Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A Black Day - 16 Dec 2014 - #PeshawarAttack

Left feeling absolutely saddened, shocked and angry at the attack by the Pakistan Taliban on a school in Peshawar.

They killed 141 people, 132 of them children.

What the Pakistan Taliban did :
15 yr old Shahrukh Khan, 15 was shot in the legs and told Reuters "One of my teachers was crying, she was shot in the hand and she was crying in pain...One terrorist then walked up to her and started shooting her until she stopped making any sound. All around me my friends were lying injured and dead."

The same article describes how, at a local hospital "One distraught family member was given a wrong body because the faces of many children were badly burned as a result of the suicide bomb explosions."

Another article quotes Irshadah Bibi, whose 12-year-old son was among the dead saying "What is the sin of my child and all these children?”

How the Pakistan Taliban justified the attack:
They told BBC Urdu "that the school, which is run by the army, had been targeted in response to military operations."

They told The Daily Beast "The parents of the army school are army soldiers and they are behind the massive killing of our kids and indiscriminate bombing in North and South Waziristan...To hurt them at their safe haven and homes—such an attack is perfect revenge.”

According to the Guardian, a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) "claimed the attackers were under orders to kill only boys beyond the age of puberty."

How can Muslims kill other Muslims - and what can be done to stop this madness.
BFTF suspects that the murderers who killed the children in Peshawar rationalised their actions by firstly, believing that those who leave Islam can be killed and secondly, that the children and staff in that school had indeed left Islam. More on this in a different post, but worth mentioning the words of Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain ,who has previously said:

“The position of many a scholar I have discussed the issue with is if people want to leave, they can leave...I don’t believe they should be discriminated against or harmed in any way whatsoever. There is no compulsion in religion.”

But what does BFTF know? So have asked the MCB, MAB, MINAB and four local mosques some questions, shown below, together with responses.

Q1:Can you please help me understand how these murderers, operating under the banner of Islam, managed to rationalise the killing of schoolchildren as a praiseworthy act?

Imam1:"The Taliban follow the same ideology of Mohammad ibn Abdul Wahhab Najdi who was passed around 250 years ago in the area known today as Saudi Arabia...His perverted ideas are now the beliefs of the Wahabis, Salafis and Taliban.... The current followers have taken his ideas to an even worse interpretation that they regard everyone as a kafir unless they follow the Salafi wahabi ideology ...The is no logic behind the killings, just to create destabilisation in Pakistan. These killers are actually kidnapped children who have been raised in confined placed for years and been brain washed without contact to the outside world that they will go to paradise if they kill certain people."

Imam2: "A new low in terrorism, extremism and violence in Pakistan, a heinous crime, cowardly act and most shameful operation by the Taleban. The Taleban have been emboldened, encouraged supported in the past by two major players: [Firstly] The Pakistani military that has been playing a double game for the last 13 years, one day supporting Taleban next day supporting the American and being a real bigot, they now have tasted the consequence of their evil policy. [Secondly] The religious and political groups like Tablighi Jamaat(Fazlur Rahman party) and Imran Kan who have secretly and covertly supported Taleban should also repent for their sins."

MAB: "...we know of no justification whatsoever that can be Made to rationalize the killing of schoolchildren."

Q2:What role can leaders in the UK's Muslim community practically do to counter the mindset that these murderers had?

Imam1: "We need to totally eradicate the Wahabi ideology which is feeding the support for these killers. But our Sunni leaders themselves have no understanding of this and don't have an alternative to give the public which is why most university going students are ending up as Salafis. Our leaders are still halva eaters who are fighting Pir wars to get more followers to fund their projects in the UK and Pakistan. There has to be a middle ground but such people get maligned by both groups as being agents of the other. Our Masajid need to become beacons of knowledge and training with action not just words."

Imam2: "The best way to tackle this kind of most evil and vicious violence is to regard it as a crime, it has no basis in religion, the Taleban are not fighting for Islam, these are evil tribal warlords, misguided young people being exploited by ruthless and naive regimes. Including USA, India and Pakistan. Let us not bring Islam into this equation, it is a war for hegemony of Pakistani economy and politics."

MAB: "...There is a uniformed approach in extremist thinking, which concludes that physical annihilation of the enemy or the infliction of damage to lives and property are the only reasonable methods of dealing with the problems Muslims face. Ironically, those are the some of ideas held by some Western powers as well i.e. violence, killing, annihilation and destruction of the enemy puts the problem of extremism at bay. It does not. As we have seen it has created more terror around the world."

Therefore, we believe Muslim leaders must speak out against all forms of extremism. It is never okay to excuse Western countries for their use of force against innocent people or those with differing ideologies. We at MAB have consistently condemned unfair policies and we campaigned hard to prevent the Iraqi war; we have continually condemned the ideologies of ISIS and mostly importantly, we have worked closely with young people ngaging them in activities and events where there is much discussion about the ideas and concepts of Islam."

iii) What can ordinary Muslims do to practically do to counter the mindset that these murderers had?

Imam1: "They need to reject Wahabism and stop supporting its projects.So many Sunni children are going to Wahabi schools and returning as Wahabis. Actually the Wahabi movement has reached critical mass and it cannot be turned back."

MAB: "Muslims must..continue to prove that they occupy the higher moral ground. Discussions of these issues with others should seek to avoid the them and us paradigm. A Muslim should keep him or herself well informed in order to be responsive to the challenges that face our community. At MAB, we encourage Muslims to work together and be active in offering help to good causes, joining campaigns and donating wherever possible in a spirit of humanity and for the common good. Extremism ideology relies on segregation, on marginalization and reinforcing the negative binary vision of them and us.... we must demonstrate that the way we have chosen works. This is not an overnight solution its a generational project.."

Update Jan2015
A very relevant research document is the "Education under Attack 2014" report compiled by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). The report looks at worldwide instances of attacks on students, teachers or educational establishments in the years 2009 - 2013.

Amongst much else the report has the following to say about who is doing the attacking, stating that:

"..certain types of attacks are more likely to be carried out by government or government-backed forces, such as arrests, imprisonment, torture and attacks on higher education These government-instigated attacks are typically linked to motives such as restricting trade union activity, quelling dissent and controlling information, or marginalizing a particular ethnic or political group.

Other types of attack... are more likely to be carried out by [pro or anti-government] armed groups, such as abduction of students and teachers and attacks on government schools. They are often linked to motives that may include spreading fear among civilians. When perpetrated by anti-government groups the motives may include undermining government control over an area or community, preventing the education of certain groups such as girls, or reacting against perceived bias in curricula and teaching that may reflect wider social, religious or ethnic discrimination or conflict."

The report also discusses military use of schools, stating that :

"Education buildings were used as barracks to house soldiers/fighters, bases to mount security operations, fighting positions, prisons or detention centres... Schools were also used to indoctrinate, recruit and train students. The forces using the schools included armed groups, paramilitaries, armed forces, police forces and international forces – the UN recorded five incidents of school occupation by international military forces in Afghanistan in 2010, for instance."

5 countries were found to have had 1,000 or more attacks on schools, universities, students, teachers or had schools used for military purposes: Afghanistan, Colombia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

"In Afghanistan, according to the UN, there were 1,110 or more attacks on school-level education, including arson attacks, explosions and suicide bombings. Staff were threatened, killed and kidnapped."

"In Colombia, one of the most dangerous places to be a teacher, 140 teachers were killed over these four years and 1,086 received death threats.."

"In Pakistan, armed groups, particularly the Pakistani Taliban, attacked at least 838 schools, mostly by blowing up school buildings, and deprived hundreds of thousands of children of access to education, according to primary research by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan...In the vast majority of cases, school buildings were blown up at night using explosives detonated remotely or by timers"

A further 25 countries were found to have had 5 or more incidents or victims including at least one direct attack on a school or the killing of at least one teacher, student or academic:
Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, South Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

Another 40 countries (including the UK) had isolated incidents.

Update Jan2015
As a reminder that cold-blooded killings are,sadly, nothing new, this article about the children of Argentinas "disappeared" appeared in the Guardian recently. The article tells the story of Jorgelina Molina Planas, whose father was shot dead in the Capilla del Rosario massacre and her mother disappeared in 1977. Some 30,000 people were disappeared by the military dictatorship that ran the country from 1976 to 1983.

Jorgelina is one of some 500 children-of-the-disappeared kidnapped by the government. Most of the children were given to military families. Since 1977, an organisation called Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo has been searching for the children stolen and illegally adopted during Argentina’s so-called dirty war, so they can be reunited with their surviving biological families.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Talk : Muslims in Britain

Interesting Cafe Sci talk recently by Dilwar Hussein (see also his very interesting blog here). Dilwar's recent work includes a major report on Muslims in Leicester for the Open Society Institute; he was Specialist Advisor to the House of Commons Inquiry on Prevent (2010); involved in the Cambridge-Azhar Imams Training Project; and on the steering group of the Contextualising Islam in Britain Project.

Dilwar began by describing how Muslims were constantly having to defend themselves, with non-Muslims naturally wondering whether it was their Muslim work colleague or ISIS that best represented what Islam stood for.

Dilwar added that he felt it was always best to confront these issues rather than brushing them under the carpet and that Muslims had perhaps been more vocal in what they were AGAINST rather than what they were FOR.

Muslim Scouts getting ready for litter picking

A summary of the history of Muslims in the UK followed, which mentioned the following points:

Mention of Muslims in Canterbury Tales
Treaties with Muslims during reign of Elizabeth 1
Chair of Arabic, Oxford University, 1636
Translations of the Quran (Ross, 1649,Sale, 1734)
First Mosque, 1860
Post WW1, WW2 immigration

Dilwar then described how, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Muslims around the world looked at their relative weakness and asked themselves "How did we get here?". The various answers to this question, together with responses to the challenge of modernity were the drivers to the main Islamic movements of recent decades.

Colonisation fed into anti-western feelings.
Loss of the Caliphate fed into distrust of nation states.
Modernity and Secular Government fed into anti liberal and anti-secular feelings.
Euro Election Hustings in Nottingham, organised by Muslims

Islamic thought took many forms:
Renewal / Reform movements (Liberal, Secular -e.g. Araturk)
Revival Movements (Sufi, Salafi, Islamism, Jihadism)

Dilwar mentioned the example of Muhammad Abduh, who famously said that:

"I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam"

This was in reference to that fact that, in Europe, countries had developed ways of transferring power without rivals assassinating each other, and had many of the social institutions and principles of Islam, whilst these were lacking in Egypt.

Dilwar also commented on how religion is always interpreted via local cultures, which affects how Muslim society around the world address issues such as identity, integration, realtionships with neighbours, human rights, gender equality, liberal values, discrimination etc.

Good to see a significant Muslim presence at Notts community organising events

Dilwar commented that, in his view, the only was of governing countries with multi faith communities was via some kind of secular state, so that the public space was available to all.

And also on some of the challenges that the Muslim community faces:
Dislocation resulting from rural migration,
Weak scholarship,
Alienation from the religious establishment,
Reduced religious literacy.

There was also comment on how countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia were vying to "own" minority Muslim communities in the West, not least because they are likely to have some significance in the future as they become established in their new countries. Related to this is the fact that Muslim minority communities in the UK are very aware of, and ffected by, global politics.

Dilwar has been part of a team that has looked at some of the above issues in a report entitled "Contextualising Islam in Britain"

More positively, Dilwar described how, in Islams "Golden Age", scholars devoured knowledge from wherever they could find it, translating everything into Arabic for the great libraries of Syria and Iraq.

Dilwar added that, today, Muslims are disproportionately generous in their charitable donations and that many Muslims around the country give up their time for community projects, one example being Dilwar himself who helps at a Foodbank.

Foodparcels ready for delivery at a Nottingham, Muslim run, foodbank

In the Q&A session, BFTF pointed out that he had been in a meeting of Muslims the previous day where, of the few people that BFTF knew, one was involved in a Scout group; another ran a Mum and Tots group (that had held MacMillan fundraisers); and a third person worked to provide support for the disadvantaged in society! Another person in the audience added to this by stating that Muslim grocery stores had been very quietly, but very consistently, giving fresh produce to a major local foodbank.

The "Deen Riders" raise money for a variety of charities

Related Links
Positive Muslim Stories
Stuff what the Imam said
Lots of suggestions on how mosques can interact with society

Friday, 7 November 2014

Talk : A Defence of the Monte Carlo Simulation

Interesting Cafe Sci talk recently by Dr Nira Chamberlain on the "Monte Carlo" Simulation and how, in Dr Chamberlains view, it had been unfairly blamed for the 2008 financial crisis. This post is based on the talk, with a little extra linkage thrown in.

Dr Chamberlain is a professional mathematician, has been named as one of the UK's 100 leading practical scientists, and is an advocate for mathematics (see also here).

The Monte Carlo simulation is a way of solving mathematical problems by taking multiple random samples rather than trying to "calculate" the answer. For example, rather than trying to calculate the average time to complete a maze, say, a Monte Carlo Simulation would repeatedly try to go through a maze, taking random decisions at each junction, and see how how long it took, on average, to get to the other side.

Perhaps the first use of a Monte Carlo simulation was by French polymath Pierre-Simon Laplace, who used it to estimate the value of pi.

But it was only with the advent of electronic computers, which could quickly perform many thousands of calculations, that Monte Carlo simulations really came into their own, most famously to help the design of the first nuclear bombs in the Manhatten project. It was here that it was given the name "Monte Carlo Method" as it reminded one of the researchers of gambling behaviour in the famous Monte Carlo casino.

After WW2, Monte Carlo simulations were used in applications ranging from engineering to computational biology

An important use of the Monte Carlo simulation is in financial modelling. Dr Chamberlain explained their use, using the "maze" as an analogy for a financial product. Imagine two traders, Trader A and Trader B...

Trader A to Trader B : Here is a maze, and here is £60million pounds on the table. When the clock starts, you begin the maze and I'll start taking away £1million very minute. If you get through the maze in less than an hour, you keep any money left on the table - but if it takes you MORE than an hour, you have to give me £1million for every minute over an hour that it takes you. Do you want to take this bet? (optional evil laugh here)

Trader B (thinks) : The question I need to know the answer to, right now, is how long it takes on average to get through the maze.

And this is where the Monte Carlo simulation comes in. The simulation will have many attempts to get through the maze, and the results are likely for form some kind of frequency distribution like this :

That is all well and good - the problem comes if, in real life the maze is more complicated than the one in the simulation, and the probability distribution is actually like this :

Dr Chamberlain explained that this mismatch between theory and the real world is exactly what happened to financial models in the wake of the 2008 sub-prime defaults, and was a big factor in the resulting financial crisis.

And, worse that this, when the trades lost money the traders thought they had just been unlucky (because their simulation was wrong), so bet again...and again.

Dr Chamberlain commented that JP Morgan had released the Monte Carlo method to the financial marketplace in 1992 [as part of their RiskMetrics methodology] but, in doing so they failed to adequately warn the market about some of the dangers in using the method. The 2008 crisis left many wondering whether Monte Carlo simulations were to blame. Dr Chamberlain gave examples such as an article entitled "Is Financial Monte Carlo Simulation Dead"

However, as suggested in the talks title - Dr Chamberlain was here to defend the Monte Carlo method, and felt that the problem was more to do with poor inputs and assumptions rather than the method itself, commenting that :

i) When the underlying conditions change, so should the assumptions in any relevant Monte Carlo simulations.

ii) A crisis similar had previously occurred in 1998, when LTCM went bust having lost $4.6billion due to the Russian and Far Eastern economic crises distorting the market. [BFTF notes that LTCM was dripping with Economics Nobel Prize winners and that the subsequently bought out company went bust again in 2009].

iii) The market had been warned about the risks of unexpected marked events, for example in the Black Swan theory and in a paper presented at the International Congress of Mathematicians 2002

iv) The Winner Effect, where testosterone fuels increasingly risky trading behaviour.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Talk - Uri Gordon on Anarchism

Interesting Cafe Sci talk recently by Uri Gordon on Anarchist Politics. This post is based on the talk, with a little extra linkage thrown in.

Uri stated that in contrast to MONarchy (one leader), the ideal behind ANarchy was to be free of rulers, and that the anarchy did not mean chaos, insecurity etc

Uri asked the audience to consider the many occasions at work and at leisure when people organised themselves without the need for leaders (e.g. going to the pub for lunch, a walk in the country, a charitable venture, a community garden etc, adding that "Humans can get along just fine without rulers" and that perceptions to the contrary were pushed by interests such as the state, patriarchal institutions, corporations who wish to exploit etc.

As an example of how anarchy can work in communities, Uri gave the example of aboriginal hunter-gatherer communities around the world, who have been found to have structures that do not have a leader, have cultural codes that look after the environment. They respect their elders - but all members of the community get this respect when they become old. However, Uri later added that this model could not work in todays world as there were too many people and the environment was too degraded.

According to Uri, anarchists seek to build a new society within the current one rather than being co-opted into existing power structures via conventional elections etc.

A protest by the Spanish anarchist trade union CGT,
who represent some 2 million workers

Anarchists also believe in direct action, without relying on intermediaries - hence movements such as Occupy, the Brazilian World Cup protests, the emergence of community gardens in run down areas, and cases of people tying themselves to trees to prevent construction projects.

(although a darker side of direct action can be seen in this article). Related to this is the concept of the "Propaganda of the Deed".

Uri also mentioned that he had a very pragmatic approach to anarchism, and little time for those who put the purity of the ideology over the practicalities of actually helping people and achieving social good. He also cautioned against conspiracy theories as "lazy thinking".
Uri also gave some pointers for further reading:

Emma Goldman (who Uri quoted from).

African Anarchism - The History of a Movement

Decolonising Anarchism

Tom Payne - Common Sense

Incidentally, researching for this post has revealed to BFTF the existence of the rather lovely anarchist phenomena of "Twinkles"

Image Sources

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Camping near Clipstone

At No3 sons repeated exhortation, spent a weekend camping in Nottinghamshire this September. Took the opportunity to have a look at the (now disused) Clipstone colliery....

The Clipstone Colliery, , produced coal from 1927 until 1993, and then again from 1994 to 2003. The imposing headstocks were amongst the tallest in Europe when built during upgrades in the 1950s and were given Grade II listed status by English Heritage in 2000 as being ‘special architectural or historic interest’.

The site is currently owned by Welbeck Estate, who would like to demolish the headstocks - although others are campaigning for the site to become an adventure park including a mile long zip line! (see also www.clipstoneheadstocks.co.uk)

Clipstone Colliery

There is an e-petition to save the headstocks. BFTF has signed it, and hopes you will too.

A history of Clipstone colliery here and some images of the colliery here and here.

Headstocks look like some kind of alien engineering
has been placed in the middle of the village

Meanwhile, next to the campsite was a farm - and BFTF was fascinated to see how quickly the farmer, armed with a tractor and a Lemken Solitaire 9 seed drill, was able to plant an entire field with seeds.

It left BFTF wondering if there was any information quantifying the impact of mechanisation on farming productivity

Mechanisation of seed planting

Amazing how quickly the whole field was planted

The best thing about camping, it seems, is cooking on a gas stove !

No3 Son made the dinner, bless him!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Top Trumps "Warships"

Whilst playing a game of "Warships" Top Trumps with No3 son, noticed that all the cards had little complimentary descriptions of their respective vessels (which were from the navies of nations ranging from the US to Italy to China).

Well, all the cards except one - the single entry for the Pakistan Navy (PNS Khaibar) was very disparaging. BFTF is struggling a bit to understand why...

The Cards (might be a couple missing)

Uniquely disparaging comments on the PNS Khaibar card

Title Card

A "Thank You" to the teachers at Berridge Primary

Been going through the stuff No3 son brought home on his last day at Berridge Primary School and was struck by how his writing improved over the time he was at the school.

So, this post is a big THANK YOU to the teachers there for working so hard to teach No3 Son literacy, numeracy and much else - and to a pretty good standard too!





Saturday, 18 October 2014

A trip to Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton

Visited Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton earlier in the year, here are a few pictures......

St Marys Church (in town centre, not at Stockwood)

More on this very beautiful church here

Examples of baby feeding equipment from years gone by

 A truck painted in the South Asian style

The truck, and the Romany Wagon shown below, were painted by the Museums youth team during 2011-12. The youngsters were trained by Haider Ali (truck) and Rory Coxhill (wagon)about the correct techniques and designs to be used.

You can read more about Haiders work here

and more about Wagon Painting here.

A panel from the truck

Romany Bow Top Wagon painted in the traditional style

Viva las Viva!

Because for many years Luton = Vauxhall

Exhibition of extraordinarily beautiful backlit space photographs

Great to see Stockwood Discovery Centre hosting this sciency exhibition. NSB has seen plenty of space images over the years, but these on another level!

These images do not come close to showing the originals awesomeness

NSB and small people put about a pint of 2p's into this - SO worth it.

Tree showing donors who have supported the Discovery Centre

Detail of tree

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How to talk to terrorists

The most important article BFTF has read in a long time. If you read nothing else on this blog, please read this:

Jonathan Powell : How to talk to terrorists

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Woodland Trusty Stuff Sep 2014

Been reading the Autumn 2014 edition of "Broadleaf", the magazine of the Woodland Trust and a number of items caught BFTF's attention...

1) Forestry Legislation and Tree Planting
2) The Fortingall_Yew
3) The Theydon Bois Earthwork
4) The Hucking Estate


1) Forestry Legislation and Tree Planting
The Editorial by Beccy Speight, Chief Exec of the Woodland Trust, mentions that the Government is failing to meet its own tree planting targets in all four UK countries.

Also, following the widespread public anger over the proposed sell-off of the Public Forestry Estate in 2011, the Government stated in 2013 that :
"We can now confirm that we intend to establish a new, separate Public Forest Estate management body to hold the Estate in trust for the nation..." "...This will take time...but we want to be clear about our ambitions for it and the direction of travel we intend to take over the coming months."
So the Woodland Trust was disappointed to see no mention of the body in the 2014 Queens Speech.

Went to the Defra Website to find contact details of The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP (current Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). The website informs me that I lots of ways of following them, so looks promising.

DEFRA keen for people to "follow" them

Get to the page of the Secretary of State and the links below. Can you spot the one saying "contact"? No, me neither.

Nice to see a "Contact Me" link. Oh, hang on...

Notice a link at the bottom of the page asking if there is anything wrong with the page:

Questions to which the answer is "Yes"

To which BFTF responds :

Feedback Mode ON

There is a generic email address for DEFRA, but BFTF doesn't want to contact DEFRA, BFTF wants to engage with the top banana, the big enchilada, the head honcho, the big cheese - in short, BFTF wants to email the Rt Hon Liz Truss.

But with no other option available, sends this to "DEFRA" :
FAO Rt Hon Liz Truss Dear Secretary of State Rather saddened to hear that the government has missed its targets for tree planting so badly and also disturbed to hear that the Government intends to use "management through private finance" and the track record for PFI is poor, contracts are inflexible and they leave financial millstones that todays children, mine included, have to pay when they grow up. So my questions to you are : a) Why has tree planting lagged so badly behind targets during this government? b) What guarantee can you give that Forestry Commission or similar bodies will not be tied down with inflexible, poor value, long term PFI millstones?
And also this
"FAO Rt Hon Liz Truss etc etc It was great to see the Government accepting the key points of the Independent Forestry Panel and, in particular, committing in 2013 to putting in place a "Public Forest Estate management body to hold the Estate in trust for the nation" But why no word on this on the most recent Queens Speech?"

Lastly, on this item, contacted four local Imams suggesting that this was an issue that the Muslim community should be active on.

Update 2nd Oct: Received the following response from DEFRA regarding the second of the above questions:
"The Government stands by its commitment to establish a new public body to hold the public forest estate in trust for the nation, as set out in its Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement of January 2013.

Good progress has been made over the past year in developing plans for the necessary legislation for the new public body. However, there were many proposals competing for the limited space within the Fourth Session programme and the proposed forestry measures could not be accommodated.

The Government will continue to work towards the objective of establishing the new body over the coming year, so that the detail will be in place for a new Government to introduce legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows after the 2015 General Election.

Update 12th Oct: Received the following response from DEFRA regarding the first of the above questions:
"The Government does not have any general national target for tree planting and so has not missed any. It has set out a policy ambition to expand the area of woodland in England from 10% to 12% by 2060. This would mean creating around 260,000 hectares of new woodland in that period at an average rate of around 5,000 hectares a year. However, the Government’s Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement of January 2013 made it abundantly clear that achieving this aspiration would depend on both the Government and private land-owners working together. The Government is playing its part in pursuing this challenging ambition by providing grant-aid for woodland creation through the Rural Development Programmes. Last year this supported the creation of almost 2,700 hectares of new woodland. We look to private land-owners and businesses to also invest in new woodland to help achieve the increase we all want to see.

The Government does, however, have one tree planting target. In 2010, we said that we would plant one million new trees across England by 2015, many in our most deprived urban areas. So far, 804,346 trees have been planted as part of the Big Tree Plant (http://www.forestry.gov.uk/england-bigtreeplant ) and we are firmly on track to achieve our target by the end of March next year.

As regards your suggestion that the Government intends to introduce some form of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) in the forestry sector, I can confirm that the Government has no such plans."

2) The Fortingall Yew
Fascinated to read about the Fortingall Yew which, according to Broadleaf "experts reckon [has] stood at Glen Lyon for up to 5,000 years", although Wikipedia puts the age at nearer 2,000 years. Pretty awesome either way! More on ancient British Trees at The Tree Council

The Fortingall Yew, looking good !

3) The Theydon Bois Earthwork
Pretty darn awesome, and rather huge, earthwork sculture next to the M11, by Richard Harris in collaboration with Greenarc and the Woodland Trust

4) The Hucking Estate

Issues regarding forest preservation are generally presented in the form of :
a)Things used be good like this [examples of how wonderful it used to be]
b)But now things are bad like this [examples of how bad it is now]
c)But we think if these actions are taken [list of THINGS TO BE DONE]
d)In a few decades we might have a better situation [Possibly rose tinted view of future]

So discussion becomes one sad story after another, and examples of how interventions 20-30years ago have now borne fruit, as it were, are somewhat harder to come by.

Chuffed, therefore, to read about how plans put into action in 1997 to regenerate the Woodland Trusts Hucking Estate have, in the intervening years, slowly but surely transformed the woodland into an area the has improved creepy crawliness (especially fungi, beetles and larvae); more and a wider range of butterflies; return of bats (!); coppiced areas possibly providing a revenue stream; and biodiverse grassland and heath (using land that was previously farmed). All good stuff!


This post seemed the most appropriate place to mention this image of "rewilding" in Scotland (see also here), via Derbyshire Green Party:

Rewilding in Scotland

"On the left of this image behind a 7ft. fence, a young forest is emerging thanks to the efforts of rewilding charity Trees For Life. In time, this woodland will store carbon, improve soil quality, harbour wildlife and provide opportunities for local communities. The same cannot be said for the landscape on the right of the image."

Location - Glen Affric, Scotland
Image via: James Shooter/scotlandbigpicture.com
Image and text originally posted on their Facebook page

Related Content
Tree Planting at Highfield Cemetery
Introduction and Interview with the Woodland Trust
Independant Panel on Forestry Report
Some stuff on sustainability, especially printing
Sustainably sourced notebooks
Interview with the Forest Stewardsip Council (FSC)

Image Sources
Fortingall Yew

Thursday, 28 August 2014

2014 : 100yr commemoration of the start of WW1

WW1, particularly the horrific death toll and conditions of the Western Front, have been on BFTF's mind in 2014, as this represents the 100yr anniversary of the start of that conflict.

But it has not been the official events, Twitter feeds or TV dramas that have most affected BFTF. Rather it has been the testimony of the soldiers ,whether they were British or German that has really brought home why many wanted it to be the "war to end all wars"

And the complicated feelings that some Irish had about serving in the British Army (which many viewed as an army of occupation in Ireland).

One wonders how the 1.5 million volunteers from India (of whom 140,000 troops saw active service on the Western Front and another 700,000 served in Mesopotamia) thought about serving for an occupying force.
2nd Indian Cavalry Division during the Battle of the Somme.

The Mesopotamian Campaign, against the Ottoman Empire - the nominal centre of Islamic rule - also raises complex questions for Muslims of who, if anyone, was the "right" side in that theatre of conflict. Many of the issues are concisely overviewed in this article by Patrick Bishop, which shows how the conflict shaped much of the Middle East.

BFTF has been surprised to read about a British War Cemetery in Gaza, immaculately tended by the Gazans, although occasionally shelled by the Israelis.

The Indian Army, incidentally, was highly integrated, with Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims fighting - and dying - together. Indeed, the Brighton Pavilion was used as a hospital for Indian troops wounded in the trenches of the Western Front. See also this collection of photographs of the Indian Army.

See also this article which focusses on the Muslim troops in the British Army, and this on the Muslim burial ground in Woking. Kudos also to Sikhmuseum.com for this related article. And also worth reading about the Brookwood military cemetery.

Aside from the huge contribution from the Indian Army, hundreds of thousands of troops from Australia, New Zealand and Canada also served the British Army - and their contributions formed a much larger proportion of their respective populations than was the case for India. And there were also 55,000 troops from Africa.

The French also drew troops from their colonies, as described in this article by Khaled Diab.

SSAFA's "Official Guide to WW1"
Whilst ambling along the books section at ASDA, BFTF recently noticed a publication by SSAFA (a charity who help current and ex service personnel). The book was entitled "The Great War 1914-18 : SSAFA's Official Guide to World War 1"
SSAFA's Official Guide to World War 1.

BFTF had a quick look through the book and found it to be rich in detail and pictures. BFTF considered buying it, but two important things seemed to be missing, so BFTF put it back on the shelf and sent this email to SSAFA :

I noticed your Guide to World War 1 on sale recently and was about to buy it when I became disturbed at how the contribution of the 1.5million Indian troops (as well as those from Africa and other colonies) seemed to have received little or no mention.

Given that the 140,000 Indian Army troops saw active service on the Western Front and another 700,000 served in Mesopotamia, one would have thought they would receive at least as high a profile as the well known contribution from ANZAC forces, but I could see no significant mention of it in the book.

It might be that I missed it, as I only skimmed through the pages. So I'm hoping you can advise whether you feel that the book does indeed give the Indian Army the recognition that they deserve.

Secondly, and on a very different note, I was disappointed that there was no mention of the book being printed on sustainably sourced paper (e.g. recycled or FSC certified). Given that even supermarket till receipts are now printed on paper that is from a sustainable source, I can't see why a publication such as the "Guide to World War 1" is not similarly published. Again, perhaps I have got this wrong, so I hope you can advise on this point"

Update 4th Oct:
SSAFA responded by stating that the book and editorial content was produced by the publisher and that SSAFA just receieved a percentage of the profits.

The publisher (CW publishing), in turn, responded by saying:
"... the SSAFA guide to WW1 primarily focuses on the British perspective, we have where prudent included contributions from some alternate countries, but not all participants are featured within the editorial fabric.

We did however make the effort to contact every single country that took part in the Great War, on both sides, all countries that decided to contribute a message have been included and had their kind words published.

The stock used for the WW1 book is virgin pulp, produced at a geothermal plant using sustainable materials; all of our suppliers have a sound environmental strategy in place and have achieved the required industry accreditations."

BFTF doesn't really get the feeling that, were CW to publish a similar book in the future - for example in 2018 - that they would do anything different. So sent this to both :
"Thanks for responding so quickly. I hope that any future publications on WW1 (or indeed on WW2) will do a better job of including the contribution made by over a million troops from India and other Asian and African parts of the British Empire - all of whom fought under British command, and many of whom died to protect the interests of the United Kingdom."

Image Sources
2nd Indian Cavalry

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Commons debate on Gaza, 21st July 2014

Below are some extracts from the 21st July House of Commons debate on Gaza:

Firstly, here is the statement from the Prime Minister:
"Let me now turn to the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza. The crisis was triggered by Hamas raining hundreds of rockets on Israeli cities, indiscriminately targeting civilians in contravention of all humanitarian law and norms. In the last fortnight, Hamas has fired 1,850 rockets at Israeli cities. This unprecedented barrage continues to this moment, with Hamas rejecting all proposals for a ceasefire, including those put forward by the Egyptian Government.

I have been clear throughout this crisis that Israel has the right to defend itself. Those criticising Israel’s response must ask themselves how they would expect their own Government to react if hundreds of rockets were raining down on British cities today. But I share the grave concern of many in the international community about the heavy toll of civilian casualties. The figures are very disturbing. More than 500 people have now reportedly been killed in Gaza, and over 3,000 injured. The UN estimates that over 83,000 people have been displaced so far. Israel has also faced loss of life, with 18 soldiers and two civilians killed, including 13 soldiers yesterday alone.

I spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu again about this crisis last night. I repeated our recognition of Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself, and our condemnation of Hamas’s refusal to end its rocket attacks, despite all international efforts to broker a ceasefire. But I urged him do everything to avoid civilian casualties, to exercise restraint, and to help find ways to bring this situation to an end. Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear that Israel had been ready to accept each of these ceasefire proposals and had unilaterally implemented a temporary ceasefire in the hope that Hamas would follow suit.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken to President Abbas to welcome his support for a ceasefire and underline our wish to see the Palestinian Authority back in Gaza. The United Nations Security Council met in a special session last night and issued a call for an immediate ceasefire. The Council expressed serious concern about rising casualties, and called for respect for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians. We strongly endorse that call. It is vital that Hamas recognises the need to enter into serious negotiations to end this crisis. In particular, we urge Hamas to engage with the ceasefire proposals put forward by the Egyptian Government. It is only by securing a ceasefire that the space can be created to address the underlying issues and return to the long and painstaking task of building the lasting and secure peace that we all want to see, and I commend this statement to the House."

The Labour Response, from Harriet Harmon MP, was this :

"..Turning to the horror that is unfolding in Gaza, it is intolerable to see the harrowing images of hospitals overwhelmed, mortuaries overflowing and parents devastated as they cradle their dying children. Yesterday the world stood witness to the most bloodstained day. Since the start of this conflict, 20 Israelis have been killed, 18 of whom were soldiers. More than 500 Palestinians have been killed, including countless children—innocent young children whose short lives have been ended in the most brutal and horrific of circumstances.

We cannot reduce this conflict to a ledger of casualties, but we must acknowledge the scale of suffering in Gaza, because the life of a Palestinian child is worth every bit as much as that of an Israeli child. Every death of a Palestinian child will fuel the hatred, embolden Israel’s enemies and recruit more supporters to terrorist groups such as Hamas. We stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself, but this escalation will not bring Israel lasting security.

Does the Prime Minister agree with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that we must continue to press for an immediate ceasefire, an immediate end to the Israeli military operation in Gaza, and an end to the rocket fire by Hamas; that all sides must respect international humanitarian law; and that Israel must exercise maximum restraint?

What is the Prime Minister’s view of the report suggesting that Israel is using flechette shells? Does he agree that the only way to avoid the cycle of violence and perpetual insecurity in the region is to address the root causes of the conflict and that there must be an immediate return to the negotiating table and talks on a two-state solution? As Ban Ki-moon said:“Israelis, but also Palestinians, need to feel a sense of security. Palestinians, but also Israelis, need to see a horizon of hope.”

And here are some of the questions that were put to the PM in the subsequent debate. The PM responded to each, and the responses can be found in the full Hansard record linked to above. It is worth noting that a number of the questions refer to the emails they have received on the issue:

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Surely friends of Israel, like the Prime Minister and I, have a duty at this time to speak the truth? These attacks, despite the horrendous rocket assaults on Israel and the extremism of Hamas, are not “disproportionate”; in any other conflict they would be described as war crimes. That is the truth. The problem also is that there is no end in sight to this. What will happen, a moderate Palestinian leadership having been replaced by Hamas through the failure to succeed in negotiations, is that Hamas, as the respected former Israeli Government adviser Daniel Levy has suggested, could soon be replaced by ISIS in Gaza. We have to start, as the west, speaking the truth, acting and persuading the Israeli Government to negotiate seriously.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): My right hon. Friend asks what the reaction should be here, were we to be subject to such rocket attacks as those sustained by Israel. As a Member of Parliament, I would ask—indeed, demand—that our Government respond in a proportionate way, consistent with international law and with proper regard for the safety of innocent men, women and children. With all the sophisticated military technology at its disposal, can Israel really protect itself only by the kind of operations that the Secretary-General of the United Nations has called “atrocious”?

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman condemn outright the Israeli massacre over the weekend at Shujai’iya of 67 Palestinian innocents whom Netanyahu has obscenely described as “telegenically dead”, together with the four innocent people killed today by the Israeli direct hit on the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades’ hospital? Will he also increase the Government’s valuable aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency? Some 67,000 Palestinians have fled to its refuge centres, but they are running out of water and money to feed them. While in no way condoning the actions of Hamas, I ask him to point out to Netanyahu, on the evidence of the two previous Israeli attacks on Gaza, that he can kill, but he cannot win.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): The Prime Minister said that the most recent bloodshed in Gaza and Israel had started with the Hamas rocket attacks. I deplore those attacks, but does the Prime Minister not accept that they are not happening in a vacuum, but are a consequence of the ongoing Israeli occupation and siege of Gaza? Given that this is the latest in a long line of Israeli breaches of international law, does he recognise the growing movement that is calling for an embargo on all military co-operation with Israel?

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): What representations has the Prime Minister ever made to the Government of Israel concerning its illegal settlements, its occupation of the west bank and the siege of Gaza, which has gone on for a long time and has led to 70% unemployment? Does he not think that the current crisis and the carnage in Gaza is caused essentially by the failure of Israel ever to recognise the rights, needs or justice of the Palestinian people, and does he not think it is time Britain did something about it, such as by doing that?

Frank Dobson (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): While Israel is rightly claiming its right of self-defence under international law, we cannot have international law for the Israelis and another international law for the Palestinians, and when is Britain, and more importantly the United States, going to bring pressure to bear to get the Israelis to comply with international law, to end the blockade of Gaza and the settlements on the west bank?

Sir Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): In Gaza, much has been made of what is and is not “proportionate”. The argument is being made that it should be an eye for an eye, but in international law the correct definition is that the response should be proportionate “to the threat”. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Israel has no alternative but to go to find who is firing the missiles at it and to stop them?

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Does the outrage in Ukraine call for a speedy review of the international rules on the safety of flying over conflict zones? Does the much-needed call for a ceasefire in Gaza include a call for the end of Hamas’s terror tunnels and does the Prime Minister agree that they, too, are a war crime?

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): For the avoidance of doubt, will the Prime Minister agree that the targeting of civilians or wilful disregard for the lives of civilians is a crime, whether those civilians are flying in a civilian aircraft, sheltering in their homes in south Israel or sheltering in their homes in Gaza? Is he aware that Israel has a history of using UK-supplied arms and components in contravention of the EU consolidated criteria? Would he consider Israel’s use of British-supplied arms or components in Gaza today to be in contravention of those criteria, is he asking Israel whether they are or whether they are not and what answer is he getting

Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): What is the Government’s assessment of the reports that the Israelis are using illegal white phosphorus as part of their illegal campaign in Gaza? Will he condemn the use of any chemical weapons in Gaza, as he has been so quick to do on other occasions?

Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): Last week, when the then Foreign Secretary made a statement on Gaza, the death toll of Palestinian children in the conflict since 2000 stood at 1,430. Today it is reported at 1,472. When democracies depart from the rule of law, they give legal and moral authority to our enemies. Israel is in consistent and, today, grievous breach of the Geneva conventions. What is my right hon. Friend doing to bring Israel back within the rule of law?

Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): Benjamin Netanyahu said on TV over the weekend that the US, the UK and others supported Israeli action in Gaza. Given that the Prime Minister said in his statement today that the indiscriminate targeting of men, women and children is a war crime, why does he not condemn Israeli actions, rather than just making excuses for them, as he has done today?

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister stand by his words of 2010 that the blockaded Gaza “must not be allowed to remain a prison camp”? Does he believe that the killing of 500 people and the displacing of 83,000 people is a proportionate response to the attacks he has mentioned? May I appeal to him to show courage and international leadership and to act as an honest broker to help bring an end to this conflict and humanitarian catastrophe?

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): On Gaza, what evidence has the Prime Minister seen that Hamas has been using women and children as human shields in order to turn public opinion and to win the air war—the broadcast air war?

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): I agree with the Prime Minister about the need to stop the rockets from Gaza. However, does he not understand and, indeed, share the widespread revulsion at the apparent disregard for human life in the current military action in Gaza? Surely the Secretary-General of the United Nations is right that this action must now stop.

Mr Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): Everyone in this House condemns the rocket attacks, but the Israeli defence force is firing the most dangerous of weapons in the most dense of communities, and it is very clear that Secretary Kerry and Ban Ki-moon think that not enough is being done to minimise civilian casualties. Does the Prime Minister accept that analysis? What we really want to know in this House is what he will do today, tomorrow and through the week in the Security Council to stop the slaughter of the innocents in Gaza and beyond.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): On behalf of my Ukrainian community, I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement on bringing an end to the violence in Ukraine. With regard to the crisis in Gaza and Israel, I join my constituents in deploring the loss of innocent lives. As my right hon. Friend said, we have all seen the horrific scenes of women and children being caught up in the cycle of violence. Will he continue to show leadership, with the United Nations, the US and others, in order to stop this senseless violence and to kick-start a meaningful peace process once again?

Mr Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): I should like to associate myself and my colleagues with the Prime Minister’s condolences to those affected by the terrible tragedy of flight MH17, and with what he said about the need for early access to the site. On Gaza, when he is speaking to our European partners, will he press for a joint approach to allow the medical evacuation of serious injured Palestinians, given the terrible situation there?

Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con): Does the Prime Minister agree that, with regard to the situation in Gaza, the greatest strength is sometimes demonstrated by showing restraint? All that Israel’s actions are doing is creating the next generation of highly motivated Hamas terrorists. Is he minded to talk to his fellow European leaders about a form of sanction to encourage that restraint?

Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): The PM rightly spoke of his anger at the deaths in Ukraine and the dangers of turning a blind eye when big countries bully smaller countries. Will he apply those maxims to Gaza? Will he stop blaming the Palestinians for the murder of their own children? Will he show consistent resolve and equal action to uphold international law in dealing with Tel Aviv as with Moscow?

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): Israel has a right to security, with an end to rocket attacks by Hamas, but does the Prime Minister agree that while Israel uses overwhelming and disproportionate force with heartbreaking consequences in Gaza and continues to build settlements in the west bank, there will not be peace and security until such time as it recognises the right of the Palestinians to live in security as well and agrees to a two-state solution?

Lyn Brown: A reported 12,000-plus rockets have been fired into Gaza over the past 13 days, with more than 500 deaths and more than 80,000 Gazans displaced. May I simply ask the Prime Minister what pressure he is prepared to apply, if he will not pursue economic sanctions against Israel, to ensure that Israel complies with international humanitarian law and exercises the restraint that he says he wants to see?

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): I thank the Prime Minister for his comments about Hamas. Israel has faced not just 1,850 missiles, but 11,000 missiles fired from Gaza, even after the unilateral withdrawal and millions of tonnes of aid going from Israel into Gaza every year. Will my right hon. Friend also look at the source of the missiles, because Iran is supplying Hamas with the weapons?

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): The Prime Minister will be aware that nothing happens in isolation. One of the reasons for what is happening is that in Gaza, in the past 60 years more than 6 million Palestinians have been forced out of their homes, forced to live in squalor while moving from one country to another, unlawfully imprisoned and treated really badly. All those people have legal documents to prove their ownership of their homes, yet we have done nothing. I am sure that if all those people were given back the homes to which they are legally entitled, the ceasefire would occur immediately.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): Hundreds of my constituents have contacted me because they are angry and sickened by the killing of innocent Palestinians and the injuries to many thousands more in Gaza over recent days. They find it hard to understand the Prime Minister’s view that that violence is proportionate, so will he explain how he has reached that conclusion?

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): While I welcome the UN Security Council’s call last night for a ceasefire, will the Prime Minister take on board the representations I have received, including e-mails from my constituents this morning, urging him—pleading with him—to urge the Israelis to stop using flechette shells in Gaza, which lead to lethal metal darts and innocent people being killed or maimed? Does he agree that the Egyptians calling for dialogue is not enough?

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I unequivocally condemn the firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas, but the Prime Minister has to accept that the response from Israel is disproportionate. The disregard for the safety of innocent civilians, whether they are in Israel or Gaza or in an aeroplane over Ukraine, is unacceptable, and international law must be applied....

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): Hundreds of my constituents have contacted me expressing their horror at what is happening in Gaza, and I share that horror. This is—yet again—a disproportionate response from Israel. Does the Prime Minister agree that the collective punishment of the Palestinians, which has seen many hundreds die, including many dozens of children, is disproportionate and a war crime? People watching this debate today will see that his response has been wholly inadequate

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): I am sure that everyone in the House wants an end to rocket attacks, but on Friday I met literally hundreds of my constituents—people from mosques, churches, and people of no religion at all—who had taken to the streets of Worcester because of their deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. May I urge the Prime Minister, on their behalf and mine, to use every diplomatic tool in the box to impress on both sides in this conflict the need to bring about a ceasefire, come to the table and work towards a long-term peace?

Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Lab): Now that the Israeli ground offensive has moved into densely populated urban areas of Gaza, the death toll of innocent Palestinians, especially of children, will only rise. The Israelis say that civilians should leave these areas. Given the Prime Minister’s own description of Gaza as an open-air prison camp, perhaps he could advise the men, women and children of Gaza as to where on Earth they are supposed to go?

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Prime Minister accept that one major impediment to a lasting ceasefire in Gaza is the widely held belief across the Palestinian occupied territories, the wider middle east and our own constituencies that Israel has not lived up to its previous commitments under previous ceasefires? Furthermore, does he accept that the normal test he would apply on the deliberate targeting of civilians starts to break down in an area as densely populated as Gaza?

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): ...On Gaza, I am absolutely stunned by the Prime Minister’s change in tone. Will he unreservedly condemn the indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on the Palestinian people, particularly civilian women and children, and the breaches of international law and the Geneva convention?

Friday, 20 June 2014

The "Aspiration Wall" at St Ann with Emmanuel Church, Nottingham

Recently, BFTF happened to be at the St. Ann with Emmanuel Church in St.Anns with the 92nd Scout Group (and the 4th Scout Group. The Scouts were acting out and discussing various Christian parables to try and tease out the moral message that lay behind them.

Wile this was going on, BFTF had a look around and was entranced by the "Aspiration Wall" on which children had placed paper "bricks" with a note about their aspirations (either for themselves or for others). Some of the notes were very touching and, with the Church's permission, are shown below..

Rev Karen Rooms listening to the Scouts,
with the "Aspiration Wall" in the background

When I get older I whant To be a Teacher

I wont to bey a under civer coper

I want to get a level 6 in Sats.
I want to go to Nottingham High School

Oh Allah I would like to be a Dentist lady
(suspect this was written by a Muslim visitor)

Lots of youngsters wanting to be footballers

I pray that my nan gets better

Also I want to be kind to my friend

I want my cosen to get bettr

I want to be my Dad my Dad is kind

I want to make my gradma better