Thursday, 27 November 2008

The recession of 2008 - as I see it, part 2

by L. Berney

It is generally accepted that the amount of debt in the world has been increasing steadily over the last two decades and that by 2007/8 the ‘debt bubble’ had become so inflated that finally the bubble burst.

But where does debt come from?

Debt originates from banks throughout the world lending money – lending to individuals, businesses and to institutions. The principle of banks lending money is centuries old; bank loans are an integral part of our global economic system.

The basic principle of banking is, or was, this. Individuals, businesses and institutions deposit their cash with an authorised bank. The bank retains a small proportion of that money in ‘liquid’ cash to ensure that it can make withdrawals to individual depositors on demand. It then lends out the balance of the deposits to other individuals, businesses and institutions. Banks pay interest to their depositors and charge a larger interest to their borrowers.

Until recently, banks were ‘regulated’ by their country’s governments to ensure that they did not lend out more money than the total of the money deposited with them. That is how it was, but some 20 years ago governments world-wide relaxed their banking regulations and banking was gradually ‘de-regulated’. This meant that banks were no longer restricted from lending more than the amount of their deposits – they could use their own discretion as to the amount of the loans they could issue. By 2007/8 it had got to the stage that banks were lending out very much more than the money deposited with them, in some cases ten times more.

If banks facilitate loans within sustainable limits, the result is beneficial; the economy grows and standards of living improve. If banks issue loans excessively, the inevitable result is financial and social disaster. Globally, banks have been lending vast amounts in excess of the deposits they held – that vast amount is the ‘debt bubble’.

How is it possible for a bank to lend out more money than the money deposited with it? Like this. When a bank lends money to, for example, an individual in order to purchase a property, or to a business to enable it to expand, that bank ‘transfers’ funds to another bank. But in practice NOTHING TANGIBLE CHANGES HANDS – not gold, not even bank notes. A bank-to-bank transfer requires nothing more than for the two banks to post entries in their respective books. A transfer, having come from another bank, is accepted by the receiving bank and the borrower’s account at the receiving bank is duly credited. That’s it!

What about the banks’ balance sheets? Every company, including a bank, must remain ‘solvent’ – its liabilities must not exceed its assets. With a bank, ‘liabilities’ consist of the amounts deposited with it. Re ‘assets’, believe it or not, when a bank pays out a loan, the full amount of that loan counts as an asset. So, a bank’s assets include all the money owing to it in the form of loans. In this way, from an accounting aspect, since loans are counted as assets, however much it lends out, it remains legally solvent.

In order to make as much profit as possible, and in the belief that property values would go on climbing, and that businesses to whom the banks lent money would go on being profitable, banks have been increasing their amounts loaned out to the maximum they could achieve. The greater the amounts they loaned (and the interest they charged on those loans) the greater their profits. In the banking world, a culture of greed developed. Pressure on management to generate ever greater profits, general lowering of credit criteria leading to the issuing of ‘sub-prime’ i.e. risky loans, an explosion of credit cards, granting of mortgages for the full amount of, and even more than, the purchase price of a property, sloppy management practices – all of these became normal. This culture of greed was fueled by the bonus system which paid large bonuses to bank executives, based solely on the profit they generated.

Thus, after de-regulation, using Alice in Wonderland accounting, the amount banks world-wide loaned out increased dramatically – the amounts of the loans were no longer related to the amounts on deposit.

It is the amounts, far in excess of the amounts deposited, that banks have loaned that has resulted in a global unsupportable debt bubble.

What went wrong?

This ever-increasing-debt economy worked well until sometime in 2007/8 when, starting first in the USA but now world-wide, some of the ‘sub-prime’ borrowers were not able to pay their mortgage payments when due. Some properties were ‘bank re-possessed’ which caused property prices to fall. As a result, some banks were forced to ‘write off’ a part of their loans/assets. Then, to maintain solvency, they were obliged to borrow cash from other banks. Soon, those other banks became unwilling to lend, or if they did so, only at a very high interest rates. We now had a ‘credit crunch’. In a very short space of time, bank loans and the credit on which our economy depends dried up. Factories started to close. Unemployment rose. The public had less disposable cash to spend. Due to the ‘knock-on’ effect on the global economy, the pace of the richest and the poorest countries alike started to slow down.

In the Autumn of 2008, the size of the global debt became unsustainable – the debt bubble had burst -- we now have a ‘recession’.

A global recession inevitably means the lowering of global living standards. Politicians world-wide are attempting to mitigate the effects of this recession by various means, but the ‘laws of economics’ are immutable. The global economic recession will continue until the excess credit has been worked out of the world’s financial system and the volume of debt has been reduced to a sustainable level, to the level it was, say, 30 years ago.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Nina Söderquist's TV interview - a translation

I understood almost nothing of this interview apart from 'Monty Python', 'Spamalot' and 'coaching' and said so in a comment of this video in YouTube. A kind, Swedish, fellow-YouTube user (who prefers to remain anonymous) came to my rescue and offered me a rough translation. So hear it is, (almost) unedited, for all you non-Swedish-speaking-Nina-Söderquist fans:

Presenter: You never have the time to sit down and watch what you are doing.
Nina: No.. and they are not allowed to film it. So This is never seen.
Nina: That was from the premiere so I do it better now, I hope.
Presenter: You are home in Sweden for a short visit. You come home in the morning yesterday and tonight you are on stage again.
Nina: You don't have much free time. What do you do when you are free.. I try to see London. Many people visit me and I have a short and a longer tour in London that I show them.
Presenter: I don't know how many newspapers I've seen you in.. star overnight.. a new musica star is born.. How has it been during this time?
Nina: It's very breathtaking.. I have worked as a singer for over 15 years. So I'm not a rookie but this musical thing is a complete new world. I have never sung in this way before - it's totally new. A great challenge.
Presenter: And now they treat you like a star?
Nina: Yes that's London in a nutshell.
Presenter: Tell me??
Nina: I´m "the leading lady" and I have my own room and my colleagues had never been into that room before I came down. They are like that: That I´m a star there and they don't disturb me. They don't talk if I don't want to and.. It's very strange after working in Sweden.. Change clothes in the bathroom/toilette and eat cold sausage in the break.. I made pie One day and told them very firmly to come down and eat in my room during the interval. We are working together and they seemed a bit shocked but answered, "Yes, absolutely - we will." Is this how it looks. I have the largest changing room with shower and stuff so people can meet there.
Presenter: You are well paid. You have better pay than Sweden's political leader.
Nina: Haha. I don't know that, but I manage very well and the part I play is fantastic. I still pinch myself.
Presenter: But you are "a rocker" and I thought rockers were a bit disrespectful towards musicals.
Nina: No, I don't think I am disrepiteful to any kind of music genre . I have great respect.
Presenter: Did you like musical before this??
Nina: Yeeees. I hadn't seen so much but I knew that it was a very hard working profession. You work really much and I knew that... But I didn't know that it was THIS much or this fun..
Presenter: What was it that made you interested?
Nina: It was just this part, that it was so corny, crazy and much..
Presenter: Tell me about the part..
Nina: She is a diva that that really controls the show . It's a part that Eric Idle included. She really runs the show. She knows how everything shall be.. but she gets a bit grumpy there in the second act when they forget about her and she lets them know.. She is much, of everything.
Presenter: This is Monty Python. Do you like their kind of humour?
Nina: Yes.. Yes I think it is fantastic..
Presenter:There is much play with words, insinuations and things like that. Is it hard to understand and "get"?
Nina: The smallest things can be hard to get and understand if you don't have your English in total order.. but there is much funny faces and I think you get it even if your ability in the English language isn't perfect.
Presenter: Are there many Swedes in the audience?
Nina: Yes, there are so many and it's so fun.
Presenter: How do you notice that there are many Swedes?
Nina: I do a little celebration to Sweden in the middle and when I do that I get great response from the Swedes in the audience.
Nina: I have quite a lot space in my part to do it my own way.. I usually sing a bit of Abba..and other things.
Presenter: So you burst out in Abba in the middle?
Nina: Yes I do.
Presenter: Tommy Körberg and Peter Jöback get standing ovations when they enter the stage.. is it the same way for you?
Nina: Yes, it was at premier night.
Presenter: You have sung a lot of rock. What's the difference between rock and musical?
Nina: There is much more technical to sing musical..This part is for a soprano and I am an alto, so .. I don't go in and just make it.. I must have a lot of focus and "sing up" well before I enter the stage. I sleep right, I eat right.. I do everything right. You can't be sloppy.
Presenter: So you're not living the easy days?
Nina: No..This is no rockstar life!
Presenter: The part is much singing but also quite a deal of speaking lines . How have you managed the English accent?
Nina: It has worked out quite well. They have given me a lot of help. An English lady that even has taught the royal kids to speak properly. People often don't believe that I am Swedish.
Nina: I get a lot of coaching in singing, dance and everything. The lowest level must be extremely high!
Presenter: Do you think that you have progressed?
Nina: Yes. I really have to pat myself on the back. I was terrified before the premier..don't fall, don't say anything wrong. Now I can enjoy, be relaxed and have fun.
Presenter: Before this you had a band. You sang at Chartertravellocations.. company events.. and now you stand in front of 1400 people every night..
Nina: It's a great experience..

And then they are talking about the fact that she is missing Sweden.. and how she got the role through West End Star.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

G-20 Financial Crisis Meeting - as I see it

“G-20 leaders meet at a summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss the current financial crisis.”

How did the 20 leaders get to be the leaders of their respective countries? They got there because they had the sharpest elbows in their own Political Parties and fought their way up to be the “Leader of the Party”. Their party got elected to government and so they became the “Leader of the Country”.

Granted they are expert at “How to get yourself to the top in Politics” but few, if any, are experts in economics, or have the background knowledge to know what to do in a very complicated and dangerous financial crisis.

Yet these are the people who are making crucial financial decisions that will affect us all!

Gawd help us!!

L. Berney

A Lesson in Finance

(photo from

Below is an explanation of Derivatives, Credit Default Swaps, and Mortgage Backed Securities:

Chuck moved to Texas and bought a Donkey from a farmer for $100.

The farmer agreed to deliver the Donkey the next day.

The next day he drove up and said, 'Sorry son, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.'

Chuck replied, 'Well, then just give me my money back.'

The farmer said, 'Can't do that. I went and spent it already.'

Chuck said, 'Ok, then, just bring me the dead donkey.'

The farmer asked, 'What ya gonna do with him?'

Chuck said, 'I'm going to raffle him off.'

The farmer said, 'You can't raffle off a dead donkey!'

Chuck said, 'Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody he's dead.'

A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked, 'What happened with that dead donkey?'

Chuck said, 'I raffled him off.

I sold 500 tickets at two dollars a piece and made a profit of $998.'

The farmer said, 'Didn't anyone complain?'

Chuck said, 'Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back.'

Chuck now works for Goldman Sachs.

The Recession - Then & Now

Back in 1929 Financial Crash, it was said that some Wall Street Stockbrokers and Bankers JUMPED from their office windows and committed suicide when confronted with the news of their firm's and client's financial ruin . . . many people were said to almost feel a little sorry for them . . . . . . .

However, in 2008 the attitude has changed somewhat:

Q: What's the difference between Investment Bankers and London Pigeons?

A: The Pigeons are still capable of making deposits on new BMW's

The recession of 2008 - as I see it

by L. Berney

It is generally recognised that the world is in financial recession, and is in danger of falling into a depression. Zillions of words have been written about the current situation, what caused it, what should be done about it, and how to prevent it from happening again. But none of the articles I have read sets out the problem the way I see it.

The present standard of living of everyone in the world, at whatever level -- high, average or low -- is related to, and depends on, the amount of debt around the world. If the debt per head of the population was at the level it was say 30 years ago, everyone's standard of living would be lower. Over the last 30 years or so, that debt 'bubble' has grown steadily and substantially. This current financial crisis is, it seems to me, due to that debt bubble having grown unsustainably large until, inevitably, it had to burst. (We all knew it had to happen, didn't we!)

Everyone (with hindsight) blames the banks and financial institutions for handing out too much credit too easily – ‘unbridled capitalism’. Individuals have been obtaining a virtually unlimited number of credit cards and therefore virtually unlimited credit. Mortgages have been handed out, not only with no deposit, but for amounts greater than the value of the property, and to persons whose income was clearly insufficient to cover the mortgage payments. Likewise imprudent loans have been available for cars, furniture, etc. Bank loans have been handed out to individuals and commercial firms based on inadequate credit limits.

Starting in 2007 with some USA ‘sub-prime’ borrowers unable to pay their debts, the banks etc. found themselves running out of funds and in trouble. Problems snowballed and the debt bubble burst. As a result, interest rates on loans have doubled and trebled and new loans are hard if not impossible to arrange. The whole of the world’s economy, based as it is on a continuing and unsustainable level of debt, is collapsing.

Now, the world is screaming out for our economy and standard of living to be maintained at the level it was last year. For that to be, the world will need to run with the same high level, indeed the unsustainable level of debt as there was before! Seems to me, very obviously, that you can't have an inflated standard of living funded by an unsustainable level of debt, and a prudent limited credit policy at the same time!

Nevertheless, the world’s leaders and finance ministers are trying to do just that. Their ‘solution’ seems to be to capitalize the banks from public funds and thus to shift the risk from the private sector to the public sector. This is not a long-term solution – this will only postpone the inevitable.

Recently, the CEO of a major bank said, “We were making loans too easily. Earlier this year it became necessary to write down heavily the value of our securities. To remain solvent, we were obliged to accept loans from our central bank, at a high interest rate – as a result, the value of our shareholders’ shares has fallen by two thirds. We have amended our loan criteria and we are now making far fewer loans than previously. The government is urging us to resume lending at the same level as in 2007. If we were to do that, the result would be the same as it was in the period we have just come through – massive write-downs and further heavy losses. We do not want to make the same mistake twice; consequently we have decided to continue with our reduced lending policy. This bank is a commercial business, not a public benefactor. The bank belongs to its shareholders -- our aim is to make profits. We are under no obligation to make loans that we consider unsafe. We will not be complying with the government’s requests.”

As I see it, the global debt level will of necessity, and by the laws of economics, fall to a lower level, the level it was in, say, the 1970s; this inevitably means that the people’s standard of living throughout the world will fall accordingly. The imbalances in the national and international financial systems are such that unwinding them will require a prolonged and painful global recession. Global debt reduction, leading to recession, leading to lowered living standards, will take its course.

In economics, there is no such thing as a free lunch!

What of the future? To maintain our Western-style free-market economy, while avoiding the building up of excessive debt followed by an inevitable recession, there has to be Financial Regulation. Getting the amount of regulation right is difficult – there has to be not too much and not too little. It is now widely recognised that the policy of financial de-regulation as practiced in recent years has to be reversed, or at least, tightened up. Over the coming months we shall see what the world’s leaders come up with.

Footnote 1
Economists have been producing ‘models’ of how to manage the economy for centuries. Apparently, they are now “learning the lessons” of 2007/8. It is amazing that, in the 21st millennium, economists still cannot agree on how the world’s economy should be managed!

Footnote 2
Islamic law has some rules about lending and borrowing: you can only have what you can pay for; charging (and paying) interest on loans is forbidden; making money by lending money is forbidden. (Maybe, in the light of the boom and bust mess our free market system regularly gets us into, that’s not such a bad idea?)

Banks not lending to each other

by L. Berney

From what I understand from the media, the cause of the worldwide economic slow-down, the recession, is because the banks have severely reduced the mortgages they are issuing, and the loans they are prepared to make to individuals, commercial firms and institutions. Moreover, any such mortgages and loans are at much increased interest rates.

The reason for the banks' sudden reluctance to lend is said to be because. “the banks are no longer willing to lend to each other”.

I always understood the banks’ operation to be this. Individuals, firms and institutions deposited money with their banks. The banks then lent most of that money to other individuals, firms and institutions. Banks “lending to each other” played little or no part of the process.

(I am aware that a small minority of banks, e.g. Northern Rock, augmented their deposit income by borrowing from other banks, but I thought that this was very much the exception, not the rule.)

Can anyone explain to me where my understanding is wrong? Is it true that the reason banks are not making loans is because they are not lending to each other -- and if so, why?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Major Monty Python Documentary Looking For Fans

There now follows a message, not from the Swedish Prime Minister, but from Tina of Bill & Ben Productions:

Hi All Monty Python Fans out there,

A newly commissioned 6-part Monty Python documentary which will be shooting from December till about March 2009 is looking for participants.

There have been so many documentaries made about the Pythons but this one praises itself for being something completely different as we want to speak to the fans!

I'd be really interested to hear from people about why they love Monty Python or if anyone has met them and have weird and wacky stories to tell.

Have the Pythons had an affect on your life? If so, how?

Whatever the story, I want to hear from you.

All of the Pythons, apart from Graham who I'm sure will send a message from beyond, will be taking part in the documentary. No story will be used without consent.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Please email me at

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Monty Python Channel on YouTube At Last

Fed up with being ripped off by so-called fans who have uploaded low quality versions of their copyrighted material onto YouTube, the Pythons have hit back with an official YouTube channel of their own. Horay! About bloody time I say!

It's great to see those 'From the Vault' cine films.

The surge of traffic that the new Python channel has brought about is staggering. The channel is barely 48 hours old and the channel got a YouTube rosette almost immediately and already has 14,765 subscribers at time of writing.

More info and an opportunity to comment on the story here: is Python's official Internet home and is the site given on their YouTube Channel page. Even Ken Clean Air Systems would be able to predict that Pythonline's unique visitor stats are going to be on a steep incline for a long time to come!

And how is the new Channel being funded? Well they just 'hope' you are going to rush out (or rush 'in' if you prefer shopping online) and buy their books, albums and DVDs etc as a result of watching all their lovely clips.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Alter Bridge - Portsmouth Guildhall - 13 Nov 08

This was the last gig of Alter Bridge's UK tour and it was an outstanding performance, as always. Myles, Mark, Brian & Scott are such nice guys! In fact, they are probably the friendliest band in the world!

Here's One Day Remains, featuring the band's guitar technician, Ian Keith (below), on guitar, from 2min 18secs into the video. To be able to tell your grandchildren that you've played guitar on stage with Alter Bridge - how cool is that? Go Ian!:

When Tomorrow Comes:

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

It’s lighting, camera, action for award-winning photographer


by Mo Farrell

the images of award-winning wildlife photographer, Michael Huggan from Four Marks, can illicit an unexpected emotional response, such is his ability to convey his passion and understanding for his subject.

I say looking 'into', because that is what his extraordinary photographs demand.

A tour of his website confirms this chartered mechanical engineer's enviable talent for encapsulating the very essence of his subjects, whether it's the stateliness of a Scottish red stag, the very soul of a lion in Kenya's Masai Mara, or the free-spirited horses of the Camargue.

The Guardians in the Camargue

A seasoned traveller to Africa, Michael has recently released his 2009 calendar, a visual feast of Kenya's abundant wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, buffalo, hippopotami, giraffe, elephants, leopards and impala.

"This was the first time I had ever experienced the Masai Mara with green grass, not brown! This was a result of the tremendous rain and thunderstorms that frequently deluged the plains, and our tent," he says.

Two cheetahs

"Fortunately for us, the heavy rains came at night. However, during the day the build up of storm clouds dispersed with sunshine bathed the plains and animals in a truly spectacular light. January’s image of the Hippo and November’s image of the tree and elephants shows the quality of the outstanding light."

"Africa has a special place in my heart and I hope some of the passion I share for this magnificent country is conveyed through the images in this year's calendar. Each month tells a story, and I trust you will enjoy the journey throughout the year ahead."

He spent February in the Masai Mara, May in Venice and part of September in the Camargue and Provence taking photos - although he runs an engineering consultancy alongside the photography, it's easy to spot where his heart lies.

It all began when he was a youngster.

"I've always been interested in photography. I remember I went to Greece to a world scout jamboree in about 1963 and I took a Brownie 127 with me. It was a wonderful camera and I came back with marvellous pictures. I fell in love with photography then, but went on to do a five-year engineering apprenticeship at the Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company in the Great West Road, but I had caught the bug and was printing photos in the bathroom where we lived in Brentford."

Since those early days, Michael has been honing his skills in the only way he knows how - trial and error, although he concedes that a number of factors have to come together if a photographer is to be successful.

In his case, success in the form of an Associate Distinction in nature photography with the Royal Photographic Society in 2003, a gold medal for an equestrian image from the RPS Travel Group and earlier this year, a bronze medal from the society group. Michael is also a member of the Photographic Society of America, has held exhibitions in London and has had his photographs published in magazines and journals.

A brief masterclass from Michael makes the process sound straightforward, the pitfalls obvious and easy to avoid:

"Be there, be ready and have the right bit," he says with admirable simplicity.

"Opportunity, time, an eye..... I'm not sure, but I know what works for me. I just sit and watch and wait, have patience and luck."
He elaborates a little more:

"You need to know what you're doing, know your equipment and have a picture in mind of what you are trying to achieve, otherwise you shoot everything and get nothing."

"It's a split second thing and there's an element of luck, but if you're ready and you've got your wits about you, nine out of ten times you'll get it."

Lighting is crucial too - early sunrise, early sunset are the best.
"If the skies are grey, the picture will almost look dead," he says.
It doesn't sound like rocket science, so why can't everyone take award-winning photos?

It's the creativity, the ability to make a connection with the subject, the interpretation of a scene, and the acceptance that every shot is a challenge, that make the difference. That and the "best lenses you can buy." In Michael's case, only Nikon will do.

Africa, the country he fell in love with almost as soon as his plane touched down, continues to beckon - he returns next year - but when it comes to magical places in the UK, he's as happy on his land in Four Marks as anywhere.

"It's wonderfully peaceful. It's inspirational," he says.

Michael Huggan

Michael Huggan's 2009 Calendar which measures 42 x29 cm (A3) and costs £10 plus postage and packing (£3 for delivery in the UK), his new book African Wildlife Photography - How to Take That Special Picture (a perfect Christmas gift for budding photographers), and other wonderful gifts and images can be purchased online at

Monday, 10 November 2008

Alter Bridge - Brixton Academy, 8th Nov 2008 (photos)

Outstanding gig, rumoured to be their best ever live performance - in front 5,000 very enthusiastic fans. So it was handy that their film crew was there to record the gig for their forthcoming Alter Bridge Live DVD.

It seems the band have a special affinity for London (and vice versa) and Myles thanked the London audience for being the best.

Myles Kennedy - lead vocals, rhythm guitars
Mark Tremonti - lead guitars, backing vocals
Scott Phillips - drums
Brian Marshall - bass

Guitar Roadie, sorry, Technician Ian Keith (left) playing with the band on One Day Remains

Myles with Lorri

Lorri & Riitta

Myles with Harry

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Waitrose East Grinstead backs The H.E.L.P. Centre

Waitrose in East Grinstead, is backing Community Projects and charities each month by selecting three causes to reap the rewards of donations made by Waitrose.

Here is how it works: Customers are given a green token at the checkout which they can place into one of the three labeled boxes by the front door, thereby choosing the charity they wish to support. The more green tokens each charity gets, the greater the share of the donations that charity will receive.

The H.E.L.P. Centre has been chosen by Waitrose to receive donations. The H.E.L.P. box will be at the entrance of Waitrose until the end of November. Please shop at Waitrose, give your green tokens in support of the H.E.L.P. Centre and pass the word on to others to do the same!

Your donations will greatly help the free literacy programme that the H.E.L.P. Centre delivers to children and adults in the community who need tuition assistance. It will help them to help many more people!

H.E.L.P Centre

East Grinstead is lucky to have many excellent schools which ensure the majority of students get the benefits of a good education. Some children, however, fall behind in their reading and writing skills, which are necessary for success in all other subjects, and some parents cannot afford to pay for additional tuition.This is where the H.E.L.P. Centre can live up to its name!

The H.E.L.P. Centre provides tutors who can work with children one-on-one to help them catch up and make learning fun. We use a very successful phonics system, so that even children who have had prior difficulties in reading and spelling can become good readers and spellers.

The Centre also helps adults of any age who missed out on these basics for whatever reasons. It is never too late to learn and it can change an otherwise disadvantaged life! Once the student can read well, his next step would be to study a course to enable him to become an independent learner.

Success story:

Here's what a parent of one of the children said recently:

"I am writing to express my appreciation for all the help you have given my son. "When Sam first started at the H.E.L.P. Centre he was struggling to read and write and therefore was unable to fully participate in his school lessons. He was falling further and further behind his classmates. His tutors at the H.E.L.P. Centre took him back to basics and helped him to learn the alphabet properly. With all the time and effort they have spent with Sam during the time he has been there, he is now able to read, write and enjoy school. I seriously wonder how Sam would be coping with school if he had not had the help he has received. Many thanks to all your tutors for all the help you have given Sam."

Volunteer Margaret Neal with Sam

Here are more success stories:

"After only one week's attendance at the Centre my son's teachers commented on his marked improvement in recognising the letters of the alphabet and his reading. Another month on and my son is showing more confidence in his ability to read and readily reads aloud. He has more confidence and self-esteem and takes pride in relaying his achievements at school; i.e. writing stories and reading books on his own." - Mr. & Mrs. S.

"Learning is meant to be fun, not a nightmare. Since being at the Centre it has changed my point of view on learning. I always hated reading now I love it." - Student Stephanie. Age 15

Any parent or individual who would like to have a tour of the centre would be welcome to come in and see the facilities. Anyone who would like to train, free of charge, to be a tutor at the Centre and to volunteer THEIR help would also be very welcome.

For more information:

H.E.L.P. Centre
59 Railway Approach,
East Grinstead
West Sussex
RH19 1BT

Opening hours: Monday 4 - 9pm

©2008 Applied Scholastics International. All Rights Reserved. Applied Scholastics and the Applied Scholastics open book design are trademarks and service marks owned by Association for Better Living and Education International and are used with its permission. Applied Scholastics International is a non-profit educational organization and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs and activities. Grateful Acknowledgement is made to L. Ron Hubbard Library for permission to reproduce selections from the copyrighted works of L. Ron Hubbard.

John Cleese Says Berkeley Hunt on US Television

During John Cleese's interview by Keith Olberman on MSNBC TV, John Cleese says, "Berkeley Hunt":

Definition of Berkeley Hunt in the Urban Dictionary:

Teenager burned and scarred by firework makes online video to help others understand the dangers

Queen Victoria Hospital fireworks safety video

As 5th November approaches - the night that Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Fireworks or Bonfire Night) is traditionally celebrated in the UK - Helene Wood, who was burned and scarred by a firework 10 years ago (then aged 7) makes an online video to help others understand the dangers of fireworks.

A college student who was seriously burned and scarred by a firework has made a touching video telling her story to help other young people understand the dangers that fireworks present.

Helene Wood was burned on her neck and shoulder in an accident that happened when she was seven.

Now the 17 year old has linked up with Kent Police and the south east's specialist burns treatment centre, the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead (QVH), to spread the fireworks safety message.

Her video has being posted for other young people to see on YouTube, and it is also available on the Kent Police and QVH websites.

Helene has chosen to publicly back the Kent Police Safer Autumn campaign, particularly around firework safety.

She said: 'Ten years ago I was badly burned by a firework. I had to go through several operations including a skin graft. It was a really painful experience and I really don't want anyone to go through what I went through.'

Helene, who is studying art and photography at college in Surrey, revisited Queen Victoria hospital last week to make her video.

She told her story on camera before meeting with one of the hospital's 16 consultant plastic surgeons.

Helene described the firework accident: 'I don't really remember much of what happened other than the fact that suddenly there was mud in my face. Then someone picked me up, I saw an ambulance and my dad talking but I couldn't hear anything.

'It turned out that seven per cent of my body, my shoulder and up behind my ear had full thickness burns. It had burnt right down through the nerves straight to the bone.

'The operations were a success and I'll never forget what this hospital did for me. It is hard coming back, but it's also really special,' she added.

Consultant burns and plastic surgeon Mr Baljit Dheansa said: 'Helene's injury was quite deep. It went through quite a lot of the depth of the skin. She required an operation to remove all the dead and burnt tissue and then required a skin graft. Helene's been very lucky in getting a very good result but even then, the scarring associated with it took a long time to settle down. It takes years for scarring to settle down sometimes to a level where it doesn't cause so many problems.'

Mr Dheansa added: 'Fireworks injuries often cause quite deep burns. They tend to affect commonly the face, the chest and the hands because those are the exposed areas - especially around the face where there are so many important organs such as the eyes, around the mouth - they can have quite devastating effects.

'Scarring that goes with deep burns is often very difficult to control and often requires significant surgery to improve. One of the other devastating effects of scarring is the appearance that goes with it. A lot of patients with significant scarring may notice the changes in their appearance and the effect that has on their day-to-day life.'

Chief Inspector Lee Russell from the Partnership and Crime Reduction department at Kent Police, which is coordinating the Safer Autumn campaign, said: 'Helene is a very spirited young woman for speaking out about her injuries. She doesn't want anyone else to go through what she did.

'Although Helene was injured by a rogue firework at a public display 10 years ago, it was a freak accident that shows just how dangerous fireworks can be. Organised displays remain the safest way to see fireworks.

'We want everyone to remember bonfire night and fireworks as great fun. We don't want to see anyone injured.

'Remember, fireworks are dangerous. Don't mess with them. People can look at our website for good advice, and should always follow the Fireworks Code.'

Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is at the forefront of specialist care in burns, reconstructive and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and corneo-plastic surgery. It is a regional centre for a catchment of 4.5 million people throughout Kent, Sussex, Surrey and beyond.

For a second year the Healthcare Commission has rated QVH as Double Excellent.

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