Thursday, 23 October 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to its father of retail design, Rodney Fitch

We take the look our high streets and shopping centres for granted, but the reason they are what they are, is in no small part due to the life work of Rodney, who has died at the age of 78 and who introduced us to stripped wood, chrome, glass and colour co-ordinates, believing as he did, that shoppers did not want "dull, boring, grey, badly serviced shops."

He once said : "I always felt that I had a mission in life to deliver to ordinary people better places to shop. I have little interest in Issey Miyake or haute couture design. The thing that really turns me on is working for Woolworth's, Marks and Spencer and Boots stores - which touch everyone's life."

What you possibly didn't know about Rodney, that he was :

 * born in Islington, London in 1938, the only child of working class parents and remembered : "When I was a boy growing up, shopping was a ghastly experience. It was full of mean, nasty suburban shops and if you wanted any kind of excitement or experience, you had to go to London’s West End. I can remember the excitement that I had when my parents would take me on a shopping trip down Oxford Street. It has always been in my blood, and I’ve always loved the idea of the shopping experience."

* at junior school, after the Second World War, failed his 11+ examination and in 1949 and attended Willesden College of Technology in Denzil Road which provided technical courses with its schools of art and building with his walk to school taking him 'past an engineering factory that over the years flourished, but for as long as I can remember, that factory had 'DESIGNERS WANTED' on its vacancies board'

* left school and between 1956 and '58 worked as a trainee designer at Hickman Limited, then in 1958 was 'called up' at the age of 20 to serve two years National Service in the Royal Artillery Pay Corps, then, after being demobbed, became a student at the Central School of Arts and Crafts where he studied interiors, furniture and typography.

* after graduation, joined a design studio, but soon realised that he did not want to work for traditional shopfitters, because, as he later recalled : "My life was changed by the work of Bronek, Katz and Meir. My Holy Grail was the Richard Shops store the group designed at London's Marble Arch, with its huge sheets of glass pinned to metal frames. It blew shopfitting completely out of the water. To me this company was doing absolutely state-of-the-art stuff. I was just knocked out by it all."

* in 1963, at the age of 25, applied for and was offered a job as 'junior designer' with the Conran Design Group at the time when he was an active member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and attending  rally in Ruislip, the location of a USAF base, missed his start date at work and later recalled : "Of course, I got arrested. I was bundled off to Ashford Remand Centre where I refused to co-operate. Eventually, I was duped into giving my details and my mother contacted Terence Conran to explain why I hadn't turned up for work! He paid my 50 fine and I was released. I always felt indebted to Terence for this display of generosity."

* made his way up within the Group, closely involved with the extension and refurbishment of Terminal 1 at Heathrow for BAA, created the first Board of Trade/Design Council overseas 'Exhibition on Design' in Moscow and worked closely with Terence (left), on the creation, development and design of Habitat and by 1968, at the age of 30, was Chief Creative Officer and Managing Director.

* on the departure of Terence from the Group, was asked to join him at the new Conran Associates, but declined and instead bought the Group from Burtons and in 1970 set up his own consultancy, 'Fitch and Company' which from its inauguration, with 10 employees in 1972, grew rapidly and by 1990 had 450 employees in offices in Europe, the USA and the Middle East.

* enjoyed success with the creation of the 'Top Shop' chain for the Burton Group, the first 'stand-alone' fashion chain for young people in Britain and in the mid 1980s, rescued the near bankrupt Debenhams Department Store for the Burton Group, creating a flagship which was declared, at the time, the ‘Best Department Store in the World’.

* in the 1980s, was quoted as being worth £40m and one of Britain's 250 richest people and politically, had moved some way from his CND protesting former self  with : "Growth was spectacular. Margaret Thatcher engendered a spirit in the country which enabled all sorts of things, good and bad, to grow. I don't regret the Eighties at all. I think that design came of age."

* confessed, however, that his company had over extended itself : "The decline started when we continued to invest in the building in King's Cross. We should have put a great big tarpaulin over it and stayed where we were until we could get a clearer picture of the depth of the recession."

* in 1994, at the age of 56 when Terence, Jean Francois Bentz and Martin Beck began the financial restructuring of his company, realised that he no longer had a place in the business and was forced into resignation and later recalled : "My departure from Fitch plc was horrible, and it was done in such a way that it questioned my self-worth. My personal regard for myself had been systematically destroyed."

 * set up a smaller consultancy specialising in retail and entertainment interiors and brand communication graphics with the help of Richard Branson who owned 50% of the business and by expressing confidence in him helped restore his self-respect so much so that in 1996 recorded : "Today they want me to be a designer in a garret - small-time, charge small fees, don't raise my head above the parapet, don't be flash, because it is not seemly for designers to do that. Designers are modest professionals who should enjoy a modest income and be content with their lot. I hate all that."

* saw the new company prosper with much activity in Asia, which he relished, with operations in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila where he was treated with the respect he felt he deserved saying : "Often the top people in business there already have my books on their shelves. They respect me and listen to me because of my status in the business" and at the same time regretted the small amount of business in Britain with its perception "that unless you have green hair you are not a very good designer. If you were around in the Eighties you are somehow sullied or old hat".

* In 2004, after an absence of ten years, at the invitation of Sir Martin Sorrell, returned as Chairman and CEO of Fitch, which had been acquired by WPP with Martin saying :"We are delighted to put the Fitch back into Fitch."  

* in 2008 commenting on the Recession said "I am reminded that 120 years ago during an earlier period of economic and social tension, William Morris, one of Britain’s greatest designers and an important social reformer, delivered a lecture in Birmingham, England, 'Upon the nature of Art and Design'. During questions he was asked, “What is the purpose of design?” to which Morris replied “to give hope, Madam, to give hope” and repeated the comment at Cannes in 2009 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gu7gkK3YKZ0

* by the time he retired from the consultancy at the age of 71 in 2009, had seen it grow to 19 studios in 12 countries the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia specialising in packaging design, corporate branding, consumer experience in retail environment working with clients : Amazon, HSBC, Vodafone, Nokia, Microsoft, Boeing, Timberland and Harrods

* in the same year, was appointed as Supervising Director of the 'TopTech Program' at Delft University of Technology on ‘Retail Design and Management’, where, according to Professor Henri Christiaans, who worked alongside him : "He did a marvellous job. Even though he was not educated as an academic his way of teaching and supervising students was so inspiring for them and also for staff. You cannot believe how active, vivid, untiringly and inspiring he was. Being a role model for all of us. Many of his students got a job in retail design and have very good memories of their their Professor Rodney Fitch. I will certainly continue what he started in educating retail designers.”

* in 2012 lamented : "The commoditisation, the dumbing down of designing, brought about in part at least by the internet - have a thousand quid, buy a Mac and hey presto you'e a designer, never mind the quality."

* had Tim Greenhalgh, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Fitch, say of him in tribute :
 “Rodney was a truly great man and one whom we in the design community owe a great debt of gratitude. He was a creative visionary and one of the most charming men you could ever wish to meet. He created a culture for designers that has survived over the years  – one that celebrates endeavour and the desire to change the world for the better."

What better epitaph might an old designer have than he endeavoured and desired to change the world for the better ?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Britain said "Happy Birthday" to an old Irish born actor called Michael Gambon aka Albus Dumbledore

Michael, who has given pleasure to audiences working in British theatre, television and film over the last 50 years was 74 years old yesterday.

What you possibly didn't know about Michael. that he :

* was born in Cabra, Dublin during the Second World War, where his mother was a seamstress snd father an engineer, who sought work in the rebuilding of bomb damaged London and moved the family to Mornington Crescent.

 * as a boy, on the instigation of his father, became a British citizen, but was brought up as a strict Roman Catholic, attended St Aloysius Boys' College (left) and then a school in Kent, before leaving with no qualifications at the age of fifteen.

* became an apprentice toolmaker with Vickers Armstrong, then at the age of 18, began to study drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and gained a BA in Classical Acting at the age of 21 in 1961 and along the way acquired a fascination and passion for collecting antique guns, clocks, watches and classic cars.

* made his professional stage début in the 1962 Gate Theatre Dublin's production of 'Othello' playing 'Second Gentleman' and at the age of 23, caught the eye of star-maker, Laurence Olivier, who was recruiting for spear carriers for his new National Theatre Company and was recruited along with the also young, Robert Stephens, Derek Jacobi and Frank Finlay.

* after three years at the Old Vic with the National Theatre, was advised by Olivier to gain experience in provincial repertory theatre and 1967 joined the Birmingham Rep and was given the title roles in 'Othello',' Macbeth' and 'Coriolanus'.

* on tv, played a romantic lead, the swashbuckling Gavin Ker (right) in the BBC series 'The Borderers' from 1968-70 and as a result was asked by 'James Bond' producer, Cubby Brocoli, to audition for the role in 1970, to replace George Lazenby.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXguwtZQYGQ

* in 1970s, played comedy in Alan Ayckbourn's 'Norman Conquests' ; serious theatre in  Harold Pinter's 'Betayal' and in 1980, at the age of forty, played in John Dexter's stage version of Brecht's, 'The Life of Galileo', of which Peter Hall said he was "unsentimental, dangerous and immensely powerful", the Sunday Times : his performance "a decisive step in the direction of great tragedy... great acting" and fellow actors paid him the rare compliment of applauding him in the dressing room on the first night.

* became a household name as Philip Marlow in Dennis Potter's tv series, 'The Singing Detective' in 1986 for which he won a BAFTA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tSB6JV0yCM and starred in Peter Greenaway's controversial film, 'The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover'. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkqOgFGle_c


* in 1992, played a psychotic general in the Barry Levinson film, 'Toys' and he also starred as Georges Simenon's  detective Inspector 'Maigret' in the ITV series. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-MnWXEVwAE

* In 2004, at the age of 64, played the lead role, 'Hamm' in Samuel Beckett's post-apocalyptic play 'Endgame' at the Albery Theatre, London and the following year finally achieved a lifelong ambition to play Falstaff in the National Theatre production of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2.

* in 2002, played President Lyndon B. Johnson in the tv film, 'Path to War' and was nominated for an Emmy Award for 'Best Actor in a Mini-series or Movie' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQFApw8t7Y8 and the following year played the principal villain in Kevin Costner's Western film,'Open Range'.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uFarFM9sow

* played Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts's Headmaster, in 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' in 2004 and also
'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' in 2005 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=304ZYrWPx9w and the four succeeding  Potter films from 2007-11 and said that when playing Dumbledore, did not "have to play anyone really. I just stick on a beard and play me, so it's no great feat. I never ease into a role—every part I play is just a variant of my own personality. I'm not really a character actor at all."

* has been filming this summer for a new tv series based of J.K.Rowling's,'The Casual Vacancy' in which he plays Howard Mollison, the owner of a village delicatessen in the 'apparently idyllic' village of Pagford, which under scrutiny turns out to be hiding darker goings on as the villagers fight for a place on the village council.

Not really a character actor at all ?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old pilgrim Professor of Philosophy called A.H.Halsey

Albert Henry or 'Chelly' as he was known to his family, who has died aged 91, was Britain’s first 'Professor of Sociology' and played a key part in the 1960s, as adviser to Anthony Crosland, the Labour education secretary, in the switch to comprehensive education and in the process, indirectly affected the lives of millions of boys and girls.

What you possibly didn't know about Chelly, that he :

* was born in Kentish Town, London in 1923, the second of eight children in a poverty-stricken family, with his Mother and Father 'firmly placed in the perverse tail of the distribution which still dogged the fortunes of the manual labourers and placed fertility in inverse relation to family income – the lunatic system of he 19th century.'

* when he was 3, was taken, with the family, to Rutland because his father, a railway porter on the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, was so ill from First World War gas wounds, was sent to the country to work and regain his health as a porter-signalman at a whistle-stop before moving to a council estate at Corby, Northamptonshire.

* later remembered : "My father gardened assiduously behind the council house and his allotment; the woods and fields were ours for foraging . There were regular seasonal outings to bring in mushrooms and blackberries as well as irregular raids on the swedes and apples grown on local farms. We were, moreover, allied to the poaching faction of the village. Rabbits galore as well as pheasant and partridge and venison and hare, were often delivered to the back door."

 * at the age of 11, won the local 'Rowlett Scholarship', which paid for his cap and blazer at, and travel to, Kettering Grammar School where in rugby he always played 'stand off half', the 'playmaker' who read the game quickly, seized openings and opportunities, then linked with other players who could take these forward, a skill he used later in academic life where a colleague commented that he 'seemed to have read books before they were published' and arriving at conferences 'seemed to have absorbed what had already been covered by other speakers.'

* intended to stay on in the sixth form to take the exams for the clerical grade of the Civil Service, but left school aged 16, when these were cancelled in 1939 on the outbreak of the Second World War and worked as a 'apprentice sanitary inspector' on a wage of £40 a year.

 * carried vivid and formative memories of family life with him : the tramp who appeared at the kitchen window and stretched out his billy-can and his Mother, who had been a skivvy and cook’s assistant after she left school at 13, who gave him tea and two thick slices of bread and dripping and when he said :“God bless you, Missus,” she replied in her London cockney tones : “Good luck to you, mate” and formed his puritanical attitudes to work and leisure and confessed that his manual working uncles "always haunt me, investing the stint with sacred quality.”

* on his 18th birthday in 1941, volunteered for active service, in the War and entered the RAF as a pilot cadet, trained as a fighter pilot in Rhodesia and South Africa, saw no active service, but almost lost his life practising the 'aerial handbrake' when his plane nosedived and recovered only yards from the ground and by the time the War ended, was a flight sergeant in the RAF Medical Corps.

* unlearned his attitude to university as, ‘not for the likes of us’ and was spurred to apply when he noticed fellow cadets from independent schools were a lot slower than him learning the theory of flight, yet were already planning to go on to Oxford or Cambridge after the War and after demob, at first trained for teaching at Westminster College, then transferred to the London School of Economics, where he took an Economics degree, specialising in sociology and where he met Margaret Littler, a fellow student and his future wife.

* in 1951, with a close-knit group of a dozen researchers formed the 'British Sociological Association', graduated at the age of 29 in 1952 and was taken on by Jean Floud for her ground breaking research at the LSE on secondary education, at the same time took a research post at Liverpool University until 1954, then lectured at Birmingham University until the age of 33 in 1956.

* published his and Jean's, 'Social Class and Educational Opportunity', in which they explored the relationship between social class and success at 11-plus and concluded that working-class children were disadvantaged by the selective system and so provided the academic underpinning for the Labour Party’s early commitment to comprehensive education.

* in 1962 left Birmingham as senior lecturer to become Head of Barnett House, Oxford University’s Department of Social and Administrative Studies and a professorial fellow of Nuffield College and fought successfully to establish sociology as part of the academic mainstream.

 * in 1965, was appointed 'Adviser on Education' to Tony Crosland in Harold Wilson's first Labour Government, but found him a disappointing minister who, in his opinion, ducked the important decisions that needed to be taken, like abolishing the public schools and found it was only his commitment to comprehensive education that enabled him to overcome his distaste for the man himself  who he saw as “a profligate drinker and philanderer… alcohol, cigars, women, even opera were avidly consumed.”

* after Crosland’s departure in 1967, found himself cold-shouldered by his successors : Patrick Gordon Walker, who  made him feel like “Charlie Chaplin in City Lights where a toff would get drunk and take Charlie home, swearing eternal comradeship, and then have him thrown out in the morning as a person unknown”, Ted Short who was “not much better” and Shirley Williams, who "ignored him completely", but had more success when the research he undertook with Ivor Crewe for the Fulton Committee on Reforming the Civil Service was published in its 1969 Report.

* was called upon by Mrs Thatcher, in her role as Education Minister, in Ted Heath's Government in the early 1970s, to advise on nursery education, but found she didn't act on his recommendations that more money should be poured into deprived 'educational priority areas' and nursery education.

* in 1974, provoked widespread ridicule when he appealed to parents to remove their children from public schools on the ground that they were contributing to the deprivation of disadvantaged children, but remained undeflected and maintained his intellectual output in 1976 with 'Traditions of Social Policy', a collection on the development of sociology and social work in Britain and the following year was the BBC’s choice for its prestigious Reith Lecture entitled 'Change in British Society' : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00gq29j

* in his 'Origins and Destinations: Family, Class and Education in Modern Britain' in 1980, explored the 'political arithmetic' of how educational expansion had affected life chances and social mobility and emerged as one of the main opponents of Mrs Thatcher’s Government, being given an honorary degree by Oxford, arguing that the university should
“stand up for education against its principal oppressor” while at the same time, hated the extremists in the Labour Party and disliked the breakaway Social Democrats even more (left), dismissing them as “middle-class Oxbridge intellectuals” whose party allegiance “did not come from childhood experience of the daily struggle that informed the politics of my own kith and kin”.


* a committed Anglican in religion, was a contributor to 'Faith in the City' in 1985, the report on urban problems by the Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission which was dismissed by Conservatives as 'little better than socialist propaganda.'

* after his retirement at the age of 67 in 1990, found common cause with thinkers on the Right and in his, 'Families without Fatherhood', published in 1992 by the Right-wing 'Institute for Economic Affairs', drew attention to the link between crime and family breakdown, harking back to 'respectable' working-class family life just before and after the Second World War, when the heart of the family was stable marriage, which anchored men into the child-rearing process.

* also in 1992 took issue with he way in which women had been betrayed by feminist demands for equality, thinking, as he did, that they were now worse off than at any time since the suffragette movement because they were combining the role of breadwinner with mother.

* true to his ideals, in 1993, when diagnosed as needing immediate surgery for an aortic aneurysm, found this was delayed three times because of the shortage of intensive care beds, did not consider the possibility of private treatment and spent the perilous waiting time writing letters of protest to the Minister of Health and his local MP.

* was profoundly sceptical of 'New Labour' and later recalled an exchange with the aspirant Prime Minister, Tony Blair, over dinner in 1995 who suddenly asked : 'who was the second most interesting character in the New Testament ?' and
did not disguise his disapproval of Blair's own answer, 'Pontius Pilate' which he thought a 'characteristic politician’s choice' and offered his own choice, the 'Good Samaritan' as 'a member of a despised minority engaged in direct action' to which Blair immediately backtracked, remarking that, naturally, the 'last person he would try to emulate in power would be Pilate.'

* in 1996, chose 'No Discouragement' as the title for his autobiography taken from Bunyan's 1684. 'Pilgrim's Progress' :
 'There's no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim'
and as a pilgrim, had believed that 'the institutions invented by the Victorian and Edwardian working class — the Unions, the Cooperative Society and the Labour Party — were the route to the New Jerusalem'.

* at the age of 77 in 2000 in an introduction to 'Twentieth-Century British Social Trends', evoked some of those qualities he missed so much, approvingly quoting George Orwell: 'The crowds in the big towns, with their mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners.'

* in 2003 was the castaway on the radio programme. 'Desert Island Discs' with Sue Lawley and chose Marie Lloyd singing 'Don't Dilly Dally On the Way' in memory of his old, cockney Mum : http://ow.ly/CZLnH

* at the age of 89 in 2012, in the introduction to his 'Essays on the Evolution of Oxford and Nuffield College' made the plea that : 'social policy has to be directed not only to maximising GNP but to securing the wellbeing of individuals in a secure society. Herein lies the modern challenge: to social science, for a complex research programme aimed at solving the age-old problem of social inequality; and to politics, to discover the means to reach such a noble goal.'

* throughout his life was an "unrepentant ethical socialist" in the line of descent from William Morris and RH Tawney who believed in "new freedom and new justice built on ancient solidarity".

* sent his five children to comprehensive schools and once said:
"I hate hypocrisy, pomposity, the man who says he's a socialist and sends his son to Eton. You have to behave as if the revolution was here. That's how it will happen."

P.S. Two other intellectuals with working class origins who died this year :

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old Yorkshire born sociologist called David Lockwood

Friday, 17 October 2014

Britain is no longer for and says "Adieu" to an old black and white tv film director called Michael Hayes, who gave old men their Shakespeare, when he and they were young


Michael, who has died at the age of 85, made his debut as a 31 year old director with 'An Age of Kings' http://ow.ly/CXrh6
which graced black and white tv screens in 1960 and introduced young and old watching, either alone or in families, to Shakespeare's history plays and in some cases, hooked them on the bard for life. Then the following year, kept them on the edge of their armchairs with the dramatization of Fred Hoyle's sci-fi story, 'A for Andromeda', then entranced another generation with Tom Baker's 'Doctor Who' in colour in the late 70s.

What you possibly didn't know about Michael, that he :

* was born in 1929 in Barking, Essex, son of Thomas, a civil servant, and Alice, who died when Michael was two and at the age of 11, was evacuated to Yorkshire and Harrogate Grammar School for Boys and at the age of 15, was 'discovered' by playwright, Falkland Cary, and given a principal role in his play 'Burning Gold', at the Royal Hall Theatre, Harrogate and told him of his intention to pursue a theatrical career.

* achieved his ambition of working in the Royal Shakespeare company in his twenties, playing in minor parts like the 'Old Man' in Macbeth at the age of 23, but after playing on tour in the Old Vic's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in Canada and the USA in 1954 and finding himself out of work, saw a job advertised in the New Statesman, for 'studio managers in radio' and recalled : "I thought it pays money and sounds quite interesting, so I applied."

* joined the BBC World Service, then was attached to television as an 'assistant floor manager', something he'd done in the theatre, before moving to Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham where he rose to 'assistant director' working on 'Percy Thrower's Gardening' and 'The Keep Fit Programme' with the philosophy "anything which came along you did it".

* directed for a specialist drama producer "very badly I have to say, but I suppose not quite so bad for one's first stumbling efforts! Then luckily he got fifteen live hours of Shakespeare in London and he took me to direct for him. That is what really started me off as a director" and at the age of 31, in 1960, gained the directorship for 'An Age of Kings'.

 * tackled, in fifteen parts, Shakespeare's principal history plays, from Richard II to Richard III, with the Henrys in between and transmitted live, put the emphasis on the words and used an old guard of actors, Frank Pettingell as Falstaff, Tom 'the voice of Royal occasion' Fleming  as Bolingbroke, mixed with a younger generation :  Robert Hardy  as Prince Hal and Judi Dench as Princess Katherine and Sean Connery as Hotspur.

* the following year, at the age of 32, directed for live transmission, 'A for Andromeda' and recalled : "I was looking around for a girl to be Andromeda and was talking to an agent who said there was this girl, Julie Christie, at Central Drama School who is being talked of as the next Brigitte Bardot. I went to see Julie playing in 'The Diary of Anne Frank'. Talking to her afterwards she just seemed right for the part. I have to say that Andromeda wasn't a terribly demanding part from an acting point of view, you just stood there, or in many cases lay there while people acted around you."
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xvwc1y_a-for-andromeda-face-of-the-tiger-1961-6-of-6_shortfilms

* reflected that : "Thinking back to some of those early productions, I wouldn't dare take on now what I took on then through innocence and inexperience!"

P.S.
Film director, Tony Garnett, introducing 'An Age of Kings' without once mentioning Michael : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eVKWCstX_I

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Britain is a country where old men bid "Good Luck" to President David Oliver of the Geriatrics Society in his crusade on their behalf

David still working as a hospital consultant, Oliver, and the Government’s former 'Older People’s Tsar', this week takes over as President of the British Geriatrics Society.

Ageism rankles with Oliver: “My concern is that often older people with perfectly treatable problems get written off. I’m not saying all health professionals are ageist, but endemically across health and care services the attitude of professionals reflects that of society. We live in a society that doesn’t value age and that only respects old people who can look and behave like young people – sky-diving grannies, marathon-running granddads."

He is frank about the challenges posed by Britain's ageing population ,with more and more old men and women living longer and longer. He points out that when the National Health Service was founded in 1948, 48% of people died before they were 65; now only 14% do and the 'oldest old, the over 80s, are the fastest growing section of society. In his opinion : "It represents is a victory for better nutrition, better housing, better societal conditions and a better Welfare State and also a victory for modern health care.”

David feels that Britain should stop talking about ‘tsunamis’ of old people and additional ‘burdens’ since "that just engenders ageist attitudes. We’ve got to move towards thinking about healthy active ageing across the life course, not regarding anyone over 65 or 70 as miserable, isolated and a burden.”

So old men and women of Britain, "Take Heart" David is about to take up the cudgels on your behalf : “I love the idea of crusading for a disadvantaged group. That campaigning edge is something the British Geriatrics Society is looking to build on. It has already moved from being a somewhat inward-facing 'club for doctors' to one that is aiming to influence policy and attracting more non-doctors, including therapists and nurses, to its 3,000-strong ranks."

David will have his work cut out for him because, in his opinion :

* radical action is needed on a number of fronts to avoid our health and social care services being completely overwhelmed by more and more old people : “Doing nothing is not an option any more. Our systems are about to fall over with the rising pressure.”

* the main political parties are not prepared because : “The conference announcements from all three parties about funding for health and social care are too little, too late – they are a sticking plaster. None of them are committing to anything near the level of funding increase we really need, let alone being honest about where that’s going to come from.”

Throughout Britain old men and women wish David success in his crusade, while some might reflect on another Tsar, Peter the Great, who tried to modernise Russia in the 18th century and received the comment : "The Tsar of Russia pulls uphill with the strength of ten, but millions pull downhill."