Thursday 29 April 2010

Britain will become no country for old men who still write cheques

Old Brits beware, be forewarned and arm yourselves with a chip or a mobile phone :

your cheques are to be phased out in 2018. But don't worry, a Government Board called the 'Payments Council' has your interests in mind and it has said :

* there will be annual checks on the progress of other payments systems and a final review of the decision will be held in 2016.

* it is " especially concerned that the needs of elderly and vulnerable people are met."

* "The goal is to ensure that by 2018 there is no scenario where customers, individuals or businesses, still need to use a cheque."

* it accepted that cheques were still used for payments to sole traders, small businesses, clubs, charities and schools.

* it wants to find "easy-to-use efficient alternatives" to the cheque which are understood by everybody.

Britain's old men, you have a defender in Paul Smee the Chief Executive of the Council who has said :

"Customers are not likely to see any immediate change as the target date is still a long way off. There are many more efficient ways of making payments than by paper in the 21st century, and the time is ripe for the economy as a whole to reap the benefits of its replacement. But the real challenge lies ahead if we are going to be comfortable to wave goodbye to the cheque, which undeniably occupies a unique place in British culture."

But, oh dear, Andrew Harrop, of 'Age Concern' and 'Help the Aged' has said :

"The Payments Council needs to urgently come up with some practical alternatives to replace cheques or it will be condemning thousands of older people to extra worry, cost and financial insecurity."

And Dot Gibson, of the 'National Pensioners Convention', said: "This is such a selfish decision, made by people who are clearly out of touch with the way millions of older pensioners manage their affairs."

Facts :

* many stores,including all the major UK supermarket chains,have chosen to stop accepting cheques as shoppers turned to debit cards or stick with cash.
History :

* the first cheque was written 350 years ago and was made out for £400, signed by Nicholas Vanacker, made payable to a Mr Delboe, and drawn on 'Messrs Morris and Clayton', who were scriveners and bankers of the City of London.

* its predecessor was the ''bill of exchange', which was a way for traders to buy and sell goods without the need to carry gold and silver.

* in the early days, cheques were used infrequently and mainly by merchants and traders for high-value transactions.

* cheque payments reached a peak of 2.4 billion in 1990 and have since fallen steadily to 663,000,000 in 2008.

Alternatives :

Either, mobile phones :

Already used in Africa to make payments, the phone could apparently become a 'virtual wallet'.

Or, debit card readers :

These could be used by small businesses and banks and credit providers have been investing in chips which allow a customer to pay when the chip is pushed against a sensor. This is known as 'contactless technology'.

Phones and chips and all will be well.

The Nationwide is no Bank for old men

There's been a storm of criticism over the Nationwide Bank's decision to impose a minimum £100 for a cash withdrawal over the counter in the bank. The idea is to force people to use ATMs instead. Apparently, about 33% of all counter transactions at Nationwide are carried out by less than 8% of their customers. The other 92% of customers want the Bank to do something to speed up queues.

But hold on, you can't force someone in their 80's to start using an ATM. They may be either, easily confused with what to do, or forget their four-digit pin numbers.

When you go into banks, you often see one cashier and a long queue waiting to be served, but there seem to be 'help' and 'mortgage' desks all over the place, fully staffed and not doing much. It seems reasonable to say that, If they want to get rid of queues, why not start with having more cashiers, but of course, that would take staff away from where the profit is being generated, namely at the 'help' and 'mortgage' desks.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Britain is no country for old men who inadvertently sponsor young children for charity

'Outnumbered' is a comedy series featuring a middle class couple living a suburban life with 3 kids, two of them in their pre-teens.

It makes me laugh a lot, mainly because the tiny tot of the family, Karen, is so natural and true to life and the script is so good. Karen is played by Ramona Marquez who, remarkably, had no acting training before she was signed for the part.

In this clip she discusses, with her father, how she raised money for the charity 'Comic Relief' by getting the old people at her Grandfather's care home to pay for one of the pictures she drew.

As ever, it made me laugh very much

as did 'Mouse Killer' :

Saturday 24 April 2010

Btitain says "Happy Birthday" to American stars of the screen Shirley MacLaine and Al Pacino

Shirley MacLaine is 76 today and Al Pacino is 70 tomorrow.

Things you probably did know about Shirley she :

* Has starred in a lot of films

* Is well known for her beliefs in 'new age spirituality'

* Is the elder sister of the actor Warren Beatty

Things you probably didn't know :

* She was named after Shirley Temple

* Her father was variously a Professor of Psychology, Public School Administrator and real estate agent

* Her mother was a drama school teacher who was born in Canada

* As a girl she proved to be too tall for ballet dancing and turned to acting

* She made her film debut in 1955 in Hitchcock's 'The Trouble With Harry'.

* She made 'Two Mules for Sister Sara' in 1970 with Don Siegel who once said of her : " It's difficult to feel any warmth warmth to her. She's too unfeminine and has too much balls. She's very, very hard."

* She found her way into many law casebooks when she sued Twentieth Century-Fox for breach of contract.

Here she is in 'Two Mules for Sister Sara " :

Things you probably didn't know about Al Pacino :

* His Italian American parents divorced when he was 2 and his mother moved to the South Bronx, to live with her parents,who originated from Corleone, Sicily.

* At school he flunked nearly all of his classes except English and dropped out of school at the age of 17 and left home working at a string of low-paying jobs, including messenger boy, busboy, janitor, and postal clerk.

* Acted in basement plays in New York's theatrical underground.

* Joined the 'Herbert Berghof Studio' was frequently unemployed and homeless, and sometimes had to sleep on the street, in theaters or at friends' houses.

* In 1969, he made his Broadway theatre debut in Don Petersen's 'Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?' at the Belasco Theater.

* In the 1971 film 'The Panic in Needle Park', he played a heroin addict which brought him to the attention of director Francis Ford Coppola, who cast him as Michael Corleone in the 1972 Mafia film 'The Godfather'.

* In 1985 with his film career waning he returned to the stage. His greatest stage success of the decade was David Mamet's 'American Buffalo', for which Pacino was nominated for a Drama Desk Award.

* Although he has never married he has three children.

His career :

His 'Inspirational speech' from 'Any Given Sunday' in 1999 :

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Betsey Trotwood, donkeys, vapour trails and I

They are back - the aircraft vapour trails over my house, now that flying has resumed after the volcanic dust crisis.
I feel like Betsey Trotwood who, in David Copperfield, was as offended by the donkeys 20 metres away on her green, as I am about the vapour trails 10,000 metres up in the sky over my house. The difference is that she could take a stick and see the donkeys off .
Dickens wrote : 'Janet had gone away to get the bath ready, when my aunt, to my great alarm, became in one moment rigid with indignation, and had hardly voice to cry out, ‘Janet! Donkeys!’

Upon which, Janet came running up the stairs as if the house were in flames, darted out on a little piece of green in front, and warned off two saddle-donkeys, lady-ridden, that had presumed to set hoof upon it; while my aunt, rushing out of the house, seized the bridle of a third animal laden with a bestriding child, turned him, led him forth from those sacred precincts, and boxed the ears of the unlucky urchin in attendance who had dared to profane that hallowed ground.

To this hour I don’t know whether my aunt had any lawful right of way over that patch of green; but she had settled it in her own mind that she had, and it was all the same to her. 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. Perhaps this was an agreeable excitement to the donkey-boys; or perhaps the more sagacious of the donkeys, understanding how the case stood, delighted with constitutional obstinacy in coming that way. I only know that there were three alarms before the bath was ready; and that on the occasion of the last and most desperate of all, I saw my aunt engage, single-handed, with a sandy-headed lad of fifteen, and bump his sandy head against her own gate, before he seemed to comprehend what was the matter. These interruptions were of the more ridiculous to me, because she was giving me broth out of a table-spoon at the time (having firmly persuaded herself that I was actually starving, and must receive nourishment at first in very small quantities), and, while my mouth was yet open to receive the spoon, she would put it back into the basin, cry ‘Janet! Donkeys!’ and go out to the assault'.

Britain is no country for an Old Soldier from the Second World War called Mark Mead

I recently read an article in the Guardian Newspaper entitled :

Mark and Cynthia Mead: Their losses in Equitable Life mean they now have to sell up.

Mark Mead is an 89 year British gent who repeatedly risked his life for Britain in its greatest hour of need during the Second World War. These are the facts of his heroism :

In 1945 he :

* served in the RAF, was shot down in his plane over Belgium, captured by the Germans and held in a notorious prisoner of war camp.

* was one of thousands of British 'Prisoners of War' forced to traipse several hundred miles during the Long March of 1945 and saw many of his fellow prisoners die in appalling winter conditions.

* faced a firing squad.

In 2010 he and his wife Cynthia are

* having to sell their beloved bungalow and move to a smaller property after seeing their retirement income plummet.

* among tens of thousands of older people whose finances have suffered a severe blow after being caught up in the 'Equitable Life' scandal and have not yet received a penny in compensation.

* a couple who, in 1999 invested a sizable sum , including money from the sale of their previous home, with 'Equitable Life' in a 'unit-linked personal investment plan' - a stock market-based investment. They did this on the advice of an 'Equitable' representative . It was bad advice, bearing in mind their age, Mark was approaching 80 at the time, and their need for regular income.
"At that time", said Cynthia, "everyone said that's what you do for your pension".

* the investment went in, just as the stock market was reaching its peak and shortly after, it began a long slide. By 2004, due to a combination of poor performance and the withdrawals which were being made, the money had run out.

* the Financial Ombudsman Service found in their favour and, in 2005, they were awarded more than £6,000 compensation, but the damage had been done.

* in order to make up for some of their losses, they decided to take out an 'equity release scheme', which allowed them to 'unlock some of the value in their home'.
They had taken out an equity release loan in 1999, so this was their second one, which meant that, in total, they borrowed around £150,000. Now the interest is rolling up and the amount they now owe is £216,000 and increasing by £1,000 a month.

* this year another Equitable Life investment providing them with an income of £2,000 a year, in effect, dried up. It was this that led the couple to conclude they would have to downsize and move home.

* "I don't think I've ever cried as much in my life as I've cried in the last few weeks," said Cynthia, 83, sitting in the lounge of their chalet bungalow, their home for 12 years. "The best-laid plans have gone awry," added Mark.

* They have just sold their property and put in an offer on a small mews cottage that has been accepted. "We've got to be out by 23 May," says Cynthia. "We don't want to, but we can't afford to go on living here."* Cynthia said : "I know it's inevitable. Mark doesn't want to accept it. Having to get rid of so many of our things will hurt more than anything else."
She said that, having never claimed anything from the state, they are now getting pension credit and attendance allowance and said she was reluctant because of the 'stigma' in claiming benefits.

* "It's unbelievable it should end like this," she said, adding she feels sad because it's only in the last few years they have had to worry about money. She believed they, were victims of the 'mismanagement' by 'Equitable' and said "I don't blame anyone particularly." Asked how he felt about it all, Mark said: "Thoroughly depressed."
* The couple's MP has written to the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, and to 'Equitable' about their plight.

* He said : "This is someone who gave valiant, courageous service in the Second World War ... I find it totally appalling that, at his time of life and in his state of frailty, he and his wife should be placed in such dire financial circumstances."

* An Equitable spokesman said: "We have accepted the ombudsman's conclusion that inappropriate advice was given and, where that resulted in a loss, redress was paid."

What a sad country Britain has become, where yesterday's heros are forced to sell beloved bungalows, having fallen on hard times, the victims of financial predators

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Britain is a country where one old man has got his clear, blue sky, back, for a time

All winter, I've been grumbling about the number of flights over my part of North Kent. The Air Traffic Authorities must have changed the flight path to Gatwick Airport. The jets fly so high that I can't hear them, but the nasty vapour trails they leave in the blue sky offend me. One morning, a couple of months, back I counted 13 of them.

Well, courtesy of the volcano in Iceland and grounded aircraft my sky is temporarily vapour trail free !

Monday 19 April 2010

The Battle of the Blogs : 'Small Animals' versus 'Old People'

I'm catching up !

My daughter does a blog about the trials and tribulations of being a small animal vet in Britain today and I do one about the trials and tribulations of being an old person in Britain today.
Her statistics over the last 30 days in terms of 'visits and page views' are shown on the left and mine on the right.
I think you'll agree that I'm definitely catching up.
Interest in old people is closing on interest in small animals, which is just how it should be.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Britain is a Country where more and more old men are taking up extreme sports which kill them

The 'Sunday Telegraph' ran an article yesterday which stated that :

'Pensioners indulging in extreme sports have caused a sharp rise in the number of over-70s being injured or killed, according to new figures'.

It made the following points :

* Normally the preserve of teenagers and 20 somethings, dangerous sports are attracting an influx of pensioners.

* Nearly 20% of all injury claims resulting from sports such as diving, mountaineering and skiing, were made last year by Britons aged 70 or over compared to just 5% in 2006.

* Taking part in hazardous activities isn’t cheap and it is often only later on in life that you have the money to do it.

* More than 33% the 212 people in British scuba diving incidents requiring medical treatment last year were over 50. This is no surprise since people are living longer, are fitter and have more money to spend on leisure activities.

The article elicited 3 comments which I've picked out :

The first, was really nothing to do with ' extreme sports', but I liked it anyway :

Peter said :

'Looking at the shocking state of the UK, my wife and I intend when I retire to sell up, buy a motor home and tour Europe until we pop our clogs. It may be we sell that and tour Australia. Who knows, but who really wants to be over 70 and moldering away in the UK with decaying cities, congested roads, youths sniffing 'plant food', mindless mass-media, corrupt politicians and ,it had to be there, terrible weather ?
I'm in my fifties at the moment and I won't die in this country. If more retired people choose to spend their time enjoying the world then statistically more of them will die will doing it. I intend to help those statistics along.

Pietor said :

Now that the older generation have the opportunity and finances to partake in a range of sports it is obvious that injuries and deaths will increase. Would you prefer to sit at home vegetating on day-time TV, or get out there and live your life and enjoy yourself.

Spend the kids inheritance, your earned it, you spend it.

Friday 16 April 2010

Britain said " Happy Birthday" to Julie Christie and old men remembered a time when, as boys, they could have spent their dinner money on her

Julie Christie today and in t.v. and films - top to bottom :

Billy Liar.
Fahrenheit 451.
Madding Crowd.

Julie Christie was 69 years old on Monday. Things you probably didn't know about her :
* born in 1941 in , Assam, India where her father ran tea plantations.
* her mother was a painter from Hove in Sussex.
* she had a brother, as well as a half-sibling from her father's affair with an Indian mistress.
* back in England studied as a boarder at the independent 'Convent of Our Lady School' in St. Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, from which she was later expelled.
* as a teenager at Wycombe Court School, she played the role of the Dauphin in a school production of George Bernard Shaw's 'Saint Joan'.

I first remember seeing her in the 1961 science fiction series on BBC television called 'A for Andromeda'. I was 14 and she was 20.

Then, when I was 16 she played Liz, the friend and would-be lover of the eponymous 'Billy Liar' who was played by Tom Courtenay.

When I was 18 she played the amoral model, Diana Scott in 'Darling'.
In the same year she appeared as Lara Antipova in David Lean's adaptation of Boris Pasternak's novel 'Doctor Zhivago'.

When I was 19, she was in Truffaut's 'Fahrenheit 451'.

A year later, with me at 20 and she at 26, she played Thomas Hardy's heroine 'Bathsheba Everdene' in Schlesinger's 'Far from the Madding Crowd'.
And that wonderful scene with Terrence Stamp as Sergeant Troy on Maiden Castle :

In that same year
From 'The Kinks'rock band, Ray Davies wrote 'Waterloo Sunset'
The story :
The song :
The lyrics :

Dirty old river,
must you keep rolling,
flowing into the night.

People so busy,
make me feel dizzy,
taxi light shines so bright.

But I don't feel afraid,
as long as I gaze at Waterloo Sunset,
I am in Paradise.

Every day I look at the world from my window,
chilly, chilly is the evening time,
Waterloo Sunset's fine.

Terry meets Julie,
Waterloo Station,
every friday night.

But I'am so lazy,
don't want to wonder,
I stay at home at night.

But I don't feel afraid,
as long as I gaze at Waterloo Sunset,
I am in Paradise.

Every day I look at the world,
from my window,
chilly, chilly is the evening time,
Waterloo sunset's fine.

Millions of people,
swarming like flies round,
Waterloo Underground.

But Terry and Julie,
cross over the river,
where they feel safe and sound.

And they don't feel afraid,
as long as they gaze at Waterloo Sunset,
they are in Paradise.

Waterloo Sunset's fine.

When I reached 21 she played the lead character, Petulia Danner, opposite George C. Scott, in Richard Lester's 'Petulia'.

Later films followed, but by this time I had no dinner money or student grant to spend on the woman Warren Beatty described as : "the most beautiful and at the same time the most nervous person I had ever known."

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Britain is 'apparently' a country for old men who keep themselves healthy

I came across this article in the 'Daily Express' newspaper :


At one end of the spectrum :

When I was in my 20's I was :

* at my healthiest and fittest as, so much of my system peaked during those years.

* my metabolism was operating at its most efficient.'

At the other end of the spectrum , which is where I am now, in my 60's :

* Everything is a bit more of an effort and my declining hearing and eyesight will be testament to the fact, that I am noticeably wearing out.

* A hardening of my eye’s lens and a weakening of the muscles behind it, will mean focusing becomes more difficult for me , starting with the closest field of vision.

* Although my muscles are naturally losing density and strength, I will be able to maintain them more efficiently and retain strength if I keep fit.

* I should continue to 'work out' because, at this age, I am are susceptible to high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. However, heart disease is less likely to strike, once I get past 70.

* A 'good level of nutrition is vital too', as I will need to work that bit more to maintain my immune system. Also, because it is natural for me to eat less, it is essential my food is as nutrient-loaded as possible.

* Mentally, I can be as sharp as I ever was, with greater analytical abilities, but this will be down to giving my brain 'daily workouts' to keep fit. This may help stave off dementia which becomes a very real prospect for me after the age of 65.

* I should be getting an 'all-over check-up', every three months.

* What I need to watch out for: Osteoporosis.

My bones will become progressively less dense, so I need to make sure I keep my calcium intake up. Apparently, milk, cheese, green vegetables, sardines and nuts are good sources of calcium for me.

* Low-level infections. My immune system is becoming increasingly less efficient and I have to keep it well nourished. I need to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to ensure my diet is rich in vitamins.

So summarised :


* hearing
* eyesight
* muscle density
* immune system

UP :

* blood pressure
* strokes
* heart attacks
* osteoporosis
* low level infection

Not much of a prospect is it ?

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Britain says "goodbye" to a fine old actor called Corin Redgrave

Corin was a member of the 'Regrave' acting dynasty: the son of Michael Redgrave,, the brother of Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, the father of Jemma Redgrave and the uncle of the late Natasha Richardson.

He was a man who packed a lot into his 70 years :

* Educated at Westminster school, he won a scholarship to King's College, Cambridge, where he got a 'first' in classics. His contemporaries included Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Trevor Nunn. Shortly after leaving Cambridge, he played Lysander in Tony Richardson's 1962 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.

* Played the Pilot Officer in Arnold Wesker's 'Chips With Everything' in 1962 and in New York the following year and appeared in a number of West End shows.

* His elder sister, Vanessa, stimulated his interest in politics in the early 1960s and encouraged him to join the 'Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament' and in 1971 he joined the Trotskyist 'Workers Revolutionary Party'.

* From 1974 to 1989, his stage, film and TV appearances became ever rarer. He took time off from the WRP only to help his father write his autobiography, 'In My Mind's Eye', in which his father's tortured bisexuality was cryptically acknowledged.

* He re-emerged into the limelight in the late 1980s, playing Coriolanus at the Young Vic and was as a stronger, better actor who had a particular gift for playing establishment figures tortured by doubt and fear - something he had witnessed first-hand in his own father.

* In 2004 he enjoyed a rich season with the Royal Shakespeare Company and reached the summit as King Lear on the same stage where his father had played the role more than 50 years previously. "I was 13. My father was playing 'Shylock', 'Antony' and 'Lear'. My mother, also in the company, always a little in my father's shadow, played Octavia and Regan. I learned to love the sound of Shakespeare from my father who had an effortless command of the rhythms, cadences and stresses of blank verse. But it was my mother who taught me to love Shakespeare's stories."

* He claimed for many years that he had been dropped by the BBC because of his radical politics, but for all that, he appeared in 'Persuasion' in 1995 and 'The Forsyte Saga' in 2002 and also wrote two BBC radio plays.

* He had also appeared occasionally in films since the 1960s : 'Man for All Seasons', 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' and 'Oh! What a Lovely War'.

Tributes :

Sir Trevor Nunn : "I was Corin Redgrave's friend and employer over many decades and I think of him as one of the most extraordinary and inspirational people I have ever met."

Amnesty International UK director, Kate Allen : "Corin was a staunch defender of human rights and in particular his work campaigning for the rights of Guantánamo prisoners will be remembered for years to come."

Director Roger Michell : "Corin's performance as King Lear was selfless, unshowy and truthful, with a complete absence of rhetorical and theatrical tricks. He was a great man who stood head and shoulders above others for whom success, recognition and praise are the only things that matter."

Britain's Medway Towns in Kent are a place for old men who like to walk

One of the possible new occupations for an old man like me to adopt is : to walk. There are the obvious benefits of exercising, my increasingly arthritic frame and if I walk in a group, I get to enjoy the company of other ancient walkers. Therein lies the problem.

Now the context :

I live in conurbation in North Kent called the Medway Towns. Apart from the City of Rochester, it is an unlovely and relatively poor part of the South East of England, which has never really recovered from the closure of Chatham Dockyard in 1970.
The closure was caused by the retraction of Britain's colonial role around the world in its decline from world power status. For the Medway Towns, it was devastating as the wages and salaries of Dockyard employees, disappeared from the local economy overnight.

So, the opportunity to walk and get out of 'The Towns', therefore has its attractions.

There are 2 groups of walkers/ramblers in this area.
Which one should I join ? :

The 'Medway Towns Footpaths Group' or the 'Medway Ramblers' ?

Let's see what is on offer :

April 11th : Footpath : 10.00 at Penshurst Church . 6 mile walk, some hills, no dogs.

April 11th : Ramblers : 10.00 at Linton. 5 mile walk across the 'Greensand Ridge', with good views,pub at the end with meals.

April 18th : Footpath : 10.00 at Cliff Woods shopping Centre for 4.5 mile, mainly flat walk, dogs allowed.

April 18th : Ramblers : 10.00 at the 'Chequers' pub at Loose Hill for a 6 mile circular walk, pub at the end with meals.

Supposing I want to join both. I can, but I can't do all the walks. I have to choose. I wonder why ? Is there some ancient rivalry between the two groups ? Have ancient walkers fallen out in the past ?

Well, in choosing between the two there isn't much to go on, apart from the fact that the Footpath emphasise whether dogs can go or not and the Ramblers always end up with a pub at the end.

So dogs or pub ? What is it to be ? Well, I don't like dogs but, is there a bit of a 'class' thing here ? Shopping centres or old pubs to meet and dogs and no dogs.

On second thoughts, I think I'll go with the dogs.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Britain is no country for old men who want to walk past Watership Down

On Sunday afternoon I walked along part of the ancient trackway called 'The Ridgeway' in Hampshire. The walk takes you past 'Watership Down' where Richard Adams set his story of good versus evil in the world of rabbits which was published 38 years ago.

I had enjoyed the walk with its splendid views of the Hampshire countryside. I paused to speak with a couple at Ladle Hill. They told me that it was an unfinished Celtic hill fort. I thought it was a barrow or burial site. I had romanticised that the chieftan who had ruled this area when he lived, could preside over it after death.

While conversing with the couple at Ladle Hill, my wife and daughter had walked ahead. I quickened my pace to catch up.

I want to be very precise about the next sequence of events.

1. A woman appeared on the Ridgeway with a little spaniel dog.

2. I don't like dogs and I don't like being confronted by dogs, after all, this is our place, not a dog place.

3. The woman smiled. I didn't pause. The untrained dog got under my wellington boots. I stumbled. I went down like a sack of potatoes, fell forward landing on my hands, to break my fall and my knees.

4. The woman said : " Are you all right ?".

She made no attempt to help me off the ground.

I said : " You should keep your dog under control."

This is the best bit, she said :

" It's only a puppy."

5. So, apparently, it's my fault that I allowed a puppy to get under my 62 year old feet and trip me up, even though the woman was committing a civil offence by allowing her dog to run around without a lead in a public place.

6. So, who was in the wrong, me, the puppy or the puppy owner ?

When I caught up with my wife and daughter, my wife accused me of being a 'puppy kicker', so we know who she blamed.

Sometimes, I think that the whole world transpires against me.

Friday 2 April 2010

In Britain : England is no country for old women

Britain's old women, England is no place for you.

A recent report has revealed that for English women :

* poor cancer detection and bad diet mean that women in most other European countries live longer than you.

* you can expect to live to 81 years and 11 months, but your Slovenian counterpart will have an extra two months of life, even though the former Yugoslav republic spends far less on healthcare.

* experts say the difference can be put down to National health Service failures to spot cancer and heart disease early enough, as well as the fact that the British diet is worse than in other countries.

* chronic liver disease among you has climbed above the EU average, driven by the rise in binge drinking.

* your teenage pregnancy rates are the highest in western Europe and your obesity levels are the worst in the whole continent.

* In the rest of the world, only women in the U.S., Mexico and New Zealand are fatter than you.

For old British men, better news for you :

* Your life expectancy of 77 years and eight months is among the best in Europe, behind only Sweden, Italy, Cyprus and France.

My favourite comments which the article generated on the web :

'More useless statistics, once you reach the old age of 80, it doesn't make the slightest difference if you die at 81, 82 or 85 because most likely it means you are stuck on a chair or bed most of the time and waiting for death to save you from a life of boredom....'

- Nick, Birmingham.

'Wow, I could live a whole TWO MONTHS longer in Slovenia. Must move there now...'

- Rebecca, Gloucester.

'And remember - the last extra few months/years will most likely be in one of Gordon's wonderful care homes - better to drink and eat a little more now and avoid as much of that particular fate as possible.'

- downshifter98, London.

I've been wondering where to put this picture for some time> Here would seem the apposite place :