Wednesday 31 October 2012

Britain is No Country for Old Men on Halloween

When we old men of Britain were kids half a century or more ago, there was no 'celebration' of Halloween, instead, we stuffed newspapers in old men's clothes to make a man and asked passers by in the street for a "penny for the guy", who we would burn on the bonfire we had built on the evening of November 5th to an accompaniment of fireworks.
 We probably didn't know that the original 'Guy Fawles' was the catholic 'Guido Fawkes' who, along with other plotters, was thwarted in his plan to kill protestant King James and the assembled House of Commons and reestablish the Catholic Religion in Britain on November 5th 1605.
We certainly didn't know that Guido wasn't burnt on a fire, but had his innards drawn fom his stomach, after he was hanged and before his body was 'quartered' in the execution reserved for those found guilty of treason.
Fast forward 50 years, the guys have all but gone and in has come 'Halloween' and 'trick or treat', whereby the kids knock on the doors of houses and demand either money or sweets with the threat of either throwing eggs and flour at their house or putting fireworks in their letter boxes if they refuse.
At this precise moment, 8.00 pm, hundreds of thousands of old man and women in Britain are either cowering behind their curtains with the lights off or have gone to bed early.
Not to miss an oportunity 'Saga Home Insurance', catering for the needs of old people offered the following tips for those behind curtains, that they should :
* place a friendly sign in a window or on the front door so trick or treaters will know to move on to the next house.
* leave a pot of sweets by the front door so trick or treaters can help themselves to sweets and not disturb their evening.
* use avoiding trick or treaters 'as a good excuse to get out of the house and catch up with family or friends'.
* bear in mind the insurer can 'offer some peace of mind if trick or treaters get out of hand this Halloween' and 'if spooky visitors take their tricks too', their customers 'are covered for any damage caused by malicious acts or vandalism'.
'Age UK' also offers advice to old men and women in that, they should :
* always put the door chain on and look out of the window or spy hole to see who is there before opening the door.
* take particular care if there is more than one person on their doorstep.
* if in doubt or do not feel safe opening the door, then don’t.
* if especially worried, could invite a friend or relative around for dinner because : 'a fun evening should take your mind off of unexpected callers'.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK, said:

“Halloween can be a particularly stressful time for some older people, particularly those who are in poor health or living alone. Noise at night and unexpected callers can cause anxiety for people who feel vulnerable. We encourage those who will be out trick or treating this Halloween to have fun but to do so responsibly and with respect.”

What a sad country Britain has become where old people are given advice about how to protect themselves aginst the threats posed by its young people 'having fun'.

Monday 29 October 2012

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to a quintessentially old English actor called Robert Hardy

Robert is 87  years old today and what you possibly didn't know, that he

* was born in 1925 in Cheltenham, where his father was Headmaster of Cheltenham College and was educated at Rugby School and Magdalen College,Oxford University where his studies were interrupted by service in the Royal Air Force.

* began his career as a classical actor in 1959 at the age of 34, appearing as Sicinius opposite Laurence Olivier in Shakespeae's 'Coriolanus' and then appeared in Henry V on stage and in 'An Age of Kings' with a young Judy Dench in 1960.

* played Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester opposite Glenda Jackson in 'Elizabeth R' in 1971 at the age of 46 :

* at the age of 50 in 1975, portrayed Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert in the award-winning 13-hour serial 'Edward the Seventh' and here discusses the American Civil War :

* played Winston Churchill most notably in 'Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years' at the age of 56 in 1981 for which he won a BAFTA award :

* was the senior veterinarian Siegfried Farnon in the long-running 'All Creatures Geat and Small' from 1978-90 :

* while playing Henry V,  developed an interest in medieval warfare and later wrote and presented an acclaimed tv documentary on the subject of the 'Battle of Agincourt' and written two books on the subject of the longbow, 'Longbow: A Social and Military History' and 'The Great War Bow'.

was one of the experts consulted by the archaeologist  responsible for raising the the Tudor warship 'Mary Rose' and in 1996  was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries'.

Britain's old men say "Thanks Robert, for all the pleasure you've given us with your acting and that beautiful English voice over the years".

Britain in winter is no country for cold, old men

The Charity 'Age Concern' has just published its most recent survey. 'Later Life in the United Kingdom' and under the section, 'Fuel Poverty', it made the following points, that :

* 36% of old men and women aged 60 or over in Britain sometimes stay or live in just one heated room of their home to save money. 
* nearly 33% households in England, where the oldest person is aged 75+, live in housing which has failed the official 'decent homes standard' and one in eight of these fail because of 'sub-standard heating and insulation'.

* old men and women in Britain are more likely to worry about the cost of heating in winter than in comparable European countries and are also more likely to turn heating off to save money, wear outdoor clothing inside and go to bed early to save on heating costs.
* A higher proportion of old men and women dread the winter in the UK, than in Sweden and also 'feel colder' in their own homes compared to their counterparts in either Sweden or Germany.
 Under the section 'Effects of Winter Cold', it reported that :

* there is a strong relationship between poor insulation and heating of houses, low indoor temperature and excess winter deaths of old people.                               Swedish wood burner
* there were 24,430 excess winter deaths of old men

and women aged 65 or over in Britain in 2010/11, a fall of 2,340 compared to the previous winter.

* there are about 8,000 deaths a year in the UK for every degree celsius of winter cold below average.

* deaths from hypothermia are rare, but cold weather and poor heating can contribute to the deaths caused by circulatory diseases responsible for 41% of all recorded deaths by natural causes and by respiratory diseases  responsible for 13%.
Old men of Britain prepare. One long range weather forecast is predicting :

December 2012
Currently the forecast model is suggesting that northern blocking , high pressure to the north of the UK, will play quite a major role during December with pressure forecast to be higher than average right across from Greenland, through into Scandinavia and east. On the ground, the current outlook is for rainfall to be below average across the northern half of the UK, but closer to or even wetter than average further south. Temperatures are forecast to be close.

January 2013
Confidence really begins to tumble at this stage but at the time of writing, January is forecast to be a similar month to December with 'northern blocking' again a strong player, with a colder than average month indicated at the current time.

My earlier posts featuring cold weather and old men in Britain :
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Britain is no country for the cold, old men who will die this week
Wednesday, 1 February 2012
Britain, a country where many cold, old men die in winter has the antidote in the Met Office 'Cold Weather Plan'
Sunday, 23 October 2011
Britain is no country for thousands of old men who will die of the cold this winter

Saturday, 18 December 2010
Britain is a country whose old men remember the winter of 1963 when they were supple boys and not brittle boned old men


Saturday 27 October 2012

Britain is a country where old lords suggest old men earn their pensions by helping even older old men

An article in the 'Daily Mail' this week was entitled :

Lord Bichard says fresh thinking is needed to help meet the cost of an ageing population

Michael George Bichard, a 65 year old 'Baron' who doesn't belong to a political party and sits on the cross benches in the House of Lords, was the former 'Permanent  Secretary at the Department for Education and Employmen', who retired from the Civil Service at 53 with a taxpayer-funded pension estimated to be £120,000 a year.

.* pledged to investigate the idea further as part of his work for the 'Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change'.

Not unsurprisingly, the good Baron's suggestions have prompted a chorus of protest from :

Dot Gibson, General Secretary of the 'National Pensioners Convention', who said:

* "This amounts to little more than 'National Service' for the over-60s and is absolutely outrageous. Those who have paid their national insurance contributions for 30 or more years are entitled to receive their state pension and there should be no attempt to put further barriers in their way."

*  "We already have one of the lowest state pensions in Europe and one in five older people in Britain live below the poverty line. Lord Bichard’s comments are also extremely divisive – trying to pitch younger people against older people– when the truth is that the real division in our society is between rich and poor."

* "Frankly, Lord Bichard needs to think twice before making such silly and ill-informed remarks."
Michelle Mitchell, Director General of the charity 'Age UK', who made a 'bit of a point' when she said:

* "Older people are a hugely positive part of society. Over a third of people aged between 65 and 74 volunteer, a percentage that only drops slightly for the over-75s. In addition, nearly a million older people provide unpaid care to family or friends, saving the state millions of pounds."

Dr Ros Altmann, Director General of Saga, also had 'a bit of a point' when she added:

"This is a very strange idea indeed. Those who have retired have already made huge contributions to our society and are already the largest group of charity and community volunteers. Lord Bichard’s suggestion smacks of social engineering of a dangerous kind. He seems to be suggesting that if you decide to stop working, even once you reach the age that society determines it is reasonable to stop, civil servants should assess you and decide whether you are fit to be assigned to do work that they decide you should do."

Lord Bichard, however, had an ally on the Committee in shape of the redoubtedble Professor Sefton of Imperial College, London and former adviser to the Treasury (right), who told it that he : could not understand why young people were not taking to the streets in protest, because they were subsidising the older generation and "I think they should be angry and I think the deal they are getting is poor. There are a lot of transfers going on in the system that are from the young towards the old. The awareness of it is very poor but it will come out.”

Britain is a country where old men can sleep easy in their beds, knowing that it still is partly governed by lords like Baron Bichard and other 'unelected' old men with great wisdom, who are empowered to make laws in their best interests.


Friday 26 October 2012

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old and now retired London cockney actor called Bob Hoskins

What you possible didn't know about Bob, that he :

* was born outside London in 1942 in the thiird year of the Second World War in Bury St Edmunds, Suffok, the son of  Elsie, a cook and Robert, a clerk and communist sympathiser and then from 2 weeks of age was brought up in Finsbury Park, London.

* reminded me of my own youth in Deptford, London, when he said  "Our flat was tiny. I had a put-you-up in the front room. We had a bath in the kitchen. The point is you didn't really know anything else; that's how life was. I looked around and all my mates were the same. It was a very skint area."

* after leaving school at the age of 15, was a market porter in Covent Garden (left) and, as he said at the age of 25 in 1967, "trained to be an accountant and thought this is not for me, so I bummed around. I worked on a kibbutz in Israel and travelled the world".

* said of his youth : "There was a lot of crime, of course, in the Forties and Fifties - robberies, old people getting mugged. There were gangs around Finsbury Park (right) and Haringey. They had knives and coshes and sticks. It was quite violent and it didn't take a lot to get into a fight. You just had to look the wrong way. We were all thugs. If I wasn't an actor I'd probably have been a serial killer or a burglar - something like that".

* started acting 'by chance' in the late 1960s in his mid-twenties, when a friend, an aspiring actor,  took him along to an audition after which as he was given the lead and said : "The first night an agent came to see it and he said, "Look, you've got to take this up professionally." So I said, "Get us a job and I will." "

* said : "I became a professional actor overnight and then I thought, I've got to learn to do this, because people are paying to see me. So I read the experts. I read Stanislavski and that seemed obvious; I read Lee Strasberg and that seemed like looking busy to impress everyone. And I found out that men are completely emotionally crippled - we can't express ourselves - so I started watching women. I became an actor by becoming a stalker."

* had his first major tv role was in 'On the Move' at the age of 34 in 1976, an educational series intended to tackle adult illiteracy, in which he played Alf, a removal man who had problems reading and writing.

* in the same year, came to wider attention in the original BBC version of Dennis Potter's drama Pennies from Heaven as philandering 1930s sheet music salesman, Arthur Parker, who escapes from his dull life by fantasizing elaborately choreographed musical numbers in which he and the other characters lip-sync to original recording of popular 1930s music.

* played a convincing and menacing London gangster in 'The Long Good Friday' in 1980 and delivered a wordless screen masterpiece when he is picked up and taken to his execution by a IRA gunman, played by Pierce Brosnan in his first screen role.

* in 'Mona Lisa' in 1986, won the wider approval of the critics and a 'Cannes Award', 'Best Actor Golden Globe' and 'BAFTA Award' and an 'Academy Award' nomination for Best Actor.

* in August this year, announced his retirement from acting due to his ongoing battle with Parkinson's disease.

* kept his cockney wit and self-deprecating humour and once said : "I'm just a short fat bald guy who got lucky. Where's the glamour?"

Thursday 25 October 2012

Britain is no country for old men who want to keep control of their finances and their dignity

* has for six months, battled with Yorkshire Building Society to get  £10,000 from his savings account, which he desperately needs to pay his £850-a-week bills for 24-hour care.

* is thwarted by the  Society which refuses to hand over his cash because it can’t recognise his signature which has changed as he has become progressively more frail and demands that he should visit his local branch 12 miles away in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, to prove his identity.

* has been offered an alternative in that the Society want his son, Colin, to sign on his behalf, but although he has set up a 'power of attorney' which would hand control of his finances to Colin, wants to keep his independence for as long as he can.

* in order to verify his identity and maintain his independence, has asked the Building Society to either accept the forms of identification he has sent to them, or send a branch member over to his house in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire only to find it refuse.

* had his case assessed by the independent 'Financial Ombudsman Service', only to find that it concluded that the Society 'were not at fault' and is, with son Colin, appealing against the decision.

* has had Colin say on his behalf : "I realise we may seem overly critical, but for me this is a point of principle. Why should my father be forced to resort to a power of attorney before he deteriorates to the point of no choice ? What if he, like millions of other people, didn’t have a relative or friend who could look after his affairs — would he be told he would not be allowed the money because his signature is different? It is completely blockheaded."

A spokesman for the Building Society said :  "As Mr Howard’s signature differed significantly from his passport signature and his original signature, we asked him to visit his local branch or to register the power of attorney on his account that his son already had. We had difficulty contacting Mr Howard over the phone. He has since given us permission to do this and we are seeking a solution."

Britain is a country where banks are supposed to provide assistance to those who are mentally capable, but have disabilities. In practice, though, many, in particular old men and women, are forced to hand over their accounts and with it their independence.
Tony doesn't yet want his son to operate power of attorney but apparently where relatives seeking to use it, large numbers face difficulties and Claire Davis, from 'Solicitors for the Elderly', says :
They are inundated with 5,000 complaints a year from desperate relatives struggling for help after their power of attorney application is turned down by their bank and : "We are a long way from having a banking system that understands power of attorney and with staff who deal with it sensitively. Often, the situation is made worse because of branch staff’s insensitivity."

A frequent complaint is that bank staff don’t understand the rules, and make extra demands. Usually they ask for extra documents on top of a certificate of authority granting the power of attorney, such as a letter from a doctor or solicitors. .

An estimated 200,000 people in Britain turn to power of attorney every year on behalf of loved ones. There are six million people caring for spouses, parents or other relatives.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Britain is no longer a country for the oldest Second World War Battle of Britain pilot and one of the last of 'The Few' called William Walker


On August 20th 1940 in the second year of the Second World War, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill made a  speech in which he paid tribute to the pilots in the Royal Air Force who were fighting those in the German Air Force for supremacy in the skies over Southern Britain. If those pilots had lost that battle, the German invasion of Britain would have taken place : 

'The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire and indeed throughout the world, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day...'

The oldest surviving of those former Spitfire pilots and one of the last of those 'Few', William Louis Buchanan Walker, has died at the age of 99.
What you possibly didn't know about William, that he :

* was born in 1913 in Hampstead, North London, educated at Brighton college and after leaving, learned his father's trade in brewing beer and joined the Ind Coope Brewery Company at the age of 20.

*  joined the 'Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve' at Oxford on 2 September 1938 Oxford, a year before the war started,  piloted his first solo flight there a few days later, then went into national sevice at the age of 26 the following year and was posted  to 616 Squadron, Fighter Command, as a pilot and was commissioned in June 1940.

* was caught up in the Battle of Britain when RAF fighters took on swarms of Luftwaffe bombers and their fighter escorts in a life-or-death struggle for air supremacy over south-east England as the prerequisite for a German invasion and a strategy to knock out the RAF, its airfields and radar chain.

The Spitfire fighter planes played a decisive role in the Battle of Britain between July and October 1940* on the morning of 26 August 1940, was in his spitfire among a number sent to intercept a large formation of 40 German bombers protected by Messerschmitt fighters approaching Dover.

* unable to gain enough height to exploit the Spitfire's main advantage over the Messerschmitts, was hit from behind, wounded in the lower leg and, with his controls shot away, forced to bale out over the Channel at 20,000ft.
Hero: William Walker, who at 99 was the oldest remaining Battle of Britain pilot ha died
* hit the sea and then clung to a shipwreck on the Goodwin Sands and was rescued by a passing fishing boat just before succumbing to hypothermia and brought ashore at Ramsgate, was greeted by a large crowd and presented with a packet of cigarettes by an elderly lady.

* in hospital when a surgeon prized out the bullet fom his leg and had it shoot out and hit the ceiling and kept it as a souvenir.

*  after recovering, had postings ferrying new aircraft to squadrons, working with anti-aircraft units and on patrols to protect airfields and left the RAF in September 1945 as a 'flight lieutenant', with the Air Efficiency Award.

* after the War, resumed his career in the brewery and eventually became its chairman but also devoted much time to working for the 'Battle of Britain Memorial Trust' and attended the annual remembrance ceremony at the Capel-le-Ferne memorial in Kent, where he recited poems about the Battle, one of which was carved in stone in 2010 and erected alongside the memorial bearing 2,937 names of 'The Few'.

* had 'Battle of Britain Memorial Trust' Chairman Richard Hunting say of him : "Flight Lieutenant William Walker was a warm, engaging and friendly man who always had a twinkle in his eye. He knew how important it was that we continue to tell the story of what he and the rest of the pilots did in 1940."

* remained active until the very end, despite the aches and pains and planned to attend the Trust’s 'End of the Battle Gala Dinner' but he suffered a stroke and was taken to hospital where he later died and had his absence made even more poignant by the fact that in recent years it had become traditional for him to raise a toast to his fellow Battle of Britain pilots after reading his poem 'Absent Friends'.

William, comfortable in the company of a either a Prince or a Prime Minister.

P.S. An estimated 1,023 RAF and 1,887 Luftwaffe aircraft were lost between 10 July and the end of October 1940. Only 60 known Battle of Britain veterans are alive today.

My earlier postings about old airmen :

Friday, 15 June 2012
Britain was almost no country for a brave, old Second World War rear gunner from Bomber Command called Freddie Johnson :

Tuesday, 10 January 2012
Britain is no country for an old Second World War pilot called Eric Carter who wanted to sit in the cockpit of a spitfire :

Thursday, 19 April 2012
Britain is a country which said "Happy Birthday" to an old sculptor called Philip Jackson who has cast his tribute to 'Bomber Command' :