to settle the claims rather than fight them in court which leads one to the obvious conclusion that they are anxious not to have any more unsettling information come out, particularly information concerning who knew what & when. Their claim that it was two rogue individuals no longer holds water and there are those who suspect it went right to the top. We’ll see.

So, what lesson can we learn from all this? When you are in a deep hole of your own making which seems to be getting deeper and deeper, the best thing to do is to stop digging!

As we were discussing Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day last week, I ran across a short piece in Private Eye which was amusing:

“Make Mum feel special this Mother’s Day with Special Delivery for guaranteed* next day delivery (* or your money back).”

That was the postmark message on thousands of envelopes put out by Royal Mail, which is desperate to cash in on commercial celebrations and encourage customers to use its services.

Alas, since Royal Mail doesn’t deliver on Sundays, and given that every Mothering Sunday so far has fallen on, well, a Sunday, this inept marketing seems like the perfect way for disgruntled customers to get their money back for once.

Finally, before we forget, we’d better send our very best anniversary wishes to our very favourite married couple. Joyeux Anniversaire!

Love to you all,

Greg

I’ve been playing with a new “plug-in” for this site, the first results of which are below. We took our usual afternoon walk around the Edgecote estate yesterday, the sun was shining and I took the following photos.

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The Wedding Carriage at Edgecote

Spring Lambs at Chipping Warden

Freshly planted flax fields at Edgecote

Those pesky moles!

Edgecote - The Route of the High Speed Railway

Molly in the river

 

Finally, finally, finally – I was looking for a way to “remind” our readers that a new edition of the Weakly News had hit the newstands. After looking at a few plug-ins which did part or some of the job, I asked one of my handful of technical advisers (i.e., Adam in China) to produce something, which he did – the automated message you get in your e-mail (when I remember to send it) is the result of his handiwork. If you would sooner not receive that occasional reminder let me know and I will gladly remove your e-mail address from the mailing list.