Thursday, January 31, 2019

Surprise, surprise. Our prisons are packed

 Some news makes you wonder – certainly makes me wonder. Prisoners are unhappy and causing trouble. That’s news apparently.
News can be about next door’s Winnie winning £10,000 on a lottery, or the mayor getting arrested or murdered or re-elected. But telling us that prisoners stuffed into packed jails are more violent this year can hardly be news, surely no more than it might be in the least surprising.
Today, we learn that there were nearly 34,000 attacks by prisoners last year, up 20% on the previous year. Can that be much of a surprise let alone news?
Wikipedia reports that total UK prison population last year was 83,618, which is .13% of the population.

The bias of justice

In 2018, 79,749 men and 3,869 women were locked away.
Among that vast population were 8,500 former servicemen – an extraordinary 10% of the prison population.
What that says about the British military, or the bias of justice, might be worth investigating.
 But look at prisons, justice, and so many strange statistics arise. For instance, between 2002 and 2013, 130% people aged 60 or more went to jail.
When I was remanded in 1999, the prison population numbered around 65,000. When friends collected me in 2007, the population stood at around 85,000.
Does today’s ‘news’ mean that an ever-increasing percentage of the population is turning to crime?
 Take this astonishing statistic ….Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventuring book, Sailing to Purgatory, at

A polite letter that may well topple a tyrant

Every so often you see something on the net that you feel really ought to be passed on. Let me share this little gem from a columnist better known for firing salvos in a South African direction.
Alec Hogg runs a newsy site called BizNews and today his aim is towards South America and the ghastly nightmare Venezuelans suffer.
A language student from that unhappy country who I help has been telling me of the appalling life that his relations endure.
It has been doubly interesting – and sad – to hear because I have sailed in and out of the country back in happier times when Venezuela was wealthy and its people happy, quite exciting people.
Of course, since then along came Nicola Maduro and every aspect of Venezuelan life changed.


We hear in the news of the US, er, president’s bellowing about Venezuela, but then we know of his, er, empathy for struggling refugees.
Countries are ganging up on Maduro and his regime.
However, of all the bellicose pronouncements from around the world that we read about, the Brits acting as subtly as the government isn’t over Brexit, really might have the political thug by the short and curlies ...
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventuring book, Sailing to Purgatory, at

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Drugs struggles to get back in the headlines

When our glorious government leaders decided how dangerous booze was for we humans, we saw the era of Prohibition.
What did Prohibition prove? It proved just how inventive humans can be when they are denied a pleasure, both those denied the seeming pleasure and those keen to make a fortune from the new demand.
Wikipedia puts it this way, 'After several years, prohibition failed in North America and elsewhere.
'Rum-running or bootlegging became widespread, and organised crime took control of the distribution of alcohol.

Prohibition dodgers

'Distilleries and breweries in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean flourished as their products were either consumed by visiting Americans or illegally exported to the United States.'
'Chicago became notorious as a haven for Prohibition dodgers during the time known as the Roaring Twenties. Prohibition generally came to an end in the late 1920s or early 1930s in most of North America and Europe ...'
Prohibition ended and adults returned to the places where drinks are served. In spite of the grim warnings, society did not break down and marriage still remained popular.
Perhaps Prohibition only ever worked for politicians wanting control over society, and law enforcement.
Of course, there can be no denying that government has only to deny something humans want, and if law-abiding companies can't provide it, illegal organisations certainly will ... and very lucratively.
The appalling Tricky Dicky realised that only too well and was quick to introduce the idea of drugs as the new forbidden fruit for control. ….
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventuring book, Sailing to Purgatory, at

Two elders taking on the world

 Who's dominating the news and the sea out there, way out there? A couple of oldies - oops, Senior Citizens - that’s who, sailing alone (on individual yachts, that is) around the world.
You may have stood up to let some 70-year-old have a seat on public transport today, but out in the wide open spaces, or the biggest, widest open space, the oceans, Jeanne Socrates, 76, is encouraging her yacht towards the ocean off South Africa. 

Sailing star

And much closer to Europe, 73-year French sailing star, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, is battling a heavy Bay of Biscay gale as he closes the coast near the end of that strange old-fashioned ocean race, the Golden Globe.
 Jean-Luc - a many-times circumnavigator - has sailed round the world in the race and is very close to the finish line.
Jeanne’s race is only against chance, Lady Luck, as she endeavours to win the twin awards of oldest woman to sail solo nonstop unassisted around the world and the first of her gender to sail solo nonstop unassisted around the world from North America.
 Jean-Luc is almost home, give or take the severe conditions at sea at the moment, and Jeanne has a long, long way still to go if she is to achieve her goal.