Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Britain Today in a Tale of Two Supermarkets














Salisbury, in Wiltshire, is a provincial city with the tallest cathedral spire in the country. It also has a solid middle class base and this is evidenced by its thriving Waitrose Supermaket. Here is a review which I found on a web site called 'bview' and my own visit to the shop confirm what is said below :

'Wonderful service and products.
Pros: The Waitrose in Salisbury store is well situated with a large car park and lots of space.
The store is relatively new and the whole atmosphere is lovely.

The range of stock is very good, they have a large home section that stocks TVs , furniture, bedding, lighting and toys. The food section has a large Deli, fish counter and a bakery section.

The staff are very helpful and knowledgeable about the products the sell.
There are rarely times where you have to queue.

The store has a post office within it, which is open Sundays as well as all the usual days and times that the store is open.

Cons: A little expensive'.


Gillingham, in Kent, is part of the 'Medway Towns' conurbation. It once benefited from its next door neighbour - the mighty Chatham Dockyard, but the yard closed in 1970 and the Medway Towns have been in decline ever since. Needless to say, Gillingham doesn't have a solid Middle Class base, but does have a busy Tescos Supermarket. I went to 'bview'to check it out, but unsurprisingly, there were no reviews of this supermarket.

Now, I'm quite sure that :

If, I had returned bloated sachets of decomposing catfood to Waitrose in Salisbury, I would have been given a full refund without hesitation.

If, I had later claimed a discount which had not been recorded on my receipt, I would not have been chided for not having the receipt, but would have been offered an apology and possibly a little gratification in recognition of my inconvenience.

So, where you live in Britain today, is what you gets.
'Twas the same 100 years ago and 'tis the same today.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Britain today in 'A Tale Of Two Cities'.


Maidstone, the County Town of Kent, is descibed in a Tourist Guide thus :
'The town has a colourful past of revolts, battles, industrialist brewers and more. Being ideally located between London and Dover, the town was the chief route for pilgrimages and a busy centre for local and national trade.
The economy of the town has changed from heavy industrial to light industry and now towards service industries. Maidstone has a number of nightlife options like the nightclubs, bars, contemporary music, opera and theatre.
The town has a population of 75,070 inhabitants'
.








Salisbury, on the other hand , 'is a serene cathedral city in Wiltshire, England and forms a major part of the Salisbury district known as New Sarum. Located in the basin of the River Avon, the city is a scenic region with many sacred sites. The region has approximately 45,000 inhabitants.
Historically, the city finds its origins in the Iron Age; Sorviodunum was its earliest name. The city was an important region owing to its location. Today, the city has a strong economy consisting of agriculture, biotechnology and tourism'.


Now have a look at the stats in the links below :
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/pyramids/pages/46ud.asp

This one shows that, Salisbury with its solid Middle Class base, has a greater number of old men and women at 65+, than the National Average.
And now Maidstone :
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/pyramids/pages/29uh.asp

This one shows that Maidstone, which is without a solid Middle Class base, has roughly the same number of old men and women at 65+ as the National Average.

Conclusion :
The length of your life depends upon the class you belong to, which dictates where you live, the quality of your health care, what you eat, e.t.c .....e.t.c.

Thesis :
Nothing in Britain changes. The better off lived longer a thousand years ago, as indeed, they do today.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

A Wiltshire hamlet where time stands still


I've been away from home staying with friends in a cottage in a hamlet to the south of Salisbury. The cottage is a stone's throw from the beautiful River Avon and was built in the 1860's as part of the 'Art and Crafts Movement' inspired by William Morris to set about reviving rural crafts. My friend has a photo taken at the time, showing ladies with spinning wheels in front of the cottage.
A stone's throw away runs the River Avon, where members of the 'Piscotorial Society', who rent their rods on a yearly basis, catch their trout. This stretch of the River managed by Stuart, the 'River Warden'.

http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/boundary_map_page.jsp?u_id=10413904&c_id=10001043

There has been a settlement here since Celtic times over a two thousand years ago, with a Celtic chieftain's burial mound by the road, on the ridge above the hamlet.

The present 'feudal lord' lives in 'Lake House', shown in the picture. The Lake was drained years ago, but it makes brief a reappearance after heavy rain, as is the case in the photo. The present resident of the house is the 58 year old, Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, better known as the musician 'Sting'.
Apparently,he was inspired by surrounding barley fields to write his ballad :
' Fields of Gold'.

'You'll remember me,
When the west wind moves,
Upon the fields of barley.
You'll forget the sun,
In his jealous sky,
As we walk in the fields of gold'.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCNJBopK25I

Sting was, in the 2005 'Sunday Times' rich list, valued at £185,000,000.

Just down the road from Lake House we have the amenities for the poorer residents of the hamlet - public telephone for those without a phone, bus stop and shelter for those without a car and postbox for those without e-mail.
Time and again, when I'm turning over stones, I find evidence that nothing really changes in Britain.


I'm reminded that the sentiments expressed in the 1848 Anglican hymn, 'All Things Bright and Beautiful', are as true today as they were then, but politically correct, modern versions of the hymn, have the following verse deleted :

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,

God made them, high or lowly,
And order'd their estate.

Why deleted ? Nothing has really changed.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Birthday Boys and Girls, do you know the date of the most important day in your lives ?

Today :

Pete Murray : Broadcaster : 81
David McCallum : Actor : 76
Austin Mitchell : M.P. : 75
Zandra Rhodes : Fashion Designer : 69
Kate Aidie : T.V. Broadcaster : 64
Jeremy Irons : Actor : 61
Twiggy : T.V. presenter : 60








We can assume that these men and women know that they were born on the 19th September in such and such a year, but how many of them know the date of the most important day in their lives which was the day, not when they were born, but conceived ?

I suspect, few, if any. I might do some research on that for a future posting.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Britain needs Lord Layard and Gareth Malone as a Ministers of Happiness












I would like to suggest that the Government set up a 'Ministry for Happiness' with the 75 year old Lord Layard of Highgate as its Minister. He is a programme director at the London School of Economics and is making a reputation as a promoter of Happiness. As Junior Minister I would suggest the 34 year old choirmaster, Gareth Malone, whose work is currently featured in the B.B.C. television series. 'The Choir'.

Layard's suggestions won't do much to help the many old people in Britain today who are clearly unhappy, but by targeting the young, we might do something to produce happier old people in the Britain of tomorrow.

He argues that in Britain today, the growth of the economy has become major objective. The thing is, there seems to be no relationship between wealth and happiness. Since 1945, Britain and western countries have got steadily richer but not happier.

Layard thinks that governments weren’t responsible for making their citizens happy, but for providing the environment in which they may be happy.
He isn’t calling for an increase in 'nanny state' regulation, which he saw as reducing happiness since it reduces personal freedom, but creating conditions which would favour happiness.

He recognises that there are many things that make us happy: personal freedom, democracy, relationships with family, friends, colleagues , communities and employment. His argument says, that in Britain today there is a problem with too much individualism – the pursuit of happiness through material success relative to others’ material success.

Instead, we should measure success in part in terms of being of use to others. This counters individualism, increases trust and empathy and satisfies us more fully as the social beings we are.

We should also have private pursuits which have ‘intrinsic' worth. He makes the point that doing something which is virtuous and good and not dependent on how much money you have, but satisfies you in a way that lasts.

How could this be achieved ?

First, our schools should promote 'life-skills' and values as well as knowledge.

Second, we should increase co-operation and reduce competition within society – again through education. Less emphasis on performance league tables and more support for parents to help create healthy relationships.

Third, reduce commercial pressures on children by increasing regulation of adverts targeted a them.

I'll end with a mention of the current B.B.C. series 'The Choir', which traces the progress of the remarkable Gareth Malone, in creating a 'Community Choir' in the unlovely town of South Oxhey. To me it is a perfect example of the 'Laylard' route to happiness.
If you drop in on the episodes through the link below, you will be richly rewarded.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00mk568

Monday, 14 September 2009

Britain is still a country for the voice of Vera Lynn and her 'reservoir of love'



















So, the Second World War 'Forces Sweetheart', Dame Vera Lynn, has become the oldest living artist to top the UK record album chart at the age of 92.
She was named the 'Sweetheart' following a War Time poll in the Daily Express newspaper, and travelled thousands of miles, often at great personal risk, to sing to the troops in Egypt, India and Burma.

She achieved her success with her album, 'We'll Meet Again - The Very Best of Vera Lynn', which climbed 72 places in one week. It was initially released, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of War in 1939.

She said she : "would never have dreamt that the album would have charted again, let alone go to number one, but there you go. You never know what's round the corner, do you?".

Her most famous song ,'We'll meet again' was written and composed by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles in 1939.

We'll meet again,
Don't know where,
Don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

Keep smilin' through,
Just like you always do,
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

So will you please say "hello",
To the folks that I know,
Tell them I won't be long.
They'll be happy to know,
That as you saw me go,
I was singing this song.

We'll meet again,
Don't know where,
Don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8230435.stm


A spokeswoman for her record company,Decca, said:
"She has proven that music of this vintage and significance can still resonate with the British public."
Paul Gambaccini, however, has a more logical explanation. When interviewed on the B.B.C. he made the point that " the L.P. record has come to the end of its role in recording ". He went on to say that young people today, download individual tracks from the internet and shuffle those tracks. Album sales are down and individual sales are up.

So it has got less to do with 'collective nostalgia' or Vera striking a 'national chord' and more to do with market forces. Having said that, he has also made the point that : "This is what I call tapping a reservoir of love. There are a lot of people who know they love her, they may have one or two singles, they may have two songs or albums, but this makes them think that 'I don't have them all, I should go out and get this.'"
http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8254000/8254088.stm

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Happy Birthday Old Thespians


















Today :

Freddie Jones : 82
Sir Ian Holm : 78
Patrick Mower : 68
Linda Gray : 68
Maria Aitken : 64

Friday, 11 September 2009

Britain's Old Men you have a champion in Joan Bakewell














Joan Bakewell as she was in 1968 and at the time when the raconteur and humorist Frank Muir christened her : " The thinking man's crumpet." She was a trailblazer, the Stockport girl who left grammar school to read Economics and History at Cambridge before a glittering career in broadcast journalism, at a time when the medium was largely populated by middle-aged men Old Etonians.

Her 2003 autobiography, 'The Centre of the Bed', deals in anecdotes from her very ordinary beginnings, to her dazzling, Swinging Sixties, when she had a seven-year affair with playwright Harold Pinter and rose to prominence in the media.
She talks about the book in the link below :

http://www.meettheauthor.co.uk/bookbites/457.html


In the Summer of 2008, she was made a 'Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire' a 'C.B.E.' In November of that year she took up a Government appointment as 'Voice For Older People'. She is now 75.

She said :
" I figured I could be a good voice for older people because I'm known by the media and therefore accessible. But I said I would do it on my terms – not as a government job, but giving voice to what people think and want, answerable to my constituents. It has quickly become a crusade for me, and involves looking at all public policy in the light of how it will affect older people."

" I get many letters from people about all sorts of things, including their bladders and the terrible lack of public loos. Then there's housing and the pension crisis that's evolved ever since Mrs Thatcher unhooked pensions from the cost of living. Pensioners' groups are right to be so angry".

"There are a range of health and care issues, and end of life and assisted suicide. People write to me a lot about their fear of dying, and how they will be treated at that time."

One malaise, as Bakewell sees it, is that we are so terrified of old age. "It's a nasty place to go, and people don't want to think about it before they have to. But a wee bit of planning while still in middle age can make a big difference. Fitness and health in middle age help to govern what kind of old age you will have."

Does she feel anybody is listening?

"Yes, I think so. Why else would they have asked me? I don't just go and schmooze, you know."

It is clear why she was the natural choice for this role. She'd written a number of newspaper article, about elderly people, mostly in the 'Times', before she took on the job.

'Grandparents are left out of the family picture too often'
'NHS Bias Against Elderly People Is Quite Outrageous'
'Three cheers for a Bill of Rights for the old, gay, disabled, female and taken-for-granted'
'Care for the elderly is meant to be about sympathy, not money'

And after the appointment in the Times, Gaurdian and Independent :

'Care homes: Options running out in struggle for high standards'
'Lack of overnight care adds to fears of the elderly'
'Ageism, pensions and the end of high heels - it's time I spoke up'
'Joan Bakewell: Alzheimer's research can no longer be sidelined'
'Joan Bakewell: I've seen the future, and it belongs to the old'

CARRY ON JOAN, BRITAIN'S OLD MEN AND WOMEN NEED PEOPLE LIKE YOU TO FIGHT THEIR CAUSE !

Britain's Tescos - no company for complaints Part 2


I made a posting on this blog on July 22nd in which I described how I could not get a refund on some rotten cat food. I said then that it was something very small which tells us a lot about something very big - the Tescos Supermarket chain which made a profit of £3.13 bn or £3,130,000,000 last year.

Well, today I can reconfirm what I said back in July.

This time I bought 3 cartons of soup which were flagged up at £1.00 each, reduced from £1.97. It was only when I got back home and checked my bill that I noticed I'd been charged at the old price. The petrol I would use to get back to the store would probably amount to the refund, but there was a principle involved here.

I went to 'Customer Service', a misnomer if ever there was one. I'll go through the rest, step by step :

1. I had to take the 'assistant' back to the shelf where the soup was sold and show her the label which indicated the reduction.

2. The 'assistant' removed the label and we went back to her counter.

3. I was then asked " Did I have the soups?". I lied and said "No". They were actually in the car.

4. I was then told in no uncertain terms that, I "should have brought the soups back". So it was now me, who was remiss and placed in a position where I had to apologise to Tescos.

5. After a lot of fart arsing around, the 2 'assistants' who were now working on my case managed to get me a refund of £3 instead of £2.91 due to me. Thank you Tescos. So generous - you gave me 9 pence for my inconvenience.

6. I took the receipt for the refund and, needless to say, no apology was proffered.

Once again, from this small thing I extrapolate and confirm that, in some respects, this country of mine has become a sad old place.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Britons, your life in 6 words

In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway bet ten dollars that he could write a complete story in just six words. He won the bet with : 'For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.'

Inspired by this,'Smith', an American online magazine, asked its readers to sum their lives in 6 words and have published the best contributions in a book called 'Not Quite What I Was Planning'.

The B.B.C. Today Programme invited its listeners to do the same. Here are those reflecting on the 'run up to' and achievement of old age and they are mostly rather sad. My favourite is :

Age crept up and mugged me.

Foetus, son, brother, husband, father,vegetable.

Conceived,implored, employed, adored, retired, ignored.

Beginning, gurgly. Middle, sombre. End, gurgly.

Slow lane. Fast lane. Hard shoulder.

Womb, Play, Learn, Work, Decline, Tomb.

Start - programme - error - control - alt. - delete.

Outside lavatory, worked hard, now flush.

Started, farted, stood up, faced the wind.

Wrong era ,Wrong Class, Wrong Gender.

Wasted my whole life getting comfortable.

I'm just happy to be here!

Born London, lived elsewhere, died inside.

Lived, loved, laughed liberally and left.

Born, bred.Work, wed.Dad, dead.

Happy days, sad days, empty days.

Saw, heard, learnt, loved, mourned, dying.

Blankets, books, bottles, books, blankets.

It goes without saying that, my own six pennyworth would be : Britain, no country for old men.

There are still 'Reasons To Be Cheerful' in Britain Today


If you're feeling a bit miserable, it's always good to think of someone who has had it worse than you. The late Ian Dury, who died of cancer at the age of 57 in 2000, was such a person who came to mind. In particular his song, 'Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3'.

When Ian was seven years old he contracted polio, quite possibly from a swimming pool at Southend on Sea during the 1949 epidemic. He spent the next year and a half in hospital and the first 6 weeks in a plaster cast. I can empathise a little bit because, I broke my leg at the age of 4 in 1951 and spent 6 weeks in hospital, with my leg in plaster cast.

Dury was clearly talented and after grammar school and art college, in 1964 he won a place at the Royal College of Art. His career in music started when he was inspired to form his own band following the death of Gene Vincent in 1970.
It was with 'The Blockheads' that he found success with songs like,

'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick' and in 1979

'Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3'.

When AIDS first came to prominence in the mid-1980s, Dury was among celebrities who appeared on UK television to promote safe sex. In the 1990s, he became an ambassador for UNICEF, recruiting stars such as Robbie Williams to publicise the cause. The two visited Sri Lanka in this capacity to promote polio vaccination. Dury appeared with Curve on the Peace Together concert and CD (1993), performing "What a Waste", with benefits to the Youth of Northern Ireland. He also supported the charity Cancer BACUP.

Dury died of metastatic liver cancer on 27 March 2000, aged 57. An obituary in The Guardian read: 'One of few true originals of the English music scene'. The 250 mourners at his funeral included fellow musicians Suggs and Jools Holland as well as the M.P., Mo Mowlam.

Annette Furley, who took the service said : "He continued to gig even through his illness and he never lost his sense of humour. Even on the day he died he was still telling jokes."

After the service, Robbie Williams called him a "wonderful man".

The references in the lyrics of 'Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3' can be found at the B.B.C. website :

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A1012483

And the song itself :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD9AFG1GdgI&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo%2Egoogle%2Ecom%2Fvideosearch%3Fq%3Dian%2Bdrury%2Breasons%2Bto%2Bbe%2Bcheerful%26rls%3Dcom%2Emicrosoft%3Aen%2Dgb%3AIE%2DSearchBox%26oe%3DUTF%2D8%26sourceid%3Die&feature=player_embedded#t=26

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The B.B.C. is no Company for Terry Wogan's Old Geezers


The fact that Britain’s favourite broadcaster, the 71 year old Terry Wogan, is to retire from B.B.C. Radio 2’s ‘Breakfast Show’ to be replaced 43 year old Chris Evans, has caused a bit of a stir, with the Beeb being accused of neglecting the older audience.

Wogan, has hosted the show for the past 16 years and during that time has amassed an audience of 7,930,000 listeners including his dedicated following of TOGs - 'Terry's Old Geezers' or 'Gals' or as referred to by Ian Burrell in the Independent Newspaper on Monday, Terry’s 'Old Gits'.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NgIgIDLujo&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo%2Egoogle%2Ecom%2Fvideosearch%3Fq%3DTerry%2520wogan%26rls%3Dcom%2Emicrosoft%3Aen%2Dgb%3AIE%2DSearchBox%26oe%3DUTF%2D8%26sourceid%3Die7%26rlz%3D1I7GGLD%5Fen%26um&feature=player_embedded

Over 2,500 people felt strongly enough to post a comment on the B.B.C's 'Have Your Say' website:

http://newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?forumID=6968&edition=1&ttl=20090909090240

Even the broadcaster, Dame Joan Bakewell, who was appointed by the Government as a 'Voice of Older People', has got involved .

She said: “As the younger people push the oldies off their perches there’s a sense that the target audience is getting younger. Who is catering for the TOGs? My heart sinks for the Terry fans who would like to have something in his tone – his lilting, comforting style – rather than what might be the more abrasive style of Chris Evans.”

The row comes at a time when the service licence for Radio 2 is being reviewed by the BBC Trust, the body which oversees the Corporation. In its defence, RadioCentre has told the Review that, the average age of a Radio 2 listener has fallen in the past decade from 53 to 50, despite the fact that average age of the population in the over 35 sector has increased from 53 to 54 and is set to grow further.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Britain's West Midlands is a 'county' for Old Men








The Department For Work and Pensions ( I suspect, a little work and a lot of pensions),tell us that ‘People are living longer. By 2020 half the population of the U.K. will be aged 50 and over’.

Under the ‘Full of Life ‘ banner, the Government and other supporting groups, are undertaking a wide programme of activity centred around 'UK Older People’s Day' , to raise the profile of the issues surrounding older people and our ageing society.’

Following the apparent success of last year’s celebrations, 2009’s Older People’s Day will take place on 1st October. 'The day will highlight the contribution older people make to our society and economy and will try to tackle any negative attitudes and stereotypes by bringing different generations together to promote a more positive view of later life'.

THIS ALL SOUNDS VERY LAUDABLE TO ME.

Apparently, in 2008 'from allotment projects to tea dances, exercise classes to achievement awards, around 50,000 people took part in some 900 local events across the country' and the organisers are hoping even more people will get involved in 2009.

I went to the 'Directgov' website to find out more :
http://fulloflife.direct.gov.uk/index.html

Encouraged by the invitation to 'Find an event near you', I clicked on the 'South East' region of the map and found that 14 events were planned. Interestingly, closer inspection revealed that most of them were by the sea.

I wonder if that's because seaside towns on the Kent and Sussex coasts are seen as safe havens for retired old people ? Anyway, this was what was on offer :

By the sea

Peacehaven : An Information Fair
Worthing : Mexican dominoes, line dancing, Tai Chi, a history walk and photo exhibition entitled : 'What it means to be an older person in Worthing'.
Eastbourne : A Poetry Reading
Seaford : An Information 'Fayre'
Lewes : 'Life on the Home Front (1939 - 45)
Newhaven : An Intergenerational Dance involving a 1940's style dance with the old joining local school children to revive the tea dances of the War years
Bexhill : A walk and a quiz
Hastings : An advice stand in the local shopping area
Gravesend : Tai Chi, massages and fitness tests

Inland

Horsham : An exhibition and information about clubs
Uckfield : An event involving local 6th form students

Well, I've got the car, but quiet frankly, nothing on offer really grabbed my attention, so I went back to the map and took myself to the following regions to see what was going on there. This is what I found :

Northern Ireland : Nothing
The North East : Nothing
Scotland : 2 events
The North West : 2 events
The South West : 2 events
The East : 3 events
London : 3 events

THEN, THE REALLY BIG SURPRISE -The West Midlands : 53 events

So, the only conclusion I can draw is, that if you are thinking of retiring and moving to the coast, forget it. Get yourself to the land-locked West Midlands, where Birmingham alone is organising 11 events for your benefit.

Britain - a country where it is not dishonest to dupe the old

I heard an article on the 'Today' programme this morning, about the results of a survey which showed that less people, (43%), thought it was 'dishonest' for a carer to put pressure on an elderly person to change their will, than it was to con a clothing store, by getting a refund on a dress that had been bought with the intention of the buyer using it once.

Apparently, when it comes to common acts of theft and fraud, the over 50s tend to see crimes as much more black and white than the younger generation.
They were also much more likely to say they would convict the perpetrator in a court of law.

Dr Stefan Fafinski and Dr Emily Finch, co-authors, think that we probably become more judgemental as we got older because we had “more to lose”.

“These results could suggest that society is becoming more dishonest as the young are less likely to consider actions are wrong,” said Dr Fafinsky, a qualified criminal lawyer.
“But it could be that the older you get your views change. Maybe it is the older you get the possessions you acquire and so the more you value honesty”.

What is he talking about ?
This has got nothing to do with changing as you get older and get more possessions, it is all about the fact that younger people in Britain today no longer adhere to a clear sense of right and wrong.

I may sound like a Grumpy Old Man, but this is my perception of one way in which this country has changed.

If you want to view the survey, which I think is very clever, you can do so on the link below.

http://www.honestylab.com/

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Britain's 'Sunday Times' is a place for Old Men

I had a trawl through the 'Sunday Times' Newspaper today, specifically looking for photos and articles about old men.

The high profile ones didn't surprise me :
In the main paper :

The Queen (83) apparently, stifled a laugh, while Prince Charles (61), giggled with glee, as they watched the ' annual Braemar Gathering near Balmoral yesterday'.

Colonel Gaddafi (67), in a photo where he was weighed down with medals and next to an article entitled 'The Special Relationship.'

Imelda Marcos (80), in a photo, feeding her son 'Ferdinand' or 'Bongbong' who wishes to run for President.

What I did find pleasantly surprising were the following articles :

In the Main Section :

* 65 year old Maurice Robson who was, apparently 'distraught' at having to sell his country house following his divorce from Chloe.

* 70 year old Margaret Atwood, Canadian author's description of 'My Week'.

In the Money Section :

* 76 year old Barbara Taylor Bradford, millionairess author.

In Home Magazine Section :

* 69 year old Maeve Binchy talking about her childhood home in Ireland.

In News Review :

* 66 year old Miyuki Hatoyama talking about her claims that she was taken to Venus by UFO.

In the Business Section :

* 77 year old American accountant giving advice about investments.

In the Sports Section :

* 64 year old Peter Knowles, who once played for Wolves, explaining why he retired from football at the age of 25, after conversion by Jehova's Witness.

'Collectively', the people I have mentioned have lived , a total of 778 years.

Isn't that wonderful ?

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Happy Birthday Old Timers !

















It gives me great pleasure to say "Happy Birthday" to each of the following and a special gratification to note that they are all older than me. The question is : can you tell, apart from the beautiful Raquel, who is who ?



Werner Herzog : Film and opera director : 67
Raquel Welch : Actor : 69
George Lazenby : Actor : 70
Dick Clement : Film director and script writer : 72
Johnny Briggs : Actor : 74
Bob Newhart : Actor and comedian : 80
http://trashcars.net/videos/223/bob-newhart-driving-instructor.html

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Britain is no country for old men who can't hear or speak clearly

I've just had my first experience of talking to a computer. It was a bit like the astronauts talking to Hal in the 1968 film : '2001: A Space Odyssey'. In this case the voice was pleasant and female.

I was applying over the phone for a renewal of my European Health Insurance Card.

The computer voice, I'm going to call her 'Val', asked me for my number, name, date of birth. post code, first line of my address and then asked me if I could be contacted on the number I was calling from.
In each case I spoke clearly and slowly and was rewarded by 'Val' with encouraging expressions like " great ". If I'd been a dog I would have wagged my tail.

What a strange world we live in where we feel gratified when, the disembodied voice from a computer down a telephone line, metaphorically pats us on the head and says "great" when we get something right.

I have a feeling that I have just had my first taste of the shape of things to come.

The voice of Hal :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE1F7d6f1Qk&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo%2Egoogle%2Ecom%2Fvideosearch%3Fq%3Dvoice%2520of%2520Hal%2520in%25202001%26rls%3Dcom%2Emicrosoft%3Aen%2Dgb%3AIE%2DSearchBox%26oe%3DUTF%2D8%26sourceid%3Die7%26rl&feature=player_embedded

The film director Stanley Kubric chose the voice of Canadian actor, Douglas Rain for the calm, rational voice of Hal. Apparently 'Hal' is an amalgam of 'heuristic' and 'algorithmic' - the 2 main processes of learning.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Today's Laughter tonic from Pete and Dud and the 60's

One Leg Too Few

One Leg Too Few is a comedy sketch written by Peter Cook and performed there without Moore, when he was a student at Cambridge, Apparently, Wikepedia says : 'It is a classic example of comedy arising from an absurd situation which the participants take entirely seriously, and a demonstration of the construction of a sketch in order to draw a laugh from the audience with almost every line'.

It appeared on the West End stage for the first time in 1961 as part of 'One Over the Eight', a revue starring Kenneth Williams.
Its first public performance with Dudley Moore in the role of Spiggot was as part of Beyond the Fringe at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on April 21, 1961.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty68LPKRQQQ&feature=related

Sad post script :

Peter Cook died in 1995 at the age of 57 in 1995 from a gastrointestinal haemorrhage, caused by severe liver damage, the result of years of heavy drinking.

Dudley Moore died in in 2002 at the age of 67, as the result of complications caused by the brain disorder, progressive supranuclear palsy.

Giggling clips as a P.P.S.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUoQbcK7Xso&NR=1

Britain in 1965 : a South London School called 'Eltham Green Comprehensive' and the confidence of youth


The events I am about to unfold took place in the summer of 1965 at a huge secondary school, built to house 2,500 post Second World War, South London, baby boomers, called Eltham Green Comprehensive School.

My reporting is reliable, because the story was told to me by Frank, one of the participants.

A kind of tradition had started to grow up that, the Sixth Form school leavers would do something to disrupt the Head Master's speech in the school hall, the occasion being : 'Farewell to the Sixth Formers' in front of the  thousand pupils in attendance and relayed by the tanoi broadcasting system to the rest of the school, seated in their form rooms.
It had all been fairly mediocre stuff in the past, like planting alarm clocks in cupboards in the hall, timed to go off when the Old Man was into his speech or chaining the exit doors, so no one could get out.

This year would be in a different league and memorable.

The night before this Leavers' Service, 5 of the lads in the sixth form : Jim, Frank, Bill, George and Mick had a drink in the local Yorkshire Grey pub and, after closing time, and dressed in dark clothing, climbed over the school gates and made their way to the hall, where, by chance, they found a door open.

Once inside the darkened hall the tick of the clock startled them. They put their plan into effect. Bill stood on tables and chairs and placed an old fashioned loud speaker, out of sight, on the wooden sounding board, way up above the stage. A single wire was then run from the speaker, down the wall, through the door opening and along the corner of the floor of the corridor behind the hall and into one of the small music rooms. The wire was fed into an old fashioned reel-to reel tape recorder. A spooled tape was placed on the deck and connected to a blank spool. The lads then made their exit from the school.

After lunch the next day, the hall began to fill up. First the younger kids downstairs and then the Sixth Form in the balcony. It was at this point that Frank had been delegated to make his way to the music room to switch on the tape, which George had spent hours searching to record from a pirate radio station on the radio, was timed to play blank for 20 minutes. He noticed that the indicator light was on and so placed the leather bag of one music teachers against it and a tray of glasses on top for good measure. He then made his exit and went to the balcony.

The Old Man was well into his speech with the usual stuff about 'torch bearers' when the first blast of music came out of the hidden speaker :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5ya_Gq8d4Q

The Headmaster sat down angry and perplexed. Teachers ran around like blue-arsed flies, trying to find from where the blast of music was coming and were unsuccessful. The kids were collapsed in laughter.
Two and a half minutes later Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's "Goodbye" finished. It was then that the Old Man made his big mistake. He got to his feet and resumed his speech saying that the perpetrators would be found out.

Unbeknown to him or anyone in hall or school, except the lads on the balcony, the tape played blank for another few minutes and then :

Here they come again, mmmm-mm-mm,
Catch us if you can, mmmm-mm-mm,
Time to get a move on, mmmm-mm-mm,
We will yell with all of our might.

Catch us if you can ......

Now we gotta run, mmmm-mm-mm,
No more time for fun, mmmm-mm-mm,
When we're gettin' angry, mmmm-mm-mm,
We will yell with all of our might.

Catch us if you can .....

Here they come again, mmmm-mm-mm,
Catch us if you can, mmmm-mm-mm,
Time to get a move on, mmmm-mm-mm,
We will yell with all of our might.

Catch us if you can.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJYgNqOFBLk

With no guarantee of protection from unending interruptions, the Headmaster left the stage. He got the police in, but they could find nothing, since the lads had not forced an entry and caused no damage to school property.

The story of the lads' ruse spread to all South London school kids year and doubtless teachers, that year. Somehow they were doing what youth and the Dave Clark Five did in the 1960s when they shouted :

                           "We will yell with all of our might."
Our Sixth Form tutor seated with the sixth form on the balcony, Mr Callum, had said to Jim : "Nine out of ten 'Wilson'".

He was wrong, it was "10 out of 10".

The Headmaster got the police in, but they could find nothing, since the lads had not forced an entry.

Sadly, George, the mastermind behind the single wire and tape died in a motor accident just a few years after he played his role in this brilliant exploit.