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19th September 2013

My local police have sent out some information about doorstep crime and bogus callers.  I am sharing it with you so you stay safe.

Bogus callers also known as distraction burglars trick their way into people’s homes to steal money and valuables while the householder’s attention is elsewhere.  Most callers are genuine and mean you no harm but bogus callers can often seem very plausible and will try to fool you.

Follow this advice and keep yourself safe and secure at your door.

  • Close and lock the back door and any accessible windows before you go to the front door.
  • Bogus callers often work in pairs. One of them will try to keep you talking at the front door while the other tries to get in through the back door or a window.
  • Look through your spy hole or window.
  • Try to check who a caller is before opening the door.
  • Don’t let any caller pressure you into making a quick decision – if you are unsure‚ do not open the door.
  • Before you answer the door, put your door chain on and keep it on while you check the callers’ identity.
  • If you want to check with their company, keep the door chain on‚ tell the caller you are going to call their company and close the door.
  • A genuine caller will not object to you leaving them on the doorstep and closing the door while you confirm their identity‚ even if it is raining.

If the caller says they represent an electricity‚ gas or water company or another organisation such as the council or a charity, follow the checklist below to check that a caller is who they say they are.

  • Ask for the password
  • If you have set one up with the company, use it.
  • Does the caller have an identification card?
  • If the caller does not have an identification card‚ ask the caller to go away and close the door. If the caller persists‚ dial 999 and ask for the police.
  • If the caller does have an identification card, ask to see it:
  • Examine the card to see if it looks genuine.
  • Check the expiry date – is it still valid?
  • Does the photograph on the card match the person at the door?
  • Check the photograph is the original – has anything been stuck over it?
  • If you want to call their company, do not use the telephone number on the caller’s identification card – if the identification card is not genuine then the telephone number on the card will not be genuine either.
  • Find the telephone number in your phone book, on a bill or call directory enquiries.
  • Ask the company to confirm they have sent someone out to you. They will ask you for information about the identification card, what the caller looks like and may also ask for the date of birth or password of the caller.
  • If you need to get more information from the caller, leave the door chain on at all times.
  • If the company does not know the caller, dial 999 and ask for the Police.

Report any suspicious doorstep callers to the Police immediately Tel 999 noting description(s), accent, how the caller is dressed.  If you notice any vehicle(s) report the vehicle registration number and/or make, model, colour

Stay safe

18th September 2013

I really must do this more often.

Excellent week at Lib Dem Conference

Two speeches – one on taxation and the other on the NHS.

26th June 2013

Where have I been for the last six months – the time has just flown by – so much has happened but at the end of the day we all find ourselves in the same financial mess – now I wonder how that happened?

All we have to show for the previous 13 years of Labour in power.

16th January 2013

It is -80c outside the hospital as I arrive.  I am rushing to get inside from the warmth of my car to the warmth of the hospital as fast as I can without slipping on the icy footpath.  As I travel the 100 yards or thereabouts I pass the hospital’s “smoking station”. A place set up because since 1st of July 2007 it has been illegal to smoke in public places.  Since then we have seen the growth in “smoking stations”.  As I pass this one there in the dark at -80c is a nurse; no coat, no jumper or cardigan; smoking.  If ever there was an image of how addictive nicotine is that has to be it.  She is on what is probably her only 20 minutes break during her shift and she has gone out into the freezing cold night to get her fix of her chosen drug.

Now I know the smokers amongst you and even some non-smokers will be saying “sanctimonious old git” because I am a non-smoker – well actually an ex-60 a day smoker, though in fairness I probably gave away ten or so a day to patients.  I could get through six plus on the drive to work in London and another six on the way home.  But it is not the fact people smoke that concerns me, hey it is a free world and if you want to fill your body with chemicals that can and do kill go ahead.  No the thing that bothers me is that nicotine is so addictive that people will go to any length to get their fix and once hooked struggle desperately to stop.  I know from when I smoked that at 3.00 a.m. when I was out of cigarettes and woke up wanting one I would drive to a vending machine and buy a packet.

I remember being told once that pure nicotine crystals if ingested would kill you.  With this and all the other risks why do so many, especially the young more start each day and become addicted.  Furthermore how can we stop them from starting?  Perhaps you may say should we stop them?  It can be argued that once hooked nicotine will drive the user to their next fix more readily than any other drug.  It has been argued that as the most addictive substance in the world; nicotine has a 96.5% addiction likelihood; it should be banned.  Studies show while alcohol, caffeine, and cannabis are the most commonly used drugs, it is nicotine that has the highest rate of reinforcement (continued use) and dependence (difficulty with cessation).   The top five “addictive” drugs are nicotine, crack, Methamphetamine (smoked), Crystal Methamphetamine (injected) and Heroin.  But nicotine is the only “drug” in this group that can be legally purchased and this is what makes it dangerous.  Equally of the five four are or can be smoked.  Smoking gives the user of any drug the fastest hit of their substance of choice – about 8 seconds.

The government tries to get us to stop.  It pushes up the price – well that never stopped me.  They run adverts on the television – we ignore them like many adverts because we are in the kitchen making a cuppa. They force manufacturers to hide the brand – when I smoked a cigarette was a cigarette Sovereign and Players No 10 it did not matter so long as it was a cigarette.  They raise the age you can buy them – I started aged 11 behind the Health Authority buildings with Dave Agar (sadly he is no longer with us).  None of that worked.  My father even showed me cancerous lungs – in one eye and out the other.  What got me to stop – being offered a choice, the cigarette or the mortgage.  The mortgage won.  So what choices can we offer people?  And what can we replace nicotine with?

They say sex is a great if not the greatest driver of humans, particularly men.  Though having watched both modern and not so modern women it appears to drive them just as much.  Just say George Clooney, Nicholas Cage or try Luke Benward and Justin Bieber for the younger ones and look into their eyes, the signs are the same as if you say Ursula Andress, Samantha Bond, Drew Barrymore, Avril Lavigne or Lindsey Lohan to a man.  But what if you add a cigarette to the picture which has now developed in your mind’s eye.  The picture to the right shows a young lady who most men would see as attractive, everything is as it should be.  But then look again and think if she were standing before you right now looking into your eyes what would you see?  Her long blonde hair flowing over her shoulders or the curves of her body accentuated by her limited clothing or would all that be lost by the smell of her ashtray breath as she exhales and says “Hello darling”.

Over the years, since I gave up smoking, I have come to see the cigarette as a barrier.  When I smoked it was a bridge, “have you got a fag mate” it opened up a conversation – unless you were in New York where asking for 20 fags got you some very strange looks in the 1980s, perhaps not today anyway – and allowed you to develop friendships or get over a problem, share information, even gain the attention of a patient, the list was almost endless.  But now things have changed and the cigarette and all its associated smells and sights puts a cloud between you and beautiful things.  Yet people continue to smoke and new smokers join the band daily.

Should we be making it even harder for the smoker to get their fix or should we be treating them as some-one who is an addict and providing them with treatment?  It is a question that will run on for many years to come.  However, to the beautiful people out there putting that cigarette to your lips; in my eyes; it moves you from a beautiful person to person; your beauty is lost to me in a cloud of smoke.

It is still -80c outside and I am willing to bet some-one is stood at the smoking station outside the hospital without a coat or jumper or cardigan but with a cigarette to their lips.

14th January 2013

As I was tootling along the Lincolnshire lanes today watching the snow flakes fall like little stars between the leafless trees my mind wandered to the 20 children and six adults who were needlessly killed in Sandy Hook, Newtown, Connecticut just before Christmas.  I thought how those little children would never see such beautiful sights again.  Never get to feel the softness of the snowflake on their nose or the tingle of flakes as they settle on their hair.  Then Wayne LePierre’s words crossed my mind about how it was the fault of video games makers, the media, the film industry just about anyone except the person carrying the gun that they died.  He demands the right to bear arms, says it is his Constitution right – a Constitution that is only a couple of centuries old and was drawn up in the time of violence and civil war – to bear arms.  One has to ask the question would LePierre have said the same things if one of the 20 children at Sandy Hook had been his grandchild or one of the teachers his daughter or his wife.  I guess not because his views are driven by an ideology that is stuck in the America of the Wild West that saw the Constitution as the only way to build a society.  In a time when politicians lacked the insight to realise that by allowing people to carry a weapon of mass destruction it would in reality destroy their original desire that of their right to protect themselves.

If LePierre’s argument of “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” worked then gun crime would have died out in America years ago when they armed their police officers and when they put armed guards on the banks, airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses and sports stadiums he listed with great gusto.  But it has not.  The death rate continues and does not appear to be stopping any time soon.

No the way to stop gun crime is to remove the weapons from the streets.  For the United States of America that does mean a major culture change.  LePierre went on to say quote They’re our kids. They’re our responsibility. And it’s not just our duty to protect them — it’s our right to protect them. You know, five years ago, after the Virginia Tech tragedy, when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy. But what if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security?” unquote.  But surely the first thing Lanza would have done on arrival at Sandy Hook School would be to shoot the security guard and then gone on his killing spree.  No the answer is to remove the right to bear arms and ensure that anyone who illegally carries a weapon knows that they spend a very long time reflecting on their actions behind bars.

Let us be realistic if we are a civilised society; and we claim in UK and USA to be civilised societies; then the answer to a grievance is as Churchill in the White House in 1954 is reported to have said “jaw jaw is better than war war”.  We will never know what actually drove Lanza to do what he did.  Furthermore there will be others who for whatever reasons believe the answer to their problem is go out and make a dramatic statement.  What we as a society have to do is help them make their statement in a way that does not physically hurt others.  Banksy made and continues to do so dramatic statements and whilst some may argue that they financially hurt some people they do not physically hurt them.  The outcome of his actions has made him world renown and raised the profile of many causes.  But more importantly if before you read this blog I had asked you two questions:

1 – who is the satirical street artist using subversive epigrams to get his message across and

2 – who entered a school in a Connecticut and shot teachers and pupils

would you have been able to name Adam Lanza as the answer to the second question.  I doubt it.  However, most of you would have guess Banksy as the answer to question one.

So it befalls to all of us and that includes Wayne LePierre and the NRA to put down our guns and teach our children the right way to address the pressures in life.  We must train them how to talk through a painful problem, a distressing thought or a moment of anger.  We also have to educate them to learn the difference between reality and fantasy.  How the latter can be fun but has to be controlled and limited to consenting adults and how the former has consequences that can cause you and others life long pain.

So LePierre and Co at the NRA are you willing to risk that the next school killing in your county;  and sadly I am sure there will be one;  may include your child or grandchild?  Or would you rather show you are man enough to recognize that the world has moved on from the days of Wyatt Earp and give up your right to bear arms.

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