Monday 29 January 2018

Captain Birdseye.

Captain Birdseye has had a makeover, the previous actor Mitch Commins, 68 has been replaced by an Italian born actor Riccardo Acerbi who is some 12 years younger and looks it, which leaves us traditionalists wondering what is going on.

The previous Captain Birdseye was a salty sea dog, sailing the high seas with his crew of young children, helping with his adventures and the eating of fish fingers and had been so since 1967.

The new fellow is a completely different kettle of fish, a much younger chap who likes nothing better than jumping into freezing cold water on a hot summers day with his grandson and is by all accounts what might be considered a sex symbol. He is, unlike the previous Captain accompanied by adult crew and what seems to be his daughter and granddaughter.

Apparently he had to undergo a rigorous audition process where his abilities at water sports, sailing and canoeing stood him in good stead for the role, together with the fact that unlike his predecessor he does not suffer from seasickness.

The very first Captain Birdseye was a West End Theatre actor and stalwart of The London's Theatre Players and appeared in theatrical productions such as, Six of One, Sail Away and  opposite Julie Andrews in The Boyfriend on Broadway in the 1950s.

I'm sure this new Captain will be a big hit, certainly with the female population, though whether this will have a beneficial effect on the sales of fish fingers we will have to wait and see.

There are only two negative aspects to the new advert, firstly, it seems the Captains uniform is incorrect and he has by all accounts been demoted to the rank of Lieutenant, a rather unfortunate oversight by the wardrobe department.

Secondly, we live now in a culture where rumour and innuendo can have a very detrimental effect on the working lives of characters in film and television and I am hoping the change to a new Captain has nothing to do with an allegation of historical sexual abuse against the fictional character Captain Birdseye. The character may have been cast adrift on a boat crewed by nothing but young children but I for one believe he would have behaved impeccably.

Had I written this blog some years ago, I would have finished at the end of the last paragraph but unfortunately nowadays I have to continue and add the caveat, the previous paragraph is a joke! 

Thursday 25 January 2018

Lilly Allen and Rorkes Drift.

For the benefit of those people who think it important to be politically correct I shall tell the story of The Battle of Isandlwana which took place on the 22nd of January 1879 and was the first major encounter of the Anglo-Zulu war.

The battle took place some eleven days after the British commenced their invasion of Zululand in South Africa and involved a Zulu force of  20,000 men who attacked the British main column of about 1800 men and 400 civilians.

Whilst the Zulus were equipped with assegai iron spears and cow-hide shields the British were armed with modern breech loading rifles, however the Zulus had a considerable numerical advantage which led to a virtual annihilation of the British troops.

The battle was a considerable success for the Zulus and one which could be celebrated as a historical event worthy of being written about on a Transport for London noticeboard, rather like the one used yesterday to recall the events of The Battle of Rorkes Drift which took place immediately afterwards.

Unfortunately due to the actions of Lilly Allen who criticised Transport for London staff by re-tweeting a video of the original Transport for London noticeboard telling the facts of the events of Rorkes Drift being wiped clean by a member of staff. Included in the tweet was a woman's voice which complained that the noticeboard was supposed to be for uplifting comments and not for colonialism, together with a written caption "Too right" from Lilly Allen.

Now for Rorkes Drift, the story made famous in the 1964 film Zulu, in which The British force of some 150 men defend the garrison against a Zulu force of 4000 warriors.

The garrison which had been turned into a supply depot and hospital, was under the command of Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead 2nd Warwickshire Regiment of Foot and Brevet Major Henry Spalding 104th Foot, when two survivors of  Isandlwana arrived with news of the defeat and that 4000 Zulus were on their way to Rorkes Drift.

Lieutenant John Chard of No5 Field Company, Royal Engineers who had arrived to repair the pontoons over the river, was ordered to Isandlwana but was sent back with only his wagon and his driver to construct defensive positions at Rorkes Drift.

Once the British had decided their only option was to stay and endeavour to defend themselves as best they could, Chard and Bronhead ordered their men to construct a perimeter out of mealie bags and to make firing holes in the walls of the buildings, knock through the internal walls and barricade the external doors with furniture.

With only 156 men and 39 of those being hospital patients Chard realised he had to modify his defences and gave orders to use biscuit boxes to construct a wall through the middle of the post in case they had to abandon the hospital.

At 4.30 pm the Zulu made their first attack and the British were soon engaged in fierce hand to hand fighting and at 6 pm Chard abandoned the hospital and pulled everyone back into the yard where all except four of the patients survived from the hospital.

Having fought for a total of ten hours they were exhausted and almost every man had an injury of some sort and of the 20,000 rounds of ammunition only 900 remained.

When dawn broke the British could see that the Zulu had gone and then at 7.00 am they appeared again causing the British to man the defences again. No attack happened and the Zulu left the way they had come.

Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded, seven to the soldiers of the 2nd/24th Foot, the most awarded for a single action by one regiment, together with four Distinguished Conduct Medals.

Quite an amazing story of bravery from both sides and one I think worthy of at least being displayed on a Transport for London noticeboard.

Sunday 21 January 2018

Taliban and ISIS terror attacks.

I have to admit that I give very little thought, if any, to the possibility of impending terror attacks and I suspect this is the same with the vast majority of people in this country.

Obviously the only reason I have thought of it at the moment is the Taliban attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on the Intercontinental Hotel where there are various reports of the numbers killed and wounded, sadly one is too many.

Apparently the Taliban want to take us all back to the 7th Century, although quite why they think that effectively going back to the Dark Ages would be a fun thing to do, I have no idea. Under the Taliban, men were required to grow beards, women had to wear the all covering burka, they banned television, music, dance, cinema and stopped girls over ten from going to school, sounds like a laugh a minute.

When the Taliban see pictures of the modern world, assuming they are allowed to view them, they must be delighted as with the modern fashion for men to grow large overgrown beards it must seem like they have taken over already, all they have to do now is convince our modern young ladies to take up the burka and they've cracked it.

It has been suggested that the Afghan government should negotiate with the Taliban but what would they negotiate and how would they choose a Century to take us back to, throw a dice?

I have to admit I have absolutely no idea what is going on in what I loosely think of as The Middle East, except it seems the Sunni Muslims are trying to obliterate the Shia Muslims and presumably visa versa, but I'm at a loss to know where the Kurds, who are Sunni but have no fixed abode, fit in to all this bloody nonsense and I really can't be bothered to follow it that closely.

Somewhere along the way when we had The British Empire we must have poked our nose into the affairs of these people as we did with everyone we overrun, but I still can't see that as a reason to want to annihilate half of the population of the country in which any of these people live.

Closer to home I was trying to recall the terror attacks that have happened in Europe and was delighted when I realised I was having difficulty remembering them. From recollection there were a couple of attacks where people ran amok with lorries in France and I think Germany and another in Paris where they shot people at a rock concert.

In this country there was recently a bomb in Manchester, a chap in a 4x4 running over people on Westminster Bridge and a policeman or an MP being killed. There were another couple of chaps in a van doing the same trick over London Bridge and being shot in Southwark market and I'm fairly certain there was another similar attack but I have no recollection as to where it took place.

There were people who I saw on Facebook putting flags on the railings for Lee Rigsby the soldier who was killed which I assume must have coincided with his anniversary and much earlier the attack on the London Underground and a bus, but I'm unsure how many bombs were planted as it seems some time ago now.

Quite clearly had I known anyone who was killed or injured in any of these attacks my recollection would be considerably better, but I didn't know anyone, which is effectively the point of this blog.

ISIS and the Taliban will never win in any civilised country and there are three reasons for this, firstly, for example, the population of London is getting on for close to 9 Million people, now what percentage of those people would you have to kill or injure before we really take notice. Secondly for those people who may be a tad concerned about visiting London, I would think the odds of 9 Million to 1 against being caught in a terrorist attack would go some way to allay their fears.

There are still people alive in this country who survived the bombing from Hitler's Luftwaffe and the bombings from the IRA and kept calm and carried on which leads me to my final point.

The main reason ISIS and the Taliban can have so little effect in this country is because we do not live in the 7th Century and therefore can dance, sing, watch television, go to the cinema and dress and do pretty much what we want, which leaves us having far too much fun to take notice of their silly ideas.

After all for us to vote to return to the 7th Century would be rather like turkeys voting for Christmas.

Thursday 18 January 2018

Chris Tarrant banned for drink driving.

Chris Tarrant the popular radio and TV presenter has been banned for drink driving when he was found to be over the limit after he was reported to police by a fellow drinker.

Reading Magistrates heard that Mr Tarrant had been served with four brandy and ports at the Bladebone Inn in Bocklebury, Berkshire before driving home.

The prosecutor Ms Hasrat Ali told the hearing that drinkers and staff at the pub were concerned that Mr Tarrant had decided to drive home and that he had stumbled near the bar area.

It seems that after a discussion in the pub a member of the public phoned the police who miraculously arrived at Mr Tarrants house in Osgoods Gully, Bucklebury some thirteen minutes later.

Mr Tarrant claimed he had drunk three glasses of wine just prior to the police arriving but later amended this to a large glass of brandy and a glass of wine. He was found to have 50 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, the legal limit is 35 microgrammes.

The 71 year old said at the hearing that he honestly didn't think he was over the limit when he drove the short distance to his home but admitted drink driving.

Mr Tarrants council said that not all the drinks purchased in the pub were consumed by his client, adding that Mr Tarrant had a knee condition that explained the stumble.

The District Judge Shomon Khan said that despite the relatively low reading there was nothing which would reduce the seriousness of the offence. Mr Tarrant was banned from driving for a year and fined £6000.

As with so many stories that I hear on the news I am always left wondering what the true story is and when hearing one like this, realise how extremely lucky I am to have a wife who rarely drinks and is always able to drive me home should it be necessary.

Having checked on Google maps where Mr Tarrant's house is in relation to the pub it seems it is only one and a half miles away down a virtually straight road and one assumes that most of the locals and staff would have known this.

As for his tripping in the pub, I saw one of his very popular railway journeys on the television where he discussed having a stroke in 2014 and the fact that it had taken some time to regain movement and his walking was still compromised to some degree.

Having spent many a happy year drinking in quite a few different hostelries I have never come across a pub where the other regulars would dob a fellow drinker in to the police, although I realise things are changing in this regard.

I am also wondering how the police managed to get to Mr Tarrant's house with such speed when the nearest large town, where one assumes the nearest police station was based was Reading some ten and a half miles away. The police car must have been virtually passing the pub to have got the call and been at Mr Tarran's house in thirteen minutes, very fortuitous.

What, one wonders was the mindset of the person who dobbed him in to the police, presumably someone who never has a drink or gets anywhere near the drink drive limit, or someone with some sort of grudge against the successful presenter, I have no idea.

I know I have been in pubs where locals who are sober offer to drive others who may be over the limit home on the basis that there will be an occasion when the favour will be returned, especially in small village communities where everyone is local.

I have always assumed that Chris Tarrant is a fairly popular person but this would suggest otherwise, at least with one person in his local pub who made the call to the police.

Obviously we will never know the truth of this matter unless Mr Tarrant should read this and gets in touch with the full story, should he do so I will update you, dear reader at the first available opportunity. 

Monday 15 January 2018

Equal pay.

I am a great believer in equal pay for the sexes and where a man is doing the same job as a woman he should get the same money and visa versa, however it is not always clear who is doing the same job.

Fairly easy one would think where for example with a bus driver or a fireman, or fire-person as I believe they are called nowadays, even a doctor, one hopes they are all working to the same standard within their field and therefore deserve the same pay.

However it's not always so clear cut, take for example Formula 1 motor racing, to all intents and purposes the entire grid of drivers are all doing the same job and with the current argument put forward by some people they should all be paid the same. This argument tends to fall apart after qualifying when the better drivers who are faster are at the front of the grid and the slower ones are at the back and yet they are all doing the same job.

The same argument applies to TV and radio presenters, we could all have a stab at reading the news, after all how hard can it be to read from an Autoque, listen to the director in your ear piece, synchronise your speech with the VT and look relaxed and confident at the same time!

There are many men and women who have taken on the arduous task of presenting and reporting on both TV and radio, how then are we going to decide how much they should be paid, for surely they can't all get the same money and unlike motor racing you can't ask them to qualify.

I have to admit that prior to her resignation I have no recollection of ever hearing of the BBC journalist Carrie Gracie who complained that she wasn't earning the same as her male counterparts doing the same job and I think on those grounds she has a point. Where her argument falls short is the fact that I have heard of her counterparts Jon Sopel and Jeremy Bowen and recognise both of them.

I'm a little out of touch with modern music so I will have to use the analogy of some rather older popular beat combos, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were paid peanuts before they were popular and became famous, however once you have a sufficiently high profile then you can demand the big bucks.

There is in the acting profession an element of equal pay especially in low budget or student films where everyone gets nothing, however once again the problem arises when you endeavour to use the same criteria for a Hollywood block buster like 'All the money in the world'. Much has been made of the male star Mark Wahlberg getting considerably more money to re-shoot the film than his female co star Michelle Williams.

Rather strange as both of these actors are represented by the same agency, or is it? I have no idea if this discrepancy reflects the amount of work required by each actor to re-shoot the film for obviously if the female actor only has to re-shoot a couple of scenes and the male has virtually all the film to re-shoot, the difference in pay is easily explained.

In examples like film and television I can't see you will ever be able to have equal pay, for the actor with the best track record of hit movies is always going to be paid more than the lesser actor whichever sex they may be.

I find it hard to imagine Meryl Streep or Oprah Winfrey getting a smaller salary than a lesser known male co-star and if that was the case they should sack their agents.

Likewise, whatever sex a regional newsreader they are never going to earn as much as a high profile presenter of Newsnight for example, at least not until they have paid their dues for years by working their way up the ladder of success, no-one starts at the top!

There are plenty of examples of men getting more money than their counterparts, it is not just about getting the same money for the same job,regardless of sex, that would be far too simple.

So when you have found the secret ingredient that mixes experience, gravitas, skill, humour, the right look, friendliness, hard work, the right agent and sheer luck, put it together with years of experience and you may, just may, be in with a chance of earning the top salary somewhere in the TV, film, radio or entertainment field.

I wish you luck.

Thursday 11 January 2018

Fighting for air.

I watched a documentary on the television last night where a group of local people from Kings Heath in Birmingham set about to change the air pollution of their local high street.

Because of my vast age I can't help but be sceptical about anything I hear nowadays, but it was established that 40,000 people a year are killed by pollution, most of which seems to come from buses, lorries and diesel cars which wasn't a great surprise to me.

As is always the case with programmes like this there was a hard core of supporters for the total abolition of the motor car, which seemed odd as one of the main polluters was the bus.

Two of the main protagonists for the abolition of the motor car were a young lady architect who was filmed riding her bicycle and a local cafe owner filmed in his cafe.

I frequently wonder how people like this get around as you can't get that far on a bicycle and yet the young lady was later filmed in Walthamstow in East London, one assumes at no time did she use a taxi or any other form of motorised transport to complete her journey.

Both of these individuals were also much in favour of doing away with the parking bays which they felt held up the traffic causing pollution. Now obviously making it impossible to park in the high street, caused me to wonder exactly where the lorries or vans who may have been endeavouring to deliver goods to the young man's cafe would unload?

The presenter Dr Xand Van Tulleken stated that "diesel is the monster polluter of our roads," and personally I don't have any argument with that statement, except perhaps to wonder how the shops will have goods without lorries, how people will get around without buses and all the car drivers who were conned into buying diesel cars would get around too?

A specially equipped car was produced which was used to demonstrate that the most pollution was produced when the vehicle was accelerating, every time it was held up at a pedestrian traffic light, every time it slowed for a speed bump, it would then have to accelerate away causing pollution.

By some magic they managed to find a straight piece of road with no lights or bumps which amazingly enough caused no pollution as the car was travelling at a constant speed without having to continually slow down and then accelerate. 

They later went to a trendy part of Walthamstow where they had closed a local rat run from 10.00am to 10.00pm seven days a week and done away with any parking bays which left the place like a ghost town, although the local butcher maintained his business was doing fine but the antique shop said he was struggling.

I have to admit to being familiar with this area and used to use the pub at the end of the road before moving to the countryside and one Sunday as I was in the area decided to call in to the local pub to see if any of my old friends were still using the pub.

Unfortunately as there was nowhere to park anywhere near the pub or in the local streets I sadly gave up the idea of seeing my friends and came home, I suppose the fact that I was unable to park on a quiet Sunday afternoon must have made sense to some local planner, although I couldn't see the logic myself.

What people always seem to forget when they come up with some clever scheme to close a road is the fact that the traffic will not suddenly disappear, it will be using other roads to use a a cut through.

Back in Birmingham the planned day of action had arrived, all the parking bays were suspended monitors were placed to check for pollution, the traffic lights were synchronised to keep the traffic moving along with much publicity on the local radio station.

Finally the results were in, the traffic had remained at exactly the same level as usual, however pollution was down by 10% compared to the rest of the city, I did however think it might have been a fairer test to compare it with the same street on the previous day.

Pollution at the local school was considerably down as was the number of vehicles dropping the children which was an obvious reason for the lower result, quite how the children had magically got themselves to school was not explained.

So after all this, what conclusion can we draw from this test?  Yet again, the answer is not rocket science, if you keep the traffic moving as was achieved with the traffic light synchronisation it will produce less pollution. All you have to do then is replicate the system throughout the rest of Birmingham. 

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Brexit blue passport.

Good news for old traditionalists, British passports issued after 2019 will be dark blue and gold taking us back to the old days when a British Passport held aloft would cause the massed ranks of foreigners waiting at passport control to part with due deference to make way for a British traveller.

It is some time since I have travelled with the old fashioned British passport and mostly I seem to travel by car which just requires you to drive round the car park following the arrows passing passport control and driving on to a Euro train.

Most of my trips are done with The Bentley Drivers Club or friends from the club which means we are all travelling in Bentley motor cars so one hardly notices passport control at all and I must say that barring one unfortunate return journey from Le Mans where a train had broken down in the tunnel causing us to be delayed at Calais for some nine hours I cannot recommend Euro Tunnel enough.

Having not flown for some time I was rather surprised when upon our return recently from a trip to Rome we had to join the queue of EU Nationals for the passport control as there was no alternative for British passport holders.

Where, I wondered, was the man in top hat and tails beckoning us British passport holders to the British nothing to declare alley and march straight through.

It took some considerable time to wend our way round the metal maze with all the EU nationals until finally arriving at the do it yourself passport control; what, one wonders should you do if you suspect yourself of trafficking drugs at the do it yourself passport control, take yourself off to a private room for a rectal examination.

I'm not sure about any service, or lack of service which requires you to do anything yourself and it is indeed one of my pet hates, obviously it serves us right for travelling Ryanair, I can't imagine first class passengers on Her Majesty's British Airways have to suffer in this way, I certainly hope not.

The first navy cover passports were issued in 1921 although from my recollection of my old passport, they were a very dark blue almost to the point of looking black, a colour I look forward to having again as long as it is dark and not light blue, after all the last thing we want is to be wrongly identified as Americans.

It would be nice to return to the older request from Her Majesty's Government which says "Her Britannic Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary".

It seems to have more gravitas than the modern version where it is merely the Secretary of State requesting our safe passage.

It will be very interesting to see how many people request one of the new blue passports the minute they are available, rather than waiting until their old EU one expires. I know I shall be one of the first in the queue..

Monday 8 January 2018

Northern Forest.

It seems the Government in their wisdom has decided that we need a Northern Forest but quite what the purpose of said forest is I have no idea, perhaps it will be cut down and used to fuel the Northern Powerhouse.

Now as a user of a wood burning stove I'm quite interested in the new forest, well you never know if there's any chance of some cheap wood, I won't hold my breath waiting.

It seems the forest will stretch from Liverpool on the West coast to Hull on the East coast thereby going back to the days when England had a heart of oak much needed for the construction of all the wooden battle ships we needed for our enormous Tudor navy when Henry VIII ruled the waves.

I'm rather guessing though that the forest won't be oak and will more than likely be pine a quick growing tree useful in construction although I'm wondering if the purpose of the forest is to be decorative or whether it's supposed to have some usefulness?

Whichever choice it all seems a little expensive, as I understand it the Government is funding initially at 5.7 Million and the total cost will be something closer to 500 Million and will see 62,000 acres of woodland planted  and is expected to generate £2 Billion for the economy through tourism and by boosting rural business and generating jobs.

Apparently the trees are to be planted along the route of the M62 which will be lovely for all those people in their driver-less cars as they will have something to look at whilst their car sits up the arse of the car in front, myself I would find that quite unnerving so shall forgo watching the trees as I progress and will be driving my car myself which will require me to look where I'm going.

I'm lucky now that I live in the country whereby should I wish to see a tree all I need to do is look out of the window and in all fairness I have to report that mostly trees are fairly boring objects and I find it hard to imagine the vast wealth created by hoards of people going to the Northern Forest to look at a tree.

One doesn't wish to put a dampener on the tree thing but I'm forced to wonder might it not have been a slightly better idea to have invested the money elsewhere, say the NHS for example? It's just a thought.

Saturday 6 January 2018

Donald Trump.

Obviously you will be aware of the latest book called Fire and Fury, Inside the Trump White House and the latest revelations concerning the mental health of Donald Trump who seems to be loosing the plot with every passing day.

Personally I'm not overly surprised at these latest allegations as to me he didn't seem to be the most stable person even before he took on the onerous task of President of the United States of America.

Now I'm not a psychologist but a diagnosis of 'Barking Mad' or even the psychological diagnosis of 'not the full shilling' doesn't seem too wide of the mark  to me.   

The book written by Michael Wolff paints the President as impatient and unable to focus, prone to rambling and repeating himself, however Mr Trump has hit back on Twitter claiming to be a 'very stable genius' whose 'two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart'.

Personally I find it hard to think of anyone as really smart who uses the word 'like' in a sentence as a punctuation mark.

One has to worry when Mr Trump in a recent Tweet taunting the North Korean leader, King Jon-un boasting about his own 'much bigger and more powerful nuclear button'.

I have no idea where this will end but when two of the worlds most demented leaders are arguing amongst themselves about the size of their 'nuclear buttons' it will surely not end well for eventually one of them will have to admit to having a smaller one and this, where men are concerned is generally where it usually all kicks off.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Use common sense when travelling abroad.

I am constantly surprised by the number of British travellers who find themselves in foreign climes complete with a suitcase full of illegal drugs declaring themselves completely innocent of all charges and demanding help from the British Consulate.

Take for example the recent case of the young lady from Hull who has just been found guilty of trafficking 290 Tramadol into Egypt allegedly for her husbands severe back pain, now why would you endeavour to traffic one of Egypt's most widely abused recreational drugs into a country where should you get caught they will throw the book at you.

I'm sorry, you can call me a sceptical old bastard if you like but her story that they are available in the UK on prescription is all well and good but she didn't obtain them on prescription, she acquired them from someone else, had she entered the country with these drugs which where obtained on prescription for a long term medical condition which she was being treated for I'm guessing the outcome may have been completely different.

At best her version of events is hard to believe and at worse extremely naive, if you follow her argument you could try the same trick with a suitcase full of heroine on the basis that it's available on prescription in the UK, assuming you're a registered heroine addict of course.

I feel sorry for this young woman who may have done this in all innocence perhaps encouraged by her husband, (who knows) but unfortunately even in this country ignorance of the law is never a defence and even less so when abroad and in a strange country with completely different morals and ethics.

Events like this should be a warning to people but sadly it seems not to be the case, they always assume if I get caught they will let me go because I'm British, well guess what that's not how it works.

Before trying this try to put yourself in the place of the foreign customs officials, who are very experienced at spotting trafficking and who must actually be quite upset that trafficers would insult their intelligence by even attempting anything this naive.

We are then left with our Foreign Office going through the motions to secure her release when in all fairness by the laws of the land of Egypt she was probably very lucky to receive such a light sentence.