Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Stuck On You ...

Over the weekend, my beloved's 5yr old daughter accidentally broke a neighbour's garden gnome. Thankfully, it tumbled into large lumps so wasn't too difficult to piece back together. I whipped out my tube of Loctite Super Glue and set to work. This glue, it has to be said, is quite remarkable and will stick anything to anything. However, how come it doesn't stick the screw cap to the tube? The gnome, the plastic bag it was standing on and my fingers all got stuck at some point, but the lid, no. And why don't they sell the magic release liquid with the glue?



Monday, September 25, 2006

All In A Name ...

It is difficult for anyone in the UK to have missed out on the news popular television presenter Richard 'Hamster' Hammond was badly injured whilst filming for the BBC's Top Gear. The family have been inundated with flowers from well-wishers and the charity who run the Yorkshire Air Ambulance (who whisked Hammond to a Leeds hospital) have received £158,000 in donations. 'The Hamster' is well on his way to a good recovery and the show's fans (of which I am one) look forward to more mirth and silliness as soon as Auntie gives the nod.

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) have now decided to bring forward their business plan and buy its second helicopter earlier than expected. 'Hammy's Heli' will be brought into service in the near future and I began thinking of the registration they might choose. All UK aircraft being with the letter 'G'. In France it's 'F', in the US it's the letter 'N' and in Germany, 'D'. This country letter is followed by 4 more letters, sometimes picked randomly by the Civil Aviation Authority but others prefer a more personalised registration. For example, Virgin airlines has a 747 registered as G-VAST. The current Yorkshire Air Ambulance is registered as G-SASH.

So, what for the future 'Hammy's Heli'? I've been on to the database and these ones are available;


It is interesting to note that if I was to purchase a flying thing and get it registered using my initials, the following is available;


Doesn't bear thinking about, does it.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

I'd Pay To See That Too ...

For any failing circus who needs to pull in the crowds;

I'd get round the back with a bucket if I were you ...

Multi-Skilling ...

When your meat is being tenderised, it's best to keep your mind on the job in hand;

Anyone for coq au vin?


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Anti-Climax: A Story Of 1950's Publishing ...

Since the beginning of the year I have turned into a reading fiend, my face buried in books as if there was shortly to be a moratorium, a ban on printed matter with severe consequences for those found in possession. I just can't get enough. Then again, it depends what sort of book we're talking about. I am a fan of true-life, events in history or autobiographies. However, I tend to shy away from biographies as I prefer those written in the first person with less chance of artistic license.

As I look over at my bookshelves, this year alone, I have read the autobiographies of Douglas Bader (WW2 fighter pilot), David Attenborough (Mr Wildlife-on-TV) and Albert Pierrepoint, Britain's longest-serving executioner. Varied topics, as I think you will agree. On the reserve bench is a book about Nancy Wake, the Australian Secret Agent and a book about the scientific going's on of the Secret Operations Executive (SOE) during WW2. One book always leads to another. In the same vein, I have also read Martin Middlebrook's fantastic book about the first day of the 'Battle of The Somme' and another about 11 individuals who did their best to f**k up the Jerries and their plans for world domination between '39 and '45 - another book on SOE.

At present, I am in the middle of Pat Reid's account of his time at Colditz Castle, a guest of the Third Reich. He arrived at the castle in November 1940 and escaped a few years later (I'm not there yet) but didn't return to England until after the war. In 1955, Guy Hamilton made 'Colditz', a film with John Mills playing the part of Reid. The book is a superb account of how British Officers and men, using nothing but ingenuity and guile, managed to cause mayhem and escape from the notorious Coldtiz castle. It was from Reid's first prison camp (Laufen) that he made his initial break-out, hence his transfer to Colditz. The castle was seen as a prison for 'naughty boys' who wouldn't stop their escape attempts from other camps. It was during the early part of the book that I felt let down.

If I were narrating such a collection of yarns, I wouldn't want to give the story away too early but would prefer to keep the suspense up and running. However, chapter 2 is entitled 'The First Bid For Freedom' and follows the successful breakout from Laufen. Just as the story reaches a climax and the pulse quickens, you turn the page and the following chapter title brings you firmly down to earth: 'The Price Of Failure'. I would rather that the author relates the story in an uninterrupted flow than the heading gives away 'what happened next'. You might say, "but he was bound to escape, hence being sent to Colditz" and you'd be right, but let the story unfold in the text.

One the whole, it's a great book, full to the brim of derring-do, Goon baiting, dastardly plans and schoolboy adventure. It's only a shame that Hodder and Stoughton, who published the book in 1952, couldn't see into the future and let the drama motor along at it's own pace.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

I've Said Sorry, Now Shut The F**k Up ...

So, those angry Muslims have had their apology from Pope Benedict XVI. They have been demanding one since last week. Today he said: "I hope this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with mutual respect".

Do you think they'll say "Fair enough, thanks for that. We'll all go back to how it was before"? Of course not. You can't say anything these days without some illiterate twit getting the wrong end of the stick and going up in a puff of smoke. Is that what fanatical means?

I shudder to think that a Muslim cleric has ever critisised the Christian world ...

You Might Want It Matey, But It Won't Be Easy ...

We're coming up to autumn and the light is going fast. No more early morning sunlight, no more elasticated sunsets. On average, three minutes of light are being shaved off each day and we will soon be plunged into darkness for the greater part of our lives. That is, until Spring comes bowling along sometime next year.

I've been thinking of improving my light/flash equipment for my stills kit. Well, if the light's going then I ought to have something I can replace it with. Nothing fancy but something inexpensive and portable. A mate of mine did a trawl of the 'interweb' and found a company in the US who manufacture soft boxes; put a continuous light source or a flash behind it and the white diffuser will spread the beam evenly and softly. No more hard-edged shadows. I went for the flashgun version.

I contacted the firm in question and asked them which model would suit my existing kit. Naturally, being an American outfit, their 'help desk' were straight back to me with an answer. I would need this type of soft box, this particular connecting ring and this light-stand adaptor. It would all plug together and I would soon be off and running with a new fill-in, portable flash unit. Could they ship it over to me? No, they didn't supply direct but they did give me the name of their dealer in France. OK, we're making progress ...

I composed an email to their appointed agent, listing the three part numbers (all beginning with the letters 'AC') which had been provided by the manufacturer. A reply came dribbling back just before closing time saying that none of the part numbers corresponded with any of those in their store rooms - all theirs started with the letter 'P'. So I wrote back in long-hand with a lengthy explanation, detailing what I wanted and what it was for. "Oh", they replied as the centime dropped, "you mean ... thingy, whatsit and doobree furkin?" Spot on Claude! We're getting somewhere AND on a Friday afternoon to boot. Could they package it all up and send it across town? No, they didn't supply direct but sent me a list of outlets.

I wrote to seven in all and got three replies. One said "no", one said "maybe" and the last one said "yes and it was in stock".

"It"? Mmmm, sound sominous.

The next morning, a Saturday, I whizzed over to the shop who had replied in the positive and asked the assistant if they had the three items I was looking for. "Yes, I think so", he replied and went scurrying out into the back for a rummage around. He brought out the soft box and unwrapped it. It was enormous and certainly NOT the piece of kit I had requested. The owner of the shop appeared and, bypassing her young assistant, asked what I wanted. I mentioned the email from the previous afternoon, whipped out the flashgun in my pocket and explained what I was after. "Well it's not in stock", she said "we'll have to order all the pieces".

"Well who's Madame Bousquet?", I asked. "C'est moi", she replied. Natch, I produced the email which confirmed that the kit I wanted was in stock and that the email had come from her outbox. I hardly had time to unfold it when she snatched it out of my hand, made some grunting noises and went snarling into the back room.

By this time, another chap had walked in and was standing next to me at the counter. Madame Bousquet came sweeping back into the shop, threw a catalogue down on the counter, turned to the gentleman beside me and said "Yes sir, how can I help you?"

I stood there stunned but not altogether surprised. This is Paris, after all.

A third assistant appeared, a tall spectacled blonde. She tip-toed past the brusque Madame Bousquet (who was now arguing with the new arrival), picked up the catalogue, turned to me, smiled and said quietly "Now you come with me and let's get this sorted".

Why do manufacturers and outlets have different part numbers for the same kit? In the States or the UK, the customer is someone who's visit can increase the company turnover, thus leading to profits and salary increases. Over here, the customer is someone who clutters up the shop floor, disrupts coffee breaks and pisses off the staff by actually wanting to buy something.

Anyway, the order should be here by Thursday and the tall blonde could be seeing more of me in future.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Up Into The Blue, One Last Time ...

As a lad, joined in the living room by my Father, we would sit in front of the family's black & white and watch the (then) annual Farnborough Airshow on the BBC.

We loved the event, the latest technology flying for the appreciation of the general public. The commentators voice would chip in with an air of friendly authority and tinged with that of your favourite uncle, informing the viewers as to the gross weight, speed and overall capabilities of whatever was currently batting around the skies. For years we watched this televisual spectacle which was normally aired on a Sunday afternoon. The voice belonged to Raymond Baxter, the BBC's 'man-in-the-know'. Baxter was also the BBC's 'technology king', presenting 'Tomorrow's World' for 12 years, a television show presenting new and often strange developments in the world of science and technology.

During World War Two, Baxter was a Spitfire pilot, taking part in raids against V1/2 missile sites deep inside occupied Europe. He rose to the rank of Squadron Leader. Following the War, he joined the British Forces Network and reported on the Berlin airlift. Shortly after that, he joined the BBC's Outside Broadcast Unit.

He shone in the field of aviation and technology. He described, with an unprecedented passion, the inaugural flight of Concorde. He also was the first person to broadcast live from an aeroplane, an ocean-liner and a submarine. The Exec Prod of the BBC's events department said of Baxter: "Raymond was without doubt a British television pioneer, whose groundbreaking outside broadcast work for the BBC, beginning in the 1950s, set standards for the industry." Baxter also interviewed Dr Christian Barnard live by telephone from South Africa, one hour after Barnard had completed the world's first heart transplant.

Indeed, groundbreaking stuff back then.

In May 1940 the British and Allied Forces were desperately fighting to stop the German advance through Europe. But Hitler's Armies had swept westwards from Germany through France and the Low Countries, forcing the British & French to retreat. The German spearhead reached the sea and cornered them in the small coastal town of Dunkirk. To the rescue came civilians in small craft, setting out from the south coast of England. Fishing vessels and pleasure cruisers set off to recuse the military personnel who were being bombarded on the beaches.

In 1964, Baxter bought one of the little boats ('L'Orage'). He formed and presided over 'The Association Of Dunkirk Little Ships', where flotilla used on the famous evacuation are restored and rallied for the enjoyment of their owners and the public. It was at one of these events, in the late 70's, where I had the chance to meet him.

I was helping out with a summer-time 'Son et Lumiere' on the banks of the Thames near Henley, where a number of Baxter's Little Ships were taking part in an historical re-enactment. One evening, I was invited to a picnic on one of the boats. I walked along the towpath looking for the right vessel. It was Baxter's. I was welcomed aboard and soon this childhood hero of mine was making sure I had enough to eat and drink.

It is worth noting that Baxter was probably responsible for nurturing my love of aviation. It was the yearly Farnborough Airshow which was the clincher, but this charismatic man and his instantly recognisable voice certainly pushed me on.

He died yesterday, aged 84, on September 15th ... Battle Of Britain Day.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Dropping A Bollock, Or Two ...

Croatian news junkies, 24Sata, are reporting that a Croatian man got a nasty surprise when he tried to get out of his deck chair ...

Mario Visnjic had gone for a skinny-dip in the sea at Valalta. Whilst in contact with the cool waters, his testicles had shrunk but once back on dry land and seated in his wooden deckchair, they slipped downwards and through the slats. As he soaked up the rays they expanded back to normal size and he became stuck. He was eventually freed after he called the beach maintenance services on his mobile phone and they sent a member of staff over to cut the deck chair in half.

Another use of the phrase "Ball Trap" ...


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Women Scorned ...

According to the wire press, the wives and girlfriends of Colombia's gang members have called for a 'sex ban' for their men. "No nookie until you give up the gun". With the support of the local mayor, "The Strike of Crossed Legs" has been launched in the coffee-producing town of Pereria, where last year alone, 480 people were killed.

Tell me, if you were a gun-toting headcase of a criminal and your girl said "if you want me to drop 'em, drop yours first", do you really think that the crime rate would decline? I see a sharp rise in the murder of females than a rise in the trouser department.

Got to love the Colombian ideas department ...


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Once Bitten, Twice Stupid ...

You know, there are days when I cannot believe what I read. There are also days that I cannot be arsed to report on certain types. Today, dear reader, you'll have to do your own research.

Go to your favourite interweb search engine and type;

"Martin Lake" + "Australia" + "Outback" + "Lost"

See what I mean?


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Twin Bores ...

Just when you thought it was safe to switch on the tube, reality sits bolt upright and slaps you squarely in the chops; "Idiot! You know better than that! What on earth were you thinking?!" The French, in case you haven't noticed, have a veritable pole up their backsides when it comes to cuisine. Apart from being the home of excellent cheese, broken marriages and quite unbelievable bureaucracy, they defend their kitchen skills with outlandish veracity. Quite right too. They know how to whip up a decent meal with easy to prepare, simple ingredients. However, when it comes to celebrity chefs and television, their spot on the winners podium slips away, disputed and de-bagged like a recent winner of the Tour de France.

During the summer I was asked this question by a Frenchwoman, "why is our TV so bad yet yours is so creative?" Good question. Apparently, British television is known as the most ground-breaking where other countries have simply copied. It is also true that the minds who developed British classics have gone on to sell the global rights to others; 'Steptoe & Son' (Sandford* and Son in the US), 'Who Wants To be A Millionaire' and 'The Weakest Link' ... the list goes on. The one format the Brits have recently exported is the mighty cookery programme. Some may laugh, citing British food as bad, but that's only because they're ignorant and listen to 3rd hand dissatisfied opinions. It is possible to eat badly all over the world, by the way, even in France.

The other night I was channel-hopping with my beloved, she was pushing the 'advance' button on the cable remote, bypassing reams of crap allegedly deemed fit for human consumption, when she landed on cuisine.tv. I don't need to spell out this particular gem, do I? We settled down to watch a French-made cookery programme, and mindful of the phrase 'French Women Don't Get Fat' ($14.30 from Amazon), we were treated to a delicious 'moulles bouillabaisse', cooked by someone-or-other but assisted by a whale of a woman who did nothing but squeal and make facial expressions at the camera(s). If the chef asked his 'assistant' to prepare something, she squealed away and only got half the job done, leaving him to finish off and get whatever it was into the pot. Whenever he explained a tricky process, the over-modulating 'baleine' broke in, making some flippant remark after which she giggled like a schoolgirl while he did his best to act over it.

It, being a multi-camera French production, meant that no tripods were used and that the cameras were perched on their operator's shoulders, giving the impression that we were watching something shot on the high seas. For the less knowledgeable of television techniques, there were 3 cameras in use; 1 master shot framing the chef, the whale and the work surfaces while the other 2 concentrated on the close-up action in the pots. Ordinarily, all cameras would have recorded the sound from the kitchen. But not this production. It was fairly obvious that in order to cut costs, the master sound was coming from the main camera and the cut-away shots of cutting, peeling and mixing, were simply 'popped in' over the top. It became evident, even to my beloved who knows nothing of production, that the sounds accompanying such cutting, peeling and mixing were not in synch, but were a fraction of a second too late. I was now distracted about what was actually being cooked but more concerned about 'how the @£*& they get away with producing this shite'. My beloved will fiercely defend anything French and normally poo-poo's my criticisms. On this particular occasion, she was tight-lipped and in total agreement.

The show gave the impression that French cooking was 'oh so easy' but they spoke in a patronising manner, as if to newly arrived immigrants. Over all, it was badly made, full of cringe-making camera angles, lame set pieces and a presenter who wasn't entirely suitable in her role of $14.30. It is interesting to note that both British chefs, Ainsley Harriet and Jamie Oliver have their shows (dubbed) on the same channel. Can you believe it? Our Ainsley, a black fella on French TV teaching them how to cook!? So, although the French bought the original British shows, they haven't the cheek copy them. Jamie Oliver (I admit to hating the common lisping wanker) has become so popular with the French that his books disappear from shelves with a speed approaching record proportions.

So, to anyone who says that the Brits can't cook, think again and experience a new revolution ... or are you too attached to your double cheeseburger in a sesame patty and cholesterol fries?

Is that to go?

* I am indebted to a reader in the UK who corrected my factual mistake. Sorry Debbie, someone got there before you.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

It's How You Say It ...

I am indebted to DM who lives down the road. He sent this over;



Friday, September 08, 2006

What Next, For Heaven's Sake ...?

I woke up early this morning and through in the darkness of my bedroom, fumbled to switch on the radio. The grim headlines, crackling through the weak MW signal, reminded me that summer is well and truly over.

It's the bad news period; in the past week, Tony Blair has been forced to give a departure date as Prime Minister in the UK, after 7 children in his government threw their toys out of the cot and resigned. Then 'Un-Action figure' George 'Dubbya' finally came out (but not in that way) and admitted that the CIA has a network of prisons all over the world and that prisoners will now be treated under the Geneva Convention - torturing is no longer on the schedule for their bored servicemen/women and dogs (not that that was entirely surprising). In the Canaries, 900 refugees floated into their territorial waters and the headless body of Sudanese journalist Mohammed Taha was buried in Khartoum. The British armed forces were dealt a savage blow when 14 of their personnel were killed when a Nimrod aircraft crashed in Afghanistan and the WHO has announced that a virtually untreatable strain of Tuberculosis has been found.

I sold an SLR camera to a friend some time back and threw a small lens his way with "there, that should get you started ...". He's now quite a good snapper and is off to Equador on honeymoon and is looking at getting his kit insured. I dug my way through year's of sales receipts and found the one for the lens I had given him. 1250 Euros ... have I lost my bloody mind? Yesterday, I was asked to decorate the walls of a local restaurant with a selection of my photographs. Those poor diners won't know what's hit 'em ... now, how do I claw back that 1250 Euros ...


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Unfixed And Finally Unstuck ...

As we speak, grown men all over this planet are wiping away a tear, a tear from a lost childhood. From a time when they had no idea as to what the world held in store for them, nor did they care. As they learnt the ways of mankind, young boys would spend happy carefree hours in pursuit of their dreams, with a hobby that could turn any hyperactive monster into a calm, clear thinking individual - a near pacified state was attained when this youngster was gluing, painting and building an Airfix model aircraft. This was the one thing that had boys hooked.

The company responsible for inducing such home-grown serenity has now gone the way of a tube of unsealed glue - Airfix has gone into administration. For those of us who grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the magic box with the red logo held the treasures of a world full of fascination and heroism, derring-do and adventure. Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancaster bombers, Heinkels and Messerschmitts ... you name the model and it was guaranteed to keep a small boy in a state of concentrated nirvana.

In 1939, Hungarian businessman Nicholas Kove founded Airfix in the UK but it didn't 'take-off' until after the second World War when, in 1949, the company was commissioned to create a model of a Ferguson tractor. Moulded in acetates, the model was assembled in the factory and handed out to Ferguson sales reps as customer give-aways. Airfix discovered that it could make more cash by selling the kits in shops.

Their range of models grew and Airfix soon became the leader in the plastic kit field. The Spitfire was launched in 1955 and post-war Britain loved it. Even kits from other manufacturers became known as "an Airfix" - the trade name had become synonymous with model building. But Airfix was transfixed with the Second World War with their final hanger doors closing on 1277 Military aircraft as opposed to 28 Civilian. Boys and their planes were inseparable as mock bedroom battles took place with planes, tanks and whole infantry divisions fighting it out for world domination. Unlike board games, model aircraft helped youngsters develop their imagination and to understand how to deal with the enemy.

At night, the lad would lie in bed, as above, his assembled 'big wing' were suspended on strands of cotton. There is a whole generation that owes much to Airfix and their copy-cat manufacturers. Another form of 'The Battle of Britain' continues today between different types of aircraft. The RAF Museum in Hendon sells 1000's of aeroplane kits every year and says that the Airfix Spitfires outsell all other aircraft in the museum shop "by 10 to 1".

Modern day toys (trigger-happy, CD-ROM computer games) tend to be aggressive and could, according to experts, breed violent trends later on in adult life. Others would say that there is no evidence to prove it. The closure of our beloved Airfix is "terrible news" but it has to be said that Airfix has been losing ground to computer games for many years. The company has also stopped introducing new kits and has simply been repackaging old ones. Their prices have also risen sharply.

Airfix's plastic kits have since moved on from being toys and have since been elevated to their new status as collectors' items, many to be found on eBay and other online auction rooms. Airfix itself is now part of our history - as historic as their model subjects as distant as our childhood memories.

But, wait a minute! Wipe away that salty droplet ... the good ole USA has come to the rescue! Well, not financially, but they seem to be offering a replacement for today's model-hungry child. Make way for 'Draft-Dodger Dubbya'! Complete, dressed in his "Pop, I don't wanna go fight in Vietnam" National Guard uniform and several changes of underpants, this new anti-action figure will bring hours of boredom to any child. Watch as the new plastic hero in your life just sits around and does bugger all except making terrible decisions and invading places he can't even spell. Unlike other models, this one is supplied with lots of glue for his sticky little fingers. Put him in his swivel chair and let him go ... round and round and round and round and round and round and ... going nowhere. Buy now and get an 'In Over My Head' T-shirt, a Stetson logo lapel badge and a 'Redneks Rool' car bumper sticker!

Your child will be captivated for literally ... minutes ...


Coming soon, Barbie 'Condie' - one hairstyle fits all and with that 'lemon sucking' expression and a never-ending supply of figure-hugging tweed skirts, she'll be a guaranteed hit with 'Draft-Dodger Dubbya'. What a team! (also available as an African-American)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bless Them For Their Brains Are Not Receptive ...

I'm getting bored of having to justify my original, well researched statements - especially to children. If that wasn't bad enough, I then have to expand, explaining to the same future organ donors, who fail to comprehend English when it is properly written, by using short sentences and easy child-friendly words.

So, it's Labor Day in some parts of the world, so can I suggest you use your downtime and read this more than once - we want it to sink in, now don't we, children ...?

For those out there in Interweb-land who 'blindly comment without thinking because they think it's clever', if you really want proof that terrorists lodge on servers in the USA, here's just one for you to 'check out'. According to Washington DC-based, Site Insitiute, The Islamic Army Of Iraq are a recognised terrorist organisation and are currently lounging on the servers of a company situated at 701 First Ave., Sunnyvale 94089 CA, UNITED STATES. I have their name and phone number too - but you'll have to track those down yourselves, my work is over.

Now, switch off Daddy's computer, go out into the great outdoors and do something positive for a change. Get a life and use your vote* wisely.


*Age restrictions may apply
Let Slip, The Plans Of War ...

Sir Basil Liddell Hart was a military historian and strategic theorist who, according to news just out from Britain's MI5, was someone who shouldn't have had advance access to the plans of the Normandy landings of 1944. During WW1, Sir Basil was decorated for bravery but when the D-Day plans were drawn up, someone gave them to Sir Basil to go over and iron out any problems he might find.

He didn't keep the invasion plans to himself, but took them for a wander around the city. He had carefully written and prepared a critique of the plan, entitled "Some Reflections on the Problems of Invading the Continent", which he circulated among leading politicians and military figures of the time.

When Prime Minister Winston Churchill was informed he was furious and demanded that Sir Basil be taken to the cleaners. However, Sir Basil insisted that he had figured out the plan for himself and, as a legit, government military expert, he was entitled to be consulted on such matters. No legal action was ever taken, although Sir Basil was placed under surveillance, his telephone tapped and his personal mail intercepted.

Oooo, lummy.

Bringing things up to date, another Brit overseeing important events, has said that a desk and chair from Hitler's 1930's luxury Munich apartment, could fetch anything up to $1m (£500,000) in an upcoming auction. The oak pieces were acquired by an anonymous American collector after being sold by the US government, this according to London-based dealer Minas Katchadorian. The pieces were in Hitler's apartment where, with Neville Chamberlain in 1938, he signed the joint declaration ahead of WWII. Bids for the furniture, which is being sold privately, are now being accepted.

One of the world's biggest lies, possibly written on this very desk. I'll put a fiver down and predict that the next buyer wants to remain anonymous as well ... who'd want that bloody thing in their house?

Two More For The Obit Pages ...

Sad news to start a Monday;

Cheeky Doncaster comedian Charlie Williams and Australian conservationist and crocodile man-handler, Steve Irwin have died.

Williams was was born in Barnsley in 1928, the product of an immigrant Barbadian father. As a lad, Williams worked at the local colliery, played football for them and eventually turned pro, signing for Doncaster Rovers in 1948. He played a total of 171 games in their colours. He quit football in 1959 and toured the working men's clubs but turned to full time stand-up comedy when he realised that his chat between songs was better received. He soon became Britain's best-known and best-loved black comedians, making numerous appearances on prime-time TV. With his cheeky grin and Yorkshire accent he stood out a mile and was most certainly not PC ... The Queen decorated him with an MBE in 1999 but Parkinson's disease and dementia caught up with him and Charlie died on September 2nd in Barnsley General Hospital. In 2004 he was voted as Doncaster Rovers all-time cult hero by viewers of the BBC's Football Focus programme.

Rugged and boisterous Steve Irwin brought us 'down-under' scenes of crocodiles and rare species of wildlife. The 44-yr old 'Crocodile Hunter' and American-born wife, Terri, provided a forum for educational information about wildlife conservation and conflicts with humans in various parts of the world. His larger than life antics (along with his catch-phrase "CRIKEY!") reeled in viewers from across the globe. His unconventional documentary series included shots of him capturing wild crocs and handling them, at very close quarters, for re-release elsewhere. In 2002 he made the film 'The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course', a romp though the outback with scenes of croc handling of near lunatic proportions. He was director of Australia Zoo in Queensland and died today after being fatally injured by a Stingray barb while filming a new documentary.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Thanks, But No Thanks ...

The race for the fattest and most lucrative chair in the land, that of French President, is well under way. The result will be known in May of 2007 but who'll be higher than the law? On the right-hand of God? The tip-top of 'untouchables'?

Well, some of the pretentious would-be's have been doing their 'bit' around the country, speaking to the many who turn up to listen to their waffle. In a recent rally in Marseilles, Nicolas Sarkozy (Interior Minister) was seen shaking hands for the cameras with Doc Gynéco, a 'celeb' rapper who has thrown his support behind the diminutive Hungarian's bid to be invincible.

As it happens, Doc Gynéco's music appeals to the demographic that slots nicely into 'unwanted teenage pregnancies' ... and the young Mothers and Fathers still won't be old enough to vote come May 2007.


I bet Sarkozy was all a quiver knowing that was on the cards ...

Open The Taps ...

The French Air Force, like any modern defence force, likes to be up there with the best. So far, the service have managed to survive without investing in foreign built aircraft as, for years, all their flying machines have been designed and built at home by Dassault. Naturally, they like to show them off and the tax payer should be pleased to see them. The 'l'Armee de l'Air' fly, as does any country that has been invaded twice, wherever they want - they call it countrywide protection. The ability to scramble and intercept 'unfriendlies' is an exercise which has been well rehearsed. No take-offs from a distant aerodrome and up into the wild blue yonder for these characters, oh no. It's low-level stuff over fields and villages with the juice well and truly 'on'.

We come down to the country house is to relax, eat well and sleep. Taking life easy is nigh-on impossible in a city which, itself, can't stop buzzing for five minutes. Having the use of a retreat is a luxury - and don't we know it. Wide open fields, thick dark forests and lazy quiet roads. A gentle drive to the nearest town, stock up on supplies for a week and that's it ... nothing but good, home-cooked food, the odd game of tennis, long walks along farms tracks or, with my latest investment, half an hour of afternoon shut-eye in a hammock under a tree.

Now, enter the boys in G-suits who smell of jet fuel ...

Nine times out of ten you don't hear these buggers coming. The calm is pierced by a short high-pitched 2-second whistle followed by a great thunderous roar. They come down so low that you can clearly make out the insignia on the fuselage. Mostly, they're Mirage 2000s, single-seater, front line machines - quite ugly in fact. Not the graceful lines of a Tornado or an F-16 but great delta-wing fuel burners.

Shortly before lunch, my beloved and I were out in the garden (her 5-yr old still away on her 'pony week'), when we heard the whistle. To the skies we looked and a pair of Mirages came over the trees. They seemed to be enjoying themselves as the wingman was flipping and turning to keep up with the leader. As they passed overhead, next door's dog, whom we look after him during the day, suddenly made for the fields at an alarming rate. A stocky black Labrador, a mass of flailing tail, ears and paws in a highly excited state. It took us a second to figure out what he was up to but as the two aerial cowboys made for the horizon, we soon discovered what he was on about.

A little way up the farm track is 'le Riche Bois', The Rich Wood, where a multitude of wildlife spend their daylight hours. A large powerful stag had been spooked by the jets and had made a panic dash across the field beside the house. He was moving at an impressive speed and was clearly in no mood to stop and chat. It was a toss-up as what to watch; the jets or the stag. It is not common to see this animal out in the open at that time of day but it took us a second to realise that the dog was in hot persuit. Clearly, the stag was winning and as my beloved called the dog back, the Lab soon realised that it was futile to continue the chase. Far away the jets dipped over the trees and the stag bounced out of sight into the lower field. If dogs could smile, then the Lab came back in hysterics ...

Double Fault ...

With the 5th anniversary of 9/11 coming up, your average American might like to consider the following; sitting down?

Right then ... the majority of Islamist terrorist websites are lodged on servers based in ... wait for it ... the USA.

Naturally, the American government know exactly what's going on as they recently punted a spokesman around to do press interviews, explaining why they allow such domains to continue. Under the American 'Freedom Of Speech Act' (Debbie, you might want to get an adult to help you with this bit), they allow such sites to 'exist' on their cyber-territory, despite calling for fellow fanatics to 'go bag an American'. "However, says the spokesman, "if they called for a particular, named individual to be murdered at a certain time and place, then we would think again about allowing the site to go on".

I'm sure that some Americans might want to lobby their government and ask why this should be allowed? After all, your average American still judges those from another country (ie: any country other than theirs) as possibly dangerous and untrustworthy. It seems quite extraordinary that on one hand they have a major distrust of anyone who isn't American yet they allow Islamist extremists to their launch their hate messages from US soil - seeing as most of it is directed at them.

What a bunch of double-standard 'assholes'.