Saturday 31 October 2009

The battle of the blogs Part 3 : 'small animals' v 'old people'

Small animals, 'visits and page views' :

Old people, 'visits and page views' :

I've said my daughter has a blog about the 'trials, tribulations and rewards of being a small animal vet in Britain today'.

Her father has a blog about the 'trials, tribulations and nostalgias of old people in Britain today'.

Score, so far today, in terms of visits :

Small animals : 35
Old people : 0

Her site meter for this week is at the top of the page.

It must be the subject matter. I think I might repackage this blog as :

'Britain is no country for old men but is one for old pets'.

P.S. Talking of old people and pets, I'm not sure if I find this 'You Tube' clip funny or not, but clearly the 'old' lady did.

Happy Birthday to Dick Francis and the other Old Timers who rose from humble beginnings

Dick Francis, novelist, 89 today :

Francis was born in South Wales, in 1920, the son of a jockey and stable manager,he left school at 15 without any qualifications, with the intention of becoming a jockey and became a trainer in 1938.

Sir Jimmy Saville, disk jokey and charity fund raiser : 83

Saville was born in Leeds, the youngest of 7 children. He was a 'Bevin Boy', conscripted during World War II to work as a coal miner.

Tom Paxton, American folk singer : 72

Thomas Richard Paxton was born in 1937, in Chicago, Illinois. His father was a chemist and mostly self-educated. .

Stephen Rea, actor : 66

Rea was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the son of a bus driver. One of four children in a working-class Presbyterian family.

From Tom Paxton his song, which resonated with the 1960's and seems just as applicable to the world we live in today :
( my italics )

What Did You Learn in School Today?

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that Washington never told a lie.
I learned that soldiers seldom die.
I learned that every body's free.
And that's what the teacher said to me.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that policemen are my friends.
I learned that justice never ends.
I learned that murderers die for their crimes.
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned our government must be strong.
It's always right and never wrong.
Our leaders are the finest men.
And we elect them again and again.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that war is not so bad.
I learned of the great ones we have had.
We fought in Germany and in France.
And some day I might get my chance.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

And sung by Pete Seeger :

Friday 30 October 2009

Britain is no longer a country for Phil Archer of 'The Archers' radio soap of 60 years

'Phil Archer',who died yesterday, at the age of 85, was an interesting man. He worked on the World's longest broadcast 'soap opera', 'The Archers', for nearly 60 years.

He was Norman Painting and I suppose he was part of my life in the early 1950's, when there was only B.B.C. Radio and nothing else in terms of 'home entertainment'.

At the top, 'The Radio Times' page for the Saturday of 'Coronation Week' in June 1953. It shows the listing for 'The Archers' for that day, which gave you a bumper edition, if you'd missed the 5, 15 minute episodes in the week.
The Queen had married the Duke of Edinburgh on the Tuesday. It was a National holiday and at the age of 6, I had a day off school.

The photo of Norman reading his script with Grace Archer in the 1950's is intriguing because, I would never have associated his voice, which I have heard so many times over the last 50 years, to that face.
That voice was the one of the 'everyday country folk' living in the mythical 'Borsetshire' village of 'Ambridge'.

Originally produced with input from the Ministry of Agriculture, 'The Archers' was conceived as 'a means of disseminating information to farmers and smallholders to help increase productivity in the post Second World War years of rationing and food shortages'.

Painting was invited to play the part of Phil for a pilot series introduced by the same dum-de-dum-de-dum-de-dum tune it has today.

History, for the Archers and the BBC, was made on 22 September 1955 when, in a brilliant piece of competitive scheduling, on the night that commercial television was launched, Grace Archer, Phil's wife, died in her husband's arms after attempting to rescue her horses from a blazing stable.
20,000,000 listeners heard the episode, the BBC switchboard was jammed and, overnight, Phil Archer became a national hero.

* He was born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, his father was a railway signalman and his mother the daughter of a coalminer.

* He left school at 15 to work in a library. Two years later he was called up for National Service, failed his medical test and enrolled at Birmingham University to read English.

* He worked his way through College by registering as a fire-watcher for which he got 4 old shillings and 6 old pence, his supper and a bed for the night in the warden's shelter.

* From Birmingham, where he got a first-class honours degree, he went on to Christ Church, Oxford, with a research scholarship and immediately joined the University Dramatic Society.

* In 1950 he toured the U.S. in a student production of King Lear, which starred Peter Parker, later Chairman of British Rail, as Lear, and Shirley Catlin, the future politician Shirley Williams, as Cordelia.

* After a spell as tutor in 'Anglo-Saxon' at Exeter College, he joined the BBC's 'Light Programme', wrote scripts, produced and acted until, early in 1950, it was suggested that, with his academic background, he might collate the agricultural facts for a new radio programme to be called 'The Archers of Wimberton Farm'.

* He once told a friend that he was a "reluctant Archer" , until he realised what a national treasure the programme had become.

• In later life he lived alone in a converted Warwickshire barn, full of music and books and was the patron of many local charities.

* He was appointed OBE in 1976 and in 1988 he was awarded an 'honorary degree' by Birmingham University.

* He made a final Archers recording last week :

Thursday 29 October 2009

Happy Birthday, to Peter Green, 'Man of the World' and three other special Old Brits

Peter Green : blues-rock guitarist : 63
Jack Shepherd : actor and stage director : 69
Michael Jayston : actor : 74
Robert Hardy : actor 84

And for nostalgia, Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac and the beautiful, 'Man of the World' which he wrote and they performed 40 years ago in the Summer of 1969.

Shall I tell you about my life,
They say I'm a man of the world.
I've flown across every tide,
And I've seen lots of pretty girls.

I guess I've got everything I need,
I wouldn't ask for more.
And there's no one I'd rather be,
But I just wish that I'd never been born.


And I need a good woman,
To make me feel like a good man should.
I don't say I'm a good man,
Or that I would be, if I could. *

I could tell you about my life,
And keep you amused I'm sure.
About all the times I've cried,
And how I don't want to be sad anymore.
And how I wish I was in love.

* Google searches for the lyrics will all, wrongly give this line as :
Oh, but I would be if, I could.
-which completely distorts the meaning of the song.

Britain is a place for old urban squirrels

Last year the problem of squirrels raiding the bird feeder for nuts and fat, had been resolved by greasing the pole of the feeder, so that, as they shied up the pole they could get no grip.
I must say, I did enjoy watching the first one leap, grip and fall off and they are quick learners.

Then there was the problem of squirrels raiding the walnut tree and eating the young nuts. I bought and installed a deterrent which gave out a ultra high pitced frequencey, which we can't hear, but they can and don't like. It was activated by a movement sensor and was absolutely useless. Didn't work at all.

That's when I resorted to good old fashioned netting.

It was when I still saw them up in the tree, I constructed my 'squirrel beater' - 3 bamboo canes, taped together to give height and at the first sign of an intruder me running up the garden to beat them off the nuts. I might add that I never made contact.

I felt a bit like Betsey Trotwood, the Aunt of David Copperfield in the Dickens novel, attacking the donkeys :

'The one great outrage of her life, demanding to be constantly avenged, was the passage of a donkey over that immaculate spot. In whatever occupation she was engaged, however interesting to her the conversation in which she was taking part, a donkey turned the current of her ideas in a moment, and she was upon him straight. Jugs of water, and watering-pots, were kept in secret places ready to be discharged on the offending boys; sticks were laid in ambush behind the door; sallies were made at all hours; and incessant war prevailed'.

Britain is a place for old urban foxes

I had occasion to be discussing urban foxes with 3 other old boys. Bob was having trouble getting to sleep at night because of the noise they made in his garden. I said that it was the dog fox shrieking out in pain because he was caught in a 'knot' during mating.
Keith, in particular, was sceptical about this explanation, he said he'd thought it was the vixen's, " come and get me", mating call.
I said I'd do some research and get back to them :

e-mail 1. :
Dear Stu, Bob and Keith,

Further to our discussion about foxes, I came up with this article in the 'Independent' by Blake Morrison, called: 'The secret life of the fox'.

Like many a London suburbanite, I see foxes several times a day. There's a little concrete gully round the house that they like to pad through and they've an earth down the end of the garden. I've fed them scraps and leftovers; heard those eerie night-cries that sound as though they're killing geese or babies; seen them sunning themselves on the roofs of garden sheds; watched litters of their cubs grow up; laughed as they chase each other round in crazy puppy-play; winced when a mating pair become tied (their genitals inextricably knotted, but their bodies facing in opposite directions - ouch);
Hi John,
Thanks for email. This does not actually say that foxes are in a knot when howling. You need more evidence than this to convince me.
Keith, Stu and Bob,
Keith said he wanted more evidence. Does this convince him ? :

Web article : Why do vixen scream so much during mating?

The vixen's wail is a long, drawn-out, monosyllabic, and rather eerie wail, most commonly made during the breeding season; it is widely thought that it is made by a vixen in heat summoning dog-foxes.
Contrary to common belief, however, it is also made by the males, After the male dog mounts and penetrates the vixen, the bulbus glandis becomes engorged with blood. It forms a spherical structure at the base of the penis, proximal to the os penis. There is a corresponding ridge of erectile tissue in the vixen's vagina; when this becomes engorged behind the engorged bulbus glandis, the penis is trapped within the vagina. This forms a seal to hold the semen within the vixen's reproductive tract, and prevents the couple from separating during copulation when the male turns away from the female.
It is known colloquially as the "knot".
You seem to be arguing my case for me. I did say it was a call made by the female fox summoning the dog fox for mating. I refer to your evidence,

'The vixen's wail. This is a long, drawn-out, monosyllabic, and rather eerie wail most commonly made during the breeding season; it is widely thought that it is made by a vixen in heat summoning dog-foxes. Contrary to common belief, however, it is also made by the males'.
I rest my case.
Furthermore, no where in your evidence does it say the screeching is actually made while knotted - though it is suggested, I would not dispute this if it did. Perhaps we are both right but I am more right than you. Sorry about that, just watched Animal Farm.
Thanks for the info. re. the ....... foxes! As long as they don't do it outside my bedroom window in the middle of the night they are welcome to make as much noise as they like.
Dear Fellow fox followers,

I've changed my mind. The attached You Tube link provides evidence of a whole symphany of fox calls :

No 'knotting' there, but I'd put my money on number 4, being the noise we are talking about - two lady foxes having a fight.

1. Vixen barking
2. Defensive scream male fox
3. Vixen whining
4. Ritual fight between two vixens
5. Chirp from vixen
6. Hungry fox cub
7. Cub chirps.

Britain is a place for old urban herons

Now for something more lighthearted.

One of the ironies about life is that when you are young and have to make big decisions like : Do I go for a new job ? Do we get married ? Do we buy a house ? Do we have a child ? You are rushed and have no time.

When you are old and have to make no big decisions and have all the time in the world.

And so it was, that I set my mind and gave my time to the problem of the heron. Now this summer, I had restocked my little garden pond with goldfish, which were moderately expensive. So it was with some concern that, last week, I noticed a heron circling overhead and looking for a meal. The birds fly up from the River Medway Estuary looking for easy pickings in back gardens.

I immediatelty 'googled', 'heron deterrent'and came up with two choices :

1. Great Blue Heron Decoy (top) : 'which may discourage real herons from visiting to your pond or water garden'.
Apparently, it works on the premise that herons are 'solitary feeders'.

2. ScareCrow Motion Activated Sprinkler (top): 'Scarecrow senses animals (heron)the same way security lights detect people; movement and heat. When an animal (heron)is seen, a valve opens instantly releasing a three-second pulsating spray of water. The combination of the sudden noise, movement, and water frightens animals (herons) away'.

I rejected Number 1' after checking the 'Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' website, which said that : ' A plastic heron will more likely attract other herons rather than deter them'.

So, of the 2 choices at the top of the page, it was going to be 'the scarecrow'.
I ordered one on the internet and then had an after-thought. If it will deter the big, fat, predatory herons, what about the little birds who bathe in and drink from the pond. When I asked my heighbour, Russ about it he said : "Well, instead of bathing, they'll be having a shower".
My wife and I do get a little 'squirt' when we walk up the garden now, but it's fun to dodge and keeps us on out toes.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

The battle of the blogs : Part 2 : 'small animals' v 'old people'

I've said my daughter has a blog about the 'trials, tribulations and rewards of being a small animal vet in Britain today'.

Her father has a blog about the 'trials, tribulations and nostalgias of old people in Britain today'.

Score, so far today, in terms of popularity :

Small animals : 31
Old people : 1

Could it be the subject matter ?

I mean, here is her post for Sunday. It was accompanied by this photo, which I took when she was about 4. :

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The first cut is the deepest

I don't think we ever forget our very first pet.
This is me with Otto.
He was there before I was born.

I was vaguely aware during my earlier years that he fell somewhere between my baby brother and the goldfish in the pecking order of things.

He ate from the same silver dish for seventeen years, mostly cat food in a blue tin from Sainsbury's. He used to sit in the middle of the go cart ramp when we wanted to use it. One day he ate Fishy. When he disappeared for three days I cried every day. I still remember the day he came home vividly, Dad bursting excitedly into the living room holding him under his arm.

When we moved home my parents transported him in a porcelain waste paper bin that smelt of cigarette stubs. When we moved again Dad thought that at thirteen 'the shock would kill him'. The next day he dragged a squirrel through the cat flap.

He weaved his way into the fabric of our life with a soft gentle charm.

When he died we knew we had not only lost a pet but an irreplaceable part of our little family unit. A little piece of our history.

As in the photo, he may always have been on the periphery but he was never out of the picture.

Yes, I think it must be the subject matter. Animals are more interesting than old people.

P.S. You can see what I mean about her punctuation.

Her address is :

P.P.S. If you click on the link, have a look at her 'Site Meter', I mean, is this fair or not ?

Sunday 25 October 2009

Britain today - Weller's or Sting's ?

Matthew Weston is a soldier in 33 Engineer Regiment of the British Army. He is 20 years old and one of the most seriously injured soldiers to survive the fighting in Afghanistan since 2001.

Matthew, who joined the Army at 17, was part way through his first tour of duty clearing mines ahead of an infantry patrol in the Sangin region, when he lost both legs and his right arm to a Taliban bomb. He also suffered horrendous internal injuries.

After losing seven pints of blood in the blast, Matthew was returned to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, where he underwent emergency surgery. He was then flown to Birmingham.

He was being treated at Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital when he said to his mother and girlfriend : "I liked to get out of the ward to get fresh air".

In his own words, when being pushed in a wheelchair : "I was coming back from having lunch when a bloke and his fat girlfriend started shouting: “Haven’t you forgotten something? Oh yeah, your legs.”"

A few weeks later when Matthew was in a fish and chip shop he was told by a man : "If you don’t want to be blown up, don’t go to war."His mother said : "To taunt anyone in a wheelchair in the way that Matthew was abused is a terrible thing to do, but to do it to a soldier is disgusting".

‘I didn’t know what to do when they shouted the legs insult. I choked back the tears before pushing Matthew away and could hear them laughing. I was mortified. The most heartbreaking thing was when he turned to me and said: “I guess, I’d better get used to it.” ’

Britain today.


The comedian, Jimmy Carr said at Manchester Apollo Theatre on Friday :

" Say what you like about servicemen amputees, but we are going to have a ....... good Paralympic Team in 2012".

Britain today.

Is Britain Today more a country for Paul Weller than for Sting ?

Back in March 2007 the singer Paul Weller ( now 51), was taking his seat at Russell Brand's 'Teenage Cancer Trust Show in the Royal Albert Hall, when he saw a photograph of 'Sting'( now 58 ) on the wall. He walked up to it, spat in Sting's photoed face and apparently went away swearing.

It's not the first time Weller has vented his spleen against Sting. In a magazine interview , the former Jam front man blasted that Sting was " a ....... horrible man ". " Not my cup of tea at all. ....... rubbish. No edge, no attitude, no nothing".

Weller certainly had 'edge' as was seen and heard in the lyrics of 'The Jam's Early 1980's song 'That's Entertainment'.


A police car and a screaming siren.
Pneumatic drill and ripped up concrete.
A baby wailing, a stray dog howling.
The screech of brakes and lamp lights blinking.

That’s entertainment, that’s entertainment

A smash of glass and the rumble of boots.
An electric train and a ripped up phone booth.
Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tom cat.
Lights going out and a kick in the balls.

I say that’s entertainment, that’s entertainment.

Days of speed and slow time Mondays.
Pissing down with rain on a boring Wednesday.
Watching the news and not eating your tea.
A freezing cold flat and damp on the walls.

I say that’s entertainment, that’s entertainment.

Waking up at 6 a.m. on a cool warm morning.
Opening the windows and breathing in petrol.
An amateur band rehearse in a nearby yard.
Watching the telly and thinking 'bout your holidays.

That’s entertainment, that’s entertainment.

Waking up from bad dreams and smoking cigarettes.
Cuddling a warm girl and smelling stale perfume.
A hot summers day and sticky black tarmac.
Feeding ducks in the park and wishing you were far away.

That’s entertainment, that’s entertainment.

Two lovers kissing amongst the scream of midnight.
Two lovers missing the tranquillity of solitude.
Getting a cab and travelling on buses.
Reading the graffiti about slashed seat affairs.

I say that’s entertainment, that’s entertainment

Was Weller right when he said that Sting was: "rubbish. No edge, no attitude, no nothing"?


Here he talks about his new album :

Thursday 22 October 2009

Britain's Google is a healthy place for the brains of silver surfers so say Gary Small and Teena Moody from the U.S.A.

The graph shows 'web accessibility' for Older Users.

Evidence from studies about 'the online activities of the elderly', suggest that they do much the same online as most other age groups – that is, communication and information searches as well as using online services.

An American study in 2004 found, that older US Web users do product research (66%), purchase goods (47%), make travel reservations (41%), visit government Web sites (100%), look up religious and spiritual information (26%) and do online banking (20%).

A British study in 2007 found that the information searches were often related to hobbies and interests (68%), travel and holidays (50%) and health or medical (28%).

'Wired seniors' are often as enthusiastic as younger users in the major activities that define online life such as, email and the use of search engines to answer specific questions . In other words, we should not stereotype all older adults as technophobes.

In Britain, for example, around 700,000 people suffer from dementia, a condition in which so much of the brain has died that function is severely impaired and now a new study has found that Web use can help elderly surfers slow or even reverse the onset of dementia by boosting the brain activity.

Using brain scans, they found that using the internet stimulated the mind more strongly than reading, and the effects continued long after an internet session had ended.
"We found that, for older people with minimal experience, performing internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function,” said Gary Small, Professor of Neuroscience and Human Behaviour at University of California.

In the research, Small and his colleagues worked with 24 men and women aged between 55 and 78. Half of them had used the internet a lot, the others had little experience.

At the start of the research, they were asked to conduct a series of internet searches while their brains were scanned using a technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This measures changes in blood flow around the brain, to work out which parts are the 'most' and 'least' active.

After the initial scan, participants went home and used the internet to carry out specified tasks for an hour a day, at least seven times over the following fortnight. Then they had a second brain scan, again while searching the internet.

Small and his colleagues found the impacts began immediately, with the first scan demonstrating brain activity in regions controlling language, reading, memory and vision.

By the time of the second scan, however, the activated areas had spread to include the 'frontal gyrus' and 'inferior frontal gyrus', areas known to be important in working memory and decision-making. The researchers suggest internet searching stimulates brain cells and pathways, making them more active.

“Searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults,” said Teena Moody, a UCLA researcher who co-wrote the report with Small. Moody believes internet searching challenges the brain more than reading because people need to perform several tasks at once. These include holding important information in their own memory while simultaneously assessing the information on screen and extracting the parts they want from graphics and words.

Small and Moody’s argument is that brains are similar to muscles, in that the more they are exercised, the healthier they become. So, activities such as internet use, reading and socialising can slow or reverse normal age-related declines.

I could not agree more since, in researching and constructing this posting, I gave my old brain a good 'work out' and feel all the better for it.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

The battle of the blogs : 'small animals' v 'old people'

I've said my daughter has a blog about the 'trials, tribulations and rewards of being a small animal vet in Britain today'.

Her father has a blog about the 'trials, tribulations and nostalgias of old people in Britain today'.

Score so far today, in terms of popularity :

Small animals : 28
Old people : 0

I don't understand it. Her spelling and punctuation are awful!

Could it be the subject matter ?

Britain is no longer a country for Ludovic Kennedy who crammed so much into one life

Ludovic Henry Coverley Kennedy, writer, broadcaster, outspoken campaigner and committed atheist, has died at the age of 89 and Great Britain has lost a great Briton. He was an establishment figure who was gloriously anti-establishment.


Born November 1919 in Edinburgh to upper class parents. His great-grandfather was principal of Edinburgh University. Robert Boothby, a Conservative MP and later a peer, was a cousin and friend. He was a dancing partner of the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.
He never got on with his overbearing mother, but idealised his father , who, as captain of the former passenger steamer Rawalpindi, had gone down with his ship and 263 men after the attack by the German battle cruiser 'Scharnhorst' in November 1939 He himself had just turned 20.


He was sent to Eton College, where he played in a jazz band with Humphrey Lyttelton. One of his first escapades against authority was to take a small group of
friends by plane to the French resort of Le Touquet and back before the six o'clock roll call.


Next, Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a member of the Bullingdon Club. He described the qualification for membership as being "rich, well-born and addicted to blood sports".


In 1939 War interrupted his studies and saw him follow his father into the navy, serving as a sub-lieutenant on destroyers in the Arctic and North Atlantic. At the end of the war he served as assistant to the Governor of Newfoundland (1943-44). With the War over he returned to Christ Church, Oxford, to read English and to edit the magazine 'Isis'.


After completing his studies he began a career in journalism, working alongside his colleague and friend, the late Sir Robin Day.


He started as a newsreader for ITN with Robin Day in 1955 and went on to work on both ITV and the BBC, on programmes such as 'This Week' (1958-59), 'Panorama' (1960-63), '24 Hours' (1969-72),'Tonight' (1976-78) and 'Did You See?' (1980-88). His television interviews with Harold Macmillan, Enoch Powell, Lord Mountbatten and John F Kennedy remain classics.


It was campaigning work he found most fulfilling.
He once said: "I became committed to revealing hidden truths, and propelled, compelled, by a very heady feeling of excitement."
Kennedy's uncompromising pursuit of miscarriages of justice was rooted in the unfair courts-martial of his father, Captain Edward Kennedy.
He alerted the British public to the fact that innocent people could be convicted and even hanged for crimes they had not committed.

Derek Bentley

The case of 18 year old, Derek Bentley, hanged in 1952 for murdering a policeman, inflamed him as "unjust and monstrous". The crime was committed by his 16-year-old accomplice, Christopher Craig.

Timothy Evans

In his book, '10 Rillington Place', he dealt with the erroneous hanging of Timothy Evans for the murder, in 1949, of his infant daughter, a crime committed by an older ex-policeman lodger,John Christie.
This led to a posthumous free pardon by the Home Secretary in 1966. In the film based on his book five years later, Evans was played by John Hurt and Christie, who acted as a prosecution witness, by Richard Attenborough.
Significantly, the case helped to convince many doubters that capital punishment should not play a part in a civilised society. The death penalty was abolished in 1965.


Later campaigns involved the wrongful convictions of the 'Guildford Four', the 'Maguire Seven' and the 'Birmingham Six' for alleged terrorist acts.


His final campaign was in support of voluntary euthanasia, on which platform he stood in the 2001 General Election. His belief in the right to die with dignity was born from watching his mother Rosalind's last, painful months.


Richard Ingrams, co-founder of Private Eye, said that although Kennedy had "a very impeccable establishment background", he was "a bit of an anarchist". "For somebody like that be engaged in the exposure of miscarriages of justice – it gave him an advantage, he couldn't be dismissed as a kind of ,left-wing lunatic, or anything like that."

Michael Mansfield QC said that Kennedy had a need to expose the truth where there had been cover-ups. "He was an eternal supporter of true justice. At a time when no one was questioning the British system, he was there. He opened everyone's eyes. He challenged miscarriages of justice based on confessional evidence and people had to look again at the role these played in the justice system."
"There aren't too many campaigning journalists who are prepared to stand up to the system in the way he did. There is an important need for investigative, courageous journalists and there are fewer people than ever following in Ludovic's shoes. Somebody needs to pick up the baton where he left off."

In 1950 he married ballet dancer Moira Shearer and star of the film 'The Red Shoes', who died in 2006. Here is a reminder of her grace and beauty as a dancer :


He unsuccessfully stood for Liberal party in Rochdale byelection in 1958.


Knighted in 1994 for services to politics, broadcasting and journalism.


His autobiography published in 1990, 'On My Way to the Club' contains numerous examples of his self-deprecating humour.
When canvassing in Rochdale, he was invited by an elderly lady to : "tell me all about it".
He enthused about abolition of schedule tax, site value rating and other topics of Liberal policy. When he paused for breath after 10 minutes or so, she looked at him and said: "You are the new vicar, aren't you?"

Later years

He resigned from the Lib Dems in 2001 when the former leader Charles Kennedy refused to include the issue of voluntary euthanasia in the party's election manifesto, though he later rejoined. He was lauded by the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, as "one of the great thinkers of his generation. His pursuit of justice and his championing of sometimes unpopular and controversial causes marked him out as a true liberal."

Tuesday 20 October 2009

I wanted a list of the posts I've published since May, so that I could check if I was repeating myself. Here it is, from the most recent down to the oldest :

Britain is still a country for the old men who once were members of Monty Python's Flying Circus

Britain says " Happy Birthday " to Old Timers, who have given so much pleasure to so many

Britain is no country for three old heroes called Done, Curtis and Legg

Britain is no longer a country for Barry Letts who gave us ' Doctor Who' and so much more

Britain is still a country for one remarkable old professor called Denny Mitchison

Britain is a country where yesterday's elderly heroes, Fred Bowers and Sir Thomas Legg, are today's elderly villains

New page

Britain's schools are no places for older teachers and baby boomers are to blame

The Pension Service - no problem, a problem, my problem

Britain is neither a country for old villains nor old heroes

Hats off to the voice of American crooner Andy Williams

Hats off to Chuck Berry, that remarkable Old American Rocker

T.S.Eliot, Britain's 'Favourite Poet 'and the dilemmas of old mens

Britain still a country for Captain Pugwash ?

Conservative Britain is no place for tommow's old men

'Dennis the Menace' is alive and well in New Zealand

Britain is a country where some remarkable and ordinary old men still live

Old Brits- do you know the date of the most important day in your life ?

Will Britain under Conservatives be a better country for some old men ?

Britain in 2109 will be a country full of old men

Last of the Summer Wine but not bought at Tescos

Britain Today in a Tale of Two Supermarkets

Britain today in 'A Tale Of Two Cities'. A Wiltshire hamlet where time stands still

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

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

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

New page

Happy Birthday Old Thespians

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

Britain's Tescos - no company for complaints Part 2

Britons, your life in 6 words

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Old Timers !

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

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

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

Britain's hospital wards - no place for sick, old men

Britain in 1964 - a place for Manfred Mann

Britain - a place where philosophy can help old men

Old men in the U.S.A. - beware the 'Searle Freedom Trust' - no friend of yours

Britain - a place for old, daytime drivers

Goodbye Bavaria and your happy opas and omas

Bavaria is a county for old men – confirmed

New page

Berlin - a city with a supermarket for old men

Germany-no country to cross the 'Geritol Gang'

Bavarian families- the secret to happy old men

Germany is a country sympathetic towards old men

Bavaria is a county for old men

Britain - a country to profit from lots more old men

Germany - a country for old men ?

Britain - even less of a country for future old men

eBay is no company for old sellers

Britain's Old Timers - you are not alone !

Britain's Tescos - no company for complaints

B.B.C. is no company for Old Women

Laughing Clubs for Baby boomers ?

Thoughts from an American Poet and an American President

One virus hoax and a Grumpy Old Briton

The U.S.A. - a country where Old Men advertise their age on their bumpers

Baby boomers
, we are 'The Pig in the Python'.

Laughs for the day - courtesy of President Bush

Nine thoughts and One laugh for the day

Britain - a country where Big Business entice Old MenNew page

A role model for Britain's Old Men - Nathan Birnbaum

Do you know anyone who would buy these T-shirts ?

For young and old - one thought and three tonics for the day

Laughter - a tonic for all

Hot old men in Britain, relax, your Government has a cunning 'Heatwave Plan'.

Britain - a country where the class to which old men belong, still dictates how long they live.

Britain is a country where burglars should beware some old men and women

Born in the U.S.A.

Britain - a country where old men drive new convertibles

Google indicates that Britain is a bleak country for old men

Britain's 'baby boomers' today

Paul, Deliah and I.

Monarchy - a place where elderly people can do useful work

Should the title be : ' Britain is a country for young, but not old men' ?

Why can't democracy in Britain be a place for old men ?

Was Victorian Britain a Country for Old Men ?

Shakespeare's England was no place for old men

Urban Britain is no place for old men at night.

Who profits from being old ?

B.T.- No company for Old Men or Old Women

Last page

China - a country for old men

Britain 1940 - a country for old men

Dandling in Britain today

Herne Bay - a place for the very young and the old

The soothing balm of age

Wembley Stadium - a safe place for older men

Sad beard, black beard, grey beard, no beard.

The good trader

A mantra for the elderly

ReactionsIs Colombia a country for old men ?

Rogue Trader from Hell : Part Two

Rogue Trader from Hell

Telephone banking

In house communication.

Big business banking on poor memory

places and unsafe places

Invisible at a petrol station

Sunday 18 October 2009

To blog or not to blog ?

My daughter has a blog about the trials, tribulations and rewards of being a small animal vet in Britain today.

Yesterday she had 58 visits to her site.
She has 11 'followers'.

Her father has a blog about the trials, tribulations and nostalgias of old people in Britain today.

Yesterday he had 1 visitor to his site.
He has 0 'followers'.

Score in terms of popularity:

Small animals : 58
Old people : 1

Saturday 17 October 2009

Britain is still a country for the old men who once were members of Monty Python's Flying Circus

"I'll give you 13 shows, but that's all," said the BBC's 'Head of Light Entertainment' in 1969, and 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' was broadcast for the first time in October that year. In the subsequent 45 shows, the rules of television comedy were rewritten as John Cleese ( 70 ), Graham Chapman ( deceased ), Michael Palin ( 66), Terry Jones ( 67), Eric Idle (66) and Terry Gilliam (69) created lunatic characters and sketches.

My visual and auditory memories bring back the music, speech and images of 'The Lumberjack Song', the 'Spanish Inquisition' and the 'Dead Parrot'. It also recalls Terry Gilliam's surreal and frequently disturbing animations which gave the show its unique appearance.

Cinema films came next, but a tiny budget almost scuppered 'The Holy Grail'. It allowed no money for horses, but it inspired coconut-playing, hoof-sounding squires.

'The Life of Brian' gave us a singing crucifixion scene and 'Always look on the bright side of life'. We had never seen anything like it.

And so it was that, the 5 surviving members of 'Monty Python' reunited briefly in New York last night, using the occasion to poke fun at each other, Germans, Bafta - which gave them an award from 3,000 miles away in London and above all the one person who wasn't there, Graham Chapman. He died in 1989, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the TV debut of 'Flying Circus'. He was represented at the award, which marked the occasion of the 40th anniversary celebration of the show, as a cardboard cut-out dressed in military uniform as 'The Colonel'.

In a question and answer session after a showing of the new Python documentary, 'Almost the Truth – The Lawyer's Cut', John Cleese was asked how much creative input had come from Chapman, his writing partner. Cleese replied that there were two types of day : "days when I did 80% of the work, and days when Graham did 5%of the work".

At which point Michael Palin interjected: "He's dead now, you can say things like that."

The Pythons recalled being taken during their first tour of Germany to the Dachau Concentration Camp, only to find it closed. Terry Jones recounted how Chapman had said: "Tell them we're Jewish."

"It worked, they let us in," Jones said.

At the end of the evening the Pythons received a 'Bafta Special Award', in honour of their outstanding contribution to film and television and I say "thank you and well done Old Boys".

Spam :

Four Yorkshire men :

The Dead Parrot Sketch and Lumberjack Song :

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life :

Friday 16 October 2009

Britain says " Happy Birthday " to Old Timers, who have given so much pleasure to so many

Max Bygraves. "Happy Birthday". 87 today. Entertainer and singer.

Angela Lansbury. "Happy Birthday". 84 today. Actor.

Peter Bowles. "Happy Birthday". 73 today. Actor.

Simon Ward. "Happy Birthday". 69 today. Actor.

Britain is no country for three old heroes called Done, Curtis and Legg

On the 10th of October I published a post reporting that that a 67 year old, Lincolnshire Parish Council Chairman, Edmund Done and 72 year old Vice-Chairman, Michael 'Jim' Curtis, were due in court for cutting the wires on a burglar alarm at an empty cottage. In their defence, they said they did it after the alarm had made the lives of the 290 residents of the village of Hagworthingham, a misery, with broken sleep for months. To put the record straight, both men are Parish Councillors and Mr Done is an 'ex-chairman' of the Council.

Our two 'heroes' appeared in court on Monday and have pleaded "not guilty" to a charge of criminal damage to a burglar alarm at a cottage in Hagworthingham. Both men deny that, between September 1 and October 31 last year, 'without lawful excuse', they damaged a burglar alarm belonging to Gillian Makinson-Sanders.

Skegness magistrates adjourned the case to an interim pre-trial review on November 6.
The bench told the defendants that their attendance would be excused. They were granted unconditional bail to be back in court when instructed by their solicitor, Asad Aziz.

Apparently a 'lawful excuse' is that : even though they were breaking a law, they had a legal reason why they did it, and thus should not be found guilty. An example is that if, in a medical emergency, you get a ticket for speeding, but the reason you were speeding was that you were driving a very sick friend to hospital. then that would be a 'lawful excuse'.

My third hero is Sir Thomas Legg, the distinguished,74 year old, retired civil servant, who led the Inquiry into M.P.'s fraudulent claims for expenses paid for out of tax payers money and mentioned in my post on 13th October. Sir Tom is described in the Guardian Newspaper as 'the most unpopular man in Westminster'.

The backlash against Sir Tom has been led by Nottingham Labour backbench M.P., Alan Simpson, who is threatening to take Sir Tom's demands for the repayment of £500, that he has been accused of over-claiming in cleaning bills, to court.

"I just want to give him the opportunity to reflect on something he has got profoundly wrong. I don't want to push him into going before the courts and making a bit of an ass of himself, but I think it's a corner he might usefully like to take himself out of. I can't bring myself to believe that he would be so stupid as to want to stay in that corner."

Oh dear Sir Tom, you villain, you have ruffled their feathers ! Keep up the good work.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Britain is no longer a country for Barry Letts who gave us ' Doctor Who' and so much more

Barry Letts has died at the age of 84. As an actor he figured prominently in those early black and white days of television drama in the 50's and 60's. In 1957, we had one of the only television in our road. I remember the kids in the neighbourhood gathered in our front room and sitting on the floor to watch 'Childrens' Television' on a 9 inch screen, which had a glass bubble of oil fixed to it, to make the picture LARGER.

I, and the kids, would have seen Barry, the actor, for the first time in early Sunday evening serials, such as 'The Black Arrow' in 1958 and the Second World War drama 'The Silver Sword' in 1957. In 1959 he played Colonel Herncastle in Wilkie Collins's 'The Moonstone', alongside his friend, Patrick Troughton.

It was through his work as the producer of 'Doctor Who', that he secured his place in TV history. He steered the series through one of its most popular eras, when he inherited Jon Pertwee as 'The Doctor' in October 1969. He set the episodes on Earth with 'The Doctor' seconded to the military organisation 'UNIT' and the series reached a huge audience. One of the last acts, of his five-year tenure as producer, was to cast Tom Baker as Pertwee's successor.

Letts had a liberal world view and believed that, if intelligent people are gathered together, "they will tend to be liberal/left of centre, because that is the most intelligent position to take". Letts was also a Buddhist, and his beliefs influenced the 1973 episode, 'The Green Death', which reflected his ecological concerns.

There were also stories with contemporary resonance such as : critiques on 'colonialism and apartheid' and even 'entry into the Common Market', which was 'the Galactic Federation', in 'Doctor Who' parlance. All this was presented within a format of child-friendly derring-do.

As a director, he was in charge of a number of memorable adventures. 'Terror of the Autons', featured a killer plastic chair, a murderous telephone flex and lethal fake daffodils and prompted questions in the House of Commons regarding 'TV violence', which seems hard to believe now.

Letts, a benign man who took his responsibilities seriously, never went that far again. 'Carnival of Monsters', a witty satire on the entertainment industry, with the Doctor an exhibit in an alien peepshow, went for belly laughs rather than bed-wetting.

It was also Letts who gave 'The Doctor' a journalist companion, Sarah Jane Smith , played by Elizabeth Sladen, who, in a departure from the passive assistant role and in line with the 1960's, could give as good as she got and created a dynamic that has survived in the programme's latest incarnations.

He co-wrote Jon Pertwee's swansong as 'The Doctor' in 'Planet of the Spiders', as well as 'The Daemons' which featured satanic aliens in a cut-off village full of murderous morris dancers. Barry talks about the destruction of a church in the following link :

The link below takes you to all 11 incarnations of 'The Doctor'

Or 10 'Doctors' in 3 minutes courtesy of You Tube :

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Britain is still a country for one remarkable old professor called Denny Mitchison

Professor Denny Mitchison, gets up at 6.30am most weekdays and by 8 o'clock, he is in his office at the University of London. He recently decided that, at the age of 90, he might just allow himself Mondays off. He owes position as the oldest full-time professor in the country to his refusal to give up when there is still work to be done.

In his view : "Science is a lifetime occupation. It takes you over. When you actually find something new, it's the most exciting time. The real reason one goes on doing it is simply having put all that amount of one's self into something. If you then stopped doing that, it would all go. You can look at it and say, how many lives have you saved? It's probably in the millions."

He is not exaggerating. In 1946, as a young pathologist at the Brompton Hospital in London, he pioneered clinical trials of the anti-TB drug streptomycin, a disease which killed 50% of those it afflicted and the only treatment offered was bed rest.

The trials were a success, and were the start of decade after decade of breakthroughs. The regimen of drugs he devised while working in the 60's and 70's is still the standard model used today and he is currently involved in setting up clinical trials that could reduce the time of drug treatment for TB from six to four months. His colleagues, who describe him as a 'living legend', think he should get a Nobel prize.

These days, his teaching role is limited, but he still lectures undergraduates on the treatment of TB at the University . He despairs that students are no longer widely trained in the 'hands-on' laboratory techniques of microbiology.

"The reason it's stopped is to a large extent because the Health and Safety Executive comes along and says it's too dangerous for students to deal with real bacteria. But this is the way people got trained. They don't get trained now. It's a huge loss."

He talks about the "abominable" impact of regulation, but in the early days when safety precautions were "absolutely useless", he himself contracted mild TB, which kept him off work for about six months.

"What we did was only possible because of the absence of regulation. At that time there were no ethics committees, no licensing bodies, you didn't have to get permission to do anything. No formalities at all. Nowadays it's totally impossible. Medicine is being brought to a halt by too much regulation, because people who would in the past have done clinical trials, advanced work, just can't do it now. It's too difficult, too expensive. It's a very, very gloomy outlook."

As the grandson of the great physiologist JS Haldane, who made crucial discoveries about the effects of gases on the human body via experiments such as starving himself of oxygen in sealed chambers, and the nephew of the geneticist and evolutionary biologist JBS Haldane, he feels he was pretty much born into science.

When he first arrived at Cambridge University, he was more interested in politics than studies, which is not surprising, since his father was the Labour politician, Dick Mitchison (on the left) and he held "very leftwing" views. At first he was "extremely bad at exams and learning".
"Then in a year I really got from being right at the bottom of the class to right at the top. I had some very bad results and I thought 'I really must do some work', so I did, and people said "he's the brightest science student we've got".

"It's really about whether you want to learn. There's a fundamental difference between being taught and learning yourself, which is what you've got to do to reach a really high standard."

For all his determination not to stop working, Mitchison suspects his age does make it harder to get funding from granting authorities. "I think it's natural in a way that this sort of thing happens because I can't say I'm going to be alive in three years".

Does teaching undergraduates make him feel a bit old? Apparently not : "I feel a little bit more experienced, but as you grow older you don't actually feel older. You feel pretty young, except some of your functions aren't as good as they used to be. That's the secret to doing this, go on behaving as you normally would and you actually don't get older."

He confesses that he rarely stops thinking about his work. "It used to be said that you had your best thoughts in the bath, but I've stopped taking them because I can't get out. Showers don't last long enough to think in, so the most productive time often is some time in the middle of the night. You can let your mind do a bit of roaming around. The problems never go away. There are always fresh problems, science is like that, you never solve them all."

"Nobody in my family in the scientific part ever retired. Well I might, if I get very ill. But how do you give up a whole major part of your life? I view it soberly, but it's a lot of achievement, and I continue to have what I think are really quite interesting and important ideas."

He stands as an inspiration to us all, young and old.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Britain is a country where yesterday's elderly heroes, Fred Bowers and Sir Thomas Legg, are today's elderly villains

The first 'villain' of today is the 73 year old Fred Bowers, who appeared on the T.V. Show,'Britain's Got Talent' and wowed the show's judges and millions of viewers with his body-popping displays, which included spinning on his head.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions was less impressed – because he was still claiming £50 a month in 'motability allowance' for his car. After a tip-off, they launched an investigation into Fred, who claims he has a bad leg. He has agreed to pay back £3,000 at a rate of £10.80 a week out of his state pension.

He could also be stripped of his £70 a week disability benefit, which is still being reviewed following his appearance on the show.

But the ex-soldier has remained defiant, after revealing his star turn has secured him bookings for almost every day of the week. Fred, who now has an agent, said he had not yet been paid for his performances but confirmed future dates had been lined up.
He said: "There will be more personal appearances. I'm having a great time and enjoying everything on the back of Britain's Got Talent. The pain in my leg doesn't affect my dancing. It usually hurts when I've been walking, but I mostly stand still when I'm on the stage".

"I don't get my Motability money any more, but I'm not a benefits cheat. It wasn't nice to be accused of fiddling, because I did nothing wrong.Some of what has been said about me is a load of nonsense. It all came about because someone was jealous and rang up the papers".

"I just want to show that even elderly or disabled people can do something amazing. I won't let one bad experience ruin everything."

The second 'villain' of today is the distinguished,74 year old, retired civil servant,Sir Thomas Legg - shown below. He led the Inquiry into M.P.'s fraudulent claims for expenses paid for out of tax payers money. The most ridiculous was from the M.P. who claimed £1,600 for a floating duck island in his garden.

Yesterday about 600 MPs got letters containing the interim results of a review of their expenses claims for the last five years and Sir Thomas is not 'flavour of the month' with many of them. The are livid, saying they are now being told by Sir Thomas, to repay claims that were allowed at the time by Commons Officials.

Some believe he has gone beyond his remit and say he was asked to look at claims within the rules as they existed at the time.

However, the BBC's Political Editor, Nick Robinson said : "In Sir Thomas's letter he said, determining what rules there were at the time was, 'not a straightforward task' and that while there were limits on what could be spent on furniture, there appeared to be none for services like gardening and cleaning.

Many MPs have announced they will be standing down and some have already repaid claims in response to their constituents' anger.

Clearly Sir Thomas is an 'arch villain' in the eyes of many of our Leaders, but I suspect he remains a 'hero' in the eyes of many of the People.