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As ever, we watched the Queen’s Christmas Message when it was broadcast at 3 p.m. on December 25:

The choir of King’s College Cambridge opened with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem.

The Queen then discussed the first ever service of Nine Lessons and Carols held at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. The service was 100 years old this Christmas Eve. The Revd Eric Milner White, who had served as a military chaplain in the Great War, devised the service as a means of conveying peace and goodwill so shortly after Armistice Day. As Her Majesty said, it:

spoke to the needs of the times.

She noted that the service, watched by millions around the world every year, begins with a chorister’s solo of the first verse of Once In Royal David’s City. The Queen’s Christmas Message ended with just such a solo. This video is well worth watching for the choral music alone — unsurpassed!

The Queen went on to speak of the great events of the past year, including the Royal Family, with its two weddings and two births that took place this year. She noted that the Prince of Wales celebrated his 70th birthday this year.

She had a spiritual message:

Through the many changes I have seen over the years, faith, family and friendship have been not only a constant for me but a source of personal comfort and reassurance.

The Queen also reflected on the number of Commonwealth nations, the strength of which:

‘lies in the bonds of affection it promotes’ and a ‘common desire to life in a better, more peaceful world’.

She also acknowledged the tireless work of the British Armed Forces stationed abroad at Christmas.

She concluded with a message about peace on Earth, which:

is “needed as much as ever” and also called for people treat others with respect, even in situations where there are “deeply held differences”.

I always look forward to hearing what the Queen has to say. This year’s message did not fail to impress.

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This is, according to the young woman at the end of the following video, the second year in a row where Syrians have been able to celebrate the season of our Saviour’s birth:

The video was filmed in mid-December when the tree lighting ceremony took place in Damascus. This particular celebration was sponsored and organised by the Syrian tourism board.

What joy there is among the Syrians. Meanwhile, we in the West are less filled with cheer, even to the point of being embarrassed to celebrate Christmas.

When people’s lives have been affected by war, they really do appreciate what they lost during those years. This is something for us Westerners to reflect on during our largely peaceful era.

As December 26 is Boxing Day in Britain and parts of the Commonwealth, here is a bit of history about the day after Christmas:

Boxing Day – a history

In Ireland, this is St Stephen’s Day. Find out more about the Church’s first martyr below:

December 26 — St Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day and more (the money box, details on St Stephen and Good King Wenceslas (2017)

For those who are still enjoying Christmas, have a wonderful day. May that joyful spirit carry on for a long time to come!

Below are past posts about the surprising history behind Christmas traditions.

I have also included Christian reflections on our Lord’s birth.

Some are bound to be eye-openers. For starters, historically, Christmas wasn’t always a pious time of year, and it is acceptable to write ‘Xmas’. In the present day, attitudes towards Christmas have been changing in the United States:

A Lutheran defence of Nativity scenes and crucifixes

The case for Xmas — yes, Xmas

Christmas prayer intentions

Martin Luther on the birth of Jesus

Carol services: ‘Christmas as secular entertainment’

Jesus’s nature as depicted in Christmas carols

Jesus, the ‘born leader’

What we can learn from Christmas — humility

Angel imagery in Christmas carols (Dr Paul Copan on how the Bible portrays them)

Jesuit astronomer discusses the Star of Bethlehem (2016)

The Christmas tree — a history (related to Christianity)

Christmas gifts — a history (and a Christian defence thereof)

Christmas feasting and revelry (the rehabilitation of Christmas)

British attitudes towards Christmas

Detail from Pew Research on Christmas celebrations and beliefs in the US (2017)

Take a break from gift wrapping and cooking to have a look!

And to everyone who is celebrating a birthday today — Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year — have a happy one. May your year ahead be merry and bright!

November 11, 2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Fittingly, it is Remembrance Sunday, commemorated in the UK and parts of the Commonwealth.

I have a number of Remembrance Day posts from previous years that readers might wish to peruse.

It is good that we still wear poppies, which come in for criticism every year, sadly. Alexander Owen, who served for 10 years in the Blues and Royals and now works at the Royal British Legion as Head of Armed Forces Engagement, recently wrote an article for The Independent‘s inews, excerpted below (emphases mine):

The ways that this generation changed our world are many and all-encompassing. War does not discriminate, and nor should the poppy.

The poppy has never been more inclusive, open and hopeful than in this Armistice Centenary Year. This November we should thank the entire generation of the First World War who served, sacrificed and changed our world, as this is the last chance to do so. But as a nation we must ensure that we follow the example they set 100 years ago and maintain the poppy as a symbol of hope and inclusivity. Wearing a poppy is a personal choice that must not be enforced. To do so would undermine its entire meaning.

It is sad that such an article even needs to be written. I also would have changed the word ‘should’ to ‘does’ in the first highlighted sentence.

That said, the Royal British Legion is helping to teach schoolchildren about the Great War, as it is also called, via a new book from author and playwright Michael Morpurgo:

Walter ‘Wally’ Randall, 103, is the nation’s oldest Poppy Appeal collector and has no intention of hanging up his collection tin just yet. The Royal British Legion reports:

He served in the service corps during World War Two before he later held the positions of both branch chairman and club chairman for the Leighton Buzzard Royal British Legion.

Wally is the proud recipient of a lifetime certificate for services to the local branch and has showed no signs of hanging up his collection tin yet.

He said: “I’m going to keep on selling poppies while I’ve still got the energy to do it. I’m lucky because I get to sit inside the entrance of Wilkos [a retail chain] in the warm.

He added: “My favourite thing about selling poppies is people’s generosity – when someone puts money in but says ‘I’ve already got a poppy’. It’s very gratifying.”

He appeared on morning television a few days ago:

A star-studded concert, the Festival of Remembrance, took place at Saturday night at the Royal Albert Hall:

Television adverts have appeared, thanking those who fought, died and innovated for their service, sacrifice and dedication:

The Duke of Cambridge offered this tribute:

Every One Remembered is an excellent site that has a photo montage of the British and Commonwealth men and women who died between 1914 and 1918.

Director Peter Jackson has taken painstaking time to colourise film from the Great War, which really reminds us of the truly personal — and deadly — story that it was:

There are also lesser known tragic stories, such as that of the Titanic newsboy:

A BT.com article, ‘May’s Armistice centenary tribute to First World War dead’s “immense sacrifices”‘, has a set of maps that shows how Europe’s national boundaries changed after 1918.

Prime Minister Theresa May was in France on Friday, November 9, to commemorate the war’s fallen with French President Emmanuel Macron. She also visited Belgium.

The article also highlights other ceremonies taking place this weekend in France and in London:

On Sunday, a bugle will sound at the French graveside of war poet Wilfred Owen, marking 100 years since his death on November 4 1918, just seven days shy of peace being declared.

Elizabeth Owen, the widow of his nephew Peter, will attend a ceremony in Ors, in the north of the country, where the instrument – which was taken from a dead German soldier – will be used to play The Last Post.

Meanwhile, at the Tower of London on Sunday evening, about 10,000 flames will be lit, in remembrance of those who fought and died in the war.

The light display installation, called Beyond the Deepening Shadow, will run each evening up to and including on Armistice Day.

The light installation at the Tower of London opened on Sunday, November 4. BT.com has more on the story, including photos:

Around 10,000 flames have filled the empty moat encircling the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

A ceremonial Beefeater guard began the lighting ceremony by bringing a flame down from the tower into the moat, which had been submerged in smoke.

Dozens of representatives from the armed forces and volunteers then used the flame to ignite thousands of other torches staked into or placed on the ground underneath the tower, bathing the barren moat in light …

It took around 45 minutes to light the flames, which then burn for roughly four hours.

The ceremony was accompanied by a specially commissioned sound installation featuring choral music, as well as words from war poet Mary Borden’s Sonnets To A Soldier.

The ceremony was “amazing”, according to Dick Harrold, governor of the Tower of London.

One hundred years after this horrific war ended — which saw the beginning of modern technical warfare — we seem to have forgotten the importance of war memorials, such as this one, which is being contested in the United States:

And we should think about what sort of children we have raised. Would they have been able to march to war, as 15- and 16-year-olds did a century ago — as volunteers?

In closing, there are two outcomes of the war that I remember reading about over the past four years, as each year from 2015 to 2018 in Britain has seen a number of documentaries, books and articles recalling what happened a century ago.

One result of the Great War was a generation of spinsters here in the UK and elsewhere. How heartbreaking it must have been not only for war widows but young women who lost their boyfriends and fiancés to brutal fighting on the front lines.

The second was a total transformation of house building here in the UK, as many traditional skills were no longer available because so many in those trades lost their lives on the battlefield.

We are currently redecorating our house, built at the turn of the last century. I look at the keyed lime plaster we are uncovering and say a prayer for those souls who so freely gave of their todays for our tomorrows. (Every man from the age of 15 to 50 was recorded under the Military Service Bill and, barring poor health, was potentially conscripted.)

Most certainly in our household we will remember.

May God bless ‘The Glorious Dead’, as inscribed on the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London.

May we be eternally grateful for all their sacrifices for our freedom a century on.

2015 was the year I first tried Pinkster Gin — interestingly, at a wine tasting.

My friend and I had two samples each, neat.

Neither of us has forgotten the subtle yet distinctive flavour resulting from a marriage of raspberry with juniper.

As the label says, Pinkster is an ‘agreeably British gin’. It makes a perfect holiday or host(ess) gift.

Pinkster’s founder, Stephen Marsh, says that his doctor advised him to give up drinking wine and beer as they no longer agreed with him. After two years, his doctor said he could have vodka or gin only. Any self-respecting Englishman prefers gin.

Stephen Marsh tells his story and that of Pinkster in this video:

Marsh, who was a keen maker of liqueurs at home, wanted to create a gin that would go well with food. As juniper is the dominant aromatic in gin, it has to be tamed for it to accompany anything other than game. He began experimenting with fruit. The Pinkster website has more about his final choice of raspberry:

A keen maker of sloe liqueurs and other concoctions, he turned his attention to gin and started experimenting at home, mashing assorted fruits with different spirit strengths.

He wasn’t intentionally creating a pink drink, it’s just that after working his way through an entire fruit bowl, raspberry delivered the best flavour.

With the recipe developed, pals started encouraging him to go commercial.

The rest is history. Marsh, a former accountant working in London, was able to now make raspberry gin on a large scale:

G&J, one of the country’s oldest distillers, was recruited to the cause. They produce the core spirit with five botanicals to our original recipe.

We then macerate with a further three botanicals, including fresh, plump raspberries grown nearby our rural base outside Cambridge.

Marsh is still involved on a day-to-day basis:

Stephen still personally oversees the production, ensuring consistency from batch to batch of fresh fruit.

Ironically, being told to quit wine was the best advice he’s ever received.

I did not know about his health condition or that Pinkster goes well with food. It makes a cracking good gin and tonic.

Pinkster also has some splendid personalities when they appear at tasting venues. My friend and I will long remember the chap who poured us our samples that evening in 2015: traditionally jovial, he had us in stitches.

Pinkster’s marketing is also splendid, the best in the UK gin world to my mind. Have a look at a few of their tweets:

Indeed not!

Here is the scene of a recent tasting:

Pinkster makes a delightful gift all year around, but especially at Christmas:

Visit the Pinkster online shop for more gift ideas, including Christmas crackers, all beautifully packaged.

In 2017, our household received a free bottle of tonic water with a drinks order.

It was a 200ml bottle of Merchant’s Heart Hibiscus tonic water.

The Japanese drinks giant Suntory makes Merchant’s Heart mixers. In addition to Hibiscus, they also have a floral tonic and a pink peppercorn one.

Merchant’s Heart mixers went on sale in 2015, but I’d not heard of them until last year. This was at the time that hibiscus and yuzu flavours were becoming more popular in the UK.

Suntory’s website explains that they recruited a team of bartenders from the UK to help develop the product line:

A collective of world-leading drink-makers from the UK’s best bars were invited to help devise the ultimate spirit enhancers: the mixers they dreamed of adding to the best spirits in their collections.

And they continue to craft the collection, suggesting new flavours and variations according to their experience of working with Merchant’s Heart in their bars, and serving it to their customers.

Cool!

The product line’s name came from Suntory’s founder himself (emphasis in the original):

In 1899, Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii had a vision: he wanted to bring western drinking experiences to his native Japan. He made it his life’s work to make and sell outstanding drinks, and deliver exceptional drinking experiences.

Torii’s passion for his product saw him graduate from modest beginnings as a small wine-maker to becoming the Taisho – or chief – of a luxury drinks brand with world renown. But his mantra remained characteristically humble:

‘We may have grown from shop to company, but we must always be a tradesman; we must never forget our merchant’s heart’.

So, what was it like?

Merchant’s Heart Hibiscus is a delicate pink colour with a distinctive flavour, with added extracts of safflower, lemon and apple:

Delicate and fruity sweetness with a soft bitterness and a gentle rose tint. Excellent with citrus gin, vermouth and white rum.

It’s something the ladies will love, and as we are nearing holiday season, it’s time to be thinking about interesting mixers for spirits.

I also enjoyed reading the bottle, which says:

Made with Bikan Yuso

which means:

A sense of beauty and playful imagination

Pros: It works equally well with vodka or gin, transforming a pleasant everyday drink into an unforgettable one. It’s perfect just before dinner.

Cons: I had two drinks out of the bottle, one before and one after dinner. The flavour profile changed dramatically. For those who need to eat while they’re drinking, Hibiscus is not the mixer. That lovely floral-citrus taste turns rather rough with food.

Conclusion: Suntory’s ‘spirit enhancers’ are not cheap. They sell at the supermarket for £1 to £1.35 each. Therefore, I would reserve them for connoisseurs only.

In our household, we drink only bold — strong — coffee.

We are always in search of a cup of coffee that brings the best in flavour and richness.

Below is a review of my favourite and least favourite cups from around the world.

All are ground coffees, bar one, as mentioned below.

Brazil

Coffee from Brazil as sold in Brazil is arguably the world’s best.

If you have friends or colleagues visiting you from Brazil, ask them to pick up a 500g bag or two for you.

1st place: Cafe Pele Extra Forte from Brasfood in São Paulo. There is no better, bolder taste than this, especially with its mocha overtones. It’s a dark, rich, smooth cup with a wonderfully earthy scent. You can imagine yourself on the coffee plantation as you drink it.

2nd place: Cafe Bom Dia Extra Forte from Cafe Bom Dia Ltda in Rodovia. Bom Dia means ‘Good Morning’. This is nearly as good as Cafe Pele Extra Forte, with all of the same taste and olfactory characteristics.

United Kingdom

It might seem surprising to find the UK so highly placed, but Tesco, based in Welwyn Garden City, have my third and fourth favourites. Well done to my favourite supermarket chain!

3rd place: Tesco French Blend Ground Coffee (strength 5). This is the best in ‘continental’ bold blends, which will remind you of languorous afternoons on a sun-dappled café terrace in France. It has an authentic strength and flavour, like old fashioned French coffees used to have. This is up there on a Nescafe Ristretto scale.

4th place: Tesco Italian Blend Ground Coffee (strength 4). Despite it being a notch lower in strength, you can’t really tell the difference. An excellent substitute for the French Blend, both of which make a delightful breakfast brew.

United States

5th place: French Roast (Dark Roast) from Keurig Green Mountain Inc., in Waterbury, Vermont. The pack I have, from the former Green Mountain Coffee company, says:

Our very darkest roast.

A continental tradition that’s smoky and sweet.

This tastes like a cross between my 1st through 4th place choices, including lovely hints of chocolate that make getting up in the morning worthwhile.

That concludes my list of favourites.

The next section is about coffee disappointments for drinkers of bold coffee. No rankings, no particular order.

United Kingdom

Café Direct Intense Roast (strength 5). This got me excited, because the description reads:

A dark roast for a richer drinking experience.

It did not taste intense, nor was it a rich tasting coffee. Too much robusta and not enough Arabica, perhaps?

Taylor’s of Harrogate Brasilia (strength 4). This is very mild compared with the extra fortes from Brazil. The packet reads:

A lively, lush roast.

Not so for us. It tasted very light, like a medium roast.

France

French coffee seems to be getting weaker. I’ve been drinking it off and on since 1999 and what used to be reliably bold blends seem milder now, especially Café Grand’Mère Dégustation, described as being ‘riche en Arabica‘. Au revoir à Café Grand’Mère!

There are other coffees we’ve bought in France which aren’t nearly as bold as suggested:

Casino’s Michel Troisgros Espresso (Casino Délices, beans only) is hardly espresso strength, despite the packaging’s claim of ‘intense et sauvage‘. I should have looked on the side panel, which shows a medium rating of three coffee cups and medium roasting. Hmm.

Lobodis Éthiopie is 100% Arabica, but it has a very mild flavour. We thought that the ‘8’ on the packet meant it was strong, however, the strongest coffee is 12 (Sumatra).

In France, we now know to look on the side of the packet on our next trip to get the right strength!

In closing, it just goes to show how much coffee tasting one has to do to find a good, bold cup.

On Sunday, July 29, 2018, Geraint Thomas made history as the first Welshman to win the Tour de France.

Once again, Team Sky triumphed. They have now won six out of the past seven Tours de France!

Meanwhile, no Frenchman has won since 1985: the legendary Bernard Hinault.

The love-hate attitude towards Team Sky and Chris Froome

The French have been angry with Team Sky ever since Chris Froome began winning.

Odd that they fawned all over Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins — without the ‘Sir’ — when he won in 2012. Back then, I wrote (emphases mine below):

The Telegraph had a roundup of media reactions, beginning with a front-page splash on France’s L’Equipe, which also devoted pages 2 to 11 to Wiggins.  Christian Prudhomme, race director, told the sports daily that cycling has truly taken root in English-speaking countries, which are taking their place alongside Continental countries as victors of the world’s great races.

L’Equipe was not alone. Le Monde also had multiple photo spreads and articles on Wiggins’s sartorial style and tastes in music: ‘so British!’

When Froome raced to victory the following year — he had been Wiggins’s domestique (helper) in 2012 — no one in French media liked him.

Chris Froome did all the right things: readily granted interviews, was polite to the media, represented Team Sky well and showed grace under pressure on and off the road. This year, people actually booed him. Why?

Similarly, the French saw Team Sky as a phenomenon in 2012. Now they hate the team. Even Thomas was booed on the penultimate time trial stage this year, when it was clear he would win the Tour. It was an anti-Sky gesture.

Team Sky has done everything correctly. They train throughout the year, not just part of it. They have a phalanx of trainers and nutritionists who fine tune each rider to deliver the best for the team in a low-key, professional way. There was one stage in the 2018 Tour where one of the ITV4 commentators said that the team’s nutritionist and trainer were regulating Froome’s food and water intake every two hours so that he would deliver his best performance. No doubt, they did the same thing with Geraint Thomas, who performed brilliantly.

In any event …

Chris Froome is the Donald Trump of cycling.

Team Sky is the Donald Trump of cycling.

On RMC’s Les Grandes Gueules, the mid-morning political talk show, Team Sky came in for a lot of criticism. In the last half of the Tour, the panellists moaned about Team Sky winning a sixth Tour, calling it a mockery of cycling. Today, the day after Thomas won, the panel complained that Sky has a budget of €40m, substantially more than any other Tour de France team. What they forget is that money can be frittered away. Sky, led by Sir Dave Brailsford, knows how to use that big budget to produce big results.

The Independent gave an insight from a French newspaper along the same lines:

An article in Le Parisien this weekend compared the Tour de France to an episode of Columbo, “where the killer was known from the first minutes. In this edition, the killer was English,” the paper wrote, perhaps not aware that Thomas is Welsh. It has been a theme throughout the Tour: that Sky are suffocating the peloton, and that no one wants to watch its slow death.

The writer suggested a list of measures to tackle the problem. Cap wages, because Team Sky are like Paris Saint-Germain; unplug earpieces, because they undermine the advantage of instinctive riders like Philippe Gilbert and favour meticulous planners like Sky; invent new routes, because the team time trial played into Sky’s hands. They are desperate measures for what is becoming a desperate cause.

Well, in response to those suggested measures: a) every team has had earpieces for the past few years and b) there were new — punishing — routes this year.

Sky wins because Sky is meticulous.

Why aren’t other teams analysing how Sky does it and emulate them?

This is Team Sky today. From The Independent:

It is now six wins in seven Tours for Team Sky, four grand tour victories in a row, and there is a growing fear that they might never lose a three-week race again, slowly disbanding the idea of competition in favour of 21 days sipping champagne on an elaborate vineyard tour. They are the richest team with the strongest riders and the shrewdest management, the giant at the front of the peloton, and one that is still evolving.

How Thomas won

Another article from The Independent explains Geraint Thomas’s victory:

Geraint Thomas – who now joins the fabled list of Tour de France winners – did it with unabating pressure. He snatched every available second, each a small but significant psychological blow, never taking his foot off the throttle. He took time from his closest rival Tom Dumoulin on seven separate stages, and that gradual accumulation of wealth also helped him to seamlessly usurp Chris Froome as Team Sky’s de facto leader, not by bloody coup but instead by a gentle undermining of power.

The end result was so effective that you wondered whether a team as meticulous as Sky might have planned it all along. Was Froome the Trojan Horse from which the unassuming Thomas sprang? Perhaps that’s reading a little too deeply into what can be such a chaotic and unpredictable sport, but there is no doubt Dave Brailsford and his management team thought the Welsh rider could win this Tour from the beginning.

His victory will go down as a surprise to many, but there were plenty of signs. He showed pedigree in recent Tours, challenging in the top 10 and wearing yellow during last year’s race, and in June he won the Dauphiné, always a strong indicator of who will challenge in July.

Tom Dumoulin, who finished in second place, said it wasn’t about Sky’s vast coffers of money as much as it was Thomas’s riding skill:

Asked to reflect on whether he had been beaten by Team Sky’s riches, Dumoulin was clear. “Of course having more money to spend makes life easier, but in this tour it didn’t really make a difference. We couldn’t control the race like Sky, but they had the strongest guy in the bunch. It’s too easy to say that Geraint Thomas had a big advantage with his team. He was the absolute strongest rider over the last three weeks.”

Thomas won the stage at Alpe d’Huez:

The Independent described how gruelling the stage was for him:

“Alpe d’Huez was probably the most I suffered,” Thomas said. “To win there in the yellow jersey was just insane. I didn’t expect it. That day was just about following the guys in front. That will always stay with me, it was incredible.”

The win on the Alpe was stylish, capped by the image of Thomas throwing his head back and roaring into the sky, the photo he’ll probably have framed at the top of the stairs.

Then there was the Col de Portet, when it became clear a Froome victory this year was no longer a possibility:

… his third-place on the Portet was even grittier and more definitive, the moment any lingering notion of Thomas as a rider who cannot stand three hard weeks on the front line of a grand tour was extinguished.

There, on one of the hardest climbs you could possibly dream up, Froome cracked and suddenly Thomas was exposed, both in the sense that he was now without question the team’s leader and that he was out on the mountain without his Sky brigade. He coped brilliantly, shaking off furious attacks of Dumoulin and Roglic before escaping at the finish to extend his lead.

Thomas has had his share of upsets in cycling, but his time has come:

Thomas’s nod to his own run of bad luck was qualified by an insistence that he has worked “super hard” for this triumph, meticulously preparing his season to peak in the Alps and the Pyrénées, where this Tour was ultimately won. “I’m glad it’s finally paid off,” he said with a sense of palpable relief. It really has, culminating in his relentless pursuit of the yellow jersey, and on the ride to the Champs-Élysées he finally took his foot off the throttle.

Thomas’s demeanour is similar to that of Sir Bradley Wiggins: self-effacing. He speaks like Wiggins, like ‘a regular bloke’, some might say. The Independent covered his victory speech on the Champs Elysées in Paris:

I’ve not got a good track record with speeches so I’ll keep it short,” Thomas said on the podium. “I just want to say thanks to the team, they’ve just been incredible for the whole three weeks. Big respect to Froomey, obviously it could have got awkward, there could have been tension, but you’ve been a great champion and I’ll always have respect for you.

“I’m pretty tired. The whole team was incredible, the staff as well. I got into cycling because of this race. I remember running home from school to watch it. The dream was always just to be a part of it. Now I’m here in the yellow jersey it’s just insane. I just want to say a final thanks to the crowd, you’ve just been amazing. Oh, and my wife.

Kids, just dream big. If people tell you it can’t be done, keep going and believe in yourself. With hard work, everything pays off in the end. Thank you very much and vive le Tour.”

Here are a few tweets from Team Sky:

And from the Tour de France:

Next year’s Tour will begin in Brussels:

Thanks to ITV4 and ITV1

In closing, many Tour de France fans in the UK will have appreciated the even longer coverage ITV4 was able to broadcast — entire stages, start to finish. That was a welcome televisual first!

Also, this was the first time that the ITV1 showed final, iconic stage, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Long may both broadcasts continue. Many thanks, ITV!

I have dozens of tweets about the outrage and opprobrium President Donald Trump received after Helsinki 2018 on Monday, July 16, 2018.

It’s truly remarkable.

CNN and Time

Here’s Jake Tapper covering the summit. Never mind him, check out the banner at the bottom:

Fortunately, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) appeared later on CNN to call out Wolf Blitzer and others on their Trump Derangement Syndrome:

The channel’s ex-CIA guy (summer job only), Anderson Cooper — Gloria Vanderbilt’s son — aired his outrage with Trump:

There’s truth in humour:

The following day, Trump reacted …

… and had another go that Thursday:

Perhaps Trump had seen that week’s Time magazine cover of a morphed Putin-Trump. Hideous:

A few days later, Jake Tapper admitted to a bemused news panel that Trump has been ‘tough’ on Russia:

Helsinki 2018 press conference

Here’s Trump at the press conference following the meeting he and Putin held:

Nonetheless, the summit and Trump’s words drew opprobrium from politicians, media and members of the intelligence community.

This was the reaction from former CIA director John Brennan:

Senator Rand Paul responded in an interview with Fox News:

Bernie Sanders chimed in on Trump’s meeting:

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) wanted the interpreter for the summit meeting subpoenaed:

A possible reason for the anger

There is a possible reason for the outrage and opprobrium.

What did Putin tell Trump? Did he give him any information to take away?

I’m not a Hal Turner Radio Show listener, but someone on The_Donald is, therefore, a tip of the hat to him for this link from July 17 (updated two days later), ‘Dear God; They Caught Them ALL! …’

We can only hope and pray this is true. Please read Hal’s post in full.

Excerpts follow, emphases in purple mine (those in bold and red are Hal’s):

Thanks to my long-time former colleagues from the Intelligence Community, whom I worked with in my years with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, from both inside and outside the US, I am pleased to be the ONLY media outlet to be able to report this extraordinary information . . . .

At the meeting in Helsinki, Finland, between Presidents Putin of Russia and Trump of the USA, the Russians gave to Trump at least 160 TERABYTES of Russian Intelligence Intercepts which expose horrifying activities of many, many, people to deliberately foment social, cultural, and political chaos, violent riots, demonstrations, media smears, phony scandals, and fake news. 

Some of those intercepts reveal who has been financing weapons, supplies, travel, hotel, vehicle rentals and secure communications gear for Terrorist groups, inside Syria, Iraq, and terror attacks in Europe and the US.   

Among the intercepted communications are mostly international phone calls, faxes, emails by members of the US Congress, US Senate, federal Judges, state-level elected officials from California, Oregon, Washington, New York (City & State), New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia.  Once those communications left the United States, they became fair game for any country to spy on.

A great number of these communications were encrypted, but Russia has found a way to BREAK much of the encryption!  And as part of their effort to improve relations with Trump, they provided the original encrypted versions of the intercepts AND the key which decrypts them so the US can use US-obtained intercepts (which may still be encrypted) along with the Russian-provided decryption key to prove the info is accurate and unedited!!!

Holy moly! Turner says this international group comprises politicians, members of the intelligence community, military officers, wealthy people, social media managers — and, of course, journalists.

Turner writes that he was told:

Foggy Bottom (the nickname for the State Dept.) is turning out to be THE epicenter of evil for a lot of things . . .

Uh oh.

Turner’s sources also deeply implicated the US Department of Justice:

Worst of all, some of the Signals Intelligence grabbed-up certain well-known individuals inside the US Department of Justice. What these people have done will no doubt smash the reputation of the legal system for decades. Not only are some people inside the Justice Department going to prison, their liability for things they’ve done WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION, will expose them to personal liability which will utterly destroy them and their families civilly.

Wow.

Allegedly:

During that meeting, Putin laid out the inner workings of the vast global network of “elites” and the activities they have engaged in to bring wars, refugees, all manner of social and political chaos to countries around the world, much of it in the USA. Russia even provided charts showing “organizational” structures (which are not really “organizations” but more defacto operational realities); who is tasked with what topics or activities, how much they have been paid and by whom.

Actual copies of communications and Signals Intercepts with descrambled recordings of phone calls, descrambled “secure” fax transmissions, descrambled encrypted emails.  Vast reports on money transactions via wire transfer, control numbers, account names, amounts, dates, purposes . . .  and the recipient info too.

In total, more than 160 TERABYTES of this type of data was given to President Trump in the form of 1 Terabyte USB Flash Memory Drives.   The USB drives are  DataTraveler® HyperX® Predator 3.0 USB Flash drives which hold 1 terabyte of data each.

The level of criminal conspiracy is so enormous, and the global scale and reach of these efforts is so gigantic, it boggles the mind.

Bankers and titans of industry are also involved. I can also report that Union bosses figure prominently in the intercepts.

Dear me.

Brexit

On Brexit, Turner says his sources revealed that Remainers — including Conservatives — dislike not only the Royal Family but also Britain itself.

Remainers want to remain in the EU to weaken Britain:

These are ELECTED officials who are literally trying to destroy the sovereignty of their own country!

The Clintons

Turner alleges that both Clintons have been under Russian surveillance since 1992. There’s a lot of information:

Now, I’m told, President Trump has it all.

Next steps

Turner says that trusted members of the Trump administration have been sworn to absolute secrecy — including denial — about these data and have been told to sort through them carefully:

paying particular attention to any activity which resulted in violence, death or property damage, so as to be able to criminally prosecute ALL the Conspirators based on any end-result violence or property loss/damage.  Whether the Conspirators intended such acts or not, the acts themselves “were a foreseeable consequence” of their efforts, thus making them ALL guilty

I asked if any of this evidence can actually be used in court since none of it was obtained via Warrant? I was told that ALL of it is admissible because the United States did not solicit the information and had no part in it being illegally obtained! Thus, there is no “fruit of a poison tree” to block admissibility!

Hal’s conclusion

Turner says this information will take a long time to catalogue but foresees that it is the reason for the outrage and opprobrium:

It seems as though the Putin-Trump meeting in Helsinki has, in fact, become the worst nightmare of a whole slew of people. 

Prior to the summit, many people took extraordinary efforts to try to derail the meeting altogether. 

After the meeting, those folks and their minions are making enormous noise about anything they can. 

They’re worried they’re caught.  They think they might be caught.   I can report tonight, they are right to worry; they ARE caught!

They think that creating distractions through scandals will prevent them from being held accountable.  It won’t.

And this is why the Democrats are scurrying around in a panic:

Democrat Senators and Congressmen ARE COMPLETELY FLIPPING-OUT OVER THIS; they’re calling for Congressional Hearings and to bring Trump’s Interpreter in to testify as to what was discussed and what happened in that meeting!

I sincerely hope this is true.

Q has returned from a three-week absence and, while he/they did not mention this information for obvious reasons, this was one of the first messages to appear on July 24:

Now we know for certain — it’s no longer speculation — why there has been such a hullabaloo over a) Brexit, b) Trump’s election as US president and c) Democrat (including media) rage against Russia!

More on Helsinki tomorrow.

After President Donald Trump met Britain’s two most powerful women and gave an exclusive interview to ITV’s Piers Morgan, he and First Lady Melania Trump headed to Scotland for what was to be a weekend of rest and relaxation.

Although his son Don Jr was in St Tropez, Eric was already at the Trump Turnberry golf resort to greet his father:

This video shows the presidential motorcade early that evening:

It was widely reported that protests would continue, which they did.

The best known of these was the Greenpeace paraglider. His message of ‘below par’ was a compliment in golfing terms. Greenpeace meant ‘below par’ as a president:

Then, there were protesters near the course itself:

The Scottish police protection for the president upset some Trump supporters. Yet, others thought the police did a good job:

On Saturday, July 14, Trump tweeted:

Meanwhile, the reaction to the Greenpeace paraglider from Trump supporters varied from bemusement to anger.

This is how close the man was to the US president and his entourage of administration officials:

That day, Gateway Pundit explained the potential danger, particularly in a no-fly zone:

As of this writing the flyer has not been caught. The flyer could very easily have had an IED on their person or built into their chair that could have been detonated over Trump and the dozens of guests and clueless security on the ground. Greenpeace reportedly alerted U.K. authorities about the flight ten minutes before. Even with warning the paraglider was not blown out of the sky but instead was allowed to make a mockery of the no-fly zone supposedly in place to protect Trump.

And, yes, snipers were nearby:

On Sunday — two days later — news emerged that Police Scotland had arrested the paraglider. The Express reported:

Police Scotland said in a statement: “Police Scotland can confirm that a 55-year-old man has been arrested in connection with an incident when a powered parachute was flown in the vicinity of the Turnberry Hotel around 9.45 pm on Friday, 13 July 2018.”

The force earlier said the incident was being treated as breach of the air exclusion zone that was in place.

The Trumps left for Finland on Sunday, July 15:

However, there was a sad ending to their weekend in Scotland, as a Secret Service agent suffered a fatal stroke:

The White House issued a statement on Wednesday, July 18, which reads in part:

Earlier this week, United States Secret Service Special Agent Nole Edward Remagen suffered a stroke while on duty in Scotland. Yesterday, he passed away, surrounded by family and fellow Secret Service agents. Our hearts are filled with sadness over the loss of a beloved and devoted Special Agent, husband, and father. Our prayers are with Special Agent Remagen’s loved ones, including his wife and two young children. We grieve with them and with his Secret Service colleagues, who have lost a friend and a brother.

A five-year veteran of the United States Marines, Special Agent Remagen spent 19 years with the Secret Service. At the time of his passing, he was among the elite heroes who serve in the Presidential Protection Division of the Secret Service. Melania and I are deeply grateful for his lifetime of devotion, and today, we pause to honor his life and 24 years of service to our Nation.

Homeland Security also issued a statement:

His fellow Secret Service agents also mourned:

The Daily Mail reported that the Americans were most grateful for the medical care Special Agent Remagen received in Scotland:

It is during his stay at Turnberry that the secret service agent became ill and was taken to hospital.

A spokesman for the Secret Service said before the agent’s death: ‘We are incredibly grateful for the emergency medical service providers and physicians in Scotland who are providing much needed critical care.’  

More than 150 US agents were brought in for the visit to protect Trump during his stay in the UK.

President and Mrs Trump visited Joint Base Andrews that day:

Whilst at Joint Base Andrews, President Trump gave a brief address in Special Agent Remagen’s memory:

The Daily Mail reported:

‘Our hearts are filled with sadness over the loss of a beloved and devoted Special Agent, husband, and father,’ President Trump said. ‘Our prayers are with Special Agent Remagen’s loved ones, including his wife and two young children. We grieve with them and with his Secret Service colleagues, who have lost a friend and a brother.’

President Trump commended his military service, commenting that he served for five years in United States Marines.

‘At the time of his passing, he was among the elite heroes who serve in the Presidential Protection Division of the Secret Service,’ he said. ‘Melania and I are deeply grateful for his lifetime of devotion, and today, we pause to honor his life and 24 years of service to our Nation.’

Trump added: ‘The incredible men and women of the United States Secret Service travel wherever they are needed around the world, spend long periods of time away from their families, and make tremendous sacrifices for our safety and security. They make up the most elite protective agency in the world, universally admired for their extraordinary skill, devotion, and courage. We are forever in their debt.’

Interestingly, on July 18, CNN reported that he died on July 15:

The 42-year-old agent, who is now being identified as Special Agent No[le] E. Remagen, was working on protection for national security adviser John Bolton on the midnight shift when he was found to be unresponsive by colleagues at Trump’s Turnberry resort Saturday night.

Remagen was quickly attended to by a White House doctor and Secret Service colleagues before being rushed to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, where he passed away on Sunday, a law enforcement source told CNN.

Remagen is survived by a wife and two small children, and was the son of a retired Secret Service employee.

The President and first lady Melania Trump departed for Joint Base Andrews Wednesday afternoon to see Remagen’s family, the White House said.

Some Trump supporters wonder if whatever happened to cause Remagen’s stroke was intended for the president himself.

Others thought the paraglider was sending an ominous message to Trump.

This, whilst unrelated, is the predominant narrative among the Left. This issue of the New Yorker hit the news stands on July 19 (image courtesy of 8chan):

https://media.8ch.net/file_store/63e6225c4e4c3c21bac64b035ebb86505602d14ee2d4adfa347912d66ac3c416.png

Sick.

Depraved.

The guys on the Qresearch boards at 8chan are analysing the events of that weekend, because the death of a Secret Service agent during the course of active duty is rather rare. One wrote:

… So now we have:

1) Trump arrives at his golf course. Glider enters POTUS airspace and comes extremely close to POTUS (20 yards approx) at exact time of POTUS arrival (speculation – had to have spotter who relayed arrival to make it at exact time at the very least).

2) Green Peace UK claims that local PD and air tower authorized it before hand yet neither notified Secret Service

3) Secret Service rush POTUS into proshop at course.

4) Scotland begins manhunt for glider flyer. Why if he had “permission”?

5) Secret Service Agent dies of stroke at golf course “surrounded by fellow agents” and claim also of “by family” (?).

6) Eight hours after “manhunt” begins the glider flyer is arrested. Is it really hard to track a fucking glider?

7) Flyer released an hour later.

8) Green Peace UK releases statement that they “Hit Trump where it hurts”

I am convinced this was an attempted hit and that agent took a poison round or some delivery system.

Someone responded with criticism of local police.

Another received information that has not been substantiated at this time. If true, the number of blood clots in Remagen’s brain was shockingly serious:

I received this this morning.

>Agent was taken to the hospital and brain surgery was performed where they discovered multiple (double digit) blood clots in the brain. The White House docs apparently never left the hospital until after he was deceased. The .mil flight bringing this Patriot home is on its way at this time – landing at Andrews.

How horrible.

Meanwhile, former Secret Service Agent Dan Bongino has set up a GoFundMe account for the Remagen family.

In closing, my deepest condolences and prayers go to the Remagen family. May they find comfort at this difficult time.

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