Putting aside the fact that I believe they are an absolute death-trap (as a driver, I believe it is sometimes almost impossible to see them because they are so close to the ground), I have some sympathy for the paraplegic cyclist who had his cycle stolen from outside his house (as reported on BBC London News). However, I have to confess that I struggled to conceal a giggle when the poor chap commented that the thief had to be (quote) "pretty low".
Once again, the annual How Often Can I See Myself In The Big Screen Above The Snooker Table World Championships, at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, are upon us; and, already, I can see that the contestants are starting to form themselves into groups; or, you could say, categories. There are, for example, the quite easily identifiable novices (bless them) who sometimes almost fall backwards in their efforts to gaze up at the screen; and, at the other end of the spectrum, there are the slightly less obvious (that's how they like it) more experienced contestants who seem to understand exactly when to make subtle, often sideways, glances at the screen; usually followed by the merest hint of a smirk if they have been successful.
The championships have been going on for years; and I'm beginning to wonder whether some form of handicapping should be introduced - if not this year, perhaps, at some time in the future. You see, rather like horse racing, those with the most money - or, at any rate, those who spend the most - seem to have a distinct advantage; and, in particular on the issue of seating. At least one contestant seems to spend the entire fortnight in the theatre; and, to achieve that, presumably has spent a king's ransom buying the best seats in the house - not to mention investing in eye-catching shirts to increase their chances of seeing themselves (and being seen by others). So, in those circumstances, what chance does the enthusiastic amateur have; even when they work in pairs - nudging each other when they're on camera?
So, come on Barry Hearn, let's make it a level playing field. After all, an enormous amount of effort is put towards providing a level snooker table; so, why not do the same for the Look At Me Brigade? The least they deserve is some recognition; isn't it? (snigger).
From time to time, I have mentioned that my Welsh-born mother and I moved from Liverpool (where I was born) to a small hamlet in Snowdonia soon after WW2 started. At the time, the company my father worked for had been requisitioned by The War Department to manufacture parachutes and, for a while, he was exempted from conscription and remained in Liverpool whilst helping to set up the manufacturing process.
He was, however, able to join us at weekends; but, eventually, was called-up and his departure meant that a situation arose where I spoke virtually no English at all. Having arrived in Wales as an infant, I spoke Welsh quite fluently and there was a fear that I might experience problems when we returned to Liverpool after the war. So, taking advantage of the fact that some schools from English cities had been evacuated to Wales to escape the bombing, a few weeks before my fifth birthday, I became a boarder in one of them.
Shown below are photos (taken during a recent motor-cycling trip down Memory Lane) of (1) The farmhouse we lived in. (2) My favourite lake - which was a few few hundred yards for the cottage. (3) The hotel which had been used as the boarding school during WW2............
Photos can be enlarged by "clicking" on them.
As is happened, the school was actually a girls' school; but, brothers of pupils were allowed to attend. I'm not quite sure why an exception was made in my case because, at that time, I didn't have a sister. Furthermore, I don't remember meeting another boy when I was there and I have often wondered if I developed a little too much interest in the little girls - or the bigger girls were too interested in me; but, or whatever reason, after about a year, I was moved to a boys' school a little further down the valley.
I'm not sure exactly how long I stayed at that school; but, it must have been decided that my English was adequate for whenever we might return to Liverpool and, for the last eighteen months of the war, we went to live at my grandparent's farm on the Llyn Peninsular. During that time, I went to the local, Welsh-speaking, village school and became immersed (as much as a child could) in Welsh culture; contributing, for example, to the local annual eisteddfod. Even now, I can clearly remember spending hours perfecting a pencil drawing of a kettle and, during the eisteddfod itself, winning half-a-crown in a singing contest; thus, by the way (it has just occurred to me) becoming the first member of my family to be paid for singing in front of an audience.
I'm pretty sure my fondness for travel was developed at a fairly early age; and I may have mentioned elsewhere that, when we settled back in Liverpool after the end of WW2, my parents enrolled me as chorister in a local church. However, my early religious upbringing in a small chapel in north Wales may have been responsible for a certain uneasiness with the rituals associated with The Church of England. Furthermore, I realised that the sixpence I was given for the collection conveniently covered the cost of the return bus-fare into the city centre and a ferry across The Mersey to New Brighton and back - a journey which I calculated would take almost exactly the same length of time as the average Evensong.
I often think fondly back to those little adventures; being fascinated, for example, with the changing views from the top deck of a double-decker bus as it travelled from the leafy suburbs towards the more grimy city-centre and enjoying watching escapologists or other street-entertainers on bomb-sites or discretely following the LFC centre-forward as he strolled from one city-centre pub to another.
Those were the days!
However, the point of this particular blog is to chronicle a rather different journey.
As it happened, my grandparent's farm was situated a couple of hundred yards from a farmers' co-operative dairy - from where, each morning, a road tanker would deliver milk to a much larger dairy in Liverpool. The roads were much quieter in those days; and, on the return journey, the tanker drivers would look out for people they recognised who might be waiting (in the hope that they could hitch a ride to Wales) at a particular point near the entrance to The Mersey Tunnel.
Between 1947 and 1953, I was quite often one of those 'passengers'.
Initially, these journeys were planned in advance - during a school holiday, for example - when one of my parents would accompany me to the aforementioned 'tanker stop'. In time, however, for a variety of reasons and, often, on the spur of the moment, I would turn up unexpectedly at my grandparent's doorstep on a Saturday afternoon. With the benefit of hindsight, I suppose an aunt or an uncle will have telephoned my mother to let her know where I was. Similarly, someone would have woken me up around 2.00 am to 'catch' the tanker before it began the long drive to Liverpool. Interestingly, I was only once late for school on a Monday morning.
As I approach my ninth decade, I feel quite sure that these journeys in the milk tankers will have contributed significantly towards (1) my love of travel and (2) my subsequent life-long preference for driving heavy vehicles......and here are couple of photos of the tankers in which I travelled (taken, interestingly, an industrial dispute at the dairy). By todays standards, they seem quite small; however, in the forties and fifties, they were considered to be huge; not least because the roads were much narrower.
It seems almost impossible, these days, to turn on the national news without hearing about the woes besetting the NHS; and, in particular, the financial problems facing the various trusts. So, with that in mind (and based on recent personal experiences), I thought I would offer my two pennies' worth.
Firstly, I don't understand why it seems necessay to send patients copies of letters which hospital consultants send to GPs. Although, on second thoughts, I probably do understand the reason; it's a PC Bigade inspired piece of nonsense called Freedom of Information. IMHO, if a patient is sufficiently curious to know what has been written, an appointment with their GP would enable them to be told what the consultant has reported. The amount of money wasted on postage doesn't bear thinking about.
Another factor which has grabbed my attention, recently, is the amount of (again IMHO) unnecessary packaging which the pharmaceutical industry is using for their products. For example, for over thirty years, my glaucoma has been kept under control though the daily application of eye-drops from a small plastic bottle (see below - left). Click on photos to enlarge.
In recent times, however (see above - centre), the liquid has been packaged in individual plastic capsules, which have been packaged in a sealed plastic container, which has been packaged in a cardboard box. Oh, and I mustn't forget the piece of cardboard into which I'm expected to insert the aforementioned capsules to remind me what day it is; together with a fair-sized piece of paper telling me the bl***ing obvious.. Similarly, I fail to see any logic in placing seven capsules (of another medication) in a piece of plastic designed to hold ten (above - right). Pathetic!
With all the scaremongering from elements who support those who were beaten in the last UK general election, I can't help noticing how much pandering to the PC Brigade contributes towards the fundamental problem which faces the NHS; that is to say, failing to balance the books. And my own experiences reveal examples of lamentable waste of money; and in paticular, sending completely (IMHO) unnecessary letters.
For example, when it was discovered that I have a broken toe, my GP told me that he would arrange for me to see a foot specialist. Why it was necessary, therefore, for the hospital to send me a letter to confirm what my GP had already said; i.e. they are going to arrange for me to see a specialist, but not actually offering an appointment, is completely beyond my understanding. In due course, no doubt, I will receive another letter with the aforementioned appointment.
Another instance of an unnecessary letter is the practice of sending the patient a copy of the letter a specialist sends to the GP after a consultation. I'm sure the PC Brigade will point to something called The Freedom of Information Act; however, why send the letters to patients who don't want them? The minority who might want the informantion could make an appointment to see the GP. Simple!
I suspect (and hope) the fact that the Rugby Union World Cup is being shown on terrestrial TV will help to illustrate to the general public the fundamental differences between rugby and Association Football; and, in particular, how many of those who play soccer are downright cheats compared with their RU counterparts.
Elaboation isn't necessary; however, it's a matter of absolute fact that simulation and disrespecting the officials is endemic in the, so-called, "beautiful game" but almost unheard of where the oval ball is concerned. It has often been supposed that the enormous amount of money involved in The English Premier League, for example, is a factor; however, it has recently occured to me that there might be another, less obvious - and, perhaps, contentious - reason for the differences; and that is education (or the lack of it).
Let me explain.
It's no secret that the elaborate scouting system employed by EPL clubs often results in young boys, barely into their teens, being spotted and inducted into acadamies and, as a consequence, their conventional education is basic - at best. By comparison, however, many Rugby Union players went to private schools; so, on the one hand, they are much better educated and, on the other hand, have been taught to respect authority. How many times, for example, can cocky Premier League players be seen directing quite obviously obscene language towards officials; whereas huge front-row forwards address the referee as "Sir".
End of Story.
Having lived in comparatively remote locations for many years, the fact that the pavement outside the front of Minterne is little more than four or five feet away has provided us with a new experience because passers-by can quite easily see inside our parlour. Equally interesting is the fact that the rear of the bungalow is surrounded by a variety of different properties (many of which are higher than us); thus providing others with an oppotunity to see into our back garden.
A few days ago, however, the tables were turned because we become the watchers instead of being watched. This happened in an area to the rear of the local Baptist church which backs onto our garden where we had often heard children (probably from a play-group) enjoying themselves; but we had never actually seen them because of the hight of the fencing.
On this occasion, however, we were able to catch sight of what was going on because a bouncy-castle had been erected.........
I could have imagined a time when, had I been interested in politics, I might have been tempted to support The Labour Party. After all, the basic principles of socialism which comrade Marx laid down are quite admirable. However, as I have often thought to myself over the years, the fundamental problem with socialism is socialists; and the reason for this is that the moment they gain power or authority, they suddenly become capitalists; and in so doing, abandon their working-class principles - and, more importantly - their working-class supporters.
As a consequence, speaking for myself, it is easy to hold them in contempt.
The Islington brigade, for example, conned the party membeship into believing they would honour their election pledges; only to let them down again and again. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the grass-root members of The Labour Party hope that, in Mr. Corbyn, they have found a knight in shining armour who will not betray their socialist principles (nothwithstanding the fact that it makes them virtually un-electable).
I'm not one who tends to get involved in issues which might be considered 'political'. However, this somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion on Facebook (above) reminded me that I've actually been giving a good deal of thought to the middle-east situation, recently: and I have come to the conclusion that the so-called civilised world have been sitting on their hands for far too long.
Was nothing learned from the rise of the Nazis in the thirties?
The parallels are there to be seen and the scale of ISIS's mindless babarism seems to be becoming more audacious as each day passes. However, conventional air-stirkes don't seem to be having any meaningful effect and land-forces would be equally ineffective.
So, what are the alternatives?
Some have suggested nuclear weapons. However, such an option wouldn't be suitable for the region; although - and, make no mistake about this - if ISIS could lay their hands on them, they wouldn't hesitate to use them. So, for what it's worth, I would like to throw something into the melting-pot. Why not fight fire with fire and look into the possibility of carefully-controlled strikes using chemical weapons againt known ISIS strongholds?