Posts Tagged ‘High Speed Rail’
The appearance of so many Olympic stars at Wimbledon’s centre court yesterday reminded us of last summer’s incredible escapism into the world of sport. Nothing could ever match this, we said as we nibbled our finger-nails to the quick, but there is every sign that things are not going to be too bad this year either.
The Lions face a series decider in Sydney next Saturday. Our cricketers are in with a great chance of some successful Aussie-bashing in the Ashes series. We have two players through to the second week at Wimbledon. Laura Robson may not quite make it, but she has the ability to surprise the doubters. Andy Murray has the makings of a Wimbledon champion and his seemingly inevitable shoot-out with Novak Djokovic could well be a cliffhanger. Alex Salmond is less than keen on the claims of ownership being made by the inhabitants of Henman Hill, but we English are more than happy to become Brits when it suits us.
The Andy Murray story is a classic example of our ambivalence about nationality. In the six-nations Grand Slam the English, Welsh and Irish go head-to-head with the Scots, as they do on the international soccer circuit. We hurl our insults and then silence them when the Lions take the field. In cricket we speak of England, but as Robert Croft was apt to point out, never hesitate to incorporate non-English players when it suits us.
All of which takes us, on this grey Sunday morning, to the vexed question of Scottish independence. Although we include what we affectionately call haggis-men in our bunch of allotment codgers, none of us can make sense of the Salmond dream. How can it possibly work? It may be that we will never find out for the tide seems to be turning against the persuasive leader of all kilt-wearers. When David Cameron led the anti-independence attack it was meat and drink for Salmond, here was a posh Englishman lecturing Scots on the advantages of being ruled by a bunch of rich-boys in London. Then came the turning point. An all-party think-tank decided to send for the man who, Alan Johnson apart, is arguably the most respected politician in the land. It was time for Alastair Darling.
The softly-spoken Scot is the perfect antedote for Mr Salmon. He is almost apolitical and trades in logic rather than political hoohah. Already he has landed some telling punches, not least the revelation that were Scotland to leave the UK it would not become an automatic entry to the EU. Darling is also a highly skilled financial operator and his analysis of the finances of a post-seperation Scotland makes uncomfortable reading for the SNP.
In our view Ed Miliband made a near-fatal mistake in not including Darling in his team. But we understand the reasoning for the Scot is nobody’s patsy, as he proved with Grumpy Gordon. It was at that time that he proved his ability to act calmly and logically in a crisis. In a recent interview he recalled the day that Tom McKillop, the then chairman of RBS, rang him to report that the bank was running out of money. Darling asked him how long the bank could hold out and was told it was two to three hours.
He remembers closing his eyes and pondering on the scene should the bank close its doors and shut down the cash machines. The rest we know. Suffice to say Alastair Darling avoided a total collapse. He looks back now and reflects that, yes, mistakes were made but he believes that leaders must “level with people”, never claim that things are “all bad or all good”.
The former exchequer’s view of the present Labour leadership is, as one would expect, an objective one. He believes that it will soon have to move from being vague to spelling out policies. And he is certainly off message on some of the major issues where Labour has alligned itself with the coalition. High on the list is HS2 high-speed rail. He believes that it will “suck out money needed to upgrade existing lines, not least the commuter routes. With typical candour he warns against “letting anyone kid us that there’s a ring-fenced budget and nothing else is going to be affected”.
Alastair Darling is less a politician that a logical economist. For that reason he is unlikely to be invited back into the Labour fold, where dissenting voices are unwelcome. Like Alan Johnson, he is too honest for his own good.
So the Scottish independence fight is possibly his last. On that at least many people share Alex Salmond’s dismay, albeit for different reasons.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” The moment of the RBS collapse will stay with me for the rest of my life. If you don’t learn from something like that you would be a very odd person indeed” …Alistair Darling
How do you introduce a new breed of chicken? We codgers have managed it for many of our Columbian Black Tails now sport spotted plumage. The transformation is not the result of scientific research, but the result of hens continually scratching around the feet of six geezers engrossed in the art of fence painting. When you are ancient and bent over a can of Cuprinol it is hard to avoid splashing so, like us, the hen’s are now dappled. We await the next visit from Know-all Fred, the local chicken expert, with interest.
It goes to prove that things are seldom what they seem. So it was in the Commons yesterday when Gorgeous George presented his spending review. People now dependent on food banks will have drawn little comfort from the sight of both front benches having fun. One appalling joke followed another and our dear leader was convulsed in laughter, as was his opposite number. No food banks for them!
Several of us watched the charade and we were simply bemused. No one, at any time, mentioned the fact that public spending is now at £647.1 billion, a record high. No one mentioned the £500 million pound spent on sending diplomat’s children to private schools. The chancellor was focussed on just how tough he is going to be on benefit claimants, and Ed Balls was attempting to prove that he will be even tougher. We are told that Mr Osborne has been coached in the art of speaking as ordinary folk do, ‘gimme’ will pepper Hansard.
For our part, we cannot decide whom we trust the least. Politicians are now below estate agents in the list of dodgy geezers that we occasionally enjoy compiling to break the monotony of talking to spotted chickens. In fact it is easy to condemn them en bloc since they all agree on almost everything. This is particularly the case with High Speed Rail. This, they all chorus, will take us into a new and wonderful age of hassle-free travel when the roads will be empty as the entire population whizzes around whilst hammering away at laptops.
When, last evening, the Commons debated the heaven to come there were a few dissenting voices, but the 37 MPs who dared to question utopia were voted down by 325 to 37. Cheryl Gillan, the former Tory minister, argued that the government should concentrate on upgrading the country’s existing road and rail network. The Welsh Secretary, appointed and later sacked by Cameron, said that she has studied the plan for a “bright new shiny railway” and found it wanting.
We agree. Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin reported that the projected cost of HS2 has risen by £10 billion, or 30%, to £42.6 billion which will rise to £52 billion when rolling stock is acquired. Completion is forecast for 2032, by which time we can reasonably assume that the cost will exceed the national debt. So far a mere £16 billion has been spent by HS2 Ltd.
Because both major party’s are so hell-bent on the project we continually tell ourselves that it must make sense. We continually fail to believe it. This is a small island and time saved on travelling at a faster rate is inevitably limited. That apart very few of the nation’s stations will be served, and even if they were not everyone wishes to travel from London to Manchester or Birmingham. An upgrade of the whole network sounds a more sensible bet, a view surely shared by long-suffering commuters.
To us the most puzzling claim of all by the united politicians is the one concerning the gain to dynamic City business people. They will, we are told, save up to an hour a day, time enough to launch another dozen enterprises. But we are talking about nineteen years from now. Surely the majority of wizards will by then be using video conferencing or the latest innovations in communications technology, which is developing at an even faster rate than Ed Balls can hurl insults.
Call us Luddites if you must, but we just cannot grasp the logic of spending vast sums of money we haven’t got on something that very few will use. But perhaps the fact the we codgers will all be 100 years old before the launch, by Boris Johnson’s grandson, is influencing our thinking!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” We are voting for a blank cheque and no one can be sure that the extra £10 billion announced today will be the end of it!”……Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP
It is often alleged that the weather is the main topic of conversation amongst Brits. It certainly seemed that way this morning when we codgers gathered to clean out the chickens. The rain is back big-time and my pals are less than happy about it, particularly since we are already weeks behind on our other allotments tasks of digging and sowing seeds in the greenhouses. We have never been so late, so we offered a thousand curses to whoever controls the taps up there.
We did of course take note of today’s new opinion poll from ICM. No fewer than 52% of all voters believe that Ukip is here to stay. 53% believe that Nigel Farage and company have the best policy on immigration. Even more worrying for our dear leader is the finding that 30% of Tory voters see mad Boris as their only hope of winning the next election. And right on cue this morning comes news that Sir Peter Tapsell has offered to stand down from his safe Lincolnshire seat to enable the London Mayor a place in the Commons. We begin to fear the worst for the Chipping Norton lad.
But neither the fate of Cameron or even the performance of our beloved Welsh team at the Millenium Stadium could keep us from our main passion, the fate of our railways. Even new evidence that Government inspectors are overruling every local authority decision to protect the greenbelt from developers didn’t deflect us, for we had long-realised that the new planning laws are in reality a licence to eliminate local controls.
HS2 is, in our view, the greatest threat to our railway network since Beeching, and we awaited news of the High Court challenge by the organisations attempting to make this point. In court, opponents argued that the Government has not performed a serious consultation, seriously evaluated the alternatives or looked fully at the environmental impact before deciding to proceed. In an amazing judgement Mr Justice Ouseley essentially agreed, but said it didn’t matter since the Government’s actions did not constitute a decision to proceed. Really?
On the steps of the court the rail minister, Simon Burns, proclaimed the decision as the “green light” for High Speed Rail. One of the opponents, Martin Tett of Buckinghamshire county council, described the proceedings as “completely bizaare” and added; ”For all who watched the Cabinet announcing the routes to Manchester and Leeds the claim, accepted by the judge, feels like some kind of parallel universe”.
Some of the campaigners who fought hardest to save the railways after Beeching are deeply worried that HS2 will undermine not just the finances, but the entire rationale of subsidised public transport. One such is John Whitelegg, professor of transport at Liverpool John Moores University, who led the successful campaign against the closure of the Settle-Carlisle line. “High-speed rail is a rich person’s folly”, he contends. Spending vast amounts of public money on something that simply will not be used by the bottom 50% of income bands is a reverse Robin Hood strategy, a socially regressive project to transfer cash from poor to rich”. The billions, he argues, would be far better spent on improvements to the humbler local services that people actually use.
We agree. Such local lines as survived Beeching are now experiencing an enormous growth in passenger numbers. But they are under-resourced, crowded and unreliable. Beehing, and the politicians who directed him, saw the railway’s decline as “inevitable”. But it wasn’t. In 1963 there were 938 million passenger journeys by train. Last year there were 1.46 million, even though the network has shrunk by a third.
But railways are expensive, not least because of the ludicrous organisation structure which allows huge sudsidies to private companies, which in turn pay huge salaries to top managers. It also allows the farce of the £28 billion debt run up by Network Rail , essentially a public corporation backed by the taxpayer. The result is high fares. And the balance sheet does not yet include the white elephant of HS2, which will add at least £34 billion to the public debt.
And here comes the big worry. In 1955, the Government published a railway “Modernisation Plan”. Vast sums were invested in the wrong schemes – huge freight marshalling yards when freight traffic was disappearing, first-generation diesels that kept breaking down. Aghast at the overall costs the Government brought in an “efficinecy expert” in the considerable form of Dr Beeching. The rest, as they say, is history.
It seems to us extremely likely that, having spent zillions on a service affordable only to a small elite, a Government of the future will feel obliged to send for a new Beeching who will conclude that lines need to be cut. And by then our roads will be totally congested.
Lord save us from madmen and politicians!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “A good sermon should be like a woman’s skirt: short enough to rouse interest, but long enough to cover the essentials!”….Ronald Knox
Kate’s baby lump is now visible! Since the Star has felt this worthy of a front page spot today, it seemed only right that a modest post such as this should follow suit. Should you be one of the half-dozen people who don’t finance the tabloids you may also like to know that Posh Spice is acting as an advisor to the Duchess. It must be quite comforting to our dear leader and his sidekick, Gorgeous George, to know that such mundane matters as the economy cannot compete with such startling news as royal bumps.
They may also have other reasons to be thankful for being out of the spotlight. Our dear leader is desperately trying to fight off a threatened coup by converting himself into a world statesman, a blesser of camels and somewhat dodgy rulers. It may work, but it didn’t for his esteemed mentors,Thatcher and Blair. But he should perhaps draw comfort from the fact that new polls of attitudes within the Conservative Party show him infintely more popular than Gorgeous George Osborne, whose popularity amongst Tory MPs is now akin to that of a rattlesnake in a lucky dip.
And to add to his troubles, which up to now have centered around his cack-handled stewardship of the nation’s finances, Mr Osborne is now being accused of some distinctly dodgy dealing in regard to the announced route for the proposed high speed rail project.
The story was broken by Richard Winward, who inherited the tenancy of Millngton Hall Farm. His 190 acres of prime arable land and their distinctive red brick buildings occupy one of Cheshire’s most sought after positions in some of the county’s most sumptious countryside. Mr Winwrad and his neighbours had taken little notice of the HS2 furore since planners had from the outset made clear that the line had to go as “straight as a die” to enable speeds of 225mph to be achieved.
This meant that the line would have to travel through the famous “Golden Triangle” of Prestbury, Alderley Edge and Wilmslow – home to Premiership footballers such as Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand, who have been emulating their new wealthy neighbours in rebuildng the country mansions of the old-money county set. And the ‘Triangle” falls within the constituency of, er, George Osborne, our esteemed Chancellor.
When the plans were finally unveiled this week Mr Winward and his friends were gven a nasty shock. Someone has drawn in a six-mile detour, a “dog-leg”. The route will now go around Mr Osborne’s constituency rather than through it. Each mile of the new railway will cost around £93 million and the added detour will cost an extra £500million. An expensive decision, one that will create operational problems if and when the project ever reaches completion.
So who made this very odd decision? Within hours of the detailed route beng published the leader of Cheshire East council, Michael Jones, issued a statement praising Mr Osborne and fellow Tory Edward Timpson for having “fought hard to keep the line away from Knutsford and Tatton, which they have been successful in achieving”. The press-release was hastily retracted but Ed Miliband was quick on the draw. The Chancellor, he said, should spend “less time worrying about how to divert high-speed rail routes away from his constituency”.
Gorgeous George has denied influencing the change. But it is easy to imagine that the second most powerful member of the cabinet would have had little trouble getting his way.This coming just days after revelations about his continuing intimate contacts with the Murdochs reinforces the impression that the man heralded as the ultimate financial wizard is not only anything but, but is a wee bit dodgy into the bargain.
But at least we codgers had some good news today. Lord Smith, the chairnan of the Environment Agency, has announced that the country is being subjected to a “new kind of rain”. We are now getting “convective” rain, which sits in one place and just dumps itself in a deluge over a long period of time. Good news? Could be if we can persuade God, someone possibly even more powerful than George Osborne, to transfer the dumping process to the Golden Triangle.
The prayer mats are out!
THE INFAMOUS QUOTES SERIES WILL RESUME TOMORROW..SEE YOU THEN!
Miracles do happen! We arrived at the allotments this morning under blue skies and found that the overnight high winds had dried out the surface of the hen-runs. Even the chooks seemed to be walking with a happier gait. Whatever next, we have all the makings of a good-news day. But say it quietly for the weathermen are predicting a monsoon before it ends.
But in embattled Britain even the shortest break from the unrelenting tales of disaster is welcome. Unfortunately, today’s lead story failed to lift our spirits even further. To be fair to all those who believe that high-speed rail will herald an exciting new age, we have to admit that our lack of enthusiasm is in part down to the fact that none of us will be here when the first arrow-like missile shoots from London to Brum at the speed of light. And the cynics amongst us wonder what all those world-saving business wizards will do with the minutes shaved off their commuting times. And will laptops, skype and the rest not have advanced somewhat over the next twenty years, possibly to the point where they have no need to travel to carry on their dynamic deals?
Other aspects of the great Westminster train lanch also left us soemwhat puzzled. Great play was made yesterday of the reduction in travel time. But will not the next generation of locos have kicked in by 2032, making the difference much less? And what about the financial benefits? In the Commons transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, banged on about the £2 economic benefit forecast to result from every £1 spent. What? Every year? Every five minutes? To the end of time? Or what? Benefit to whom? How? It was all somewhat vague.
All we know for sure is that the capital and operating costs are estimated – and we all know what that means – at £59 bn at current costs with revenue at £33bn. This leaves £26bn to be funded by the taxpayer, a good deal of which must be found long before any revenue accrues. Presumably the £26bn must be found at the expense of something else.
Many experts claim that the end result will be a few high-speed journeys for those who can afford the higher fares, and a rail service for most almost as crappy as the one we endure today. Who knows? One thing is for sure, those politicians nailing their reputation to the concept won’t be in office when the project reaches its launch, probably in 2037.
Yesterday our dear leader made much of the fact that other countries have high-speed trains, but conveniently forgot to mention that they cover much bigger land masses. But fresh from his conquering of Aunty Merkel he was in no mood for cynicism.
Just as well for he also had to face questions about the Leveson Report. Had the super-rail excavation already started we might suspect that it had been buried, since it hasn’t we can only assume that it is somewhere in the long grass north of Watford. Certain it is that its lessons seem already buried. Last week George Osborne attended a party thrown by Rupert Murdoch in London. It is good to know that some friendships can withstand the harshest condemnation.
In fact there was some good news yesterday. Doctors announced that cancer will soon become a manageble disease rather than a death sentence thanks to a revolutionary treatment which will be available within three to five years time. All patients will soon have their tumour’s DNA, its genetic code, sequenced enabling doctors to ensure they give exactly the right drugs to keep the disease away.
There is every reason to believe that this will be the biggest step forward yet towards transforming many forms of cancer into chronic rather than fatal diseases. Prof Alan Ashworth, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, says that none of this is “science fiction”. “One would think that within five to ten years this will be absolutely routine practice for every cancer patient”, he added.
It is a pity that such startling news should have been overshadowed by what sounds to many a pricey irrelevance, a load of high-speed hogwash. But then politicians can claim no credit for findings resulting from research funded charitably. Those of us who realise only too well that cancer affects far more families that do even the fastest trains should be delighted.
Perhaps even at this moment our failing Chancellor is asking his friend Rupert why the really good news received so little coverage. Then again probably not. Tying up the support of the Sun and Times is the only priority on his list!
TODAY’S INFAMOUS QUOTES ARE ON HUMANITY: “When I looked up my family tree I found out I was the sap”….Rodney Dangerfield “Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath”……Arnold Glasgow “The worst eternal triangle is teenager, parent and telephone”……Lavonne Mathison ”I get along well with my parents. I still talk to them once a week. Its the least I can do . I still live in their house!”…..David Corrado “There are two things we can all live without – haemorrhoids and neighbours”….Spike Milligan “A neighbour is someone who has just run out of something”…..Robert Benchley “Everyone wants to save the earth. No one wants to help Mum wash the dishes”…..P J O’Rourke “Adolescence is the stage between puberty and adultery”……Denis Norden “The main purpose of children’s parties is to remind you that there are children worse than your own”…..Katharine Whitehorn
Opinions amongst our allotment gang on English football fluctuate somewhat. Verdicts on the Premiership swing from beyond compare to couldn’t win a raffle, and views on ownership by foreign magnates are unsuitable for use in a family-style blog. Suddenly a unanimous voice has emerged, we are in a class of our own. Abramovich has brought pride to English hearts. I stayed well clear of all this guff, being a non-league fan I view the whole Premiership thing with scepticism, to me it is a classic example of money taking over sport, and to hell with feeder leagues when we can simply buy the best in the world whenever the mood takes us. Chelsea isn’t exactly an example of English players, my pals should save their judgement for the English team. They won’t have long to wait.
But I kept my thoughts to myself and when, after the hen-cleaning ritual, we gathered for our brew conversation shifted to the latest political opinion poll. Today’s version in the Independent makes worrying reading for our dear leader. Ten per cent of 2010′s Tory voters say they have decided to back Ukip, while 26 per cent of those who still support the Conservatives are “seriously considering” switching to support the Eurosceptic fringe party.
Clearly Europe is becoming a major issue for many. Forty-six per cent say they would vote for Britain to leave the EU, and a further 23 per cent are considering that possibility. Worse still for our dear leader his personal popularity is down seven points to minus 28, he has been overtaken by Ed Miliband for the first time. And Miliband/Ed Balls have now overtaken Cameron/Osborne for trust in handling the economy.
Overall Labour now has a nine-point lead, up two points on the last ComRes poll, to 41 per cent. Small wonder really given the growing implications of our dear leader’s involvement in the Murdoch scandal, and the clear evidence that the fierce austerity policy is taking the economy in the opposite direction to that achieved by Obama’s growth programme.
So Ed Miliband rules OK? As things are now he certainly does. But amazingly he is contemplating what would surely be political suicide. He is seriously considering meeting Tony Blair’s desire to return to front-line politics. “I think we should respect him” says young Ed in an interview published today in the Telegraph. “It is his decision as to what he wants to do and how he wants to play a role”. Asked whether he plans to give Mr Blair a job he said “of course”.
Apparently TB has already devoted time to advising the party on strategy, clearly his zest for money-making tours is beginning to wane. But am I alone in seeing such a comeback as suicidal for the new Labour leader? One of the greatest criticisms of Cameron is that he is a new version of Blair, and they do have much in common. The Murdoch affair has only just begun to do its damage to the various players, and both Cameron and Blair will emerge with shattered reputations. Both have been less than honest with the people, Iraq springs to mind as does the NHS. Both are brilliant presenters, both have come to be seen as posh versions of dodgy second-hand car salesmen.
Up to this point Miliband has impressed many of his original foes. He looks like someone who would stay well clear of the Murdochs of this world, he looks like someone who cares.
But talk of bringing back Cameron’s mentor casts a shadow. Can his judgement really be that suspect?
HIGH SPEED RAIL HITS THE BUFFERS!
Word is that having seen an analysis of supposed benefits, the Treasury is developing cold feet in regard to the £33 billion or so needed to achieve a short reduction in train journey times by 2023.
Meantime directors of the Quango HS2 Limited are being accused of holding shares in one of the contractors awarded contracts. And other critics have asked how it is that contracts have been awarded, and millions spent, given no treasury sign-off.
Sounds like a well-oiled plan for a cock-up to dwarf even the last government’s NHS IT blow-out!
The law of average suggests that sooner or later the Met Office will produce an accurate forecast. But no luck so far. Today we arrived at the allotments expecting torrential rain and the possibility of a typhoon, we actually enjoyed several hours of sunshine. The forecast for tomorrow is sun, so we are braced for the arrival of the typhoon and the disappearance of the hens in the direction of Manchester airport. The truth is that forecasting the movement of the jet stream over these islands is a near impossibility, which leaves us wondering why we are deluged on TV and the internet with endless updates. But then it has to be admitted that the things we codgers cannot understand would fill a book of Cyril Smith proportions.
In the category of our bewilderment would be two stories that emerged today. The first came from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which has warned that Britain is grossly underestimating life expectancy. The result will be a pensions time bomb that could cost £750 billion cost in pensions for people who the present statistics suggest will be long dead. An example of the maths involved is the current actuary assumption that anyone reaching their 65th birthday will survive until their 82.2 year, the IMF project the average survival as 89.2. Good news for us codgers, very bad news for the treasury!
The IMF insist that its calculations are validly calculated. The government has the choice of burying its head in the sand, or of facing up right now to the need to increase retirement age to 70, plus increased contributions. It is hardly the development that a government already well behind in public esteem will wish to pursue. But with the economy failing to respond to treatment, what alternative has it?
How about cutting major financial commitments that make no sense and are extremely unpopular with the electorate, and I am not referring to silly little savings that make no contribution of any note yet cause enormous hardship to many. I am referring to projects such as high-speed rail. It is already forecast to cost £35 billion, and we all know what happens to initial cost estimates. And today the forecast economic benefits have been downgraded for the fourth time. The latest projection suggests the scheme will barely, if ever, so much as break even.
Martin Tett, who leads the group of councils challenging the high-speed network, was quick to comment. “This proves fundamentally that we were right all along. Ours is not a nimby objection but an economic argument for the entire country..this is a catastrophically poor return at a time of austerity and this project needs to be reconsidered urgently by the government”, he said.
So we now know that after the expenditure of what will probably be the best part of £4o billion, the new service will run at a loss. For a fraction of the cost the existing rail network could be upgraded and that might well lead to an economic contribution. That would facililiate speeds of up to 125mph and the idea that doubling the speed would give businessmen more time to create miracles is ludicrous. As indeed is the idea that by 2024 tycoons will need to constantly travel to communicate.
There are of course many other examples of bizaare projects alongside rising contributions to the national debt. But this single pairing is enough to show that any faith in the idea that the politicians know what they are doing is somewhat misplaced.
Of course there could be a national appeal for codgers to die early to fund high-speed rail!
THE JOYS OF UNPREDICTABLITY!
It is said that only two things in life are certain; death and taxes. Last night’s Premiership results remind us that all else is entirely unpredictable.
After the weekend results the sports writers quickly penned their tributes to Alex Ferguson whilst setting about Mancini. The race was over, nothing could change things now. And then Rooney and co went along the road to Wigan Pier for the mere formality of ticking another easy fixture off the list.
Few of us could have predicted what happened next. Little Wigan outplayed the champions whilst Man City romped home. It would take a brave man to predict what happens from here on.
All of which goes to prove that forward planning is the ultimate myth!
A suit from a local Chamber of Commerce has suggested celebrations to mark the confirmation that High Speed rail is to go ahead. Since even the most optimistic forecast is for arrival of the faster-than-light trains in our neck of the woods – that will probably be cut down to make way for them – in 2032 he has no need for send out for champagne just yet. Before I beat the drum I must admit that the fact that we will all be dead before the first whistle is heard does tend to set we codgers against the whole idea.
Another aspect that fuels our prejudice is the fate of a friend who has cancer, and whose last shred of dignity relies on the £89 per week that he receives from employment support allowance. His partner works but is poorly paid, and his ability to pay for heating is invaluable. In April our stricken pal will lose his allowance. How in heaven’s name can we afford a £32 billion rail project when we cannot even care for those unable to care for themselves?
Almost £1 billion has already been spent before a single shovel has been used. The taxpayer must now find £1 billion a year in interest payments alone and the billions will flow out once work begins. Super-speed rail is unsuitable for countries with cheap energy and long distances between stops, which is not England. It is costly in electricity and depends on premiuim fares to pay its way. The Whitehall evaluation team no longer talk about the benefit/cost ratio which has plummeted from 3.24 to 1.60, normally enough to kill off any project. The truth is that the HS2 lobby has been led by contractors and consultants who manoeuvred themselves into what has become almost an arm of government. They have promised ministers untold glory in return for contracts. Already they have consumed £750 million of public money, plus a considerable amount of expenses. That would have paid for a lot of nurses or policemen.
But the really astonishing aspect of the project is the assertion that it will eliminate congestion on our trains. But it won’t. The high-speed service will serve only rich businessmen travelling between London and Birmingham. Fares are projected to be 27% over other fares and it is hard to visualise many other people climbing aboard. Meantime our existing services will be cash-starved which means that commuters in the North West, London, and almost everywhere else will continue to endure appalling service.
The only quoted benefit that makes any sense at all is the saving of half-an-hour or so on journeys between London and Birmingham (2024), and twenty minutes longer for Manchester (2032). Yet anyone who occasionally travels first class will know that the men and women in suits spend their time working on laptops. Heaven knows what technology will be available to them in another twelve years.
We are constantly told by Cameron and his pals that there has been full consultation. They have been extremely astute by pitching the debate almost entirely on the environmental effect, thus enabling them to portray objectors as rich right-wing NIMBYs. Give them a few tunnels at a mere cost of an extra £4 billion and they are reasonably happy. But all other public discussion has been stifled.
HS2 Ltd, which is a front organisation for the Department of Transport, has for twelve months been meeting with planning officers from each of the local planning and transport authorities between Birmingham and Manchester and between Birmingham and York via Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds. The technocrats have maintained secrecy and even the elected councillors, to whom they supposedly answer, have not been told. No surprise then that a number of planning officers have suddenly appeared on TV extolling the virtues of HS2 and claiming no opposition in their patches. Promise of a few knighthoods (a la Olympics) go a long way!
Under Labour we saw enormous waste on warships and computers. The HS2 project is even more costly and impossible to reverse. Cameron and Osborne should never again complain about Labour debts for this will be the Daddy of them all!
Hope you had a belting Christmas. Now all we have to bother us are dodgy digestive systems and credit-card repayments. The build-up to the great day started back in October and it was impossible for any one day to live up to so much hype, but we allotment codgers had a go. One thing that has to change in our nest next time is the placing of Christmas cards. Each year we stand them on every conceivable ledge or shelf, each year people keep opening the front door at which point every card in the place takes off for Manchester Airport. Suggestions on a postcard please, but no prizes for suggestions involving sellotape which is guaranteed to create a unwelcome demand from she-who-must-be-obeyed for redecorating.
Today’s papers return us to the real world, although how real the polls are is hard to fathom. The ones I have read suggest that David Cameron is now regarded by 99 per cent of the population as a posh version of Mother Theresa. Perhaps the polls were taken in Surbiton, I really cannot imagine that reading in Wigan where they use the Old Etonian for darts matches. But the story that really attracted attention on the allotments concerned Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem children’s minister.
As a member of the coalition’s top team Ms Teather gave vehement support to the austerity programme. She stood shoulder to shoulder with Theresa Cameron and the dashing Osborne in refusing to contemplate action against tax dodgers, bank bonuses, high-speed rail and Olympics overspend. Like her hero Nick she made clear that the people must tighten their belts and stop whingeing about such luxuries as libraries and meals-on-wheels.
And that is her right. But being a hypocrite isn’t. Having supported cuts in local public services she is now campaigning against the ghastly plan to close public libraries in Brent. Why Brent? Because that is her constituency.
And she is not alone in her incredible hypocracy. Jeremy Browne (foreign office), Steve Webb (pensions) and James Brokenshire (crime) have all followed suit. All have lobbied their fellow ministers to save their own patches!
With behaviour like this is it any wonder that ministers and MPs at large are now to be found at the foot of the table of trustworthiness. Even estate agents and journalists now leave them standing. With one exception!
David Cameron stands next to God, David Beckham and Lady Gaga in the ratings, a politician far removed from the riffraff that seek our votes. Funny old world isn’t it!
Hardly a day passes but someone arrives at the allotments witha tale of woe about the latest cuts. The housebound now spend most of their days in bed as a result of the home carers services being slashed, meals-on-wheels are but a distant memory, the local children’s charity has closed.. the list is a long one. Those of us of a less volatile nature than Albert tend to trot out the cliches about all being in it together and money not growing on trees, but even we are stunned by the government’s ability to turn a blind eye to tax evaders and to produce, as if from a magician’s hat, buckets of cash for its pet projects.
Over £32 billion has been earmarked for the 100-mile high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. This incredibly expensive brainwave will eventually reduce journey times by 35 minutes, and we are supposed to believe that the top businessmen likely to use it will, as a result of the time saved, be able to transform our economy. The fact that such wizards tend to work on the train has been swept aside, as has the fact that the existing rail network desperately requires investment.
But, with the final approval for this madness due at any time, a number of senior Conservative MPs, who represent constituencies around the Chilterns, have let it be known that they may rebel given the certain scarring of an area of natural beauty. Indeed, Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh Secretary, has let it be known that she just might resign. No problem. Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, will announce next week that she has found £500,000 and will use it to fund a one-and-a-half-mile tunnel under the Chiltern Hills near Amersham.
Clearly money is no object when it comes to what many leading lights have described as a white elephant in the making. To hell with the housebound, this is a prestigeous asset we must have despite the fact that we are a small island and the time saved via higher speeds – trains on that route already run at 125mph – is inevitably small.
We can take it as read that, despite all the protests about priorities, the project will be approved. Then we can await revelations in Private Eye about the contractors and their connections with senior politicians.
Even in good times this venture would be open to debate, to pursue it so frantically right now beggars belief. But it is nice to know that there is still plenty of spare cash available!
LANSLEY IS STILL SOMEWHAT SECRETIVE!
My story about the refusal of the Health Secretary to publish the government’s own risk assessment of his much debated NHS Reform bill caught the eye of the Deputy Speaker of the Commons, Lindsay Hoyle
I have a letter from him making clear that he believes it “essential that the risk register is published immediately”, and he goes on to confirm that he has written to the Secretary of State for Health “urging him to release the information so that it can inform the debate currently taking place in parliament about NHS reform”.
But the register remains under wraps. We don’t need too much imagination to work out the reason!
TEST YOURSELF WITH THIS WEEKEND QUIZ! ANSWERS TOMORROW!!
1. Alan Shearer’s league career finished with a game against which team? 2. Which Kenny Rogers hit starts, “On a bar in Toledo…”? 3. In which sport is there a piste other than skiing? 4. Which member of Queen would have been 60 in September 2006? 5. Which Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced TESSA? 6. Which character was played by Dooley Wilson in “Casablanca”? 7. Who wrote the play “Private Lives”? 8. Who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner? 9. Whose hits include “Waterfront” and “Alive and Kicking”? 10. Voords, Krotons and Autons have all appeared in which TV series?
Even we chicken-keepers have become infected by the need to cut costs. Every one of us own fading bus-passes and rely on our pensions to exist. Some are luckier than others, but those whose sole income is their state pension plus some interest on savings are struggling now that the rate of interest has shrunk to the size of Albert’s string vest. The result is that we have searched around for the cheapest corn and bedding material and discovered that there are savings to be made. Fortunately, we own the ground so there are no major outgoings. Thus any attempt to compare our lot with the national one is false.
At national level key features of our society’s life are being cut to the bone and beyond. Charities, which are supposedly part of the Cameron big-society plan, are closing down in their thousands and essential services for the vulnerable are reaching disintegration. But the cash continues to seep away from the treasury on projects that appear to command little public support. There are many examples such as the billion pounds already invested in bombing Libya, and the £30 billion committed to high-speed rail, but the biggest expenditure of them all is the EU which makes even the level of tax evasion look puny.
Brussels continues to extend its one-state ambitions and its budget. In the past year alone we have handed over over £12 billion, plus a further sum of the same amount to help rescue Greece, Ireland and Portugal. And hardly a day passes but we hear more about the extreme extravagence of the whole structure in which MEP’s make our Westminster lot look paragons of virtue by comparison.
And then there are the hidden costs incurred here as we struggle to conform with endless regulations, and a total loss of control over immigration policy given our inability to control entry from every EU country. Throw in the gigantic waste of rules such as the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, which the Economics Foundation estimates at £2.7 billion and you have an horrendous picture. All conducted against a background of our law and order system – and basic common sense – being undermined by the EU Convention of Human Rights.
It is when one comes to listing the advanatges of all this expenditure that one struggles. In reality trade with the large European countries would continue whether we were members of the Union or not. So what are the advantages? Unity on defence? Try looking at the response of Germany to Libya or any of them to Afghanistan. Unity on climate change? No sign of it. Unity on Aid? Our contribution exceeds the sum total of all other EU members.
So why have successive governments under Blair, Brown and Cameron refused to seek the verdict of the people? All have promised a referendum, all have wriggled their way out of it. But there are signs that many Brits have had enough. On Saturday the Daily Express launched a petition demanding a referendum. Over 700 people per hour are signing up. The aim is to collect 100,000 signatures which would trigger consideration by the Commons bankbench business committee of a debate by the full House of Commons. A member of that committee (Peter Bone) said that; ” It will be hard for the committee to resist and then we can have a proper debate in Paliament. The British public deserve that”.
The campaign by the Express has already attracted support from over 400,000 people in a postal coupon submission. There seems little doubt that the petition will far exceed the level to trigger a debate on a referendum. If it does what will the politicians do? Both the Conservative and Labour Parties are deeply divided on this, although an impressive number of Tory ministers are openly supporting the campaign, and only the Lib Dems are totally committed to full European integration. Thereby lies Cameron’s dilemna and to obtain a decision by the House he would need to allow a free vote. That would undoubtedly produce support for a referendum on continued membership of the EU.
The prime minister’s inclination would be to duck such a development which, even based on a free vote, would almost certainly result in Clegg and his MP’s leaving the coalition. The extent to which Cameron can do what Blair and Brown did – produce weasel words and do nothing – will depend on the momentum of the Express campaign. The paper doesn’t have the largest readership in the land, but the subject matter may well draw people from every section of the community.
The odds are that you, like me, are not anti-Europe or particularly interested in politics. However, the odds are that, like me, you are sick and tired of the spectacle of cash pouring down a bureaucratic drain whilst vital services here are drained of funds and left to die. Surely the least we should demand is that the people be allowed to decide.
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR A VERY SPECIAL QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Two of the hens have taken to flying up on to a bough of one of the larger apple trees as darkness falls. Given the presence of foxes we have a ladder nearby, and the duty ‘locker-upper’ is expected to climb up in the dark and to carry them to the coop. It was whilst Albert and I were so engaged last night that he unwittingly gave me a topic for today. I was holding both ladder and torch as he wobbled up there when he exclaimed that ‘these sods are as barking as the supporters of high-speed rail’.
He later explained that the consultation period for HS2 – the plan to create a high-speed rail link between London and us up north – expired yesterday. There were around 40,000 objections and the government immediately announced that since this was a lower number than expecetd they planned to proceed. There has been no convincing business case yet a commitment to the expenditure of up to £40 billion has been rubber-stamped. Incredible! Only this week I learned from friends in the London area that so many redundancies are being made to Mental Health services that clients will be vitually left to their own fate, and all for a saving of one million pounds, yet we can afford to fund the biggest folly in our island’s history.
This has all the hallmarks of a public-sector vanity project. Other countries with such a facility have larger landmasses than ours and therefore achieve larger cuts in travel times. We are told that once the London to Birmingham stretch is built there will be a saving of 15 minutes. Who are all these dynamic business people who can turn around their company’s fortunes in less time than it takes me to pop up to the newsagent?
Cameron has made constant play of his commitment to localism yet he is apparently relaxed at the propsect of bulldozing whole villages and ruining some of our loveliest rural escapes. Considering just how weak is the business case it is almost amazing to imagine anyone in their right mind being prepared to devastate tracts of unspoiled countryside and our natural heritage.
Another factor in the case against HS2 is the appalling state of today’s rail services. In many parts of the country commuter services are a nightmare. Train sets often comprising just two or three units are jam packed, filthy, and run late. The constant excuse is lack of funding, this despite fares that, unlike the trains, continue to rocket. For a tiny fraction of the cost of high speed, these services could be transformed. As for journey times, the current inter-city trains already run at 125 mph.
Sorting the present capacity would certainly have a more significant effect on the economy than hurtling business executives from London to Birmingham in a marginally shorter time! Inevitably those who question such supposed progress will be labelled Luddites but the analogy is a false one. This is not a question of opposing progress but one of whether it is progress at all. And at a cost that makes the forecast savings from all the cuts look tiny, the answer is surely no.
And another thing, as Victor Meldrew was wont to cry. In today’s connected world, the physical location of offices has come to matter less – so why not stimulate regional economies by investing a fraction of the cost of high-speed rail in broadband connections and other technological facilities?
If we as a nation had money to burn this would be a prestigeous project with plenty of private sector profit, and resulting employment. But we haven’t the cash, we need huge improvements in our existing services and our ever-shrinking countryside could do without yet more desecration.
The only defence that Cameron and his pals can produce is that the Lib Dem and Labour parties also support it. The answer to that is they are equally daft, Mr Cameron! Even Boris Johnson is more sensible than you. He is opposed to HS2 and no one could accuse him of being anti-enterprise!
There is a fair head of steam building up in the anti-HS2 camp and the likelihood is that the whole thing will be abandoned before the election. The problem is that by then a few billion will have been blown on planning, and a few deep pockets made deeper still!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ; 1. Dutch 2. It is not finished 3. Kylie Minogue 4. Tea taxes 5. Pig 6. Angela Merkel 7. Wolves 8. Minnesota 9. Holland 10. England
The weather is sunny, the news less so. But the hens seemed indifferent to it all, even ‘Gaddafi’, the bullying pecker, is unmoved. Rather like his ghastly namesake! Yesterday William Hague gave an object lesson in the art of turning, claiming that he always intended to spend a billion rearranging the concrete in Libya before leaving the Colonel in residence. To be fair David Cameron needs no lessons in the art of turning and it is surely time for his latest performance.
Because the idea of paying off the whole national deficit at record speed just ain’t working! As expected the growth of the economy has ground to a near halt. We chicken-breeders are to economics what dear old Cyril Smith was to hang-gliding, but even we can work out that if cut-backs are too rapid there are fewer jobs, less inclination to spend and less tax revenue. In effect the economy is as flat as a MacDonald’s pancake. And we are less than impressed with the latest excuses about weather and Royal weddings, which surely compete with the “dog ate my homework” we all peddled many years ago.
Mr Osborne may well be preoccupied with the latest Guardian revelations about his involvement with the Murdochs, but he really should turn his mind to the more pressing issues of the need for a Plan B. He won’t of course, hence our humble plea that Cameron intervenes as he did on Forests, the NHS and other lunacies. The latest wheeze of overhauling planning laws might make some difference; Britain built its way out of recession in the 1930s, but concreting over this sceptered isle is, understandably, always fraught – as seen in the local rows surrounding the massive investment of money we don’t have in high-speed rail.
But such things are really straws in the wind. Uncle Vince Cable is banging on about printing more money but the Bank of England will take some persuading given that inflation is rnnning at twice its target. That leaves only the option of slowing the frenzied pace of deficit reduction, which Mr Osborne insists would shatter “confidence” and push up borrowing costs.
This is nonsense. With cheap, long-maturity government debt and an independent currency there is no reason on Earth to think that closing the deficit more steadily would visit a Greek-like crisis on these shores. And, as top economist Jonathan Portes has declared, low interest rates are the product of the slump itself, rather than the result of Osborne’s hair shirt.
As a group of geezers who see no shame in an about-turn, we suggest that the prime minister pulls away from worrying about what Rebekah is going to reveal, and instead steps on the Osborne corns. His one idea of boosting growth by eliminating the 50% tax bracket is truly political dynamite, what he must do is ease back a little on VAT and job cuts. Such moves would not only be popular but would also encourage a return to buying. And he needs to give more help to manufacturers by leaning on the Banks which we supposedly partly own.
To go on pretending, as Osborne did yesterday, that all is positive is crass. He should address an audience wider than Ed Balls for we have all seen what is happening in America. Politicians there are putting the scoring of points ahead of the national interest and there is no future in that!
Just for a week the prime minister should put aside the inevitable Murdoch clan revelations and put the country first. He must know by now that some of his motley crew are three pence short of the proverbial shilling, deep down he must know that the economy will ultmately decide his fate. He should win back a few of the supporters he has lost by acting now!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Rock festival 2. Wales 3. Advent 4. Edinburgh 5. Atonement 6. Albert Hall 7. Judaism 8. Film Festival 9. Nirvana day 10. Lincolnshire
Suddenly the high winds are back and the hen-run roofs were rattling ominously as we cleaned out this morning. The problem is that we have to use transparent plastic sheeting, which like most things in life has its drawbacks, not least among them being a tendency to sail off in the direction of Birmingham given any wind above 40 mph. Now we are for it commented Bob as we tightened the screws. And so it is with the long-debated cuts which will soon make their presence felt in communities right across the country.
One of the many features of our daily lives will soon be shutting their doors for the last time. Libraries. A typical example is the Kensal Rise Library in Brent. This was opened by Mark Twain back in 1900 when he described a public library as ” the most enduring of memorials, the trustiest monument of an event or a name or an affection; for it, and it only, is respected by wars and revolutions, and survives them”. Not any longer, despite local uproar it is to close.
The rage has been led by author Zadie Smith who at the weekend spoke to a packed house in North London. She said that she could see ” that if you went to Eton or Harrow, like so many of the present government, it is hard to understand how important it is to have a local library”. She added that “it’s always difficult to explain to people with money what it’s like to have very little”. Zadie recalled the important role that her local library played in her childhood when it helped her discover literature. Having a nearby branch can save lives, and she mocked the notion of enormous central libraries which would be inaccessible for “families for whom getting on a train to visit the British Library is inconceivable”.
There are of course many services, some arguably even more vital than libraries, that will fall under the Osborne axe and few deny that we have to ‘draw our horns in’, as my Gran used to say. But is there another way? The most obvious one is the high-speed rail plan. This is due to cost a minimum of £17 billion. The London to Birmingham stage will cost that much and will decimate the countryside and environment. As continental journeys go a 140-mile stretch is a mere hop, and although the speed of the trains will be higher the potential for saving time is limited. For the sake of half an hour or so we are to spend more than all the cuts can realise. It simply doesn’t make sense for a small island.
Then there is of course the European Union. Today we learn that our contribution is to rocket again, and will this year cost every single taxpayer over £300. And that is before the contribution to the Irish and Greek bailouts, plus the almost certain rescue for Portugal. Even the most ardent Lib Dem European enthusiast must surely recognise that we have to say no in the way that Margaret Thatcher once did. A major factor was Blair’s decision to accept cuts to our rebate, but the unending stories of waste and gravy-trains add another.
And then come the Banks who caused the need to close Kensal Rise Library and much else. One of those bailed out by the taxpayer was Lloyds, which is now 41% owned by the taxpayer. Today it unveils its new chief executive, one Antonio Horta-Osorio. He has been handed a package of up to £13.4 million and this follows a ‘golden hello’ of £4.6 million. What fantasy world do these people inhabit and what happened to all those passionate election speeches about the state clawing money back?
Ministers never tire of telling us that the deficit is all down to Grumpy Gordon. If that were true we would be the only country in trouble. In fact it was, to quote Mervyn King, all down to greed. But its cause is largely irrelevant, we have to balance the books. The problem is that few regard what is being done as fair. Things like the high-speed rail project, the EU,and the Banks seem to be sacrosanct whilst crucial services for the vulnerable are not, let alone the Libraries that mean so much to so many who prefer to escape this wretched time in the happier world of literature!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; THE WORD: “The most beautiful words in the English language are, ‘it’s benign’ “…..Woody Allen “The most beautiful words in the English language are, ‘Cheque enclosed’ ”….Dorothy Parker ” The most beautiful words in the English language are ‘Have one on the house’ ”….Wilson Mizner “The most beautiful words in any language are, ‘Not guilty’ “…..Maxim Gorky “The sweetest words in the English language are, ‘I told you so’ “……Gore Vidal “The most awful words in the English language are, ‘Just coffee’ “…..Robert Morley “The most dreaded words in the English language are, ‘ Some assembly required’ “…..Bill Cosby “The saddest words in the English language are, ‘ Partick Thistle nil”…..Billy Connolly “The most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you’ “….Ronald Reagan
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Sweden 2 Geoffrey Boycott
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; Who played a scarecrow for children on TV? 2. Who played a rich man called Richard De Vere?
An article published in several papers today claims that chickens have empathy and compassion. We allotmenteers rather doubt that having spent an hour this morning spraying antiseptic on to wounds inflicted by one hen on another. We deal with large numbers every day and are convinced that their levels of compassion are akin to those of Gaddafi. But it was a letter published this morning on a different subject that caught our attention.
Twenty-one leading businessmen have attacked what they describe as the “expensive white elephant”, the £32 billion high-speed rail scheme. It is, they add, a “vanity project” that will cost every taxpayer £1000 and will benefit few. Perhaps the most embarrassing signatures to the letter are those of the Conservative’s competitiveness adviser and head of ‘Next’, Lord Wolfson and former Chancellor Lord Lawson.
Of course we had already heard many objections to the project on environmental grounds but this challenge is far more significant for here we have the cream of British industry taking issue with the coalition’s claim that the development will help business. I have always been bemused by this for the idea that lopping a half-hour off the journey time from London to Bitrmingham would in some mysterious way lead to an economic miracle sounds like a Black Adder whopper.
The letter insists that spending £30 billion on a service that will only cover “a fortunate few” is wrong. This, it adds, is particularly true when higher taxes are putting pressure on families and businesses, and the public finances are making it necessary to curb spending in such areas as education and scientific research. The existing service from London to Birmingham is already a fast and frequent one running at speeds of up to 125mph, isn’t that fast enough given our many other neglected priorities?
Amongst these the tycoons emphasise the need to address affordable options for increasing capacity and reducing overcrowding, options that could be tackled relatively quickly rather than the decades it will take to complete the high-speed lunacy. Stretched commuter train services and congested roads are the real priorities, one imagines that the vast number of people who each day face the frustration of commuting will heartily applaud.
The letter concludes that an expensive white elephant is not what our beleagured economy needs. The punch-line is that “There are better ways to encourage growth than getting every taxpayer to pay over £1000 for a vanity project which we cannot possibly afford”.
Will the coalition listen? Of course not for they are all-knowing. But the credibility of the project is in shreds for the constant rhetoric from people like the Transport Minister has been that business demands we move into the high-speed age. In fairness the previous government was similarly obsessed, they too seemed unable to grasp that we are not a vast continent and any time reductions achieved would be minimal.
A final thought. We are prepared to cut the NHS, to emasculate the police and our armed forces, to close hundreds of respite care centres and services for the elderly. Why then are we not prepared to axe high-speed rail. Now we have the answer in one word. Vanity. Frankly we cannot afford the luxury of posing as a high-tech nation, especially since we will be reduced to borrowing an aircraft carrier when the next Middle East crisis entraps our once proud citizens!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY ; ” Please if you ever see me being beaten up by the police, put down your camera and help me” ….Bobcat Goldthwait “My friend Larry’s in jail. He got 25 years for something he didn’t do. He didn’t run fast enough”…..Damon Wayans “I have never killed a man. But I have read many an obituary with great pleasure”….Clarence Darrow “The person by far the most likely to kill you is yourself”….Jock Young “For me, the worst part of playing golf has always been hitting the ball”….Dave Barry “The secret of missing a tree is to aim straight at it”….Michael Green “Golf is a good walk spoiled”….Mark Twain ”A promiscuous person is one who is getting more sex than you are”….Victor Lownes “If you leave me, can I come too?”…Anon
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Scientists found that many lived to be more than 100 years old 2. Holography
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who wrote the music for ‘Star Wars’ ? 2. For which country did Richard Hadlee play Test cricket?