Good morning everyone, and what a lovely morning, bright, sunny and not too cold. Maybe it’s because it’s half term down here in the south of England and the kids can go outside to play and not annoy mum. The weather gods are on their side.
For my first story of the week, I bring you a report from the US of A, where I hear of an accident at a Mars Wrigley factory in the city of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Contractors were hired to clean out a number of tanks at the plant, but the company failed to give them any safety training. This led to two men falling in a vat of Dove chocolate and having to be rescued by two dozen rescuers. One of the contractors had to be helicoptered to hospital after a hole had to be cut in the bottom of the vat to get them out. Mars Wrigley were fined $14,500 for the incident by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In case you wondered what Dove chocolate is, it is what is sold in the U.K. as Galaxy, but I think we only put raisins and biscuits in ours.
I read that in South London, there are two stations, Catford and Catford Bridge that are around 90 metres apart but there is no direct train service between them. If you wanted to travel from one station to the other, by train, it would take you 47 minutes and two changes of train, however it would make more sense to walk as that would take less than 40 seconds. The stations are a hangover from the days when privately owned railway companies raced to build competing lines between London and Dover and somehow managed to avoid Dr. Beeching.
I hear rumours that the first indigenous Chinese commercial jet, the C919, has had a bit of a setback in its certification programme. The reports that the aircraft, that is currently undertaking its 100-hour validation process, say that on a test flight from Shanghai to Hefei via Beijing earlier this month they had to turn back mid-flight when a thrust lever got stuck. The C919 is China’s attempt to produce an aircraft in the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737Max class. The C919 is currently on offer for around $15 million less than the other two planes, but it appears you get what you pay for.
Rumours in Westminster say that when Centrica, the parent of British Gas announces its annual numbers on Thursday it will report an annual profit of more than £4 billion. Unlike BP and Shell most of its earnings are generated in the U.K. and it will have to pay something over £1 billion in tax. It can, of course, claim tax allowances on investments and I hear it is likely to need to spend around £1 billion on refurbishing its Rough gas storage facility if it brings it back into full use as the Government wants.
I read that in Wandsworth the council has decided that it wants, as a test, to fine drivers who exceed the 20-mph speed limit on two roads. They have installed speed cameras and get the car details from the DVLA. In this initial period, they are only writing to the car’s owner, but the intention is to fine them £130 which would be halved if paid within 14 days, no penalty points would be added to their licenses. However, the Department for Transport have stepped in, declared the scheme illegal and banned Wandsworth from getting the car owner’s details from the DVLA. Apparently, the Metropolitan Police have control over speeding motorists.
I hear of a Scoot Airlines flight from Amritsar to Singapore that left 3 1/2 hours early, leaving behind some 35 passengers, who weren’t told of the change of departure time. The airline had emailed passengers to tell them of the time change, but the passengers who missed the flight had all booked via travel agents and the change was not passed on to them. This makes sense, but an incident a few days earlier is a little more difficult to understand. A FlyGo India internal flight took off with 50 passengers still in the bus from the terminal to the aircraft. The passengers were all checked in and had boarding cards, so there’s no real excuse, but as yet there has been no reason announced by the airline.
It’s another lovely sunny morning, but it was a bit frosty out there when I wandered down the garden. When I got back, the four-days-a-week girl was busy dishing up my Felix and she stopped briefly to say hello and tickle me under the chin. I must say I like her.
London bus drivers who work for the Dutch company Abellio have settled their industrial action over wages after 20 days of strike action. Their union Unite have negotiated a deal to increase pay by up to 18% over two years. New drivers will now start on £32,000 a year and after two years this will go up to £40,000. But this is just the basic rate and they have also secured increases to overtime rates and other enhancements. Well, I suppose it’s good news that one long-running dispute has been settled, but this is only 1,800 drivers of 800 buses on 60 routes and will set a starting point for drivers employed by other companies in London.
Why can’t people leave things alone, why do they have to change the names of perfectly good things? For years the “totally tropical” grapefruit and pineapple drink Lilt has been sold in the U.K. Now its makers, Coca-Cola, are to rebrand it as Fanta Pineapple & Grapefruit. It will be going the same way as Opal Fruits and Marathon bars, changing its name to make it easier to advertise with a common worldwide name. Well, I for one always snigger when someone talks about ‘Snickers’ it sounds like it should be worn and not eaten.
I read that plans are afoot to inject between 2% and 5% hydrogen into the gas grid within two years. The owners of the gas grid, National Gas, say this amount of hydrogen will not be noticeable and that domestic appliances could happily burn a mix of up to 40% hydrogen. It does worry me a bit as I thought you needed to burn a larger volume of hydrogen to get the same heat output. Is it another artful way to make people pay more?
Three London Labour MPs have this morning come out as being against Sad Dicks expanded ULEZ scheme. The more I hear of this scheme, the more it looks like a way of Sad Dick raising more money from Londoners over and above Council Tax. But it is the weasel words that Sad Dick uses that get me. He says 4,000 people die in London every year from air pollution, but where does he get that number? Only one person, a child, has ever had the cause of death on their death certificate recorded as air pollution, so where does his 4,000 come from? He claims that he has brought in a scrappage scheme, for non-compliant vehicles, worth up to £9,500. But this is disingenuous, only vans can get that much. Most drivers can only get up to £2,000 or £5,000 if it has been adapted professionally as a mobility car. Of course, only people living within the scheme area can get the money, tough if you lift 10 feet outside the zone and commute into London every day.
I hear that Airbus is moving the fitting out of A330 wings to its Brougton factory. Currently the wings are built there and then flown to Bremen for fitting out before again being shipped to the final assembly line. The North Wales factory is to hire an additional 60 people to carry out the work. So, Airbus will be saving quite a lot as the finished wings sets will only be shipped once, to the final assembly line. To make up for the work lost in Bremen, Airbus intend to move A320neo work there. Of course, this suits Airbus as they are trying to increase A320neo production. It looks like a win-win situation for all concerned.
In the latest opinion poll on Scottishland independence the NO vote has a 12-point lead if the undecided are included. If you exclude the undecided only 37% support independence! At the same time, only 9% see independence as a priority. In addition, the major political worries identified are the NHS and the cost of living, while independence and gender recognition, the current SNP focus, don’t get a look in. No wonder Wee Krankie is getting desperate, will she survive the next party conference?
Another fine sunny morning and it’s warmer with no frost. I got Felix Chicken for breakfast, and the nice feeder has left the radio on “to keep me company.” Today it is tuned to Talk Radio. I was looking forward to listening to that Harty Brewer woman, but she is on holiday and it’s Dr David ‘load of’ Bull. At least it’s not tuned to LBC and that Jobbie idiot at 10 am.
I see a drilling company has won an appeal to allow the drilling of a test well in Balcombe, West Sussex to establish if the oil underground is worth extracting. Of course, the local NIMBYs are object and the Green lobby are moaning about fracking and pollution. I understand that the oil underground in this field is like the Wytch Farm field in Dorset, and only needs to be pumped up and not fracked. The Green lobby seem to be content to see us import oil with all the transport pollution that entails but not to exploit our own oil with all its savings.
The long-awaited order for new aircraft by Air India has finally been announced with Airbus and Boeing both benefiting. Airbus would appear to have done slightly better than Boeing as they have received an order for 250 planes while Boeing has an order for 220 planes. The Airbus order is for 210 A320 family aircraft and 40 A350 planes which is good news for the U.K. as the A320 wings are built in North Wales and the engines for the A350 are Rolls Royce Trent XWB. The Boeing order is a mix of 10 of 777, 20 of 787 Dreamliners and the remainder are 737 Max. Air India is to take advantage of six A350-900 planes that Airbus have already manufactured for an order from Aeroflot that sanctions have stopped them from delivering and these will be reconfigured for Air India and delivered later this year. The other A350s are -1000s and will start to be delivered in 2025.
I told you last week that new car sales for January had recovered up a bit from the previous January, now I have had a chance to look at the numbers in a bit more depth. The big winner was ordinary petrol engine cars, while pure EV sales were up by what looked to be a big percentage, the actual number was not so good, as it is a much smaller number in total and in any case many of the EVs sold were hybrids of one sort or another. I read that a survey has revealed that people are returning to buying petrol cars because of waits of over a year being quoted for some EVs, their very high prices and the lack of public chargers. There were only just over 37,000 public chargers in the U.K. in January, and they are being added to at about 800 a month. To reach the government public charger target of 300,000 by 2030 there needs to be 3,130 installed a month.
I hear that there is a shortage of eggs in New Zealand, something to do with a shortage of chickens cause by government policy. This is causing a bit of a problem to cruise ships that replenish there, as they go through thousands of eggs daily. A cruise ship recently called at the small port for Dunedin, and it was discovered that the local small supermarket had a stock of eggs but would only sell a dozen per customer. Apparently, the supermarket had ordered 450 dozen and had only received 90 dozen hence the rationing. The cruise ship rounded up 20 crewmen and sent them to each purchase a dozen. I am not sure how far 20 dozen eggs would have gone on the ship, but they never got the chance as the shop manager realised what was happening and refused to serve them!
Mercedes launched their car, the W14, for the 2023 F1 season this morning and I must admit it looks very nice in its new black livery. Why black you ask, well apparently it save a little weight and reduced weight equals a faster car. They have also redesigned a number of parts to make them lighter. More importantly, they are believed to have been able to wring more horsepower out of the engine. Under the current F1 rules, engine development is banned, but there is a loophole. You may redesign and replace parts for reliability, and I understand that this is the direction being taken by all the big engine makers.
I was just formulating a paragraph on Sir Beer Korma making a speech boasting about how the Labour Party were no longer anti-Semitic. But he appears to have been sidelined by the announcement that Wee Krankie is holding an emergency press conference this morning at which it is said she is going to resign. Korma seems to have pretty poor luck with his timing and if the rumours are right, he will be side-lined again. I am sure I will have more to say on Wee Krankie tomorrow when more becomes clear on her resignation.
Well, for the first time in ages it is a little damp this morning. Recently it has been dry, so it is about time it rained, before the water companies start shouting about a drought. The Rich Boy’s kids have been in and out of Number 10 these last few days, I suppose that is because it is half term. I have found out that they are OK, they have been quite nice to me, talking to me and stroking me, but leaving me alone to do my own thing, completely the opposite of Bozzie’s little monster.
The word I hear is that two of the nuclear-powered attack submarines the Australians are to procure under the AUKUS agreement could be built in the U.K. What the boats actually are has not yet been decided, but it seems that Australia’s shipbuilding industry doesn’t currently have the ability to build them. I understand that a lot of manufacturing and support infrastructure needs to be constructed, including docks capable of servicing them and this could take years. Hence it makes sense to build the earliest boats abroad with some parts made in Australia.
I get the impression, from what I hear, that Wee Krankie may have jumped before she was pushed. Of late, her halo as the saviour of Scottishland has begun to slip. The problems have begun to stack up, some big and some small, but the pile looks like it has begun to become difficult to hide. Let’s have a look at some of them, there is the missing £600,000 from the SNP accounts, the ferries for islands, the fall in education standards, major problems with the Scottishland NHS, drug taking, the lowest life expectancy in the U.K., (in some areas of Glasgow it is 14 years less), and problems with road building. All of this under her watch. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that the polls say Yes to independence is at least 13% behind No and that her policy of making the next Scottishland general election a de facto referendum is likely to be voted down at the next SNP conference in March. I would hate to be the new first minister with all that lot to sort out.
This morning I read that Centrica, the owners of British Gas, have reported a record annual profit of £3.3 billion and unlike the big oil companies they look like they will be paying over a £1 billion in windfall tax. I see that British Gas contributed around £750 million of that profit but most of it came from other activities such as oil and gas production and exploration. I bet their 3p a share dividend will be welcomed by all the pensions that hold the shares, especially after not paying a dividend last year.
Another day another spending promise from Labour. Yesterday they said they were going to employ another 13,000 police support officers but gave no hint of how much they thought it would cost or how they would pay for it. I seem to hear spending promise after spending promise and every time someone asks how it is going to be paid for the answer is either taxing ‘the rich’ or a windfall tax. What will they do when ‘the rich’ leave the country and the oil and gas prices fall so there is no windfall to tax?
Unsurprisingly the administrators of FlyBe have failed to find a buyer for the airline that went bust three weeks ago. They have held discussions with several international airlines but to no avail. Now they are making another 25 permanent staff immediately redundant (leaving under 20) and are to start to sell off assets for whatever can be raised. I can’t see why anyone would even look at buying a company that was losing £5 million a week and had no prospect of reversing that as all their profitable routes had been ‘cherry-picked’ by other airlines when they went bust previously.
I happened to fall on an interview with the manager of a London Overground ‘traincare’ team manager (when did a cleaner become a ‘traincarer’?). He was talking about how disgusting some passengers are and how on Friday and Saturday nights they had to remove what he called ‘bodily fluids’ from trains. However, his biggest complaint was about people who take their dogs on trains and let them sit on the seats and poo on them. Apparently, dog poo is very difficult to get out of the Overground seat moquette fabric without damaging it. I can suggest two answers, either change the seat materials or make dogs wear nappies.
Here in London, we have had another damp night but, despite being a bit grey this morning, it is not raining. The Rich Boy disappeared yesterday evening on a trip to Northern Ireland. I hear he wants to talk to them about a new version of the Northern Ireland Protocol that has been negotiated with the EU. I think he is in for a hard time today.
BAE Systems has received a $466 million order from the US Department of Defence for the M109 155mm self-propelled gun. BAE system will make the tracked guns, transporters and loaders at its factories in the US. In the U.K. we currently use the AS90 self-propelled gun, but we are currently looking at a replacement as it is now showing its age. So, could we also be looking to buy the M109? The word I hear is that we are leaning towards buying the Korean K9 self-propelled gun that has been an export success with over 600 units being sold around the world.
While on the subject of self-propelled guns, I hear that the Poles have just ordered an extra 48 of the domestically produced KREB 155mm Howitzer. This is in addition to an order for 100 from the Ukraine who were gifted some early in their war with Russia. Apparently, the Ukrainians liked them so much that they decided to buy them. However, I hear that the KREB is in effect a mash-up of a locally made tracked chassis, the turret of British Army AS90 which is made by Vickers and the 155 mm Howitzer from BAE Systems which is probably the same as the one in the M109.
When Air India announced its huge 470 plane orders for aircraft from Boeing (220) and Airbus (250) earlier this week in among the details but hardly reported was that Air India had also taken options on a further 70 Boeing planes (50 x 737 Max and 20 x 787). Options are not firm orders but for a small fee give the customer a reserved position in the queue to buy planes that normally has to be exercised by a specific date. When I read of the Boeing options I did wonder if Airbus had also sold options to Air India. Today I see that in interviews in the Indian press they are reporting that Air India took a total of ‘370 options and further aircraft purchase rights.’ Now logically this would mean that Air India took 300 options on Airbus planes which makes me ask on what models? But search as a can, I can’t find the answer to that question, I wonder why?
I hear that Sad Dicks long-term plans to move Smithfield and Billingsgate markets, and later Spitalfield market as well, to a huge area of land by Dagenham Dock have hit a snag. The ancient City of London markets are governed by legislation that means that to move them an Act of Parliament is necessary. Consequently, a private bill has been laid before parliament and it is currently in the committee stage and this means that objections must be considered and one serious one has been. Apparently, Romford market was established by Royal Charter in 1247 and as part of the charter, no other market is allowed to be held within a day’s ‘sheep’s drive’ of the market. A ‘sheep drive’ is an archaic term for how far a sheep can be expected to walk in a day and is accepted as being six and two-thirds miles. The distance from Romford market to the new site is three miles. While Romford is a retail market and the new markets are mainly wholesale, they do occasionally sell to the public and this would be a problem. I wait to discover what the answer is to this dilemma.
Five councils are banding together to challenge the expansion of the London ULEZ in court. The four London boroughs, Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon and Surrey County councils are to seek a judicial review of the decision. I understand they want the review to investigate the legality of the decision. It is known that the public consultation showed that 80% of the people in the affected area were against the expansion. As a minimum they want an exemption for key workers, taxi drivers and the corridors for people living outside the expanded zone to places like hospitals to be established. Sad Dick has demanded that any legal action should be withdrawn.
The remains of a Roman soldier’s pay slip have been discovered by Israeli archaeologists in Masada. The slip deals with two periods’ wages, Roman soldiers were paid every four months and the slip is very fragile and only partial. It shows that the soldier was charged for things like his uniform and fodder for his horse and the sums nearly took up all his wages. However, it is believed that in those days (72 BC) it was expected that soldiers made money on the side by looting. Nothing seems to change.
A warmish morning, with the sun just peeping through the cloud. I hear it is much nicer in the Southeast rather than up North where it’s been wet and windy. I wonder if I will get on the windowsill this afternoon?
The Cornwall County Council has just given planning permission for the construction of a thermal power station in the village of Helston. Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) have been given permission to drill two geothermal wells and to test the flow. GEL already have built a small geothermal plant, Britain’s first, and it is expected to be able to export 3Mw to the grid later this year. I can’t find how big the plant at Helston is planned to be, but I expect it will be a similar 3Mw. Not a huge amount, but my guess is that it will be a lot more reliable than solar or wind.
Richard Brandon’s Virgin Group had a big win in the London High Court yesterday. Virgin were suing Alaska Airways over the breach of a royalty payments agreement. In 2014 Alaska Airways bought Virgin America from the Virgin Group and agreed to pay an additional $8 million per year for 16 years for the right to the name Virgin America. In 2019 Alaska decided to retire the Virgin America brand and immediately stopped paying the royalty payments, hence the court case. The judge agreed with Virgin Group and ordered Alaska Airway to resume the payments as they still had the rights to use the name.
Last year British Airways wet-leased four Airbus A320s for the summer period. Today I learn they are again going to wet lease four A320s but this time for a full year, from March ’23 to March ’24. This year they also have a Titan Airways A320 on wet lease until 23rd March. BA still has 5 x A320s and 5 x A321s on order. I also hear that following the collapse of FlyBe some 43 pairs of weekly take-off and landing slots are being returned to British Airways. This equates to over six return flights a day and BA are yet to announce what they are going to do with them.
I just really don’t understand Network Rail’s thinking these days. First I read that weekday train travel is still down and that weekend travel is now back over pre-Covid numbers. In fact, I hear that Govia Thameslink, the company that operates Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink services are to sell cheap advance purchase weekday tickets to encourage people back to the daily commute. So basically, Saturday and Sunday are now the busy days on the trains into London. So why are Network Rail closing lines into London Victoria this weekend, meaning that Southern and Gatwick Express are disrupted? Why don’t they do the work on Mondays and Fridays which are the new quiet days?
The latest thing to go woke are Roald Dahl books. New editions are now available in which ‘nasty’ words have been removed. For example, Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now described as “enormous”. In The Twits, Mrs Twit is no longer “ugly and beastly” but just “beastly” and I mustn’t forget the Oompa Loompas who are now ‘small people’ instead of ‘small men’. Miss Trunchbull in Matilda was originally a “most formidable female”, is now a “most formidable woman” and so it goes on. The publishers say they are, “a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature.” Once you read ‘collective’ you know it will be woke.
It seems that some Bristol City fans got a rude shock last night when their flight from Bristol to Newcastle was cancelled at the last minute. The flight, taking supporters up to the North their match with Sunderland this afternoon was pulled because of the storms up North. The supporters were flying early and staying overnight before the game, so they had to rush around looking for an alternative. Luckily there was a train from Bristol Temple Meads, but a last-minute ticket for the five-hour journey cost them £110 instead of the £50 one-hour flight. If City win it will all be worthwhile.
That’s me finished for the day. It’s still grey but mild in Downing Street so I might try going outside and seeing what it’s like on the window sill. If it’s not warm enough I can always snooze in a waiting room chair until dinner time, they are nice and comfortable. I’ll chat to you all again next week.
© WorthingGooner 2023