Morning everyone, another nice sunny morning, but a bit windy. It ruffled my fur when I went out before my Felix. I forgot to mention that one day last week something went wrong with my dinner, I got served “Whiskers”. Well, it was OK but it was not Felix. I ate it because it was that or nothing, but I left a bit to make it obvious I wasn’t happy, normally I eat every last scrap in my bowl.
I have been reading about the French pharmaceutical company Valneva’s Covid vaccine and their negotiations with the EU. The vaccine is a “traditional” one made with an inactivated virus and is currently in phase three trials and looking very promising. It is to be manufactured in a factory in Falkirk. Back last summer the British Government entered into an agreement to buy 60 million doses. In the 3rd quarter last year, the EU central purchasing started to negotiate but they have dragged on and on. In the meantime, the UK upped the order to 100 million doses and then to 195 million with a delivery schedule up to 2025. Last week Valneva walked away from the EU negotiations. It seems that the contract with the UK Government gives them 1st priority on deliveries and they would, much like AstraZeneca, only give the EU a “best endeavour” contract. The EU don’t like this arrangement so Valneva have called negotiations off in favour of contracts with individual EU countries and other nations. Yesterday the EU put out a statement saying that Valneva would not meet the EU demands. What arrogance!
OneWeb, 50% UK Government-owned, put another 36 of their low earth orbit broadband satellites into space over the weekend. Once again they were launched from the Soviet Vostochny Cosmodrome on board a Soyuz-2.1b rocket. The OneWeb network is growing fast and with several more launches planned. The network will cover the whole of the UK as well as Northern Europe, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Ireland by the end of the year. OneWeb intends to differentiate their network from all the others by adding a satellite navigation facility through a software upgrade. This will give the UK its own GPS system now we have lost access to the EU one.
Kings Cross station reopened this morning after its latest weekend shutdown for maintenance and track remodelling. Work has been going on for quite a long time to bring back the third tunnel that brings trains into the station. Since 1977 all the trains into and out of Kings Cross used four tracks that used just two of the 3 tunnels. However, before coronavirus (BC?) struck the number of passengers using Kings Cross was increasing, but the number of trains that could use the terminal was constricted by the tunnel capacity. This morning just before 5am the newly refurbished tunnel was used for the first time by coordinated trains operated by LNER and Great Northern. When in full use the new layout’s smoothed out curves will allow trains to accelerate faster out of Kings Cross and cut a small amount off timetabled services.
Just what is wrong with the EU. The latest person to moan about the AstraZeneca vaccine is a Dutch doctor who has declared that with so many other vaccines becoming available they no longer the AZ vaccine. The Dutch have around 11 doses still on order so if they don’t want them they could, I suppose, give them to someone who would use them like us or India. Mind you, I expect they will just stockpile them until they become date expired. This seems to have become common in the EU as I hear they have 5 million unused AZ vaccine doses in store alongside 6 million doses from the 2 other licensed makers. The stupidest thing is that the EU are suing AZ for not keeping up with its “best endeavour” supply schedule despite not using them.
Today is World Penguin Day. I have always wondered if they would be easy for a cat to catch as they can’t fly. But then you always see them on TV standing around incubating eggs in the snow. I hate snow and cold so I put that idea to one side, especially when I saw how big some of them were, they are much bigger than little me. Today I learnt that there are 18 species of penguin but only two actually live in Antarctica. One lot, called the little penguin only about a foot tall and lives in Australia. It can be found on the beaches near Melbourne and Sydney. Now that sounds more like it. I wonder if any of my lovely readers would like to sponsor me on a trip to Australia when I retire.
So the Parliamentary Standards Office is investigating about 60 members of the House of Lords for “failure to attend valuing everyone training”. As I had never heard of it, I wondered what “valuing everyone training” was and I have discovered that it has been compulsory for everyone in Parliament since last November as part of measures to combat bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. It seems that many peers who have not attended the HoL recently were just as unaware that the training was compulsory as I was. Amongst those on the naughty step are Lord Archer (the writer), Lord Heseltine (the mace waver), Baroness Mone (bra maker) and Baroness Betty Boothroyd (ex Tiller Girl and HoC Speaker). I am sure many of them have perfectly reasonable excuses for not wasting time going on a woke course, but few can top Betty Boothroyd, the 91-year-old is currently recovering from open-heart surgery and in no state to harass anyone.
Yet another lovely sunny morning here in central London, although I hear there could be some showers later in the week. I have been reading in the press about the redecoration of the flat here in Downing Street. Perhaps you remember me telling you the decorators were in. I can’t say it looks to be worth anything like money they say it cost. It’s OK, but I think the Little Otter’s interior designer friend Lulu has some odd, very expensive, ideas. Mind you, reading that the new sofa cost £9,800 explains why she won’t let the Mutt on it. I wonder how she would react if I decided to start to sharpen my claws on its legs?
Now that the EU has decided to sue AstraZeneca a few interesting things have started to emerge about the purchase agreement. A “Freedom of Information Request” in Belgium has revealed that they employed Deloitte to review the agreement prior to signing it. Deloitte warned that the contract was very weak and badly worded. It had absolutely no sanctions on AZ if they didn’t meet the delivery schedule because it was a “Best Endeavours” contract. Most intriguingly it reportedly included a clause that said the EU could not sue AZ if it did not meet its preliminary delivery schedule. Another clause is reported to have said that if AZ had manufacturing problems in Europe the EU would find them alternative manufacturing facilities. If either of these clauses are correctly reported then it is the EU who are in breach of contract. Belgium got the Deloitte report 10 days before the PA was signed but didn’t tell the other members of the EU because “it was too late to do so”.
Yesterday I reported that people aged 45 were being told they could book for their Covid jabs, a group of around 500,000 people. Well that expansion didn’t last long as today the list has had those aged 42 and over in England to the list. I’m certain that half a million first doses didn’t get done yesterday, so why the change today? Did someone make a mistake or has the availability of vaccine suddenly improved? I guess we will never know.
The European Parliament is expected to vote this afternoon to finally agree the EU/UK trade agreement. The agreement has been in temporary use since the end of last year and should now be properly formalised, the alternative is to force a “no deal” situation, something the EU has always claimed was totally unacceptable. However, the EU can’t resist having one more dig at the UK. They are expected to pass an additional resolution that states, “the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is a historic mistake and recalls that the EU has always respected the UK’s decision while insisting that the UK must also accept the consequences of leaving the EU.” Further, the resolution also criticises the UK over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol and crows that about EU “victories” in the trade talks. Yet more EU arrogance.
I have been reading about a “vegetarian butchers” shop that has opened in Nottingham. Surely it is not possible to have a vegetarian butchers? A butcher’s shop sells meat so what does a vegetarian butcher sell? It seems the answer is imitation meat made from plants. Well in my mind that’s not a butcher’s shop that’s a greengrocers. The shop in question sells familiar-sounding things called mince, brisket, ribs, chicken thighs, cured pastrami, salami, kebab meat, black pudding, quarter pounder burgers and glazed belly pork but none of them are meat. You only have to look at my sharp pointed teeth to know that I am a carnivore, so I can do without any of these artificial products.
Did you know that last year over 3000 containers fell off ships and were lost at sea? This year looks like it is going to be similar with around a 1000 containers already lost. The most common reason for losses seems to be a combination of two things, the containers not being loaded properly, not fixed together and then bad weather making the ship pitch and toss. Another common reason is that heavy containers are not declared and are put on tops of stacks causing them to topple over. Many containers sink to the bottom and are never seen again, however some float and are a danger to shipping and some break open and the contents drift around the world before being washed ashore. Who can forget the thousands of Lego bricks arriving on beaches a few years ago?
It was not as warm this morning when I went out for my early morning constitutional mainly, I think, because there was no sun. I even hear we might get a drop of rain. It’s a long time since we had any and the grass is beginning not to look as green as it did. Still, it’s meant to be dry again tomorrow, good, I hate getting my fur wet.
I see that Rupert Murdoch has given up the battle of the two new TV news stations before it has even begun. He has decided not to make his news station live on air station, instead just streaming reports on the internet. This leaves the airwaves clear for Andrew Neal’s GB News. I keep seeing announcements about GB News, whether it is where it is going to broadcast or who it has signed up today. All this and it hasn’t broadcast a single minute of programming or even said when it is going to start broadcasting. I wonder what it is going to be like, are we going to see a return of the News Bunny?
The Isle of Wight railway line has got problems with its new Class 484 trains and the line, that was supposed to reopen after track work at Easter, looks like it is going to be a while yet. Only one of the train sets has been delivered and I understand that it and the other sets have ‘software’ problems. The makers must be quite embarrassed as these trains are only rebuilt old Tube train sets and you would think they worked for long enough in London. The operator can’t even bring the old trains back on an interim basis as two have been sold to a heritage line and the other two 80-year-old trains are in such bad repair they have had to be scrapped.
Is Sad Dick getting some bad secret polling results for the London Mayoral election in ten days time? Why else would he back down on his proposed changes to London congestion charges and its operating hours so close to the election? At this late stage he has finally recognised how much Londoners and visitors hate the proposed increase in the daily charge, the extended daily hours of operation and its extension to weekends. I hope the next move is to the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone with its ludicrous £12:50 a day charge within the boundary of North and South Circular Roads meaning that many people will be charged the full amount just to leave their homes.
The Premier League is in negotiations with Sky, BT and Amazon on a rollover deal for its broadcasting rights deal. The current deal expires in summer next year and now would normally be the time for the next rights auction. Reportedly, the League are worried that an auction could lead to a fall in revenue consequently they hope the three broadcasters will be willing to cough up the same amount of money for a guarantee of the same number of matches for another three years.
I have been reading that US audiences have been falling in love with British TV programs. From what we see on British TV you might think that American viewers would go for all action cop programs and comedy programs. But it seems they have a different view of British TV, they love the likes of The Crown and Poldark. They have been raving about the Channel 4 remake of All Creatures Great and Small and the Yanks have fallen in love with the Yorkshire Dales. Other surprise hits have been The Repair Shop, Great British Bake Off and the Great Pottery Throw Down.
The owners of New Forrest Ponies have been appealing for visitors and sightseers not to pet the ponies and in particular not to feed them. The ponies are semi-wild and can get all the food they need from grazing the grass and bracken. The ponies have got used to people feeding them and will approach people looking for treats. The problem is that the sort of thing people feed them, like apples and carrots, give them colic and they can become quite ill. In fact, recently a pony died after someone fed it a roast dinner!
I am really confused by this weather, one day it’s sunny and warm, then the next day it’s cloudy, windy and wet, now it’s bright and sunny but with a cold wind. I thought it was supposed to be summer?
I hear we have ordered another 60 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, supposedly for the “winter booster” campaign. But do we really need them? If you add up all the doses we have ordered it comes to 547 million from 8 companies which seems to be far more than we can use. Of course, many of these doses are to be supplied by major pharmaceutical companies who have not yet got a license. Some of them appear to be close to approval such as J&J and Novavax, some are a bit further away like Valneva and then there is the GSK/Sanofi vaccine which still looks to be miles away. But even if you vaccinated every single person (including children and babies) in the UK with two doses you would only need 134 million doses. Add another 67 million to give them all a booster in October/November and we would appear to have a bit of over availability.
The BBC have slipped out a correction hidden away on its Website to its headline news story by Laura Koonsburger that James Dyson was a Tory financial supporter and friend of Bozzie. Which, she said, was why Bozzie helped him over the potential double taxation of his employees working on his ventilator project. Of course, if you listened to any of the BBC reports you would know they were carefully worded to make it appear that Bozzie was helping out Dyson with his personal tax. Dyson has clearly stated that he doesn’t know Bozzie and has never given the Tory Party money effectively labelling Koonsburger a liar. Has she apologised? Of course not. But the BBC can claim they have, even if it was on a web site only ever read by two men and a cat. Without the implication of cronyism, this is an absolutely nothing story and it will go away to be replaced by another made-up story.
On a similar line to the last story, I read that the Electoral Commission is going to investigate Bozzie’s refurbishments. This is the commission that is packed with Remoaners, and lost several court cases when trying to fine Leavers but ignored wrongdoing by Remoaners. They clearly hate Bozzie and I don’t see how anyone could take a single word they say seriously. Oh, and another thing what is it to do with the electoral commission who bought the No 11 flat wallpaper and sofa? How does that affect the result of an election?
The BBC messed up again last night when Newsnight interviewed former electoral commissioner and Cambridge law professor David Howarth about No 11 refurbishments. He proceeded to claim it was not a trivial matter, that Bozzie was not a man of honour and that it was all about “openness and transparency”. If it was truly about “openness and transparency” perhaps the BBC should have followed their own guidelines and told viewers Professor Howarth was a former Limp Dem MP and a member of the Limp Dem Federal Policy Committee. I suppose this will be another apology hidden away on the BBC’s apology website.
I see that Andrew Neal’s GB News is getting a bit closer to going live although no actual date has yet been given. They have started putting out a test screen on Freeview and YouView channel 236. If you have recently rescanned your Freeview channels it might just appear on 236 but if you haven’t done it for a while you might have to force your set to rescan the Freeview channels. There is no news of a channel number on Sky yet, but I wonder if it will be 509 as it is currently not in use? Oh, I also hear GB News has signed another presenter from the BBC. Nana Akua, the BBC Look East presenter, is the latest to join the project.
I have been reading that the Labour Party have been quietly suspending over half of its councillors on Peterborough council a short while before the council elections. They have all been either been caught on camera or have tweeted anti-Semitic remarks. Unsurprisingly most of the suspended councillors are Muslims. So the party who have been giving it large this week about sleaze have turned into the nasty party. Two things of note, they have only suspended the councillors and it has been slipped out with a minimum of publicity.
I saw Tony B Liar being interviewed on TV and I had to look twice. During lockdown he has grown his hair long at the back. I thought Bozzie’s hair was awful but B Liar’s hair looks like a cross between William Hartnell’s Dr Who, a middle-aged Rocker Dad and Peter Springfield. It’s just awful. Maybe he’s going back to his youth when he played in a band. I wonder what Cherie thinks?
A strange morning when I went out bright and sunny, cold with rain in the air. Where is summer? Considering it is a bank holiday on Monday, I don’t think many people will be sitting in pub gardens unless it warms up a bit. I hope Bozzie is a bit happier today, that Stoma bloke fair upset him yesterday at PMQ’s and he had the grumps for the rest of the day. Perhaps the latest opinion polls will cheer him up. The 3 polls over the last few days has his lot in an average 10% lead over Stoma’s lot. This is despite all of the Labour shouting about sleaze and Stoma’s wallpaper stunt. Stoma must be ripping his hair out wondering what he can do to close the gap.
Sky is launching its own, homemade Science Fiction series, Intergalactic tonight. It looks like it is going to be cheap with cardboard sets, just like the long lamented Blake’s 7 and the early episodes of Star Trek. I understand that it is supposed to be a space prison drama, whatever that is! If I get a chance to watch it I will be on the lookout for papier-mâché boulders and wobbly sets.
I wondered what was happening with Hammersmith Bridge. It has been closed for ages now and nothing seems to be going on to get it back into use. Back in 2019 cracks were found in some of the supporting piers and it was closed to vehicles but pedestrians and bicycles were still allowed. Then last year it was closed to everyone as it was feared the bridge could collapse into the river. Now the council appears to be back-peddling, the worst crack is stable and engineers have suggested it could be reopened to pedestrians and cyclists. Meanwhile, the row goes on as to who should pay for the repairs. The owners are Hammersmith and Fulham Council, but they say they don’t have the money, they suggest that it should be Transport for London and they say the Government should pay. So until that political row is sorted the bridge remains shut.
I mentioned earlier this week a story about containers falling off ships in bad weather. Oddly, today I have spotted a story about a container full of inkjet printer cartridges that fell of a ship in mid-Atlantic in 2014. The first cartridges came ashore in the Azores the same year. They are still coming ashore 7 years later most on the south and west coast of England and Ireland but they have been found as far south as Cape Verde and as far north as the Arctic Circle. If your printer cartridge runs out don’t go to PC World, try the beach.
Barclays Bank had some excellent quarterly results out today but it was what was said by their CEO that interested me. He has predicted that we are in for a year of huge growth. He expects the UK to have its best year since 1949 with growth of 6.5% beating nearly every other country in the world except for China. He says that because of our vaccination program our economy will grow fast while the rest of Europe is still running to catch us up and we have a huge pent up economic surge coming, much of it from money that people have saved because they have not been able to spend it during lockdown. He also suggested that the boom could continue into next year as we are at least 6 months ahead of most of the world. Let’s hope he is right.
Talking of economics, it seems that Germany is in a slump with a sharp economic contraction during the first 3 months of the year. Industries that it relies on such as car manufacturing and electronics have been badly hit, not just by Covid but the shortage of microprocessors that I mentioned earlier forcing VW and BMW both to closing lines. German outpost fell 1.7% in the last quarter and the much-heralded European Recovery Fund agreed a year ago is yet to distribute a single cent of its agreed €360 billion in grants. The more I read about the EU the happier I am to be out.
I read that Citroen is still thinking about whether it should be selling its quirky little AMI electric car in the UK. So far over 9000 Brits have signed up to say they are interested in buying one. The city car has a range of only 50 miles, a top speed of 27 mph but can be fully recharged in 3 hours via a 3 pin plug. In France it costs £5,000 to buy or if you prefer a rental option, it can be had for a £2,500 deposit and £22 a month. If you were to acquire one what would it be like? Well someone who has driven one likens it to a rattily golf buggy.
Saturday again and an easier day for your cat reporter. I remembered to say white rabbits this morning for luck. For May it is cold and I hear that it is going to be a cold and stormy bank holiday Monday. I hope Bozzie keeps the heating on!
I was talking about the shortage of computer microchips cutting car production now I read that the next thing to suffer is likely to be new PCs, laptops and tablets. One of the reasons is the factories slowed production as they thought customers wouldn’t need as many due to Covid. Now some countries are coming out of lockdown there is a shortage. One of the other thing chip makers didn’t think about was that “working from home” would increase the demand for PC’s, laptops and tablets. We don’t have much of a chip manufacturing industry in the UK, perhaps we should be investing in building it up? The Government has decided on the strategic need for our own vaccine production business, I think we should be doing the same with microchips and steel.
Tucked in Sniffer Joes big spending plans on infrastructure were plans to spend big on the nationalised American train network. Put together back in 1971 to pull together many loss-making private railroads Amtrak has slowly been losing less each year. Just before Covid, it looked like they could just about break even. Now Sniffer Joe is proposing spending $18 Billion a year for 10 years. Much of this would be to improve tracks, signalling and electrification. Amtrak already have a large number of new carriages and locomotives on order which are far more capable than the existing infrastructure can support. Much of the money is needed to smooth out curves allowing trains to increase maximum speeds on some intercity routes by up to 30 MPH. On some of the suburban services, the aim is to increase average speeds of 25 mph to over 79 mph. Just like in Britain they are also looking into returning disused and freight only lines to passenger services.
I have been reading about the Hook Eagles Morris Men from Hampshire. It is traditional for them to dance on May Day and throughout the whole of the Morris Men’s 600-year existence they have had black faces. It started off as a disguise to protect them from being arrested for begging. Recently their association have been receiving complaints from Black Lives Matter. So this year they have changed their makeup and will be performing with blue faces! I have heard of other groups painting their faces green and another black and amber stripes. I only hope that they don’t get complaints from blue smurfs, green aliens or for that matter the tigers at London Zoo.
Australia has not only banned Indians from coming into the country, but it has banned everyone, even if they spend a fortnight in quarantine, including their own citizens. I can’t think of any other country banning its own returning citizens from coming home most let their citizens quarantine in a hotel but not the Aussies. It seems that two of their cricketers, who had been playing in the Indian Premier League, used a loophole and flew to a third country first. A country that they didn’t need to quarantine on arrival from. It is to shut this loophole that they have now banned everyone coming into the country.
I always seem to be writing about rail projects like Crossrail, HS2 and Thameslink that are either running late, way over budget or both. Well, today I hear of one that is on time and budget. The project I speak of is called DART (the Direct Air-Rail Transit) and is to take passengers from Luton Airport Station on the line from London to Bedford to the Luton Airport terminal. A new terminal station for DART has been constructed next to the airport station connected by over 2km of viaduct, track, bridges and tunnel to a new airport terminal station built under the airport terminal with escalators up to the surface. The link is on schedule to open next year and will replace the 15-minute bus link with a 4-minute automated train journey.
It seems that you lot have returned to the pub with so much enthusiasm that many beers are in short supply and some could run out. Many brewers underestimated just how many people would return to the boozers and how high demand would be. Heineken, for example, have said that demand for its Amstel and Birra Moretti brands had exceeded its “most optimistic predictions” and has limited deliveries to 3 kegs per pub. With only 40% of pubs open for business, demand is said to be at around 100% of pre-Covid demand at the same time of year. Well done readers!
Right, that’s me done for another week I’m off to see what flavour Felix is in my bowl tonight, then I might see if I can annoy the Little Otter by snoozing on her new expensive sofa. Chat to you again next week if she hasn’t killed me!
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file