I am delighted to be back from my enforced Christmas and New Year break, and I understand that my scribe is now happy and anxiously awaiting the result of his Day 2 PCR test. I had a quiet Christmas here in Number Ten as Bozzie and his family were away. Various people were scheduled to feed me over the break but by far the nicest day was when the Dreamies Girl came in on Boxing Day. She brought her little boy with her and he had a present for me, a new collar and a cuddly mouse. But best of all she brought me some slices of her Christmas turkey, it was delicious (just like chicken). The little boy and I played with the mouse while his mum checked up on messages. She then put some more slices of turkey and some Dreamies in the fridge with a note to the person who was scheduled to feed me in the evening. It was the best day of the holiday.
Lots of happenings in government during the break, but my favourite little tale is that Richie Nik Nak is doing everything in his power to do down Liz Truss. It appears that he is worried that she is the leading contender to be the next PM and wants the job for himself. I hear that Jeremy Hunt has teamed up with him in the fight, he must want to get back into government.
Bozzie was delighted this morning to hear the news that the Tramp is looking to set up his own political party so that he can stand as an MP at the next general election. He has been reinstated in the Labour Party but not in the Parliamentary Labour Party so he would have problems with funding for any coming election. If he follows through with this plan it will be interesting to see how many left-wing Labour MPs join him, there are several who claim to be Corbynites. A Labour left-wing, right-wing split could be a saviour for the Tories, no wonder Bozzie was happy.
Bozzie was chatting to the Little Otter about the Novak Djokovic trials and tribulations in Australia. I get the impression that he is fully behind the Aussie Government stance. Whether or not Djokovic gets to play in Australia, I don’t think Bozzie will want him to play at Wimbledon in June without having been at least double jabbed. I understand that he intends to bring in a double jabbed rule, with no exemptions, for all competitors and that Macaroon is planning something similar for the Paris Open.
I have been reading that back in the 1990s Lockheed Martin had planned to build a giant plane at least half as big again as the Boeing 747 and their own military transport the C5A. Not only that, it was planned to rival Airbus A380 that was in development. The plane would have 3 levels with cargo at the bottom and two passenger levels above with 17 wide seats and four aisles, seating some 950 passengers. At the time, Lockheed thought they could beat Airbus to market and offer various configurations ranging from an all passenger version to a military transport capable of carrying 16 x 40-foot containers. The project didn’t go ahead mainly because the estimated cost of development was up to $27 billion and the board considered this a step too far considering that they would be in competition with Airbus and Boeing.
I read that the Aussies are to buy 120 armoured vehicles from the Yanks including 75 M1A2 main battle tanks. With that number of MBT’s the Aussies will have nearly as many as us. They are also buying 29 assault clearing vehicles used against minefields, 17 bridge landing vehicles and six repair and evacuation tanks. The first MBT’s will be delivered in 2024. Following the purchase of 12 Sikorsky MH-60R Black Hawk helicopters and the agreement with the UK and US to build a fleet of nuclear attack submarines, Australia is building up its military in the face of the Chinese building up their forces. Only last month the Aussies signed a reciprocal access agreement with the Japanese and are part of the QUAD agreement with Japan, India and the US.
Best story of the day so far was The Gove getting stuck in a lift at the BBC for 30 minutes. It must have been awful for everyone stuck with him. He was doing the media round for the government today and several stations were originally a bit upset when he didn’t arrive at the promised time. Annoyance turned to amusement when the story came out and there were even some attempts at humour like Gove “failing to level up and down”.
A nasty morning on two counts, firstly the weather that is a bit grey and damp and secondly Bozzie is in a foul mood. He is certain that Dom is behind all the “partygate” stories and what Bozzie says he would do to him if he ever bumped into him is frightening. He was telling Nic Nak that he saw the latest gathering through the flat window and went down to investigate. He said that once there he was assured by senior civil serpents that it was a work gathering so he went off to have his dinner.
I read a tale in one of the leftie papers that last year a Russian submarine was “in a collision” with a Royal Navy frigate. However, when you read the article that was not what happened. It seems the frigate had its towed array deployed and the submarine tried to cut the array. Why didn’t they tell the story for what it was, an attempt by the Russians to cut off and steal the array or try to learn about its abilities? A towed array is basically a series of highly sensitive underwater microphones attached to a cable towed behind the frigate. The Russians clearly want to see how advanced the western technology is.
Airbus chalked up another order for the A220 yesterday. Since taking over the project from Bombardier this smallish plane has sold well and sales have now reached 688 units with the latest 22 aircraft order from a Fort Lauderdale aircraft leasing company. Unsurprisingly it was also announced yesterday that “despite Covid” Airbus outperformed its big rival Boeing by delivering 611 aircraft last year and building its order book to 7082 planes.
I hear that just before Christmas British Airways had major problems with passenger luggage for those arriving at Manchester Airport. Passengers were left hanging around the baggage carousels waiting for hours and getting nothing. One family who flew into Heathrow from San Diego and switched onto a Manchester flight waited two hours before a BA official appeared with lost luggage forms. Their luggage eventually turned up six days later and had clearly been rifled as bottles of wine were missing and Christmas presents had been unwrapped. It seems that the Manchester flight left Heathrow without loading any baggage due to problems at the London airport. The company used by BA to handle baggage in these circumstances seems to have closed down over the Christmas period and let the customers go hang. Whatever happened to customer service?
Ovo Energy has come in for a lot of criticism today for sending people a link to its energy-saving tips at a time when energy costs have gone up. Some of the tips were sensible, like turning the thermostat down by a degree and putting on more clothes. But the criticism has been over their advice to cuddle your pet dog or cat and make use of their body heat. Many cats, like me, don’t like to be cuddled, I would much much rather sit in front of a blazing fire.
It seems that Bozzie may have been right in not following the rest of the home nations and the “experts” urging him to bring in stricter Covid rules over Christmas and the New Year. The case rates in England have started to fall while those in the rest of the UK are either still going up or staying level. In London, which is said to be 2 weeks ahead of the rest of the country, the number has been falling quickly. The number of Covid related deaths is falling and the new o’micron strain seems to cause less serious infection than the previous strain. I even read the number of footballers testing positive fell over the last 7 days.
Today’s silly story is about a Bournemouth councillor who has been urging people to downsize their dogs. He claims that a big dog, like a Labrador, puts out the same amount of pollution as an SUV. I am not sure what he is proposing, should you all be taking your big dogs to the RSPCA and trading it in for a Chihuahua or a Yorkiepoo? What a pity the Mutt is already a small dog or the Little Otter could swap him for a new model. I think the better thing to do is trade in your dog for a cat, is are all quite small and more cuddly.
Bozzie was still not happy this morning. I kept out of his way but the Mutt got shouted at and skulked off into another room. He was discussing just what to say at PMQ’s so that it looked like he was apologising. What made things worse this morning was that Richie Nik-Nak had decided to visit a factory in the West Country. Bozzie reckoned it was all an attempt to distance himself from the partygate row and make himself look like a future PM.
This morning I read that a new sort of onion has gone on sale today. This onion has been developed to stop people’s eyes from watering while being prepared. Supposedly it has had the oils that affect the eyes bred out of it. I wonder if this affects the taste? I am not an onion lover but I can imagine that the taste could be reduced if the essential oils are no longer there.
SouthWestern Railways seem to have something of a problem with their new Class 701 trains. The units, supplied by Bombardier, were supposed to enter service in 2019 but I hear there are problems with them that are still to be fixed. Because of Covid, SWR are already operating a reduced service, but as of Monday 17th January, they are to reduce services even further. They are having to take 24 Class 456 trains out of service as they are 32 years old. When the current South Western franchisee took over they decided to replace brand new Class 707 trains with an order for Class 701 trains because they were cheaper to lease. As part of the deal, the owner of the returned Class 707 trains leased them out to SouthEastern where they were to operate commuter services. Now SWR are retaining 12 of the trains to fill in for some of the shortages, but that doesn’t help SouthEastern who are now short of rolling stock.
My spies tell me that Transport for London are still confident that they are on line to open the central London section of the Elizabeth Line in the spring. The testing is taking a little longer than originally expected but is only about 3 weeks behind schedule. The plan is still to initially run the service in three sections two of which are already working – Liverpool Street to Shenfield, and Reading to Paddington. The missing section under London, from Abbey Wood to Paddington, is intended to carry up to 25 trains an hour and testing is still to reach this service level. However, I hear that this week the Abbey Wood trains have started running through Paddington to Ealing Main Line. This is to test how the on-train systems cope with the switch between the different signalling system used in the two different sections of track.
The government has today announced that there is to be a pause in the rollout of the so-called ‘smart’ motorways. The pause is to be for 5 years until the safety data associated with ‘smart’ motorway becomes available. But this is not really 5 years as the data has already been being compiled for 3 years. When the data is available there will be a full review to see if the construction of ‘smart’ motorways should resume. The announcement also suggests an additional 150 emergency stopping places should be constructed. Finally the most stupid recommendation of all, the construction of special access lanes for emergency vehicles. Isn’t that the hard shoulder that is being converted into a running lane on a ‘smart’ motorway?
It looks like the o’micron pandemic in the UK has started to wane. The number of daily infections has been falling for the last few days and was down by 50,000 on the peak today. The other good news is that most infections are little worse than a heavy cold and that Covid related deaths in the UK are only a tiny fraction of the overall daily deaths. Even the BBC news admitted that the number of infections was falling sharply.
While on the subject of Covid, I see that the CEO of Pfizer has announced a reformulated version of its vaccine, that is more effective against o’micron, is already in production and should be available in March. Of course, this version of the vaccine will need regulatory approval but the company don’t see that as a hurdle and expect it to be available first in the United States. The CEO also said that as the virus mutates an annual Covid vaccination will be necessary just like the annual flu jab. But of course he would say that as the vaccine is making Pfizer hundreds of millions of dollars.
I woke up to sun coming through the window this morning, but it was misleading as it was bloody cold out there when I went for my constitutional. When I got back Bozzie was grumping about his lot once again. He must be in a bad way as even his favourite breakfast, a bacon sandwich with brown sauce, didn’t cheer him up.
I read a story about a new British airline acquiring an Airbus A330-200. As I had never heard of Han Airways I thought I would look it up. It seems that this is a bit of a non-story as this is an airline on paper only. It currently has no planes, no routes and most importantly no Air Operators Certificate. The plan is to tap into the large number of British Indians living in the Midlands and operate long haul services from Birmingham to somewhere, as yet unknown, in India. The plane is real, it is currently being overhauled in Dubai, but there is only a letter of intent to lease it. Until that AOC is obtained, routes and airport slots secured, the LoI will not be triggered and this is all a publicity puff.
Are more problems on the way for Hinckley Point C? EDF has announced a further six-month delay in the loading of fuel at the troubled Flamanville 3 nuclear power station it is building in France. This follows on from the problems with fuel rods splitting at its joint venture power station at Taishan in China. Why should this problem affect Hinckley Point you ask, well the answer is simple, all these nuclear reactors are of the same design. This is what comes of relying on a Franco Chinese company for your nuclear power.
It’s a good job I am only a cat and don’t have any money to invest in shares on the stock exchange as I clearly don’t understand how it works. Both Tesco and Marks & Spencer came out with excellent trading numbers over the Christmas period this morning. Tesco described their figures as ‘exceptional’ while M&S talked about a record Christmas and both indicated they were expecting to make decent profits. So this cat would have bought their shares. Big mistake, both went down this morning. What do I know?
So the Frogs are changing their travel rules and allowing the double vaccinated back into the country provided they have a negative Covid test in the 24 hours before arrival. The French have been under pressure from two sides. Firstly the ski industry has been protesting loudly at the lack of holidaymakers and secondly the numbers of people testing positive for o’micron in France is far higher than in the UK rendering the policy useless.
I read that Sniffer Joe has hired a meteorologist to predict when Putin will invade The Ukraine. Reports say that the Russian generals have advised Putin that unusually warm weather has created huge amounts of mud and that any invasion would literally get bogged down. Russia has over 100,000 troops massed on the border poised to launch an attack when the weather improves and Sniffer is, as usual, in the dark.
I understand that the Royal Thai Air Force is to be the next customer to buy the F35. The plan is to buy them to replace their F16s. However, it seems that at the moment they don’t actually have the funds to place a big order. Consequently, they will be purchased in small batches and I hear that an agreement in principle has been made to purchase the first four F35As now that the purchase price has fallen to a mere $82 million dollars each.
Another frosty morning, my poor little paws got very cold when I crossed the lawn this morning. Still, I managed to warm them up where the radiator pipes run under the kitchen floor. It was nice to see Bozzie a bit happier this morning, chuckling about someone he called “the farting communist”. I’m sure I will find out later who that is.
I hear that Associated British Ports (ABP) are on the verge of applying for planning permission to expand the Port of Immingham on the Humber. The plan appears to be to construct four roll-on/roll-off berths within the confines of the current Immingham oil refinery. They will also add berths and jetties. The idea is to make use of land within the refinery that will be used for warehouses and terminal buildings and linked to the rail network via the existing branch line. The hope is it will all become part of the proposed Humber free port.
Talking of the Port of Immingham it is the port used by Drax to import the wood pellets burnt there. The scale is enormous, huge ships bring the pellets from the US a journey that takes 21 days from the trees being felled to the pellets arriving on site. 17 trains a day take the pellets from Immingham to the power station where they are pulverised into powder and blown into the boilers in the same way as coal once was. Drax produces around 11% of all Britain’s ‘green’ power. However, the process is now being questioned as to just how ‘green’ it is with environmentalists complaining that burning wood produces a lot of CO2 while Drax claims it is extracted back out of the atmosphere by the trees growing.
I have been reading about lithium-sulphur batteries. Apparently, they can hold 5 times the charge of the standard lithium-ion batteries currently used in EV’s, phones and laptops but they have a problem. It seems that the more they are recharged they lose their power far faster than a standard battery. This means they can only be recharged a few times, making them useless. However, it seems that scientists have now had a breakthrough and have found that incorporating recycled Kevlar they can stabilise the batteries and recharge them many more times. In fact, the claim is that it will extend the range of a car up to 3 times. If this is true it might just make an EV buyable depending on the cost.
I hear that Freeview is to have a major channel reshuffle with nearly all channels changing position. Many will only move one position but it means that every Freeview TV in the nation will have to be reprogrammed. Why you ask. It is all down to the return to the airwaves of BBC3. Some years ago the BBC decided to make BBC3 programmes only available on the internet but they have now reversed that decision and BBC3 will be back on channel 23 from the 1st of February, hence the reshuffle. I wonder what Sky are going to do?
So the numbers of positive Covid cases has fallen again today and is below 100,000 for the first time since Christmas. It seems to be falling quickly right across the nation prompting the Welsh Steptoe to start reversing some of the rules he has forced on the nation, just like Wee Krankie before him. I doubt either will ever admit that they overreacted and clamped down unnecessarily because of spurious warnings from so called ‘experts’. At least Bozzie ignored the worst predictions this time. Heaven knows what it would have been like if Stoma had been in charge, I suspect we would be locked down for at least another year.
I hear that the government is so annoyed with the BBC coverage of ‘partygate’ that they are threatening the BBC over the TV license fee. It is supposed to be frozen this year, but the BBC want an increase which they say will allow it to produce better programmes. The two parties have just got into negotiations to agree the fee for the next five years and the government seem to have the BBC over a barrel.
Not quite as cold this morning, but I had to wait for my grub as Bozzie and the family have gone to Chequers for the weekend and whoever is on cat feeding duty was a bit late, probably at a party last night. While on the subject of parties I will have you know that I am totally innocent, I have not been to any, I do not drink alcohol or like cheese and I am too small to break the brats swing, even if I wanted to!
The rumour doing the rounds this morning is that Bozzie is on the verge of cancelling the additional ‘Plan B’ restrictions as soon as the 26th January, provided the case numbers continue to fall. The would include the ‘work from home’ instructions and the ‘Covid passports’. I hear that the ‘experts’ have told him that the big worry of extra hospital cases and the NHS being overwhelmed are now extremely unlikely. The numbers of cases have been falling since Christmas and the ‘experts’ say that those two rules make little difference to hospitals admissions. By the time you read this, I’m sure the announcement will have been made but remember I reported it first.
The 17-week closure of the Northern Line city branch starts today and is bound to cause chaos to London tube travellers. The closure is to allow the work on Bank station to be completed which will increase the station’s capacity by at least 40%. There will be a much-reduced service between Camden Town and Moorgate but no trains through Bank station. A special new bus route, the 733, will run from Moorgate to the Oval for the duration of the closure. Much work has been going on for some time and most of the new tunnels, ticket offices, platforms and step-free access is already in place. However, 99 metres of tunnels connecting the new to the old need still need to be dug and fitted out. While the line is closed TfL are taking the opportunity to do work at London Bridge, Borough and the Elephant and Castle.
I understand that we are currently in talks with India over a trade agreement. The three big discussion points as far as we are concerned are cars, finance and Scotch whisky. But whisky is important to us as at the moment a bottle of scotch arriving in India attracts a 150% import tax. The Indians have a love of whisky but because of the tax pushing scotch into the luxury zone home made brands such as Bagpiper and Royal Stag take most of the market. In 2019 scotch exports to India came to £150 million but most of it was bulk that Indian distillers use to blend with their domestic product to make it half reasonable. Scotch takes only 2% of the Indian market so imagine what exports could rise to if we can strike an agreement.
It seems that Royal Caribbean International have got four of their cruise ships acting as hospital ships to which they transfer any crew members who contract Covid. The ships, Vision, Rhapsody, Jewel and Serenade are divided into three areas. White where the ship’s own non-Covid crew are located, yellow where asymptomatic and close contacts are housed and red where the crew with the worst symptoms are. Why don’t they just put them ashore? Well, the answer is money. Putting a crewman in a hotel would cost around $250 a day and with around 4,000 sick seamen that’s a $1 million a day. Much cheaper to put them in unused ships and produce meals for them on board. Plus the sailors are on hand to go back to their ships as soon as they recover.
British Airways has revealed that it is to launch 4 new routes from London City Airport this Spring. The four new services will be to Barcelona, Luxembourg, Milan, and Thessaloniki and will be operated under the BA CityFlyer brand using their 98 seat Embraer E190 aircraft. The Brazilian built aircraft are popular with customers as they only have twin seats, meaning no unpopular middle seat as on most bigger planes. CityFlyer are also to resume flying from London City to Jersey and Guernsey for the summer. Is this a sign that the travel industry think that Covid is on the way out?
In what I can only take to be a sign of the times the US cargo carrier Federal Express wants to install anti-missile defences on a possible fleet of Airbus A321-200 aircraft. Consequently, the FAA have asked the US Department of Transport to change the regulations and allow infrared devices to be installed on US civil aircraft. The device in question pulses infrared laser light at incoming heat-seeking missiles and disrupts their sensor heads. They are common on military aircraft and are believed to be already in use on El Al aircraft replacing the flare based system they were fitted with in 2004. They are said to be extremely effective against man-portable missiles which are believed to have been used to attack at least 42 civil aircraft since 1970.
Well, that’s it for my first full week of the year. I’m off for a snooze until it’s food time. Chat to you all again on Monday.
© WorthingGooner 2022