Wednesday 30 November 2011

Britain is acountry which says "Goodbye" to one old film director called Ken Russell and "Happy Birthday" to another called Ridley Scott

Ken Russell died at the age of 84 on sunday and Ridley Scott is 74 today.

Question : Did these two great film directors have anything in common when they were boys and young men ?
* Ken was grew up in Southampton, where his father ran a shoe business and Ridley in South Shields, his father was a colonel in British Army and absent for most of his early life.

* by the age of ten, after he was given a cinema projector, Ken was screening Charlie Chaplin movies in the garage while his relatives watched from the warmth of the family car and Ridley's favoutite films were 'Citizen Kane' and 'The Seven Samurai'.

* at the age of 15, Ken was sent to the strict Pangbourne Nautical College, which prepared boys for the Merchant Navy and Ridley attended Grangefield Grammar School.

* after leaving school Ken joined in the Merchant Navy in The Second World War
and was discharged after a voyage in the Pacific where he said : 'we had a mad captain who thought a Japanese submarine was going to attack us. I went slightly strange and a doctor said I had anxiety neurosis', whereas Ridley studied design at West Hartlepool College of Art.

* Ken's first job was as a dancer in the chorus of the touring show of 'Annie Get Your Gun' and then in the late 50's, got a job in the BBC making film profiles of the poet John Betjeman and comic Spike Milligan, whereas Ridley in the 1960's got his break working on the popular television police series 'Z-Cars' and the science fiction series 'Out of the Unknown'.

Answer to the question : well, apart from that they both enjoyed films as boys and both worked for the BBC, the answer is :
they had absolutely nothing in common.

Ken's career from the BBC :

My favourite film of Ken's, 'Women in Love' :

Ridley discussing my favourite film of his, 'Galdiator' :

The trailer :

Who would have thought that this College would produce Ken ? :

Saturday 26 November 2011

Britain is, more and more, no country for old Asian men

An article in 'The Daily Mail' newspaper yesterday by By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was entitled :


In it, she confirmed my hypothesis that : Britain is No Country for Old Men.

Yasmin is an interesting woman, who :

* is 62 years old, was born in East Africa into the Ugandan Asian community in Kampala who came to Britain when she was 23 and after working as a teacher, particularly with immigrants and refugees, moved into journalism in her mid-thirties.

* has written for a number of newspapers, won various awards for her journalism and appeared on current affairs TV shows.

Yasmin has, what I would call, 'gravitas' and in her article she made the point that, although millions sob because their favourite star has been voted off the TV shows, 'The X Factor' or 'Strictly Come Dancing', when it comes to real pain, no one seemed to care.

She said :

'The truth is that in Britain in 2011, few shed any tears over the cruel way the elderly are treated in this country. A new and shocking report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that thousands of old people are being appallingly abused in their own homes by the very individuals employed to care for them.'

'The sorry truth is that it is not just the professionals who have given up on the elderly. The maltreatment of pensioners by carers goes on only because there is widespread indifference to the fate of the old in society at large.'

'Old people in our country today are seen not as individuals, but as a burden — a growing mass of drooling, incontinent, helpless and demanding parasites.'

'You may think I’m exaggerating, but there is no doubting the fact that the elderly are wholly cast as an economic drag on the young and the nation.'

She conceded that there were still communities in Britain where families looked after their old relatives and among British Asians, for example, it was considered a sin to abandon or neglect the needs of the people who gave you life. By tradition, parents could expect to be with their families until the end. However, even here this was changing and Asians too are also beginning to see nursing homes as convenient places to place old relatives.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Britain says "goodbye" to a quintessentially British cartoonist called David Langdon

David Langdon, newspaper and magazine cartoonist, who wittily captured life in Second World War Britain , has died at the age of 97.

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

* was born in London and began to draw at the age of four on pavemment stones outside his house and then the margins of any school book, to the displeasure of his teachers at the Davenant Grammar School.

* had parents who did not consider 'drawing' as any kind of career and left school in 1931 securing a 'safe' job in the Architects Department of the London County Council then got his cartoons published in the staff magazine.

* got a political cartoon published in a milk-trade magazine, edited by a friend, a series of sporting cartoons in the 'Sunday Referee' then broke into'Punch Magazine' in 1937.

* perfected his style and created the use of the 'open mouth' in joke cartoons, whereas before characters were not drawn as if they were actually 'speaking' the captions beneath the pictures.

* had his first book of cartoons, 'Home Front Lines' published in 1941 at the time
he became a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force, where he served as cartoonist and eventually editor of the monthly RAF Journal.

* after the War, worked for 'Punch' and the pocket magazine, 'Lilliput' and also had a weekly cartoon column of topical jokes in the 'Sunday Pictorial', later renamed the 'Sunday Mirror' and stayed with Mirror Group until 1990.

* worked for the maufacturers Bovril and Schweppes and from 1953 broke into children's comics with 'Professor Puff and His Dog Wuff' for the biggest selling weekly of the time, the 'Eagle'.

* wrote in his foreword to his first book :

'To me it is the British sense of humour which is still the fount of ideas, and in paying my tribute to it and to the marvellous way it has persisted undaunted through the darkest hours, I raise my tin hat to those faintly ridiculous but wonderful people, the men, women and children of the blitzed areas whose sense of humour will carry through to victory.'

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Britain is no country for old men expecting 'care' in their own homes and 'respect' for their human rights

A headline on the front page of the 'Guardian' newspaper today was entitled :
Revealed : abuse of elderly by council carers.

The report 'Close to Home' by the 'Equality and Human Rights Commission' has declared that old people are being robbed, left hungry and unwashed and face unchecked 'ageism' from council-funded care which is meant to help them live in their own homes.

In a Britain which is no country for old men, it is no surprise to find that for many of those who receive 'care' in their own homes :

* the quality of care in helping them to dress, wash, eat and take medicines, was so poor it breached their human rights with evidence of a 'systematic failure' across Britain.

and for some there was :

* sporadic violence and financial abuse as well as disregard for their privacy and dignity when carrying out intimate tasks by 'carers' partly because councils paid them for too little of their time, sometimes as little as 15 minutes with individuals.

* cruelty, with some care workers placing food in "front of older deaf/blind people, but not letting them know it was there, or leaving it in an inaccessible place".

The Report said : 'The cumulative impact on older people can be profoundly depressing and stressful: tears, frustration, expressions of a desire to die and feelings of being stripped of self-worth and dignity – much of which was avoidable.'

It also recommended 'greater legal protection' for old people after discovering the 'Human Rights Act' does not cover all home care situations.

The General Secretary of 'The National Pensioners Convention', Dot Gibson, said the report's findings were shocking:
"The social care system is in urgent need of reform from improving the pay, training and qualifications of staff to better regulation and monitoring of care providers."

Old men and women, however, need have no fear, because the 'Minister for Care Services', Paul Burstow has said:
"The EHCR's report exposes the good, bad and ugly sides of care in peoples own homes. This government won't tolerate poor care. I am determined to root out ageism and bad practice to drive up quality and dignity in care."

Liz Kendall, however, the Labour Opposition Shadow Minister said:
"The government is cutting funding for older people's social care by £1.3 billion in real terms, these cuts are pushing the system to breaking point. Eight out of 10 councils are now only providing care for those with substantial and critical needs, and 15 minute home visits are all too often becoming the norm."

It comes as no surprise that many old people are reluctant to complain about their treatment because they 'do not want to get their care workers into trouble.'

What a sad country Britain has become.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to an old director called Peter Hall and two old actors called John Bird and Tom Conti

Today, collectively representing 300 years on earth :

Peter Hall, theatre, film and opera director is 81
John Bird, actor and writer is 75
Tom Conti, actor and director is 70

They were born :
Peter, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England

John, Bulwell, Nottingham, England

Tom, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland

Three interesting things about their youth :

* Peter's father was a station master.
* John briefly joined the 'Socialist Party of Great Britain' when he was at school.
* Tom's father was born in Italy.

John as an army general :

Tom as a duellist :

Peter talking about being a theatre director :

Saturday 19 November 2011

Britain is a country where more and more old men are getting 'silver separations'

An article in the 'Daily Mail' newspaper yesterday was entitled :
Rise of the 'silver separations': Divorce rate for over-60s surges

Figures reveal that they are the only age group where the divorce rate is rising with more than 11,500 granted divorce in 2009, up 4% per cent in two years contrasted with a fall in the rate for all age groups of more than 11%.

On reaching retirement and without the routine of work to fill the day, many married couples realise have nothing in common and can no longer stand one another.

Ros Altmann, Director General of the over-50's group, 'Saga', said that this is more proof that life is really changing for the over-60's and that many 'baby boomers' are :

* starting the next phase of their lives, not ending their life as people in the past were often led to expect.

* redefining life at older ages and have re-evaluated their relationships and decided to start again.

* not 'old' and can do many or most of the things that they could do in their earlier years, going on great holidays in the Himalayas, trekking through Borneo, visiting far-flung wild destinations or suddenly taking up sports that they never had a chance to try when they were younger.

Britain is no country for an old singer called Cliff Richard on a radio station called 'Absolute Radio 60s'

Cliff Richard, the 71 year old singer, is in the news with a newspaper headline :

Chorus of protest as new 60s radio station bans Cliff: Stars back singer over 'bonkers' boycott

Shunned: Cliff Richard, who was wildly popular in the late 50s, has now been told he is not cool enough for radio

Apparently, the radio station, 'Absolute Radio 60s', in what appears to be a publicity stunt, has declared that the old chap's music was ‘not cool’ enough to broadcast.

Other old musicians have chipped in to his defence including 67 year old Roger Daltry, who said : "Just to put a blanket ban on Cliff’s music does seem unfair because at certain times in his career he’s made a few great rock songs –'Move It' and 'Devil Woman' being two examples".

62 year old Francis Rossi called Cliff a : "pioneer of British rock" and veteran DJs 68 year old, Tony Blackburn and 66 year old, Dave Lee Travis also chipped in with support.

In an interview in ITV1’s 'Loose Women', the old boy himself said :
"I think it’s a great scam, don’t you think it’s a scam ? In a funny, strange way, they’re using me to advertise their station and I hope they are going to be really successful because then I can say, “Could they have ever done it without me?” and the answer is probably “No”."

Despite all this, a spokesman for 'Absolute Radio', which launches the digital channel on November 22, said it would not lift the ban and "there is a place in the world for Cliff Richard, it’s just not on Absolute Radio 60s. We believe timeless acts of the decade that remain relevant today are The Beatles, The Stones, The Doors and The Who, not Sir Cliff."

Well Cliff, when I your songs today, they take me back to my early teens in those far away 1960's....

Living Doll : 1959

Fall in Love with You : 1960

Travelin' Light : 1961

Theme for a Dream : 1961

The Young Ones : 1962

The Next Time : 1962

Do You Wanna Dance : 1962

Friday 18 November 2011

Britain is no country for old men but Sweden is one where they enjoy a 'new old age'

I was intrigued by an article in 'Daily Mail' newspaper entitled :

Life begins at 70!
The passion grows with the passing years.
Elderly are cleverer, happier… and having more sex than they did 30 years ago.

Closer inspection revealled that it was based on a long-term research project at Gothenburg University in Sweden led by Professor Ingmar Skoog, who said:

"This is the rock and roll generation born in the 1930's and 40's now getting old and they are not going to be sitting on a park bench feeding the birds. Being 75 today is probably like being 55 was 30 years ago. It's time to start talking about the 'new old age'."

The project started back in 1971, when more than 1,000 70-year-old men and women born in 1901-02 were examined by doctors and interviewed about their lives to obtain a picture their diseases, functional capacity and social networks. They were examined again at the age of 75 and then at regular intervals until the last one died at the age of 105.

In 2000, a new study of 70-year-olds born in 1930 using the same methods and comparing them with their earlier counterparts revealed that old men in Sweden today are :

* having more sex than those of their age 30 years.

* enjoying better quality sex, which could be due to a fall in impotence rates and more divorces triggering fresh relationships.

* according to intelligence test scores, smarter than ever, due to better schooling beyond secondary level which has risen from 14% to almost 40%.

* more outgoing than they were in the 1970's and talk more to their neighbours, yet the number who 'feel lonely' has increased.

* are not suffering from more dementia disorders, yet more consider themselves to be 'mildly depressed'.

* are coping better with everyday life with the number needing help with 'cleaning' falling from 25% to 12% and 'taking a bath' from 14% to 4%.

Prof Skoog concluded that : " pensioners are generally healthier and perkier today than they were 30 years ago. This may be of interest both in the debate about where to set the retirement age and in terms of the baby boomers now hitting retirement age."

Here the Professor is talking about 'I know not what', but I love the sing-song quality of his Scandinavian voice :

I also like the voices of these two old men with their pet moose :

Thursday 17 November 2011

Britain, no country for poor old men who can't afford to heat their homes in what might be their last winter... fear not !

A recent study which suggests that as many as 2,700 old Britons die each winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes has highlighted a problem which has been reported continuously over the years over the years by :

* 'AGE UK' in 2003 :
Britain is a rich nation; its old people should not be dying of the cold ...
.. why Britain has such an appalling record of older people dying at this time of
year is because. ...

* BBC NEWS in 2006 :
Why more people die in the winter... More than 23000 elderly people died as a result of being too cold last winter in England and Wales. The year before the toll was 29000.

* BBC in 2008 :
Thousands of elderly people are dying each winter in a 'national scandal'..

* The 'Daily Telegraph' in 2010 :
Nine elderly people died every hour from cold related illnesses last winter
against a background of freezing temperatures and soaring energy ...

So what has the Government done to alleviate the problem ?
Apparently, nothing. In fact, despite sky-high energy prices, it has cut winter fuel payments this year from £400 to £300 for the over-80s, and £250 to £200 for all other pensioners.

So rather than target those old people most in need the Government has cut the payment for all.

Poor old men, however, need fear not ! Help is at hand. Politicians and public figures have joined 'Saga' to support the 'Surviving Winter Appeal'.


It is very gratifying to see some very rich old men have got behind the idea like :

* millionaire Lord Sugar : "Don't pay me winter fuel money."

* actor Sir David Jason : "It would be great to think that all those people who are in a position to forgo part or all of their own winter fuel payment could join this great scheme and spread a little warmth."

* t.v. personalities Sir Terry Wogan and Sir Michael Parkinson.

Britain's poor old men who might die of the cold this winter say :

" Well done lads. Thanks to you we might see the Spring of 2012 after all "

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Britain is no country for old men who had a lean time when they were a foetus then a baby many years ago

A recent article in the Guardian newspaper was entitled :

With the help of old maternity notes, scientists have discovered that adult health is directly related to childhood nutrition.

The story starts with Ethel Burnside who travelled round Edwardian Hertfordshire on her bicycle over a hundred years ago, visiting new mothers and babies. Her mission was to tackle Britain's appalling rates of infant mortality when one in 10 babies died in the first year of life and many who survived to reach adulthood were sick and infirm. As the County's first 'health visitor', Ethel created an army of trained midwives to attend births and advise mothers.

What is interesting about Ethel is that she :

* as a stickler for organisation, insisted that her 'army' record every detail of the babies in their care : when teeth appeared, whether they were bottle fed, whether they used dummies, when they were weaned, their weight at birth and one year later.

* died aged 75, in 1953, but her detailed records, forgotten in the archives of Hertfordshire County Hall for decades, have changed the way we think about disease because researchers have shown that the seeds of adult disease are sown in the womb and first two years of life and influence whether they, as old men, will enjoy a happy old age or one afflicted with heart disease, diabetes, stroke and lung problems.

The figure at the heart of the search for these foetal origins of disease is Professor David Barker of Southampton University who in the 1980's, noticed a similarity between a map of heart disease in England and a map showing infant mortality in 1910. Regions with the least healthy Edwardian babies – the North-West, South Wales, the West Midlands and the North-East – were hotspots for heart disease 60 years later. Intrigued, he and colleagues searched for records to shed light on the puzzle and struck gold in Hertford, where Ethel's 1911 to 1940 data was in storage.

David tracked down 15,000 of the babies born before 1930 and compared their birth details with their adult medical histories and the findings were astonishing.

Old men who had a low birth weight either as babies, or aged one and so who were suffering from poor nutrition were at much higher risk of developing coronary heart disease as adults and tended to have higher blood pressure, less elastic arteries, altered stress responses and were more likely to have chronic bronchitis.

The findings led to the 'Barker Hypothesis' which argues that :

* there are key windows of development between conception and a child's second birthday.

* if nutrition is not good enough at any of those stages, imperfections will be built into the growing person.

* given the right genetic and environmental factors, these design flaws will make someone more prone to illness later in life.

* many of these crucial moments are in the womb, however, a child's brain, immune system and skeleton continue to develop until around their second birthday — the 1,000 days which matter.

So my fellow baby boomers what were our mothers eating when we were in the womb ?

A little initial reasearch and it is not good news:

Bread Rationing in Britain, July 1946–July 1948

A week's 'rationed' food for a family during the Second World War which excludes vegetables which were not rationed :

It certainly wasn't like this family's weekly food today :