April Fool or No April Fool?

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April Fool or No April Fool?.  It’s no Joke

dangerous dogs

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Watching Sky News on the tragic tale of the young girl who has been ‘attacked’ by a number of dogs and subsequently died as a result. Tragic!  The correct circumstances have yet to come to public attention.  Press speculation on there version of events don’t help.  I have been around dogs all my life and I would be very cautious about entering a yard full of dogs even if I knew them well.

I really don’t like the word attack.  Dogs get excited, bored, playful but they NEVER hate.  They MAY have tried to get the food.  They MAY have got excited. They MAY have been ill disciplined.  Whatever the circumstances it is a tragic result.

We have 10 dogs. we originally brought four from UK and last year one of those original pack died.  Due to the fact we don’t have veterinary care here we ended up with two litters we weren’t expecting.  Two of the Terkels had a litter and my ridgeback dog made a massive cartoon style hole in the fence and mated with our Labrador   We had a beautiful litter of black ridgebacks as a result.

We homed all the ridgebacks and teckels to good, caring homes. One of the ridgebacks is loved and pampered and cared for without question.  His owner however played tug games with him as a puppy.  played rough games and so he got a rambunctious no limits puppy.  He has now turned into a large, black ridgeback who is a handful, who will occasionally bite.

We kept one of the teckel pups, he worries us.  We really did think he was a racist.  He will cuddle and smooze with any white person who comes here but the staff he goes for every time.  Trooper needs to be watched.  He hasn’t been harmed by any of the staff as far as I know and we haven’t trained him to be that way.  Then at the week end our friend Leslie was here.  He’s a black Zimbabwean who likes dogs.  Trooper was all over him like a rash. cuddles and kisses galore.  Then we realised another mate of our Jose Nildo who is a black Mozambican also has no problem with Troops.  Most of the locals here fear dogs with an unfounded dread.  even the tiniest of puppies will have them running to jump atop the nearest table.  Maybe its just that Trooper is more sensitive to this fear than the rest.

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Then we have the two brindles.  you can’t call them mongrels.  they look like every other village dog in these parts.  Part basenji  part terrier and part staffy.  They were brought up here.  Friends who were staying here rescued the whole litter.  They were all found new homes but little Texas was soon back.  The people who took him brought him back after a few days with terrible injuries.  He had had some scalding liquid poured over his back and legs.  poor little soul was only a 9 weeks old.  We never did get the truth of what happened. Anyway between us we got him better and the little chap had some pretty hefty scars.  then he was re-homed again by a caring couple.  problem was they travelled……lots! The pup was left to the staff to look after.  We found out that this little guy was stealing chickens to survive.  In the mean time his sister ended up back here after she was run over and had a fractured pelvis and collapsed lung.  Gordon learned to suck the air out of her chest and I taught her to walk again.  She even recovered the use of her tail.  So now we have the brother and sister back and for all there trials and tribulations are wonderful dogs, great companions and protective of us and our property.  Not aggressive but they let you know who there.

Teal our old Labrador still likes to potter and like most labs doesn’t have a vicious bone in her body.  She would however defend us and our property with her life.  Her devotion to Gordon is amazing.  she lives for his attention.

We have in total of 5 teckels, sweet loving characterful dogs but ours are ALL trained to work.  God help a rat if they get close and all together they will rip it to shreds.  Frightening to watch because it doesn’t take much for them to turn on each other in the excitement of the kill.  A bit like mob mentality at a riot.

Freyja at 11 weeks edited

Now we have a new member of the family.  A wonderful Rottweiler bitch we’ve called Freyja. she is a star.  Five months old and growing exponentially.  She is happy to follow the staff, steal their shoes and like all puppies use anything of value as a teething ring.  She won’t be aggressive, our previous rotties weren’t. she will however be a loyal companion who will have boundaries rules and training.

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People need to understand how dogs think if they are going to interact with them.  Dogs need to be trained not with brutality but understanding of what a dog is and requires.  I have one teckel, Taz, she’s got a bad leg and a bad back and is getting on.  Sometimes the others will turn on her, normally when something else has worked them up.  In the wild it would be the natural order of  things.  Only the strong survive.  the weak are forced out and succumb to the elements.  Humans see this as horrendous behaviour.  For animals its the only way the pack can survive.

Don’t brand a breed as dangerous that’s as bad as racism in the human world.  A dog can be an unconditional friend and helper regardless of its size, breed or start in life.  Humans are supposed to be the cleverer animal.  I sometimes wonder if that’s right

why can’t we have a book for people like we do for snakes?

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Many years ago my husband, Gordon, was a member of the Metropolitan Polices Special Patrol group.  200 of the Metropolis’s finest who dealt with everything.  Public order, surveillance, armed assistance to all sorts of units, protection duties and helped out when divisions were short of numbers or had a team of naughty folk raising the crime stats.  There  insignia was a striking cobra.  Indeed Gordon had a pet snake, a reticulated python called Gollum.  I too had friends who were into herpetology   On one occasion I removed a live python from under a car in Victoria Street SW1.  Much to my sergeant’s disgust.  I remember him saying something about deeming me at the time.

When we came here I bought a couple of snake books, I refer to them from time to time.  We have a no kill policy here on our land.  Our staff know we don’t kill anything unless its a threat to us or the other animals, we try and relocate where we can.  The staff think we are raving mad; some of our neighbours agree, I think.  More than once I’ve taken Gordon’s walking stick and relocated a tiger snake or sand snake

I have to admit I was worried about bringing the dogs here I had a vision of a large python taking one of the Teckels and swallowing them whole. Now Teckels are used for flushing wild boar in France and historically were used to tackle badgers.  They are marvellous blood trailers and are a tenacious little dog.  They are the original dachshund before kennel clubs and breeders messed with them.  Their legs are slightly longer there bodies shorter and most of mine have wiry or woolly coats. The original three that came here from England have increased to 5.

One, who was born here, is called Daisey; shes tiny.  She’s also our best snake killer.  Snakes here seem to be like buses. You  don’t see one for months then 6 come along together.  We hadn’t had any snake sightings for ages then a neighbour started clearing her land.  All the snakes seemed to come our way and straight into the quintal where some of the dogs sleep.  Scout, our beautiful ridgeback, collapsed one day couldn’t breath and was so distressed and in such a bad way Gordon had to shoot him (no vets here).  We were heartbroken.  Next day little Daisey had killed a huge mamba. That explained Scout’s collapse the previous day. Over the next few weeks she killed a further two black mambas, two green mambas and a Mozambican spitting cobra.

One night the guard called us.  He had seen a snake.  He showed us where. In one of our guest apartments half concealed in an air brick was a massive black mamba. Me with the trusty walking stick inside and hubby with my trusty 410 shotgun out.  I poked. He shot!  So another one bit the dust.

We hadn’t had any snakes for a long while  then a few weeks back we were told by the staff there was a number of small snakes in a baobab tree near our beach cottages.  Understandably the occupants Sao and Miguel who live in the cottages wanted them gone.  Fortunately our friend Alex was here from Texas. Ex military and police he was still not keen to meet our uninvited guests.

The  chaps hatched  a plan.  Gordon with the 12 bore and Alex with my 410 would cover the entrance to the nest. Me, and I can’t believe I did this, was given the oily rag on the end of a bamboo stick.  The rag was lit and I poked it into the nest. Nothing. In a way I’m happy. Pleased that the hatch-lings had taken off.  Mainly because if they’d come out I wiould probably have run straight across the field of fire.

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Taz, another one of the teckels, has had her share of encounters with spitting cobras.  Her poor eyes!  She won’t let them go though.  She keeps at ’em.  Fortunately washing her eyes with milk then lots of water has saved her sight on more than one occasion.

The ones I really don’t like are the puff adders.  they are ambush predators and sit just off the pathways at dusk.  They go completely still and won’t move away like the rest.  I’m always cautious if I wander about after dark.

For all this though the snakes have their place.  they keep the rodent population down.  They were here long before us and no doubt long after we are gone.  Its a bit like life really.  You don’t have to like everyone, some you have to be careful of, some you need to eradicate from your life because they’re toxic others are harmless but you need to give them space. The hard part is learning the difference.  It’s easy with snakes the book has them marked as red for dangerous and green for harmless.  Pity we don’t have a book like that for people.

Building a new life

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When we were in UK we had our fare share of building projects over the years.  We had a very old terraced cottage which we completely renovated….. then sold it and came here.  Now when I say we, I should really say a shed load of contractors and friends who helped transform a badly modernised 1886 two up two down into a lovely character home.

So we packed up everything well I say we, what I should say is the removal company packed up everything in lots of paper and boxes and everything we had went into storage for several months until we were settled in Pemba Mozambique.  Our dogs had gone to the parents some months before.  All the advice was you sell a lot easier without the animals about.

I’ll bypass the trials and tribulations of the first 18 months for a day when I have had a few more drinks and the pain of the memory is numbed.  We eventually bought our concession just outside of town. the ins and outs of which are a blog unto themselves.  The land was scrub brush and trees.  First thing we did was dig a well. We were so lucky, we have the only land with fresh drinking water on this stretch of beach.

There is no B&Q (what does that stand for?) so you have to make your own blocks.  you buy a block former then mix the muck and press each block one at a time.  Then you find someone with half an idea to stick them together.  I kicked down lots of walls in my attempts to explain level and straight.  Three dimensions is still something the locals don’t grasp well.

There is nowhere to buy windows and doors but plenty of local, self-taught carpenters and some beautiful hardwoods.  So every window and door is hand-made from mahogany (difficult for the wood-boring beetles to get through) when we first came here there was no glass.  All our windows are mosquito net and louvre’d shutters.  Now we have two glaziers in town we are slowly changing the windows out.

There are no architects here either; thank goodness for tech drawing from school and a decent CAD package for the computer. so we designed and planned the various buildings and in so doing planned our future.

 

one of the beach cottages built brick by brick and stone by stone

one of the beach cottages built brick by brick and stone by stone

The idea was to have a place where people could come on vacation but not on holiday.  We wanted everyone who comes here to feel like they’re part of the family.  we don’t want people to just observe Africa we want people to feel it, share it with us.

I wont say its been easy but the sense of achievement and the work yet to do spurs us on.  This is not so much retirement but living our lives, for the first time, our way.  We decide when and what happens next.  it’s a huge responsibility, the mountains of work sometimes seem unconquerable.  Then we find a new route, or a new guide and we move on.

Not so scruffy police a response from @SPGCobra

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Having read the article in the Mail on Sunday there are some points that I feel I must take issue with.

There are some points I agree with and many Police Officers would be happy if we had better discipline

and smarter uniforms.

The assumption that Mr. Winsor might be the right candidate for the post of Her Majesties Inspector of Constabularies is, I believe, not complete or even fully explored. The reason certain standards and practices are no longer maintained are as a result of a fundamental shift in Police thinking and priorities due to pressures from outside the Police Service. This has been from successive Governments and advisors who are either not Police Officers or are Senior Police Officers who will recommend any trendy innovations in Policing if they believe it will get them noticed by their Home Office Masters and ultimately get them the next rank or employment at a later date. Its seems that many who are selected for Senior Management are growing further away from the core values that the author of the article states they hold so dear. It would seem at variance to his argument to appoint Mr. Winsor who has no experience of the core values he admires and is a person who advocates cuts to the numbers of trained Police Officers which has already resulted in less “Boots on the Beat”

I agree that Police Officers should look smart and have a demeanor and authority that commands respect.  I certainly would never have considered being in public without my hat or helmet.  I was inspected daily by the Section Sargeant and or Duty Officer and if my appearance was not to standard

I would be told in no uncertain terms. A Probationer who did not measure up would not complete their Probation and would be dismissed.  The failure to enforce these standards is regrettable.

Why did these standards slip?

Perhaps because the Police Force became a Police Service and at that time many Police Chiefs were selected and encouraged to move away from the core values.  Appearance was no longer considered a priority. Some Police Officers do not have a daily uniform inspection some Police Officers do not see a supervising rank on a daily basis.  This would seem to me to support a return to some “Old style Police Chiefs” not a move away.

I’m not sure why the referenced to jumping out of a 3500 Rover was pertinent, as in my time only the “Area Car” (fast response car. One per area) or Traffic cars were Rovers and not all 3500 most of us had more modest modes of transport. I do however appreciate the image.

I also support the requirement of appropriate vehicles that are fit for purpose.

I’m not sure that we would get that under a HMIC appointed to implement the cuts that he has already recommended.

Fit for purpose!

I believe it is important to be fit to perform your duty.

The image that all Police are fat and unfit is exaggerated and in an ideal world I would be pleased to see an improvement in the health and fitness of officers.  I do believe if it is a requirement of the job then time and facilities should be made available to achieve this. I would happily support yearly fitness tests. I’m not sure which companies he’s referring to that require there staff to be as fit as a police officer and I’m sure if there is any they will provide facilities. Certainly industrial jobs that require heavy lifting have stringent health and safety guide lines and must provide equipment to avoid injury. If they fail to do so they are required to pay fines and compensation. (This brings in another argument, blue collar, white collar or special case!) It’s certainly not a requirement in the private security sector who are already gearing up to take over many of the responsibilities of the Police Officer.

Unless the author is referring to the private security contractors who we see on the streets of Kabul or other such area’s. Many of these are highly trained Ex Military personnel who are well paid and often work 6 weeks on and 6 weeks off, allowing them time to maintain a good standard of fitness.  Most achieve their fitness whilst serving in the armed forces where they are encouraged, given time and paid to achieve battle fitness.

As an addition to this point officers who become ill or injured need to be supported and perhaps some of these “back office” jobs that I hear so many references to, could go to suitable long-term injured officers.  (I’m not referring to jobs for those who choose to change their circumstances)

This would achieve a sense and feeling of loyalty and keep these officers within the family. It will also ensure that the job will be performed by a person who has the relevant background knowledge, will take less time to train than those without background knowledge and by a person who will do his best to support his colleagues. Why? Because they are family and to him/her, and it is more than just a job to them. That you can’t buy! That you can’t teach to those who have not been there or have chosen to forget the true values of policing for selfish reasons.

Many Police officers who I speak to now routinely work 12hr shifts and have family responsibilities yet still try to keep fit in their own time. Will they be able to continue this if the cuts recommended by Mr. Winsor continue?

Serve the law-abiding.

The majority of Police Officers fulfill this objective to the best of their ability and seem to get little acknowledgement of it.  Those who do not should and must be dealt with by supervisory ranks whose responsibility it is to encourage, mentor and ultimately discipline subordinate officers who have attitude problems. There are regulations in place to deal with this behavior and contrary to popular myth and misconception complaints are pursued vigorously!

As I mentioned earlier many Police Officers do not routinely see officers of supervisory rank let alone patrol with them. So this gives little opportunity for Sergeants and Inspectors to do what they would like to do and that is lead, support and mentor their colleagues. This is not a criticism of Sergeants or Inspectors but pointing out that these officers are also subject of cuts and often overloaded with other responsibilities. I have confidence that the majority of Sergeants, Inspectors and even Chief Inspectors would be happy to have the time and support from above which would allow them to improve and provide an even higher standard of service and support their officers.

Iron out Corruption

Here I feel the author does a great disservice to the officers who joined the Police in the 1970’s.

The great surge in recruiting did not happen until the 1980’s.

The recruits of the 1970’s were subject of rigorous discipline and any that failed to achieve the accepted standards were dismissed if not at training school then during their probation. It was not until the 1980’s was this rigorous adherence to standards and discipline relaxed so that recruiting quotas could be met. This was again due to outside influences so that the Police would be more attractive to sections of the community who would not normally consider the Police as a career.  It was difficult to get some graduates to consider the Police as a career as the discipline was considered to harsh and some found the intensive training not to their liking.  It was also thought that a reduction in standards would help to get recruits from ethnic minorities and thereby meet imposed targets. This was also an error as I believe there were adequate numbers of potential recruits available from ethnic backgrounds.  The difficulties in recruiting was not standards and discipline but many did not consider the Police as a career due to other pressures they also thought the pay was not adequate when you considered the other disadvantages associated withy a Police career. I digress a little but none the less that’s when standards were allowed to slip.

The assumption that recruits of the 1970’s are more likely to be corrupt is false. Many of the officers who the author refers to (sub standard recruits of the 1970’s) went on to be good Police officers and many became the leading lights and innovators in the fight against corruption. The assumption that the recruits of ten years ago are another hot bed of corruption has no basis in fact and is insulting to those Officers. Officers who have been found to be corrupt and who were recruited in the 1970’s were schooled and corrupted by officers of previous generations. The fact that many of the recruits of the 1970’s who then went on to investigate corruption meant that they would inevitably catch some officers who were also recruited in that era. The officers from previous generations having already retired and although not exempt from prosecution it is more problematic to gather the evidence and find witnesses. So these assumptions are badly flawed and misleading

The main point about corruption in the Police is that as a percentage it is very low especially considering the temptations and opportunities that are available. The fact is that most Police organizations wish that their corruption figures were as low as those of the UK. Most none Police organizations would like to have a corruption figures as low as those of the UK Police. Still no room for complacency which is why most UK Police Services investigate corruption and wrong doing with vigor, tenacity and professionalism rarely seen in other organizations. We still have a Police service that is honest and set the standards for many to follow.

It is interesting to note that corruption in the Police is normally related to Police pay and conditions!

Put the Public First

The author suggests that in the past Chief Police Officers who meet Home Office targets and comply with the wishes of their Political masters are more likely to be promoted. Rather than Chief Officers who put the public need first. I find it hard to argue that one and with Mr. Winsor as preferred candidate for HMIC I would say “point proved”

That situation is not going to improve with political appointments of course they will put party or political master before the public.

Priorities Serious Crime

Police success is generally judged by statistics that’s a fact of life. Most Police Services do break down their stats into types of crime and publish them. Most Police Services have specialist units to target serious crime and it’s not ever been my experience that Police officers have been encouraged to solve minor crimes in preference to solving major or serious crimes. However how do you judge the seriousness of an offence? If an Old age pensioner is robbed of 50 quid from their pension and a rich man is robbed of 200 quid and is more than likely insured. Which is the serious offence?  A wise detective I used to know knew the answer and he would regularly pass the hat round the nick in an effort to reduce the loss to the old and vulnerable.

Do you think that will be the judgment of an increasingly privatized Police?

Who will be their priority the old and vulnerable or the rich who can afford to pay for extra cover?

Care about Victims

Again I believe the majority of Police Officers do care about victims and try to do their best for all victims. The specific example given is not a good one. A rape victim who refuses to substantiate the allegation, the Police are limited in what they can do or are even allowed to do. Normally the victim will be encouraged to continue their allegation and see the process through if they refuse and that will be their decision such cases are referred to organizations that can provide care and counseling for such victims.

I do not see any dynamic improvements when we are likely to see fewer officers available.

Drug Abuse

I do believe that drug abuse is a major contributor to an increase in crime. As a young crime Squad officer (in the 1970’s) working an area that was prolific in drugs use and distribution. I was instructed not to arrest drugs users as it would then indicate the area had a problem. I made the same argument that drugs fueled all the other crime on our area. Even then I was told it would be political suicide for any Senior Officer wishing for promotion to bring attention to the drugs problem.  Later in my service as a member of a different Police unit and we had intelligence on the locations of a number of addresses that were known for the distribution of drugs. We were not allowed to act as it might cause disharmony in the community. These were political directives that prevented the Police from acting against the very thing that is probably responsible for 80% of crime. This is now a well-known fact! I believe there are many within the political sphere who would be happy if Police are still shackled when it comes to proactive policing against drugs and drugs abuse.

The Shift System has seen reform by many if not all Police Constabularies throughout the UK;  Some with good results, and some not so successful.  One of the criticisms I have heard is that officers are working more anti social shifts often resulting in the officers being permanently tired because of officers have no proper work or sleep pattern resulting in officers spend even less time with their families. I do believe that some sensible system could be devised that would fulfill operational and officer requirements. I have no experience of this and will not comment further as there are many who have the experience who are far more qualified to speak than I.  It is of note that I have spent many a quiet Sunday morning responding to urgent assistance calls when all hell has broken loose.  On at least one occasion had to call for urgent assistance on what should have been a quiet Sunday morning. on another day myself and my colleagues had to deal with the aftermath of a number of terrorist incidents.  We dealt with the dead, the dying and the injured and ended up covered head to foot in the blood of the victims.  The only way in which the situations were controlled was by calling for the assistance of officers far and wide. This could only be achieved because a shift system was in place at that time.  The dilemma is do you maintain a shift system which may mean at times some officers are under utilized which is unlikely with the ensuing cuts or do you employ a system where you have police officers on duty at anticipated hours of high demand.  If you go for the latter you may find you are wrong footed.  In my experience a good business model is rarely able to match the demands of policing.

Boots on the beat is I believe linked to the shift system amongst other things and most Police Officers would like to see more Police on the street not less. This is not likely to improve with Mr. Winsor in post as HMIC enforcing the cuts that he has recommended.

In short if you want a return to the core values and primary objects of an efficient Police the only way you’re ever likely to see it is if a person is appointed who has those values at heart. You may have to cast your net wide and overcome decades of political interference and self-interest that has pervaded policing.

#Antiwinsornetwork

#holdtheline

Welcome to our world

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 We came to Northern Mozambique in 2004.  Many people since then have asked why here.  We ask the same ourselves at times.  In future we intend to write about what we do here and how we arrived here.  We really want everyone to share the experiences; it is totally different to anything we have ever experienced before.  I hope we serve you well and you enjoy our tales.  The reason we refer to Tails from the dark side is because the number of animals we have encountered over the years.  From elephants to elephant shrews.  From our snake killing dog Daisy to the biting violin spider that bit my other half and the wound took six years to heal.  We’ve been charged by elephant and had lions wander through our kitchen whilst staying in a bush camp in Niassa reserve.  occasionally we draw on our experiences from the past.  We were both police officers in the UK we’ve drawn comparisons and seen two worlds miles apart.  We’ll tell you how we met 36 years ago at school, didn’t see each other for many years and met up whilst both ill and in the police nursing home. Its been an interesting time so far. I hope you’ll join us hear about our past adventures and join us for the road ahead