Wednesday 23 December 2009

Britain's pantomimes are places for old men

I went to a panto in Chatham, in the County of Kent on Monday evening, to see 'Aladdin'. It was magic. In the audience were the kids and their 'mums' and 'dads' and 'grandpas' and 'grandmas'. Three generations about to enjoy, as thousands upon thousands, had enjoyed in the hundreds of years before them.

Of course, the script had a modern twist, but the story was basically the same with the 'good', but poor Aladdin, falling in love the Emperor of China's daughter.

The casting was inspired, with 'Aladdin' played by Phil Gallagher who all kids who watch the Ceebebies Channel known as, 'Mister Maker'.

Next there was Shaun Williamsom who played 'Barry' in the soap called 'East Enders'

Lastly, George Takei from 'Star Trek' as the Emperor of China.

I've put this 'cheerful' posting on my blog at the suggestion of the old boy who was sitting next to me in the theatre balcony, who kept on nudging me with his elbow when Aladdin came on the stage.

I suppose that was to be expected. He is Aladdin's real life father.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Britain is no country for old men who either, shop in Tescos in icy weather, or ride in Eurostar trains to France

The recent snow in North Kent has meant that the pavements are dangerous and icy. I thought that, if I drove to my local Tescos, all would be well. A company which prides itself on 'customer care' and made £3,130,000,000 profit last year, would have my interest at heart and make my parking and my walk to the supermarket 'safe'.

Needless to say, nothing had been done. The slip roads into the parking bays had been created by the crushed snow by the cars. The walkways to the shop had been created by crushed snow by the pedestrians.

The message from Tescos was clear : 'If 'you' want to shop here, you sort out 'your' problem. 'Customer Care' at Tescos, what a laugh.

Driving back from Tescos along the slippery road to my house, I caught the guy behind me in his car on his mobile phone and driving one-handed. The Sun was very low in the sky, as it is at this time of year. I put the visor down. So behind me, I have a man driving up an icy road, with the sun in his eyes and one hand on the wheel.

Britain today, no safe place for me. No safe place for anyone.

Meanwhile, my local radio station tells me that the snow and ice has created problems on the M 20 - a major motorway and that people have to spend 11 hours in their cars, obviously with the engine running to keep themselves warm. The temperature today did not get above 0 degrees.

In addition to that, I hear that 2 Eurostar trains broke down in the Channel Tunnel and one was without heat and light for 10 hours. I can't imagine what in particular, the old and young and the claustrophobia went through.

Eurostar explained everything by saying that,the trains leaving the very cold air outside the tunnel and encountering the warmer air in the tunnel had created problems. Come on now, this is supposed to be 'state of the art' technology and Britain in 2009.

So, The cold weather reveals 2 big corporations who have no care for their customers and drivers who have no care for themselves, but most importantly, other drivers and pedestrians.

Britain today, a country where some big companies take no heed of the care of their customers and some citizens take no heed of the safety of fellow citizens.

Friday 18 December 2009

Britain's North Kent was no country for old men today

A combination of high pressure over North Europe and moisture over the North Sea, brought 15 c.m. of snow over North Kent last night and made it a distinctly icy place for old men.

A wonderland when you are 6 years old.

A beautiful, but dangerous place when you are 60 years old.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Britain says : " Where are the players who formed England's champion football team in the 1966 World Cup ?"

Final (30 July 1966)
Sir Alf Ramsey (Manager) : died in 1999 at the age of 79
Harold Sheperdson (trainer) : died in 1995 at the age of 77

Nobby Stiles.................. is 67
Roger Hunt.................... is 71
Gordon Banks.................. is 72
Jackie Charlton............... is 74
George Cohen.................. is 70
Ray Wilson.................... is 75
Martin Peters................. is 66
Geoff 68
Bobby Moore....................died in 1993 at the age of 51
Alan Ball......................died in 2007 at the age of 62
Bobby 72

Kenneth Wolstenholme the BBC commentator.....died in 2002 at the age of 82

World Cup 1966 was, the first and last World Cup held in England, and because the team won , the Old Boys who were in the team are still considered heroes in England today, by people who remember what they achieved 43 years ago.

Perhaps the most important cog in the machine was Alf Ramsey, the manager. Sir Alf Ramsey was knighted in 1967 in recognition of his achievement the year before, before going on to lead England to a third place finish at the 1968 European Championship. Ramsey went on to take England to the semi-final of the European Championship in 1968 and the World Cup quarter-final in 1970. Ramsey was sacked in 1974 after disastrously failing to qualify for World Cup 1974.

Gordon Banks GK: Gordon Banks OBE
He was the goalkeeper on the great final day and had been given his debut just 3 years beforer by Ramsey. In the year that followed the World Cup, there was a strange twist in his career. Considered by many to be the best goalkeeper in the world, he was ousted by Leicester City in favour of a 17 year old keeper called Peter Shilton, the man who would go on to succeed Banks as England's number one goalkeeper. Banks was awarded the OBE in 1970 in recognition of his footballing achievements.

Jack Charlton DF: Jackie Charlton OBE
Jack Charlton was, at 31, the second oldest member of the England 1966 World Cup squad; and one of the most famous images from the final was the sight of Jack falling to his knees and sobbing tears of joy. He was decorated with an OBE, and was also given honorary Irish citizenship following 9 years in charge of the Irish National Team.

Bobby Moore DF: Bobby Moore OBE (Captain)
Bobby Moore set up the first of Geoff Hurst's 3 goals with a quick free kick onto Hurst's head to make the score 1-1. At the end of the game, Moore is pictured wiping his muddy hands on his shirt and shorts before shaking the hand of the Queen and being presented with the World Cup. Bobby Moore died in 1993 at the young age of 51 following a battle with cancer. He is rated as 'the greatest ever defender' by none other than, Pele. Bobby Moore received the OBE in 1967, the year after leading the English to victory.

George Cohen DF: George Cohen MBE
George Cohen was the right back in the side that won the competition, having made his England debut just two years prior, Cohen played his last game for England in 1967 and was the first of England's starting XI to cease playing for the England team. He had to sell his winners medal after encountering financial hardship. His former club Fulham moved to ensure that the medal remained close to him by purchasing it for £80,000 and putting it on display at their Craven Cottage ground. He was awarded the MBE in 2000 after a newspaper campaign petitioned for him and 4 other members of the squad to be decorated.

Ray Wilson DF: Ray Wilson MBE
He retained his place in the England team until the end of the 1968 European Championship. After retirement Wilson decided to leave football and established a successful undertakers in Huddersfield, before retiring completely aged 62 and settling in Halifax.

Martin Peters MF: Martin Peters MBE
Martin Peters had it all, he could run, pass, score, and create. Martin Peters was just 23 in 1966 and had played just 3 International games before the start of the tournament. Peters scored for England in the final, the goal which put England 2-1 ahead; this goal would have been the winning goal was it not for Germany's equaliser in the dying seconds of the game. He retired from football in 1981 at 38 having made a total of 882 competitive appearances and scoring 220 goals. Sir Alf Ramsey described Martin Peters as "ten years ahead of his time", and that was a recognition of his immense ability on the ball.

Nobby Stiles MF: Nobby Stiles MBE
Alongside Peter's that day was tough tackling 24 year old Manchester United midfielder Nobby Stiles. Stiles was an unlikely hero, in fact an unlikely footballer. He was very small as a boy, at a time when most players of his size were being rejected by professional clubs for being too short, he also suffered from severe shortsightedness which meant that he had to wear very strong contact lenses on the pitch and very thick glasses off of the pitch, as well as having to wear dentures after having all of his front tip ripped out on the pitch. Nonetheless, he was spotted by the great Matt Busby and given the chance to prove himself and he did so in great style by the World Cup in 1966 and the European Cup with United just two years later in 1968. Nobby played his final game for England in the unsuccessful 1970 World Cup, obtaining a total of 28 caps and scoring 1 goal.

Alan Ball MF: Alan Ball MBE
He the youngest member of the World Cup winning team. His excellent performance in the final against Germany resulted in him being awarded the 'Man of the Match' award, this is despite Geoff Hurst's hat-trick. Ball's individual performance on the night of the final is considered by many to be one of the greatest individual performances in history, with his tireless box-to-box display. It was Ball who set up Hurst's controversial second goal, and England's third goal, to make the score 3-2in extra time. Ball played for England until 1975, and collected a total of 72 caps; scoring 8 goals in the process.

Bobby Charlton MF/FW: Sir Bobby Charlton CBE
Bobby Charlton went into the tournament with a big reputation. The most experienced International in any starting eleven, and at the peak of his career as one of Manchester United's 'Busby Babes'. At 28 years of age, going on 29, Charlton had already been an International for 8 years. A lot was expected of Charlton in the run up to the tournament, and he did not disappoint. Charlton was famously a goalscoring midfielder, capable of scoring as many as a striker but playing a deeper attacking midfield role; and this was the role that Charlton was asked to play by Alf Ramsey. He quit International football in 1970 with 106 International caps and 49 International goals to his name. He is still holder of the highest England goalscorer record. Bobby Charlton became 'Sir Bobby Charlton' in 1994.

Roger Hunt FW: Roger Hunt MBE
Liverpool striker Roger Hunt was one of three centre forwards selected for the squad, having been playing regularly for England since 1962. Hunt travelled to the 1962 World Cup finals in Chile but did not feature in the tournament, but was again called up for the 1966 World Cup final squad by new manager Sir Alf Ramsey. Hunt started the tournament up front alongside Jimmy Greaves, who was subsequently injured and replaced by the young Geoff Hurst. Roger Hunt was the only constant in the front line and was instrumental in the teams successful attempt to reach the final, scoring 3 times in 6 games. Hunt played for Liverpool between 1958 and 1969, making 492 appearances and scoring an incredible 245 goals before being allowed to leave to join Bolton Wanderers. His International career ended at the same time, having accrued 34 International Caps and scoring 18 International goals. Roger Hunt is the 5th and final player to have been awarded an MBE in 2000, after the other 6 members of the final starting eleven had been featured on the 1967 honours list.

Geoff Hurst FW: Sir Geoff Hurst MBE
The hat-trick of goals in the final, made Geoff Hurst famous worldwide. He went on to played on for England until 1972, scoring 24 goals in 49 games, before being awarded an MBE in 1975. He was later knighted in 1998 in recognition of his achievements.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to 3 'pleasure giving' old Brits called Lionel Blair, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy

So, on this day : 78 years ago the World said " Hello " to Lionel Blair.

: 61 years ago to Tom Wilkinson.

: 60 years ago to Bill Nighy.

Lionel : Was born in Canada but later became a British actor, choreographer, tap dancer and television presenter.

He was the son of Myer Ogus and Deborah Greenbaum. His father was a Russian barber who changed the family name to 'Blair' in his youth.

Here he is with Sammy Davis Junior in 1961 at the age of 30.

Tom Wilkinson was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire, the son of a farmer.

At the age of four, he moved with his family to Canada, where they lived for several years before returning to England and running a pub in Cornwall.

He graduated from the University of Kent and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He made his television debut in the mid-1970s and worked on several British television series, most notably,' First Among Equals' in 1986.

Bill Nighy :

William Francis 'Bill' Nighy is an English actor and comedian.

He worked in theatre and television before his first cinema role in 1981 and made his name in television with 'The Men's Room' in 1991, in which he played the womanizer, Prof Mark Carleton, whose extra-marital affairs kept him 'vital.'

He became known around the world in 2003 as Bill Mack, the ageing pop star in the film 'Love Actually'.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Happy Birthday to Geoff Hurst who was in England's winning team in the football 'World Cup' in 1966

Geoff Hurst is 68 today and knowing that, I am taken back to the 'World Cup' at Wembley in 1966. Geoff was 25 and in his prime and I was 19, and even more in my prime.

Where are they now ? The team ?

I will investigate and publish my findings on my next post.

P.S. In some respects,isn't Britain wonderful, in that men who kick balls, in the name of sport, like 'Sir Geoff' are honoured ?

Three goals -a 'hatrick' in World Cup History and here he is with that last goal :

Monday 7 December 2009

Britain is a country of soggy old men and Shakespeare and I and ' the rain it raineth every day'.

When I was a boy in the 1950's, it seemed to rain every day. Now I am an old boy in 2009 it seems to rain every day.
I was reminded of Feste 'the clown' in Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' who, with underlying sadness, at the end of the play, sang : "The rain it raineth every day," suggesting that every day brings some kind of misery which was a melancholy line for a 'clown'.

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.
But when I came to man’s estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
’Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.
But when I came, alas! to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.
But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain, But that’s all one, our play is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day

Shakespeare died at the age of 52 in 1616 and must have been harking back to the wet 1560's when he was a lad. So, I do have something in common with the 'Greatest Englishman who ever lived' : We both had soggy childhoods.

P.S. 'toss pots'. So that's where the expression came from.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Britain is no country for old men in general and Southwark and in South London in particular

This a photo of my Granny, Beatrice, Elizabeth, Charlotte Lefevre as she was at the age of 18 in 1896. The occasion was her 'coming of age' and putting her long hair up in a bun and fixed with clips. She kept it long and clipped till the day she died, at the age of 90 in 1968.

As a boy, I loved her dearly. I once said to her : "What would you do if you won a million pounds,Gran ?"
Without hesitation she said : " Give it away to poor people."

She was married at 18 and had her first child at 20. She was then consistently pregnant every 2 or 3 years until the birth of her last son in 1919 when she was 41. In all she produced 10 children, 9 of whom were boys and the single girl, who survived childhood was my Mother. As a family, they lived just above the poverty line, with my Grandfather working as a 'carter' delivering jam in jars by horse and cart for the Robinson factory at Woolwich.

She was born and brought up in the London Borough of Southwark on the south bank of the River Thames. She was 10 years old when the serial killer, 'Jack the Ripper' was killing prostitutes across the River in Whitechapel. She was 23 when Queen Victoria died, 36 when the First World War broke out and her eldest son lied about his age and joined the Army at 16 and 61 when the Second World War broke out. She outlived 5 of her own children.

This was Southwark High Street when she was a girl. In those days the old and poor in Southwark who had no income and no family to care for them were forced into the parish workhouse.
This was a grim place where the inmates were segregated by sex, placed in uniform and institutionalised.

Here, there was neither dignity nor respect for the elderly.

The granting of old age pensions alleviated poverty in old age for many when they were started for the over 70's in 1908. However, workhouses themselves were not abolished until 1930 and my Granny was 52.

Fast forward to Southwark in 2009, 131 years after my Granny was born there

A report by an independent regulator has found that Southwark is one of 8 of the 140 local government authorities, which in their care homes are failing to provide 'dignity and respect' for the elderly people who rely on 'home help' and 'care home' places. It fails fail to provide consistent care and its staff are not up to scratch.

The Government 'Care Services Minister', Phil Hope said : “It is unacceptable there are a small number of areas where services are under-performing. There shouldn't’t be a postcode lottery".

The report raised fears that the recession will force councils to cut spending on the 300,000 elderly care places they provide in Britain today.

The findings follow allegations last year from the 'Alzheimer's Society', that many residents with dementia get no more than five minutes of attention from staff each day.

The pressure group 'Age Concern' condemned the inadequacy of many homes. Spokesman Andrew Harrop said: "It's not acceptable that ratings for care homes for older people are lagging behind homes for younger groups".

It seems that Britain is a country where there have been big changes in the deteriorating behaviour of the young and continuities in the poor and shoddy treatment of the old.


Tuesday 1 December 2009

Britain says "Happy Birthday" Keith Michell and "Goodbye" to its History

The actor Keith Michell was 81 yesterday. He was born in Adelaide and brought up in Warnertown, near Port Pirie in South Australia's Mid North region. The theatre in Port Pirie is named after him.

He taught art until he made his theatre debut in Adelaide in 1947 and he first appeared in London in 1951. He starred in several musicals, including the first London production of 'Man of La Mancha', in which he played the dual role of 'Miguel de Cervantes' and his fictional creation, 'Don Quixote'.

It is however, in the role of King Henry in the BBC t.v. series 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII', in 6 episodes in 1970, that he will always be remembered. In particular the old, unhappy and bloated Henry in his last years.

A poll of 1000, 16 to 24 year olds in England, Wales and Scotland, carried out back in 2001 found that 75% did not know that D-Day was the start of the Normandy landings in 1944, while 33% thought it marked the end of World War II.

In addition, 33% thought Keith Michell had eight wives, not six.

However, 70% felt a knowledge of history was important and more than 10% believed it made them more attractive to the opposite sex.

I have no way of knowing, but I would suggest that if the same poll was carried out with 1000, 16 - 24 year olds in Britain today, only a minority would feel that history was important and none would believe that it made them more attractive to the opposite sex.