Confederation Report (December 2011)

“A Christmas gambol oft could cheer, The poor man’s heart through half the year!” as Sir Walter Scott penned.

The problem I have is that nowadays the year just disappears. This year certainly has. And it has been a strange one. I haven’t done much gambolling I can tell you. I have arthritically limped through 2011. And, having been employed by three firms, in effect for thirty years, I now find myself being made redundant for the second time in four years.

It is, I fear, a reflection of the national trend that firms like Hains and Lewis (who have been my main “home” since I left Cardiff) have decided that the unequal struggle to made “crime pay” is no longer viable.

So the knotted hankie has to be filled with the Manchester City gnome desk tidy, the caricature of me bashing my head with a tin tray, photo of the labrodoodle and the practising certificate, tied to the broom handle and off to pastures new. If there are any. I am certainly not the only one – two other advocates in Pembrokeshire alone in the last couple of months – and many more nationwide.

And the Legal Profession is certainly not alone. I shall not be surprised if I find myself in the Job Centre queue with Dasher, Dancer, Rudolph and half a dozen Elves! I thought of growing a beard and offering myself as a Santa in a department store, or auditioning for panto or Strictly. If Russell can do it why not me? I certainly have the necessary circumference for both roles.

I realised that Christmas was upon us whilst I was doing my two week Territorial Army “Bit” in Bielefeld, Germany. There, you wake up on 1st of November, and they’ve efficiently gone from completely normal to totally decorated in about three hours!

Of course there had been aisles and aisles of “Seasonal” good in every Tesco since about August here (by the time you read this, they’ll have Easter Eggs cramming the shelves), but not in Germany. However, they go the whole hog there, Christmas Festivals all over the place.

I usually quite enjoy it, but as the weather was not just mild, rather boiling hot, it seemed a bit like Australia. And remember, Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money. Except that there may be no money next year.

And it was a bit of an eye opener to realise that the Germans are having as many problems as we are. Over there the main topics of discussion are the Euro “bail out” (which the rest of Europe seems to think is all to be laid at the German door), The Tobyn Protocol and neo- Nazism.

The Tobyn Tax, is, apparently designed to make sure the banks pay out some of the lucre to ensure that the Euro Zone doesn’t implode. We are calling it the “Robin Hood Tax”. Problem is that there is nothing to stop said financial institutions simply passing on the bill to its customers in all the sneaky ways the banks have to recoup nasty charges against them.

And the Germans don’t thing that is fair. But they, being pretty law abiding souls in the majority, haven’t yet set up their tents outside Cologne Cathedral. If they did, I’m pretty sure that the German authorities would do it like the USA and clear them away. And blow the Human Rights Act.

However, the Neo-Nazi’s are a different kettle of Bratwurst. They have been blaming the deaths of certain ordinary folk on their immigrant majority, the Turks.

It has now been revealed that it was actually the Neo-Nazis who dunnit. Cue large scale protests in many German Cities, including Bielefeld, on a Sunday afternoon, when your humble scribe was making his way to an Irish Bar to watch the televised football match involving table-topping Manchester City. (Oh! How I have looked forward to putting THAT in print.)

So, there I am just about to cross the main road into the Old Town, when a load of uniformed policemen and women, stop all the traffic to allow several hundred Turkish people carrying Turkish flags, to make their peaceful protest.

At that point, from a side road, a bunch of rather unsavoury bunch of black-clad (and tattooed) characters started charging towards the Turkish people.

Unlike our riots over here, in typically German efficient style, and bang on cue, a further force of German Riot Police rushed out of vans, rounded up the Neo’s and packed them out of the way. Just like that. No hanging around to see what happens-straight in. I don’t believe that many of the people there even noticed what was going on.

Well, I wasn’t inclined to hang about to see whether anything else happened, a) because if I want to see a riot I can go to any one of a dozen Brit Cities of a Saturday night, b) the match was about to start and, more importantly, c) I am one of Nature’s natural born cowards.

He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.

Except I dispensed with the fighting bit. Quick as a flash, I whipped out my army card, strode manfully up to the nearest policeman, showed it to him and was allowed to cross the road and away from the brou ha ha.

I went to Berlin the weekend after, saw a load of police personnel and vans, just off the Unter Den Linden. I walked briskly in the opposite direction immediately. Which was good, because I found “Checkpoint Charlie”, the Brandenberg Gate and the Reichstag, which I would have missed due to the fact I was going completely the wrong way. Every Cloud...

On arriving back in Blighty, I found a new moan to occupy me straight away-the proposed ban of smoking in cars!

You already can’t smoke in a work vehicle. And I concede that you shouldn’t if kids are aboard. But if, like me, your kids are grown up, you travel mostly alone and it is your car, why should I not be allowed freedom of choice!

I already have to brave the elements if I am out in a restaurant, have to walk about half a mile from my place of work to have a smoke break and have hostile glares from all and sundry when I do light up. I reckon I have more exercise and fresh air than non-smokers. They’ll be putting us in Ghettos next. Remember, it was Adolf Hitler who first banned smoking in public and where did that end?

Anyway, something good came of my slipping out for a cig the other morning. There I was, with my cup of Twinings and Superking Blue, taking in the clean country air (and nicotine and caffeine) when a Red Kite flew over my garden. I was really pleased. Two minutes later, a mink ran across the lawn. Amazing! So there are some benefits to my filthy habit.

Enough rant! The Confederation Autumn programme of course has, once again, come and gone.

I hope that those of you who attended, found them interesting, informative and good value.

Chairing the Crime update was a joy. We said goodbye to the lovely Hilary Williams, who retires next March (Thank you so much for all the years of help and assistance), Wayne Williams told us where we should be, HH Judge David Wynn Morgan was delightful, humorous and informative. And I gave the shortest talk (ten minutes) in the history of this course!

The other courses were, reportedly, as well received.

Once again, all hail Mike Walters for his excellent administration skills!

Since it is Christmas, I shall, as usual, leave you with some Christmas jokes.

  • What do you give a reindeer with an upset stomach – Elk a seltzer.
  • If athletes get athletes foot, what do astronauts get – Missile toe.
  • What do lions, tigers and gorillas sing at Christmas – Jungle Bells.
  • How do snowmen travel – by icicle.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and, please Mr Cameron, a prosperous New Year.

May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through.

Pob Hwyl


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