Good morning everyone and what a lovely sunny one it was when I trundled down the garden before breakfast. The sun is finally getting a little warmth in it and with any luck I will be back on the windowsill soon. The feeder rota now seems to have settled on being someone who does Saturday, Sunday and Monday and the nice girl for the rest of the week. I wondered what had happened to the Dreamies Girl, so I popped into the office this morning and there she was. She said it was a long time since she had seen me and gave me some Dreamies.
I read that about 100 people have gone down with salmonella poisoning after eating tortilla de patatas at a top Madrid restaurant. The Spanish population generally likes their tortilla de patatas to be runny. The Casa Dani normally serves over 700 tortillas a day and says it is going to close down until an investigation is complete. We are regularly told to fully cook eggs and chicken as they often carry salmonella, but I don’t like runny eggs, so I think I am OK.
It seems that network rail is considering scrapping return tickets, which tend to offer a small discount on two single fares. Instead, they would like to sell two single tickets at the discounted rate. How this will affect the likes of buying a combined rail and bus pass or in London a combined rail, tube and bus Travelcard we are not told. But I must say I thought that most return tickets on the railways already came as two tickets labelled ‘Out’ and ‘Return’.
I read of a man who parked his car in a Heathrow long-term car park before going off on a long-haul holiday because it was advertised on the airport’s website as being ‘safe and secure’. He paid £160 and flew off, to a lovely holiday, but on return he found his car undrivable because its catalytic converter had been ripped out. Apparently, this is quite common at Heathrow as anyone can enter the carpark free for 20 minutes. I am not sure how this is ‘Safe and Secure.’
When the start-up EV battery company, Britishvolt, ran out of money and went bust last month the administrators put the business up for sale. Anyone looking to buy the business must have very deep pockets as the company had planned to spend £3.8 billion building a new factory and developing the battery technology. I understand that there were several bidders and that EY, the administrators, announced that they had chosen Australian company Recharge Industries as the preferred bidder. EY say that they hope to have signed a sales contract within a week. Recharge Industries are already building an EV battery plant in Geelong, near Melbourne which is supposed to be in production next year.
The fossilised body of a 185-million-year-old marine crocodile has been found near Charmouth on West Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. With the scientific name ‘Turnersuchus hingleyae’, the reptile is thought to be a relative of modern-day crocodiles. It is believed to be the most complete fossil of a marine crocodile yet found.
Today the FA has announced that they have charged Manchester City with over 100 alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play regulations going back to when the club was bought by an Abu Dhabi billionaire. The investigation has been going on for over four years, and as might be expected is totally denied by City. Mind you, with that many offences they could find themselves with real problems. Punishments could range from a fine, to being deducted points or even being ejected from the Premier League. One of the charges is that they failed to cooperate with the enquiry, and another is that they double-payed a manager through a secret contract in Abu Dhabi.
Well, it’s another beautifully sunny morning but it was frosty in the garden early on. I wonder if anyone sells shoes for cats’ paws. As I have four paws, I would have to have four shoes, what would you call that? Two pairs?
I hear that both Royal Caribbean and Carnival are making changes to the menus on their cruise ships. Carnival’s moves are admittedly minor and only really apply to gluttons. They have decided to charge passengers in their main dining rooms an extra $5 per plate for each starter they order over two. Well, if you eat three starters before a main course, I don’t reckon that $5 is much of an imposition. But Royal Caribbean is being sneakier, they have recently introduced what was heralded as a “new improved” menu which is in fact a retrograde step. Gone are several of what were previously “always on” items. These are items that are on the menu every day and are fairly ordinary, in America they love a Caesar salad and that used to be an always-on starter. There was always salmon, steak and chicken for a main, but you may now only find one of these. But what they haven’t said is that they have also reduced portion sizes. Steaks are smaller, sushi pieces are one less. Imagine how much that saves on a 5,000-passenger ship on a seven-day cruise. I wonder how long it will be before other cruise lines move in the same direction.
Yesterday I told you about a man who had the catalytic converter stolen from his car while parked at Heathrow. Today I bring you the story of a valet parking company that disappeared with around 80 cars. People who had booked with Easibook handed over their keys to the valet on arriving at the airport but when they returned their car never appeared and the company vanished. Nice little scam to steal cars, the keys are handed over to you and you have days or weeks before the theft is reported. In this case it appears that 70 of the owners have been lucky as the Met Police have found their cars stashed in a field in Surrey.
Wandsworth Council have a plan. They would like to see the recently opened section of the Northern Line to Nine Elms and Battersea extended to serve Clapham Junction mainline station. It’s not far, and the Battersea branch was built with this possibility in mind. The problem is TfL is skint and the extension would cost around £750m. There is also the little problem of so many people switching on to the Northern Line that its capacity would be exceeded. TfL had plans to spilt the Northern Line into two services, a West End line going to Edgware and a City line going to High Barnet. This is all dependent on the Camden Town rebuild and TfL finding the money.
The January car sales numbers are in and it is better news. Overall sales continue to increase since the disaster that was sales during Covid. Total sales for the month were up by 14.7% as 131,994 new cars hit the road, with the vast majority still being powered by the internal combustion engine and less than 20% being battery or plug-in hybrids. Interestingly, the percentage of EV sales is falling. The last quarter of 2029 also showed a drop in the number of public EV chargers being installed to one for every 62 EVs sold. How can people be expected to buy an EV if there is nowhere to charge them when you are on a long journey?
After yesterday’s earthquakes in Turkey, the world has been quick to send aid, much initially in the form of search and rescue teams, food and tents. Joining in with help were the Indians whose first military C17 arrived this morning having flown directly from India but skirting around Pakistani airspace. The problem is that India and Pakistan do not have the best of relationships and the C17 being a military aircraft it is not welcome in Pakistani airspace. However, as this was a humanitarian flight, I would have hoped that Pakistan would have made an exception and allowed an overflight.
I told you last week about who was sending what Main Battle Tanks and how many, to the Ukraine. Now I hear that the German government has given permission to defence concerns Rheinmetall and Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft mbH [FFG] to supply Ukraine with 187 Leopard 1 tanks. The tanks were once used as the MBT by the German Army but were replaced by the Leopard 2 some years ago. According to reports, Rheinmetall have 88 tanks and FFG have a further 99. Whether or not all 187 tanks will actually go to Ukraine is yet to be discovered as they have not been maintained since withdrawal from service and some may have to be used for spare parts for others.
Another fine morning, but frost. The household was up early this morning and the Rich Boy shot off in his ministerial car. I hear he is going to Stansted airport to greet the other Midget leader from the Ukraine. I understand he is coming over for talks and to address the two Houses of Parliament. I guess he will be bringing his begging bowl.
What a lovely cock up on Spanish railways. They have procured new trains costing €258 million that are too big for their narrow-gauge networks loading gauge and won’t go through their tunnels! Spain has two track gauges, it originally had its own narrow gauge, but when it joined the EU it started building standard gauge high-speed lines so that trains could run to EU cities. Renfe, the national train operator, went out to tender for the new trains and took the dimensions for the specification from the documents of the railway infrastructure company Adif. Apparently, Adif were wrong and the trains were designed to the wrong loading gauge. The new trains are now going to be four years late.
Poland has been cleared by the American Department of Defence to buy a package of 486 HIMARS Rocket Systems launchers and 9,000 rockets. The potential deal is worth $10 billion and comes as good news for the HIMARS system maker’s Lockheed Martin. The deal being discussed is for 18 complete M142 wheeled launchers and 468 launcher kits that the Poles could install on a chassis of their chosen construction. The package includes the standard rockets and the longer-range Army Tactical Missile System.
I read of a clear case of discrimination where special dog agility equipment has been installed in a park. In fact it is worse than that, a whole section of the park has been fenced off for the use of dogs, allowing them to run off the lead and use the agility equipment as they please. This is a case of discrimination against cats. There is no equivalent cat area with trees to climb, posts to sharpen my claws on and things to chase.
South Western Railway now think that they will have their Arterio trains entering service later this year. The fleet was destined for parts of London, Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire back in 2019. But first there was a dispute between the railway and its train crews over manning the £1 billion fleet. The union wanted a driver and guard, while the company wanted driver only. The company eventually won but at a cost. Then came Covid and finally there are software problems, but SWR think that is nearly fixed and the first trains will be introduced on the Windsor & Eton Riverside to Waterloo route later this summer only three years late.
I read that the travel and insurance company Saga has announced that they are closing their HQ building in Enbrook, between Folkestone and Sandgate. The problem they have is that the building was built to accommodate 1,200 staff but since Covid struck many have been working from home. Often recently the maximum number in the building has been 120. Hence Saga has decided to sell its major asset and open small satellite offices, two of which will be in Kent, and another will be its existing one in Kings Cross, London. But this is where Saga has been clever, they have already applied for, and received, permission to convert the HQ building into flats.
Fans of Newcastle United have grounds for celebration today. They have bought back a parcel of land behind the Gallowgate end of the ground which was sold off by Mike Ashley for £9 million four years ago. The Newcastle stadium has been sold out for every home game this season and has been investing in plans to expand. Many of these plans feature the Gallowgate end, and although it is not certain that the land behind it is necessary for the expansion it can do them no harm to own it just in case.
When I retired to my lovely cat basket last night it was frosty, but this morning the frost was gone. It was still chilly, but it was cloudy and gone was the lovely sunny morning of the last couple of days. My new feeder came in rubbing her hands together and told me they were cold. I thought, ‘I hope she doesn’t stroke me then,’ but she put my food in the bowl and sat down to talk to me while I ate. She stroked me before she left and her hands had warmed up by then.
This morning I read that passengers on London’s Bakerloo line are not very happy with the quick makeover that Transport for London have done to the trains on the line. New trains are on order to replace what are the oldest ones on the London Underground network, but the trains are so overcrowded right now that as an interim measure the seating layout has been changed. The blocks of four transverse seats, facing each other, have been removed and replaced by longitudinal seats in the middle of carriages. This gives more standing space at the expense of seats, hence the unhappy passengers.
I have visited the legal battle between Airbus and Qatar Airways several times in the past, but I must admit I missed that there has been an out-of-court settlement of the case. How much it has cost is not clear, but I guess it has something to do with Airbus changing the design of the lightning-conducting skin of the A350 that they announced a month or so ago. They are replacing the expanded copper metal mesh under the paint with a perforated metal skin on new production planes. But what I find really interesting is that as part of the deal Airbus has reinstated Qatar’s order for 50 Airbus A321neo planes, 23 Airbus A350 planes and refurbishing their existing A350 fleet. Qatar have placed a replacement order for the Boeing 737 Max10, but these are not a very good fit in the Qatar fleet. They have a 700km shorter range than the Airbus, carry less passengers and are still not being delivered as they have not yet been certified. But perhaps the most important thing is it would mean a complete retraining of pilots on the new plane. Qatar already operates A320 and the flight deck of the A321 is compatible. I bet Qatar quietly cancel the Max10 order. Bad news for Boeing.
I hear that the Carnival Corporation has sold the 17-year-old 103,000-tonne cruise ship Costa Magica to Greek company Seajets. This comes as no huge surprise as the ship had been withdrawn from service some time ago. In addition, the latest Carnival annual report, in January, had said there was no place for the ship in the company’s fleet and, “It would not resume guest cruise operations.”
Is Sad Dicks expanded ULEZ zone going to actually come into being? At the moment it seems to be being attacked from all directions. The opposition in county hall have got hold of documents that show he ignored the results of a public consultation, which he of course denies. Now multiple outer London boroughs are objecting and say they don’t want and won’t allow enforcement cameras on what is effectively a way for TfL to raise the money it is short of. Some boroughs are threatening legal action, others are refusing permission for the enforcement cameras in their areas. Now I hear Sad Dick has ignored an independent report that says there is no evidence that the ULEZ works in central London and that improvements in air quality are down to the fall in traffic caused by Covid.
Apparently, a new chemical process has been found that allows wind turbine blades to be recycled. Up until now it has been impossible to recycle the epoxy blades and many have been dumped in landfill sites. This new process turns blades back into their component materials and means the materials can be reused for new blades. The full system may take a while to set up, but once in use it should be possible to dig up and treat those buried in landfill.
I was delighted to see that the ex-MP Jared O’Mara got four years in prison for his attempt to secure £54,000 in fiddled expenses while an MP. How such a wrong’un was ever put forward to be a Labour candidate beats me. His treatment of women as a club owner was bad enough and caused his downfall as a Labour MP. But after being slung out of Labour, he hung on as an independent MP. In his trial it was revealed that he was a cocaine addict who owed money to his dealer, and this was his attempt to get taxpayers’ money to pay his debts. What a pity he will probably be out in two years.
Morning all, it’s back to a clear sky this morning and frost, but only a light frost which is good. There is a bit on the grass, which I avoided, but there was none on the roof of the gardener’s shed. I hear we have avoided officially going into recession again as the last quarter’s growth figures were not negative. I wonder what difference it would make practically if we were actually in recession.
All this fuss about the Ukraine wanting our jet fighters is, I hear, rubbish. They don’t want our old planes, they don’t think they are good enough, what they actually really want are American F16s. But they would settle for the Saab JS39 Gripen or the Dassault Rafale. I also hear that what they would like is two squadrons, which in Britain would be 24 aircraft, but I don’t know how big a Ukrainian squadron is.
I got a little bit of a surprise this morning when I overheard a conversation about the Challenger 3 Main Battle Tank programme. Unlike nearly every Ministry of Defence project, it was said that it was on budget and even more surprisingly in advance of its programme. In fact, the Critical Design Review (CDR) has been signed off well ahead of schedule. The final assembly work is to be done at RBSL’s production facility in Telford where the necessary expansion and modernisation is nearly complete. Most unusual to be able to report this type of thing.
There was a by-election last night and, unsurprisingly, it was won by the Labour candidate. It was a Labour hold, and hardly mentioned on radio and TV this morning. Why? Well, my guess is the Labour candidate did a lot less well than the media had been predicting. They have been telling us that Labour are 20 to 30% ahead of the Tories but this was only about a 10% swing to Labour and obviously disappointed the BBC. Mind, I did see that Reform had a larger share of the vote than the Limp Dumps.
I don’t know if it is true or just paper talk, but I read that the Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola and their leading scorer Erling Harland just don’t get on. Apparently, the manager didn’t want to buy the player in the first place but the decision was taken out of his hands. The manager has not started Harland in some recent games, and I have heard claims that he doesn’t fit in with the way Guardiola wants his team to play. I also hear that the financial problems that Man City have become embroiled in may give Harland the opportunity to move on to another club.
BAE has just delivered its 1,000th rear fuselage section of the F35 to Lockheed Martin for assembly. Britain is the only high-level partner in the F35 programme and as such makes the rear fuselage for every F35 built. There are 1,500 employees at the company’s facilities in Samlesbury, Lancashire where the rear fuselage has been made since 2005, but the programme actually supports 20,000 jobs in the U.K. and has injected £41 billion into the U.K. economy. I suppose this makes spending £80 million on each plane cheap.
I understand that the much-heralded Russian T14 Armata Main Battle Tank is never going to go into mass production. The reasons are many, but one of the main ones includes the fact that its engine is a failure. Every other Russian Main Battle Tank has what is a version of the same highly successful tank engine. However, the engine chosen for the T14 is a completely different design, is much smaller physically and heavier than that in the T72 or T90. It is so bad that one even broke down in Red Square during a May Day parade. The proven engine can’t be swapped into the T14 as it just doesn’t fit. They have a huge shortage of electronics which they can no longer get from the West. There is no production line as the West has banned the supply of machine tools. The dozen or so prototype T14s that do exist were all hand built. The company chosen to supply the armour plate has gone bankrupt and its owner is on the run having absconded with a loan that was the Rouble equivalent of $65 million. Somehow, I don’t think we will ever see a T14 at the front.
No frost when I journeyed down to the bottom of the garden this morning. However it was a bit overcast and grey but not cold, so I didn’t rush and had a pleasant few minutes before heading back for my Felix.
Firstly today, a little personal news, there have been rumours going around that I was not well after I was taken to the vet last month. Well, let me put your minds at rest, it was just a routine check-up and I got a clean bill of health and I am fit and well and enjoying life as much as any 15-year-old cat can be. I fully intend to be with you for some time yet.
Is all the fuss about Ukraine chasing for Western fighter jets a red herring designed to hide the other things? Word reaches me that the Ukraine is negotiating with Germany to purchase submarines. The idea is to use them to attack Russian warships in the Black Sea. The Russian Navy has been using its Black Sea fleet to launch missiles at the Ukraine and obviously the Ukrainians would like to put a stop to it. If I have heard of this, then the Russians most definitely will have, and will be doing all they can to stop it happening. I will be keeping my ears open on this story.
The closure of Doncaster airport has left a large area of the country without a local airport for their business and holiday flights. The closure of Doncaster was instigated by the decision by Wizz to withdraw its services. However, there is a small airport in North Lincolnshire called Humberside Airport. But it is very small and currently has only a handful of flights a day. For example, TUI operate one flight a week to Majorca from there. Could the airport benefit by offering additional flights, quite possibly but do they have the infrastructure to cope?
I have a bit of good news for you all. Sir Rod Stewart has announced that he is not going to be performing at the Coronation Concert. Thank goodness I don’t want to hear him croaking through one of his old hits, his voice was rough enough when he had the hits! However, it seems that his other half Penny Lancaster, who is a special constable, is going to be there on duty.
The Canadian Woman’s football team, who won the gold medal in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, are going on strike over a wage cut. They are supposed to be playing the United States Women in the ‘She Believes’ cup on 17th February but say they will not be taking part unless the row is settled. Soccer Canada has cut the funding of both the male and female teams leading to the number of training days and training camps being cut.
I read about a company in Texas called Colossal Biosciences who have plans to de-extinct several extinct species. They include the woolly mammoth and thylacines, an Australian marsupial. Now they have managed to raise over $100 million and have added the dodo to the list. This worries me, I watched Jurassic Park and saw what could happen. They won’t be getting any of my hard-earned wages.
That’s me done again. It’s still grey and grotty in Downing Street so I am not going to go outside. Once again, I’m going to snooze in the waiting room until dinner time, it is super comfortable. I’ll chat to you all again next week.
© WorthingGooner 2023