Morning all, another pleasant morning. This is my sort of weather dry and mild. I don’t like it cold, I don’t like it hot and I certainly don’t like it wet. In the future this should be known as Larry weather. Bozzie has his nuclear meeting today, I wonder if he will glow in the dark tonight?
I have been reading that the Americans are supplying the Ukraine with its Switchblade mini drone. It is an interesting weapon sort of a hybrid, a cross between a mortar, a guided missile and a drone. It is small enough to be carried in a backpack and is launched from a short tube-like a mortar. It can then fly for up to 40 minutes over 25 miles, loiter over an area broadcasting a picture to its operator, before picking out a target and crashing into it and exploding. It was originally conceived to support special forces operating behind enemy lines but it was soon realised that it could be used to hit back at the likes of artillery or tanks when calling in close air support would take too long or was just not available. Recent versions can be launched as a swarm, launched from an aircraft or large drones and are too small and slow to be picked up by many anti-aircraft missiles. They are also cheap costing about £6,000 each.
After their problem with satellite launches from Russia, OneWeb have just announced that they have come to an agreement with SpaceX to take over launches. OneWeb say that the first SpaceX launch will be later this year. OneWeb have already 428 satellites in orbit, above 66% of their current target, and have switched on the network for areas above the 50° parallel. Details of the agreement between the two companies are supposed to be confidential but I will tell you if I hear anything.
It was interesting to see both Red Bull cars have problems right at the end of yesterday’s F1 race when both cars came to a halt with no engine power. Verstappen was able to coast into the pits but Perez’s engine seemed to cut out and he spun around on the track. Rumours went around the pits that they had both run out of fuel which would have been a terrible miscalculation by Red Bull considering there were a number of laps behind the safety car. After the race, Red Bull didn’t exactly deny this but issued a statement saying that they had suffered ‘a fuel pickup problem’.
Interestingly, if you had run out of fuel you would definitely have had ‘a fuel pickup problem’. I understand that the fuel pump is built into the engine, is manufactured by Italian company Marelli and is standardised across all F1 cars. No other team had a fuel problem.
I hear that the body of a man the police have been looking for over 10 years has been found. Workers renovating a derelict pub in the East End of London found the body in a freezer in the pub’s basement back in October last year. It has taken until now to identify the body by dental records. The police are apparently trying to find out what happened but are struggling due to the condition of the body. It is not at all clear if the man entered the freezer on his own accord or was already dead and was placed there.
I hear that the Queen is struggling with her mobility and is using a wheelchair when not in the public eye. To reinforce this it has been reported that she has had a lift, capable of taking a wheelchair, installed in her favourite cottage in Scottishland. Apparently, this is why she has not been making many public appearances recently, she finds it embarrassing to have resorted to a wheelchair. In her final years the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, used a wheelchair and the Queen is said to have bad memories of a photo of her sister in it shortly before her death.
I know how much my happy readers hated the last series of Dr Who with the female Doctor. Well, word has reached me that the next incarnation is likely to be a man. In fact, the BBC is said to be in talks with Hugh Grant to take over the role. I can’t help but see him as the villain in Paddington 2 in the classic prison garb in the final scenes. I don’t think I could take him seriously as the Doctor.
Oh, what a lovely morning, as I said yesterday this is my sort of weather and I read it is going to last until the weekend. I had a terrific windowsill snooze yesterday, I fully intend to do the same tomorrow.
I told you last week that Bozzie was meeting people from the nuclear industry yesterday. He was chatting to the Little Otter about it. Being a greenie she was a little sceptical but I must say although the plans made sense to me they do sound a bit expensive. He wants to increase the amount of nuclear power we use from 15% currently to 25% by 2050. This might sound a modest increase but it hides a bit. That 15% is currently generated by 11 nuclear power stations, 10 of which will be decommissioned by 2030. That will leave just Sizewell ‘B’ and Hinckley Point ‘B’ which should be commissioned by then. To just replace those 10 we will need to build 8 new stations the size of Hinckley Point at c£20 billion each at today’s costs. But 8 new stations won’t get the output up to 25% so that needs to be at least doubled so let’s say 16 new stations. But that misses another point, electricity consumption is predicted to double by 2050 so if we need 18 stations to generate the current 25% you can double that to 36 stations the size of Hinckley by 2050! So we need to build 34 new stations at c£20 billion each by 2050! No wonder the likes of EdF and Westinghouse are rubbing their hands together.
Back in December Shell announced, much to the relief of the Greens, that it wasn’t going to pursue its Cambo North Sea oilfield off the Shetlands on economic grounds. At the time a barrel of oil was selling for $70. Since the war in Ukraine the price of oil has shot up, at one stage being nearly doubled, but it has now fallen back to what seems to have levelled off at around $100. This has been enough to make Shell think again on their Cambo decision, as has the political position with the government pushing the oil companies to invest in the North Sea. Which reminds me I forgot to mention last week that Shell had resubmitted its application to develop the Jackdaw North Sea gas field which was turned down by environmental regulators. I wonder if they have been told a new application will succeed?
Birmingham airport are testing a driverless bus to take passengers between the terminal building and Car Park 5. The bus uses sensors to recognise where it is and is programmed to come to a stop if it encounters any obstacle or obstruction. The bus costs some £250,000 but can only carry 10 people. I don’t know how much a standard bus costs but even if is the same I bet it carries 4 or 5 times as many people so let’s say you need 4 of these new buses to replace one old one. So you pay out £1 million to replace one bus and driver. It’s the economics of the madhouse.
In a complete change of subject, I hear that the joint bid by the U.K. and Ireland to host the 2028 European Football Championship Finals is very likely to be successful. The last day for applications to host the event is tomorrow and unless someone throws in a last-minute application the U.K. and Ireland are the only ones bidding for the finals.
I was delighted to hear this morning that the 555 sub-postmasters who took the Post Office to court and won a civil case back in 2019 over the faulty software the PO had foisted on them are to get the same level of compensation as the criminal case compensation. The money awarded in the civil case almost all disappeared in legal fees. There were 706 branch managers convicted and many sent to prison on the evidence of the faulty PO software who have so far managed to get their convictions quashed. After the civil case the PO set up a compensation scheme for them and a further 2,500 sub-postmasters but the 555 were excluded. They have now been told they too can claim for financial losses. Interestingly the PO have yet to say how to make a claim and no one has been paid anything yet.
You may not know it but the Russian state gas company, Gasprom, has a British trading arm. It doesn’t sell Russian Gas, but it makes money retailing gas from the grid, to industry and the public sector where it supplies some 20% of the gas they use. It supplies the likes of Siemens, hospitals, Mcdonald’s and local councils, it does not supply domestic customers. However, many of their customers are moving to different suppliers as they don’t want to be seen indirectly supporting its Russian parent company that has sanctions against it. So many are quitting that the company has put itself up for sale and if a buyer doesn’t come forward in the next couple of days it is likely to collapse or to be taken into public ownership. At the moment the second option looks the more likely. I will keep you updated with anything I hear.
Good morning on this lovely morning, if anything it seems a bit warmer today. Bozzie was not terribly happy at breakfast. Apparently, it’s one of those big days in Parliament, first up is Prime Minister’s Questions, where he has to answer a load of stupid questions, after which he normally gets his lunch. But today he has to stay in the chamber and listen to Richie Nik-Nak and his ‘Spring Statement’ pretending he like every word and nodding along in agreement when all he is really thinking about is his cheese and pickle sandwich and mug of builders tea.
While P&O Ferries are struggling to get its ships to sea with their cheap crews manning them, I read the connected by name only P&O Cruises is gearing up to get the last of their fleet back to sea on Sunday. P&O Cruises laid up all six of their cruise ships over Covid and have slowly been feeding them back into service one or two at a time. The last of their six ships ‘Arcadia’ sails from Southampton on Sunday for the Canary Islands. Later this year, maybe early next year, they will be joined by a seventh ship ‘Arvia’ another big ship and a sister ship to ‘Iona’.
When the airline FlyBe went bust in 2020 I thought that was the end of the brand, especially when the administrator sold off the assets including its take-off slots. But the company who acquired the brand has been working to relaunch the airline. Well, I hear that FlyBe will be back offering flights on April 13th. I expected them to make a comeback on just a few routes but they are starting off with 23 routes with more than half operating from Belfast where the main base will be and another 6 routes operating from Birmingham (7 if you include the service to Belfast). All flights will be operated by 82 seat De Havilland Dash 8’s.
Are we going to see competition on the London-Paris high-speed train service? Before Covid hit, the Spanish operator RENFE was considering running a rival service to Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel. They are already an operator of HSTs in Spain where they are in competition with French HSTs hence the idea that they want to take on French-owned Eurostar. But the owners of the tunnel have now come up with a plan whereby they will purchase new HSTs and lease them to an operator who wants to set up a new service in competition to Eurostar, utilising free pathways that exist through the tunnel.
The ONS announced the latest inflation numbers this morning with the normally used Consumer Price Index going up to 6.2% and the lessor used Retail Prices Index rising to 8.2%. But one group of workers will be delighted, the London Tube workers. They currently have an agreement under which their annual increase is based on the February RPI plus 0.2%, so they are all in line for an 8.4% annual wage increase. Tube train drivers will be particularly happy with their £59,000 pa salary going up by around £5,000 pa. But all this costs money and is calculated to cost TfL £100 million pa. Will Sad Dick be going to the government cap in hand once again?
Do you remember when Sniffer Joe came to power in the US he said that he was not going to do a trade deal with the U.K.? A year into his presidency, Sniffer has decided that he needs to reverse that and has decided he needs to do a deal with us. He has started off by deciding to take the eye-watering 25% tariff off British steel and 10% off aluminium imports. These tariffs were slapped on in a bid to protect Boeing in a war with Airbus when we were part of the EU and if Sniffer had not been senile would have gone ages ago.
I have been reading that ‘experts’ have been asking why Russia has recently been reverting to using old fashioned gravity bombs and not smart weapons. They have also been using many of their older tanks, T72s, and not their much more modern T90s. The ‘experts’ ask could the Russians be running out of smart weapons and having to resort to older weapons? They point to two things to back this up. There were recently reports that they had asked the Chinese for smart weapons and that they have lost a lot of smart weapons destroyed and captured in Ukraine. In addition they recently employed a hypersonic weapon which could also be a sign they were running out of smart weapons. As for tanks, it has been reported that they have far fewer T90s than previously believed and that they have been badly affected by some of their electronics suffering Western sanctions. In fact, it has been reported that the T90 tank factory has had to stop production. It seems the smart weapons supplied to the Ukraine from the West have been highly effective, as has Ukrainian tactics of attacking the Russian supply lines.
It’s another lovely morning here in Downing Street. Once again it’s sunny and warm but today has the added advantage of being nice and quiet. Bozzie was up before dawn to catch his flight to Poland for today’s big meeting and the Little Otter has gone out taking the Brat, the baby and the Mutt with her. I wonder if she has gone to Chequers early or if she is taking advantage of Bozzie not being here to go out spend money?
I read that the Great Western Railways ‘Night Riviera’ sleeper service from Paddington to Devon and Cornwall is to resume this weekend following 8 weeks of not running. I fully expected this was another of those ‘because of Covid’ things, but it seems that is not the case. Apparently Network Rail have been building a ‘falling rock cover’ local to the Parsons tunnel near Dawlish and ran into problems. Piles to support the stanchions were supposed to be driven by the side of the track, but it was found that the ground was ‘not suitable’ for them to be driven from the side of the track. A special rail-mounted rig had to be brought in meaning the track had to be closed every night for 8 weeks. Hence the sleeper had to be suspended. I really can’t believe that Network Rail didn’t make a trial drilling to establish the ground conditions, I thought this was a normal procedure.
I told you about the rumours that the Red Bull F1 cars had run out of fuel in last Sunday’s Grand Prix. Yesterday a Red Bull official made a statement saying the cars both had sufficient fuel to finish the race and the problem was a vacuum had formed that meant the fuel pumps cut out. This opens up the question why? What was so different about the Red Bull that the same pump as was in all the other cars in the race cut out? Did they forget to allow a vent on the fuel tank to let air replace burnt fuel? Did the pump’s computer-operated controls fail? It sounds like a major cock up by Red Bull but they are not admitting it.
I have disastrous news for all of you about McDonald’s. They are suffering from what they call ‘supply chain problems’ and have a shortage of tomatoes! They are blaming it on everything they can think of, the Ukraine war, Brexit and even good old standby ‘because of Covid’. But what does it all mean? Well, if you fancy a Big Tasty or a Big Tasty with bacon, you will be rationed to one miserable slice of tomato! This is not the first supply chain problem that McDonald’s have had recently. Back in October last year they ran out of Chicken Legends ‘because of supply chain problems’, then in February they launched the Chicken Big Mac for a period of 6 weeks and despite it costing 50p more than a standard Big Mac it ran out in under a fortnight. It looks like McDonald’s need to sort out their supply chain.
The P&O Ferries CEO set his company up for a big fine when he appeared before a parliamentary committee this morning. He said that the company had deliberately chosen to break the law by not consulting the union on redundancy and not giving the government the statutory notice and saying he would do it again. It seems that it was all a financial calculation and it was cheaper to get rid of all 800 employees and replace them with cheaper non-union workers. He said that the idea was to pay off the former employees by giving them better than the official redundancy payments only if they signed NDAs and thus ruled out going to tribunals. It sounds like they didn’t take a prosecution for breaking the employment law into account and the unlimited fine that goes with being found guilty.
It seems that the Ukrainians have captured intact a Russian Krasukha-4 system from the battlefield near Kiev. It looks to have been involved in an accident of some sort and toppled over on its side before being abandoned in a retreat. The Krasukha-4 is an electronic warfare system designed to jam large radars and satellites. I understand that the Ukrainians have agreed to pass it over to the Americans and that the NATO allies are anxious to discover if it is effective as the Russians claim. I would like to know what the Ukrainians got in exchange for this bit of kit.
I hear that a carpenter working on the refurbishment of the former council offices, Masters House, in Sheerness found a corn snake living under the roof tiles. The odd thing was the building had been empty for some time and all the drainpipes were blocked off so nobody could work out how it got there. In addition, it was in a very healthy state so where had it been finding food? Was the building full of mice and rats? Sounds to me the council should have employed a Chief Mouser.
Morning all, yet another lovely morning. Pity the Little Otter came back with the entourage late in the afternoon, pity. Bozzie got back late and moaned he was hungry because the RAF had only given him a sandwich on his flight, and it was a long way from Brize Norton. The LO said she was buggered if she was going to cook late so he ordered a pizza delivery. When it turned up LO wanted to know why he hadn’t got her one and proceeded to eat slices of his.
Qatar airways have been running a free competition for its loyalty club members. First prize $1,000,000, second prize a brand-new Porche Panamera and third prize a five-star getaway to the Maldives with round-trip private jet flights. The holiday was won by a Belgian, the Porche by a Kenyan and the $1,000,000 by a British nurse. The nurse, from Crawley, was originally from the Philippines and was able to enter the draw because he had used the airline to visit his mother. He now hopes to fly her to Britain on holiday.
I read that the Ukraine has told the United States they need 500 each of the Javelin anti-tank missile and the Stinger anti-aircraft missile every day. We announced earlier this week that we were shipping another 6,000 NLAW anti-tank missiles, at that rate they will be back for more in just about a fortnight. I wonder if the factory in Belfast can churn them out at 500 a day? It made me think that if the Ukraine is going through missiles at that sort of rate it’s no wonder that there were those reports that I told you about on Wednesday that Russia was running out of smart weapons.
Do you remember me telling you that Britain and Ireland were expected to be the only bidders to host the 2028 European Championships Finals? Well, like all the best-laid plans there were two last-minute bids one from Turkey and rather surprisingly one from Russia. Both Turkey and Russia have also bid for the 2032 finals. I hear that the U.K. bid is viewed well as it brings together 5 national football associations and Turkey could be awarded the following competition. As for the Russian bid, well I hear that for reasons of protocol they can’t be told they have no chance as a final between them and Belarus (as they would probably be the only entrants) is not going to go down well with the worldwide TV audience.
I read that since Sad Dick became mayor, city hall has paid out over £1,000,000 in NDAs to employees who have left abruptly in order that they don’t disclose the reasons. This seems to have involved 56 people of whom 41 worked either directly or indirectly for Sad Dick. Another 14 worked for the part of the London Assembly that scrutinises him and his policies. Has he been getting rid of people he doesn’t like or those who dare to oppose him?
I hear that under the new method of allocating National Rail franchise, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) have been awarded a new franchise to run from 1st April this year to run for 3 more years. This means that GTR can carry on running Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern, but instead of selling tickets and making money from the sales they will be paid a management fee of £8.8 million pa with the possibility of earning an annual bonus of £22.9 million pa and all the ticket sales go to the new rail authority.
I read that Thameslink Trains have been very busy treating trains, right through the pandemic, with a powerful viricide that kills off coronavirus and stays active for several weeks. It seems that they have just clocked up the 20,000th treated train. Not that they have that many trains! They have actually been re-treating trains time and time again but with a few weeks between treatments. In addition Thameslinks owners, GTR, run 273 stations and these have been treated a total of over 7,000 times. They must have a lot of people on their viricide team.
I hear that this lovely weather is likely to end next week, what a pity I thought spring had arrived. Still, it is going to be a cracking weekend and Bozzie et al have gone to Chequers leaving the reserves to feed me. Some miserable bloke I have never seen before came this morning, he never even spoke to me. Still, he found the food and topped up my water from the Little Otter’s Buxton water!
Every year the DVLC announce a list of number plates that they refuse to issue on the grounds that they could be read as rude or insulting words or are in bad taste. Some of these are easy to understand be some of them need a little bit of thinking about. For the new 22 plate, 343 combinations have so far been banned but it is possible that more could be added to the list. For the 22 plate, among the combinations banned are, F22 KER, BA22 TRD, A22 HLE, and TU22 URD. Covid related number plates have also been banned, including CO22 RNA, CO22 ONA and CO22 VD.
I understand that Boeing may be running into trouble over the certification of its 737 Max 10 model. The Max 10 is longer than the Max 8 so it needs to go through a completely new certification programme. After the mess with the Max 8 and the hidden software system, the Federal Aviation Authority have taken all certifications for Boeing back in-house. The FAA have written to Boeing saying that they don’t think the plane can be certified by the end of this year. That would be OK if Congress had not passed a 2020 law known as the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act, that says any plane certified after later December 2022 must have new specified cockpit alerting systems and the Max 10 doesn’t comply. Boeing could get an exemption, but it would need an act of Congress. That brings in the midterm elections and just who will be in control of Congress then. What a mess.
I feel a bit sorry for P&O Cruises. They have been getting a lot of messages from people complaining about their sacking of their crews. The only problem is that their crews have not been sacked because they are a completely different company to P&O Ferries and have been for over 20 years. P&O Cruises have also been suffering a fair amount of abuse online, consequently they have launched an online campaign to explain that they have absolutely nothing to do with P&O Ferries. I blame many in the media who have been too lazy to use the full name and have been talking about P&O without saying which P&O.
You do hear some odd things wandering around Number 10. I caught a conversation between a couple of advisers talking about the Russian’s supply line problems. One adviser was telling another that the Russians had a serious lack of wooden pallets. Apparently, because of this they are having to load and unload supply trucks by hand. Which is much slower and requires more manpower than using forklifts, in fact I hear that things take a third longer by hand. In addition, he was saying that Western army trucks had ‘D’ to tie down loads to keep them secure and many built-in hydraulic cranes to speed up loading and unloading, things that the Russian trucks appear to be clearly missing.
I am hearing a lot of people are unhappy with BT Openreach ripping out the old copper telephone wires and installing replacement carbon fibre connections. The problem revolves around the new system requiring the power supply to the premises to be on. In the event of a power cut, the new system just can’t work where the old copper wire system carried a low voltage that kept it working in a power cut. BT have an obligation to keep the 999 emergency service working, so they a giving some people cheap dumb mobile phones to keep the service available, but this is useless in remote rural areas where there is no mobile signal. In this case, they are supplying battery backup, but I hear this has a very low capacity so if the power cut lasts for more than a few hours it is useless. In addition, burglar alarms and personal alarms mostly make use of old copper wire systems and BT has no legal obligation to keep these working. Sounds to me that BT haven’t thought this one through very well.
I hear there was chaos in London’s Carnaby Street this morning when the Swatch Shop launched its Bio-Ceramic MoonSwatch collection. The shop expected a big crowd and told people to get there early. In fact, some people took the warning so seriously that they queued all night. However, within half an hour of the shop opening this morning, it had to close because of the huge numbers trying to get in. The problem seems to have been caused when people arriving this morning refused to join the orderly queue and tried to force their way into the store. The new range can be bought for £207 in the shop but is up for sale for c£1000 on eBay.
That’s it, I’m off to have an afternoon snooze on the windowsill. Have a pleasant weekend end folks and I will be back on reporting duty on Monday.
© WorthingGooner 2022