Tuesday 30 August 2011

Britain is a country where old men say "Happy Birthday" to Van Morrison and remember his songs and the hair they had when they were young

Van Morrison is 66 today. Like me, Van had a lot of hair when he was young and I suspect that, like me, his hair has departed from his head. In my case, I wear a baseball hat for warmth and sun protection and in his case he has adopted a trilby hat.

Things you possibly didn't know about him, that :

* he was born George 'Ivan' Morrison in Hynford Street Belfast, Northern Ireland.

* his father was a shipyard electrician and his mother had been a singer and tap dancer in her youth.

* he listened to his father's huge record collection, amassed during his stay in Detroit in the 1950's and grew up listening to Jelly Roll Morton, Ray Charles, Lead Belly, and Solomon Burke and later said : "Those guys were the inspiration that got me going. If it wasn't for that kind of music, I couldn't do what I'm doing now".

* he had his first acoustic guitar when he was 11 and at 12 formed his first band, a skiffle group called 'The Sputniks', named after the recently launched Soviet satellite and played at some of the local cinemas with him doing most of the singing and arranging.

* at 14, talked his father into buying him a saxophone, took lessons in tenor sax and music reading, left school at 16 in 1960 with no qualifications and settled into a job as a window cleaner while he continuing to play part-time.

* at 17, toured Europe for the first time with 'The International Monarchs'.

* helped to create the band 'Them' in 1964 which took its name after the 1950's horror movie 'THEM !

* had 3 chart hits with : "Baby, Please Don't Go" in 1964

and "Here Comes the Night" and "Mystic Eyes" in 1965,


though it was the b-side of the first called "Gloria" which became the classic :

* when 'Them' split up he started his solo career with "Brown Eyed Girl" in 1967 and 40 years forty years later in 2007, it was the fourth most requested song of DJs in the US.

Here it is performed by an older Van :

My favourite : "Have I told you lately" :

and those beautiful lyrics :

Have I told you lately that I love you ?
Have I told you there's no one above you ?
Fill my heart with gladness,
Take away my sadness,
Ease my troubles, that's what you do.

Oh the morning sun in all its glory,
Greets the day with hope and comfort too.
And you fill my life with laughter,
You can make it better,
Ease my troubles that's what you do.

There's a love that's divine,
And it's yours and it's mine.
Like the sun at the end of the day,
We should give thanks and pray to the One.

Have I told you lately that I love you ?
Have I told you there's no one above you ?
Fill my heart with gladness,
Take away my sadness,
Ease my troubles, that's what you do.

There's a love that's divine,
And it's yours and it's mine,
And it shines like the sun.
At the end of the day we will give thanks,
And pray to the One.

What shall I buy myself to celebrate Van's birthday ? A new basebell cap or a trilby hat ?

Sunday 28 August 2011

Will Britain become a country like Germany, where old men wait for non existent buses in the gardens of their old peoples' home ?

I thought the story about phoney bus stops outside old peoples' homes in Germany was worth investigating.

Apparently :

* Simone Zmura, Director of a Hamburg retirement home, told a local newspaper :
" People suffering from dementia can be very restless. They need to move, and they often want to leave and get out".

* A year ago, the home decided that 'if you can't beat 'em, you have to join 'em' and like many twilight homes in Germany, installed a bus-stop in the garden for restless Alzheimer's patients.

* Many old men and women will sit there for hours, waiting for a bus which never comes, convinced they left the oven on in the apartment they haven’t lived in for sixty years.

* Richard Neureither from a home in Duesseldorf told a TV station :
"You can't rely on rational arguments with dementia sufferers, you have to enter into their reality."

* most carers agree that allowing the patients to go along with their urge to head for the great blue yonder is the most humane option.

* Sabine Gruenwald from the Muehlenau Residence in Hamburg, which introduced the scheme last summer said that :
"The sense that they have the freedom to do what they feel they need to do is very soothing to patients".

* Sabine also said that patients' families approve wholeheartedly and :
"Relatives are invariably glad that the patients are allowed to roam about and can go and sit down outside. We're thinking about getting a roof for the bus-stop so they can even go out in the rain."

* Another old people's home in Remsheid had the same idea, and goes one step further by fitting out the bus-stop with adverts and timetables dating back thirty years to give the oldies a sense of familiarity and a reminder of days gone by when they were younger and fitter.

* While dementia tends to destroy short-term memory, long-term memory can often remain more reliable and ties to the past can help patients feel more relaxed. Sabine Gruenwald agrees. "We’re planning on redesigning the bus-stop in a 1960s look," she said.

I think that the Beatles 'Help' poster would the most appropriate.

Britain and Germany, both no countries for old men ?

I'm back to Britain from Bavaria soon. A quick trawl through Google under 'old people in Germany' uncovered a site called 'Toytown Germany'- Germany's English-speaking crowd.
On this a member asked :

It seems Germany is full of old people. Is it just me, or are there lots and lots of old people in Germany?
This is a genuine question. I live in a very pleasant town in Germany's sunny south west so, who knows, maybe I am in the retirement belt. It's just that everywhere I turn, I see white haired people. What's everybody else's experience?

Expaticus replied :
'Yes. Welcome to the world's theme park for oldsters. And on top of it, they're mean.'

Showem said :

'You do see lots of old people about. But I think you see them for a few reasons. Germany's 60-70 year olds are probably in better shape than those of a lot of other countries. Therefore, they still get out and about quite a bit, not just stuck at home watching TV all day. Plus when they are out and about, in cities they will be taking public transport, so you will see them all around you. Not like other countries where they would be driving places in cars, so therefore less noticeable.'

Carl said :

'It's like a never-ending nightmare. Every time I wake-up, I see an old person next to me.'

kyllmann offered :

'They are much more likely to be out and about, keeping themselves fit, travelling widely and generally enjoying the retirement that they have worked for.... and ramming their grocery carts into your rear in the grocery store checkout lane...'

Another website focussed on :
Why old people in Germany have such a hard time finding work.

And another, called, 'Gro├čansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift' and I'm not sure about this one, highlighted :

Going places? Old people's homes across Germany are erecting fake bus-stops to make it easier to round up senile pensioners trying to make a run for it, and also to help soothe patients who feel they have things to do, places to go.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Germany is a country with an island for old men in the Baltic Sea called Usedom

We travelled from Bavaria in the south of Germany to the Island of Usedom in the north, a distance of 500 kilometres at the speed of 180 kilometres per hour, given that there is no speed limit on the autobahns.
The little seaside town of Karlshagen, where we are staying is full of old men and women and young families with small children. For both groups the nearby beach is flat and safe and, for old men in particular, the local wildlife provides a feast for their eyes and food for their thoughts.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Germany is an old country with an old County called Bavaria where old men drive old cars, reminded what ' a drive' was like when they were boys

I'm in Bavaria, in Southern Germany staying in a village at the house of my wife's brother, C.D. who is the proud owner of a 1956 Mercedes 220A car. We worked out that I was 9 years old when it was made and he was 7.

I found myself reaching for the seatbelt when we started a little journey over country roads to the village Walting in the area of Altm├╝hltal. The car had no belts fitted - just like the old days and their absence reminded me of the sense of space and amount of movement we had in the old cars. The suspension was good and the ride was smooth, but C.D. had to work hard with the absence of 'servo assisitance' on the steering. The lack of seat belt reminded me of the space and freedom to move we had in the cars of yore. It also reminded me that 'a drive' in a car was a special occasion and, in my case, in the back of cars owned by men like Uncle Harry or Uncle Lloyd George who had been named after the Chancellor of the Exchequer before the First World War which broke out in 1914.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Britain is a country where old men say "Happy Birthday" to Maureen O'Hara whose beauty beguiled them as boys and their fathers as men

Maureen O'Hara, Irish film actress and singer is 91 years old today.

Things you possibly didn't know about Maureen, that she :

* was born in 1920 in Dublin, where her father was in the clothing business, her mother was a former operatic contralto and at the age of 10, began to work in amateur theatre in the evenings.

* had an unsuccessful film screen test which was later seen by the actor Charles Laughton who, despite her overdone makeup and costume, was intrigued, paying particular notice to her large and expressive eyes and offered her a contract with his company, Mayflower Pictures.

* starred in her first major film 'Jamaica Inn', directed by Alfred Hitchcock, seventy two years ago in in 1939 and Laughton was so pleased with her performance that he cast her in the role of Esmeralda opposite him in 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.'

* was directed by John Ford, as Angharad in 'How Green Was My Valley' in 1941 and in in 1946 became a 'naturalized citizen of the United States' and in 1947,
starred in 'Miracle on 34th Street', which, despite being released in May, has become a perennial Christmas tv classic.

* is remembered for her on-screen chemistry with John Wayne and made 5 films with him between 1948 and 1972.
The Quite Man :

* at the height of her career, was considered one of the world's most beautiful women.
Film clips :

So "Happy Birthday" Maureen, you were making films before I was born and brightened my life in the cinema and 'in colour' in the grey Post Second World War pre-tv 1950's when I was a boy.

The 'Gaumont' cinema in Lewisham, London, where my Dad took me to see Maureen's films.

An earlier posting I did about Jude Law and myself, both born in Lewisham :

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Britain is no longer a country for an old Scottish actor called Iain Blair and lady writer called Emma Blair

Iain Blair, Scottish actor and author who, using the pen name Emma Blair wrote a series of romantic novels, has died at the age of 69.

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

* was born in Glasgow in Scotland, where his father died from died from tuberculosis shortly after his birth and his mother died when he was eleven, moved to the USA to live with an aunt and after graduating from Milwaukee, returned to Scotland to work with an insurance company.

* became bored with his job, moved to Australia at seventeen where he worked as a proof reader on a Sydney newspaper and a life guard at Sydney's South Steyne Beach.

* after a year, returned to Glasgow where he worked as a 'feature writer' on the 'Sunday Post' and then following a visit to the cinema to see Burt Lancaster in 'The Flame and the Arrow', resolved to become an actor.

* won a place at the 'Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dramatic Art', graduated, got work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and during a 20 year career in acting, had parts in many tv dramas including one in which he, as a Scottish oil man, conned David Jason with a dodgy deal in the comedy 'Only Fool's and Horses' :

* went to audition for a part in the 1981 film 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and recalled that, after a difficult journey to the studio followed by a long wait " eventually a rather small man came into the room. "I'm Steven Spielberg. Can you come back tomorrow?" "No, I fucking can't," I replied in traditional Glasgow fashion. And that was the end of my acting career."

* began writing while a stage actor, initially plays for theatre and tv and then unsuccessful 'thrillers' before switching to romantic fiction and on submitting 'Where No Man Cries' to his publishers in 1982, it was suggested the book would sell better if the author was a woman and so he adopted the pseudonym Emma Blair.

* once joked that "The publishers decided on a sex change and so that was that. Emma I became and Emma I stayed." and when asked 'what kind of person Emma was ?', replied: "Probably about late 40s, a bit of a tough cookie and had a certain amount of personal tragedy, which is why she writes with such passion." His wife once commented that : "Emma was not the quiet, retiring type but a 6ft 3in Glaswegian who enjoyed a pint and a smoke."

* wrote 30 novels over 20 years and kept his identity secret until 1998, when his novel, Flower of Scotland was nominated for the 'Romantic Novel of the Year Award', required him to admit to being the author of the books.

Iain, one of Britain's most popular authors with his books the most borrowed from British libraries, was forced to give up writing in 2007 after being diagnosed with diabetes.

Alasdair Steven writing in 'The Scotman'said:
"Many of his books were of that genre: strongly romantic but very realistic. Blair had a fine ability to reflect social conditions within the body of his writing while the romantic element provides the main thrust to the story. He was a fine wordsmith and an exceptional story-teller...demonstrated in his acclaimed 'Flower of Scotland', about a family of whisky distillers in Perthshire as the First World War is about to break out. The family face many problems and as the war ends, they return to Scotland much changed."

Britain is a country where old men fear not, knowing their 'men of the people' Prime Minister and Mayor of London, shall make all well

Britain is a country shaken to its core by riots and looting in its major cities, carried out by young people form the lower strata of urban society.

Two key figures, in addressing the problems are the 45 year old Prime Minister, David Cameron and the 47 year old, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Both men were former members of the Bullingdon Club, the elitist Oxford University drinking and dining clique. David standing in the back row is an ex pupil of the fee paying Eton College, son of a stockbroker, grandson of a baronet, descendant of King William IV and distantly related to the Queen.

Boris seated in the front row is also an 'Old Etonian', son of a banker, descendant of King George II and an 8th cousin of David.

Both men, by virtue of their birth and education are clearly ably equipped to understand and deal with the complex socio-economic problems which have spawned the paroxysm of violence, rioting and looting which have convulsed our inner cities.

Old men can sleep easy in their beds knowing that, even though these two key men are from aristocratic backgrounds and a world away from those who took part in disorder, they shall nonetheless, restore peace and tranquility to our unquiet land.

Two earlier posts about the Government :

Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Is Britain a country whose well- heeled Government will inflict financial pain on its poor old men ?

Monday, 24 May 2010
Britain's new Government is no place for young men from poor backgrounds

Monday 15 August 2011

Britain is not only a country for lonely old men but also 'facebook' addicted lonely young men

A study by 'Yours Magazine' claims that teenagers are as lonely as old people because they spend so much time making 'virtual friends' on sites such as 'facebook', that they find it difficult to make real-life mates.

Apparently :

* the average teenager spends three and a half hours a day on social network sites and a third talk more 'online' than 'in person' with friends.

* making ‘proper’ pals is increasingly difficult for young people despite them each having an average of 243 ‘friends’ on Facebook.

* two thirds of those aged under 18 do not consider Britain to be a friendly country.

The 'Relationships Expert', Julie Peasgood, believes technology is isolating people : "You can’t hug a 'Facebook' friend. Touch calms us, heals us and allows us to connect with other people."

"Modern society doesn’t encourage us to speak face to face," said Valery McConnell, Editor of Yours Magazine. "As a result, loneliness levels in Britain are soaring to crisis point and are set to get even worse. Eighteen year-olds are as lonely as 80-year-olds. What an indictment of Britain that such a simple need – friendship – is beyond the reach of most."

An earlier postings where I dealt with 'facebook' and attitutudes to old men :
Sunday, 29 May 2011
Britain is country and facebook a social network for people who do not love old men

Also, postings about lonely old men :

Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Britain is a country where for many old men " loneliness is their only constant companion

Sunday, 6 June 2010
Britain is a country with more and more lonely old men

It is encouraging to note that the magazine has got time for a 71 year old singer called Cliff Richard.

My posting on Cliff :
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Britain says "Happy Birthday" and raises a glass to two rich, kind old men called Sir Roger Moore and Sir Cliff Richard

Cliff singing 'The Young Ones' at the age of 22 :

Sunday 14 August 2011

Britain is no longer a country for an old painter of 'butterflies on the wing' called David Measures

David Measures has died at the age of 73.

Things you possible didn't know about David, that he :

* was born in Warwick where his family lived in the tiny 'Old Toll Cottage', tucked below the Castle on the banks of the River Avon and as a boy, spent every spare moment exploring the countryside, rowing and swimming in the river.

* said that nature called to him all his life : "There is a magnet in me drawn to the subtle sense-aura of wild freedom, the porous exchange apparent in wild places and the richness of variety and subtlety, which I miss inside a building."

* studied at the 'Slade School of Art' in London and excited by the panache of post Second World War American artists, his work became increasingly abstract.

* in the late 1960s, his particular interest in butterflies emerged as he was drawn by a fascination with the effects of colour on the retina.

* began making studies of the iridescence on butterfly wings and started to develop the skills needed to paint them 'on the wing', learning to do without brushes and water, producing delicate, energetic paintings with his fingertips and spit, with fine details picked out with his nails.

* so became the first artist to paint live butterflies in flight, in their natural habitats when before this was done entirely from dead specimens.

* learnt to be absolutely still and one day when standing in a clump of heather, wrapped up in an overcoat and scarf, when two walkers passed by and one said : "What's that scarecrow doing there?"

* also began to paint landscapes and developed an original technique using small rollers and stencils to create to produce little, jewel-like paintings.

Land Gallery

* apparently had a sheer joy at being alive and uplifted those who knew him with his exuberance.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Britain has been no country and a sad country this week for three men who, in turn, lost their shop, their son and a their life

Maurice Reeves, 80 years old, lost is business in Croydon on Monday night.

Tariq Jahan. 45 years old, lost his son in Birmingham on Wednesday night.

Richard Mannington-Bowes, 68 years old died from his injuries on Thursday night after being attacked in Ealing.

I am reminded of the words of the poet John Donne who wrote 'Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions' in 1624 :

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

A little bit of all of us in Britain died this week.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Britain is no longer a country for an old gentleman called Richard Mannington Bowes, struck down for trying to douse a fire in a riot

Richard has been hailed as a 'community hero' for trying to stop youths in Ealing, London, setting fire to bins during Monday night's riots when he was he was knocked to the ground and suffered a fractured skull. He was taken to intensive care and has now died from his wounds. His phone and wallet were stolen in the attack and it is believed that he lived alone.

Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane, leading the murder inquiry, said: "Through CCTV we have identified a strong suspect."

A local shopkeeper described Richard as "a really, really nice guy, a nice, old, public school gent; really nice, wouldn't harm a fly." Apparently, he would take supermarket trolleys which had been left by taxi ranks back to shops and would pick up street rubbish.

Ealing has lost a man who cared for his local community.

Britain has lost a brave old gentleman.

What a sad place it has become.

Flowers left at the scene of the crime.

News report :

Britain is a country where a father called Tariq Jahan speaks with the voice of an old man about a young son, now dead

Tariq Jahan is 45 years old, but when he spoke movingly and with great dignity, in public, about the murder of his 21 year old son, Haroon, he spoke with the voice of a very sad, very old man.

Haroon was one of three young Muslims who died after they were thrown into the air when they were hit by a car which mounted the pavement at 50mph while they were trying to protect local shops from looters in their district in Birmingham on Tuesday night.

The killings constituted the worst incident in four nights of rioting across Britain. Local people claimed that Afro-Caribbean gangs had been prowling the area, setting light to cars and shouting at Muslims ‘you will burn’ just before the alleged murders.

As racial tensions rose to boiling point with some Muslims calling for ‘retribution’, Tariq, who desperately tried to revive his dying son, urged people not to seek revenge.

Standing on a wall in front of a crowd he said:

"I lost my son. Blacks, Asians, whites – we all live in the same community.
Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home – please."

The context of the killings was that :

* tensions were already running high in Birmingham on Tuesday when hours before the three men died a 39-year-old woman, Rashida Ahmed, was attacked by a gang of 12 black men in the Alum Rock area of the city.

* Haroon and Shazad Ali, 30, and his brother Abdul Musavir, 31, had left their Mosque after evening prayers at 11.30pm on Tuesday.

* the three were standing in Dudley Road to protect local businesses from looters when a speeding car, allegedly deliberately, swerved into them.

* a local shopkeeper accused largely African-Caribbean looting gangs of targeting Asian-owned businesses, easier targets compared with the city centre which was full of police.

* Haroon’s cousin, Ali Hussain, said the killings were part of simmering race problems in the area and warned militant members of the Asian community were planning to launch ‘retribution’ attacks on the black gangs.

It was against this background that Tariq issued his plea for peace.

Tariq appeals for calm :

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Britain is no country for a sad old shopkeeper called Maurice Reeves, owner of an old furniture shop burnt to a shell in a riot

This is 80 year old Maurice Reeves and these are the burnt remains of his shop which had been im his family in South London over 5 generations for 140 years.

While Maurice was celebrating his wedding anniversary to his 72 year wife at a restaurant in Central London, a mob was rampaging through Croydon High Street and his store became a target and was firebombed. The first he knew of it was when he got home, turned on the tv and saw his shop in flames.

"What kind of people would do that?" asked Maurice in disbelief and sadness as he stood at a police cordon the next morning with smoke belching from the ruins of his shop.
"Our shop was the hub of this community. We’ve weathered so much, only to have our shop smashed up by people in our own community. I’m shocked to the core."

Maurice began working in the shop shortly after the end of the Second World War in 1945, when he was 16 and said: "Children used to be well-behaved then but these days it doesn’t seem to be the case. A lot of them leave school without the basic skills and sometimes parents aren’t doing their job."
"When I was a boy there was so much more of a sense of law and order in the community. There weren’t the troublesome types and we’d all be home by 10pm."

His shop had been founded by his Great-Great-Grandfather, Edwin in 1867 and in the photo Maurice's grandfather, is pictured second from left in the apron while his great grandfather Edwin, stands next to him, second from right

During the Second World War, when much of Central Croydon was destroyed in attacks by German V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets, the store survived and Maurice remembers hiding in the cellar during air raids.

When he retired, the running of the shop have passed to his two sons and on Tuesday they joined him at a meeting with Prime Minister, David Cameron, to air their views when he visited Croydon fire station.

On a visit to the scene the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, described the shop’s destruction as "heart-breaking" and "It’s just unbelievable and it’s scarcely possible to believe that this is London. What kind of sense does it make from the point of view of the rioters and the looters to destroy a business that is actually creating business and wealth in the community?"

London Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said: "We understand the level of distress. Anyone who saw Mr Reeves on the TV and didn’t have a lump in their throat is not a human being."

Maurice expresses his feelings :

The fire :

His shop demolished :