Friday 31 December 2010

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to two old actors called Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins

Sir Ben Kingsley is 67 today. Things you possibly didn't know about Ben, that he :

* was born 'Krishna Pandit Bhanji (Gujarati:કૃષ્ણા પંિડત ભાનજી)'in Snainton, near Scarborough, Yorkshire, the son of an actress and model mother and medical doctor father.

* was educated at Manchester Grammar School, where one of his classmates was the actor Robert Powell and later studied at the University of Salford and at Pendleton College, which later became home to the 'Ben Kingsley Theatre'.

* began his acting career on stage, made a transition to film roles early on and changed his name to Ben Kingsley, fearing that a foreign name would hamper his career.

* found fame starring as Mohandas Gandhi in 1982 for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

The film trailer :


Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins is 73 today. Things you possibly didn't know about Anthony. He :

* was born in Margam, Port Talbot, Wales, where his father was a baker.

* was then educated in his final years at school at Cowbridge Grammar School in the Vale of Glamorgan.

* was influenced and encouraged to become an actor by Welsh compatriot, Richard Burton, whom he met briefly at the age of 15 and enrolled at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff, Wales, from which he graduated in 1957.

* after two years in the British Army doing his national service, moved to London where he trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

* was spotted by Sir Laurence Olivier, who invited him to join the Royal National Theatre and became his understudy, and filled in when Olivier was struck with appendicitis during a production of 'The Dance of Death'.

* had Olivier note him in his memoir as : 'A new young actor in the company of exceptional promise named Anthony Hopkins was understudying me and walked away with the part of Edgar like a cat with a mouse between its teeth.'

* got his break in films in 'The Lion in Winter' playing Richard I, along with Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn.

* is a gifted mimic and duplicated the voice of his late mentor, Laurence Olivier, for additional scenes in 'Spartacus' in its 1991 restoration.

* is best remembered for his role as Hannibal Lecter in the 1991 film, 'The Silence of the Lambs' :

Lecter and Me :

Britain is an old country which gives old honours to old men

Roger - Keith - Ivor - David - Sandy - Bert and William

In total, almost 1,000 people will receive 'New Year Honours' from the Queen today. Most of them are not well known and have given service in their local communities, others, however, are nationally known. Old men like :

1. The 64 year old 'Sir' Roger Carr, who :

* was the business tycoon who oversaw the controversial £11 billion sale of the much-loved British chocolate company Cadbury to the U.S. food giant Kraft which led to widespread protests amplified by the planned closure of a factory near Bristol in 2011.

* prompted Jennie Formby, of the Unite Union, to say that people would be "surprised and disappointed" by the honour and added that "under his leadership he allowed this iconic and British company to be taken over by Kraft, a highly leveraged company that has already cut hundreds of jobs since taking over in February and which will undoubtedly be looking for further cuts to help lay down their huge debts."

* is the Chairman of energy giant 'Centrica', the parent company of 'British Gas', which raised prices to its millions of customers by 7% last month.

* has stimulated comments like those of Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell, who said Sir Roger’s knighthood would "horrify millions struggling to pay their heating bills this winter."

2. The 62 year old Queen's Police Medal holder, Ivor Macgregor, who as a constable, disarmed the gunman who tried to kidnap Princess Anne in 1974.

3. The 61 year old 'Sir' Keith Porter, a military surgeon who has helped hundreds of soldiers recover from terrible injuries and co-ordinates care of battle casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan, including double and triple amputees.

4. The 64 year old, Commander of the British Empire, David Suchet, who has played characters from Cardinal Wolsey to disgraced media mogul Robert Maxwell and will forever be remembered for his portrayal of Agatha Cristie's

5. The 80-year-old Order of the British Empire holder, Bert Kwouk, who played Cato, Inspector Clouseau’s manservant, in the Pink Panther films.

6. The 83 year old Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George holder, veteran ITN foreign correspondent, Sandy Gall, for his decades of charity work supporting disabled Afghans.

7. The 64 year old Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, author William Shawcross, who wrote the official biography of the Queen Mother.

Bert as Cato :

Thursday 30 December 2010

Britain in the future will become less and less of a country for more and more old men.

The graphs show the number of men and women living to be 100 years and older in Britain. The figure for this year is about 10,000 women and 2,000 men, but that is nothing compared to the figures for the future. The Government predicts that over 2 million men and women alive today will live to the age of 100. On the same ratio, that would mean about 160,000 men alive today can expect to reach the age of 100.
Apparently, the main reasons for this rising number of centenarians are improved medical treatment, housing and living standards and nutrition.

So what will this mean in terms of increased production ?
Obviously, a safe bet would be to invest money in companies which make the following :

So Britains old men of today and old men of tomrrow can use this chart to see how long they can expect to live.

On a more serious note, Britain may well be a bleak place for these old men because :

* there will be concerns about how many will be able to afford a decent standard of living for such a long retirement.

* many will survive with a very poor quality of life due to poor health.

* millions of older people have no pension, no savings, no other investments and no plan about how they are going to pay for their retirement other than to carry on working.

* many have either not paid off the mortgage on their property, or are renting at a time when tenants are paying record sums.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Britain is a country whose old men say "Happy Birthday" to Marianne Faithfull and the girl they remember when they were boys

Marianne is 64 years old today.

What you may or may not have known about her is that :

* she was born in London and her father, Major Dr. Robert Glynn Faithfull, was a British Army officer and college professor in psychology.

* her mother, Eva von Sacher-Masoch, Baroness Erisso, was originally from Vienna, with aristocratic roots in the Habsburg Dynasty and was a ballerina in the 'Max Reinhardt Company' during her early years and danced in productions of works by the duo Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.

* her maternal great great uncle was Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the 19th century Austrian nobleman whose erotic novel, 'Venus in Furs', spawned the word 'masochism'.

* spent some of her early life at the commune formed by her father in Oxfordshire.

* when her divorced when she was six years old, moved with her mother to Reading, Berkshire.

* had her childhood marred by bouts with tuberculosis and was a 'charity boarder' at St Joseph's Convent School where she was a member of the 'Progress Theatre's Student Group'.

* began her singing career in 1964, with her first gigs as a folk music performer in coffeehouses.

* early 1964, attended a Rolling Stones launch party and met Andrew Loog Oldham, who 'discovered' her and her first major release, with the Jagger/Richards song 'As Tears Go By'.

* went on to release a series of successful singles, including 'This Little Bird', 'Summer Nights' and 'Come and Stay With Me'.

Summer Nights ( French version ) :

This is how I want to remember her. I would rather not dwell on the cocaine and heroine addictions, her homelessness on the streets of London and the litany of trauma and sadness which marked the rest of her life. Wikepedia gives the details :

Sunday 26 December 2010

Britain at Christmas is a country with a reflective journalist called Peter Hitchins who thinks that we have lost as much as we have gained

Peter Hitchins is a 59 year old 'right wing' journalist whose views would not usually strike a chord with me, however he made some points in his 'Mail on Sunday' column which struck a chord with me.

didn’t much like the 1950's, which he remembered as 'bleak and chilly and smelling of damp raincoats, stale tobacco, suet pudding and cabbage. Not to mention the chilblains'. He :

* thought that it is the fate of those who don’t much like the present to be told all the time that they are yearning for some bit of the past, when they’re not.

* remembered winters when the sea at the end of his road turned to ice, the milk on the doorstep froze into a sort of dairy rocket, with the foil top perched on the solidified cream, the garden was full of gigantic snowballs for weeks on end.

* recalled that his father still went off to his work each day and so did everyone else.

* remembered that trains and buses continued to run and roads and pavements were swiftly cleared of ice and snow.

* recalled that in the Britain of town clerks, rural district councils, bus conductors with peaked caps station masters, the Gas Board, unreformed county boundaries, yards, feet, inches, pounds and ounces, people somehow managed to be far more efficient than we are in the days of chief executives, Metropolitan Authorities, Network Rail, centimetres and kilograms.

* thinks more and more that we have mistaken newness, modernity and packaging for reality.

* admits that the narrow, shabby restrained country of 50 years ago had its drawbacks, many of which we have kept : such as the deep and wasteful class divisions, bad diet and general poor health, neglect of the old, the grim cities – though now they are grim in a different, more modern way.

* thinks that at Christmas, in some strange but powerful way, the past lives in our minds as at no other time and perhaps those of us who still remember it should recognise honestly during this moving and reflective season that in our haste for change and modernisation, we have lost at least as much as we have gained.

P.S. Peter is fighting cancer.

Friday 24 December 2010

Britain is a country where families invite old men at Christmas

What is it like for little kids to have grandparents visit at Christmas ? My favourite series, 'Outnumbered' addressed the issue.

Read this first to appreciate 'Mac' who visits the family with Granddad on 'Boxing Day' on the 26th December.

The preamble and then ........

Mother : This is Mac. He's going to be joining us for lunch.

Mac : .............................. ( I can't translate )

Girl : Is he Albanian ?

Mother : No Darling, he's from Scotland.

Mac : A wee drop of water would be nice.

Mother : I'll get that.

Granddad : Carolyn's done this lovely drawing.

Mac : A horse has got a javelin out of his head.

Girl : What do you mean a 'heed' ? What language are you speaking ?

Mac : I'm speaking English here.

Karen talking about 'A Christmas Carol'

Britain is no country for flu in old men

Most of these kids probably caught the flu in the 1957 pandemic which may explain why they are protected today.

The number of people in intensive care with confirmed or suspected flu in England alone has risen to almost 500 with over 180 receiving intensive treatment and most aged between 16 and 64 with only 51 aged 65.

So why are the old immune? The facts are that :

* the H1 component of influenza A in both swine and human flu has a common ancestor.

* between the 1918 and 1957 influenza pandemics, H1 circulated in humans, evolving continuously and then became inactive, replaced by other subtypes of hemagglutinin such as H3.

* H1 reappeared in 1977, has been a dominant subtype of human flu ever since and evolved significantly from 1977 to the present so this version could be called 'New H1.'

* in pigs, meanwhile, the H1 has evolved very little and swine flu H1 has been very similar to the 'original' 1918 and 1930 versions of H1 and could be called 'Old H1.'

* to the immune system, Old H1 is very different from New H1.

* old men today born before 1957 were exposed to human H1 influenza, which at that time was similar to Old H1 and their immune systems produced antibodies to Old H1.

* since Old H1 has not been seen in humans in many years, younger people do not have antibodies to Old H1.

* since most older people probably have antibodies to Old H1, they are immune to this new swine flu but younger people are not so lucky which is why swine flu mainly affects younger adults.

So with irony, one of the few benefits old men in Britain enjoy today is their immunity to influenza.

Britain in winter is a country with icey paths which are no places for old men

If I lived in Germany I would have a legal responsibility to clear the snow on the public pavement in front of my house. If someone has accident because I have been negligent in my duty I can be sued for damages. In fact, most German towns have a 'street cleaning statute' in which requirements are spelled out in detail, even down to the minimum width of the cleared area and the time during which you must keep the snow cleared.

As I live in Britain, I have no legal responsibility to clear the snow on the public pavement in front of my house. If someone has accident on the path I cannot be sued for damages. If, however, I clear the paths and someone has an accident and claims my snow clearing was the reason, I can be sued for damages.

Experts have warned British businesses 'not to grit public paths' and the 'Institution of Occupational Safety and Health' has said that if people assume an area is clear and then slip and injure themselves, they could take legal action claiming damages.
This explains why public car parks and those belonging to pubs and supermarkets remain like ice rinks.

Apparently, my local authority is responsible for clearing snow from the pavement and since this is rarely done, they also remain ice rinks.

On my own land and doorstep I owe visitors a 'duty of care' under the Occupiers 'Liability Act 1984', to ensure that they are 'reasonably safe'.

The result of all this : hospitals have been inundated with patients and no doubt a large number of old men, who have broken bones in falls.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Britain is no longer a country for Judge James Pickles

Judge James Pickles, who has died at the age of 85, was an interesting mixture of conservatism and liberalisim who :

* was born into a long line of Yorkshire stonemasons, had a great-grandfather who worked in the Law Courts in London, an uncle called, Wilfred Pickles, who was a radio broadcaster in the 1950's and a father who made a fortune as an architect and financier in Halifax where he became Mayor.

* read 'law' at Oxford University, was 'called to the Bar' in 1946, practised at Bradford from 1949 until 1976 and was then appointed a 'Judge' on the 'North Eastern Circuit'.

* in 1987, published 'Straight from the Bench', in which he argued, that prostitution was a 'necessary evil' and should therefore be controlled through licensed brothels.

* called for the legalising of marijuana.

* became, additionally controversial, when, in 1989, he jailed a young woman who was too scared to give evidence against her abusive partner and jailed a shoplifting single mother, suggesting leniency might encourage women to avoid prison through pregnancy.

* made remarks in court, such as: "Who are the Beatles?" and said of the Spice Girls: “They arrived on the scene breasts first, but I don’t know their names.”

* in 1993 said : “We’ve got to toughen up with criminals. As a judge, I was quite tough and believed that wicked people should be clobbered. Prison, in my view, does deter, punish and contain.”

* earned the enmity of Lord Hailsham, the former Lord Chancellor, who he described as a “brooding Quixotic dictator” and years later, after he had retired, went even further, describing him as “an arrogant, pompous, toffee-nosed Old Etonian”.

* described the Duchess of York as a “scrubber”, Freddie Mercury as a “greedy bisexual” and the former Lord Chief Justice Lord Lane as a “dinosaur”.

* helped to dismantle the 'Kilmuir Rules', which prevented judges speaking out in public without the Lord Chancellor’s permission and criticised the legal system for being infected by conservatism, complacency and conformity.

* retired as a judge in 1990 and wrote tabloid journalism, several novels, memoirs and radio plays and when interviewed declared: “I am the human face of the judiciary, unlike the majority who adopt a Trappist-like silence.”

* wrote a column for 'The Sun' newspaper and later transferred his services to The 'Daily Sport', in which he described the then Transport Minister, Steve Norris, as the 'fornicating ferret'.

* appeared on TV in 'Have I Got News for You' where, when Ian Hislop told him :
"It was a pleasure to be sitting opposite a judge", he replied: "It's a great pleasure to be sitting opposite someone who should be in the dock."


Unfortunately, this is the only clip I could find of him being interviewed by Sacha Cohen in his personna as 'Ali G'.


Had a daughter, who is an actress who appeared in 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' and a sister who appeared in the US sitcom 'Friends'.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Britain is no country for old politicians who are flattered by young women


* Vince Cable is a 67 year old Liberal-Democrat Minister in our Coalition Government.

* He had a visit in in his 'constituency surgery' by 2 young female 'constituents' who were really 'undercover' reporters working for the 'Telegraph Newspaper'.

* He opened up and said things that were best said 'unsaid'.

He has lost 'part' of his job in the Government.

Here he is, complete with the giggling girl reporters.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Britain is no longer a country for a journalist called Brian Hanrahan

The journalist Brian Hanrahan, has died at the age of 61 and is remembered as reporting on many of the world's historic news events for the BBC.

He :

* became a household name in 1982 during the Falklands War, upon which the Ministry of Defence had imposed reporting restrictions.

* watched British Harrier jets taking off from HMS Hermes to launch the first air attack on Port Stanley and complied with the intelligence officer on board that he would not report the numbers by saying : "I counted them all out, and I counted them all back".

* commented on the fall of Erich Honecker, the man responsible for building the Berlin wall, by saying: "He dammed up his people, but in the end was damned by them."

* reported on the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister in 1984.

* was in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in June 1989 when the tanks rolled in to quash the demonstration.

* was in Berlin when the Wall came down a few months later.

* reported on the rise and fall of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union.

* covered the struggles of the Solidarity Trade Union in Poland.

* while reporting on the IRA hunger strikes, met the radio producer Honor Wilson who he married in 1986.

* reported on the reunification of Hong Kong in 1997, by saying : "Hong Kong demonstrators are a policeman's dream. Despite the force of their feelings, the protesters are polite, well marshalled and clean up afterwards. For their annual demonstration against the Tiananmen massacre they marched to the headquarters of the Chinese news agency to save the Chinese the trouble of sending out photographers."

* reported on the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997 and the Queen Mother, in 2002

* was an entertaining speaker on cruise ships, on which he talked to packed audiences.

* when crafting a piece, would talk to the doorman as well as any politicians involved, to dredge up human stories which he could distil into a few phrases, blend curious facts and figures into the script and think for as much time as he could before scribbling his words in tiny handwriting on the back of an envelope.

* had an acute sense of the importance of pictures and of the need to build a script around them always complementing them.

* was a private, kind man with a passion for reading political history and for the arts.

* reacted to being told he required chemotherapy for his bowel cancer by booking tickets for a West End play.

The B.B.C. tribute :

Britain in a harsh winter is no place for old men

Put 'Old people in the winter UK' on a Google search and it produces this harvest of woe at differents sites :

Older people warned over winter home improvement scams
Age UK and OFT campaign tells older people to beware of rogue doorstep traders offering winter home maintenance services.

Winter fuel payment cuts to hit millions of pensioners
Older people will have to wait at least six years longer to receive winter fuel payments, under government plans to cut the welfare bill. ...

Tragedy of 23100 extra winter deaths of older people makes new emergency plan imperative, says Age UK.

The UK has the highest number of excess winter deaths in Europe – higher ... for older people struggling to heat their homes this Christmas. ...

To be lonely in old age is bad enough, to be cold and lonely is even worse.

Britain's Heathrow Airport overnight is no place for old men

Heathrow Airport's flight schedules have been disrupted by snow on the runways. Old men and women along with the middle aged and the young have been forced to bivouac overnight in terminals with the heating turned off. This is the sleeping accommodation offered by the airport.

Frankfurt Airport's flight schedules have been disrupted by snow on the runways. Old men and women along with the middle aged and the young have been forced to bivouac overnight in heated terminals. This is the sleeping accommoation offered by the airport.