Saturday 30 April 2011

Britain is a country where more and more old men will live to be 100, whether they want to or not

According to figures quoted in a new book by the 82 year old biologist, Lewis Wolpert :

* in 1800 the average life span of a Londoner was only 30 years, rising to 42 by
1900 and then during the next 100 years it almost doubled to around 80.

* we are getting older and older, faster and faster.

* during the 20th century, life expectancy grew by more than it had during the previous 5,000 years of Man’s existence.

The 'Guardian' journalist, Alexander Chancellor reflected on this and wrote :

Live to 100? No thanks - the idea's enough to turn me into a wrinkly rebel.

'Even though I am 71, I am in reasonably good health. But already I pant a little after climbing the stairs, I have to sit down to put on my socks, and I need a little rest in the afternoon.
What on Earth would I be like if I lived to 100? I shudder to think, and luckily it is most unlikely that I will reach that age.'

He went on to make the following points, that old men :

* throughout history, have striven to fight off death and find the secret of eternal youth.

* have tried everything to prolong their lives, from eating monkey glands to having injections of minced dog testicles, as the neurologist Charles Edouard Brown-Sequard did in the 19th century, hoping for rejuvenation at the age of 70.

* found that none of these treatments worked but finally such straightforward developments such as good sanitation, medical progress and healthier diets have gone some way to fulfilling their dreams.

Alexander also made the following points, that :

* irrespective of how many miracles modern medicine can produce, the chances are that you will have run out of energy long before your 100th birthday and have become a misery to yourself and a burden to others.

* cases of people staying well and sprightly into great old age are rare and most of us succumb to infirmity and dependence on others long before that.

* excitement at the prospect of living to 100 is somewhat dampened by the thought that it may involve a decade or more of incontinence, blindness, deafness, dementia or any of the other nasty ailments that old age tends to inflict.

* in his book Lewis Wolpert digs up a 2,500-year-old quotation from an Egyptian official called Ptahhotep, who said:

‘How hard and painful are the last days of an aged man. He grows weaker every day; his eyes become dim, his ears deaf, his strength fades; his heart knows peace no longer; his mouth falls silent. The power of his mind lessens, and today he cannot remember what yesterday is like.’

The last line from Jaques famous 'all the world's a stage' speech in Shakespeare's 'As You Like It' in 1600 reflected the same sentiments :

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant
.... the whining school-boy... the lover,
a soldier....the justice....
The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Friday 29 April 2011

Britain is a Country where Royal weddings give old men the opportunity to put on their uniforms

The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, watched today by an estimated 2,000,000,000 people around the world, was also an opportunity to show off Britain's feisty old men in the shape of William's 63 year old father, Prince Charles and 89 year old Grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Royal couple were married by another old man, the 61 year old Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Thursday 28 April 2011

Britain says "Goodbye" to an old tv screen writer called Ken Taylor

The screenwriter Ken Taylor has died at the age of 88.

What you possibly didn't know about Ken, that he :

* was born in Bolton, the 7th son of a Lancashire cotton-mill owner and went to Gresham's school in Norfolk, where he 'discovered' drama.

* saw many unemployed and idle on the streets which sparked a lifelong political conscience.

* delayed a place at Cambridge University in order to fight 'Nazism' in the Second World War and after the War studied theatre direction at the 'Old Vic Theatre School'.

* had his first radio play broadcast in 1941.

* with the arrival of 'Commercial Television' in the mid-1950s, made a name for himself as a writer of gritty, kitchen-sink drama.

He then worked on the :

* 1961 tv drama, 'The Slaughter Men', with Ken Morahan which gave the actor James Bolam his first starring role.

* 'The Long Distance Blue', starring Tom Bell, in 1962.

* 1964 teleplay 'The Devil and John Brown', for which he won the Writers' Guild award.

* 1974 story of the Suffragettes : Shoulder to Shoulder :
* 1975 adaptation of Muriel Spark's 'The Girls of Slender Means'.

* 1983 BBC version of Jane Austen's 'Mansfield Park'.

* 1984 Granada series and perhaps his biggest success, 'The Jewel in the Crown', based upon the 'Raj Quartet' novels by Paul Scott * See note below.

* the 1992 Channel 4 's Mary Wesley's, 'The Camomile Lawn'.

* the 1996 'Peacock Spring', his last adaption :

The Director, Christopher Morahan has said that :

"Ken was a clever, compassionate writer and never once did his selfless talents distort the humanity of his vision and his loyalty to his material. The process of adaptation, of telling stories for a visual and popular medium is complex, requiring modesty, sympathy and intellectual rigour in discerning meanings and intentions. The adapter has to be both loyal and creative.

Ken wrote great parts for women throughout his career and preferred the company of women believing that 'the human race ... must give way to the female instincts of nurturing ... if we are to have the smallest hope of surviving.'

A good example of this is in his memorable portraits of the Pankhurst family in 1974 in 'Shoulder to Shoulder', catching the spirit of the times, both of the story and the 1970's when they were written".

Note :
'Jewel in the Crown' : set between 1942 and '47, centres on a public-school educated Indian called Hari Kumar (Art Malik) who is wrongly accused of raping a British woman. Hari is tortured by a jealous and sadistic British officer, Ronald Merrick (Tim Pigott-Smith), who knows he is innocent. Set in the fictional city of Mayapore in the years leading up to Indian independence it explains the complex relationship between the British Empire and its 'subjects'.

Britain is a country with a D.I.Y. store called B & Q with shopping cathedrals for old men on 'Diamond Card' Day and jobs for old men every day

I visited my local B & Q on Wednesday. It was 'Diamond Card Day' which means old men 60 get 10% off the price purchases by virtue of the fact that they are 'old' .

The shop is a vast cathedral, full of old people worshipping 'DIY'.

I said to the 'greeter' on the door :

" How many people do you think are in the store ?"

He replied : " About a thousand".

I said : " On a calculation of a average age of 60 years per person, there was a collective age of 60,000 years in the store which would put us back in the last Ice Age."

He laughed and agreed and here is a simulated 'Old Briton' doing his DIY 60,000 years ago and not a 'diamond card' in sight :

P.S. The B&Q company is taking a lead in the fight to combat 'Ageism'.

Its Director Mike Cutt has said :

"There is no reason to treat 'over-50' workers as any way different to other workers when it comes to employment rights. With over 19% of our workforce over 50, B&Q has gained extensive experience of this group's positive contribution, and what they may lack in youthful appeal is more than compensated with an above average dedication to exceptional customer service and assistance."

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to an old tv weather forecaster called Michael Fish and remember the 'Great Storm'

Michael Fish, possible the world's longest serving tv weather forecaster is 67 today.

Michael became infamous in the wake of the 'Great Storm of 1987', when a few hours before the storm broke, on 15 October 1987, he said during a forecast:

"Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way... well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't!".

It was the worst storm to hit South East England since 1703.

Michael is still at work and more than six years after retiring from the BBC national forecast and presents forecasts for BBC South East Today, BBC London and Radio Kent.

From Monday 12 to Friday 16 October 2009, to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Great Storm of 1987, he presented the morning weather forecasts on GMTV.

Michael was awarded the MBE in 2004 for 'services to broadcasting'. He also holds Honorary Doctorates of Science from both Exeter and City Universities as well as the 'Freedom of the City of London'.

In 2004 'The Sunday Times' gave him the honour of 'National Treasure'.

His book 'Storm Force : Britain's Wildest Weather' was published in 2007.

The Great Storm, with which Michael shall always be associated and of which he has said that "if he was given a penny for every mention of that forecast", he would "be a millionaire." :

* was responsible for the deaths of at least 18 people in England and 4 in France.

* cost the insurance industry £2,000,000,000.

Britain is a Country where 97 year old men like George Moyse take to the air and sky dive

The B.B.C. report :

Two years ago and to celebrate his approaching 98th birthday, George Moyse jumped out of a plane at 3,000 metres and into the record books to become Britain's oldest-ever parachutist.

George, who was strapped to his instructor in the tandem jump, was in a free fall for the first 1,500 metres and then floated to a perfect landing on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire.
After the jump George, who served in the Royal Air Forces 'No 1 Armoured Car Company' in the Middle East during the Second World War, said of his jump:

"It was lovely, I really enjoyed it, I wasn't frightened at all" and added "It was the first time but it won't be the last."

"I do not sit around, I get about, I go for a walk every day and I do my own cooking, washing, ironing, everything. I have just been lucky to be so agile."

In addition to celebrating his birthday, George made the jump to raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

George, who was joined in his jump by his 43-year-old Grandson, clocked just over 193kilometers per hours in his free fall decent, was met him on the ground by members of his family, including his great-grandson, who were delighted with his achievement.


George, with his quintessential British understatement, reminds me of a posting I did about 75 year old Chris Irwen, who jumped off a cliff in the West Country last year :

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Britain is a country where old men fear being victims of 'ageism' more than becoming victims of 'crime'

A joint study by the Thinktank 'Demos' and Brunel University has found that :

* over-60's fear 'age discrimination' more than being a 'victim of crime'.

* many think they are viewed as a 'burden on society' and feel patronised.

* one pensioner said: "I am sick of the portrayal of my age group by Government reports and news."

Louise Bazalgette, one of the report's authors said of this generation of old people that they are unlike any before because :

* there are more of them, they will live longer are healthier, willing to work for longer and have more political and spending power.

* in their youth they tackled discrimination of sexism, racism and homophobia and now they're taking on one of the last acceptable prejudices and want to stand up to challenge 'ageism'.

"One clear theme that came through the research was that most people in their 60's and 70's don't think of themselves as old and don't want to be treated as being vulnerable or invisible."

This reminds me of my first posting on this blog on Tuesday, 5 May 2009 when I wrote :

Invisible at a petrol station

When you get beyond 60 you become invisible. I went to my local petrol station, filled up and went in to pay.

The cashier said " Number ?". I mean, what happened to "please" ?

I barked back, " Ten".

While I was doing my card transaction I became even more invisible because the cashier answered a call on her mobile.

" Yes, put the cat out and phone Gran. Yes. Yes.Yes. ".

I turned to the lady with graying hair behind me
and said :
" I can't believe this, she's having a phone conversation while serving me."

She said " I know, it can be scary at times, but I try to blank my mind to it."

I said: " Dare I say it, you must be from the same generation as me."

The cashier offered no thanks, but I offered an exaggerated " Thankyou" and left.

Monday 25 April 2011

Britons say "Goodbye" to John Sullivan and a comic light who brightened their lives

John Sullivan, the writer of the wonderful British sitcoms : 'Only Fools and Horses', 'Citizen Smith' and 'Just Good Friends', has died at the age of 64.

I featured him in a posting last September :

John and I both had a few things in common :

* we both had the same first name and came from working class roots, me from Deptford in the South East London and him from Balham in the South West.

* his father was a plumber, mine was a saw-doctor in a timber mill and his mother worked occasionally worked as a charlady and mine had a job in a small grocery shop.

* we both failed our exam for grammar school at the age of 11.

From there, the similarities disappear, for John :

* left school at 15 with no qualifications.

* had his first job as a messenger boy for 'Reuters' and worked in a variety of low-paid jobs for the next 15 years.

* was working in the B.B.C. 'Props Department' when he approached a tv producer with a script about a young Marxist, which led to the series 'Citizen Smith' which ran 1977-80.

* submited the idea of a sit-com centred around a cockney market trader in working-class South London which became 'Only Fools and Horses' and ran from 1981-2003.

* incorporated much of the material for scripts from real-life experiences like :

-falling through a raised bar flap :

- the chandelier falling :

* went on to create other sitcoms : 'Dear John', 'Just Good Friends', 'Sitting Pretty', 'Roger Roger' and 'The Green Green Grass'.

* was paid a tibute by the Director General of the BBC who said that, he "had a unique gift for turning everyday life and characters we all know into unforgettable comedy."

* produced a final three-parter of 'Only Fools and Horses' in 1996, in which Del and Rodney discovered a watch worth £6 million which attracted more than 24 million viewers, the highest-ever audience for a British sitcom episode.

* saw some of his street slang and neologisms pass into the language, among them "dipstick", "wally", "plonker" and "twonk" (all mild terms of abuse), "cushty" (good) and "luvvly jubbly", an expression of enthusiasm which has found a place in the Oxford English Dictionary.

John talking about his work :

Saturday 23 April 2011

Britain is a country which says "Happy Birthday" to an old Australian classical guitarist called John Williams

John Williams, the 'Grammy Award' winning Australian classical guitarist, and long-term resident of Britain, is 70 today. I remember him for his hauntingly beautiful 'Cavatina' which was used for the music in the 1978 film,'The Deerhunter':

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

* was born in Melbourne, to an English father and later founder of the 'London Guitar School' and an Australian-Chinese mother who was the daughter of well known barrister.

* came to England in 1952, went to Grammar School in London and from the age of 11 attended summer courses with Andrés Segovia at the 'Academia Musicale Chigiana' in Siena, Italy.

* attended the 'Royal College of Music' in London from 1956 to '59, studying piano because the school did not have a guitar department at the time.

* had his first professional performance a classical guitarist in 1958 and since then has performed around the world, made regular appearances on radio and TV and recorded almost the entire repertoire for the guitar.

* was instrumental in bringing the works of Augustin Barrios back to popularity :

* created a classical-rock fusion duet with Pete Townshend of 'The Who' for the 1979 Amnesty International benefit show 'The Secret Policeman's Ball' :

* is knowledgeable on the origin of the guitar :

* has played the 'Enfield Dances' with Richard Harvey :

* attended the 'Guitar Fair' at Paracho in Mexico for the documentary : 'The Guitar is Their Song' :

* is a 'Visiting Professor and Honorary Member' of the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Cleo Laine and John and 'He Was So Beautiful' set to 'Cavatina' :

Friday 22 April 2011

Britain is a country with a county called Kent, a town called Sheerness and a seafront where old men remember when they were boys

I've been to the old naval town of Sheereness on the coast of Kent with my friend D.B. He was brought up on the Isle of Sheppey and is one of the little boys in this black and white postcard from the 1950's.

And here he is today, standing in the same place over half a century later.

While we walked along this stretch of sea wall another old gent came along who recognised D.B. and had been to the same school as him over half a century ago. He proceeded to tell D.B. what he had done with his life and asked not a single question about what D.B. had done with his. He does, however, stand forgiven because, unlike D.B., the old chap had spent his entire life living and working on the Isle of Sheppey and had obviously become cut off from the rest of the world.

It was a balmy afternoon and families were enjoying the sun and water with their kids.

D.B. used this photo to point out the open air swimming pool he had used as a boy.

Our next port of call was 'The Blue Town Heritage Centre which was owned and run with a small charge for admission by Jenny and occupied the building which had once been 'The Criterion Music Hall'.

Jenny produced an old school photo showing the kids who had been at the school at the same time as D.B.which allowed him to reminsce about the teachers he remembered.

Jenny's Centre was filled with a collection of memorabilia given to her by the residents of the Isle of Sheppey
including this yellow 'frigidaire' refridgerator from the 1930's, which was still working.
Jenny used the theatre to show films to local elderly residents. That afternoon they had been treated to the black and white 'Billy Liar' from the 1960's and a cup of tea.

The Blue Town Heritage Centre :


Blue Town takes its name from the collection of timber cabins built by dockyard workmen in the open area around the docks and stores and the blue-grey naval paint they used to paint them.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Britain is, according to some young men, 'No Place For Old Men'

New findings from home and care provider, 'Anchor', reveal that ageist attitudes are endemic in the workplace, with, among young Britons aged between 18 and 24, the following percentages saying of old men, that they are :

41% : * in a situation where there aren’t enough jobs for them to be in work.

14% : * people who should retire to make way for younger blood.

21% : * 'slower' and 'less productive' than their junior counterparts.

5% : * people who should be 'paid less' because they work at a 'slower pace'.

In addition,

18% : * 'grumpy'.

21% : * 'out of touch with modern society'.

70% : * not an important part of the family.

10% : * a chore to see.

Sadly, the starkest reflection of the generation divide is 20% saying 'they can never think of anything to say to their older relatives'.

To tackle the misconceptions held by the young, Anchor is launching ‘Grey Pride’, a nationwide petition to 10 Downing Street calling for Britain to follow the lead of Ireland and Canada and have a dedicated 'Older People’s Minister' to champion the over-60s at the highest level. To date, 858 people have signed the petition with Anchor's aim of getting 100,000 people to back the campaign.

Jane Ashcroft, Chief Executive of Anchor, has said:

"Casual ageism has no place in society and these results bear no reality to the lives of the over 60's in England today who are active, energetic and contribute hugely to many of the most successful businesses and organisations in the country. The dismissive attitudes highlighted by Anchor’s research towards the over 60's are a sad indictment of attitudes in England."

“Within the Government’s equality agenda there is a dedicated minister for women, the disabled and children, but none for older people, who represent nearly 25% of the population. Anchor’s Grey Pride campaign will redress the balance, reclaim growing old as a positive experience and break down the barriers preventing older people leading happy, fulfilling lives.”

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to an old musician called Alan Price

Alan Price, musician, is 69 today.

What you possibly didn't know about Alan, that he :

* was a self-taught musician educated at Jarrow Grammar School, South Tyneside and a founding member of the 'The Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo' in 1962 which was later renamed 'The Animals'.

* played the organ on songs such as 'House of the Rising Sun', 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' and 'Bring It On Home To Me' which was a key element in success of the group.

House of The Rising Sun :

Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood :

* left the group in 1965 to form 'The Alan Price Set' and enjoyed success with 'I Put A Spell On You', the Randy Newman song 'Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear' and, in 1968, 'Don't Stop The Carnival'.

I Put a Spell on You :

Simon Smith :

Don't Stop the Carnival :

* with Georgie Fame, introduced the songs of Randy Newman to a wider audience
and produced 'Rosetta' in 1971.

Rosetta :

* in 1973, wrote the music for Lindsay Anderson's film 'O Lucky Man!' and performed on screen in the film appearing as himself in one part of the storyline.

* recorded the autobiographical album 'Between Today and Yesterday' in 1974 from which the single 'Jarrow Song' was taken which returned him to the 'singles chart'.

* in 1983, took part in 'The Animals' last world tour with his solo performance of 'O Lucky Man' included in their set.

* recorded two albums with 'The Electric Blues Company','Covers' in 1994 and 'A Gigster's Life for Me' in 1996.

* still tours the UK with his own band and 'The Manfreds', 'The Searchers' and 'The Hollies'.

Monday 18 April 2011

Britain is a country where more and more old men, too poor to retire, are forced to work longer and longer

An article in the 'Daily Mail' newspaper was entitled :
Grey jobs boom: How over 65s are filling a third of new positions because they are too poor to retire.

It made the following points, that :

* nearly 33% of new jobs created over the past year went to workers aged 65 and over because more and more old men and women find themselves too poor to retire.

* the number of people aged 65 and over who are working will more than double in just five years and Dr Ros Altmann, 'Director General' of Saga, expects at least an extra million to join the pensioner workforce.

* soaring numbers of old people will look at their financial situation, see paltry pensions, no savings and too much debt and decide to carry on working.

* one in three people who were planning to retire this year have scrapped their plans due to a chronic lack of money, according to research by the 'Prudential' and many admit they simply cannot afford to retire and expect to work until the age of 70 despite having planned to retire at 62.

* with a growing pensioner poverty crisis, the Government has cleared the decks to allow people to work for as long as they like and rules allowing a boss to force workers to leave when they reached the age of 65 have been scrapped, meaninng workers can stay in their job for as long as they like, unless they are proved to be incompetent.

* About half of people in their 60s say they are ‘just getting by’ financially, according to a poll published by the charity 'Age UK' and one in ten is finding it ‘difficult’ or ‘really struggling’.