Saturday 28 July 2012

Britain is still a country where old men say "Happy Birthday" to an old actor called David Warner and remember when he and they were young

David Warner,  English actor, known for playing both romantic leads and sinister or villainous characters, across a range of media, including film, animation, television, and video games is 71 years old today. 

He was 25 years old in 1966 and I was a 19 year old student (right) living in Brighton, when I saw him starring with the beautiful Vanessa Redgrave in 'Morgan : A Suitable Case for Treatment'.

Morgan being put to bed by his Mum, played by the wonderful Irene Handl :

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

* was born out of wedlock in Manchester where his father owned a nursing home, brought up by each of his parents and eventually settled in with his Russian Jewish father and stepmother.

* was educated in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire and then trained for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and made his stage debut at the Royal Court Theatre in 1962, playing 'Snout', in Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', directed by Tony Richardson.

* made his film debut in 1963, as the villainous Blifil (left) in 'Tom Jones' and in an early television role, starred alongside Bob Dylan in the play 'Madhouse on Castle Street'.

* joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1963 and was cast as Henry VI the 1966 season and also Hamlet (above).

* made  'Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment' which established his reputation for playing slightly off-the-wall characters.
* in 1968, starred alongside appeared in Sam Peckinpah's, 'The Ballad of Cable Hogue as Reverend Joshua Duncan Sloane.

* appeared in 'The Omen' in 1976 as the ill-fated, decapitated photojournalist Keith Jennings. and the futurustic 'Tron' in 1982

Friday 27 July 2012

Britain is a country where old men remember when they were young men competing in the 1948 London Olympic Games

George Weedon and Frank Turner, former Olympic gymnasts.  They have remained friends.
These are former Olympic gymnasts George Weedon and Frank Turner in 2010.
In July 1946, one year after the end of the Second World War in which Britain lost 383,000 servicemen and 67,000 civilians, the decision that London was to host the Olympic Games was announced  and the City had just over 24 months to prepare.

Frank Turner, was 87 years old and grew up in the East End of London, was captain of the British gymnastic team during the Games and said : "The 1948 Olympics were the austere Olympics. No one else would have it; no one could afford it. The Olympics of '48 was done on a shoestring."
George remembers the gymnastics team mainly trained outdoors
There were eight men in each national gymnastics team with all competitors having to compete twice on each of the apparatus; parallel bars, pommel horse, rings, long horse and floor and Britain came 12th out of 16 countries.

Frank has said : "Great Britain has come a long way in gymnastics since 1948. We had no hope of winning back then but we participated and that's the main objective in life - to get your goal and rejoice in it. I did the sport because I loved doing the sport - not from what I was going to get from it."

Over night the Olympic boxing ring was constructed over The Empire Pool  (Wembley Historical Society/ Brent Archives)George Weedon, was 90 and was a fellow gymnast alongside Frank and said :  "It was too early for the Olympics really. I think there were so many buildings, education and facilities that weren't there that had to be built up and I think that took priority. But... I think it was something, in a way, to look forward to."
Ron Cooper "putting on this blazer takes me back 60-odd years."
Ron Cooper, 82, from Newham, was a lightweight boxer during the Games and said : "How we ran the games? Don't ask me! All of London was still bombed. We were still trying to get ourselves going. The Olympics gave people a lot of work trying to rebuild London. From what I can remember the opening ceremony was an absolute shambles. We were all late, rushing in, lining up there, higgledy piggledy."

The opening ceremony fell just before the Bank Holiday weekend on Thursday 29th July 1948. Over 80,000 spectators turned up to witness the event at Wembley Stadium in the blistering heat.

Frank said in 2010 :  "I would love to be alive in 2012 to see it because the job they're doing now is fantastic.
That's why they've asked me the privilege of lighting the cauldron - which is one of the highest honours you can get.
I've been nominated to light the torch to the cauldron but I've been recently diagnosed as terminally ill. Alas, I don't think I'll be alive to see the opening ceremony, which I really wanted to do."
The Games :

Frank Turner in actionSadly, Frank Turner died in 2010. He  later worked as a stunt double for film stars Michael Caine and Norman Wisdom, never won an Olympic medal but was widely regarded as one of the world’s finest exponents of the rings apparatus.


Thursday 26 July 2012

Britain is no country for a brave old man called Joseph Carter beaten by burglars

This is the battered, bruised and blood-stained face of 82-year-old Joseph Carter who was beaten and stabbed in his head and body when he confronted two burglers in his £400,000 house and despite the severity of his injuries, found the strength to see off his attackers.


In and after the attack, Joseph  :

* was pinned to the ground and slashed several times with a kitchen knife and dripping in blood and badly injured, managed to chase the men out of his home.

*  staggered to a nearby garage where shocked mechanics tried to stem his blood with paper towel and witnesses said he looked like something out of a horror film.

*  is currently in a stable condition in intensive care at Frimley Park Hospital in Camberley.

* has had photos released by Surrey Police showing the severity of his injuries including deep gashes across the top of his head and a cut to his nose so deep it exposed the bone.

* had a local resident say of him : "Joe is well known around here – he’s always out and about and loves speaking to people. He’s the friendliest soul in the world and for him to be attacked like this in his own home is truly awful. He put up a good fight though and wasn’t about to let people like this steal his belongings without standing up for himself."

* had Detective Constable Dan Chant say : "This was an horrific unprovoked attack on an elderly man and I am appealing for any information which might help locate these offenders. These people need to be tracked down and caught as soon as possible – if they are capable of doing that to an old man they are a danger to everyone."

What a sad country Britain has become, where gentle and defenceless old men are savagely attacked within the 'safety' of their own homes.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Britain is a country where the old men at Eilean Siar on the Scottish islands of Orkney and Shetland are the happiest people in the land

An article in 'The Gaurdian' today was entitled :

Wellbeing index points way to bliss: live on a remote island, and don't work

First annual results of 'Measuring National Wellbeing Programme' show teenagers and pensioners have key to happiness

* having more free time for leisure pursuits may be one reason why people aged 65-79 are more satisfied with their lives.
Happiness graphic
* you are one of the happiest people in Britain if you :

- live on the Western Isles, Orkney or Shetland.

- are the happiest if you live in  Eilean Siar, Orkney and Shetland Islands, recording a satisfaction level of 8.1 out of 10,

- work as a doctor or a lawyer.

- are you married and over 65.

- are in good health and a homeowner.

* if you happen to be a divorced, middle-aged machine operative living in Thurrock, Essex, you could well be one of the saddest – especially if you're a man.

* Eilean Siar has 1,100 retired old people which is 26.8% of its population compared to 18.5% in Scotland and 16.5 % in Britain as a whole.

BBC Report :

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Britain is a country where old men remember a tv series called 'Poldark' and say "Goodbye" to Angharad Rees who beguiled them as 'Demelza' when they were young men

What you possibly didn't know about Angharad who has tragically died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 63, that she :

*  was born in London, the daughter of a distinguished Welsh psychiatrist, Linford Redes and his wife, Catherine and as a baby moved with the family back to Wales to live in Cardiff.

* in the mid-1960s, gained experience as an assistant stage manager and actor at the West Cliff theatre, in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex.

* made her screen debut in 1968, as the parlourmaid in a BBC television adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 'Man and Superman' and had one-off parts in TV dramas and comedies including 'The Avengers' in 1968 and 'Doctor in the House' in 1969.

* played Jack the Ripper's murderous daughter in the Hammer horror film 'Hands of the Ripper' in 1971
 *  appeared as 'Gossamer Beynon', (right) alongside Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O'Toole, in Under Milk Wood' in 1972.

* appeared in the West End in 'It's a Two Feet Six Inches Above the Ground World' in 1970 and 'The Millionairess' in  1978-79. 

* played Sarah Churchill, the daughter of the Wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, played by Burton in 'The Gathering Storm' tv series in 1974, Celia in a 1978 production of  'As You Like It', opposite Helen Mirren
 and guest-starred in ''The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show' in 1977.

* soared to fame in 'Poldark' (1975-77), the BBC's dramatisation of Winston Graham's  novels set in 18th-century Cornwall,  playing the fiery servant 'Demelza', whose beautiful smile, wide-open eyes, flowing red locks and headstrong nature won over the brooding hero and helped to attract 15 million viewers in Britain and many more around the world.

* as Lady Evelyn Herbert, teamed up with Robin Ellis again in the tv film, 'The Curse of King Tut's Tomb' in 1980 and starred as the remarried former wife of Paul Nicholas's vet in the sitcom 'Close to Home' in 1989-90 and joined the second series of 'Trainer' in 1992 as Caroline Farrell, coping with her drinking and gambling husband played by Jeremy Sinden.

* in 1973, married the actor Christopher Cazenove with whom she had two sons, divorced in 1994 and had to cope with her eldest son dieing in a car accident in 1999.

*  gave up acting in order to concentrate on developing her own jewellery design business, describing this new career as "therapeutic" and saw some of her creations featured in the film 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age' in 2007.

* had a relationship with the actor, the late Alan Bates who had suffered the loss of his own son years earlier but turned down his proposals of marriage and eventually parted in 2002 and said in 2007 : "We were very close, but it was difficult because I had not yet given way to my grief over the loss of my son."

* was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and was appointed CBE in 2004 and the following year, married David McAlpine of the construction family.

BBC tribute :

Sunday 22 July 2012

Britain is still a country for a 101-year-old Indian marathon runner and Olympic torch bearer called Fauja Singh

Fauja Singh is a remarkable man who was born in 1911 and is a British marathon runner of Punjabi Sikh origin whose record for the age '90-plus', is 5 hours 40 minutes which he ran at the age of 92 at the 2003 Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Fauja has said : "I won't stop running until I die. The next target, God willing, is to be the oldest marathon runner ever" and "at the time when people start retiring, I thought of running at the age of 63."

Explaining his secret at running at 100 to BBC news :

He, drew the loudest cheers on Saturday as he carried the Olympic Torch accompanied by hundreds of admirers, including Sikhs with yellow T-shirts bearing his image, who hailed him every moment of the distance he travelled.

"I run while talking to God."

Thursday 19 July 2012

Britain is a country with a town called Christchurch full of old men and visited by for the BBC by Jeremy Paxman for his 'Senior Moment'.

According to the 2011 census in Christchurch in Dorset, almost a third of the population are over 65 and at the start of this month the tv 'Newsnight' presenter, 62 year old, Jeremy Paxman, made his way there for a special programme called 'Senior Moment'.

The programme made the following points, that :

Britain was revealed in May to be the mobility scooter capital of Europe. and the 'British Healthcare Trades Association' said five years ago there were 70,000 but the number is now closer to 300,000, .

* the 'All Mobility' store Jeremy visited was once a 'surf shop', a key indicator of how the town has been transformed, with over-85s now the fastest-growing sector of Britain’s population.

*  Jeremy travelled around the store, trying to avoid the other scooters on display, in a filmed segment for the programme and complained that the mobility aid, with a top speed of 8mph, was "too slow" and asked if it could go faster, then laughed as he bumped another scooter while trying a left turn.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Britain is still a county for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old film actor called Burt Kwouk

Burt Kwouk is 81 today and is best known in his career in films as 'Cato', the man-servant and karate expert, hired by Inspector Clouseau to keep him 'on his toes' by attacking him without warning, no matter what the circumstances.

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

* was born in Warrington, Lancashire but spent most of his childhood in Shanghai until he was 17 and then must have moved to the USA where he graduated from Bowdoin College in 1953.

* played the leader of a prison revolt in one of his first film roles in 'The Inn of the Sixth Happiness' which I saw at the cinema when I was 11 in 1958 and in which he helps Ingrid Bergman, playing Gladys Aylward, heroically lead Chinese orphans to safety.

* was next seen by me in the Blake Edwards film, 'A Shot in the Dark' in 1964 when I was 17, I think in 'The Gaumont' cinema in Lewisham. with, my then girlfiend, Heather, where we went after saturday work in the C & A shop in Lewisham.

*  appeared in three James Bond films : in 'Goldfinger' (1964) as a Chinese counterpart of Bond (left),  in the spoof 'Casino Royale' (1967), a general and in 'You Only Live Twice' (1967), the part of a Japanese operative of the villain Blofeld.

* in 1968 he appeared in 'The Shoes of the Fishermen' opposite Lawrence Olivier and Anthony Quinn.

*  played the honourable but misguided Major Yamauchi in the 1980's Second World War tv drama 'Tenko'.

* from 2002 to the show's end in 2010, had a regular role in the long-running series 'Last of the Summer Wine' as Entwistle..

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And here is my personal version of the battel between Cato and Inspector Clouseaus in the 'Battle of the Force Beams' :

When my son was still living at home and working in London some 10 yeas ago, he would return home at 7.30 at night. He had 2 cardboard space tubes, which jangled when shaken. They were a commercial spin-off from the force beams which the Jedi Knights had in the film 'Star Wars'.

We fell into the habit of me surprising him when he came into the house by hitting him with a space tube in imitation of Cato surprising Clouseau.

This was the procedure :

1. I would turn off the down stairs lights when I heard his car approach. I had left his space tube on the floor of the porch as an invitation to duel.

2. I then hid from view, so as to surprise him the dark.

3. Meanwhile my wife watched t.v. in the dark, in the front room.

4. My hiding places were various : in the cupboard under the stairs, behind long curtains, under beds, in the garage.

5. He would come looking for me with his tube : "Dad, I know you're there. Out you come."

6. One evening, unbeknown to me, he returned home with friend to the darkened house with me hiding under the stairs. I think the friend was surprised and amused.

7. On another occasion, he picked up a broomstick and gave me a bang on my forehead, which produced an egg-like lump.
Fortunately, it had gone down by the time I went to work the next day.

So, I have a personal reason to thank Burt Kwouk who inspired those japes with my son and has given me fond memories.

P.S. One space tube sustained some damage in one of the encounters and had to be bandaged with pink, sticking plaster.




Tuesday 17 July 2012

Britain is no country and a country where more and more old men end their own lives

An article in 'The Guardian' yesterday was entitled :

Suicide on the rise among older men

Mental health charity says recession may be having greater impact on middle-aged and older men

  • * according to data from the 'Office for National Statistics', the number of suicides and the prevalence of suicidal tendencies is rising faster among old men than in any other age group and this in the week that the Government postponed its 'suicide prevention strategy' until September.
*  the number of suicides among men aged over 55 has risen by 12% over the past decade, while suicides by men aged under 34 dropped by 30%.

* the mental health charity, 'Calm' said men aged 45 to 54 were still most likely to seriously consider taking their own life and mental health experts are concerned that across all age ranges there are far more male than female suicides.

* Jane Powell, the Chief Executive of 'Calm', speculated that the recession may be having more of an impact on older men and said : "There is work to show that the impact of unemployment hits men harder, and later on in life; that it's easier for women whose lives are not necessarily defined by work and for whom part-time or temporary work isn't by definition bad."

* official statistics show that 4,517 people in England and Wales killed themselves in 2010, of whom 75% were men and Jane said there were two reasons for the imbalance : "First, because men are by default supposed to be in control, in charge at all times and so therefore needing help is by definition unmanly. And second because all too often men don't recognise what the problem is – they'll feel out of control, angry with everything, find that their life is out of focus, not be interested in what's happening around them – and they won't recognise that they are depressed. And because as a man they're supposed to be invulnerable, then suddenly the options they have of getting out of their situation start to look very slim."

* 'Calm', which began as a Department of Health initiative in 1997 and became a charity in 2006, has traditionally focused its efforts on reducing suicide among young men and is changing its remit to include the older generation.

* people in Manchester were more likely to kill themselves than in any other city and at a public meeting called by 'Manchester Users Network', a group for people with mental health issues, participants criticised cuts to services, in particular community centres, which act as lifelines to people with depression.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old classical guitarist called Julian Bream

Julian, one of the most distinguished classical guitarists of the 20th century who has also been successful in renewing popular interest in the Renaissance lute is 79 years old today.

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

* was born in London, grew up in Battersea, acquired a cockney accent and was brought up in a musical environment where his father, who worked in advertising, played jazz guitar.

* as a boy, was impressed by hearing the playing of Django Reinhardt and began his lifelong association with the guitar by strumming along on a small gut-string Spanish guitar to dance music on the radio.

* was given lessons by the President of the 'Philharmonic Society of Guitars', Dr Boris Perott, while his father became the Society librarian and gave him access to a large collection of rare music.

* became something of a child prodigy at 12, winning a junior exhibition award for his piano playing, enabling him to study piano and cello at the Royal College of Music and made his debut guitar recital at Cheltenham in 1947, aged 13.

* found that, at a time when the guitar was scarcely known in straight music apart from the great Segovia but his personality and guitar soon had the other students flocking round him, so much that the Director actually forbade him to bring his instrument into the College and playing at parties found the girls adored him.

* left the Royal College of Music in 1952 and was called up into the Army for national service and after being drafted into the Pay Corps, managed to sign up for the Royal Artillery Band based at Woolwich, which allowed him to moonlight regularly with his guitar in London.

* after three and a half years in the Army, took any musical jobs that came his way, including background music for radio plays and films and pursued a busy career playing around the world, with annual tours in the U.S.A. and Europe.

* played part of a recital at the Wigmore Hall on the lute in 1952 did much bring music written for the instrument to light and in 1960 formed the 'Julian Bream Consort', a period-instrument ensemble and created a revival of interest in the music of the Elizabethan era.

* recorded extensively for RCA and EMI Classics and won four Grammy Awards, two for 'Best Chamber Music Performance' and two for 'Best Classical Performance.'

* in India in 1963, played an improvisation with Ali Akbar Khan On Sarod.

* had a biographical film, 'A Life in the Country' shown on BBC TV in 1976  and in 1984 he made eight films on location in Spain for Channel 4, exploring historical perspectives of Spanish guitar music.

* in the 1990's toured the Far East, visiting Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan and in 1994, made debuts in both Turkey and Israel to great acclaim and the following year played for the soundtrack to the Hollywood film Don Juan de Marcos.

*  played La Vida Breve by Manuel de Falla with John Williams.