Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Thank you very much to Bromley Parking

I like to consider myself fair (other of course don't but hey..) So when something I have been moaning about is resolved, its only fair to say so, and not make it look like the 'target' of the other blog entries is still in my bad books.

So a while back I contacted Bromley asking what the outcome of the PCN appeal was, and received back a very short and somewhat informal reply saying what I read as 'oh drop it will you'.

Needless to say my response was fast and forthcoming, and as a result to tweeting the link to the blog entry, received some attention.

Today I received a very polite and detailed response from Bromley Parking, in which they highlighted the vague response initially given, and this time put a bit more meat on the bones as to why the decision had been made to overturn the PCN.
The reason given originally was 'clerical error', however I wanted to know exactly what that meant. To be more precise, the original response to my first appeal pointed out there were signs warning of the CPZ on London Road, on the way into Bromley, where in fact there were not.
As this had been stated in the reason to refuse the appeal, it was deemed (and I agree) an incorrect statement, therefore the PCN was cancelled.

SO, I can officially after just under a year, draw a line under the matter.
Lessons learned are Bromley has a vaguely signed CPZ, so use a car park at all times, and never assume a single yellow is safe.
Also, Bromley appears to have no plans to increase the signage for the said CPZ, so again, use a proper car park to be safe.

I would like to thank Bromley Parking for taking the time to look exhaustively into this matter, and truly appreciate the time being taken to read the blog, consider my point made re the sign location, and get back to me with a polite, detailed response.
I would also like to apologise openly for publishing the names of the parking officers and other staff involved in this whole affair without consulting them or seeking their permission. I will of course edit these out.

Friday, October 17, 2014

FINALLY... an answer from Bromley Parking

Albeit a little blunt, but the outcome is OK I guess.

See below..

4:19 PM (20 minutes ago)

This Penalty Charge Notice was cancelled on February 11th 2014 and I give below a copy of our waive letter, correctly addressed.


Our Ref: BY04003116
Michael Snasdell

Forest Hill


Dear Sir

Penalty Charge Notice: BY04003116
Date Issued: 16/11/2013
Vehicle Registration: T103DBM
Served under the Traffic Management Act 2004

We have reviewed the Penalty Charge Notice as part of our standard procedures and whilst the penalty was correctly issued, we have withdrawn it owing to an administration error.

Parking Support Officer

Bromley clearly have no intention of addressing their CPZ signage, and wanted to be a short on the matter as possible.
I am left wondering what exactly the 'administration error' which caused the cancellation of the ticket was. They had 4 months left to respond to the matter and reject it, the information is STILL online to see now, so the pictures are still there, the ticket is still avaiable also with information on it.

Is this Bromley's way of saying 'we agree' without actually admitting wrong doing? I will be interested to see if any signage around the area has changed, or indeed changes. But with the run up to Christmas soon upon us, im sure they will make up for this ticket tenfold! So if you DO get a ticket and think it is unfair, don't be afraid to appeal, its your right!

Also very strange how the follow up ticket reminder, first appeal decision, and notice to keeper all arrived fine, yet this 'correctly addressed' letter has never been seen. Nor have any emails I have sent prior to this one ever been answered.

All in all Bromley, you have very poor standards when it comes to dealing with members of the public, who you have initiated contact with, regardless of its form. Its very sad that such a seemingly prestigeous local authority, deal with matters where people dare to question you in such a short, rude, and obnoxious manner.

I would reply to the email asking what the error was, but im sure I would be told it was a private matter and cannot be divulged.

Thanks anyway for finally getting back to me and cancelling the ticket, we both know it was the right thing to do.

Time to contact Bromley Parking again!

Nearly a year on, I thought I would take one more crack at getting a response from Bromley about their parking ticket and CPZ..

This has been sent to their main complaints department.

Dear Sir/ Madam,

In November of 2013 I received a PCN from one of your wardens (ref above) which I chose to challenge on the grounds of poor signage in reference to the CPZ the offence was said to have taken place in.
I received a formal response regarding my appeal, which rejected it, and gave me my options.
On receiving my notice to keeper I decided to again appeal on the same grounds.
Since this time I have not heard a word from Bromley on the matter.

My assumption, based on this being a year ago almost now, is that the ticket has been cancelled, and the appeal was successful. Some digging on the internet offered me this advice.
After an appeal against Notice to Owner relating to PCN issued by civil enforcement officer - the council must serve you with a response either accepting or rejecting your appeal (Notice of Rejection) no later than 56 days commencing with the date they received your appeal. If they do not the PCN must be cancelled.

While I feel I know the outcome of this matter, some official confirmation of this would be appreciated.

Requested action...

I would be most grateful for a written confirmation of the outcome of the appeal I sent to Bromley. Stating that the appeal was received, considered and what the official outcome is.

Further to this, if the appeal has in fact been accepted, I would be curious to know what Bromley are doing regarding the signage for the said CPZ, which I sent detailed concerns about.

Going into the red. Bus Lanes!

In so many walks of life 'going into the red' is a bad thing. Bank balance, fuel guage, temperature gauge, and even, yup you guessed it... The Bus Lane!

It is the dreaded bus lane that I thought I would have a little ramble about today.
Many a time, driving a familiar route at certain times of day I chuckle to myself, as all the law abiding, fearful drivers sit patiently (and impatiently) in the normal lane, waiting in a long queue of traffic in a mix of cars going straight on and being held up by those turning right.... Meanwhile, the left lane, THE BUS LANE is clear for traffic going straight on and left. But no one will use it.

Duh, Its a bus lane I hear you say. Yes it is, but like yellow and red lines, bus lanes also have hours of operation, and the times I refer to are those times of day when the bus lane is no longer in effect. Its fair to say that when driving along at 30mph, watching for idiots pulling out, pedestrians on the phone walking into the road, and cyclists who don't see to care for their own life, reading the operation hours of a bus lane comes low on the list of priorities. (I will come back to this later)

However, when sitting in stop start traffic, and running along side a bus lane, especially a road you are caught on regularly , my recommendation to you is this... Read the hours of operation. Make a mental note of the times, and remember them next time you use the road. In general its not hard to rememeber as there are only a few sets of hours used on most lanes.

All Day
7am-10am and 4pm-7pm

Not that much to remember now is it :)

The next thing to do is pay attention to the time of day you travel, and keep an eye on your clock or watch in the car (assuming you keep it adjusted correctly)

Its not just one or two places, nor is it just around the hour the restrictions change. I have frequently buzzed along up a 'not in service' bus lane only to receive glares from other drivers queuing, or even having them swerve into the lane to stop me passing. Its not my fault you are not paying attention, or are just in fact an idiot.

This basically brings me to something I have wondered for a long long time now. Is there really no way to use a basic lighting system to show a bus lane is allowed to be used by normal traffic? The emphasis seems to be on penalising the unauthorised use of them, rather than encouraging the use of them when they are not in service. It only takes a broken down car, road works in the middle of the road, or some other incident to bring the single 'permitted' lane to a grinding halt, and causing the fearful drivers to sit there politely waiting to navigate their way around the obstruction. Meanwhile, all traffic simply turning left is trapped in this queue.

Of course this could be avoided by drivers taking the time to pay attention to the signs, have a little read, and take advantage of the out of service bus lane. But the fact is... THEY DON'T!

In recent years, to ease congestion, and negate the need to widen motorways further, electronic signage has been used to advise motorists that they are permitted to drive on the hard shoulder, turning it into another lane. This can of course be reverted back to a hard shoulder at any time. So with this in mind, and as a trial for the really back areas for this on roads like the South Circular for example, how about replacing the standard bus lane hours of operation signs with ones more commonly found in town centres for car parks. With an electronic section, set to the hours of operation of the lane, but ultimately controlled by bodies like TfL, who could make the bus lane usable to clear congestion around an incident, or indeed extend the closure of the bus lane to traffic when traffic issues are causing serious delays for buses. (see it works both ways).

I have thought over the years about how this could be done. A simple red / green traffic light system on the hours of operation sign, giving a simple indication that the bus lane is open for use by other road users, right through to the above suggestion, which actually came to me writing this.

Working in the logistics business, I know how frustrating it can be for vehicles to be caught up on a long road, just waiting to turn left. And from a private road users perspective, I am flabbergasted by the number of people willing to sit in traffic purely driven by the fear of driving along or into a bus lane. Another thing I have noticed is that this 'fear' is so powerful, people actually swerve around bus stops laid with red tarmac.

While I know the aim of a bus lane is to ensure the bulk of commuters, those willing or required to use buses, are able to get to where they want in a timely manner, while the buses manage to stick quite closely to their timetables. And I'm all for that. having used buses quite a lot in the past its lovely to bypass the traffic and get there in a quarter of the time. Actually I can see that its an encouraging factor when it comes to deciding how to make your commute. 40 mins of traffic or a 15 min value for money bus journey. Personally I usually choose to drive.

So, people of London and other mighty cities, TfL, and dear Boris.... For those who concentrate SO much on the goings on on the roads that they can't read the hours of operation, for those caught in the moment and not aware, and for those who are terrified of the red tarmac which invaded our highways and threatened to charge us £100 for laying a wheel on to it (even if it is only a bus stop and the driver cant tell the difference) Please can we consider a way to make the drivers of the roads choked with traffic and bordered by expensive to drive in lanes, aware of when they are allowed to break free from the traffic, and make a run for freedom (a left turn).

Control over that extra lane could make such a difference. It has on the motorways, now to help those trapped in the cities (by their own stupidity)

And to those people reading this thinking aaaah..... Do something about it, get to know the roads on your journeys, and pay attention to the time of day. Its not a lot to do, but could be very rewarding. A quicker journey home, and the priceless looks on the faces you pass by. Try it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ban the Burqa!!............Why?

OK, so while I am on a roll for controversial blog posts, I thought I would go with this one.
A few years back people started chanting 'ban the burka' and rightfully so... Or was it?

With the rise of Britain First and all the other UK supremacy oriented Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and other such stuff, the ban the burqa thing has really made a comeback. With pictures of 'please remove crash helmets' signs side by side with a woman wearing a burqa, asking why one and not the other. So today I want to look at this.

Let me start by saying I am thinking and considering all this on the fly, so if I contradict myself it is because I have made sense of something while writing (unlikely but possible).

Lets start with crash helmets, at least most will understand the significance of these. Designed to protect the head in the event of an accident. However its important to realise that humans have used helmets of some form since 900BC. Protecting the head, a vital part of the human body has always taken priority for some reason. As the years went on, full face crash helmets for use on motorcycles became very popular.
Sadly some clever person had a long hard think about it, and realised it was the perfect normal looking, non suspicion raising items which could be worn in a street without causing alarm, then whip their sawn-off shot gun out of their bag and rob a bank. All the while, with their identity protected, and on the off chance of intervention, their head protected from the whack of a truncheon too.

Now, it was not until this point that businesses, mainly of a financial sort, started requesting their patrons removed their crash helmets when entering their premises. When these signs first started appearing there was no real noticeable uproar from the public about it. Lets face facts, its a little bit rude to try and hold any kind of person to person interaction with someone with a crash helmet on. Even by today's rude society standards, fast food delivery drivers lift their helmets to interact with the customer.

In short, the signs seen in public places asking you to remove your crash helmet have been around for years, decades in fact. If you want to blame anyone for this, or complain that its unfair, blame the blagging, bank robbing people of the 70's and 80's.

OK, so lets move on to that outrageous device, invented to irritate the UK, terror inducing, and fear provoking. THE BURQA !
Invented in 2001 just after 9/11, the burka was designed to give shelter to the evil Muslims of the world, and like ninja's, allow them to move around in society unseen, unidentifiable, and of course completely protected from any legal intervention. Protected by European law the burka leaves EVERYONE in the UK at severe risk of an imminent Muslim attack....

Oh hold on, sorry, that's UTTER BOLLOX ! I was quoting from LeftiePedia!
(no offence to Muslims intended :) )

Alright, seriously now. Firstly, the origins again. Harking back to the origins of the Islamic faith, but with no clear cut definition of its requirement or purpose, the burqa in short covers a woman from head to toe, allowing only a small gap over the eyes. In some cases even this is absent. With a thinner material or meshing over the eyes. Some belief it is for the sake of modesty, others that it allows only the husband of the wearer to see their true beauty.
However you look at the garment, one thing is clear. It has a LONG history, well documented, and one surrounded in faith, belief and tradition. It was around a long time before modern day terrorism, and even before most people in the UK had even used the word 'Muslim' or 'Islamic'.
One of the more surprising things the lack of robberies and crimes committed wearing one.  Yes of course there is record of some robberies using a burqa as a disguise, but then again stockings have been used for years, but ladies are not asked to remove them before entering a bank.
More info on the burqa here...The Burqa

Of course the burqa hides the identity of the wearer, as do many many other things worn in every day life, hoodies, beanie hats, sunglasses etc, they have all been used, but granted are not banned from being worn into a bank or other establishments.
As I said before, the crash helmet was the focus of attention because it suddenly played a big role in crimes, and was something that was practical to be asked to be removed. Most obliged, and still so, with no issue whatsoever.

So the burqa.... Apparently some in the UK feel a direct parallel should be drawn between the burqa and the crash helmet, and they too should be removed before entering places where crash helmets are banned. Fair enough, so lets look at that argument shall we.
First of, who is responsible for the request to remove helmets. The government of course. Oh no hold on, its UK Immigration policy of course.... Road Traffic Act..... NOPE! The owners and operators of the premises they are banned from. Private land owners, who have stipulated some rules for entering their premises. The same as McDonalds who display signs that shirts must be worn, clubs who say no trainers, and exclusive establishments which require you to wear a suit. Its no different, honestly its not! They are simple rules, set by people who want things done in a certain way on their premises. The list of examples is endless.

IF, the banks etc felt there was a serious enough threat, im sure some sort of guideline would be put in place to ensure the safety of the people in the buildings. Alas, poor bigots, as of yet, this has not become the case.

Instead it is left to the people with issues against Muslims, burqa's, people of other nationalities and faiths to some how draw parallels to the banning of crash helmets in banks, and somehow associate this with Islamic faith and traditional dress codes.

Lets flip it for a second, when was the last time someone went on holiday to an Islamic country, and was told to take off their 3/4 length combats, their garish coloured Primark special holiday t-shirt, and stop trying to grow a beard, because you look like a dick?
Yes its true, people in Dubai for example have been arrested for sunbathing topless, or shagging in the sea... but if you do that in most of the UK you will probably find you are arrested for that here too.. Shocker I know!

Truth of the matter is, somehow, maybe because of the initial fear put in us following 9/11 and 7/7, some of us became a little over sensitive to the whole 'who is that under there' and took it a little too far. Fired on by the scaremongering of the racist population, 'ban the burqa' grew momentum, and suddenly, rather than being an anti immigration, nationalist belief, it somehow found its way into the mainstream, and was seen as a fair comparison.

I will happily admit that I became more cautious following the attacks, and had moments of feeling a little threatened, various cases and scenarios, but none that I recall were caused by seeing a group dressed in burqa's. Lets be honest here, most people in the UK would feel more threatened by seeing a group of youths on the corner of a street wearing hoodies.

Speaking of hoodies..... They were banned from being worn in shopping centres and town centres too, seen as anti social and causing alarm, Safer neighbourhood teams were encouraged to get youths to remove them. Sensible adults applauded the move, and the habit faded out a little.
But even with this example of a garment which conceals an identity being discouraged from such places, the people screaming ban the burqa missed their chance to draw comparison, and open the debate if hoodies and burqa's posed the same threat.

Of course this would be a stupid debate for one reason, the same as the crash helmet. Both the hoodie and helmet have numerous records of use in ridiculous numbers of crimes, stereotyped in the movies and TV dramas, highlighted by the PM with his 'hug a hoodie' initiative (doh!) both caused enough genuine concern to receive serious attention, and be dealt with. Meanwhile the burqa remains a lifestyle choice, a tradition, and poses little risk to members of society, unless of course you are of a nervous disposition.

This subject came to mind this morning, driving into Croydon, and seeing a large number of women taking their children to school, mums in burqa's, kids in normal nursery and school clothes. No bias shown towards hiding identities, but their choice as a citizen of a pretty liberal country. One driven by any number of factors from fashion to faith. But who are we to question what they wear and why. How often do you see people on trains being asked why they have dared to wear green and pink in one outfit. Idiots who wear sunglasses bigger than ski goggles, covering 70% of their faces are not dragged from buses and banned from Costa Coffee. Rude boys wearing sunglasses at 11pm are looked at more with pity than fear..... But burqa's.......... They are the work of the devil!

Now to even the keel a little here.
While I bash the radicals in the UK, I too frown on the radicals of any country and faith who try and impose their beliefs on others in a foreign nation. A well established faith, national traditions, and rituals and activities belong in their homelands, and in other places WHERE INVITED.
I do not believe for one second that radicals of any country or faith should be allowed to demand the rights to conduct activities banned on the soil they are on, purely based on the fact that it is the done thing in the homeland. From domestic violence, to the preaching of hatred, which happens in all directions between every faith and nationality (lets be honest here)

I have very simple beliefs on these matters.
Behave within the law (in all walks of life, not just on this matter)
Respect others beliefs. You may not agree, but its legal, and their choice.
Do not impose your beliefs and lifestyles on others. Religion, drugs, alcohol, sexuality, they are all personal choices. If someone displays interest, go ahead, share. If not, enjoy YOUR choice, don't impose it.

Multicultural integration has worked for decades. I can remember people from Asia being an uncommon site, I can recall surprise in a Welsh town at seeing a black person. Most remember the great invasion of the Polish, but this has all become the norm now. Yes there are issues, of course there are clashes, but this happens between red blooded, pure 5th generation Brits every weekend once alcohol is introduced, so lets not be ignorant here.

We don't want the Irish banned from our favourite places based on the atrocities of the IRA back in the 79's , 80's and 90's. In fact most have either never heard of the IRA, or have long forgotten about it all. Now its them there Muslim folk! For those not familiar with the IRA, I have put this link in for you. The IRA

Not comparing actions in any sort of parallel, but just drawing attention to bombs, hatred and death imposed.

Not all Muslims are terrorists.
Not all terrorists are Muslim
None of the 7/7 or 9/11 terrorists wore burqa's, although some did use them to evade arrest, cant deny that. But then again  a hoodie or other disguise could have been used with ease. I will stereotype and guess that a burqa was to hand and suited purpose.

In short, to sum up... I think the burqa can be a beautiful garment, they are worn with pride, and in the name of belief in a tradition or faith. They are a lifestyle choice, and in fairness, given that most people would shy away from wearing one due to the restrictions wearing one can cause, I have respect for women choosing to wear one rather than the attire of the rest of the school run mums.

Concentrate on the nasty evil preaching radicals, and ease up on the burqa people, its not hurting anyone.

As usual, I am open to opinions, comments and all other observations on this blog, BUT I will remove anything seen as inflammatory or offensive .

Friday, October 10, 2014

Simply Scuba... Simply Amazing

I have to be honest, I usually tend to blog about a whole load of negative things, and rarely get around to giving credit to good service etc. Occasionally I will, but usually only if I'm REALLY impressed. And on this occasion, I am just that.

Having recently found a new love in my life, in the form of scuba diving, I needed to find an online shop which stocked a wide range of products, was simple to browse, and was backed up with good service. Looking through the options, the friendliest to the eye as well as the wallet came up as Simple Scuba .

After sending off some questions about my planned first purchase, I expected the same rubbish generic reply you get from lots of online enquiries. Cut and paste paragraphs with a little to make it seem personal. Instead I received a prompt reply, with a detailed response. Which in turn convinced me to press CONFIRM for the purchase.

Being the awkward bugger that I am, I found that the wetsuit I had ordered was not gonna fit. A 7mm SubGear is not the easiest thing in the world to get into on the best of days. Contacting Simply again and asking to use their FREE size exchange service. Obviously I was going to have to pay to return it, and for new postage to me, but no restocking fee. That's what I thought it would be...

Wrong.... turns out that FREE means completely free. A returns label was emailed over, simply dropped it off to a Collect+ location and off it goes, totally free of cost. The replacement is also sent free of charge too. Such a simple, pain free and most satisfying of all, cost free service. Once more for good luck.... FREE !

With my first experience all sorted, I decided it was time to take advantage of the next great thing about Simply Scuba... Their store based in Faversham is open 7 days a week, which any scuba diving fanatic will know, is not too common for a dive shop. Being able to visit on Sundays is great for the girlfriend who is unable to get to the shops any other day of the week.
Needless to say, the visit wasn't cheap!

Following the visit, I was newly inspired by seeing so many shiny objects in the shop, so went straight online and ordered some more bits. Unfortunately the bag I bought, a ScubaPro Dry 120, had a defective strap on it, so needed to go back. What a great excuse to go back for more shopping. So after a quick exchange of emails, apologies received and exchange arranged, we returned to the shop. A painless and simple exchange was made, followed by about another £1200 spend in store, and we were off again.

Sadly on Monday evening aka dive night, on unloading the bag from my car a shoulder strap gave way. Taking a quick picture just to show how it broke, I popped off an email and tweet to @simplyscuba , just as a time stamp and to excuse why the bag was worn. I wasn't for one second expecting a reply via Twitter at 10pm at night. Exceptional to say the least. The following day a quick email again, and the return was arranged, as usual FREE of charge and done with ease via Collect+ . At the same time I ordered a replacement (different brand) bag, this time a Mares Cruise Backpack Pro.

After making the order I confirmed with customer services that as I needed it quickly, I would buy the new one while the old one was being sent back, if a refund could be arranged on its return. Of course this was agreed to by the no problem approach of the customer service team at Simple Scuba. As an added bonus, and very kindly they also waived the charge for the Next Day delivery I had selected. Thank you Simply.

So now I have a complete scuba kit, including an amazing bag to carry it all in. All I need to do now is sort a dry bag for putting the wetsuit and boots in after diving. My guess that a Mares 25 litre dry bag was sadly a little ambitious. Needless to say for a wet 7mm suit and boots im gonna need something a little bit bigger. My next purchase maybe?

So my advice to you... If you like scuba diving, or a whole range of other outdoor sports, kayaking, hiking, running and more, give the Simply Group a look. Hassle free interest free credit, superb online shop, great customer services, fantastic store in Faversham staffed by lovely people, and so much more. I cant recommend Simply enough.

So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to Simply Scuba for only helping to increase my love of diving, and making the journey of getting all my gear so trouble free. I already have a long shopping list of things to buy, including a 3 or 5mm wetsuit, Suunto Vyper, a decent small light, and so on...

Like diving - Love Simply Scuba

Monday, October 6, 2014

The McCann's, the 'Trolls' and the media

Not really sure where to start with this whole thing, so lets go to the beginning...

On 3rd May 2007 the UK awoke to the news of a missing child. One would like to say a rare occurrence, however on the grand scheme of things, its sadly not rare at all. In fact to quote one source reporting in 2008, 'Every year more than 100,000 children go missing in the UK.... that's one every FIVE minutes.' Quite startling I am sure you will agree.

However, while this was a UK child, the disappearance had happened thousands of miles away in Portugal, Praia da Luz to be precise. The child I am sure you have worked out by now is Madeline McCann.

Over the next days, weeks, months, and now years, the parents of Madeline would somehow steal the hearts of people around the world. Part of this was due to the huge explosion of social media around this time. Facebook, Twitter etc were all in the process of becoming global names, and for some of us a way of life. Every opinion, ever suggestion, theory or sometimes fact, would be known globally within minutes of its publication, all thanks to social media, Blackberry, iPhone, and the mobile internet. Because of this, and the constant feed of both genuine information, as well as a whole lot of speculation, the McCann's gained what I can only describe as 'fame'.

But what was the fame for exactly. Well this is where things get a little bit messy. So lets break it down.

First up, simple facts.
Madeline was taken from an apartment in the complex in where the family were staying. Having been left in the apartment with her two younger siblings, somehow she went missing. Her parents at the time of the said disappearance were at a tapas restaurant in the same complex. From basic facts, the children were out of both audio and visual range of their parents. However 'regular' checks were made on them.

The Portuguese Police would take lead on the case, and along with the majority of the UK media, would subsequently point the finger of blame at the parents. Reasons for this blame ranged from simple irresponsibility and abandonment, through to foul play and suggestions of murder and disposal of Madeline's body.

As time passed, the Portuguese Police would ask for or allow intervention in the investigation from Scotland Yard, senior investigating officers would be removed from the case, and charges considered both against the parents, and officers involved. At one point the parents were considered arguido's (suspects)

OK so I shall break from the fact reporting for a moment because this is where it gets interesting.
Arguido's, the first was Robert Murat (later cleared of ANY involvement in the case). The name came to the headlines quite quickly, and certain media sources, ok Sky News took it upon themselves to dig up EVERYTHING they could about this man. Making suggestions of child porn on his PC, paedophile activities and many other very damaging accusations. Of course this all lead nowhere, and after the well orchestrated destruction of Mr Murat's reputation and name, they simply moved on.

Next, with the McCann's now being considered suspects too, the media (yes Sky and others) turned their attention to them. As the use of so called 'cadaver dogs' begun, and reports of indications in the apartment spread, the media turned their attention to foul play. Over the coming days, which ramping up the huge media appeal for information on Madeline's whereabouts, the media also took aim at the parents, speculating on what two trained medical professionals could have done. Drugged, accidentally killed, disposed of in a panic.. The list was quite wild, but also lets be honest, plausible too.

So lets move on a few years.
After much support, a whole heap of cash donations, and lets be honest now, a lot of bad feeling towards the parents too, the media circus was over, right? No, far from it.
In fact what was coming next was probably going to eclipse the disappearance of Madeline. To be honest, her face is probably one of the best known child faces in the world. Having not been out of the media for more than a month in any given year, now the poster child for any story which contains the words 'missing child', Madeline will most definitely never be forgotten.

But now it was publicity, book writing, pleas for more help, repeated TV appeals etc, and of course don't forget the media. Their ongoing love affair with the whole matter, the ratings topping McCann stories just kept coming. I have never quite worked out what the attraction, interest or attachment between Sky and the McCann's is. Sky seem to have an insatiable appetite for stories involving Kate and Gerry. Maybe its the controversy it causes, maybe its the Twitter trend topping #HashTags they end up with, who knows. All I know is, in the 7 years since Madeline disappeared, statistically almost THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION children have at some point been reported missing in the UK.

I sadly concede that there have been other flash in the pan cases, all of which have ended in tragic and heartbreaking discoveries of bodies. Tearing families apart after their beloved child has been taken, and subsequently murdered and simple disposed of. All the children have been subjected to horrific ordeals. My heart goes out to these families each time, and I wish the perpetrators of these crimes the most miserable of lives or deaths.

However, with no real leads in the case almost since the day Madeline was reported missing, the media continue to follow this one. Maybe there is something about the family we don't know, or maybe the media are just hoping for the exclusive on one day getting closure on the story.

So, the recent crusades of the media regarding the McCanns.....
A few days ago Sky doorstepped a woman known as @sweepyface (twitter name), and revealed her to the world as a despicable hateful woman who was harassing and abusing the McCann's via twitter. Before I go on, its worth pointing out that the McCann's neither use Twitter, nor (as they said themselves) had any knowledge of this womans comments. However they applauded their mates at Sky for stamping on this 'troll' and agreed she should be used as an example.

So the Sky story, lets look at it. Using quotes and examples of 'hate' tweets aimed at the McCann's ranging from questions of their morality and integrity in their actions on May 3rd 2007, right through to threats against the lives of them, and suggestions of torture, waterboarding and other vile suggestions. The problem is, in this quote cloud as I like to call it, the only tweets with their author NOT obscured were those of @sweepyface . Most were mildly aggravated comments directs at #McCanns , but to someone not paying much attention to detail, and the way the so called investigation was aimed at this person, it would appear that she was responsible for ALL the comments on screen.
Now the reason I mention the comments of the parents is a simple one. If I fire a gun screaming someones name, but 100 miles away from them, is that attempted murder? If I blog about someone, saying mean things about them, but knowing they nor their friends will ever read my comments, is that liable? If I tweet angrily about a subject, airing my opinion, am I a troll because you disagree with me. My point being, if the other party involved is never subjected to my opinions or comments, have I caused them any upset?

Later that day Sky would proudly announce a Q&A session with one of their reporters. #AskBrunt . Now far be it for me to judge, but what exactly was the aim of this session going to be. Would it really be objective, and what did it possibly hope to achieve. Well as 2pm rolled around, and anger towards Sky grew on twitter, surprise surprise #AskBrunt started to trend. I bet that was great for commercial purposes eh! As the session started, and the mood worsened, it was obvious that not much was really going to happen. With questions ranging from angry to funny, on and off topic all being thrown into the pot, 25-30 mins was spent answering a select few. At the end of it, the discussion continued, the # continued to trend, and the fat cats sat staring at their success of re-using the McCann story once again to get some attention.

Tonight, it has started to feed into the media that @sweepyface has been found dead in a hotel.
I don't claim to know of every tweet she sent, nor do I necessarily agree with her actions or comments. But what I do know is the McCann's say that they had no knowledge of this person, therefore she had done them no harm. However, the whole of the UK knew who she was by the evening, her face plastered on papers and websites, both hatred and support pouring out for her. It would appear at this point, going by the statements of the police, that she took her own life.

Is this justice? Is this 'the right thing'. Did she 'deserve it' for the tweets she had posted?
Well that is a matter of opinion. and this is mine.

Sky News, obsessed with the McCann story, onto a good thing using their name to 'help' the family find Madeline, took it a step too far.
Doorstepping a soft target who they had tracked down, isolating her and using the tweets of other Twitter users they for some reason decided to obscure, rain hell on her and somehow gave the impression that @sweepyface was the ringleader in a UK wide campaign of hate and vulgar behaviour towards their mates the McCanns.
Their choice of reporting technique, the manner in which they melted her into the mixing pot of other truly sickening Twitter users, and their convincing opinions that she was a truly hateful woman, led to her taking her life.

So,,, lets summarise.
The McCanns went out for dinner leaving their kids at home. One was taken.
The McCanns shot to fame as the irresponsible parents who left their kids home alone.
Sky News somehow struck up a friendship, dedicating a whole section of the Sky News website to Madeline for a long period of time.
Sky News seemingly took on the McCann name as some sort of franchise.
When their franchise came under too much fire, they bit back.

And now here we are.

No, nothing is clear cut, we don't know the facts of what happened in Praia da Luz that evening. But quite frankly, and with the greatest of respect, its time for the world to move on and leave the family to work through it in private. The remaining kids will probably spend the rest of their lives in the media spotlight if Sky have anything to do with it.
Speaking as a father who was part of the upbringing of my own daughter for her early years, I can say in MY opinion, and those who I socialise with... It is NOT normal behaviour to leave a child out of sight. From one room to another yes, answer the front door, get the washing in, YES. To go out to dinner for the evening.. Ermm nope. Not in my books. ANYONE who does this, or has done this certainly in the last decade should question their actions.

So that's me done.

I just want to finish up by saying, how do you think the two examples below compare.

@sweepyface and her comments into seemingly empty space. Comments which would never reach their target.

Sky News, and the systematic character assassinations of people that flash on their radar as involved in a case, who subsequently turn out to have NO involvement.
Robert Murat and Christopher Jefferies are good examples of this kind of behaviour.
If putting hateful, hurtful and damaging comments and opinions of people into the social domain is considered 'trolling' , well Sky News, I suggest you get writing a dossier... on yourselves!

If you have read this far, please read this last bit.

I in NO WAY condone the behaviour of genuine internet trolls who target, abuse, and attempt to destroy the lives of innocent people. There is a big difference between targeted troll campaigns, and people who genuinely wish to express themselves in the public domain. It is for these people who choose to express themselves, for which blogs like this, and social media sites such as Twitter were made for.
Do my opinions differ from yours? Maybe so. Does it make me vile, wrong or insensitive? I would like to think not. If we all agreed on everything the world would be a dull place to say the least. There are rough guidelines to follow, but we all have our own limits. The thing to pay attention to is the intent in which the comments are made. If there is clear ill intent, and not just an interpretation of words which somehow offend you, then it should be reported and efforts made to cease the persons activities. If you just disagree with someone's opinion, no matter how strongly worded, then look away, move on, and forget about it.

Late night rants never look that good in the morning, so forgive any glaring faults, I will proof this again in the morning.

Thanks for reading and as ever, feel free to share.