Thursday, 31 December 2009


Brian May is a pop star, a member of Queen and an astro-physicist of international repute. On radio the other day he admitted he did not approve of celebrity. Billy Bragg is a highly intelligent pop star and thinker. He admitted on radio that he too reckoned nothing to celebrity.

I only suffered a brief moment of celebrity when I appeared on TV but I know exactly why they are concerned. On radio I broadcast every week to about 26 million listeners worldwide and no one had a clue who I was. Just a disembodied voice that was remembered only by the most eagle-eared.

When the first two programmes of a TV series “Home Brew”, which I co-presented with a folk singer called Frank Hennessey, went out, I became a marked man. The first intimation of fame is that one thinks one's flies are undone. This is because wherever you go people give you a double take. The second glance is because the first one leaves them with a niggling feeling they have seen the glancee somewhere before. It always produced in me a hasty examination of my flies.

Even worse is the bolder spirit who is not going to let you get away with eluding his memory. He stops you in mid-tread and says, “I know that face. Don't tell me...” You have no intention of telling him, even if you knew what he didn't want to know.

“I'll have you a minute,” said this one guy in Cardiff. “On the tip of my tongue. Never forget a face.” A pause before illumination dawned. “Got you,” he said. “You are the Town Crier of Llandrindod Wells.”

I thought I ought to have some visual clue that would fix me in the minds of such people. So when I was invited to present the Welsh Sheepdog Championships I wore a different coloured waistcoat
for each programme. Worked like a charm. Fellow stopped me in Llandudno.

“Saw you on TV last night. Fantastic!” “Oh, you like sheepdogs then?” “Cannot stand them, yapping b.....s.” “It's not the sheep, surely?” “Course it's not.” “ Oh, so you liked me? Thank.........”
“You? You were crap. You gabbled.” “So what was so marvellous?” “The waistcoats. Bloody fantastic, man.”

I spent the rest of that brief career in the limelight convinced I could have sent the waistcoats on jobs whilst remaining comfortably at home.

Sometimes the voice is memorable.

I had a comedy programme called “Radio Brynsiencyn”. There was no budget so I had to use the people round me as characters. The singer Aled Jones's dad asked me to teach the boy soprano interviewing. Didn't charge me when I made him my junior reporter.

One of the most important women in my life was called Rose Roberts. She came to us as a cleaner but soon took complete charge of us, the animals and the house. She had a voice that would strip paint. I recruited her as the station cleaner and called her Attila the Hoover. She had a camp friend with a lovely Welsh accent. I re-created him as Goronwy Generator, who pedalled the bike that powered the generator that beamed the programmes. The entire Welsh nation is formed of actors. They read the scripts I wrote for them like real pros. Aled, who takes work more seriously than anyone I have ever met - he did his school homework in the dressing room of the Hollywood Bowl whilst waiting to stun a capacity audience - was soon a very professional interviewer. He was a quick learner.

His dad told me about the time he went to Lloyd Webber's flat to record “Memories”. Lloyd Webber asked him if he would like to do a run through. Aled said he would rather go straight ahead with the recording. The first tape was perfect. A stunned Lloyd Webber said: “It took Barbra Streisand a week to do that.”

Aled's dad told me: “I didn't like to tell him the lad was anxious not to miss Match of the Day.”
Rose and Goronwy were avid theatregoers and never missed a West End opening. They were in the queue at the London Palladium when Rose gave voice, briefly. It was enough.

“Blimey,” said a man in the queue, “it's Attila the Hoover!”

Now that IS celebrity.


It hardly ever snows heavily in the Fens. This week we have had blizzards. As I contemplated the snowy wastes from my window I remembered 1974 when Global Cooling was all the rage. A high-priority government report warned of climate change that would lead to floods and starvation.
It further stated that ‘leading climatologists’ speak of a ‘detrimental global climatic change’, threatening ‘the stability of most nations’.
The report was called ‘A Study of Climatological Research as it Pertains to Intelligence Problems’, written by the CIA for ‘internal planning purposes’ in August 1974.
Many of the terms bandied about 35 years ago are still being employed by today’s fear-mongers - about the very opposite phenomenon.
The usual disasters were projected: the ‘new climatic era’ was said to be bringing famine, starvation, refugee crises, floods, droughts, crop and monsoon failures, and all sorts of extreme weather phenomena. The Sahara would expand. World grain reserves, already at less than a month’s supply, would be depleted. A list of past civilisations brought down by ‘major and minor’ cooling episodes was given, which included the Indus, Hittite, Mycenaean, and the Mali empire of Africa. Any possible benefits to climate change were barely mentioned.

More parallels can be drawn. According to the CIA report, in 1974 climate science was developing ‘a successful climatic prediction model’, as indeed it still is. Government intervention had brought together eminent scientists who had previously been at odds with each other, then had established a ‘scientific consensus’ on ‘global climate change’.

The scientists claimed this pattern of cooling would cause ‘major economic problems around the world’. Dealing with this would, of course, require the creation of several new government agencies. The media at the time seized on all of this, just as it is doing now. Newsweek and the New York Times described the global cooling threat.

How is it that the parallels between that 1970s panic and today’s have been so little remarked upon? There have even been recent attempts to label the ‘global cooling consensus’ a ‘myth’, most notably in a well-publicised article by Thomas C. Peterson, William M. Connolley, and John Fleck, published by the American Meteorological Society in September 2008.

Predictably, the CIA recommended massive funding of the new field of research, climatology.
Thirty years later they once again join forces to warn us of the dangers of global warming. The world is about to end because of global warming. Temperatures are soaring, ice is melting, glaciers are retreating, seas are rising. The Royal Society says there’s no longer any room for scientific doubt about it. Britain’s Chief Scientist says it’s a bigger threat than global terrorism. Every schoolchild is now drilled to believe that man-made global warming is a Fact . Yet in February, The Telegraph reported that, although during January Europe, northern Asia and most of Australia experienced above average temperatures, large parts of the globe had their coldest winter for decades. According to the Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change, the earth's warmest period was during the Holocene epoch. This period is dated from about 5,000to 3,000 BC. During this time average global temperatures were 1 to 2°celsius warmer than they are today. We survived.

All we can be sure of is that the climate is changing and something must be done. My modest proposal for saving the world is that we nationalise Skidmore's Island. Instead of fighting climate change we adapt to it. Let us redesign the United Kingdom. The first ten miles of the coastal area will be designated as a nature reserve and no building of any kind permitted on it. The next island band will be high carbon producing factories, office buildings etc. Within that will be a band of hospitals, old people's colonies and leisure centres. Residential accommodation will be limited to the high ground in the centre of the island, far away from the dangers of flooding .


Thursday, 24 December 2009


I keep going back in my mind to the Christmas when I was out of work and this pal of mine said: "Don't suppose you'll be having much of a Christmas?"

I said: "If I wanted a mince pie I would have to buy it on H.P. We will be out on Xmas Day because it is warmer out than it is in the house and I have promised the kids we will go to Curry's to watch the Queen's Speech through the window. Then we are going to a park to mug robins for their breadcrumbs."

"Not having a bird on The Day then?"

"Not unless I can grab one of the robins as we steal its breadcrumbs."

He said: "Why don't you nip down to the market just before it closes on Xmas Eve? They practically give birds away. Then," he said, "come to the Press Party at the Continental

So I did. I picked up a chicken with my last ten bob note and went to the party. Where I set up a record for drinking free scotch and eating vol-au-vents which was unbroken for many years.

Then this guest said: "Let's play rugby."

Another guest said: "We haven't got a ball."

A third guest said: "Yes, we have," and grabbed the parcel of chicken from where it had been roosting under my arm. Everyone but me applauded the skill with which the next guest, a rather showy chap, executed a back pass with my parcel between his legs.

I was less pleased than anyone when the next guest followed through with a drop kick. It was powerful, I will say that. It sent the parcel soaring across the foyer, out into the street, over the heads of the passers-by, to drop, perfectly positioned, under the tyre of a passing bus.

They were all very apologetic. The manager of the cinema particularly. He said he hoped the parcel hadn't contained anything important. I said, no, it was just a chicken I got
for tea on Boxing Night.

For the rest of the party I was a bit thoughtful, though I did manage to clock up a further freeloader's record of another eight Scotch and a round dozen vol-au-vents.

At the death, the manager came up and gave me a parcel."I hope you will accept this replacement with our apologies," he said.

It was a twelve pound turkey.

Which would have been nice... but we didn't have an oven at the time, just a gas grill. So we had to cook it a leg at a time.

FROM “FORGIVE US MORE PRESS PASSES”, published by Revel Barker, available at Waterstones and the Book Depository (free delivery, worldwide), and at Barnes & Noble and Amazon in the USA. Or on order from any decent bookshop.



 Health & Safety checklist for carol singers..

> The Rocking Carol
> Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
> We will lend a coat of fur,
> We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
> We will rock you, rock you, rock you:
> Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both
> due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical
> reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or
> perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a
> suitable alternative.
> Please note, only persons who have been subject to a
> Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance
> will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry
> their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared
> to provide three forms of identification before rocking
> commences.
> Jingle Bells
> Dashing through the snow
> In a one horse open sleigh
> O'er the fields we go
> Laughing all the way
> A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is
> considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The
> risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate
> to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if
> passengers are of larger proportions. Please note,
> permission must be gained from landowners before entering
> their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in
> celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate
> only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.
> While Shepherds Watched
> While shepherds watched
> Their flocks by night
> All seated on the ground,
> The angel of the Lord came down
> And glory shone around
> The Union of Shepherds has complained that it breaches
> health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch
> their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being
> provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs
> are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to
> the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that
> they should watch their flocks via cctv cameras from
> centrally heated shepherd observation huts. Please note,
> the Angel of the Lord is reminded that before shining his /
> her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all
> shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering
> out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming
> effects of Glory.
> Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
> Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
> had a very shiny nose.
> And if you ever saw him,
> you would even say it glows.
> You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All
> Policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with
> regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer.
> Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the
> Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and
> disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty
> of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented
> and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be
> considered whilst this investigation takes place.
> Little Donkey
> Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
> Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load
> The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how
> heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to
> carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding
> how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are
> required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that
> due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road,
> Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent
> inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has
> expressed his discomfort at being labeled 'little' and would
> prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To
> comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an
> infringement of his equine rights.
> We Three Kings
> We three kings of Orient are
> Bearing gifts we traverse afar
> Field and fountain, moor and mountain
> Following yonder star
> Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as
> it may be redeemed at a later date through such
> organisations as 'Cash for Gold' etc, gifts of frankincense
> and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of
> oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested
> gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy
> cause in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher.
> We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on
> navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and
> suggest the use of RAC Routefinder or satellite navigation,
> which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding
> fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the
> RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of
> Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks
> for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood
> of dust from the camel feet.
> Away in a Manger No Crib for a bed - This is definitely one
> for Social services

Saturday, 19 December 2009


I can never set a foot on the calendular escalator that leads to
Christmas without remembering my friend Curly Beard and the
free Christmas tree.

Curly was a former champion show jumper for whom I used to ride
work in the days when I could be carried by a single horse.
He spent much of his retirement drinking in the Sportsman, up on
the Cheshire/ Welsh border at Tattenhall.

I was in the bar there one day with Curly and my old man.
I said: "I will have to go after this. Going to buy a
Christmas tree from the Clocaenog forest."

Curly said: "You don't have to buy one. I'll get you one
free. But we will have to wait until dark."

So I said: "What will you have while we are waiting?"

Curly said he would have a large gin and my old man said,
while I was ordering, would I call him up a large scotch?
By the time I had added mine, my free Christmas tree had cost me
£4 (it was a long time ago). By the time it was dark it had
cost me another ten quid and we were in no state to go digging
up Christmas trees.

We arranged to meet at opening time the next day.
We were just going to have one and then collect a free tree
from a friend of Curly's. We would have done, too, if the
Wynnstay Hounds hadn't been meeting at the Cock at Barton.

In those days hunt followers of standing - or in our case
barely standing - shared the stirrup cup, a potent mixture of port
and brandy which reconciled people to falling off horses.
It tasted so good we stayed on after the hounds had moved off.
Let's be honest, we were still on it, at my considerable
expense, when the huntsman blew kennels somewhere over by Overton.

We kept meeting like that for about a week and I had lost
count of how much the free tree had cost me in drinks. But it
was well over fifty quid, '60s prices.

To be fair, though, the next night we borrowed the landlord's
spade and went off to dig up the tree. I do not know how we
managed to break the spade, which I later replaced at the cost
of £11.50.

I know how I broke the tree. I remember falling on it. And
even if I hadn't remembered, my wife of the time kept
reminding me of it for years.

From “Forgive Us Our Press Passes.” Revel Barker Publishing.
Available at Waterstones and the Book Depository (free delivery, worldwide), and at Barnes & Noble and Amazon in the USA. Or on order from any decent bookshop.

Talking of books, one of the best I have read these many months comes from the pen of Geoffrey Seed, a former reporter and producer of World in Action and Panorama. To call it a thriller is to diminish it. It is a finely written novel and I look forward to his next one. It, too, is published by Revel Barker. For once I agree with a publisher. Barker told me: “He has emerged as a gifted novelist and in the book he switches -- without your really noticing -- from a William Boot sort of countryman, describing the birds and the trees in the woods around his godparents' house, to a crime man covering mysterious deaths. It has a good kick-start, then the narrative begins with a few cleverly stitched flashbacks... and all (or most of it) is based on fact that he couldn't stand up quite well enough to publish as news or documentary. Good stuff.”

A Place of Strangers

A TV journalist is invited to his ageing step family’s beautiful but decaying country house for one last Christmas. Beyond the gates, terrorist bombs and industrial unrest threaten the government of Margaret Thatcher. This political chaos mirrors the unravelling lives of those within - a retired British diplomat and his once glamorous wife, each burdened by past sins, suppressed guilt and approaching death. Their stepson’s idealised picture of them is revealed as a sham. He uncovers a tantalising Russian doll of a story, secrets locked in secrets in a conspiracy of murder and revenge across Europe and North America, all rooted in history’s greatest crime – the Holocaust.  
Also available at Waterstones and the Book Depository (free delivery, worldwide), and at Barnes & Noble and Amazon in the USA.
Or on order from any decent bookshop.
ISBN: 978-0956368614


From Revel Barker:

“As for the movie clip of the Angolan scaffolder...,” he began, but left the sentence hanging in the air.
To get round the Jesus blasphemy, how about:
“I don't understand why people who say they love me wear a crucifix around their necks,” said Jesus crossly.
---- -----
From Geoff Mather:

“It must be swine fever,” the doctor grunted.

“Nice piece on sausages,” he said, as we reached a fork in the road.

(and if you get this twice, it's the driver's fault)
Alas, all disqualified because they did not use the correct form: - “SAID TOM......”


“Heliogobalus whose favourite dishes are said to have been the tongues of nightingales and peacocks, or Sept.Geta, who, according to Jul Capitolanus, was so curious, so whimsical, as to order the dishes at his dinners to consist of things which all began with the same letters.

“Sardanapulus, again as we have it in Athenaeus, gave a premium to anyone that invented and served him with novel cate; and Sergia Orata built a house at the entrance of the Lucrine Lake purposely for the pleasure and convenience of eating oysters perfectly fresh”

from “The Forme of Cury”

NEW YORK TIMES: Judges and lawyers in Florida can no longer be Facebook friends.
In a recent opinion, the state’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee decided it was time to set limits on judicial behavior online. When judges “friend” lawyers who may appear before them, the committee said, it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest, since it “reasonably conveys to others the impression that these lawyer ‘friends’ are in a special position to influence the judge.”


From the Desk of Ed Rawlinson:

This morning I listened to a clip on the wireless of the Band and Bugles of The Rifles playing "Love Farewell". Although only a clip, it sounded a magnificent lament sung by folk singer John Tams. The song was originally written for servicemen going to war against Napoleon and the money raised from this recording will go to the Help for Heroes charity for those affected by the present war in Afghanistan.

Editor notes: you can download for £1 or buy the CD for £4 from Help the Heroes website.

Friday, 11 December 2009


I am worried what I am going to find in my Christmas stocking
this year. I have discovered a gift catalogue the Head
Ferret has hidden in the polystyrene Iron Maiden she keeps to
enforce family discipline.

I was particularly unnerved by the Whirley Dickey Bird
Feeder, the perch of which whirls around when an unsuspecting
bird lands on it. I cannot see that getting the Good
Nest Builder seal of approval.

The dog Taz will, I know, oppose the introduction of a key
ring which responds when you whistle, on the grounds that
if key rings are going to behave like that, it won't be long
before similar responses are expected from long dogs.

I can also do without the "Snap On Vinyl Cover Up" which
catches falling hair; a bisque ceramic Wise Old Owl which
turns pink and hoots in fine weather. I am also a bit worried
what the Law will make of a device for syphoning
petrol, which I have no doubt is sold with a gift-wrapped stiff
sentence. It is said to be useful for bailing boats. I should
have thought bailing out anyone who possessed one would be more

I pass over Nudie Ice Cubes with a wellbred shudder,
offering the same response to Zany Nudey Party Glasses in the
shape of a human body and made - in the coy language of the
catalogue - "each with the details that make the
difference. Four and a half inches high."

It may be that I have misunderstood the copy writer.
But if, as I assume, the difference is only four
and a half inches high, I cannot for the life of me see what
they are making all the fuss about.

I quarrel with the claim that no breakfast table
can be complete without an Egg Topper. "22 fine blades sever
the top of a boiled egg, lifting it off neatly leaving no
shell chips."

My breakfast table is quite complete without an instrument
more appropriate to the Place Vendome during the French
Revolution. Given the the evil temper of most family members at
breakfast time, the introduction of 22 blades would be an
invitation for a replay of that event.

Talking of families, their festive presence means we have no
use for the bottle drainer about which the catalogue speaks
so enthusiastically. For the same reason, we won't need the
foldaway drink rack which prevents spills in the car. I have
relatives who are deeply opposed to drinking and driving in
case they spill anything when they change gear.


The Copenhagen Summit will cost £130 million. It will produce as much CO-2 (41,000 tons) as an African country. It will cost £6.375 million to fly 15,000 delegates to the conference and 140 aeroplanes will be used to fly world leaders. In salaries, the conference will cost £54.5 million. Nine hundred miles of computer cable will be laid - and taken up 12 days later. But look on the bright side. One thousand, four hundred prostitutes will get laid free of charge by anyone wearing a conference badge.

Fancy a drink? Take care! The police are aiming this year to beat last year's breathalyser total of 183,397. Why? Britain and Sweden have the lowest road casualty rate in the world. Dropped from 3,508 in 2003 to 2,538 last year. That is less than five per cent of the casualty rate that occurred when drivers were over the limit. The figures include not only drunken motorists, but drunken pedestrians too.

On a personal note, the breathalyser used in Britain was invented by a friend of mine. At a party his wife unwittingly let slip a way to beat it. Alas, I go so drunk I forgot what she told me.

THE NEW YORK TIMES reports: Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican, toured a prince’s vineyard and castle in Liechtenstein and spent an afternoon at a ski resort in the Alps — all at the expense of a group of European companies. Representative Danny K. Davis, an Illinois Democrat, got the dignitary treatment when a big donor flew him to Inner Mongolia to lobby for a new medical supplies factory in rural China.

And Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, on another privately sponsored trip, stayed at the historic King David Hotel in Jerusalem and attended a gala party near the Western Wall as part of a weeklong conference that lobbyists and executives paid as much as $18,500 to attend.
Despite changes intended to curb Congressional junkets, some lawmakers and even their families continue to take trips hosted by private groups and companies that revel in their access to Washington power brokers.
According to the Daily Mail,RYLANDS LIBRARY has “discovered” a lost 14th century cook-book, “The Forme of Cury”.
By coincidence, I have also lost my Penguin paperback of the book. However, I have replaced it on Amazon. I now learn you can read it free on where it is one of hundreds on offer. So, if you are looking for lost books in the future, I would advise trying them. You were apparently having trouble with the porpoise recipe. I see why. According to my copy: “Make as thou madest Noumbles of Flesh with oynouns.”

Saturday, 5 December 2009

S ave O ur S ausage

The French used to complain that Britain had twenty religions and one sauce. The reason the French had so many sauces was that their meat was never fresh. The food in France was so bad in the 16th century, and the likelihood of being poisoned, either deliberately or by accident, so high that Marie de Medici brought her own cooks from Florence when she went to France to marry Henry II. It was those pioneering Italian cooks who laid the foundation of French high cuisine. In cuisine, as in most things, I am chauvinist to a degree. I am devoted to the English sausage. Either when joined in a tasty trinity with egg and chips or in a nest of mash and cabbage. lapped by a small sea of white wine and suitably seasoned. On sausages I speak with the authority of the ages.
The Skidmore Sausage is obtainable in the Cotswold village of Sherston, made according to a recipe unchanged since 1660. Not always by the hand of a Skidmore born, it is true. But always by a Skidmore named. It being the pleasant custom of whoever takes over the shop as the generations float by to change his name to Skidmore.
I cannot find it in my heart to blame them. The specials board at a restaurant on Phila Street, SARTOGA, offers a whopping “Skiddie” - three pancakes, three eggs, bacon or ham or sausage, home fries, and toast - at $11.95. It is nice to think that my devotion to the sausage is celebrated worldwide.
Somewhere I hope a black pudding bears my name. In a perfect world there would be a black pudding on every breakfast table - or a Dracula Butty, as I have heard it unkindly called. Begin the day with a black pudding and you will be a stranger to the shiver. Summon up its sinew, let loose its blood of wrath, preferably with a back-up of fried bread, egg, sausage and bacon, and carrying riot shields of hot buttered toast, and you are as ten men. Every man-jack of them a 'flu-disperser, buttressed against the winter's blast.
You may judge from the foregoing my reaction to the infamous suggestion that we should cut a sausage a day from the average British diet. It is necessary to save the planet, scientists claim. The scientists called for a 30 per cent reduction in the number of farm animals bred for meat to prevent rising temperatures and rising sea levels. The average meat intake in men is 970g a week and in women 550g a week. A 30 per cent reduction in men's meat intake is equivalent to seven 40g sausages, two 130g chicken breasts, four 70g lamb chops or 12 bacon rashers of 25g. In my view that is a price too high merely to save a planet.
Their controversial report, which partly blames meat-eaters for climate change, was backed by Environment Secretary and vegetarian Hilary Benn's department.

Professor Ian Crute, chief scientist at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board which advises the meat industry, will have none of it. He wisely points out: “A large fall in meat eating or turning vegetarian is not the solution to climate change - it would make only a marginal difference to greenhouse gas emissions. The challenge is to produce meat more sustainable.”
Foreign sausages have their sinister side, as you might expect. In 1997 German police arrested a man on suspicion of murdering a woman with a sausage.
They said she had choked on a Bockwurst, a popular large German sausage. The prosecutors said the man had given a patchy account of events, acknowledging that he may have "administered" a Bockwurst to the woman.

Adolph Louis Luetgert was a German immigrant who owned a Sausage & Packing Company in Chicago. In May 1897 his second wife disappeared. Luetgert said she had deserted him for a secret lover. The police began nosing around the sausage plant. The theory was that the missing Mrs Luetgert had been cooked down to something as easily disposed of as sausage meat. A strange odour emanating from one of the vats in the factory it was drained.The police found unidentifiable bones and a gold wedding ring. They also found bills for the arsenic and potash Luetgert had bought the day before his wife disappeared. Potash, when boiled with water, can do a thorough job on the human body. “I was working on a secret formula to develop a new soap,” Luetgert explained. And soap with a potash base would certainly remove dirt - but skin too. And maybe that was precisely what had happened.
Adolph Luetgert missed melting in the electric chair but he got life in Joliet Prison, where he babbled incoherently to the guards. Though he still insisted he was innocent of her murder, his dead wife was haunting him and seeking her revenge, he said. Meanwhile, the Murder in the Sausage Factory led to false rumours that Luetgert had turned his wife into sausages that were sold to an unsuspecting public.

None of that puts me off sausages but one obsession I am going to have to cure is reading the Daily Mail online when I wake at 4 am. On Tuesday the paper contained the following headlines:
“Businesswoman's Crusader Accused of Bullying Female Workers”, “Sacked for Fighting, the Expert in handling aggressive Children”, “Tiny Yorkshire Terrier Gets ASBO for Upsetting Postman”, “Hacker Arrested for Stealing Players' Virtual Identities in Online Computer Games”.
“Islamists Pelt Muslim Peer with Eggs”, “Head of State Funded Family and Parent Institute Says Day of Typical Family is Over”, “Children's Secretary Ed Balls (so aptly named, one always feels) says 'Marriage Is Not The Key of a Happy Family'”, “Swiss Ban Minarets”.
It was then that it finally hit me. Combine those aberrations with the corruption in the judiciary, parliament, top echelons of the forces, local government, the City and almost any institution; the unnecessary wars, the feral young, the shabby art world, the unmusical music. None of it is new. I have just been reading Robert Harris's fine novel “Lustrum” and the same thing happened in Rome, as it did in Egypt, the Venetian Empire, Greece and any of the more ancient civilisations. Gore Vidal's “Creation” illuminates the strange truth of an explosion of creativity in the 5th century BC, so soon to be mired. My chum the Earl of Norwich wrote the only rival to Gibbon, a three volume history of Byzantium which is both scholarly and wildly amusing . When the work was re-published as a single volume John Julius, reputed the most intelligent man in London, a sort of thinking man's Stephen Fry , publicly advised people not to buy it because the publishers had ” taken all the jokes out”.( Every year John Julius sends his friends a booklet "Christmas Crackers" a collection of poems, prose and eccentricities. It has just arrives so Xmas has begun.)
I ponder the sad truth that in the last days of Empires monsters rise. In Rome, it was Caesar; in Russia, Ivan the Terrible; in Italy, Mussolini; in France, Napoleon; and in Germany, Hitler. With us, it is the most terrible banshee of them all, Lord Meddlesome.
Thoughts like that kept me gloomily awake until the tea arrived.
Footnote: Odd paper, the Daily Mail. On Thursday the Mail headline screamed: “Oldest Cookbook in the World Found” over a story of how experts at John Rylands Library had discovered the cook book used by Richard II's chef, “The Forme of Cury”, and were busily deciphering the recipes. They should done what I did. Buy a copy of the paperback from Amazon.
I warn them not to try the recipes. I made a banquet from them for my friend John Charteris, a Times reporter and adjutant of the Duke of Lancaster's Yeomanry, my maternal family's regiment. It was virtually uneatable.

A new to me word game from Blog reader Judith Elliott called Tom Swifties. As in:

'I swear by Viagra,' Tom said forthcomingly.

'Oxford murders are solved by Lewis nowadays,' Tom said remorselessly.

'I've paid back the money for the duck house,' he exclaimed.

'You just can't get the staff these days,' she said helplessly.

'We're a republic nowadays,' he sighed achingly.

'Theseus has killed the Minotaur!' the messenger said amazingly.

"I'm a Black and Decker man myself,' Tom said boringly.

All these by her husband Don.

We decided to play it ourselves over lunch in our favourite Italian restaurant in Peterborough, Fratelli's. Here's a selection:

“I love the sound of church bells,” said Tom appealingly.

“People in glass houses should be more careful,” said Tom stonily.

“I believe in God,” said Tom trustingly.

“That's a sad symphony,” said Tom pathetically.

“I think my name is Thomas,” said Tom doubtingly.

“Ouch!” said Tom painfully.

“A glass of milk,” said Tom shakily.

But, beware, it's habit forming. My bifstek romana was distinctly chilly when I got round to it. And my favourite (“You're not hanging me up there,” said Jesus crossly.) was disallowed on grounds of blasphemy and being contrary to the rules.

Sunday, 29 November 2009


I deeply regret describing the Fens as a land without scape. It is true that the nearest we have to scenery is a cloud formation and our Far Horizons are further than anyone else's. But there is much to celebrate. The Fens have illustrious children. Oliver Cromwell who was so sensible about Christmas. He banned it; Tom Paine, the font of common sense; John Clare, my favourite poet, Dorothy L Sayers; Edward Fitzgerald of the Rubyiat; and W G Sebald, author of “Rings of Saturn"; John Coke, the father of modern farming, after whom a hat was named. He declined a peerage saying, “There are many peers but only one John Coke of Norfolk”. And Horatio Nelson and Hipkin. Nor must we forget Hereward the Wake, a name that is a poem in itself like the McGillycuddy of the Reeks, the Moncreife of that Ilk and my own late stepfather-in-law The Menzies of Pitfoddle.

The list of Fenland Festivities is endless. It is as if people were escaping from the drab anonymity of endless meadows.

In the Peterborough district alone there are nightly dancing classes in most villages. Nothing unusual? These are Molly, Morris, Appalachian, Scottish Country, Sir Harry's Sword, Clog, Longsword, Welsh and Scottish Border, English Rapper and French dancing.

More traditional festivities?
A blaze of Christmas lights went on here in March last night. To paraphrase an unhappy broadcast of pre-war days describing a Review of the Home Fleet, “The whole bloody town is lit up.”

Nor are we alone. Almost every town or large village in the Fens is ablaze with Christmas lights. Others may illuminate their houses, in the way that Al Gore is said to illuminate his mansion, but no village in the kingdom celebrates Christmas more than Thursford (pop. 400) across the border in Norfolk.

Forty coaches a night bring spectators from all over Fenland and beyond to a Christmas show in a giant converted barn which outdoes the West End. Choirs galore, tableaux vivants, comics and a line up of a hundred lissom show girls.

In Whittlesea, on the Tuesday following Plough Monday (the first Monday after Twelfth Night), a farm labourer dressed as a 'Straw Bear' and danced for money or beer and food. In 1909, an over-zealous police inspector forbade 'Straw Bears' as a form of cadging but the custom was revived in 1980. Over 250 dancers and musicians perform 'Molly', 'Morris', 'Clog' and 'Sword' dances. There are American style 'Appalachian' dances, street performances and Mummers' plays and a decorated plough pulled by a local Morris side. On Saturday the 'Bear' makes an appearance before the 'Bear Burning' on Sunday.

On the Isle of Axholme (which isn't an isle), where little more than a century ago a sheep was hung for stealing milk, there is an even stranger custom. The Haxey Hood is a annual event held in the eponymous village in North Lincolnshire. A leather tube is fought over by a large unorganised rugby scrum and taken to one of four pubs. The official story is that in the 14th century when Lady de Mowbray, wife of landowner John De Mowbray, was riding, her hood was blown away. Thirteen farm workers chased it. The worker who caught it, being shy, gave it to another worker to hand back. She thanked the farm worker who had returned the hood. She said he had acted like a Lord. The worker who had caught the hood was a Fool. She donated 13 acres of land on condition that the chase for the hood would be re-enacted each year.
In the weeks before the event the Fool and the attendant Boggins tour nearby villages. Traditionally, they sing a number of well-known folk songs, including John Barleycorn, Drink England Dry and The Farmer's Boy. All wear their full festival costumes, the only exception being that the Fool's face is not marked.

The Hood Game is played every Twelfth Night. The Lord opens the event. The Fool leads the procession to the Field where the game is played. He has the right to kiss any woman on the way. The Boggins grab anyone who tries to escape from the scrum and throw him back.

On the green in front of the Parish Church the Fool makes a speech of welcome, standing on an old mounting block known as the Mowbray Stone. During this speech a fire is lit with damp straw behind him. The smoke rises up and around him. ‘Smoking the Fool’ is a watered-down version of the earlier custom in which a bonfire was lit beneath a tree. The Fool was suspended over it and swung back and forth. He was almost suffocated before being cut down and dropped into the fire, where he had to make his escape as best he could. The Fool finishes his speech with the traditional words that the crowd chant along with him. They are:
"Hoose agen hoose, toon agen toon, if a man meets a man knock 'im doon, but doan't 'ot 'im."
(This translates as: House against house, town against town, if a man meets a man, knock him down but don’t hurt him hurt him.) On the field four teams representing local pubs fight for possession of the leather log
That is The Sway and the winner is the team which gets the Hood back to its parent pub.

I have lingered lovingly over this because I covered the game as a young reporter and am the only Honorary Boggin. So I can tell you that the whole thing is a pagan fertility rite and the 'Hood' is a phallus. Though honoured to be a Boggin, I don't do the singing bit following a nasty experience. I sang with the Blaenavon Male Voice Choir for a TV programme. They begged me never to sing in public after my first notes threw the entire choir out of tune.


The University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit has been hacked and some embarrassing emails released. One of the most damning comes from Dr Jones, the Head of the Unit. Jones appears to discuss a method of overlaying data of temperature declines with repetitive, false data of higher temperatures.

An Earlier scandal in September cast a shadow over a number of peer-reviewed climate papers. At least eight, purporting to reconstruct the historical temperature record times, may need to be revisited, with significant implications for contemporary climate studies, the basis of the IPCC’s assessments. A number of these involve senior climatologists at the University of East Anglia. In every case, peer review failed to pick up the errors.
The controversy surrounding the global warming e-mail scandal has deepened after a BBC correspondent admitted he was sent the leaked messages more than a month before they were made public.

Read more:


Can no one see why nondescripts have been chosen for the Top Jobs in Europe? Germany and France rule the EU and they ain't about to create their own opposition. They had to unite because they cannot afford a repeat of the mass destruction both countries suffered in WW2. Since Bismark created Germany and Napoleon put some backbone into France, both countries have strived and failed to conquer Europe. They think they will have a better chance conquering by stealth.

What started disguised as a Coal and Steel Federation has succeeded. Four out of every five laws are Made in Europe. Parliament exists to rubber stamp EU diktats. Indeed, we were only allowed into the Club when it became obvious Great Britain had died in two world wars on the battlefields of Europe and had demonstrated its ineffectuality afterwards. It is the dregs of that brave generation and its slimy progeny who have sold us into what will become slavery.

If I were forty yeas younger I would form a Maquis. As it is, I can only console myself with the knowledge that my Empire died in the noblest cause of all the empires in history. We may have lost the fight for freedom but at least our Empire died fighting for it.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

WhI FI ?

My family are intent on hurling me, a small, furry snowball, into the white hot furnace of the technological revolution. It began last Xmas when the Head Ferret gave me a portable phone on which I can record music, listen to Radio 4 and take pictures. I make it a rule never to phone anybody because after a lifetime as a broadcaster I object to electronic conversations I am not being paid for. My grandsons Sam and Lol have both failed, despite intensive courses, to teach me how to record music. I have mixed feelings about Radio 4 where there is clearly a Fatwah against new ideas; the comedy programmes, with rare exceptions, induce broken sobs and many of the women announcers have voices like cheap scent. I can take pictures but, despite months of agonising button pushing, I remain incapable of transferring them to the album on my computer.
For my eightieth birthday the family collectively gave me what I persist in thinking of as an E By Gum Book. Fortunately it already had a selection of books on it. Just as well because the millions of books available free on Gutenberg and Google resolutely refuse to make the leap of faith from the ether to my book. In passing, I must say that E Books are ideal for reading in bed. They come with their own bed light, they are not heavy, and if you fall asleep they cuddle up companionably instead of dashing themselves on the bedroom floor in the way my laptop does the moment my eyes close.
The laptop is the cause of another worry. I wake at 4am and like to pass the leaden hours before the tea arrives reading the Daily Mail online. Such is my construction and limited vision that I have to rest the laptop on the belly so thoughtfully provided by the Creator. Part of the pleasure is the warmth it generates which flows into my body. Or was until I read that the Wireless Telegraph on computers exudes radio activity. Now I am terrified of waking one morning to find my body is glowing and I am transmuting into a Triffid.
My grandson Sam further complicated my life by enrolling me on Twitter, which I do not use for fear of meeting Stephen Fry ( how I agree with the reader who wrote to the Mail on Thursday: “I read that Stephen Fry and Ben Elton are emigrating. There is a God after all.”)
With Twitter comes a fresh horror. Twitter strikes back. I swear I have done nothing to disturb it but I keep getting emails saying that some person or persons of whom I have never heard are following me. It was some time before I discovered the hand of Twitter in this disturbing news and on the rare occasions I left the house I kept looking nervously behind me.
But all this worrying technology is as nothing compared with Skype. The very name rings with menace like Sprite or Goblin or Gnome. Skype is a noun heavy with mystic menace. God knows what its collective is.
My son-in-law David introduced me to it this week and, as if that wasn't frightening enough, his son Sam has bought me a webcam for Xmas. This means I can be seen when I make a phone call. I am not a pretty sight but now I am constantly combing hair and beard in case the Skype rings. Did I write rings? It doesn't ring. It howls like a demented banshee and gibbers. No one told me about this. I spent anxious hours scurrying round the house trying to trace the source of the strange noise. I finally tracked it down to the computer and was convinced it was about to take inhuman form. One day I hope to get over the embarrassment when the computer mechanic I called at thirty quid a throw explained what it was. On Xmas Eve I and my two Teddy Bears of the Bedchamber - Beau, a bespoke bear who was given to me by a Swiss lady called Maria,who in her youth was accounted the most beautiful woman in Europe and Gormless, who is my favourite bear:- will hide under the blankets in case Santa arrives with a Blue Tooth. I will pin a note to the pillow saying This is a Gibbs Dentifrice House And We Are Protected Against the IMPS of Decay”
My daughter I know is knitting me an Aran cardigan for the Festering Season. Thank God I have mastered the mechanics of the cardigan.Fortunately I have friends who give me gentle gifts like Teddy Bears and walking sticks. An only child, I have never been without a bear since the age of two. My mother made me a giant Paddington Bear for my birthday. My Fiftieth Birthday. This week a new bear joined my Hug (collective noun for bears). He is a bear called “Hero”. You'll see him in the photo on fire piquet in the study with Private T. Bear, Black Watch (RHR), an earlier Xmas present from my wife and Muhammad Bear. in protective custody..
Hero has an impeccable pedigree. He comes from the charity “Help the Heroes” and the greater part of the £13.95 I paid for him, including postage, goes to comfort and support our wounded soldiers. Anyone looking for a really lovely Xmas gift can find another bear on:
I am not a bit surprised that this infernal computer resolutely refuses to download my bears pixnic. Will email subscribers. Other readers I will send on receipt of email request. WE ARE NOT BEATEN YET
Here are some gems from the collection:
HOG: drift, drove, herd ;
JELLYFISH: smack, brood, smuth, smuck, fluther
MAGPIE: tiding, gulp, murder, charm, tittering, flock
MARTEN: richness
MOSQUITO: scourge,
ORANGUTAN: buffoon
PARTRIDGE: covey, bew
PEACOCK: muster, ostentation, pride
PHEASANT: bouquet, nest, nide, nye, brood, covey
POSSUM: passel
SEAL: pod, herd, school, trip,
ROOK, , rookery harem, team
SHARK: shiver, school, shoal
SNAKE: bed, knot, den, pit, nest, slith
SPIDER: cluster, clutter, venom
TIGER: streak, ambush, hide.
WOODPECKER: descent, gatling
TROUT: hover, leash, troup

WHAT THE PAPERS ARE SAYING.................................


Irish Independent
By Maeve Sheehan
Sunday November 15 2009
THE weapons were slash hooks, pitchforks, swords, clubs and pick axe handles; the battlegrounds included a church graveyard, an agricultural fair, a housing estate and the busy shopping streets of a large provincial town. We could have been hearing about the turf wars of another era. But this was Tralee District Court on Friday morning.
In the past six months, an internecine feud between rival Traveller families has erupted into frequent violent outbursts in a town where appearances matter. Tralee is regarded as an important tourist hub and is home to the annual beer fest that is the Rose of Tralee beauty pageant.
On Friday, we heard of midnight rampages by men wielding iron bars, slash-hooks smashing through car windows in broad daylight and a mass lunchtime brawl on a Sunday afternoon. Gardai have rounded up so many suspects that Judge James O'Connor held a special sitting of Tralee District Court on Friday so they could all be dealt with.
At one court sitting, last month, Judge O'Connor had to abandon proceedings when feuding families clashed on the steps of the court and the ensuing brawl ricocheted up and down Ashe Street, a sedate street of offices and businesses.


Top 10 Tory bloggers either doubt or dismiss the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity, according to a survey of the views of top Conservative thinkers on the web. The views run counter to David Cameron's focus on environment issues and will deal a blow to his hopes of changing the Tory party's anti-green image.

Saturday, 14 November 2009


Our paperboy was a vampire. Nice lad until the day he murdered a neighbour, drank her blood and ate part of her liver.

At his trial at Mold Assizes his defence counsel said that he was obsessed with vampire films and blamed them for leading him into crime. So any suggestion that we are not affected by what we see on TV misses me by a wide margin.

If there is anyone sitting on a golden throne up there among the clouds, you can bet that He/She has realised that Their big mistake was evolution.

The Presence has only got to look at the creatures created to see that the evolved human being is a planetary disaster. Compared with ants, rats, even viruses, it isn't even under starter's orders. The other species are more caring of themselves, of each other and their surroundings. Insects live happily together in crowded communities that are largely disease free. They do not form themselves in battalions to wipe out other hives or hills to increase their land. Except for essential nourishment by eating the least fit, varieties live in harmony.

I think part of the reason is that none of them have TV. With some exceptions, the human race is a good deal less human than it was in the Thirties. Much cleverer, healthier, richer and better dressed. But collectively unpleasant and I believe that TV and the cinema are responsible.

One of the impulses our Cro Magnon brain shares with its animal relations is a compelling urge to imitate. We see it in the way our feral young strive to be different, as Quentin Crisp pointed out, by all dressing exactly the same. Indeed, the whole world of fashion is a demonstration of this rather endearing human trait. Or was in the days when male fashion designers liked women rather than, as they do now, jealously compete with them.

I'll bet that's another thing upsets Him/Her Upstairs. Sends us out in the world in a luxurious fur coat with matching leggings, suitable for town or country, and the first chance we get we lose the hair and clothe ourselves in absurd garments like trousers. Or even more absurd: ties. I abhor the exposure of the neck, which is currently fashionable, so I have bought a job lot of polo-necked golf jerseys.

I only hope that I have time to wear them because the latest nap selection is that He/She is getting out of the human being market. Eradicated species has become publishing hot property after a bidding battle in the US saw Henry Holt, a publisher, beat its rivals to buy The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert last week. According to the New York Times, a "mid-six-figure advance" has now been agreed between writer and publisher.

"After talking about the perils of global warming this is the most crucial subject," said Gillian Blake of Holt, after completing the deal with Kolbert, a writer for the New Yorker on environmental issues. Her last book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, outlined evidence collated from sites across the planet showing how global warming is changing the world. The book was well reviewed on both sides of the Atlantic, with the Observer praising it as "a superbly crafted, diligently compressed vision of a world spiralling towards destruction."

Just the thing for a Christmas read.
Scientists say the number of species being lost is approaching levels reached during five pivotal extinction events that have swept the planet over the past 600 million years. Among these catastrophes was the event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Kolbert's task will be to be show whether or not humanity - with its spiralling population, widespread habitat destruction, over-fishing and global warming - is rivalling these.
I will bet Al Gore is investing in humane killers.

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

I invited interpretation of a very odd dream I had. From a reader in Australia came this response:

“This man's dream is absolutely extraordinary. I need to think on it, but what is very clear - and you, I am sure, realised it too - is that he is a beautiful being who has tried so hard to fit in with Society and do what he thinks is required of him. In the process he has forgotten the essential self which is shrinking away and seriously being eaten up by our mad 3D world. The fact that the crinkly paper is golden tells me a great deal. He is aware that he must nurture the self, but it is the 3D self he is nurturing and the real him is slowly eroding. If I was him I would think very hard and maybe go somewhere quiet and tranquil and meditate on whether he has the courage to walk away from the life he is leading now and totally allow his essential beautiful self to blossom and just BE!! It will require sacrifice in a financial and perhaps social sense but if he doesn't do this he will become ill and not fulfil his destiny.

“The leap of faith will take enormous courage but he will be taken care of and evolve into the butterfly he can become. He is being warned very clearly and if he takes himself in both hands and makes the jump he has a rich and totally fulfilling destiny awaiting him, otherwise who knows. Tell him he has earned the right and once he gains a true belief in himself others will follow along and accept it.

“We must always be true to the self, there is no avoiding it. Nothing less than total surrender is demanded of him.”

I think she is trying to tell me in a kindly way to get lost!


Twinning Chiefs came under fire this week over plans to link Lytham St Anne's with a town in Japan. Chair of the Lytham St Anne's Twinning Association Barbara MacKenzie is looking into the possibility of forging a partnership with Hayashima, near Hiroshima.

Mayor Tomohiko Sato visited St Anne's in August and Mrs MacKenzie and her husband made the return trip at the end of October.

Councillor Barbara Pagett this week hit out at the plans, saying that atrocities committed by Japanese forces during the Second World War were still too raw in the minds of many residents. Her claims were backed up by Chairman of the St Anne's Branch of the Royal British Legion, Albert Cooper.

More than 50,000 British PoWs and 19,000 civilians were captured by the Japanese and forced to work in inhumane conditions in mines or on the so-called Railway of Death between Thailand and Burma. Nearly one quarter of those seized died in captivity.

Mr Cooper said: "In my personal opinion I can't think of anything in its favour other than a nice holiday for somebody. If you ever mention Japan to anybody who served there you get a terrible reaction. It's just too soon."

Saturday, 7 November 2009


This week as we mourned millions of our best young men who died in the fight for freedom, the country that was one of the reasons for going to war signed us up to a new dictatorship. One which the country we fought against - and the others who abandoned us to our fate - now rule. It is also, with bitter irony, the celebration of the day the Berlin Wall came down and the people of Eastern Europe, after half a century of rule by outsiders, celebrated a brief freedom. As we face international bankruptcy, we and they have become the playthings of a bureaucracy so corrupt and incompetent that for twelve years it has been unable to get its own accounts past an accountant. It is also a week of mourning when we commemorate and commend the work of Guy Fawkes who tried to rid us of the men who sold out Britain.

The timing of the six hundred people I employ who are seeking a rise is to say the least agley since they are now largely redundant. A large number of them have already been caught fiddling their expenses and out of town allowances. Businessmen and local politicians have gone to prison for lesser frauds.There was no need. I pay them a decent salary, far more than similar organisations in other countries. They have a third of the year on paid holiday and the company runs just as efficiently in their absence.Other companies we deal with all over the world invite them to stay and I pay their travel expenses. Much of the time they are in work is spent in small groups worrying over trifles and complaining about their pay. I was foolish to allow them to set house rules governing expenses but, having employed them, I felt I could trust them to do the right thing by the firm.

None of them had any experience of the job when I took them on. Most were content to follow the example of senior workers who were frankly not the role models one would have chosen. None the less they seek parity with doctors and senior civil servants. I am not sure about civil servants but I am here to tell you that my doctors earn every penny.............WHICH IS MORE THAN CAN BE SAID FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT.

A quarrelsome lot, they are currently embroiled in a brawl that put the mess in Mesopotamia. In less than a century, in a heady mixture of dishonesty and incompetence, they have managed the impossible in uniting the most disparate group of quarrelsome tribes in the desire to wipe us out.

We invaded Iraq with no clear idea what we were going to do with it when we had conquered. Having smashed all its instruments of government and reduced it to a battlefield of warring sects, we moved on and invaded Afghanistan, where we soon defeated a ruling body which we had put in place to replace its corrupt rulers. The
excuse for the quagmire we created there, was the search for the hundred members of Al-Qaeda,who we discovered had moved to Pakistan.

Undeterred, we lost some of our finest youth supporting an enthusiastically corrupt government against the one we created. We also created a dubious army and, in order to give the country a police force, hurled gold coins at the heads of warlords - who had prospered under the Taliban - to recruit a police force of luckless tribesmen whom they paid a pittance.

The obvious next move is to invade Pakistan. Let us hope we remember that Pakistan differs in one respect from the other artificial countries we created. It has the atom bomb.

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

The BBC is broadcasting a series of dramatisations of books it believes are neglected classics. With most of them you can see why. But I wonder why we neglect the man who beyond peradventure was the greatest novelist of the twentieth century.

Howard Spring, Britain’s best-selling author in the Sixties, was born in abject poverty in Cardiff in the late 19th century. It is interesting how many of his books are about a poor boy -or girl - who becomes rich and moves to Cornwall but the description closest to his own childhood occurs in what I believe is his greatest work “Fame Is The Spur”.

He wrote 14 novels, three plays, three children’s books, a volume of literary criticism and, between 1939 and 1946, three semi-autobiographical memoirs. Like another Cardiff giant, Ivor Novello, and the dazzling writer Gwyn Thomas, he is totally ignored in Wales for the purely political reasons which led it, in his lifetime, to vilify Dylan Thomas. To a country that supposedly values culture and scholarship, it is nothing short of a national disgrace and encourages those who believe the core value of the Celt is hypocrisy. The truth is that Establishment Wales is a Palace of Mediocrity, a closed society to which no one in his right mind would wish to belong.


I was a little worried before seeing the skin specialist this week when I was asked to confirm my colour. The idea of a colour-blind skin specialist did not fill me with confidence. However, she turned out to be a stunning redhead who told me I was suffering from a friendly cancer on my back
I thought of the response of Evelyn Waugh when he was told that surgeons had removed a benevolent tumour from Randolph Churchill.

“The only benevolent scrap in his body and they have removed it.”


Poor Ernie Marples has been coming in for some stick in the 50th birthday celebrations for the M1 which he opened as Transport Minister.

He had a finely honed sense of publicity. When he became engaged, he invited a selection of his elderly constituents in Wallasey to a wine and cheese party in his office there. Always the gourmet, he brought up from London by train and taxi two cases of a very fine Premier Cru St Emillion. It was not improved by the journey nor were the guests universally impressed.

I was there for the Mirror, which he had thoughtfully tipped off. One voter more disgruntled than the rest told me: “The bugger won't leave me alone. Every Christmas he sends me a plum pudding, some potted meat (it was actually Fortnum pate) and a bottle of wine. I hate pudding and I am a teetotaller but he takes no bloody notice.

“And,”continued the disgruntled constituent, “this year it got lost in the post and I didn't get it till June.”

Ernie was Postmaster General at the time.


Al Gore, the former US vice president, could become the world's first carbon billionaire after investing heavily in green energy companies. Last year Mr Gore's venture capital firm loaned a small California firm $75m to develop energy-saving technology. The company, Silver Spring Networks, produces hardware and software to make the electricity grid more efficient. The deal appeared to pay off in a big way last week, when the Energy Department announced $3.4 billion in smart grid grants, the New York Times reports. Of the total, more than $560 million went to utilities with which Silver Spring has contracts. Few people have been as vocal about the urgency of global warming and the need to reinvent the way the world produces and consumes energy as Mr Gore. And few have put as much money behind their advocacy and are as well positioned to profit from this green transformation, if and when it comes. Critics, mostly on the political right and among global warming sceptics, say Mr Gore is poised to become the world's first "carbon billionaire", profiteering from government policies he supports that would direct billions of dollars to the business ventures he has invested in.

Saturday, 31 October 2009


Here I sit, a contented hen, clucking to myself and watching with pride as my chickens scatter over the farmyard that is the media. Trailing their clouds of glory. Newspaper editors, news editors, war correspondents and dazzling columnists all spent their egg days under my watchful eye.

None more distinguished than John Edwards who ranged the world for the Daily Mail and who is still in retirement spinning round the planet like a restless top.

The Daily Wail is a very odd newspaper. I usually wake at five and immediately reach for the lap top to download Mail Online. Not for its personality. It is the most spiteful tabloid. Never happier than when gleefully photographing the cellulite of ageing pop stars and actresses. Endlessly making your flesh creep. The Express has its Crusader: the Mail should carry Dickens' Fat Boy. Looking on the bright side is anathema to that mournful assembly of type. Nevertheless, I read it. It has the best stable of columnists of any daily newspaper.

This week it struck a rare happy note. No need to worry about Global Warming. We are within a frog's leap of the End of he World.

The Mayans, it assures us, calculated that a lunar month - the period between successive new moons - lasted 29.5305 days, just 34 seconds away from its actual length. Their Calendar ends abruptly on December 21, 2012.
Not only the Mayans. Michael Drosnin, in his book “The Bible Code”, claims to have found encoded biblical descriptions of the Earth being pounded by comets in the year 2012.
Lawrence Joseph, author of “Apocalypse 2012”, claims gravitational and energy forces operate from the centre of the milky way. If disrupted, they would throw our bodies and our planet out of kilter, resulting in catastrophe.
This theory is debunked by David Morrison of NASA,.who also refutes a popular internet theory that worldwide devastation will be caused by Earth’s magnetic polarity suddenly changing and throwing its direction of rotation into reverse. He says: ‘The magnetic polarity does change every few hundred thousand years and the last time was about 400,000 years ago, but there is no evidence to suggest that it will happen again any time soon.'
It would at least prove that God ,the driving cause, is a woman.
David Morrison also dismisses the idea that a mysterious planet known as Nibiru is heading towards Earth at an alarming rate.
“If this thing really was only three years away from hitting Earth, it would be the brightest thing in the sky apart from the sun and the moon,’ he says. ‘It would have been tracked by thousands of amateur and professional astronomers all over the world. You just can’t hide a planet.’
The last planet that beat up on us 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs.
That is as maybe. But it happened. Ask a dinosaur.
Searches of the cosmos up to 100 years into the future by NASA’s Near Earth Object Program led to them reporting that there are no serious threats in the offing and, even if a sizeable projectile did hit us, it might not wipe us out altogether.
‘There would be global firestorms and severe acid rain,’ says Don Yeomans, manager of the programme. ‘But all of these effects are relatively short-term, so the most adaptable species, like cockroaches and humans, would be likely to survive.’
That is no doubt what they told the dinosaurs.
There isn't a lot of comfort in the reassurance by Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London, that we are 12 times more likely to experience the explosion of a super-volcano. He defined that as an eruption that expels 1,000 cubic kilometres or more of debris, enough to obliterate an area the size of Yorkshire.
Keep your eye on Yellowstone Volcano in Wyoming. It could explode with the force of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs and plunge the planet into a nuclear winter.
‘There would be great clouds of sulphur gas that would mix with the water in the atmosphere to form a veil over the Earth, cutting out sunlight and dramatically cooling the Earth’s surface,’ says Professor McGuire. ‘A super-volcano probably wouldn’t kill all of us, but there would be a devastating impact on our global economy and society.’
Try as I may, I get very little assurance from that.Though I suppose cockroaches
are laughing up their wing cases.
Scientists agree we are not immortal. Diminishing supplies of hydrogen in the sun, as in all ageing stars, will cause it to swell up and engulf us before collapsing in on itself and becoming a ‘white dwarf’.
The good news is that this is unlikely to happen for another four billion years or so. And since none of the other aforementioned fates is likely to befall us for a very long time to come, if at all, we are probably safe to get on with our Christmas plans for 2012.
We cannot be too complacent about mankind’s longevity, however.
The Earth’s magnetic field - crucial for deflecting solar radiation and channelling it into belts that harmlessly circle the planet - will diminish to the point where it can no longer protect us from the sun’s rays. This would lead to an epidemic of cancers and a major disruption of the food chain.
Compasses would stop working, animals would be unable to find their way back to breeding grounds, and the weather would become less predictable. The Earth would become unstable, unleashing a series of natural disasters.
When the Daily Mail puts the frighteners in, it doesn't mess about.
Nor is it without its believers. Years ago it claimed that the Scots were descended from an Egyptian pharaoh's daughter. Muhammad Fayed had obviously brooded over this for some time. This week he bought himself a kilt and made a bid to be King of Scotland. Fayed King of Scotland and Blair President of Europe?
Let us pray the Mayans were right.

I am told that the biggest TV audience watches “Strictly Come Dancing” and the X Factor and that Simon Cowell, that curious little man with a perma-tan doing his best to live up to his hair-do, has made a fortune thinking them up.
Thinking them up? I have been avoiding amateur contests like them since Ralph Reader did his appalling Gang Show. Parroted by Carol Levis, Hughie Green. Name me a monster and I will give you a talent contest. Pubs have been doing them for years. And while we are talking TV, what is the point of having such state of the art technology as Freeview and Fetch if you only use it to repeat programmes ad nauseam? The BBC is getting rid of many of its top executives. Not enough.


Ken Ashton emails:

My grandson, Jacob is five.
Each Friday, they are given a book to take home for their Mum to read to them and make comment.
This week's book is a paperback novel about pirates and the intro reads...
'Yo-ho, me hearties, let's get into town, drink some rum, crack a few 'eds, scour the brothels and what if we catch crotch pox?'

The author Michael Cox says in his website;
'... working as a trainee spiv, encyclopaedia salesman, whippet wrangler and rose grower, Michael became a teacher, using his spare moments to write stories, paint pictures and hide inside other people's imaginations. He enjoys visiting schools.'
Which reminds me. A new X Ray machine planned for airport security shows naked bodies and concealed bombs. Fears of paedophilia mean it cannot be used on children. They will be examined by the old method. Running hands over their bodies.

Saturday, 24 October 2009


So that's it then. It's official The Ice Cap will have melted in a decade. Our Prime Sinister only gave us five days but, as usual, though he may have made the world safe for marauding banks, he was wrong.

All the same, that's me hunting for a 3XXX wet suit and joining the porpoises swimming round the top of Blackpool Tower.

Hold your foot up. This melting of the ice caps which is going to cause the waters to rise and drown us all...........................................????? I am not trying to do a Canute, but when the ice turns to water, won't the water just take the place that used to be filled by ice? So the level will hardly rise at all, surely?

I am told that if the ice were to melt away completely the oceans would rise no further that the volume in a glass of gin-and-tonic to which a lump of ice had been added. Believe me, I have done the research. The level in the glass does not rise perceptibly when the cubes have melted away.

Global warning is attractive to governments. Lots of new laws, making us even easier to control, and no one living today will ever know whether they were right or wrong. Scientists who support the theory get $4 billion in grants. Carbon trading brings in $2-3 trillion a year. Yet two prominent oceanographers, David B. Ericson and Goesta Wollin, estimate: “A new theory to explain continental glaciations has been published for every year that has passed since the first recognition of the evidence for past glaciation."

The EU promises to save the world with wind turbines. OK if the wind is blowing, but a lot of the time it isn’t. Solar cells are fine if the sun is shining, except that a lot of the time it isn’t, especially at night. Tidal systems work where there is a suitable coastal feature, but there aren’t many. Bio-fuels? The country’s entire grain crop would be needed to power our road transport.

Many scientists dismiss wind farms as government subsidies and have demonstrated that energy consumed in building thousands of new solar cell factories would create a long term warming debt. Cells convert less than twelve per cent of the sun's rays into electricity. The rest is re-radiated as heat, contributing to global warming. Professor Ian Plimer, the Australian geologist whose new book Heaven And Earth: Global Warming — the Missing Science Quartet (£25), shows that ‘anthropogenic global warming’ is a dangerous, ruinously expensive fiction, a ‘first-world luxury’ with no basis in scientific fact.

He says polar ice has been present on earth for less than 20 per cent of geological time; extinctions of life are normal; climate changes are cyclical and random; the CO2 in the atmosphere - to which human activity contributes the tiniest fraction - is only 0.001 per cent of the total CO2 held in the oceans, surface rocks, air, soils and life; CO2 is not a pollutant but a plant food; the earth’s warmer periods - such as when the Romans grew grapes and citrus trees as far north as Hadrian’s Wall - were times of wealth and plenty.

Climate IS changing. That is what climate does. The most persistent myths are the drowned kingdoms round the UK, the drowned city Atlanta and the Great Flood. Years ago I interviewed a scientist at the Marine Science Laboratory at the University of Wales. His team operated a giant drill which excavated samples of the earth's core. They found evidence of a world-wide flood. An academic chum of mine conducting an underwater survey of the Gwynedd coast discovered outlines of dwellings far out to sea. The Vikings farmed in Greenland; the Chinese sailed right round the Arctic in 1421 - and there was little ice at the North Pole.

Worryingly, eight peer-reviewed studies, significantly supporting roles in global warnings, are fraudulent. Rings from twelve trees at the Yamal peninsula in Siberia were used to ‘reconstruct’ past temperatures. They indicated pronounced and dramatic uptick in temperatures. A wider test of trees from the Peninsula showed no dramatic recent warming. Perversely, the Yamal peninsula contains the biggest field of gas reserves on the planet which will release millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and, on the peninsula itself, pose a grave threat to the Nenets reindeer herders and their ancient way of life. That won't be a consideration. Gazprom, Russia's state energy giant, says there is nearly 38 trillion cubic metres on the peninsula and in adjacent offshore fields – enough to supply Europe for several decades. Putin invited international energy companies to become partners in extracting Yamal's gas reserves, hinting at vast profits from what is now the world's biggest energy project.

Happily, studies of Victorian mariners' logs show man-made greenhouse gases are having less impact than many scientists claim. Since there were no marine chronometers until the 19th century, ships' captains needed to log very accurate weather details, including wind speed and direction, in order to gauge their longitude. HMS Dorothea's 1818 ship’s log gives the earliest account of weather in the Norwegian Arctic and shows the summer of 1818 was not markedly colder than was typical in the late 20th century.

That doesn't mean we can stop worrying. The logs helped to prove the effect on the climate of volcanic eruptions. Several captains observed a decline in temperature in 1816, which became known as the year without a summer. The eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 sent so much sun reflecting sulphur into the atmosphere that global temperatures dipped the following year, with snow reported in June in New York State.
The most compelling evidence for the prosecution in the Giant Weather Hoax comes from Nathan Myhrvold, who researched quantum cosmology research with Stephen Hawking, founded the Microsoft Research laboratory and of whom Bill Gates said, “I don't know anyone who is smarter.” He says the global warming rhetoric is exaggerated.
His view is shared by the physist Lowell Wood. Myhrvold's academic tutor and a protégé of Edward Teller, Wood works for the US government, various universities and the Star Wars missile defence system. He insists climate models being used cannot even do giant storms. He claims, that although sea levels rose by 425 feet in the last 12,000 years, the bulk of the rise was in the first thousand years. In the past century the rise has been less than eight feet.
Myrhrvold agrees: “In the Seventies there was a global panic that the earth was cooling. The trend began to reverse when we cleaned the air. Most of the global warming is due to good stewardship.” He pointed out the carbon dioxide level 80 million years ago was at least 1,000 parts per million, which is the regulation standard inside new energy-efficient office buildings.
Ken Caldeira, one of the most respected climate scientists in the world who runs an ecology lab at Stamford University, agrees that human activity is responsible for some global warming but maintains that carbon dioxide is not the cause. A doubling of carbon dioxide traps less than two per cent of the radiation emitted from the earth.
The three scientists, part financed by Bill Gates, run a company called Intellectual Ventures Inc., an invention company in which scientists and puzzle solvers dream up solutions and take out 500 patents every year. Their solution? Those ships' logs showed that volcanoes affected climate by sending sulphur dioxide into the tropesphere; 34 gallons per minute of sulphur dioxide in water was enough to cool the climate. Ventures Inc. plan to pump 34 gallons of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere per minute through a multi-nozzled,18 miles long, 2 inch hosepipe. Stratospheric prevailing winds of 100 mph would wrap the vapour round the earth in twenty minutes. The system could be working in two years at a cost of £20 million, with annual operating costs of about ten million. They have even picked the site. The oil sands in Alberta have mountains of waste sulphur for which no use can be found. Myhrvold says: “Sulphur would be burned into sulphur dioxide and then liquified. With one corner of a sulphur mountain we could solve the whole global warming problem for the northern hemisphere.”
Sounds bizarre but infinitely preferable to coating the countryside with windmills of the mindless.
Fossil Fuels pay for Wahhabi-ism. We buy oil; they stash weapons to use against us. The West supplies weapons and bribes Saudi princes to buy them. It is like Saladin sending his scimitar round to Richard One's tent to get it sharpened on the Royal Grindstone.
********************* *********************** ***************** *******
Bizarre tragedy struck the Detroit Marathon last Sunday when three men died within16 minutes. Daniel Langdon, 36, collapsed at 9.02am local time between the 11- and 12-mile markers; Rick Brown, 65, fell in the same area at 9.17am; and a minute later 26-year-old Jon Fenlon collapsed just after finishing the half-marathon. Naturally I am anti both marathon running and jogging. Hipkin, our eighty year old gardener, cannot understand me. He has bought himself a skipping rope, which he uses every chance he gets.
I warned him that Jim Fixx, the man credited with turning a continent on to physical fitness in the 1970s, keeled over and died while on a four-mile run at the age of 52. Fixx took up running in the 1960s when he weighed 220pounds. When he died in 1984, he was down to 159 pounds. Bob Hughes, the Australian art critic, penned the following in ten minutes after being challenged to write his epitaph:
The Glutton gross in paunch and thigh
Eludes the Reaper Grim.
Swollen of nose and pink of eye,
The drunkard laughs at him

The chair-bound Journalist, the Don,
Carelessly quaff champagne,
The Pop Star lives forever, on
Pills, Bimbos and cocaine.

Frustrated by this doleful news,
Death newer victims picks,
He laces on his jogging shoes
And catches up with FIXX.

Another canard of our sorry times is that obesity kills. I am 80 and eight stone over weight and, although it's tried pretty hard, it still hasn't killed me. If I am dead by the time you read this, the argument still stands, with the added bonus that I will miss the Olympic Games and won't worry about this notice on the wall at a March Old People's Home: “Be kind to your kids. They are the ones who will choose your nursing home.”

A man who slapped a police horse across the face claimed it had stood on his foot. Christopher Taylor swore at mounted policeman PC Adam Pearson and police horse Sawley – telling him and his "ugly" horse to go away. Taylor, 26, of Anderson Street, Blackpool, admitted being drunk and disorderly.


A young articulate black man in the audience and a Muslim Peer on the panel were agreed there should be a cap on immigration, yet they criticised Griffin's ethnic stance. The panel prated on about freedom of speech at the same time as they questioned his right to be on the programme.

I cannot conceive of joining or supporting the BNP but, once invited, he should have been given a courteous hearing. As it was, the whole programme was devoted to bashing one of the guests, a bashing in which the supposedly impartial chairman joined. I have long thought the programme would be improved by a competent chairman but the BBC uses nepotism as a substitute for racism.
(the letter The Guardian rejected)

Saturday, 17 October 2009

They're Under Allah's Orders

It has nothing to do with me. I am an aspiring Zen Buddhist and we take a very relaxed view on the God business. But if we are wrong and there is a meddlesome Supreme Being, my money is on Allah by a neck, with Mohammed a close second.

Look at the full SP.

One of the first outsiders to visit the Muslim Holy Cities was a shipwrecked cabin boy called Joseph Pitts. In 1679 he wrote: “I profess I could not chuse but to admire to see these poor creatures so extraordinarily devout and affectionate, when they were about these superstitions, and with what awe and trembling they were possessed...............”

By the 19th century you couldn't put the odds on paper for a Muslim win. An early Arabist John Lewis Burckhardt visited Mecca and Medina in 1814 disguised as a member of the Mamluk corps. He was shocked by what he saw in the Holy Mosque.

“The Kaaba is rendered the scene of such indecency and criminal acts as can not with propriety be more particularly noticed. They are not only practiced with impunity, but, it may be said, almost publicly; and my own indignation has often been excited on witnessing abominations which called forth from other passing spectators nothing more than a laugh............”

Wisely the owner looked for another trainer. He found a lawyer called Muhammad 'Abd al-Wahab
who decided that all knowledge not based on the Koran and traditions of the Prophet was false. He tried to introduce his training methods in his home town 'Uyainah and was kicked out. The neighbouring town.Dar'ihay welcomed him with open arms. Its mayor, Muhammad ibn Saud, hired him for the House of Sa'ud Racing Stables and promised to make his training methods compulsory among other stables in the neighbourhood. His stable boys took the new system so seriously they called themselves the Wahhabi Boys.

They were trained as street fighters and sent to spread the doctrine by wiping out the opposition. That was the cradle of the super-rich stable, Saudi Arabia.

In 1818 the Wahhabi- trained stable boys even went to war with Egypt and only narrowly lost.
To compensate, Allah gave them oil as an undercover bribe and they never looked back.

Where was the West when all his was happening? Usually picking the wrong horse with breathtaking skill, unfailingly backing losers and acting as though it was taking part in a not very good amateur production of The Desert Song.

In 1918 the racing world was rocked by a scandal at The Peace to End All Peace Trophy meeting at Versailles. The meeting was meant to celebrate the end of the war. After a cabal in a railway carriage, an English and Welsh gambling syndicate took a commission from Arabia for an each way bet on a cert, Arab Kingdom. In fact they put the money on the secret favourite in the overnight declaration, Grab it For Us.

Shady figures, all of them with form - “Taffy” Lloyd Geoge, “Slimey” Bill Sykes and “Fingers” Picot - were convicted of rigging the verdict after a Stewards' Enquiry. They tried to make amends by leasing kingdom franchises to Sharif Hussein and Ibn Saud. But this was wrecked when another gambler “Doc” Balfour introduced a ringer called “Israel”, racing under American colours. His riding instructions to the jockey were uncompromising: “For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country…The four great powers are committed to Zionism, and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”
The future of the Race under Muslim dominance has seen many changes. Wahhabi rules apply at most major stables and there has been a sad change in the Home of Racing, Saudi Arabia.
Death on a Haj or pilgrimage is the End most consummately to be wished for. In earlier times pilgrims had to rely on disasters, whores, disease, pillaging and murder by the Desert Arabs who controlled the Pilgrim routes. Those routes have ben replaced by four lane highways. Speed and the unpredictably bizarre oriental driving skills render the entry into paradise and the sixteen raisins, the award for dying, easier to achieve.

In his book “Armies in the Sand”, a masterly account of the rise of the Wahhabi, the American Arabist John Sabini writes:

“(The Holy City) now offers reception centres, guides, accommodation and medical services. To perform these tasks it uses the most advanced techniques of radio, telephone, closed circuit television, helicopters, anti-biotics, cameras, computers and the silicon chip......At first the Wahhabi Imams opposed these innovations as the work of heretics and the having the Quaran read on the first radio broadcast from the kingdom they became convinced the innovations were good if they were done in the service of Allah. But the Saudi Government still enforces the moral standards of its Unitarian origins. Tobacco and music are now permitted, but alcohol, prostitution and unseemly dress are forbidden.”

Puzzlingly these restrictions do not seem to apply to owners when they are racing abroad.

++ ++ ++ ++ ++

The great joy in our lives is our old gardener Hipkin. He is the quintessential Fenman and a keen observer of his neighbours. This week he excelled himself. I wish you could hear his brogue, which, alas, is dying in the Fen towns in favour of Estuary English.

“Now,” he said, “Ahm goin to tell e somthin. This woman what I work for she sez to me, she says, 'Ahm gooin on oliday tomorrer and I dunno know weer to hide me money.' And er usband, he says, 'Ah'll bury it in't gardin an I'll stick a twig in so we'll know weer it is.' So that's what they do and they goes away.

“And what happened next day is along comes their son with his rotavator and rotavates the whole garden. And his machine chews up the stick. Took em a week to find the tin.”

Hipkin is seriously rich yet at 80 he delivers papers every morning and two afternoons. He tends twenty gardens, for many of which he makes no charge. We pay him but he refuses to take more than £8 for a shift that lasts at least four hours. His great joy is to take his partner Miss Beart to “Skeggie” (Skegness) where he plays bingo and always wins. He always takes to bingo his sagacious terrier called Bailey, who can count. “I says to 'im in the mornings, how many sausages d'you want for your breakfast and he goos 'Wuff, wuff, wuff'.”

Bailey has three meals a day of whatever Hipkin is eating. When they are going to Skeggie he gets very excited the night before because somehow he knows.

Miss Beart has seven rabbits which she keeps in seven hutches because she don't want no baby rabbits and Bailey likes nothing better than to go to their shed where he sits for hours looking at them adoringly. Hipkin adores Miss Beart who is 19 carat all through. He came one morning with a stone dog ornament which he wanted us to give a home. He explained: “Miss Beart cannot abear to look out of the window and see it sitting there in the cold.”


Report in The Guardian
“The Guardian has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds which appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.
Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.
The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.
The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.”
Wiser councils prevailed but it is worrying the way the wind is blowing
MPs are up in arms because they might have to pay back massive sums they wheedled out of taxpayers. They want to keep it on the grounds they were claiming the money within the rules. They made the rules. Isn't that like a burglar legalising burglary?

Jacqui Smith apologised to Parliament for wrongfully claiming £110,000 and that is OK. Her agent claims she will be re-elected despite that because she is a good MP. It would be interesting to hear what you have to do to be a bad one.

I have voted in every election for 38 years. What you have just read are the reasons I will never vote again.


I will bet you didn't know Sean Bean puts Yorkshire Relish on his fish n' chips. He wouldn't if he lived round here. As I am sure you know, Yorkshire Relish is essential on Bloaters, which have just come into season.

I tried FOUR supermarkets. There was a battalion of Thai Relish, more Indian Relish than you could shake a stick at, gallons of Soya sauce, Chinese relish, Spanish Relish.

Yorkshire Relish? Not only do our supermarkets not stock it:neither the managers nor their staffs have ever heard of it. And there is Sean Sharp fighting and bleeding for us with his riflemen in the Spanish Peninsula. Is this how the nation shows its gratitude?

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Celebrittle and Jockabites

Broadcasting in my day in Wales was largely dynastic. The jobs of the fathers were visited on the sons and daughters. Creativity was not a job specification. When these sprigs from an old twig wanted a new programme they sent Wynford Vaughan Thomas round the country on a horse. That is not to say he did not turn in listenable programmes. Although one of the most brilliant conversationalists I have met, Wynford was also a good listener and he loved people.

Sadly, today's celebrities have not fully mastered thinking, and their purpose as they go whirling round the globe is to be loved by the people they meet. ng, and their purpose as they go whirling round the globe is to be loved by the people they meet.

I did my first published interview on VE Day in 1945. For the next half century scarcely a day passed when I didn’t do one for radio,TV, newspapers. My books are extended interviews with people or research into their lives.

It it took me forty years to become an interviewer. I fell asleep in the middle of an interview for a Radio 4 series. For the first and only time in my life the office was inundated with letters praising my interviewing technique. At last, they all said, an interviewer who isn’t for ever interrupting. I can take a hint.

Received radio wisdom is that answers should be kept short. Otherwise listeners get bored. Rubbish. Interview questions are spurs in the flank of monologues. The interviewer is the jockey - a sort of horseman of the puckered lip. If you can see him, even in your mind's eye, he has failed.

On Radio Wales Vincent Kane was a superlative interviewer. He left space for answers. So did a man called Gerry Monte; and Michael Parkinson and quirky Ray Gosling on the other networks..

. Now the interviewer is the star. His questions swirl like a matador's red cape as he taunts the bull in a suit of too bright lights. I do sometimes wish they could fall asleep and give the other chap a chance.

We don't get interviews. We get cross talk acts between John Humphrys and various elephantine politicians; even crosser talk acts between Paxman’s eyebrows and more politicians. But they never seem to elicit any information. Worst of all Martha Carney whose idea of questioning has unhappy echoes of the Nag.

Are the broadcast media right to concentrate almost exclusively on politics? I know it is cheap but I don't know anyone who listens enthralled. Perhaps I am also wrong in believing that interviewing should not be part of the entertainment industry, which it plainly is.

Wynford Vaughan Thomas was a scholar, an historian with an inquiring mind. That is not one of the requirements of celebrity. Rather the opposite. For them, self love and personal promotion are vital ingredients. Thus we are invited to watch the Arctic gasping with amazement at the antics of Billy Connolly; America may never get over its admiration for Stephen Fry and Griff Rhys Jones cannot see a mountain or the side of skyscraper without scaling them. Michael Palin shows us the world sharing his admiration for himself. Programming is a perpetual procession of personality.

It need not be so. Kate Humble, happily shed of Bill Oddity, has allowed us to share her fascination with the Frankincense Trail. Though I wish “Autumn Watch” was not conducted in such a state of adolescent excitement. Michael White all to rarely illuminates ancient history. Hardly a celebrity, but a peerless broadcaster. There are others. Libby Purves, Eddie Maer, Ed Storton, Melvyn Bragg are masters of the craft, Neil Oliver, the pantomimic Scotsman, overflowing with hair and eagerness, who endlessly circles The Coast is not without charm. The agreeably waspish Brian Sewell has a powerful presence which he released on the Grand Tour but held in check when extolling the beauty and the people he found on the way. That may be a clue. For me the peerless presenter is the architect Kevin McCloud. Where he alights he illuminates. His joy in architecture is manifest. Other presenters of music, history and painting programmes share this obsession with their subject and scorn to rival it. Even a monumentally unpleasant person like Starkey, so vain he has said publicly he would like to be thought of as the 21st century Dr Johnson, subordinates himself to his subject.

But surely the ultimate proof that a week is a long time in radio came with the news that Radcliffe and Maconie , not, as I had thought, a brand of piquant sauce but a comedic duo, are to do their next shows whilst walking Hadrian's Wall If you cannot hear the jokes, that will be the noise the spectre of Hadrian makes as he follows them demolishing his Wall. Oh, Hadrian, after you with the shovel.

Not even death brings relief. I read that several years after his demise, Fred Dibnah, a chap who, had I stood next to him a pub, I would have moved to another bar, is once again going to tour the engineering marvels of England. Including, one assumes, reincarnation.

DIY quizzes and news bulletins fill our days. I would have thought that if satellite news bulletins and the barely live Five proved anything, they prove there isn’t enough news about - or news they can afford to get - to nourish a rolling news coverage. The reason the first popular papers included features is there wasn’t enough news to fill a paper big enough for people to buy. BBC announcers would sometimes come on, announce the nine o'clock news and say, “There is no news today. Goodnight.“

Isn’t news just another fix, anyway? We are used to getting it at stated times like the six o'clock Martini. We think we can't do without it. For the past twelve years we have been ruled by the New Jockobites. There have been log jams on what Dr Johnson memorably called the High Road that leads to England made by a Tartan Horde of BBC presenters. Some take the High Road, some take the Low Road, but they all get to the microphone before us Saxons. As if that were not bad enough, they are all suffering from the delusion that party politics are interesting. Not Politics. Gossip.

Even more depressing, we are now copying the Oompah Whimpering show where you manufacture news by bringing together stage villains or antagonists and inviting them to fight whilst the audience boos and cheers. And Oh, for a Muse of Fire that would ascend the heavens and burn up the Archers, a haven for the most unpleasant community ever assembled in the history of mankind.


In the Guardian Alexander Chancellor mocks Cameron for hiding the fact that he is a toff and used to shoot pheasants. Any shooter will tell you that a pheasant which sells for £2 in the game dealer's costs owners £24 in food, care and housing. If I can eat pheasant - and do every winter weekend -for £2 I can only sing “thank heaven for little boys" who are fool enough to subsidise my Sunday lunch with £22. Perhaps they would also consider shooting bread and butter pudding?
Cameron hides his hunting past because, if he didn't, rich upper class writers like Chancellor - who modestly hides the fact he is a toff, the son of a baronet and Lady Sylvia Paget, and who was educated at Eton and Trinity Hall - would criticise him for hunting. By implication, he is criticised for not hunting. Makes him sound like a pheasant, potted whatever he does. I have no brief for Cameron, Tony Blair in a top hat, but so long as he isn't Scotch I do not care who is the next prime minister.
Blair was among our war-mongering politicians who attended a service to Commemorate the Iraqi invasion and the 127 servicemen whose deaths they brought about. The Archbishop of Canterbury made his distaste plain as did the father of a dead soldier .
A service of apology would have been in better taste. Not only to the families of the dead soldiers. What about the thousands of American troops and the 100,000 Iraqis who died and would have been alive today had Hussein been left in power until his own people rempved him?
On R4 a news editor defended his decision to play in a news magazine the tape of the last minutes of three helicopter pilots who died as their chopper crashed. There have been few protests. Very few in comparison to the hundreds who complained about the broadcasting gigolo who joshed his partner for looking like a “Paki”. Even more joined in when Bruce Forsyth said that thirty years ago it would not have been noticed and anyway the Diggers called us “Limeys” and “Poms” when we were fighting side by side. In France in the Middle Ages the English were called “Rosbiffs” and rather liked it. What of “Scouser” and “Tike” and “Jock” and “Taffy” “Fenny” and “Gog” and “Hontu”, “Paddy””Kipper Basher”
A man with the mind of boy who is a victim of Asperges disease is fighting extradition to the US where he faces sixty years in gaol for what was essentially an ill-advised schoolboy prank, searching for UFOs. His last hope was our brand new Supreme Court. He has been told his case was not important enough.
But as so often, it was the Yanks (whoops, sorry, the Americans), including African Americans and Native Americans, who scooped the pool. They discover space travel and the first practical use they make of the Moon? They bomb it into the cosmic equivalent of the Stone Age. On the day their President won the Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps not as bizarre as it appears. Nobel was an arms manufacturer who has been responsible for the death of millions.