Archive for May, 2010
I remember a favourite venue after ’going-home-time’ when I was knee high to a chicken. A group of us would mooch down the road to the allotment shed. It was 1940. There we would find a collection of grumpy grampies huddled around a battery radio. Times were hard and even the ferrets were wearing helmets. We grabbed our illicit ‘gobstoppers’ and paused only long enough to hear dulcet tones pronounce that ‘This is the BBC’.
We did occasionally listen to the headlines for most of our Dads and Uncles were in danger in some unnamed place. What we did take in was an overwhelming belief that if the BBC said it it must be true.Although in later years I learned that even the Beeb was subject to censor at that time, I retain a built-in belief in the integrity of the BBC. To this day I believe what is reported by Huw Edwards and co and trust in the impartiality of Jeremy Paxman, Nick Robinson and all. Call me naive if you must but one has to believe someone in an age of deception and spin.
All of this probably explains why I felt a pang of anxiety when The Guardian reported that Rupert Murdoch visited Downing Street last week. The visit by the media mogul, whose papers swung behind Cameron during the last 12 months, renewed speculation that Cameron and his fellow toffs will soon turn the heat up on the Beeb, Mr Murdoch’s most powerful competitor.
Perhaps I am becoming paranoid about the State broadcaster but it is said that just because you are paranoid it doesn’t follow that no one is out to get you. So what, if anything, are the handsome twins, David and Nick, hatching up? We fourth generation ferret men read the Queens speech (which probably makes us unique) with trepidation but found nothing there. But neither did we find reference to many of the other things our handsome pair promised or threatened.
But hopefully it means that any plot is in abeyance. I pray so for we have reached the point where almost the entire media seems to have confused news with views. When Nick Clegg suddenly rattled the cages of the long forecast walk-away winners virtually every paper launched into a diatribe of invention and lies. In fact so bizarre did the sudden tirade become that a web-site covering ‘Nick Clegg’s Fault’ drew millions and the press was mocked as never before as contributors invited it to investigate his role on the Titanic.
During all this hoo-hah I cancelled my lifelong subscription to The Times and Mirror. Both seemed to me to be presnting news in what looked suspiciosly like a slanted way. Columns expressing views are fine but The Times in particular always seemed to me to be the written equivalent to the Beeb, both dealt only in proven facts. I may be a mere ferret man but I have no need for guidance on how to vote.
Never having watched Sky News I cannot judge whether the recently voiced allegations of bias have foundation. But they make me uneasy. Of course there is another reason for wanting to put a ferret up the Cameron trouser leg if he commercialises the Beeb. Those appalling and repetitive adverts. If I have to watch an idiot with a waxed moustache singing about ‘Confused dot com’ once more I shall finally explode into a zillion pieces. Not seeing such tripe is worth the licence fee in itself.
Why politicians wish to meddle with the most respected broadcaster in the world is beyond understanding. The BBC is moving with the times as demonstrated by its plans for a multimillion pound redevelopment of the 50 year old television centre. Even the Blue Peter garden is to be moved, and one can’t get more revolutionary than that! And its natural world and costume drama coverage is still light years ahead of the commercial channels and not just because of their need to fit everything around mind-numbing breaks.
Perhaps we occupants of the modern allotment shed are Luddites but we still believe in the integrity of the BBC. We believe nothing we read or hear elsewhere. Then again perhaps we are not alone, we also distrust politicians!
Each day, every day………Each day, every day…..Each day,every day
Ray Alan died yesterday at the age of 79. The sad news brought back many happy memories for Ray’s ventriloquist dummy, Lord Charles, was a perfect send-up of the British aristocracy of the day. The hoity-toity character spoke in slurred tones. I suspect the real reason for this was the ability of Ray to throw his voice without moving his lips but the impaired speech combined with the monacle to reflect what many ordinary folk -and they don’t come more ordinary that we ferret men- thought was the normal demeanor of the ‘toffs’. Even today Albert regularly calls for a ‘gottle of geer’. Yes, Ray made us laugh and we loved him.
My first reaction on reading the news was to wonder if there are any ‘toffs’ in today’s society. I dismissed George Osborne, whose tenners could encompass the UK if laid end-to-end, on the grounds that he isn’t loopy. Cameron almost made it until I found on another page the first opinion poll since the election which shows that 99 per cent of the electorate believe that he is God ( the other one had never heard of him so doesn’t count).
Then I turned the page and found the Sarah Ferguson story. The Duchess became the umpteenth celebrity to be hoodwinked by a press reporter dressed as a friend of Lady Gaga and claiming to be a tycoon. Her Highness swallowed the bait and agreed to arrange an introduction to her ex-husband for a cool half million quid or so. Why she would imagine that anyone would pay a fortune to meet someone who could not possibly apply influence is hard to say. How she imagined that she wouldn’t be found out is even harder to fathom.
The Duchess is said to be heavily in debt even though she seems to lead a somewhat extravagent lifestyle. Given this, one can only sympathise at her instinctive grab but can only assume that she is not the brightest button on the box. Should someone dressed as an estate agent suddenly appear at our allotment shed offering cash for the inside information on a hotly tipped racing ferret I am sure that even we humble beings would be somewhat suspicious. At the very least we would want the cash before uttering so much as a grunt.
But that’s ‘toffs’ for you and we must leave Fergie to her fate which probably involves an early encounter with an estate agent, albeit not the one obsessed with ferrets.
I sincerely hope this does not trigger off another bout of rhubarb from the anti-monarchist brigade. The Queen has set an impeccable example to the nation for longer than most can remember. The Duke of Edinburgh once commented that the value of the Royals lies in what they prevent. He was surely right. Would you really have liked the sight of Blair in Buckingham Palace? Or Arthur Scargill for that matter!
So on the day that Lord Charles was finally silenced a current ‘toff’ showed that his potrayal lives validly on. My Gran used to say that most ‘toffs’ were as daft as brushes. She was clearly right. Mind you, she thought the same of me and my ferrets!
Join me every day. There is always something worth writing about!
Something unusual. A visit to the GP. A referral. Sleepless nights. An oncologist. Diagnosis. Dread. Dark night of the soul. Cancer. That is how it used to be back in the days when the name was almost taboo and life prospects limited.
Now things are very different. Recovery rates from cancer are rocketing and discussion of it part of everyday conversation. There is still no instant cure but science and technology are winning the battle. Talking to someone who has recovered is now commonplace and all tell of the caring experts who restored their peace of mind.
No householder needs convincing of the rapid rate at which one piece of technology replaces another. It seems but yesterday that VHS tapes revolutionised our leisure. Now they are obsolete. At the press of a button one can have instant recordings, and hand-held units can entertain you wherever you are. It seems but yesterday that the conventional telephone was the height of communication, now everyone talks as they walk. It seems but yesterday that we wrote letters, now an email makes redundant the postman’s knock. And so it is with medical technology, every month brings another refinement.
The inevitable result is that the cash-strapped NHS needs to, but cannot afford to, change its equipment constantly. Yet how can we live with the thought that a piece or kit being used to save a life is now inferior to a new version. Of course all such eventually reach the many UK Cancer Centres but time could be running out for someone whose condition will not wait. There is an answer!
The Rosemere Cancer Foundation, which covers a large slice of North West England, provides a perfect example. Through dynamic fundraising the Charity ensure that new technology announced today is in situ tomorrow, long before the system could afford to obtain it. Under the slogan ‘Ray of Hope’ the charity recently installed a piece of kit costing over £700,000 for use in Radiotherapy. It ensures that the intense ray focuses solely on the tumour thus avoiding damage to other organs. The equipment is already in service, probably years before it would be available as routine.
Now the Foundation has moved on to the next target. And it does so with the enthusiasm born of success at the most important contest of all. And it does so with a smile for the people are hearing the call. Yesterday I went along to Witton Park in Blackburn to watch a fun-run. Just a week earlier a ‘Walk in the Dark’ had attracted similar crowds as did an ‘Elvis Tribute’ evening. There are events to suit everyone and for those who prefer their armchair collecting boxes adorn many a home. One in three of us will at some point experience cancer in one of its forms and we are all in the fight together.
If we the people can continue to ensure that our clinicians have the benefit of every new piece of life-saving equipment the exciting rise in cure-rates will continue. So what can stop us? Only out-of-their-depth politicians!
During the election campaign only Nick Clegg showed signs of understanding the NHS structure. He promised to abolish Strategic Health Authorities and other layers of highly costly layers of unnecessary bureaucracy. He seems to have forgotton if the first list of cuts is announced is any guide.All we have heard so far is an assurance that funding will be ‘ring-fenced’. This is misleading and dangerous. The cost of cancer treatment will continue to climb as new techniques emerge. Simply funding what happens now risks missing the opportunity to turn hope into cure.
Not every part of the country has the benefit of a Charity such as Rosemere, one that converts income into immediate use in the Centres at which it is based. But even here the task must not be rendered mountainous for want of public money still being consumed by organisations that have no impact on patient treatment.
The battle against mankind’s greatest scourge is being won. Every one of us should do his or her bit in giving what we can and in pressurising politicians to help, not hinder.
Every step we take restores the shattered dreams of those fellow travellers whose lives are in our hands.
Every day…………………..NEWS, FACTS, DEBATE, TEARS AND LAUGHTER!
Blackpool, the team tipped for relegation from the Championship, yesterday delighted fans and neutrals alike with an amazing display of soccer at Wembley. After going behind twice they stormed their way past Cardiff City to a place in the Premiership, arguably the strongest soccer league in the world. There were many stars on the day but none more dazzling than manager Ian Holloway.
His team is far from the highest paid in the Championship but they have something others can only dream of, an unquenchable team spirit. When one bleeds they all bleed and the colour of the blood is tangerine. What Ian Holloway has done is to prove time and again that eleven men playing daring and utterly committed football can match any other eleven however mighty or highly paid they may be. Someone should bottle the Holloway spirit and market it not just for football but every aspect of life.
Blackpool’s average attendance ths season was only 8,611 and their Bloomfield Road ground has barely been modernised since the glory days of Stanley Matthews some 57 years or so ago. The ground capacity is a mere 12,500 and the total wage bill would not even cover the amount paid to many a so-called Premiership superstar. The players still wash their own kit and the only fat cat in Blackpool resides in the nearby zoo.
Ian Holloway could prove to be the best thing to ever happen to the money-mad Premiership, the future of which is questioned by many who, having noted the collapse of Portsmouth, now realise that many others are on the road to ruin as a result of paying players more for a weeks work that a brain surgeon can earn in a year. Ian was quick yesterday to wonder ‘what have we come to’ when money is regarded as the most important thing. He has no intention of making millionnaires, he is content to train to perfection a team rather than an expensive collection of inflated egos.
In every way the man will be a revelation in the Premiership where managers bite their nails to the quick to justify fools gold. His self-deprecating one-liners are a delight. ‘I love Blackpool’ he says ‘we are very similar. We both look better in the dark’. And his players clearly love the guy. If some managers described his team as being ‘as ugly as sin’ the lawyers would be in action but not here.
I suspect that many of the ‘big’ clubs will not find Bloomfield Road an easy place to visit. I suspect that the team that Ian Holloway created will easily confound the critics again. Above all I suspect that many clubs hovering dangerously on the financial edge will begin to ask themselves why they need to spend a fortune on players, not to mention their agents.
It was wonderful to hear the estatic Holloway talk about morality yesterday. That is not a word we hear often in the upper echelons of soccer. He and his team have won millions of fans to add to their tangerine army. This man and his friends, the description he uses for his players, will enjoy wide acclaim next season as they set out on Mission Stage 11.
And the near bankrupt, money obsessed starrs will have some explaining to do when they collect their limousines from Blackpool Fair car park after a good tanning from Ian and his friends!
Coming up; CANCER..A RAY OF HOPE!
We are the only country in the world with an honours list obsession. Each New Year or Queen’s birthday brings yet more along the lines of Lord Jelly of Spotted Dick for his services to the pudding industry, a tribute ill earned since the aforesaid did what he did for personal gain. Mind you even he is slightly more deserving that politicians sent off to the Lords as a means of getting rid of a thorn in the side of whoever is supposedly running the country.
But this is our way and most of us simply yawn and turn the page. But one aspect does needle me, the fact that the appearance of Inventors in the list of great and good is as rare as toothless ferrets. Why is that? After all, everything that serves to make our hectic lives slightly more manageable is invented by someone. Maybe those that dish out the gongs share my total ignorance of those who made this or that possible.
In my own defence I can only say that I do make the effort to find out who I have to thank for this gadget or that but unfortunately my memory is rather like one of the colanders owned by she-who-must-be-obeyed. A lot goes in but exit is immediate! So bad is my fact retention that watching Kevin on the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads’ gives me an inferiority complex to match that of an unemployed recruitment consultant.
One example of an Inventor that, in a small way, changed our daily routine was John Shepherd-Barron and I thought a tribute to him would serve not only to mark his passing but also to remind you and I to give a thankful nod in his direction each time we use a cash dispenser. The first one ever used was installed at a Barclays branch in North London and the very first transaction took place on June 27th 1967.
John died in Scotland last week at the age of 84. He did receive recognition but it only came many decades later. The story began when John was locked out of his Bank in the sixties. Frustrated at his inability to get at his own money John began to wonder why it should be that he could buy a bar of chocolate 24/7 from a machine yet couldn’t get at the means to buy it. The result was the design of an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) using specially chemically coded cheques (plastic bank cards had yet to invented).
At the launch the customer placed his special cheque in a drawer in the wall and entered a personal identification number. A second drawer would then spring open with a £10 note. Over later years there were of course many developments including the less pleasing habit of swallowing cards. But it was John that invented something that is so much a part of our daily routine that we write angry letters to Bank Managers whose machines are not forthcoming in the still of the night.
Hopefully i shall remember this inventive Scot whenever I press the keys. Now I find myself wondering about irons, mowers, ferret traps and a million other things that I take for granted. Having only ever invented excuses I stand in awe of the unknown heroes.
Honour them all I say! They have made my journey easier which is more than can be said for Lord Jelly now a non-dom zillionaire!