Morning all. It was extremely quiet in the building when I woke up this morning, no mutt, no Wilf, no Little Otter and no Bozzie the noisiest of them all. I was sure it was Monday so I couldn’t work out what was doing on. Then one of the office girls hustled in and started getting my breakfast Felix sorted out. Then she started to talk to me and I fell in that it was a bank holiday and the humans and Mutt were having another day at Chequers.
While on the subject of bank holidays, I hear that the TUC are to push for another four each year which would bring us up to the EU average. The 8 days we get each year is half the number the Japanese get each year. However, the TUC don’t give much detail of when the extra days should be, other than at least one should be between the August holiday and Christmas which is a long blank period holiday wise.
Although they don’t interest me I understand that online video games are very popular with many people. But the Chinese have decided that they are evil and are to limit the amount of time each week that children are allowed to play on them. Under the new rules under 18s will only be allowed to play online for one hour a day on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The designated hour will be between 8 pm and 9 pm and online companies will have to only supply under 18s with games at these times. I can just hear the moaning if Bozzie was to introduce a similar rule in the UK.
Bad news for Bozzie and Richie Nic-Nak. During lockdown, the sale of gent’s suits absolutely collapsed. Well, I suppose that it was only to be expected as so many people were working from home. Sales have been so bad that even that traditional source of men’s suits, Marks & Spencers, has been suffering and have stopped selling suits in over half its stores. I guess that many of the upmarket tailors will be happy with the number of suit retailers being heavily reduced. It might get a bit difficult for people going on cruises to get a dress suit for formal nights.
Yesterday’s Formula One race turned into an absolute farce when continual heavy rain made any racing impossible. Under F1 rules a race must complete 2 laps before it can be declared a race and points be awarded. Nearly 3 hours after the scheduled race start time the stewards sent the drivers out behind the pace car to complete the required 2 laps and awarded half points. But the daft thing was that the drivers could not overtake behind the pace car so how they started was how they finished. But spare a thought for the thousands of spectators who paid to stand in the rain for hours and didn’t get to see a race. Formula One is to look at changing the rules to prevent it happening again, pity they didn’t do it earlier.
I see the Wee Krankie got pinged at the weekend by the Scottishland equivalent of Track and Trace, Trace and Protect, after being close to someone who developed Covid. Under the current rules, she had to self isolate until she had a PCR test. However, she has now taken the test and it proved negative so she is free to annoy Bozzie again.
A planeload of holidaymakers cheered wildly this morning when their pilot announced they had just landed at Gatwick Airport and the landing was timed at 03:58. Two minutes later and the passengers from Montenegro would each have had to pay £2,000 for 11 days in quarantine. The EasyJet A320 had been scheduled to leave Tivat airport at 17:30 yesterday give a comfortable margin before the 04:00 Monday deadline. The passengers were all boarded on time but the plane developed a minor fault. 3 hours later it was fixed but it seems the engineer who carried out the work was not registered with EasyJet so the work couldn’t be signed off. Then the airport closed at 20:00. Buses arrived to take the passengers to nearby Dubrovnik for a flight to Gatwick. But several passengers explained that although living in Britain their foreign passports would not let them enter Croatia because it was in the EU. When they got to the border the EasyJet reps tried to get them visas but they were refused and their passports stamped “denied”. 155 UK passport holders were allowed to cross the border and the rest were taken back to Tivat. The final bus arrived at Dubrovnik at 01:00 UK time and the plane took off at 02:00 for a flight that normally takes 2 hrs 40 mins so you can see why the passengers cheered. Under air travel rule all the passengers who when back to Tivat are entitled to £350, I think the least EasyJet could do is pay their quarantine costs.
The humans and the Mutt didn’t come back last night, and someone came in late, after I had been fed, so I tried to get them to feed me again, but all I got was a bit of my servant’s sandwich. I think it was roast beef but it had something hot on it, like mustard but it was white not yellow. Still, it was OK and I tried to get a bit more but he told me to “bugger off”. I understand Bozzie is having a short break in the West Country.
This morning I have been reading about the Infrastructure and Projects Authority report 20/21. They look into major government procurement projects and rate them on a traffic lights system on how well they are going, if they are likely to succeed or fail. It looks at all sorts of things from railways to new prisons, from IT infrastructure to military projects. But it is the military projects that get the most criticism, of 31 MoD projects valued at £167 billion not a single one rates green (likely to succeed on time and cost) and two get a red light (unlikely to be possible to complete at all) – the Ajax fighting vehicle and Crowsnest radar project for the new aircraft carriers. Of the total number of projects reviewed 198 fall into the green to amber bracket meaning they are likely to succeed but some may run late or over cost. 44 are amber/red which is highlighting real problems and 7 are red. Why is it that year after year the MoD struggles to deliver projects?
So it’s bye-bye to Geronimo the alpaca after weeks of protests and acres of newsprint the animal that had failed two bovine TB tests was taken away in a horsebox by three officials exercising a warrant. It was later announced that he had been put down. Get ready for much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Next, I read that the two billionaire Issa brothers, who recently bought the ASDA Supermarket chain, want to open up to 300 new ASDA convenience stores. The plan seems to be to open them on the forecourts of petrol station estate. They have been testing the “ASDA on the go” concept at 5 of their filling stations and they have been successful enough to roll out the full project. ASDA are also looking at expanding their full-size supermarkets. I also hear that McColl’s are looking to expand their deal with the Morrison’s chain by spending around £30 million converting around 300 of their sites into Morrison’s Daily stores.
Another little bit of news I have been told is that Apple are working on giving their iPhone’s satellite capability. It may not be included in the new range, due in the autumn, but it is definitely coming. The first capability will be the ability to send short emergency text messages to low earth orbit satellites. It will only be for the likes of 999 calls but it could be highly valuable in areas where there is no mobile signal. Satellite messages will appear as grey bubbles as opposed to the current blue or green bubbles. In future, it is the aim to expand the system to handle phone calls. A second satellite facility being worked on would allow people to send longer messages reporting things like plane crashes and building fires. It should also allow two-way messages so that the responder can ask questions and it will be able to pinpoint the phone’s location.
Another big order was announced today for the Airbus A321neo. Jet2 have placed a firm order for 36 aircraft with options for a further 24. The list price of 60 A321neo aircraft is around $8 billion but any big order can attach a big discount. In this case, you can bet that the discount was at the top end, as the huge majority of the current Jet2 fleet are Boeing 737s. You can safely bet the discount must have approached 50% to make it worthwhile to switch supplier when you consider all the retraining of pilots and mechanics that is necessary, the simulator that has to be bought or leased and the spares invested in.
Have UK Covid cases taken another downturn? For the last few days, the number of recorded case and deaths have dipped. It could be that there have been fewer cases reported because of the bank holiday weekend but at the same time, the number of tests taken have been increasing. Mind you when you look at the numbers in the four home nations Scottishland is up, while the others are down. Maybe we will see a big jump in the numbers reported tomorrow when we get today’s registered numbers.
Bozzie and the gang are still missing on a short break holiday, I think he is due back tomorrow. Depending on which calendar you used it could be the first day of autumn today. But if you go by the astrometric calendar it is not for another 3 weeks, on the 22nd of September.
With the start of the month comes the new E10 petrol with 10% ethanol. Most modern cars should be able to use it OK as motor manufacturers have had plenty of warning and most have been making compatible engines for the last 20 years or so. It seems that the new fuel will attack seals and the metal used in older engines. Basically don’t use it if your car is over 20 years old, stick with the E5 even if it is going to be harder to find and more expensive. I suspect people with old cars, petrol lawnmowers and petrol generators will keep the demand for E5 going for years.
I read that Ryanair are once again playing games with Boeing over aircraft orders. They are looking at buying a number of 737 Max10s but put out a statement saying they were miles apart on cost. No doubt they have got a price per unit out of Airbus for its A321neo which will be at a substantial discount because that is the only way a Boeing airline like Ryanair would switch supplier. Now they will be pushing Boeing to match the discount by pretending they are really interested in the Airbus offering. If Boeing say no, they have now sold all the backlog of whitetail 737s they built up during the grounding, will Ryanair still buy or will Airbuses offer to be too good to miss out on?
The Ministry of Defence has today issued 4 design contracts to various consortia for the required four Fleet Solid Support vessels. These are the ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary that are required to support the task forces that will be built around the two aircraft carriers. Each of the contracts is worth £5 million and is to design and develop ships to meet the MoD criteria and explain how they and where would construct them. The four consortia are –
- Larsen & Toubro, which includes UK company Leidos Innovations.
- Serco /Damen, which includes UK company Serco.
- Team Resolute, which includes UK companies Harland & Wolff and BMT.
- Team UK, which includes UK companies Babcock and BAE Systems.
The winning consortia will be the one chosen to best satisfy all the criteria including UK content.
The NHS has negotiated a contract with Novartis to supply an anti-cholesterol drug called Inclisiran. The list price of the drug is £2,000 a dose and two doses a year are required per patient. It appears that the NHS has managed to reduce the price considerably as they have been talking about treating some 300,000 people who find that the standard treatment of statins just doesn’t work. The new drug is administered as a single injection every six months and has been recommended by NICE as a treatment for people who have had either a stroke or a heart attack and are not responding to other anti-cholesterol treatment.
I read that the USAF has just held its annual exercise. The USAF undertakes mock battles with an aggressor. The defending, or Blue forces, fly against a Red aggressor force. In the latest exercise, the aggressor force was made up of F35s whose pilots emulate Russian and Chinese tactics. The Blue force was mostly made up of F16s which are last generation aircraft and F22s which are current-generation planes although a little older than the F35. I understand that the F22 and F16 squadrons found the F35s very difficult to detect and fight against.
Bad news today for all you drinkers who frequent your local “Spoons”. It seems that they’re the latest business to suffer shortages due to insufficient HGV drivers. Wetherspoons are reporting that they are experiencing beer shortages in many places due to not receiving orders they have placed with brewers. Predictably Remoaners have taken to Twitter blaming the boss, Tim Martin, who was a prominent Leaver. They are saying it is all the fault of Brexit, which is clearly ridiculous when there are multiple causes of the HGV driver shortage and it is happening in other countries including the US.
Grey and cooler today, I really don’t know what is happening out there I’m worried that it may be too cool for an outdoor afternoon snooze. Still, I heard that puffy weatherman, who wears the white suit on TV, say that we can expect a good spell of warm weather from Sunday. Not hot, but pleasantly warm, sounds like my sort of weather.
I see that in the last four days two huge boa constrictors have been found on the loose in Cambridgeshire. I can understand one escaping from a keeper, but two in a few days seems a bit much. Has someone got fed up with having them as pets and dumped them. If I lived in that area I would be very careful as a cat like me would probably be a little snack for a 10-foot long tree-climbing snake.
Today’s papers all appear to have been fed the same scare story about the UK having to move its nuclear missile submarines away from Scotland if they ever were to become independent. The SNP have said that as an independent country they would ban nuclear weapons from their territory. The speculation is on how to keep the Royal Navy Trident subs as an active deterrent. The best and cheapest answer would, of course, be to lease the existing base as some sort of sovereign base, maybe like those in Cyprus. But this is unlikely with the SNP attitude. The alternatives are to move support to elsewhere in the UK, but this would be expensive as facilities would have to be built at say Devonport at a cost of say £4 billion. The alternatives would be to use the French nuclear submarine base or the US Atlantic Coast Trident base, both of which would be substantially cheaper than building our own new base. The American base is far more politically acceptable than using the base of an EU nation so soon after Brexit. Our subs are already familiar with the US base as it is there that we swap pooled missiles for freshly serviced ones. Although the warheads are our own design and build. Personally, I think this is someone in the MoD flying a kite for more money in their budget.
Ryanair are predicting that air passenger numbers will return to pre-pandemic levels this winter as Europe catches up with the passenger recovery in the US. To that end, they have just announced 14 new routes in the UK. I find this a little odd as only a fortnight ago they closed 10 routes out of Belfast. Mind I suspect they are not the only airline to be planning for a recovery in passenger numbers. BA appear to be preparing to return planes to service that have been laid up and have already announced the return of autumn flights to several Caribbean destinations.
Wee Krankie got a little bit upset in the Scottishland Parliament today. She was rabbiting on about everybody, no matter where they came from, being made welcome in Scottishland when one of the MSP’s called out, “Unless you are English.” Krankie stopped and said this was disgusting and everyone was welcome. I’m not so sure, I can remember Bozzie getting a lot of stick and what about Nigel Farage being chased into a pub.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the DUP, met with the Irish deputy tea shop Leo Varadkar yesterday to discuss the post-Brexit arrangements and Covid recovery. I understand the deputy tea shop got quite an ear-bashing over the Northern Ireland Protocol. I think Sir Jeffrey was wasting his time, Varadkar is a dedicated EU man and will never be converted to understanding the disaster that is the protocol.
I read that Britain’s biggest chain of travel agents, Hayes has turned a profit in August. They say they are a long way behind where they would like to be, but things are improving. Hayes have said that consequently they called all the staff on furlough back to work, will be hiring another 400 staff and taking on 450 apprentices. One little thing in their statement that interested me was that they said they had sold a huge number of “seacations” (short round Britain cruises) to customers who had never cruised before. They were delighted with the high percentage who on returning had booked a full cruise for later this year or next year. It seems that once many people have tried a cruise they have liked the experience and want more.
Brighter and warmer this morning, just how I like it. Let’s hope that odd weather man has got it right and we are going to see some pleasantly warm days as it was a bit chilly on the windowsill yesterday and I retreated to an armchair in the reception waiting room.
I was rather surprised to read that Kingston upon Hull City Council has contracted an architectural practice to plan and design a cruise terminal. I have never thought of Hull as a cruise destination but I suppose it could be. It was a very successful city of culture and has a lot of places to visit in the city, including “The Deep” aquarium which is right next to the proposed terminal. But when a cruise ship docks there are normally a huge choice of excursions on offer and thinking about it there could be trips to York, the Humber Bridge, the Lincolnshire bulb fields (depending on the time of year), the Yorkshire moors, the traditional seaside resorts of Hornsea and Withernsea, even bird spotting on Spurn Head. It could make an interesting stop for European tourists.
So the Northern Line branch to Battersea is very nearly ready to open, probably within a fortnight. At the moment it looks like all trains on the Charing Cross branch will now terminate at Battersea while the trains on the City branch will continue to run to Morden. You will be able to switch from one branch to the other at Kennington. However, the central section of the City branch is going to be closed for several months in the new year to allow the new southbound platform, tunnel and entrance at Bank station to be brought into use.
P&O Cruises have confirmed today that they are to run much of their Caribbean winter cruise program. The Britannia is to do a transatlantic crossing to its winter homeport of Bridgetown, Barbados before starting a series of 14-night fly-cruises on 5th November. It will be followed by Azura which will start its series of 14-night fly-cruises from Bridgetown on 10th December. I know one person who will be celebrating, my scribe WG is booked to fly out and join Azura in Barbados on 24th December.
While on the subject of cruising I see that there are 92 new cruise ships on order to be delivered by 2027 at a purchase cost of some $57 billion. 11 of these are due for delivery this year and 29 next year. The average number of passengers is 2,156 and the average cost is $622 million per ship. In total, these 92 ships would add 200,000 extra berths if no ships are retired.
The Government has given the go-ahead for the rail line between Bolton and Wigan to be electrified. The 13 miles of track will cost in the region of £78 million and work should be completed by 2025. The passengers will get a number of advantages, services will be a little quicker as electric trains accelerate and brake faster, and trains will be able to be longer offering more seats on an overcrowded route. The work to be done includes some platforms being lengthened, work to tunnels and work to two level crossings.
I see that the banking fraternity has unilaterally decided to up the maximum contactless payment amount to £100 from the current £45 in October. It took years and much pressure from customers for the maximum to be increased from £30 to £45 just over a year ago. The banks were very reluctant to increase to £45 claiming that contactless payment was insecure. But this time around there has been absolutely no campaign from the public and the banks have done this by themselves. You may ask why. Well, I think it suits them to have people using debit and credit cards, they make more money that way. I think it is all part of the plan to move to a cashless society and close bank branches.
A little bit of watery sun today, but it’s quite pleasant so I might be windowsill bound this afternoon. Big discussion over breakfast as to whether secondary school kids should be vaccinated against Covid. My guess is that they will be getting a single dose pretty soon. But will they be getting a flu vaccination? I use the term loosely as I understand kids get an oral vaccine. One of the big suppliers is saying that they have a shortage of delivery drivers and many flu jabs could be delayed.
The Health and Safety Executive are taking Drax Power Station to court alleging that they are putting workers at risk from dust from the wood pellets they burn. I would have thought that when they burnt pulverised coal the talcum powder fine fuel would have been a much greater risk to human health than wood dust. I know the greens don’t like power generation from wood, but if we can’t use Drax we will definitely be seeing power cuts.
I happened to wander through the office when the new style Question of Sport was on. It proved the old saying “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. It was pretty poor, especially the new chairman. The two new team captains were OK but were no better than the old ones. I get the impression that the BBC were trying to turn a sporting quiz into a comedy/entertainment programme along the lines of Sky’s A League of Their Own, which on this showing is not happening. I might give it one more try next week, but I suspect viewers will abandon the show in droves and what was once a foundation of the BBC winter schedule will be disappearing from our screens in this new format.
The Middlesbrough footballer Marc Bola has been charged with misconduct over a social media post he made. The only problem is that he sent the message 9 years ago when he was 14. This does seem a bit harsh, but it is par for the course for the FA, who took action against West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen who was charged over a message he sent when he was 15. In this case the FA gave him a warning over his future conduct, so if the FA are consistent that will do the same again.
I hear that 80 Labour Party workers are taking voluntary redundancy due to the parties perilous financial position. Labour have lost a number of costly anti-Semitism cases and having suffered losses at the last 3 general elections in a row their public funding has been reduced. Since Labour lost 59 seats at the 2020 General Election their public funding fell by £1.07 million. On top of which the High Court ordered them to pay out undisclosed six-figure settlements for making ‘false and defamatory’ comments about seven ex-employees who spoke out in the 2019 BBC Panorama documentary “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” Stoma will be round with the begging bowl shortly.
It appears that with the closure of the Premier League transfer window Liverpool have got themselves into a bit of a fix as they are unable to name a full 25 man squad to pick their match teams from. To encourage clubs to develop their own players each club must name 8 homegrown senior players (over 21 years) in that 25. It would seem that someone has boobed as they have sent out at least 3 players, who would had qualified for the 25, on loan. Still, they have several homegrown under 21s who they could legally use in an emergency but they are very inexperienced.
With the return of Parliament next week Mr Squeaker has updated the “Rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons”. He is reminding everyone of the dress code and that MP’s should not turn up in jeans, chinos, sportswear or casual shoes. Instead, MPs should dress in business attire with men in a jacket and tie. The new rules also state that singing and chanting is banned, as is applause, a thing that seems to have crept in of late. Mind the dress rules seem to apply more to men than women, I have seen several female scruff bags on the Labour benches.
Right folks, that’s another week done. I have had enough work for the day and I’m off to the windowsill for a while until the sun disappears. It’s the last day of the Paralympics tomorrow and aren’t I pleased with that, an end to being woken up early is in sight. Chat to you all on Monday.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file