Monthly Archives: October 2009

National Express: another day, another drama

“Now for Irrational Express, an everyday drama of transport folk going slowly round the bend. Today, episode 297: The Spanish Inquisition, starring Jorge “deputy chairman” Cosmen and, in a supporting role, Brian “jilted” Souter (of Stagecoach fame).”

So begins an article in the The Telegraph. Love it :-)

And here’s a picture of a NatEx coach which appeared in Private Eye in February 2008.


Firefox Google searches

Looking at my site statistics I notice that a lot of visitors use Firefox as their browser, so I do I. There has always been one thing which niggled me about Firefox – the search box (top right on the screen) always uses google.COM for searches not google.CO.UK which I’d much prefer. There are others I’m sure who’d like to use google.FR or google.DE etc. Firefox doesn’t offer the option to change this anywhere and the subject goes unmentioned on the Firefox website.

Finally a couple of weeks ago I cracked how to change the search to use which ever google site you prefer. First close Firefox if it’s open. Using a text editor such as NotePad (not a word processor) you need to locate the file \Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins\google.xml open the file and change every mention of to, etc. whatever you want. Then save the file keeping the same name, the old file will be over written. Open Firefox, do a search and the results will be returned by the google site of your choice.

One warning! Every time Firefox updates to a newer version the google.xml file gets reset. I found this out today when my Firefox install upgraded. You just have to modify the file again, only takes a few minutes, and is what reminded me of this and made me think to write about it. I hope it’s useful to someone.

Police Terrorise Citizens

This is from the Kubatana blog.

Thursday 8 October is a day that I will remember this year with bitter memories. This is what happened on the night of October 8. I was coming from a neighbouring township with my mzukulu (a grandson) at a round 2015hrs, and as we were about to cross the street that joins the two townships, a speeding car suddenly stopped in front of us. An armed cop apparently dressed for peace keeping duty in Kosovo jumped off the back of the vehicle with the agility of a ninja. He approached gun in hand, and boy was I stunned.

“Get in the car now!” he barked without giving us a second to understand what was happening. I obviously tried to protest, and the enraged cop further barked: “You are the people who go about raping women and killing them.” I thought, this is becoming surreal. Maybe I’m dreaming. Is this the Zimbabwe we want? There is GNU (Government of National Unity) for Gods’ sake and should we be subjected to this treatment, I mused in the privacy of my thoughts – and under the cover of the dark night that managed to camouflage my obvious rage.

We were then shoved at the back of the truck were about twenty bitter men sat huddled like those miserable illegal immigrants trying to sail through the Straits of Gibraltar. “I was picked up when I was coming from church. Look, here is my Bible.” “I was picked up right in front of my house.” “I was picked up when I was giving way to the police car.” There grumbling went on and on, and one female cop who proved to have been particularly miffed by something that some guessed had nothing to do with carrying out her duties went into action.

She liberally lashed her sjambok above our heads in the dark and I saw grown men wince in pain. “You think because I am a woman I cannot use this sjambok on you?” she snarled. Soon we were at the Nkulumane Police Station. I told myself, we are leaving this wretched place soon as we explain we were on our way home as law abiding citizens, but then I was to learn later rather painfully that you cannot reason with an unreasonable man – or worse yet cop. Soon, were told to line up. As we were led to the holding cells, the baton stick was again recalled and each of us got pretty violent and very painful lashes on our buttocks. I actually asked one stupefied cop to add more as he had no clue what the hell he was doing and for what reason.

These cops did not bother to tell us why our rights were being violated like that. Then we were told that anyone who did not want to spend the night in the filthy cells must pay USD5! For what? Are we living in a police state and not aware of it? Wrong question! As we were pushed into the cells, a visibly – and understandably bitter guy said: “I am not paying for a crime I did not commit you can bet on that.” Then the cop said something I still recall today and wonder what the hell was he talking about: “So you think you are the Prime Minister? You will rot in there if you think we are here to play.” He spoke in Shona and appeared aggrieved by something which only some seer and someone blessed with ESP could have deciphered. I wondered like everybody else where the Prime Minister fit in here and in what context. But then it has been said the GNU has many enemies! The cop just let the sentence hang and it was up to the crowd to fill in the gaps. Spend the night in the cells we did, 20 of us.

I wondered about my two young boys back home. They were obviously waiting for their dad to tuck them in, but they were to spend the night with their young minds wondering where the old man was. Talk about feeling like an absentee dad! In the morning, were asked if we had the money to pay fine. Again back at the “charge office” we were subjected to more ridicule. So we were being offered our freedom, but we had to tell the cops what we had been arrested for. “You tell us, isn’t you are the one who arrested us,” I said to the cop who sat on a high bar seat literally feeling high and mighty.

“If you do not why you were arrested then we are returning you to the cells so you can wait for the cops who arrested you to tell you why you were arrested. Or even if you still insist you did not do anything, we throw back in the cells so you can go to court and plead your case.” I instantly hated the guy. He was enjoying it, and in his own warped mind he was doing us a great favour by offering us an option to pay a fine. I wondered: is this the Zimbabwe the GNU is promising us? It certainly isn’t the Zimbabwe we want. “So you think you are the Prime Minister” those words kept ringing in my angry mind. “We cannot just accept your fine when you do not what you are paying for,” the cop reasoned. To a cut a long story short as I increasingly being infuriated by someone others I in the cells had already called a “Border Gezi graduate,” I said fine we were arrested for public drinking. That seemed to rile the cop.

“We are not playing here. We will throw back in the cells until you tell us why you arrested.” “Okay,” I said. “We were crossing the street about a hundred metres from here (meaning the police station) when we were picked up and thrown into the cells.” “Okay then. You were arrested for loitering.” Boy was I stunned! Then my niece asked what I still think was a clincher. “So there is a curfew then?” “Huh?” the cop was baffled. What the heck is he talking about? I saw it written on the bamboozled cops face. “So there is a curfew then,” my niece repeated. “Huh?” Turns out he did not know what a curfew is! “Asivanhu havatshavumidzwa ukuhamba ebusuku?” the young lad asked, lacing his broken Shona with Ndebele. It was only then that the cop responded, but only to expose the nature of the intellectual aptitude of these people tasked with protecting law abiding citizens. Another guy on the other side of the counter asked: “So the curfew is that no one moves around after 9PM?” “Even 8PM,” the cop replied. And we all burst out laughing despite our circumstances. So as you may imagine, we parted with USD10 and for what? I still do not know. But I did tell the cops who rained that sjambok on my buttocks: “God bless you.”

Even as I write this I have difficulty sitting as my backside is still painful. It also got me thinking about something: when you are assaulted or mugged, doctors always ask for a police report before they treat you. Now, I was sjamboked by cops, who do I get the police report from for me to get treatment? Great country ain’t it? But then this is not Europe or the States where you can sue these cops and expect to be awarded damages. After all, these are the same chaps who over the years have literally got away with murder. For me the least I can do is tell the world about. Perhaps we are living a lie under this GNU animal. These are times we are living in when so many of us had imagined police brutality was confined to the pre-GNU years. Two weeks later I read in the Chronicle newspaper (Wednesday 14 October 2009 p.2) that the country’s Number One Cop Augustine Chihuri had urged promoted officers in the Midlands province to respect human rights. I laughed bitterly.


We’re back again, not because we didn’t want to stay longer in South Wales, but because my mother who is 91 was visited by her GP yesterday and needs to be admitted to hospital. Monday was taken up by something of which I’ll write about later but it certainly couldn’t be classified as a thing you go on holiday to do! So our only holiday bit was yesterday morning’s visit to Big Pit before we packed up and came home.

Big Pit is a real coal mine which is now a museum. What it most definitely is not is an adapted and altered coal mine giving a nice clean visitor experience. The highlight of the visit is the ability to take an underground tour and get right up to the coal face. Thank God no Health & Safety ‘expert’ can ever have taken a look at how and where the visitor walks, if they had I’m sure underground tours would be banned :-( As it is the floor is wet and pot holed with bits of railway track in it in some places, the headroom has not been increased anywhere, there are no emergency lights, no dimmed lights to show you the way. It’s unchanged from how it was the day they stopped actually removing coal from the coal face. Before going below you are kitted out with a helmet and lamp on the front of it (mine had a few more scars on it when I handed it back than it had when I started with it), a belt pack containing the battery for the light and a gas mask in a canister. Here are Essy and Tafadzwa about to descend below the earth’s surface.


The descent from the pit head is by an original cage lowered by the winding wheel pictured here.


The underground tour lasts around 50 minutes and you walk something less than a kilometer but I was a little weary when I surfaced. I think both Essy and I resembled apes wandering the tunnels! Our legs were bent, shoulders hunched, leaning forward so much that it looked like we were scraping our knuckles on the ground :-)
I can’t recommend the place highly enough and it would certainly be worth 100 times the entrance charge which is ……… nothing!

Thanks Chris for a superb suggestion.

A few days silence

Essy and I are going away to South Wales for a few days. We need to be in Newport on Monday morning so we’re taking the caravan and spending tomorrow night and Monday night there for certain. After that it depends on the weather and how we’re liking South Wales. We’ve both got the week off work so there’s no pressure to hurry home if we don’t want to.

I’ve not been to South Wales for years and years, so long ago infact that I can’t remember much about it at all. Any suggestions for things we shouldn’t miss, or places to go, while we’re there would be very welcome.

Any ‘legal eagles’ reading this?

By chance I came across and whilst looking around found Samsung SM215TW 21 inch WSXGA+ TFT LCD Monitors at £0.01+VAT with 6 in stock!! Too good a bargain to miss so I bought all 6 for £0.06 plus £2.99 for delivery. Here’s the confirmation of the purchase at £0.01 each which I made via Google Checkout :-

Your order has been sent to is responsible for charging and shipping your order. Have questions? Contact
# 22 Oct charged your VISA xxx-1031 for £3.05. “GOOGLE *Oyyy co uk” will appear on your credit card statement.
# 22 Oct received your order.
# 22 Oct You placed an order with on 22 Oct.
Google Checkout sent a copy of this receipt to
Order date: 22 Oct 2009 15:22 GMT+01:00
Google order number: 934683854330999
Delivery Status: Not yet shipped

6 (LS21DPWASQ) Samsung SM215TW 21 inch WSXGA+ TFT LCD Monitor 1000:1 300cd/m2 1680 x 1050 8ms DVI (… – Samsung SM215TW 21 inch WSXGA+ TFT LCD Monitor 1000:1 300cd/m2 1680 x 1050 8ms DVI (Silver/Black) £0.06
Shipping & Handling (Super Saver Delivery – Within 5 Working Days) : £2.99
Total: £3.05
(includes VAT £0.00)

Purchased from:
Unit H4 Premier Way
Lowfields Business Park
0870 608 5522
VAT ID: 649 0075 33

Paid with:
VISA xxx-1031
mr malcolm j loades
023 80123456

Deliver to:
mr malcolm j loades
023 80123456

(I’ve changed a few things in this to remove my full address and telephone number). But then I received this e-mail :-(

Dear Mr Loades

Thank you for your recent order with

I regret to inform you that a pricing error occurred on our system which allowed you to
order the Samsung SM215TW Monitor at £0.01 + VAT.

Unfortunately we are unable to supply you with this item at that price, therefore we have
arranged for this order to be cancelled and refunded in full.

Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused due to this unusual circumstance.

Kind Regards

Can I demand 6 x 21″ LCD monitors at £0.0.1 each plus, of course, VAT at 15% ?

It would be great if I could :-)