Monday, 31 May 2010

Perhaps Britain 'is' a country for an American called Bill Bryson and I

William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, is a 59 year old American who lived in North Yorkshire for 18 years with his English wife from 1977 to '95, moved back to the U.S.A. but returned in 2003 and has lived, in Norfolk, ever since.

He likes this country very much.

What few people know about Bill :

* first visited Britain in 1973 during a tour of Europe, and decided to stay after landing a job working in a psychiatric hospital in Surrey.

* met a nurse there they got married and to the USA in 1975 so he could complete his University degree, having dropped out to back pack around Europe in 1972.

* settled in the UK as a journalist, he became 'Chief Sub Editor' of the Business Section of 'The Times', and then 'Deputy National News Editor' of the Business Section of 'The Independent'.

* left journalism in 1987, three years after the birth of his third child and started writing independently.

* returned to the U.S.A. and the Appalachian Trail, wrote the book 'A Walk in the Woods' and returned to Britain with his wife and 4 children in 2003.

* in conjunction with 'World Book Day', voters in Britain chose his book 'Notes from a Small Island' as : 'that which best sums up British identity and the state of the nation'.

* In 2005, was appointed 'Chancellor of Durham University', succeeding the late Sir Peter Ustinov and has been active with student activities, appearing in a Durham student film and promoting 'litter picks' in the city which he praised as 'a perfect little city' in 'Notes from a Small Island'.

* In 2006, he interviewed the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair on the state of science and education.

* In 2006, Bryson was awarded an honorary OBE ( Order of the British Empire) for his 'Contribution to Literature'. The irony of which could not have been lost on him since he is neither 'British' and there is no 'British Empire'.

* In 2007, became the 'President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England' and started an 'anti-littering campaign'.

Bill on the British at the seaside :

Bill talking to the comedienne, Victoria Wood about the British at the seaside :

Perhaps Bill Bryson and I are, as observers of life in Britain, at two ends of the spectrum with him seeing many positives and me seeing many negatives.
If you agree Bill, I'll meet you in the middle and we'll do what the Brits do best, namely : Compromise

Britain's Kent is no county for neither old men, nor dead men or ambulancemen

I live in a conurbation of the 3 towns in North Kent, consisting of Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham. I have been reading the local newspaper, 'The Medway News' since I settled in the Medway Towns 40years ago.

There were short reports this week on :

Nose-biting thug is jailed :
'A thug who tried to bite off his victim's nose and ear has been jailed for five years'.

Drink and dangerous driving trial for man :
'A Gillingham man involved in a collision which left three school children injured will stand trial for drink and dangerous driving'.

Explosion could lead to prison :
'A man involved in a long running dispute with a shopkeeper has been found guilty of a dangerous explosion. He filled an airbed with an accelerant and set light to it on a fence to cause a blast'.

It was however these 2 articles which took my attention :

Sinister mystery of grave attacks :

Apparently :

* Two families were left distraught by suspected 'grave-robbers' who disturbed their loved-ones plots in the churchyard at Hoo St Werburgh Church.

* A hole had been dug into the final resting place of Theresa McDowell, 81, and her husband John who had died a few weeks apart in January 2007.

* Then a second grave was targeted.

* Mr Hollands, the Churchwarden said: "I have never come across anything like it. There is no damage to the gravestones or coffins, but nevertheless it is obviously very upsetting for the families. Why anyone would want to do this we have absolutely no idea. It's very upsetting."

Yob attack on pilot of air ambulance.

Apparently :

* A helicopter landed on a cricket ground in Sevenoaks, at around 4.30pm on Sunday in response to an emergency at a restaurant where a baby had been scalded on its legs and arms.

* The pilot is said to have been verbally abused and grabbed by the throat after telling two young men to stop swinging from the door and the tail fin of the helicopter.

* The police were called and One of the teenagers had to be carried horizontally across the road by officers to where the police van was parked. His legs had been bound and his trousers came down while he was being carried.

* The Kent Air Ambulance Chief Executive said the incident prevented the helicopter from being used to take the baby to hospital. "I find it incredible that anybody would want to attack a charity air ambulance and its crew, whose sole purpose is to help seriously injured people".

* As a result of the possible damage caused the aircraft was unable to return to service until given a full inspection by an engineer.

* A 17-year-old and 19-year old were arrested on suspicion of 'common assault' and 'public order' offences.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Britain was once the home of a genius called John Aubrey

My posting about the actor Roy Dotrice playing the 17th Century Englishman, John Aubrey, prompted me to 'look up' that remarkable man, Aubrey.

What I didn't know about him was that he :

* was born in Wiltshire to a 'well-off' gentry family.

* was for many years an only child, educated at home with a private tutor and was 'melancholy' in his solitude.

* had a father who preferred 'field sports' to 'learning'.

* read such books as came his way and studied geometry in secret.

* was educated at the Malmesbury Grammar School under Robert Latimer, who had taught Thomas Hobbes.

* entered Trinity College, Oxford, in 1642, where his studies were interrupted by the English Civil War.

* spent much of his time, after the War, in the country and in 1649 he first 'discovered' the megalithic remains at Avebury, which he later mapped and discussed in work 'Monumenta Britannica'.

* showed Avebury to King Charles II at the King's request in 1663.

* inherited large estates from his father but also complicated debts.

* was blessed with charm, generosity of spirit and enthusiasm and went on to become acquainted with many of the most celebrated writers, scientists, politicians and aristocrats of his day.

* claimed that his memory was 'not tenacious', but from the early 1640s he kept thorough notes of observations in natural philosophy, his friends' ideas, and antiquities.

* began to write 'Lives' of scientists in the 1650s.

* became a member of the Royal Society in 1663.

* lost estate after estate due to lawsuits, till in 1670 he parted with his last piece of property and ancestral home and from this time was dependent on the hospitality of numerous friends.

* had little inclination for systematic work, and he wrote the 'Lives' in the early morning while his hosts were sleeping off the effects of the night before in texts that were, as Aubrey entitled them, 'Schediasmata', 'pieces written extempore, on the spur of the moment'.

* valued the evidence of his own eyes above all and he took great pains to ensure that, where possible, he noted not only the final resting places of people, but also of their portraits and papers.

What Aubrey said about Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher :

'He was 40 yeares old before he looked on Geometry, which happened accidentally, being in a Gentleman's Library, Euclid's Elements lay open, and 'twas the 47 El. Libri 1 [Pythagoras' Theorem].
He read the proposition. By God, say'd he, (he would now and then sweare an emphaticall Oath by way of emphasis), "this is impossible!".
So he reads the Demonstration of it, which referred him back to such a Proposition, which proposition he read. That referred him back to another, which he also read. 'Et sic deinceps' [and so on], that at last he was demonstratively convinced of that trueth. This made him in love with Geometry' .

Robert Boyle, the scientist :

'He is very tall and straight, very temperate, and vertuouse, and frugall: a batcheler; keepes a Coach; sojournes with his sister, the Lady Ranulagh.
His greatest delight is Chymistrey. He has at his sister's a noble laboratory, and severall servants,Prentices to him, to look to it.
He is charitable to ingeniose men that are in want, and foreigne Chymists have had large proofe of his bountie, for he will not spare for cost to get any rare Secret'.

Robert Hooke, the scientist :

'He is but of midling stature, something crooked, pale faced, and his face but little below, but his head is large; his eye full and popping, and not quick; a grey eye. He has a delicate head of hair, brown, and of an excellent moist curl. He is and ever was very temperate, and moderate in diet, etc. As he is of prodigious inventive head, so is a person of great virtue and goodness. Now when I have said his Inventive faculty is so great, you cannot imagine his Memory to be excellent, for they are like two Bucketts, as one goes up, the other goes downe. He is certainly the greatest Mechanic this day in the World.

Mr Hooke sent, in his next letter [to Sir Isaac Newton] the whole of his Hypothesis, scil that the gravitation was reciprocall to the square of the distance: ... This is the greatest Discovery in Nature that ever was since the World's Creation. It was never so much as hinted by any man before. I wish he had writt plainer, and afforded a little more paper.

William Harvey, the scientist :
' He bid me to goe to the Fountain-head, and read Aristotle, Cicero, Avicenna, and did call the Neoteriques shitt-breeches. He did not care for chymistrey, and was wont to speake against them with an undervalue'.
I have heard him say, that after his 'Booke of the Circulation of the Blood' came-out, that he fell mightily in his Practize, and that 'twas beleeved by the vulgar that he was crack-brained'.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Britain is a country with old villages in rude health and old pubs with rude landlords

Ralph Steadman, the cartoonist, whose grotesque style is instantly recognisable, was 73 last weekend and I suggested that me and my retired friend D.B. visit his village of Loose near Maidstone in the County of Kent.

The plan was to explore the village and its remains of old water mills and have a drink in 'The Chequers', the village pub, where I knew there was a Steadman cartoon in the bar where he used to drink.

It was bright morning and the village advertised it beauty with flowering garlic and chestnut.

There were newly hatched tadpoles taking the sun in the clear water of the stream.

Water tumbled where 'Gurney's Mill once stood. Originally it was a fulling mill where the water wheel powered hammers which pounded woollen cloth in water and fuller's earth to get rid oils and dirt and make the cloth thicker.

It probably looked something like this :

Today :

We went into the Chequers Pub and ordered some drinks.

I noticed a framed Ralph Steadman painting of the pub in the bar and said to the landlord :

" Does Ralph Steadman still come into the pub". I mispronounced Steadman as 'Steedman' when it is pronounced 'Stedman'.

He looked at me and said : " You mean Stedman ? Occasionally".

He then turned his back on me and started talking to someone behind the bar.
His arrant rudeness was breath taking.

We sat in the garden, finished our drinks and continued our walk along the river bank.

The beauty of the valley which I enjoyed with my good friend D.B. was the perfect antidote to the rudeness of an irascible pub landlord who owned no land and was no lord.

Ralph Steadman's pictures :

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to an old thespian called Roy Dotrice and remember him playing the old John Aubrey

Roy Dotrice was 85 years old yesterday on the left his photo at the age of 42 in 1967 and with his make up on for John Aubrey at about the same time.
He recently said about the plays revival :
" In those days I had a two and a half hour make up job to make myself look old enough. Now I have a three and a half hour make up job to make myself look young enough".

Things you probably didn't know about Roy :

* born in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands.

* served in the Royal Air Force from 1940 to 1945 during the Second World War and was shot down at the age of 17.

* was in a German prisoner of war camp from 1942 to 1945 where he started acting in theatricals playing female parts because he was so young and hadn't started shaving.

* was the father-in-law to the late Edward Woodward, a contemporary of his and husband to his daughter Michele.

* earned a place in the 'Guinness Book of Records' for the greatest number of solo performances at 1,782 , for his portrayal of the 17th century antiquarian, John Aubrey in his stage production 'Brief Lives'

* The play premiered and travelled in the late 1960's.

I saw it at one of the London theatres at that time.

Things you probably did know :

* 'Brief Lives', was a one-man 'tour de force' where he was on stage for more than two and a half hours, including the interval when he pretended to sleep.

Here is is 1979 introduction to 'Brief Lives' :

And an excerpt from the original show :

* is best known to American audiences for his role of 'Father' in the 1980s hit TV series, 'Beauty and the Beast'

* played Leopold Mozart in the 1984 film 'Amadeus'.

* is known to fans of 'the Buffyverse' in the role of Roger Wyndam-Pryce.

* played Commissioner Simmons in 'Space: 1999'.

* played Father Gary Barrett in the TV series 'Picket Fences' in the 1990's.

* appeared as Zeus cult television show 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys'.

* was made 'Officer of the Order of the British Empire' (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.

* was on tour in February 2008 at the age of 84 in a revival of 'Brief Lives'.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Britain's new Government is no place for young men from poor backgrounds

David Cameron (second in from the left in the top row) and other Bullingdon Club members at Oxford.

Britain has a new Government of young men who are linked by background, friendship and family ties — but most of all by class. Nothing changes here. Britain may be a democracy, but it always has and still is governed by toffs.

David Cameron, 43, the Prime Minister :

* son of a stockbroker and grandson of a baronet.
* a descendant of King William IV and distantly related to the Queen.
* an Old Etonian.
* a former member of the Bullingdon Club, the elitist Oxford University drinking and dining clique.

Nick Clegg, 43, Deputy Prime Minister :

* former pupil of Westminster School.
* Cambridge University graduate.
* Grandmother was a White Russian baroness and his great-uncle was clubbed to death in Russia by his own peasants.
* parents live in a vast chateau in France.

George Osborne, 38, the Chancellor :

* former pupil of St Paul’s School.
* Oxford graduate and a former member of the Bullingdon Club.
* a millionaire through his family firm, Osborne & Little, which makes paint and wallpaper.

Michael Gove, 42, the Education Secretary :

* former president of the Oxford Union.

William Hague, 49, the Foreign Secretary :

* former pupil at Wath-upon-Dearne comprehensive in South Yorkshire.
* Graduate of Oxford University.
* former editor of the 'News of the World'.
* plays a key role in reminding the public-school dominated inner circle of the new Government of the hopes and fears of tabloid readers.

Andrew Feldman 44, co-chairman of the Conservative party :

* friend of Cameron since they were at Brasenose College, Oxford,
* likely to be elevated to the House of Lords as a Junior Minister.

Chris Huhne, 55, the Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary :

* former Westminster School pupil.
* Oxford graduate.
* former journalist.
* made a fortune in the City before moving into politics.
* owns seven homes.

David Laws, 44, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury :

* Cambridge graduate he took a double first in economics.
* did well in the City — he worked for JP Morgan.

Wives :

Samantha Cameron, 39 :

* eldest daughter of Sir Reginald Adrian Berkeley Sheffield, 8th Baronet, and a descendant of Charles II.
* successful businesswoman, working until recently as creative director of Smythson, the Bond Street stationer.

Mrs Clegg, 42 :

* is Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.
* a high-earning international lawyer.

Britain 50 years ago :

So, is Britain no country for old men ?

When I started this blog a year ago I said that : 'I had time to look around,turn over stones and see if this country of our is,or ever was, a country for old men ?'

Outcomes :

My odyssey has led me to many places where I had not been before by :

* Thinking and writing about my own reflections about incidents in my daily life.

* Considering the position of Britain's old men in the past and old men in other countries today.

* Publicising relevant articles I had come across in the press or on the radio.

* Publicising little known facts about old men and women on their birthdays.

* Considering the part played by the old who had 'passed over'.

Unexpected outcomes :

* I have improved my internet 'nose' and research skills.

* I have learnt how to copy and paste web links and photos.

Unexpected pleasures :

* Having worked on a posting there is the pleasure of publishing it and saying to myself : " I did that. No one else."

* The pleasure of looking on my site meter and realising that individuals from all over the world have looked at the blog. Admittedly, most only look once and do not return but nevertheless, I wonder about them :

Who are they ?
What do they do ?
Where do they live ?
What did they think ?

In the last week, who was that person in ? :

Prague the Czech Republic
Westmont, Illinois USA
Uppsala, Sweden
Mainz, Germany
Arlington, Virginia USA
Halifax, Canada
Amersfoort, Netherlands
Pelham, Alabama USA
Dublin, Ireland
Danbury, Connecticut USA
Jakarta, Indonesia
Sidney, Canada
Moulineaux, France
Schijndel, Netherlands
Washington, USA

and in Britain ? :

High Wycombe

* The selfish pleasure of nostalgically going back to the songs and music of my youth and publishing them on my blog.

Conclusions :

* My conclusion was implicit in my title : Britain is 'no country for old men'.
Now I am not so sure. In many ways it isn't, but in other ways it is.

* Like Odysseus, I shall continue on my voyage around these islands and its people as he voyaged the Mediterranean on his seven year journey back to his home in Ithaca.

My Dad took me to see Kirk Douglas in 'Ulysses' at the cinema when was 7 years old in 1954. I've remembered that film ever since.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Britain is no country for old men today but might it possibly be one for its future old men of tommorrow ?

'Palindrome' is a word from Ancient Greece made from 2 words 'palin' meaning 'again' and 'drom' meaning 'run'. The words 'madam' and 'radar' are palindromic words because they read the same forwards and backwards.

This ingenious palindromic poem was written by Jonathan Reed a 20 something student at Colombia College in Chichago. Entitled 'Lost Generation', read it forwards and it is a depressing contemplation of his future at 50 in 30 years, but read backwards and it is uplifting.

Is equally applicable on this side of the Atlantic as Jonathan thinks it is in the USA ?

I am part of a lost generation
and I refuse to believe that
I can change the world.
I realize this may be a shock, but
“Happiness comes from within”
is a lie, and
“Money will make me happy”.

So in 30 years I will tell my children
they are not the most important thing in my life.
My employer will know that
I have my priorities straight because
is more important than
I tell you this.
Once upon a time,
Families stayed together
but this will not be true in my era.
This is a quick fix society
Experts tell me
30 years from now, I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce.
I do not concede that
I will live in a country of my own making
In the future
Environmental destruction will be the norm.
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth.
It will be evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic.
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.
And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Britain is a country which says "Happy Birthday" to Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker is 66 today.

I remember his beautiful song, written by John B. Sebastian : 'Darling Be Home Soon' :

And talk of all the things we did today.
And laugh about our funny little ways.
While we have a few minutes to breathe.
Then I know that it's time you must leave.

But darling be home soon,
I couldn't bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled.
My darling be home soon,
It's not just these few hours, but I've been waiting since I toddled,
For the great relief of having you to talk to.

And now,
A quarter of my life is almost past,
I think I've come to see myself at last,
And I see that the time spent confused,
Was the time that I spent without you.
And I feel myself in bloom.

So darling be home soon,
I couldn't bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled.
My darling be home soon,
It's not just these few hours but I've been waiting since I toddled.
For the great relief of having you to talk to.

Go, and beat your crazy head against the sky.
Try And see beyond the houses and your eyes.
It's ok to shoot the moon.

So darling,
My darling be home soon.
I couldn't bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled.
My darling be home soon,
It's not just these few hours but I've been waiting since I toddled,
For the great relief of having you to talk to.

What kind of song uses the words "dawdle" and "toddle" and a line like 'for the great relief of having you to talk to'.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Britain is a country with a playground in Hyde Park for old men

The oldest swingers in town are given playground to keep them young at heart.

The Times has reported that a 'Senior Playground' has just been opened in Hyde Park.

* it is in a corner of the gardens that contain the tennis courts, the bowling green and a children’s play area, the new outdoor facility features equipment designed for pensioners.

* “People can come and have fun and socialise at the same time,” said Madeline Elsdon, a member of Knightsbridge Association and the person behind the project. “We wanted to do something that led the way. Every park has a children’s playground. But there are few facilities for adults and very few for older adults. We hope in the future that every park will have a playground for older people.”

* when the project was announced it was covered in more than 500 newspapers and she has been inundated with inquiries from around the world about how to create something similar.

* the six pieces of Danish equipment are designed to be simple to use and provide gentle exercise, including twisting, swinging, walking and cycling movements. The only piece that slightly alarmed a group of senior citizens testing the playground yesterday was the sit-up apparatus.

* the project was funded by a £40,000 grant from Westminster City Council under a scheme to allow people in local council wards to choose neighbourhood improvement projects.

* while the playground is intended for those who have retired, only the under-15s are specifically warned off by notices. It is not a grandparent and grandchild facility. Gardeners shooed away a couple of youngsters who ventured near.

* “This is brilliant!” said a fit-looking lady who claimed to be 79 but gambolled about like a spring lamb and attributed her youthfulness to balletic exercise and living through rationing. “Youngsters these days don’t do enough exercise,” she said, as she swivelled at dizzying speed on one of the pieces of equipment. “I think this could take off. Elderly people are quite neglected, don’t you think?”

* Madeline Elsdon approached a well-known female television presenter out running in the Park yesterday. “I asked her if she knew about the older person’s playground. She said: ‘I’m not old! I don’t want to look old!’ Isn’t that funny?”

Three comments from grouchy old men William, Roland and Mark :

* 'I hate to be a cynic, but how will vandalism be prevented? You can bet your sweet bippy that attempts will be made'.

* 'Soon it will be full of empty packets of arthritis, blood pressure pills, Mars wrappers like the rest of play parks'.

* 'I'm not against the idea, but can we afford this and many other things at the moment'.

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to Pete Townsend

Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend is 65 today.

What you did know is that he is known principally as the guitarist and songwriter for 'The Who' and his career with the band spans more than forty years.

What you probably didn't know :

* although known primarily as a guitarist, he also plays the banjo, accordion, synthesizer, piano and drums.

* has been a contributor and author of newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews, essays, books, and scripts.

* born in London into a musical family, his father was a professional saxophonist in 'The Squadronaires' and his mother was a singer.

* when he was 12, his grandmother gave him his first guitar, which he has described as a "cheap Spanish thing".

* in 1961, he enrolled at Ealing Art College, with the intention to become a graphic artist and a year later, he and his school friend from grammar school, John Entwistle, founded their first band, 'The Confederates', a Dixieland duet featuring Townshend on banjo and Entwistle on horns.

* from this beginning they moved on to 'The Detours', a skiffle/rock and roll band fronted by Roger Daltrey, another former schoolmate.

* in early 1964, they renamed themselves 'The Who' and drummer was replaced by Keith Moon.

* he later explained smashing guitars on stage, by relating it to German/British artist Gustav Metzger's theories on Auto-destructive art. However, he also admitted that this was a gimmick that set the band apart from the others and gave them the publicity edge that they needed to be noticed.

His article in 'Wikepedia' :

His songs :

At 20 in 1965 : I can't Explain :

1965 : My Generation :

At 21 in 1966 : Substitute :

At 22 in 1967 : I'm a Boy :

Pictures of Lily :

At 24 in 1969 : Pinball Wizard :

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Britain says " Happy Birthday" to Nobby Stiles

Nobby Stiles or 'Norbet' is 68 today.

He played in the 1966 'World Cup' which England won and old Brits will remember :

But what you didn't know about Nobby :

* grew up in Collyhurst, a working class, heavily Irish Catholic neighbourhood of north Manchester.

* played for England Schoolboys at the age of 15.

* was an unlikely footballer : was very small, a wearer of dentures, nearly bald at a young age and suffered from severe short sightedness.

* but had fearless ball-winning skills.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Britain's 'baby boomers' say " Happy Birthday" to Dennis Hopper and remember the 1960's

Dennis Hopper is 74 today and, like most of my generation, I will remember him in the film 'Easy Rider' he made with Peter Fonda in 1968.

Things you probably didn't know about Dennis :

* at the age of 13, moved to San Diego, where his mother worked as a lifeguard instructor and his father was a post office manager.

* in High School he developed an interest in acting, which led him to 'The Actors Studio' in New York City where he studied with Lee Strasberg for five years.

* struck up a friendship with actor Vincent Price, whose passion for art influenced his interest in art.

* made his debut on film with James Dean in 'Rebel Without a Cause' in 1955 followed by 'Giant' in 1956.

* 'Easy Rider', was plagued by creative differences and personal acrimony between him and Peter Fonda.

The trailer :

The making of the film :

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Britain is a country whose 30 year old men might live for a hundred years : but do they want to ?

Britain's 30 year olds were born in the late 1970's and early 1980's. A new drug might be available in 10 years which could increase their longevity so they live to be a hundred in the late 2070's and early 2080's.

Last week the world’s top ageing experts held a conference at the Royal Society in London. Apparently, a number of scientific breakthroughs have shown that the lifespan of many animals can be radically extended by making minute changes in single genes.

Cynthia Kenyon of the University of California said :
“ When we extend the lifespans of laboratory animals, we do not have to combat individually all the problems of age, such as the declining muscles, the wrinkled skin and the mutant mitochondria. Instead, we just tweak a regulatory gene and the animal does the rest. In other words, animals have the latent potential to live much longer than they normally do.”

We humans are no different.

Nir Barzilai, Director of the 'Institute for Ageing Research' at the College of Medicine in New York, showed how some people age much more slowly than others. At more than 100 years old, these genetic winners are playing bridge, driving cars, uncorking the wine, dating, even running companies.

He has identified 2 genes in this group of 'super-oldies', which delay the onset of the diseases of old age. One causes the body to increase its production of cholesterol, which protects the body from heart disease and strokes, and the other controls insulin, which is linked to diabetes. Together they seem to be able to turn off the body’s ageing mechanism.

“When they eventually die, they die of the same things that people die of in their seventies or eighties. It’s just that they die 30 years later,”

His team is already developing drugs that mimic the effect of the centenarians’ super genes and testing on humans could begin in 2012. He reckons that within five or 10 years people will take these pills at around 40 and their lives will be longer.

Do today's 30 year olds want this ?

Remember Eos, the rosy-fingered Ancient Greek goddess of the dawn, with her unquenchable desire for handsome young mortal men. Her favourite was the Trojan prince Tithonos, who she loved so dearly that she beseeched Zeus, to make him immortal. The wish was granted but Eos forgot to ask for Tithonos to be eternally youthful and he became so shrivelled by old age that he turned into a grasshopper.

Barzilai argued that his drugs would let us escape that fate. He explained that If you delay ageing itself, you also put off future age-related disease. If you can live to 100 in the body of a healthy 70-year-old, then why not? Age itself is the disease that must be treated. If ageing is reclassified as a disease then more drugs can be developed, which will treat not just the symptoms of old age but also the actual process of ageing itself.

Do we really want to abolish old age in Britain scientifically?

Consider :

* Being old in Britain today can often be lonely and grim what might things be like in 2070 ?

* Isn’t getting old and frail a fundamental part of the human experience, one of the great levellers, the touchstones that make us who we are? If, for those who can afford the new drugs, that slow decline to death can be eradicated, wouldn’t that fundamentally change what it means to be human?

* We already live in a Britain where life expectancy is influenced by the surroundings of our birth, where the rich eat better, live more healthily, have more effective medicine and therefore survive longer. Drugs like those Barzilai is developing might help the rich in Britain to stay fit and active until we they are well over 100, but what about the rest ?

P.S. It's going to be hotter too by the 2080's and old men don't like the heat :

Friday, 14 May 2010

Britain was once a country for a gentle comic called Will Hay

My posting yesterday about old teachers in Modern Britain brought back a memory of an old black and white film from the 1940's called 'Good Morning Boys' and starring the gentle comic, Will Hay as a public school master.

Will who made a series of short black and white films in the 1930's and 40's. Today the films provide an insight into the social relationships, speech and dress of a Britain long since gone. It was in my youth in the 1950's and 60's that it began to disappear. I suppose, baby boomer Brits like me provide a bridge between that old Britain and the one we have today. Oh dear, doesn't that sound pompous - it brought out the old school teacher in me. Will Hay died when I was 2 years old.

Here he is in a clip from 'Good Morning Boys' which was made in 1937 :
Go about 3 minutes into it to get to the classroom :

Things I didn't know about him, he :

* trained as an engineer but at the age of 21, gave up that profession for the stage, starting as a juggler, self-taught after seeing W.C.Fields doing it in a film.

* made his first film when he was in his mid-40s and an established music hall artist.

* was arguably, the dominant 'author' of all the films in which he appeared, built around his persona and depending on the character and routines he had developed over years on the stage.

* was a dedicated and respected amateur astronomer and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society who, in 1933, discovered a white spot on the planet Saturn.

* wrote a book 'Through My Telescope' in 1935 which had a foreword by Sir Richard Gregory, once Professor of Astronomy at Queen's College, London.

* was one of Britain's first private pilots and gave flying lessons to Amy Johnson.

* as part of the war effort, joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a sub-lieutenant in 1942 and later became an instructor in astronomy and navigation with the Sea Cadet Corps.

* made this propaganda film about the British Navy called 'The Big Blockade' in 1943 :

* was a polyglot and an accomplished translator who was fluent in French, German, Latin, Italian, Norwegian and Afrikaans.

* as a favourite trick for his friends, would write rapidly, seeming nonsense on a blackboard, look at it with a puzzled expression, then turn the blackboard upside down to reveal a perfectly written statement and could repeat the trick at someone's dictation.

Here are some clips from his films :

Ask a Policeman 1936 :


Winbag the Sailor 1936 :

Oh Mister Porter 1937 :

The Goose Steps Out 1942 :

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Britain is no country for old teachers who are made to feel 'incapable, inadequate and inconsequential'

In April the teachers' union conference for the NASUWT, reported that older teachers feel they are being pushed aside and treated unfairly.

A survey from the union suggested one in five older teachers have faced discrimination because of their age.

Rather than having their experience valued, older teachers complain they are being 'marginalised'.

The Union's General Secretary, Chris Keates said :

"Abuse on the grounds of age is as serious as all other forms of bullying."

The Union's survey of 3,525 teachers found that only one in 10 schools had an 'anti-bullying policy' which referred to the issue of 'age discrimination'.

"This survey demonstrates that ageism is still not being taken seriously enough," said Ms Keates.

* one in three older teachers believed that they have been made to feel 'less capable' than younger colleagues.

* one in five have felt that their 'professional capabilities had been marginalised or undermined due to their age'.

* some older teachers expressed fears that they were seen by head teachers as being 'too expensive'.

Ms Keates, said:

"It is unacceptable that those who have given long service to the profession are made to feel incapable, inadequate and inconsequential. They are a pool of talent which should be valued."

Having tauaght children and young adults from the age of 11 to 18 for 36 years, I cannot but agree. When I told my Headteacher, some years ago, that I intended to take 'early retirement' from the profession, she almost rubbed her hands together in glee, at the prospect of using virement to transfer my money to some other more 'worthwhile' area of the curriculum.

Britain's old men said "happy Birthday" to Susan Hampshire yesterday and recalled her beauty and their youth

Susan Hampshire, Lady Kulukundis, OBE is 73 years old and still an 'English rose'.

In the 1960's many a teenager, like me, could have spent their dinner money on her since she was so extraordinarily beautiful.

Things you probably didn't know about Susan :

* born the youngest of four children, her mother was a teacher and her father was a director of ICI and they separated before she was born.

* struggled with reading as a child and only as an adult with her own child would she be diagnosed with dyslexia.

* found the theatre in her teens.

* appointed an OBE in connection with her work highlighting the problems of dyslexia.

* suffered a number of miscarriages over the years and published a book about women and fertility issues.

* has written children's books and books on gardening.

The video clips take me back to my teenage years :

On the opening of Anglia T.V. in 1959 :

With Cliff Richard on his birthday in 1963 :

With Cliff in 'Wonderful Life' in 1963 :

And lastly in the 'Monarch of the Glen' and her moving last moments with Hector less than 10 years ago.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to Eric Burden

Eric Burden is 69 today and old men of Britain remember those wonderful songs from the 1960's and his unique voice.

House of the Rising Sun :

When I was young :

Hold on I'm coming :
Hold on I'm coming :

We gotta get out of this place :

Don't let me be misunderstood :

Monday, 10 May 2010

Britain is a country where more and more old men will make it a happier and happier place

Old men of Britain, it's good news, it's official :

It's been announced that :

People 'get happier as they age'.

Apparently you are :

* better able to control your emotions emotions.

* despite your worries about ill health, income, changes in social status and bereavements, psychologists say that you are entering a 'golden age'.

* you generally make the best of the time you have left and have learned to avoid situations in which you feel sad or stressed.

* you are less likely than younger people, to experience persistent negative moods and you are more resilient to hearing personal criticism.

* you are much better at controlling and balancing your emotions and this will improve with your age.

* your mental well being improves with your age, unless you've got dementia-related ill health.

* you are increasingly aware that the time you have left in life is growing shorter, want to make the best of it and so avoid engaging in situations which will make you unhappy.

* you have also had more time to learn and understand the intentions of others which helps you avoid stressful situations.

There are more and more of you and in less than 25 years, you over 65's, will form 25% of the population and by 2030 there will be 30,000 of you over 100.

Dr Charles of the University of California says that this should make Britain a 'happier society'.

Well, I don't know about you, but I feel so much better and happier after considering all that.

Like me, take a leaf out of this old American's book :