Tuesday 29 January 2019

Brexit Britain is no country for a fearless old photojournalist, Don McCullin

Sir Don McCullin, a renown photojournalist, who has concentrated on the underside of society, the unemployed, downtrodden and impoverished, as well as war and urban strife, is 85 years old and not a happy man.

Commissioned by the BBC to tour England, he visited some of his former haunts. He expressed a desire not to knock his country too much, saying he has always been proud of his compatriots’ fortitude, but he added : “Things have moved on from the earlier days and the pride I had for England. For instance, we have had the most appalling, appalling violence, which has overtaken our country in the last yea and that is very, very embarrassing.”

He said : “Many people, young people, tell me they want to become a war photographer. And I say : "Look, there’s nothing stopping you. There are plenty of wars going on in all our cities in England. If you want to be a war photographer, there are plenty of social wars. There isn’t a city in England you can’t go to and find some poverty and unhappiness and tragedies.”

In his view, as a nation we “used to be very tolerant, and now we’ve lost a lot of that tolerance. Right now, England is in such an uncomfortable place, because of Brexit. I’ve found an England even more confused than ever. We’re in a mess, a God almighty mess.”

Britain was once a country for young Don when he was born in 1935, four years before the outbreak of The Second World War and when he did his 'National Service' in 1956 in the RAF and was posted to Egypt during the Suez Crisis, where he worked as a 'photographer's assistant', failed to pass the written theory paper necessary to become a photographer and so worked in the darkroom.

It was a country for him when he had a photograph he took of a local London gang in 1959, published in 'The Observer' newspaper and in swinging 1960s London, was commissioned to take the photographs of Maryon Park in London which were used in Antonioni's film 'Blowup'.
http://vimeo.com/11274009 . He also spent his time on social documentary photography in the East end of London.

Between 1966 and 1984, he worked as an overseas correspondent for the then, great 'Sunday Times Magazine', where he recorded ecological and man-made catastrophes such as war-zones, like Biafra in 1968 and victims of the African AIDS epidemic as well as hard-hitting coverage of the Vietnam War.

This was the photographer who had his beloved Nikon F camera fractured by a sniper's bullet in a rice field in Cambodia in 1970 just as he held it up to his face. Who, wounded and in a field hospital in Phnom Penh in 1970, having been hit by fragments of a mortar shell, said that he was most afraid, when he was captured by Idi Amin's soldiers in Uganda and held prisoner for four days : "They dug pits outside our cell. The sense that something awful was going to happen was constant and almost overwhelming."

He shot his most celebrated image of a dazed American marine, entitled 'Shellshocked', during the battle for the city of Hue in 1968. While closer to home, created some of the most memorable images of the early Troubles in Northern Ireland, where, during a riot in Derry, was blinded by CS gas and recovered in a dingy house which reminded him of his working-class upbringing in London and said that : "I was caught between the two sides, with the Provos warning me off one day and the British army chasing me." 

A photographer, whose pictures of struggling industrial communities in County Durham in the 1960s and 70s illuminated the social strife there, has said that England in 2019 was “sliding down the global wealth scale” and “poor people, in the north of England in particular, haven’t had a fair slice of the cake”.

"Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures."

Sunday 27 January 2019

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to son of Scotland, giant of the Cairngorms and old polymath, Adam Watson

Adam, who has died at the age of 88, was, when he was a wee lad, already a 'chionophile'– a lover of snow and in his long life was, by turns, a zoologist, mountaineer, ghillie, writer, birder, environmentalist and Arctic explorer. He probably had the added distinction of knowing more about the Cairngorm Mountain Range than anyone who has ever lived, having spent eight decades climbing walking around it, studying snow and the birds and mammals that live in it, which earned him the 'Scottish Award For Excellence In Mountain Culture'.in 2012.

He was born in the Spring of 1930 in the small town of Turriff in Aberdeenshire, named from the Scottish Gaelic 'Torraibh', meaning 'place of round hills' standing on the River Deveron, the son of Elsie and Adam Watson Snr of the town’s 'Stewart and Watson Solicitors' and a Kirk elder.

In 1937 when Adam was seven years old, he recalled his father took him in the family car to Bennachie where on the lower slopes, he spotted, what in later years he recognised as an example of soil erosion. “I was very curious as a child, I was always asking questions and not getting answers, and often nobody could tell me. I was determined as well."

That winter, he recalled : "I remember veils of white coming down against the dark cloud. It was falling so thickly that it obliterated the view of the town. I looked for hours out of the window, watching it building up on the roof. When it went off for a wee while, I went out into the garden. It struck me that the town was deadly quiet. Even the birds had stopped singing. I picked snow up in my fingers and noticed the individual crystals, that none of them was the same. That was just unbelievable.
I remember walking to my grandmother’s house, three miles away, and noticing the sunlight on the drifts, their scalloped edges, the sparkle of the crystals and the deep blue colour in the shade. I’d see Bennachie and the gleaming ridge of Tillymorgan in the distance, and I wondered if anybody had ever been up there in the winter. I thought maybe one day I would try.”

The following year, on summer holiday in Ballater, he saw snow on Beinn a’Bhuird, a sighting that started his lifetime interest in snow and snow patches and on a rainy day in the hotel where he was staying he found, among a pile of books and magazines that his parents were working through, a copy of the 1925 classic 'The Cairngorm Hills of Scotland' by Seton Gordon the great naturalist and folklorist with its stories of hills, people, wildlife, snow and rocks. He later recalled that on reading the book : "It was like Gordon suddenly switched on a light in my head. His words made not just Deeside and the Cairngorms different, in a way the whole world became different. I became aware of beauty and I wanted to be in the Cairngorms as often as I could."

Back in Turriff, that winter, at the age of eight, he started his own field record of snow and would continue to do so each year and would eventually publish over 70 years later in 'A snow book, Northern Scotland' based on his observations from 1938 to 2011.

He read everything available by Seton Gordon on the shelves of the library in Turra and, at the age of nine, he wrote to the great man. It was to be the start of a correspondence that would last for 38 years. Seton replied : 'It is a fine thing for you to have a love of the hills because on the hills you find yourself near grand and beautiful things, and as you grow older you will love them more and more.' 

As a result, he persuaded his father to take him into the mountains. They climbed Sgor Mor but he wanted more and other hills followed.

He was 'top pupil' or 'dux' at his junior school in 1942, the year he joined Turriff Secondary School and that winter he began taking his own notes about the snow patches. The following year he cycled to Crathie to meet his hero, who, although he "wasn’t as impressive as his book” "treated me as an adult” , Adam acknowledged : “Good writing transforms lives.”

In fact, it was the enthusiasm of his mentor, Seton, that started Adam, aged 13, on a study of eagles that continued for life and fostered “the urge to explore”.  He learned how to take to the hills walking among his beloved bens and glens, learned how to read the weather and developed his lifelong fascination with ptarmigan, in his view “the most beautiful bird in the world” and devised a method to count them.

It was at this point he fell ill and developed empyema, an advanced form of pneumonia and was in hospital for several months, experienced great pain and was then kept off school. He used the time to read and philosophise to such a degree that his views on the spirit were a factor which caused his father to depart the church. Most painful was the fact that he "was told by the doctor, ‘You’re not going to walk in the hills again. You can look at them from a distance but that’s it from now on.’ "

Needless to say, the doctor's advice was not heeded and at 17 he was given his first ski lesson by mountaineer Tom Weir, and found he was suddenly able to travel easily across the snow : "I quickly became excited by skiing. Previously I'd been wading through snow, which was very laborious, and suddenly this just transformed it, this revolutionary way of travel. When the conditions are good it's an absolutely superb way of travelling and you can go much faster than you can in the summertime. That's when my interest in snow became heightened because I quickly learned that you need to start paying attention to the types of snow, which can have an enormous affect on speed, your ability to climb and so on."

In 1948, at the age of 18 he was 'Dux' of Turriff  Secondary School, having excelled in Latin, English, French, Science, History and Mathematics. The following year he took himself off to Aberdeen University to undergraduate study in Zoology and by the time he was 20 had managed to fit in fieldwork visits to Iceland and Norway.

A self-confessed “awkward bugger”, someone, who from early age questioned nature, words and especially “well-known facts”. He saw his aunt, Elsie S. Rae, poet and one of the first if not the first female reporter on the 'Press & Journal', as a source of inspiration for forming his early debating and writing, abilities which he considered to be  essential characteristics of the manner in which science should progress.

He was a brilliant young student and in 1952 gained a 1st class degree in Pure Science and won the 'MacGillivray Prize, Department of Natural History'. The following year, he won a 'Carnegie Arctic Scholarship' which took him to McGill University in Montreal. He then worked as a zoologist on the Arctic Institute of North America's Baird Expedition to Baffin Island and  “the most fascinating mountains I’ve ever seen”.

Back in Britain he married Jenny in the winter of 1955 and the day of his marriage, he and his bride left the reception and skied four miles through the dark to spend their honeymoon at a stalker’s cottage in the Cairngorms. By this time he was back at Aberdeen University and followed his masters degree with a PhD with his thesis on the 'Annual Cycle of Rock Ptarmigan' in 1956. It had given him a reason to spend many long days in the mountains in winter studying the snow-loving mountain grouse that has come to symbolise the Highlands.

He noted during his field trips how they could fly straight into a snowdrift, kicking snow behind them so that they filled the entrance of the hole and were sheltered from the wind, and how they stayed near enough to the surface that they didn't become buried, but could see when the morning light appeared and when to leave their burrows. He noted : "It takes an Inuit an hour to make an igloo. It takes mountaineers an hour or so to make a snow hole. It takes two to three seconds for the ptarmigan." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYkIuFnebqc

As the young Dr Watson, in 1956, he took up the editorship 'The Scottish Naturalist', a post he retained for eight years and in 1963 published 'Mountain Hares'. Four years later he was awarded his second doctorate for scientific papers on 'Populations and behaviour of northern animals' and in 1969, joined the Editorial Board of the 'Journal of Animal Ecology'. In 1970 he co-authored, with Gordon Miller 'Grouse Management' published by the Game Conservancy, Fordingbridge,

In 1971 Adam and John Duff, the former police constable in Braemar, began working together to collect Gaelic place names in upper Deeside a spare time pursuit which led him to learn the Gaelic language and in the process tracked down Mrs Jean Bain in Ardoch above Crathie, last surviving native speaker of the distinctive Deeside Gaelic. It would be 13 years before he published his magisterial 'The Place Names of Upper Deeside' in 1984.

Recognition of his knowledge of the Cairngorms was made in 1972 when he was called as 'Chief Expert Witness' for the Crown in the 'Cairngorm Plateau Disaster Fatal Accident Inquiry' held at Banff, into the circumstances whereby five school children and an instructor died in the snow at Feith Buidhe on the Plateau the previous year.

In 1981 he joined the Editorial Board of 'Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment', a position he retained for 8 years and in the same year he was the main scientific witness commissioned by the Nature Conservancy Council at the 'Lurcher's Gully Public Inquiry' on behalf of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, into the proposed development of skiing facilities for which Secretary of State for Scotland eventually refused permission.

His reputation was such that as a biologist, he was invited to study red grouse and then promoted to 'Senior Principal Scientific Officer for Special Merit in Research' with the Nature Conservancy and later the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Banchory. He retired in 1990, but was asked to continue on an unpaid advisor.

Acknowledged as the world's leading authority on grouse, in 2008 at the age of 78, with his co-author Robert Moss, he published 'Grouse : The Natural History of British and Irish Species', which sold an astonishing 4,000 copies inside four months. He went on to mark his 83rd year with a flurry of publications : 'Place names in much of North-East Scotland'; 'Points, Sets and Man';  'Hill birds in North-East Highlands' and 'Mammals in North-East Highlands'. At this point in his life he could look back on a body of work which included 23 books, 287 peer-reviewed scientific papers and 178 technical reports, 40 book reviews and many articles in newspapers and magazines.

Last year a new study revealed the number of mountain hares on moorland in the eastern Highlands is at less than 1% of their levels in the 1950s. He said : Conservation groups have called for an end to the "indiscriminate and ruthless" of mountain hare culls."Having reached the age of 88 I am both delighted and relieved to see this paper published. Having counted mountain hares across the moors and high tops of the eastern Highlands since 1943, I find the decline in numbers of these beautiful animals both compelling and of great concern. We need the Scottish government and Scottish Natural Heritage to take action to help these iconic mammals of the hill - I hope they will listen to the voice of scientific research." Interviewed by the BBC he said : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-45170147

When it came to hill walking he said he didn't care for the idea of an organised group with GPS and texted avalanche alerts and other modern niceties since : “That just takes away the greatest joy the hills can give a person which is the wonder of exploring them for yourself. I think if you’re alone, you really become part of the hill.”

"I have travelled the globe widely, but I still think the Cairngorms are the most wonderful place on earth."

“I just like coming here and seeing the hills. It’s like seeing old friends.”

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Britain is no country for old Princes who drive their cars on busy public roads

Apparently, the 97 year old Prince Philip is a familiar figure driving in the Monarch's, private 20,000 acre, Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. One tenant, who wanted to remain anonymous said : "The man’s notorious, he drove around and you had to get out of the way. On two occasions he pulled out from a side road. Once, he pulled out at a junction to my left – I had to steer right and step on the brakes. He just came out on a bend. On another occasion at crossroads he came straight across the junction. He’s 97, with a range of medical complaints, and drives as if he’s the only one on the road. If you saw him, you’d get ready to get out of the way.”

Last week the Prince, escaped unhurt after the car he was driving was involved in a crash on a public road close to Sandringham. Police were called to the scene of a collision and witnesses told the BBC that his landrover had overturned after pulling out from a junction on the A149. Roy Warne, a 75 yer old barrister, who was one of the first on the scene said there was “one elderly man inside, lying on his side with his legs in the footwell" and he only realised it was Philip as he manoeuvred him out of the wreckage. He said he was able to stand up and was unharmed “but was obviously very shocked”.

According to witnesses, his Land Rover collided with the Kia after he pulled out on to the main road. Its female driver and passenger were treated in hospital and later discharged. There was also a baby in the back of the car at the time of the accident. Norfolk police said : “The female driver of the Kia suffered cuts while the female passenger sustained an arm injury, both requiring hospital treatment.”

A Norfolk police spokesperson said : “As is standard procedure with injury collisions, the incident will be investigated and any appropriate action taken. We are aware of the public interest in this case, however, as with any other investigation it would be inappropriate to speculate on the causes of the collision until an investigation is carried out.”

On television, the BBC and ITV both made the accident the main item on their evening news, with the BBC spending at least 10 minutes on the story. In addition, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, shared a message of support for the Prince  when he prayed : ' Almighty God, the Fountain of all Goodness,We humbly beseech thee to bless Philip Duke of Edinburgh:Endue him with thy Holy Spirit; enrich him with thy Heavenly Grace; prosper him with all happiness; and bring him to thine everlasting kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.'

Despite his advanced age, Philip has not shown any inclination to give up driving despite his advanced years and was photographed behind the wheel at the age of 95, driving the then US president, Barack Obama, and the first lady, Michelle Obama, on their visit to Windsor in 2016.

Philip is no stranger to road accidents. When he was a mere 75 years old, back in 1996, Norfolk businessman Patrick Daynes ended up up in neck brace and with whiplash injuries in after the Prince steered his Land Rover into the back of his Mercedes 190 as he let an elderly lady across a zebra crossing.

He was 18 years old in 1939 when he took he took his driving test, if indeed, he ever did. It was the year he joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the Second World War. He was 79 years younger and there were then less than 4 million cars on the road, whereas today it is over 31 million. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL0S8iUT7xQ

Inevitably a car accident of one old, high profile Prince raises questions about the fitness of all old men and women on public roads. Not unsurprisingly safety campaigners have renewed calls for eyesight and medical tests for old drivers, despite the fact that motoring organisations said young male drivers pose more risk than older ones.

The road safety charity, 'Brake', said checkups should be compulsory. Currently, British drivers have to reapply for their licence at the age of 70, and every three years thereafter, by self-certifying their sight is good enough to read a number plate at 20 metres, and that they have no medical condition that prevents them from driving. Currently, more than 4.5 million of the 39 million people holding valid driving licences in Britain are aged over 70.

Joshua Harris, the 'Director of Campaigns' at 'Brake' said : “With our ageing population it becomes ever more essential to have robust procedures in place that ensure older drivers are not inadvertently putting themselves and others at risk. Fitness to drive regulation should be strengthened with compulsory eyesight testing throughout your driving career, regular health checks for older drivers and greater communication between the DVLA and the medical profession.” He said older drivers should visit their GP to have sight and hearing tests every year to check they were fit to continue, and not “put lives on the line when they get behind the wheel”.

The Prince, however, was defended by the Automobile Association. Edmund King, the President of the AA, said : “We wish the Duke of Edinburgh well. Many commentators use high-profile car crashes involving elderly drivers as a reason to call for bans or restrictions on older drivers. If driving restrictions based on age and safety were introduced we would be more likely to restrict young drivers rather than older drivers.”

The Prince is one of that small group of  nearly 12,000 very old drivers, over the age of 95 and mostly men, who still dive, including 314 centenarians with the oldest at 107.

Edmund King also said : “Young, predominantly male, drivers are much more likely to crash within six months of passing their test than older drivers within six months of hanging up their keys. The decision to hang up your keys is a tough one but should be based on personal advice from your GP and family rather than being based on some arbitrary age. We all age differently and the car is an essential lifeline for many elderly people.”

Friday 18 January 2019

Britain in 2019 is no country for poor old men, living on a pension and married to a younger wife

At the moment, old men over the age of 65 and drawing nothing much more than the state pension and married to a wife, in work, but in a low income job, can claim up to £13,273 a year in pension credit. The same rule applies to older women married to younger men. Now, from May 15th, new applicants will have to claim 'Universal Credit' which will pay them a maximum of £5,986 a year or £7,286 less.

Parliament approved this change in 2012, but the implementation wasn't confirmed until it was smuggled in on Monday, on the eve of the House of Commons vote on Mrs May's Brexit deal.

'Age UK' described the change as a 'substantial stealth cut' and said it could have a devastating effect on the health and well being of some older people and increase the numbers of pensioners in poverty. Caroline Abrahams, the charities Director, said : “It is by no means unusual for one partner to be slightly older than the other within relationships and the bigger the age gap between them, the more long-lasting the adverse impact on them will be because of this proposed change. For some, the impact will be truly devastating. The government should think again.”

Old men on a pension, with a partner under state pension age, who are already in receipt of pension credit cannot rest easy because they will be moved to the new system if their circumstances change, such as a change of address, or even if they go abroad for longer than a month.

Age UK also said pensioners may find themselves in the “absurd position” of being financially better off if they split up and live apart from their partner. A single person who claims the top-up is eligible for £167.25 a week in pension credit, meaning that in theory a pensioner will be better off staying “solo” for benefit purposes rather than claiming with a partner.

In addition, at the moment, old men who reach retirement age can claim pension credit regardless of the age of their partner. In future, they will have to wait until their partner also reaches 65 and the state retirement age will be increased to 66 in October 2020.

Locked in the past :

Britain in 1919 : a country for rich, privileged old men but not the poor.
Britain in 2019 : a country for rich, privileged old men but not the poor

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Britain is a country which once made and has now lost an old TV Film Producer called David Pritchard who gave it Floyd on Food

David, who has died at the age of 73, was born 1945 in Southampton, Hampshire in the last year of the Second World War, where he and his mother, Charlotte, were supported by his father, Arthur, who he rarely saw and worked away from home for the Customs and Excise in Weymouth, which probably explained why he left David's mother for another woman when David was 10 years old.

With his friends Bob and Michael, from an early age, he enjoyed poaching fish, mainly trout, from the River Itchen which ran from beyond Winchester to Southampton and cooking them in the open air.

He recalled : 'We’d thread sharpened twigs through each trout from head to tail and grill them over a camp fire, turning them so the skin cooked evenly. To eat with them we’d make a thing called ' twist'. We would mix up some flour and water and knead it to make a dough. Then we’d twist it round a stick, hence the name and put it over the fire where it would bubble and blister and eventually go smoky black. We’d cut it up with our sheath knives, sprinkle the pieces with salt, add a knob of butter and wow! If my mother had served up hot black dough and undercooked fish at home I’d have seriously considered running away, but out there in our beloved camp with our eyes stinging and streaming from the smoke, they tasted wonderful. Such are the pleasures of eating outdoors'.

Another pleasure was a visit to the Savoy Cinema in Swaythling on Saturday afternoons. He recalled : 'Robin Hood. I loved the way the Merry Men would eat using a dagger, ripping the meat with their hands with lots of enthusiastic grunting. Then they’d quaff goblets of wine and, because their mouths were so full, it ran down their chins, the director’s way of painting a picture of a Saxon peasant living in a land of plenty. 
By contrast the ever grumpy Sheriff of Nottingham would just pick at his food and have the occasional grape. I used to come out of that cinema in the late afternoon feeling ravenous and wishing I could have exactly what Robin, Little John, and Friar Tuck had, including vast goblets of wine, but in all probability I’d be sitting down to a pilchard salad and a Cremola Foam'.

In 1955 when he was 10 years old and on account of his asthma,  Hampshire County Council sent him for a year to Wedges Farm Camp in Itchingfield, West Sussex, a residential special school with its own hospital, set up in open air conditions for the provision of education of children for children whose physical condition required it. Under the direction of the Headmaster, Mr Booth, the boys and girls did a compulsory cross country run every week, no matter what the weather and country dancing on the playground. In addition, there was also an open air swimming pool.

David would certainly have been conversant in the pupils' school song :

"Here we are at Wedges Camp, 
Far far away. 
All we get Is bread and scrape,
Three times a day.
Ham and eggs we never see,
Get no sugar in our tea. 
We are the Jubilee, 
Fading away, 
Goodbye all the pupils and the teachers too.
Goodbye Mr Booth and blooming good luck to you."

David recalled : 'Nothing in that strange, makeshift school in 1955 gave so much pleasure as puddings, which were eaten at breakneck speed in case the master in charge of the dining room gave the call for second helpings. One of our favourites was chocolate sponge with lashings of hot chocolate custard, a new invention, but by far the tastiest, sweetest and the fairest of them all was jam roly-poly. I would eat mine slowly, savouring every sticky jammy mouthful, whilst others rushed theirs in the hope of getting seconds. Of course, I knew there wouldn’t be an invitation for second helpings, because like chocolate sponge, treacle pudding, and apple pie, jam roly-poly was just too good. Tapioca, the stuff that looks like frogspawn,now that’s a different story altogether'.

'I ran away from school once with Clive, my best friend. I wasn’t really unhappy at Wedges but I did miss my mother and Clive missed his monkey' which had been brought home by his father, a sailor'. They didn't get far : 'miraculously we were picked up by Mr Woods, the deputy headmaster, in his Austin Big Seven saloon. All thoughts of getting home had long gone. The only adventure we wanted now was with a large plate of stew or Spam fritters, chips, and beans. Now that would be something". 

'Surprisingly, when we were handed over to the headmaster for punishment we were treated with great sympathy and understanding. Apparently Mr Booth had learnt that my parents had recently divorced, which he thought extremely tragic. Divorce was a much rarer phenomenon in 1955 than today and considered far more catastrophic and devastating for the children involved. Both of us gazed downwards, studying the knot holes in the floor, looking suitably sorry for ourselves, hoping that the ordeal would soon be over and there would be some food left in the refectory—maybe even jam roly-poly. Through some form of telepathy we both thought it best, under the circumstances, not to mention the monkey'.

When his mother paid him a rare visit : 'For a special treat she took me to lunch at a place called 'The Carfax' in Horsham. This was my very first visit to a restaurant. I’d seen lots of them in films and it made me feel very grown-up indeed. There were waitresses in frilly hats and black dresses with white aprons, and there was tea in silver pots. Intrigued by its strange name I had mock turtle soup, a beef consomm√© with bits of meat floating about in it, to start; followed by plaice, fried in breadcrumbs, with chips, peas, and a wedge of lemon in a silver squeezer, I’d never set eyes on one of those before and bread and butter.'

When he returned home to the suburb of Swaythling in Southampton, times were lean : 'My mother was working as a receptionist in one of the halls of residence at Southampton University and I was constantly reminded by her that times were very hard indeed. If we were lucky enough to have a roast while listening to the Billy Cotton Band Show on a Sunday, it was usually a small shoulder of lamb or belly pork with apple sauce'.

He took and failed his 11+ exam which : 'wasn’t surprising really, because the emphasis for the past year had been on health and nature studies. I knew all about moths and butterflies, wild flowers and trees. I knew how to make rosehip syrup, put up a tent and make a campfire, but my knowledge of decimals and algebra and conjugated verbs was somewhat limited'.

Now living in Portsmouth with his mother, at the age of 11 in 1956 he joined Mayfield Road Secondary Modern School which was : 'a world apart from the woods and fields that engulfed Wedges and there was a great difference in attitude among the children. Bullying was rife and the building was so old there were no facilities for school dinners. 
So lunchtimes meant a quick bicycle ride to the grocer’s for a cold Miller’s steak and kidney pie, a delicious bargain at just ten pence each. Sometimes lunch would consist of five Player’s Weights cigarettes and a shared bottle of New Forest Brown Ale. But best of all was fish and chips. Is there anything better than piping hot fish and chips and the smell of vinegar on hot beef dripping as you walk along the road with your mates?'

In 1961 he left school at the age of 16 with one GCE 'O' level in Art and 'went to Southampton Technical College to resit all six of my other exams. This time I failed them all again, except History.' Simultaneously he studied part-time at Southampton College of Art where he saw as a famous designer of book covers, but having realised he was 'utterly useless at the subject', he left and got a temporary job on a building site while he 'figured out what to do next. I was climbing a ladder one day when my mother came by on her moped, waving at me. Apparently she’d seen a wonderful job advertised in the Evening Echo: Assistant In Film at Southern Television. "You must apply for it David. You’ve always said you want to work in television"'.

David got his interview with Southern Television, his local ITV company where out of 80 interviewees he was offered the job : 'Only the job turned out not to be an Assistant In Film but a vault porter. When I asked why they hadn’t advertised the job as vault porter, they said, "Well, nobody would apply would they?"'

At the age of 18 he found himself working in a vault contained all the commercials that were shown on Southern Television in 1963 : 'I was paid five pounds a week to look after them. There were thousands of the bloody things forming the lining to my silver tunnel, or tomb, as I used to call it, and each had a number and had to be returned to its rightful place once it had been shown. I’d spend most of my day dusting them and making sure they were in the right order'.

His first big break came when : 'As soon as I finished my work in the dreaded vault, I’d ask the film editors for their permission to watch them at work.' 'I’d sit behind them and see how they operated their machines, unlocking the sound and moving the picture and I thought, this is it. It was a Faustian moment really.' They were earning 'stacks of money, while I earnt five pounds a week as a vault porter and so they were completely different animals to me. I thought : 'If I could press the old button there and become one of them, and sell my soul, I jolly well would'.

From thence he proceeded to gain an entrance to editing  and  as a young film editor, travelled to Newcastle where he 'spent many a joyous lunchtime and the occasional evening in smoky Tyneside pubs with Marxist journalists, lefty songwriters and film-makers. I had come to Newcastle because I knew by now that I wanted to be a film editor at the BBC, and there were no vacancies in the south of England. So I packed a suitcase and waved goodbye to my mother and my job at Southern Television, where, by now, I had graduated to the dizzy heights of Assistant Film Editor, somewhat nearer to the job description I had applied for in the first place'.

It was in Newcastle that his 'great love affair with food really started. For several months I lived in a bedsit in Heaton, then an unfashionable suburb of Newcastle. It was very clean and tidy and it had a Baby Belling cooker. Inside it I found one of the most useful cookery books ever written, 'Cooking in a Bedsitter', by Katharine Whitehorn. It was simplicity itself and funny too'.

At the age of 24 in 1969, he became friends and moved into a bungalow with John Craven, a regional journalist in Newcastle at the time and they were joined by Bernard Hall and Tony Bannister, a graphic artist who also worked at the BBC. 'This meant I could start to cook in a full-sized oven for a captive audience. I started to make stews with all those fresh and attractive paella.' This was inspired by the lads’ package holiday to Spain, where 'apart from sangria and sunstroke' his 'abiding memory of a fortnight on the Costa Brava was paella. Back home again in Newcastle I bought fresh prawns, mussels and squid, along with saffron and garlic, and prepared it to cookery book perfection'.

By 1984, David was 39 years old and working as a director and producer for BBC Bristol when he first met Keith Floyd in his Bristol restaurant who recalled : 'He was large and balding, with a red moon face and wearing a leather jacket and Communist Party scarf. 'That was a very good meal,' he said. 'How would you like to be on television?' A year later he phoned again, by this time working for BBC Plymouth.  He told me he was now features editor of the BBC in Plymouth. 'Would you like to come and make a pilot programme about fish and cooking fish?'

Working with Keith, David went on to produce 'Floyd on Fish' in 1986, working with a tiny budget and only one camera. With minimal planning or preparation, David and Keith would simply turn up somewhere – a trawler boat, a country hotel – and film him cooking, unscripted and with a glass of red wine at the ready, using whatever facilities were available. Although David's bosses doubted the formula could work, 'Floyd on Fish' proved an instant success.

They went on to make 'Floyd on Food' in 1986, 'Floyd on Britain & Ireland' in 1988 and 'Floyd's American Pie' the following year. David went on to make programmes for ITV and Channel 4 and work with Antonio Carluccio but it was his ongoing friendship and work with Padstow chef, Rick Stein, that he’ll be most remembered for, a relationship that spanned 30 years, 15 series and numerous one-off specials for BBC2, BBC 4.

There was always something of the English 1950s boy about David : either eating a trout wrapped in a pastry twist and cooked over a fire on the banks of the River Itchen or savouring his jam roly-poly in the school canteen of Wedges Farm Camp. He who once said :

"To make good food programmes you need to always be hungry.”