Good morning everyone, and welcome to another week of news and trivia from your cat reporter. It was dry when I ventured out before my breakfast, but now it has been consumed I see rain on the window. It looks like an interesting week is coming with my old boss Bozzie appearing before the Privileges Committee, that should be fun.
Do you remember that in the budget it was announced that there is to be a competition to select a supplier of small modular reactors? Well, I read that there is a new British company on the block. Newcleo is based in London and has big ideas. They have already raised £300 million, much of it from Italy’s Agnelli family, who made much of their money from Fiat. The company has a very different reactor design that uses liquid lead for cooling and a mixed oxide fuel that includes plutonium which is a waste product of our current reactors. They expect to submit the design for approval by the British regulator later this year. I understand the U.K. has a store of surplus plutonium. Newcleo, say they want to raise another £900m and have a plan to build a demonstration reactor in both France and Italy and then a series of 30 Mw reactors in the U.K. together producing 6 Gw.
If you ever travel on a Thameslink train and have a look at the Thameslink network diagrammatic map that is over each pair of doors, you will see a dotted line indicating a service to Ashford in Kent branching off the line to Sevenoaks. A note below the line says, “Services on this route are being planned.” The only problem is this is not true. Back before Covid and its collapse of passenger numbers there was a plan to run through the central core tunnel trains from Welwyn Garden City to Ashford, but it was cancelled partially due to Covid and partially due to the disastrous 2018 timetable introduction. It was felt that at the time the core tunnel couldn’t cope with the additional trains. Now the plan has been put on semi-permanent hold. That is not to say that this service will never happen, but it is highly unlikely to be anytime soon.
I hear that there are plans to restore passenger train services in Jamaica. The plan is to restore the line from Kingston along the coast the two miles to Trench Town and then extend the service to the island’s 3rd biggest town Spanish Town. The tracks mostly exist as does the rolling stock from when services were stopped in 1992 after a hurricane downed a bridge between Trench Town and Spanish Town. The tracks to Trench Town, where the Bob Marley Museum is located, still carry the occasional freight train, there are six locomotives in Kingston of which four are needed, and the central railway station in Kingston has, strangely, never closed.
I read that it is not just the Arsenal men’s football team that have been having a good season. The Arsenal Women’s under-sixteen team have just won the FA Girls’ England Talent Pathway League without losing a match and only conceding four goals all season. They only have one match left to play and that is the final of the Ladies Youth Cup against Manchester United having already beaten Manchester City 8 – 0 in Manchester.
The members of the RMT employed by Network Rail have today voted to accept an offer that is scaled so that the poorest paid workers get the largest increases. Of course, the settlement of this dispute doesn’t directly affect the separate dispute the RMT has with the 14 operating railway companies. However, it must add to the mounting pressure on the union to settle the dispute soon.
After the US lost a Reaper reconnaissance drone over the Black Sea last week when it appears to have been in a collision with a Russian Su27 that bent its propeller, the Yanks have been flying Global Hawk drones over the Black Sea this weekend. The Americans claim that a Russian jet struck the drone’s propeller after a pair of jets are shown on video making repeated close passes. The Americans say the jets tried to disrupt the drone with their jet wash but got too close, while the Russians say the drone crashed because it manoeuvred too sharply and lost control. The video released by the Americans shows the jets passing very close to the drone. The Global Hawk is jet powered and larger than the Reaper and can carry missiles for self-defence so it may make any repeat of the incident interesting.
Good morning diary fans. Grey and damp again this morning. The Rich Boy has been tutting a lot as he has been reading the report into the Metropolitan Police that has basically said that the force is full of scumbags and needs to change quickly. It says it has got too big and should be broken up if it doesn’t change. Well, I can’t say I have much to do with the coppers, personally I have found the man on the front door is very nice and I get on with him brilliantly. Also, there are a number of armed officers who patrol up and down the street who always stop and say hello when I’m outside.
The Royal Caribbean cruise ship Symphony of the Seas has just set a new record for the most passengers carried across the Atlantic on a single journey. The ship was on a repositioning cruise from its winter base in Miami and spent nine full days at sea crossing to Malaga before moving on to Barcelona where the cruise ended. The ship carried 7,604 people, made up of 5,350 passengers and 2,204 crew and was very nearly at 100% capacity. The ship will now go into dry dock in Cadiz where it will undergo maintenance and a minor refit before commencing a summer of 7-day Western Mediterranean cruises out of Barcelona. It will then return to Miami at the end of October.
American Company Last Energy has claimed that it has sold 24 of its small modular reactors to British industry. The Last Energy reactor produces 20Mw and this is said to cost £100 million each. I can see a number of problems here; the Last Energy reactor does not have an approved design in the U.K., if it applies for the permissions and licenses today it could be expected to be approved in about four years. Although there are several U.K. companies that could use 20Mw of power, like chemical plants, or steel works, most would need it every day of the year and even a nuclear plant must go offline regularly for refuelling and maintenance. Could these large companies afford £200 million for two reactors, a working one and its backup? Plus, all the manpower necessary to run it? I am not convinced they have watertight orders.
It seems that FIFA have a little bit of a problem developing over the 2026 World Cup in North America. It has been discovered that one of the chosen stadium’s pitches is too narrow for international football or ‘soccer’ as the Yanks call it. The nearly new SoFi stadium in Los Angeles was favourite to host the final but that now looks to be impossible. One of the conditions for a stadium to host the final is that it must have the capacity to seat 80,000 people. This stadium can nominally seat 90,000 and has done for major American football matches but that game uses a narrower pitch than association football. The pitch size can be adjusted by taking out seats to increase the pitch width, but doing so would reduce the seating capacity to 70,000 which is below the FIFA size for the final. Fortunately, the stadium’s capacity is big enough to host earlier rounds and there are other stadiums that can host the final.
The Italian Government has announced that has restarted looking at building a bridge across the straits of Messina. The idea is to build a suspension bridge between Calabria and Sicily. The bridge would have to be around 5 km long and the current plan includes a central span 3 km long. That would be a world record for a suspension bridge beating the current record of 2.02 km held by Turkey’s Canakkale Bridge. A bridge across the straits has been dreamed of since Roman times but in earlier days the very fast currents proved to be a major obstacle. In more recent times the fact that a major seismic fault line runs under the straits has given more cause for concern. The town of Messina has been destroyed by earthquakes more than once.
In Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, a police raid on a disused bingo hall has found it being used as a cannabis farm. The police were tipped off by the National Grid who became suspicious of the huge amounts of power being consumed by the supposedly empty building. The police found 3,000 plants being grown in 20 different rooms and have valued the crop at £5 million. The building was unoccupied when it was raided, but the police found a kitchen, food and clothing. I wonder if the growers had also got a tip-off that they were about to be raided, after all a cannabis farm on that scale is big business.
King Jug Ears III has put out an ‘official’ Coronation playlist. It is a mixture of old pop music and popular classical music. It is supposed to represent up-market songs. I can hardly believe that he picked some of the tunes on the list. The classical stuff yes, but not the pop. I just can’t see the old boy jigging around to some of the sixty’s stuff on the list, with the likes of ‘Come Together’ by the Beatles, ‘Daddy Cool’ by Boney M or ‘Waterloo Sunset’ by the Kinks. All music that I hear on the radio, but I just don’t associate it with old Jug Ears. I have always suspected that he was, in the expression of the time, ‘square’.
Morning all, guess what, it’s wet again! Down near the gardener’s shed there is a bowl on the ground that used to hold some bulbs, I think they were hyacinths, in the flat when my saviour lived here. The bulbs and compost have long gone but rainwater accumulates in the bowl and the garden birds and I like to drink from it. I can always tell how much it has been raining by how full the bowl is. Today it was overflowing.
I see the green blob have found something else to moan about. They think that there is a loophole in proposed rules about putting gas boilers into new build homes. Apparently, the rules are expected to say that hydrogen fuelled boilers are allowed and the green blob point out that most gas boilers on the market today are capable of using hydrogen. Therefore, they fear that after the deadline, developers will be able to carry on installing gas boilers and connecting them to the mains and that they will never burn hydrogen.
Sir Beer Korma comes in for a bit of stick in this morning’s paper for voting against the removal of the lifetime pension pot limit while enjoying a ‘special’ unlimited pension pot of his own. While employed as the director of public prosecutions he had a special arrangement, set up by a motion in parliament, that allowed him to not pay the tax that ordinary people would pay. In fact, he still enjoys the benefits of this one-person scheme and it continues to apply to all the money paid into the scheme while he was DPP. So, it’s a case of do as I say and not as I do.
The Finnish nuclear power company Fortum has signed an agreement with Rolls-Royce to investigate the possibility of using Rolls-Royce small modular reactors in Finland and Sweden. I find it very odd that Rolls-Royce can strike a deal to possibly build their SMRs in Finland, together with an earlier deal with Czechoslovakia but our own government is dilly-dallying and talking about a competition for an SMR supplier.
It seems there is some sort of row going on between Russia and Kazakhstan over the Baikonur cosmodrome. Back in the early 1950s, when both countries were part of the Soviet Union, Moscow built a facility to test ICBMs at Baikonur, that was used to launch Sputnik 1 and later spacecraft and slowly developed into the Soviet Union’s cosmodrome from which all space flights were launched. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia continued to use the facility and negotiated a fee of $100 million a year. Kazakhstan is not happy with this arrangement as they think it should have been increased over the years but the fee is fixed. While the Russians are not happy having to launch from a foreign country and have plans to build a cosmodrome in Russia. The Russians have spent around $1 billion on developing a new rocket and in the meantime want to launch the new medium-lift space rocket Soyuz 5 from Baikonur. However, its new launch pad is very behind in construction and the first launch, that was originally down for 2021 is now said to have slipped to 2024 at the earliest. I reckon if Russia upped the annual payment a bit that launch pad might get finished this year.
In the US, the Air Force has been having a problem of its own and had to ground around 400 big jets while engineers checked out pins that hold on the tailplane. The main planes temporarily grounded (until pins could be checked and, in some cases, replaced) were the KC135 tanker and the E3 AWACS aircraft. Both these aircraft were built by Boeing and are based on the same airframe, what was the Boeing 707 passenger jet. Apparently, a routine inspection found that some of the pins in use were too small and others were of the wrong material which could have led to a catastrophic in-flight failure. I hear that on inspection more than 10% of the aircraft had the fault. Whether it was an original manufacturing fault or wrong replacements being used is still under investigation
In Brighton, a young couple arrived home at their rented flat one evening recently, to find that their doormat had disappeared. Entering the flat they found a note from the Brighton and Hove council that said their doormat had been seized by the council and they had a month to recover it, on payment of £20, or it would be destroyed or sold. It seems that the council deem door mats outside the front door of flats a danger and fire risk. Apparently, this council policy was put in place ‘because of Grenfell’ and doormats must now be inside of flats’ front doors. However, the couple rent the flat privately and have never been told of this new council rule. The couple say the council can keep the mat, why on earth would they pay £20 for a secondhand mat when they can get a new one at Robert Dyas for well under £10? After getting a load of bad publicity, the council said they knocked on the flat’s front door, to give the occupants a chance to take the mat in, but no one was home so they just removed it, as it breached fire regulations. They say that under the circumstances they will return the mat free of charge. It pays to ridicule the council in the press.
Well, the sun was out, and it was quite mild when I went for my constitutional this morning. But it didn’t last long, it was raining again before 9 o’clock. I watched Bozzie on the office TV yesterday when he was in front of the Privileges Committee. I was surprised, he looked quite smart and had obviously had a haircut for the occasion. Harriet Harperson didn’t look very happy, especially when she intervened on the question about a particular event where Bozzie said his advisers told him it wasn’t a party and she said if you had been driving at 100 mph, you could see you were, and didn’t need someone to tell you you were, so why did you need advisers to tell you it wasn’t a party, he said, “Because they were there and I wasn’t”. She then shut up.
The rumour mill has been working overtime on the story that Ford are to reuse the iconic Ford Capri name, the car that thousands of ‘boy racers’ dreamed of owning. The story is that the new version will be electric. Ford have refused to confirm the story, but strangely loads of details are in the papers. For example, I hear the car will look strangely reminiscent of the 1970/80s version with its four headlights but will be up to date inside with touch screens, wireless phone charging, car play, digital instruments and heated massage seats. The word is that it will be able to travel over 300 miles on a full charge and do 0 to 60 in 6.4 seconds. The bad news is that it will start at £40,000.
A research ship in a dry dock in Edinburgh had an accident yesterday. The 75-metre-long ship toppled over and is now leaning on the dock wall at a 45° angle. Twenty-five people were injured with 15 having to go to hospital. I hear the ship fell off its supports in the dock where it is in some sort of storage. The research vessel is currently owned by the estate of the late Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. When he left the company, he vowed to use his money for humanitarian reasons and the ship was used to search for shipwrecks and war graves. However, some problems arose and since Covid struck the ship has been out of use and in the dry dock.
Word reaches me the Indian Government has approved the purchase from France of 24 Dassault Rafale M fighter bombers. The M stands for marine and the planes will equip two squadrons on the Indian aircraft carriers. The Indians have in the past bought aircraft from Russia, but they do not produce a modern carrier-based fighter, having only one rather old and decrepit carrier that suffers serious mechanical problems and is accompanied by two sea-going tugs if it ever moves out of port. That left the Indians with two choices of carrier-based plane, the Rafale M or the American F-35. As the Indian Air Force already operates 36 x Rafale C and the aircraft is said to be considerably cheaper than the F-35 their choice is not surprising. But in saying that, the F-35 is a stealth fighter and even more capable than the very capable Rafale.
The UN has published yet another IPCC report on climate change, once again hysterically warning the world that “the end is nigh” due to global warming. Over the last fifty years they have predicted an ice age, catastrophic flooding, the melting of all glaciers, a hole in the ozone layer giving everyone skin cancer and the melting of the ice caps by now, and that’s just what I can remember without the internet. How many have come true? None. Will this latest one come true? I very much doubt it. Is net zero the answer? No, it’s part of the problem.
While on the topic of climate change and carbon emissions, I read of a report into football teams flying to their matches in the U.K. This didn’t include flying to European games where the need is more obvious. The report looked at 100 matches and found that teams flew to 87 of them. The shortest trip was 27 minutes and the longest 77 minutes. It all sounds bad but how much of it was governed by the return journey? Must clubs use luxury coaches to travel to games, obviously you wouldn’t fly from Liverpool to Everton, but you might if you were a London team playing in Newcastle on a Sunday evening where you couldn’t get a train back (because there aren’t any) and a coach would get you back at three in the morning. A lot of fuss about nothing.
A couple of bits of rail news reach me this morning. Firstly, Transport for London have asked for more funds to buy additional Elizabeth line trains. It seems that now the link between Old Oak Common and Euston has been put back some years they have realised that thousands of people getting off HS2 and onto the Elizabeth line at Old Oak Common is not a good idea. The Elizabeth line is already setting passenger records and I have heard that right now they would like to add two carriages to trains. The second train story is that Transport for the Southeast has announced that they want a second London to Brighton line to relieve the very overcrowded current one. They have announced plans to reopen the line between Brighton and London via Lewis, Uckfield and Tunbridge Wells. This would mean reopening the line between Lewis and Uckfield that closed in 1969. Trains still run from Uckfield to London via Eridge and Groombridge. The section from Eridge to Tonbridge Wells closed in 1985 but it still exists as the privately owned Lavender Line that finishes short of the tunnel to Tunbridge Wells station. TfSE say reinstating this line and electrifying it for 95 mph trains would cost £550 million, which sounds cheap to me.
Well, yet another dry start to the day but I understand from the forecast on the office TV that by mid-morning it is going to rain again. This wet weather is getting a little tiresome. The feeder had a bit of a moan this morning as the Tesco delivery had not been put away and she had to hunt through a pile of carrier bags for the Felix. I don’t know who should put it away but it’s not me.
The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) has backed a plan to build what they term a Bristol Underground, but to me is a metro system with some bits in tunnels. The idea is to construct four lines, to Bristol Airport, to Bath, to Cribbs Causeway and to Emersons Green. The WEAC is to invest £13.6 million in a development plan and have back a costing of £7 billion, while consultants say that a cost of £18 billion would be more realistic. One major problem is that coal mines litter the area and there are many underground workings that have not been properly documented, so tunnelling is problematic, even if the funding can be found.
The main problem with the rail links to Heathrow is that they all link the airport to London. The Elizabeth line and the Piccadilly line serve all four airport terminals with trains running from central London via Paddington. This gives people travelling to Heathrow by train from the West of England and/or Wales the choice of either getting off the train at Reading and catching the express bus or continuing their journey to Old Oak Common or Paddington and backtracking to Heathrow. Years ago, a scheme was envisaged where trains would leave the Great Western Main Line just after Langley and travel in a tunnel to the station at Terminal 5 which was built with extra platforms in anticipation. This route was never constructed due to the pandemic, but I hear the word that it is back under consideration as it has been classified as a nationally significant infrastructure project.
The Tesco branch in Swansea has just had to remove a bi-lingual in-store signpost directing shoppers to various products because its translators have made a silly mistake with one of the words. The sign pointed to dŵr – water; diodyd ynni – energy drinks; dŵr â blas – flavoured water and sboncen – squash. The problem is that sboncen actually is the game of squash, apparently the Welsh language doesn’t have a direct translation for the additive to water and the nearest you can get is, I am told, diod ffrwythau which means fruit drink.
I hear that ministers have been discussing whether the country should have a single household waste collection policy instead of leaving it to each individual council area as they do now. This means that different widely differing rules can apply from council area to council area. Some have bins for kitchen waste. In other areas that goes in general waste. Glass can have its own bin or go into the recycling bin. For people moving home it can be very confusing hence the suggestion of a nationwide policy. The only problem is this is expected to lead to every home having six bins, not easy if you live in a flat.
The Chinese maker of electric vehicles, BYD, has just launched a new EV called the Dolphin on the export market. Its first country for sales is Thailand and what is interesting is, like us, the Thais drive on the left. The Dolphin is currently made in China, but a factory is being built in Thailand to build 150,000 RHD Dolphins a year. The new model is a bit smaller than the Atto3 which will be the first BYD model to go on the market in the U.K., but it is the cost of the Dolphin that is the most interesting thing. In Thailand it is priced at $23,000 that is £18,720 in the U.K. which makes it cheaper than many equivalent-sized petrol cars.
Fun and games in the South Korean capital of Seoul yesterday when a zebra went on the run. The two-year-old male called Sero is said to have broken out down the wooden fence of his paddock at the city zoo and escaped. Pictures show him wandering around the city like a tourist, walking past cars at a red light, trotting down roads and occasionally breaking into a gallop. For over three hours the authorities failed to recapture him, but he eventually walked into a narrow blind alley where he was shot with a tranquilliser dart. He was then returned to the zoo, where he is reported to be none the worse for his day out. Good job it was a zebra that escaped and not a lion or tiger, I doubt that would have ended so happily.
Gosh, a sunny morning, that’s two in a row and the forecast is that it is going to be dry all day but rain overnight. I might be able to get on the window sill if it is not too chilly. It wasn’t very warm when I went out first thing and it was a bit windy. I hope it gets warmer as the day progresses.
Some terrible news today, Whiskers cat food has reduced the size of its servings rather than put up the price. If they do it, my fear is that my favourite Felix will follow suit. My little cat brain cannot comprehend how cutting down on what is supposed to be a measured portion necessary for a cat to get all the nutrients that it needs works. I think they have got it wrong by putting on a compulsory diet.
King Jug Ears and his Horse were supposed to be on a state visit to France this weekend but have postponed the trip due to a week of aggro on the French streets. The Frogs have been revolting over their midget leader issuing a decree to enforce changes to the official retirement age. It is being increased from 62 to 64 despite the French assembly refusing to pass the legislation. So, the people have been taking to the streets and setting fire to things. The police say a 1,000,000 were out last night, while the unions say it was 3,000,000, so it was probably somewhere in the middle. Obviously, King Jug Ears doesn’t fancy being toasted.
In Africa a large crack in the ground is opening up as two continental plates drift apart. The movement is slow but relentless and scientists are predicting that in some thousands of years’ time they will be far enough apart for the ocean to rush in and form a new sea. The result will be that traditional land-locked nations like Uganda will have a coastline. Mind you, I don’t think I’ll be around to see the new sea.
This weekend a 90 metres in diameter asteroid is due to make what is called “a close pass” by the earth. The asteroid is expected to pass between the earth and the moon but, in space scientists’ terms, that is close. The asteroid is said to be travelling at 17,500 mph so it is going pretty quickly. If an asteroid of that size and speed was to hit the earth, it would make an awful mess. It is big enough to destroy a decent-sized city if it were to hit one. The asteroid’s path is due to bring it back close to the earth in 2026 before it heads off into space again.
Some time ago I told you that the first of the new Docklands Light Railway train sets had arrived in the U.K., but now I hear that they will not be going into service until March next year. The good news is that there will be 54 new trains to replace the current 33 and they will all be longer and have air conditioning. The bad news is that they will only have a few seats as they can carry far more standing passengers.
On Saturday the 10th of June there is going to be an open day in my back garden at No 10 as part of Open Gardens Squares Weekend when over 100 normally private gardens will be open to the public. Most will be making a charge for charity but No 10 will be free. The problem is there will only be 48 tickets available in two groups of 24 and you have to enter a ballot to win tickets which you can do at londongardenstrust.org Each winner will get two tickets and you have to bring photo ID with you. I promise I will do my best to come and say hello if you win tickets.
Well, I’m done and I am going to try my favourite windowsill this afternoon. It’s in the sun and it’s dry. So once again I’ll be back in one of my favourite spots, but if it’s not warm enough I will soon be back in the waiting room chair until dinner time. I will be back with you all again next week.
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