Monday 31 January 2011

Britain is a country whose old men say "welcome back" to a BBC newsreader called Julia Somerville

The BBC has responded to accusations of 'ageism' by making its erstwhile newsreader, the 63-year-old Julia Somerville, the presenter of 'Weekend News' on BBC1 after an absence of 24 years.

I first saw Julia when we were both 19 at Sussex University in 1966. I seem to recall that she was tall and statuesque, wore a mini skirt and her hair in two side bunches. We were both in the same 'School of Study' where she studied 'English' and I studied 'History' and although she was a week younger than me, was in the year below me.

Julia has since said of Sussex : "It married the merits of the Oxbridge system of small tutorials with the American idea of a campus university. It was actually nicknamed 'Balliol-by-Sea'. Sussex embodied everything that was new and modern; and I loved the idea of contextual studies.

But in reality I came because I saw a picture of the terribly glamorous Jay twins in Honey magazine with their long hair, short skirts and Sussex scarves. After that I never looked anywhere else."

I think I agreed with Julia on the latter, rather than the former.

What did Julia and I have in common, apart from Sussex University ?

Well..,I :

* was the son of a 'saw doctor' who worked sharpening saws in a timber mill in Deptford, London..... I don't know what Julia's father did for a living, but I suspect he didn't work with his hands.

* was educated at a state run, Junior Boys' School' in Charlton, South London and Julia at the private, 'Airthrie Preparatory School' in Cheltenham, Gloustershire.

* went on, at 11, to the state run, 'Eltham Green Comprehensive School', South London and Julia to 'Headington Girls' Independent School' in Oxford.

* graduated with a history degree in 1968 and Julia with an English degree in 1969.

* after studying for a teaching certificate at Sussex, in 1969 I got a job in a state secondary school and Julia joined publisher IPC, working on 'Homes and Gardens' magazine, a Women's Journal, the PR section of 'Woman's Own' and then for two years she was editor of a computer group's 'house magazine'.

* in 1972 I was at the same school in my third year of teaching and Julia joined the BBC as a sub-editor in the radio newsroom.

* in 1978 I was in my second teaching job as head of the school's history department and Julia became a reporter.

* in 1983 I was teaching in the same school and Julia joined 'BBC Television News' and became one of the most recognised faces on television, co-presenting the 'BBC Nine O'Clock News.'

* from the 1980's to the early 2000's continued to teach in a state school and Julia worked in television with Independendent Television News until 2001, presenting the 'ITV Lunchtime News.'

* remain in retirement, while Julia is out of retirement back on the BBC reading the News.

Julia's reprise :

Britain is a country and no country for thirsty old men in 'care' homes

An article in 'The Daily Mail' today was entitled :

Damning report exposes the rising number of elderly killed by neglect

The paper reported that more than 600 care home residents had died of 'thirst' in the past five years and over 150 of 'malnutrition'. The figures are shown in the chart.

Neil Duncan-Jordan of the 'National Pensioners Convention' made the following points, that :

* a significant number of old people care homes are getting substandard, third-rate attention, yet the cost of staying in a care home is huge with the average between £600 and £800 a week.

* in some homes, no one helps the old 'eat their meals', ensures they are properly 'turned in bed' and makes sure they have 'had enough to drink'.

* these old people will have 'seen a lot in their lifetime' and have 'given a huge amount, whether that is during the War, bringing up children, or paying their taxes. For them to be treated in that way is nothing sort of scandalous.’

* some 1,446 died suffering with bedsores, where care home staff had not made them mobile in bed and another 4,866 died with blood poisoning, while 4,881 had fatal falls.

* sometimes meals are too unappetising to eat and staff are often not trained in spotting signs of dehydration.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at 'Age UK' has said :

‘Malnourishment can have serious consequences for older people, such as delaying recovery from illness. Making sure residents eat nutritious, regular meals must be a high priority for care home staff.’

What a sad country Britain has become.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Britain is a country with a corporation called the BBC which is no place for old women and Ancient Greece was a country for old men

I found an article published in the Guardian newspaper earlier this month. It was written by Sheena McDonald about, the here smiling, Miriam O'Reilly and was entitled :

Britain is no country for old folk
Will Miriam O'Reilly's tribunal victory against the BBC herald an era of fair treatment for those over 50?

It dealt with the case of the erstwhile presenter of the B.B.C programme 'Countryfile', Miriam O'Reilly, who was sacked from her job in 2008 and her attempt to expose the prejudice against the 50-plus generations.

A tribunal found that the 53-year-old presenter was dropped because of age and the BBC may have to pay out six-figure sum.

What intrigued me, however, was less the case and more the other points Sheena made in her article :

' I was recently at a formal dinner, trying to read the menu. "I can't do this without glasses these days," I said, ruefully, to the stranger beside me. He turned out to be an eye specialist. "Ah," he said, "that's presbyopia! More than 70% of people in their mid-40s develop it, and start having to use glasses!"

I was intrigued, having been brought up in a Presbyterian manse. And my father, literate in classical languages, instantly located the Greek source: 'presbys' means 'old man' or 'elder'. This is not a term of disapprobation, but rather one that carries due recognition of acquired wisdom and experience. This can, then, qualify those fortunate enough to have survived the tumultuous decades of early life to shoulder enhanced responsibilities – assuming responsibility for governing a Protestant church in Scotland, for instance.

But Britain does not follow the ancient Greek model. 'Old man' is not a term of respect on our shores, far less 'old woman', as television broadcasters vie to attract what is seen as the demographically ideal audience of 16- to 24-year-olds. Wisdom and experience are apparently not qualities that rate highly with those attempting to win these elusive viewers.'

Sheena'a article :

And Plato and Socrates, where would Western Civilisation be without you?

Greek philosophers :

Saturday 29 January 2011

Britain is a country where old men say "Happy Birthday" to an American called Katherine Ross and an Australian called Germaine Greer

It is permissible for old men to remember beautiful women from their youth.

Katherine the American actress is 69 today, but for many old men in Britain, she is frozen in aspic in two films :

The Graduate : as Elaine Robinson in 1967

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid : as Etta Place in 1969

Germaine Greer the Australian feminist and writer is 72 today and will forever be remembered for her 1970 book :

Cooking with the chef Gordon Ramsay today :

Britain is a country of more and more old men doing exercise

Britain's old men, you do quite a lot of this and it's good for you :

A study has revealed that you over 60's are much more likely to exercise than those in their 20's. You are 'Athletic Older Persons', or AOP's, a new breed of over 60's who are putting your younger counterparts to shame when it comes to 'keeping fit'.

The study of more than 1,100 of you, men and women, for 'Bupa Healthcare' showed that :

* you are almost three times as likely to exercise every day than those in the prime of life, with one in seven of you flexing your muscles seven days a week.

* 22% of you exercise at least five times a week, compared with just 15% of '20 somethings.'

* almost four in ten of you over 60's said that you were exercising more now than they did ten years ago.

* walking was your most popular method, followed by swimming and cycling.

* a growing number of you are entering half-marathons each year and you are also running more quickly than before.

* the advantages ranged from boosting your weight loss to aiding relaxation and improving quality of life.

A musculoskeletal physiotherapist for Bupa, said: "The benefits this generation is experiencing from exercise are substantial – they are less likely to suffer from chronic illness than their parents and have a longer life expectancy."

So those of you, 'enjoying' your retirement, like the laggards below, should take note. get off your backsides and put your backs into it !

Friday 28 January 2011

Britain is a country which says "Goodbye" to an old keybpoard player from Barclay James Harvest called Woolly Wolstenholme

Woolly Wolstenholme keyboard player for symphonic rock band 'Barclay James Harvest' has died at the age of 63.

Things you probably didn't know about Woolly, that he :

* was in the 1970s, part of 'Barclay James Harvest', whose symphonic rock music was often recorded and performed with a 60-piece orchestra.

* produced the 'mellotron' playing which was integral to the band's sound.

* was inspired as much by Mahler as McCartney and committed to combining classical and rock music and once described his work as an 'attempt to bridge the gap between Radios 1 and 3'.

* at secondary school, mastered the tenor banjo at 11 and as a teenager, played tenor horn in the 'Delph Brass Band'.

* in 1964, at Oldham School of Art, joined a rock band called 'The Sorcerers', playing tambourine and singing alongside the self-taught guitarist John Lees.

* formed an R&B group called 'The Blues Keepers', with Lees and became a multi-instrumentalist, adding harmonica and 12-string guitar to the group's sound.

* became part of the quartet, 'Barclay James Harvest' in 1967.

* was installed with the band in an old farmhouse by a businessman and influenced by John Lennon, Simon and Garfunkel, 'Vanilla Fudge' and 'Love', wrote and rehearsed the songs that would eventually appear on the band's first album.

* taught himself to play the Mellotron,the new keyboard synthesiser which which had been popularised by 'The Beatles' and 'The Moody Blues'.

* issued a single with the group called 'Early Morning' in 1968 which led to concerts at universities and colleges.

* was signed, with the band, by the German-owned Polydor label and with 'Barclay James Harvest Live' had a minor hit in 1974, while 'Octoberon' 1976 reached the top 20 in 1976.

* decided to leave the group in 1976, dissatisfied with their move away from the rock-classical fusions at which he excelled.

* recorded a solo album, 'Maestoso', but became disillusioned with the music business and in the 1980s, took up organic farming.

* returned to the music business in 1998 after meeting John Lees again and performed in Europe and England.

Here he is in Barclay James Harvest on the keyboard in 'Rock n Roll Star' :

P.S. Sadly, in recent years Woolly suffered from bouts of severe depression, one of which prevented him from touring with Lees last year and may explain why he took his own life on December 13th.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Britain says "Goodbye" to an old photographer called George Douglas

The photographer 'Speedy' George Douglas has died at the age of 88.

Things which almost everybody didn't know about George, that he :

* was born in Sussex in 1923 and at the age of 16 in 1939, moved with his mother to Dallas, Texas.

* trained in aeronautical design engineering then worked for a research corporation, California, where his heart 'was not in it'.

* found that the Leica camera he bought from a pawnshop consumed his spare time and once he had sold his first picture for $30, handed in his notice.

* sold his first photos to the 'Los Angeles Times' in the 1940s and moved to Idaho, in 1948, where he was in charge of photography at the 'Sun Valley News Bureau', where he took pictures of famous visitors including Gary Cooper and President Truman.

* in 1949, moved back to LA and began his career as a 'celebrity photographer' with a picture of Angela Lansbury for 'Life' magazine and noticed that the photographers he admired had trained in London on the 'Picture Post',and wrote that : "I knew this was the future and I wanted to work with people who were making it happen."

* at 27, set off for England in 1950, where a set of pictures of two children with their pet boa-constrictor 'got him through the door' of the 'Picture Post' magazine.

* fell 'more than a little in love' with Audrey Hepburn, when he photographed her in New York as she prepared for the Broadway production of 'Gigi'.

* photographed the poet, Walter de la Mare in 1956 when he was 83 and George was 33 and as Walter watched, with amusement, as George ran about organising the shoot the poet told him: "I envy you. To to you I am an old man, but in my mind I am as young as you are at this moment. With age, the body becomes a prison. Every day the bars get tighter."

* when he was 78 he wrote about this meeting with de la Mare : 'That has affected me since. Now I myself begin to feel the bars and the jail the body will become."

* when Picture Post closed in 1957, when he was 34, turned to women's magazines and the 'TV Mirror'.

* was 41 in 1964, when 'The Beatles' asked him to become their photographer on the set of 'A Hard Day's Night' becuase Paul McCartney had been impressed by his portraits of, his then girlfriend, Jane Asher.

* found that two weeks at the Studios with The Beatles and besieged by screaming teenagers was enough to persuade hom that he was not cut out for pop photography.

* returned to California in 1970 to care for his mother where he and his wife ran an antiques business.

* moved back to England at the age of 77 in 2006.

His work in 'The Picture Post :

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Britain, no country for those old men stuck in hospital wards, you have a champion in Professor Ian Philp

A recent article in 'The Guardian' by Ian Philp was entitled :

How to combat 'bed blocking' in hospitals.
The longer elderly people are kept on acute hospital wards, the more danger they are in of suffering complications.

I wanted to know who Ian was and found that old men of Britain have a worthy 'champion' who :

* is 'Professor of Health Care for Older People' at the 'Sheffield Institute for Studies on Ageing' which he set up and which won the 'Queen's Award for Higher Education' in 2000 for research into 'improving the quality of life for old people.'

* was the National Director or 'Tsar for Older People' in the 'Department of Health' from 2000 to 2008.

Here he is talking to people in the street in Sheffield :

Ian made the following points in his newspaper article :

* going into hospital can be a frightening experience for anyone; for older people it can be harrowing.

* he had looked after a group of old people who had experienced 'delayed discharge' from an 'acute' hospital ward. Fifteen had been affected, one was 'delayed' for more than a year and out of the 15, 3 died, one of whom was an old man who acquired a chest infection the day before he was due to be discharged which progressed to pneumonia, heart and kidney failure.

* he said that :
"I remain upset and angry about how we let down this man who lived out the last weeks of his life, with great dignity, on our ward, rather than enjoying more time in his own home."

* the old man's story isn't unique and the longer an older person remains in hospital, the higher the risk of 'adverse events', loss of confidence to cope at home again, atrophy of social support networks and an increased likelihood of moving into permanent institutional care, often under pressure to clear a hospital bed.

* between 2000 and 2004, a range of 'intermediate care services' were introduced to help avoid admission to hospital and support early discharge and as a result, delayed discharges from hospitals dropped by 70%, releasing more than a million acute hospital beds.

* however, plans to complete the investment in these services by 2006 were not pursued and 'delayed discharge' not eliminated because policy attention switched to other priorities and intermediate care services 'drifted'.

* as a result, the problem of 'bed-blocking' has re-emerged and in a recent survey of doctors working in UK hospitals, 50% said the problem was worse now than a year ago.

Britain's old men, Ian's message to you is that :

* he believes it is possible to redesign our health and care system to provide the right services in the right place for you.

* if you have a fall, go off your legs or become confused, it is better to provide care and support in your own home, with expert assessment of your needs there, rather than admit you to hospital for assessment.

* those of you who are frail and in hospital will do better under the care of 'old age specialists'.

* any delay to transfer you from acute hospital care is is likely to lead to worse outcomes for you and transfer to post-acute care in the community should take place within 24 hours, with assessment of ongoing needs undertaken in the community setting.

* you take up to 6 weeks to recover from illness requiring hospital admission and during this period you need additional support, expert assessment of your ongoing needs and an approach which encourages 're-ablement', rather than simply meeting your current care needs.

He believes :

* these changes achievable and says we just need to look to Hong Kong which adopted, and fully implemented, the 'English Intermediate Care Plan' and have eliminated delayed discharge from their hospital systems.

I found this poem called 'Crabby Old Man', set in a hospitsl. I have no idea about its provenance, but I like it for its sincerity :

Monday 24 January 2011

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to an indefatigable old zoologist called Desmond Morris

Desmond Morris, zoologist, ethologist, surrealist painter, television presenter and popular author is 83 today. Apparently, an ethologist studies the 'science of races'.

Desmond has crammed many things into those years. He :

* was born the son of an author of children's fiction and the great-grandson of William Morris, who was the founder of Britain's first penny paper, the 'Swindon Advertiser' and also a keen amateur naturalist.

* during his childhood, developed a strong interests in writing and in natural history.

* went to an independent school in Wiltshire, did military service, studied zoology at the University of Birmingham and then went on to get a doctorate at Oxford for his thesis on 'The Reproductive Behaviour of the Ten-spined Stickleback'.

* worked as 'Curator of Mammals' at the London Zoo, until 1966 and came to public attention in the 1950s as a presenter of the ITV television programme 'Zoo Time'.

* achieved worldwide fame in 1967 with his book 'The Naked Ape' focussing on humanity's animal-like qualities and similarities with apes and explained human behaviour as largely evolved to meet the challenges of prehistoric life as a hunter-gatherer and at the last count, the book had been translated into 23 languages and had sold 10 million copies.

* published 'The Soccer Tribe' in 1981 which was partly based on research carried out during his directorship of 'Oxford United Football Club' which included analysis of the 'tribal' chanting of the Club's fans during matches.

* is a surrealist artist whose work contributed to the British Surrealist Movement and was the Executive Director of the 'Institute of Contemporary Arts' in London from 1967-68.

* oversaw the creation of the gestural and body language for the Paleolithic human characters in the 1981 film 'Quest for Fire'.

* has been responsible for the authorship of almost 50 books including 'The Amazing Baby' in 2008 :

Here he discusses the 'The Aquatic Ape' hypothesis :

Sunday 23 January 2011

Britain is a country with a museum called 'The Great North' and an exhibition of the works of old artists celebrating the fruits of old age

"Ageing is the most important subject on the planet," said Tom Kirkwood, Director of Newcastle University's 'Institute of Ageing and Health', which is behind an exhibition at the City's 'Great North Museum: Hancock'.
Called 'Coming of Age' it seeks 'to challenge the negative perceptions about old people in society' by exploring, through art, how and why we age and its effects and to illustrate these things the works of Degas, Renoir and Henry Moore have been drafted in.

We learn that Degas had a progressive retinal eye disease which probably contributed to the wonderfully blurred, hazier backgrounds of his later and better works, including the 'Ballet Dancers'. Arguably, this helped secure his place in art history, with Renoir writing that, had Degas died at 50 he'd be no more than a footnote.

Renoir himself was so affected by rheumatoid arthritis that he couldn't hold a paintbrush in later life. Instead he turned to sculpture and employed a younger artist to form the clay following his instructions, as in the 'Mother and Child' bronze in the exhibition.

Henry Moore's illustrations for 'The Seven Ages of Man' aims to highlight the fact that ageing is a lifelong process that begins in the womb. Another Moore drawing is of the hands of Dorothy Hodgkin, one of Britain's most important scientists, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis from the age of 24.

"This idea that you've got to go quietly into a corner at a certain age is dreadful and nonsense," said the show's curator, Lucy Jenkins. "I hope people will take a lot of positives from this show, that we shouldn't fear old age."
With this in mind a video by Jordan Baseman portrays 83 year old eccentric Gordon Rowley, former president of the 'British Cactus and Succulent Society' who maintains a joyful verve for life and living.

Tom has said that : "The way things are going now, the vast majority of us are going to live to a ripe old age and if there has to come a point when you look in the mirror and you don't like what you see that's very undermining for your self-esteem and the quality of your life. This is why art, which can reach in to people and get them to think and respond differently, is so important."

Lucy and Tom said they hoped visitors would leave the exhibition with "more of a spring in their step."


Old men of Britain, apparently 'The Institute for Ageing and Health' is looking out for you by bringing together basic, clinical, social and computer scientists, engineers and researchers to address the increasingly important issues of:

•how and why we age
•the treatment of associated disease and disability
•the support of through-life health, well being and independence

Saturday 22 January 2011

'Britain is a country which has been ruined by post Second World War 'baby boomers' : according to the gospel of Geoffrey Wheatcroft

The Guardian journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft, a post Second World War 1945 'baby boomer' is hard on himself, hard on me and hard all the other 'Baby Boomers' and has declared :

'My generation squandered our golden opportunity. Apparently, those of us who grew up in the 60's had the World at our feet but, despite the 'victory of the West', we've achieved nothing. And :

* the past two decades have been the most wretched of our lifetime with high promise followed by bitter disappointment.

First the promise :

* the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Soviet Union imploded, Eastern Europe was freed, Germany reunited and the West won the Cold War without a shot fired.

* communism was vanquished, liberal democracy and the market economy triumphed throughout Europe and were bound to triumph throughout the world, from the Middle East to Africa to East Asia.

Now, 20 years on, the disappointment :

* Yugoslavia was torn apart and more horrible wars across the World from central Africa to western Asia and Sri Lanka, have killed huge numbers.

* years of 'illusory economic growth' until it turned to bust, or a bustier bust than usual.

Geoffrey quoted and agreed with the late Tony Judt who said :

'My generation has been catastrophic. I was born in 1948 so I'm more or less the same age as George W Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Gerhard Schr̦der, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Рa pretty crappy generation, when you come to think of it. It's a generation that grew up in the 1960s in western Europe or in America, in a world of no hard choices.'

His article elicited the following comments from readers :

* Phew, I thought it was just us wasters born in the 60's, who grew up in the 70's, who failed to change the world like we threatened to. Oh well, we can always hope that those born in the 70's, who grew up under Thatcher and Reagan can get their act together. Ah, shit! Too late! They already own and run the world and look at the pig's ear they've made of it...

* Didn't the failures begin before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the fatuous claim of 'the end of history'. Globalisation, imperialist wars and the destruction of the environment were all visible in the 1960s.

* And now for a bit more self-loathing...

* Goodness, is it really that bad?

* Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates and the rest most certainly did not achieve nothing but then technologists and scientists seem not to count in debates like this.

* You achieved 'the defeat of Socialism in the 1980s'.
Hilarious. Did you think that up all on your own? Bless...
'What is less impressive is the backward slide and loss of confidence in the West since then.'
What, you mean the abject failure of capitalism???

* 'If there's any hope at all, it must be that our crappy generation can slink away in shame and let a younger generation see if they can manage things better. They could scarcely do worse.'
But they will. Because they are even more useless. After all, they had your generation as parents.

* Don't be so hard on yourself and your generation, Geoffrey. It's not your fault that Ronnie and the Mad Cow got there first and cocked the whole thing up for you.

* Proper little ray of sunshine you are tonight, aren't you luv?

* You 'defeated Socialism'. The likes of Stalin defeated Socialism long before the 1980s.

* I think this is spot on. All the people I have ever found intellectually, ideologically or morally inspirational on either side of the Atlantic belong to either the generation that grew up in the Great Depression and are now in their '80s-'90s or else to my own generation. The boomers sold us out, and we have to look to the 80 and 90 year olds to give us a model to follow in this new Depression.

* Get a grip mate - go and have a puff on summat and chill out or you wont make it to Big Bang when the US and China stop trading billet dous for gee-gaws.

* I'm only in my early 30's, so in no way a baby boomer. I was however raised by baby boomer parents and I can categorically say that all this talk of how much better the baby boomers had it compared to future generations is a load of old tripe.

* The 50's and 60's where times of genuine poverty. Today's workers enjoy employment laws that our fathers would never have dreamed of, more of us will go to further education than our parents generation and whats more we stand to inherit our parents estates when they finally depart.

* You're not a patch on Nostradamus - you have to be deliberately vague when you're talking inane codswallop if you want to worry people.

* Blair may have been a disaster, but Chamberlain was worse. The recent recession was bad, but not as bad as the Great Depression. Sure, there have been wars, but no World Wars.
Speak for yourself, Geoffrey. Previous generations were not much better and probably a damn sight worse.

* Established careers, more equal education and pay, easy to divorce or not marry, campaigns putting the boot in rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment, easy access to contraception and abortion, free to move around alone, live alone, travel the world, ignore misogynist religious rules, raise children alone, read all sorts of stuff and communicate with hundreds, if not thousands.

Who fixed this for you? : the Baby boomers.

* Erm, let me see. Should I slash my wrists, or drown myself in a water butt full of icy water?
Oh, the agony of choice.

What do I think ? I'll put my money on this last comment from a reader :

* Generations are not mass spawned at regular twenty year intervals, so lending themselves to 'ratings' on what they achieved or failed to do. To some extent 'generations' are mere metaphors for different perceived 'eras', in which the actual mix of power and influence of people of different ages is always a complex continuum. For example, much of the stuff for which 'baby boomers' are blamed, like 'Thatcherism', was the brain child of people born much earlier and continued by people born later.

This old baby boomer as a baby in 1949 :

Thursday 20 January 2011

Britain is no country and a country for old men staying in their jobs

I read an article in 'The Daily Mail' newspaper entitled :
Million young Britons on the job scrapheap: Almost one in five is unemployed

Apparently, 20.3% of 16 to 24-year-olds are without a job, the highest number since records began and standing at 951,000.

This can be bad for the youngsters. 'The Prince’s Trust', has pointed to research which showed unemployment can trigger 'mental health problems in the young such as self-loathing, panic attacks and depression.'

I'm a bit puzzled by the logic behind this :

1. You have never had a job.
2. So you don't know what it's like to have a job.
3. The the thought of not having, what you have never had, is going to bring on all sorts of problems.

So who or what is to blame for this ?

* The Government, through its Employment Minister has said : ‘This is compelling evidence of the way in which the last Labour Government completely failed a generation of young people.'

* The Trades Union have said : it is the Coalition Government which 'is poisoning recovery'.

* The 'Daily Mail' has said : 'Increasing numbers of older people are staying in work for longer, a phenomenon which has attracted the label ‘bed blocking’ as it leaves fewer vacancies.

* Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of 'Migration Watch UK', has said that 'pressure on young people is made worse by the fact that just a third of jobs created over the last year went to British-born workers. More than 200,000 went to workers born abroad, compared with 100,000 to those born in this country.'

The Last Government ?
The Present Government?
Old people ?
Migrants ?

So, who does the 'Daily Mail' think are mostly to blame?

The answer : OLD PEOPLE, because you are :

* in record numbers,continuing to work, and despite reaching the traditional retirement age, 870,000 of you are part of 'Britain’s biggest-ever army of older workers' and many of you are in your 70's or even 80's.'

In mitigation, the paper does point out that :

* many of you are forced to keep working because you cannot afford to retire, most of you in the private sector don't have a pension and many of you have little or no savings and still have a mortgage and grown-up children who need financial help.

Britain says "Happy birthday" to an old actor called Tom Baker and remembers his 'Rasputin' and 'Dr Who'

Tom Baker, the actor, is 77 today.

Things you possibly didn't know about Tom, that he :

* was born in Liverpool, where his mother was a cleaner and his father a sailor who was rarely at home.

* left school at 15 to become a Roman Catholic monk and remained in the monastic life for six years and left after losing his faith.

* did his 'National Service' in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1955-57 and at the same time he took up acting as a hobby.

* was part of Laurence Olivier's 'National Theatre Company' and got his first big film break in 1971 with the role of Rasputin in the film 'Nicholas and Alexandra' after Olivier recommended him for the part :

* played in the tv serial 'Doctor Who' as 'The Doctor' moving through time and space from 1974 to 1981 and quickly made the part his own with his eccentric style of dress and speech and in particular, his trademark long scarf and fondness for 'jelly babies'.

* in a 2005 survey of British adults, found his voice to be the fourth most recognisable after the Queen, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher.

* in 2006, had his voice used by BT for spoken delivery of text messages to land line phones and recorded 11,593 phrases, containing every sound in the English language for use by the text-to-speech service.

* has his voice recorded at London's 'Natural History Museum', narrating commentary to some of the exhibits which support Darwin's theory of natural selection.

Dr Who tribute :

Interviewed 1981 at the end of his stint as 'The Doctor' :

Dr Who with his dog K9 :

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Britain is a country where some old men can remember, when they were boys, 'The King's Speech' made by Albert Windsor

I've been to the cinema to see 'The King's Speech'. It was 'Senior's Day', so the tickets were cheaper for old people and there were many of them there for this first showing of the film. They came armed with small torches to guide them safely up the darkened steps, some brought their own food and I told my wife that I thought I had spotted a thermos flask. Three of the six 'wheelchair bays' were occupied.

I'd read about the film beforehand and seen the trailer :

So I knew that :

* the film opened with Prince Albert, Duke of York, son of King George V, speaking with a stammer at the 1925 'Empire Exhibition' at Wembley Stadium.

* he sought to overcome his speech impediment with the help of speech therapists and to no avail.

* his wife, Elizabeth, met Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist and persuaded 'Bertie', her husband to attempt Logue's radical treatments.

* in their first session, Logue insisted on calling the Duke, 'Bertie', insisted that he did not smoke in his presence and wagered the Duke one shilling that he could make him read without a stammer.

* Logue convinced the Prince to read Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy, while listening to the overture from Mozart's 'The Marriage of Figaro' on headphones and the recording later reveals he speaks without a stammer.

* the film runs its course and Albert becomes 'King George VI' on the abdication of his brother from the throne in 1936.

* the climax of the film is reached with 'The Declaration of War with Germany' in 1939, when the King was given a three-page speech to read to the Nation and the Empire over the radio.

* the King summoned Logue and with only forty minutes to rehearse, Logue ran the King through all of the techniques he had learned and the speech was a success.

Here is the original :

It occured to me that, since King George had made his 'speech' in 1939, there were quite a few in the audience with me who were alive at the time, who however, if they had heard it on the radio, were unlikely to remember it, since the speech was made 72 years ago.

There was, however, one person who was depicted in the film who, no doubt can remember the speech : the young Princess Elizabeth, our present Queen. She is 85 years old and was 13 when her father made the speech. Of those depicted in the film, her father died at the age of 57 in 1952, Logue at 73 in 1953, her sister, Margaret at 72 in 2002 and her mother at 102 in the same year.

I was reminded of her part in all this by an article in 'The Guardian' today by Jonathan Freedland who made the following points, that :

* 'George VI is not the royal in The King's Speech who matters most because that honour goes to a character who barely says a word: the young Princess Elizabeth.

* the Queen has met weekly with 12 prime ministers, the first of these was Churchill, a figure as giant and remote from most younger Britons as Nelson or Wellington.

* she is a living connection to the event that has become our founding story and is the last public figure anywhere in the world with a genuine tie to the Second World War.

Jonathan Freedland's article in 'The Guardian' :

P.S. Mark Logue, the Grandson, talking about 'The 'Real' King's Speech' :

P.P.S. Bertie and Elizabeth in photos :

Monday 17 January 2011

Britain is a country and no country for more and more old men who break the law

Back in November last year, 'The Observer' Newspaper reported : Pensioner crime wave marks rise of the 'Saga lout'. Arrests of pensioners are soaring as an influx of elderly inmates creates new problems for prisons.

It was being dubbed the 'grey crime wave" or the rise of the 'Saga lout' after 'SAGA', the name of the Insurance Company specialising in policies for the elderly. Apparently, new statistics reveal that ever higher numbers of pensioners are being arrested and ending up in Britain's jails.

The following points were made, that :

* the prison system is struggling to cope with the demands of its own ageing population of lifers and long-term inmates and struggling to cope with a new wave of elderly crooks.

* experts are divided over whether or not the growing trend is due to, either people on low pensions turning to crime through necessity, or simply a tougher attitude by the courts to the elderly in the dock.

* although, while the number of crimes committed by the over-65 age group remains low as a percentage of all crime, the new statistics supplied by police forces show rises of between 15% and 25% in the numbers of pensioners being arrested.

* over 60's are the fastest-growing section of the prison population with almost 2,500 people in this age group in British prisons, making up 3% of the total, up from 2% in 2003.

* Kingston Prison in Portsmouth has become the first in the country to provide a special 'elderly wing' with stair lifts and other adaptations.

Bill Tupman, a criminologist at Exeter University, has said that :

* there is now a far harsher attitude towards the elderly from police and courts.
"The trend is definitely on the up, in contrast to what you'd expect with overall crime going down".

* changes in the law meant that police and courts were now "less likely to take pity on poor old grandad in the dock". Also "Now, with financial crime, the money and assets can be recovered, so we are far less likely to go easy on the elderly when we can take their cash and their car if we get a conviction,"

Harry Fletcher of Napo, the 'Probation Officers' Union', has said that :

* the most significant worry was that this category of inmates was last in the queue for support at a time of crippling cutbacks. "There is a total absence of strategy for the ageing criminal population. It's steadily going up and we're heading for a logjam of older people."


The "grey crime" trend appears to be an international one. In the Netherlands, there was a startlingly high percentage of over-60s appearing in court who had 'undiagnosed dementia'. Japan, France and Israel have all commissioned research into the rise of the pensioner-criminal.


A little bit of humour with an excerpt from the comedy series 'Porridge' starring the late Ronnie Barker as Fletcher and Davis Jason as the old prisoner, Blanco :

Sunday 16 January 2011

Britain is a country whose old men say "Goodbye" to Susannah York , whose beauty they remember when they were young men

Susannah York, our English film, stage and television actress has died at the age of 72.

An obituary in 'The Telegraph' has characterised her as 'the blue-eyed English rose with the china-white skin and cupid lips who epitomised the sensuality of the swinging Sixties'. I think there was more to her than that.

Things you may or may not have known about Susannah, that she :

* had a mother who was a diplomat’s daughter and a father who was a merchant banker and businessman called Simon William Peel Vickers Fletcher.

* went to private schools, one of which she was effectively expelled at the age of 13 after owning up to a naked midnight swim in the school pool.

* after leaving school she auditioned for, and was accepted by, RADA where she won the 'Ronson Award' for 'most promising student' before graduating in 1958.

* in the 1960's her film career featured part in 'Tunes of Glory', 'The Greengage Summer', 'Tom Jones', 'A Man for All Seasons', 'The Killing of Sister George' and 'Battle of Britain'.

* in 1969 co-starred with George C. Scott, as Edward Rochester, playing the title role in an American television movie of Jane Eyre.

* played Superman's mother Lara on the doomed planet Krypton in 'Superman' in 1978.

* in 1984, starred as Mrs. Crachit in 'A Christmas Carol' (1984).

* had her last film role in 'The Calling' which was released in 2010 .

Here she is, forever young, when she was 24 and I was 16 in 'Tom Jones' in 1963 :

* was described by the film critic Michael Billington as 'a bubbly, effervescent woman with a great gift for friendship whose greatest achievement was to escape the pigeonholing that is the curse of her profession and to overcome the perception of her as the flaxen-haired beauty of 1960s British movies. In her richly fulfilled later career, she proved that she was a real actor of extraordinary emotional range, not just a movie star.'

Michael's obituary in 'The Gaurdian' :