Good morning everyone and welcome to another week in the madness that is modern Britain! The biggest madness to arrive over the weekend was Sir Beer Korma’s idea of voting reform. Apparently, he wants to add something like six million voters to the electorate by giving the vote to sixteen-year-olds and overseas workers in the country. Call me a cynical old cat but it looks to me that Labour thinks these groups will vote for them. Why should temporary workers get to vote here? If they become British, then that’s a bit different. Also, sixteen-year-olds, in general, don’t work and pay tax, are still in full-time education, can’t drive, can’t fight in the Army, can’t go to the pub, can’t buy lottery tickets, can’t marry, etc., etc, so why are they deemed old enough to vote?
It was announced early this morning that Zelensky and his team are coming to London today for what are said to be ‘substantive talks’ with the government. Now I find that interesting and wonder what we are going to give him this time. Is it going to be more main battle tanks, light tanks, more drones, air defence missiles, even fighter jets, or possibly all of them? Whatever it is I very much doubt they will be capable of buying them, so I reckon we will be giving them stuff that you are paying for again.
The name of Lord Frost has been placed on the list of Tory candidates for vacant constituencies. The only problem is as a Lord of the Realm, entitled to sit in the House of Lords, he cannot be an MP. However, I hear that he is going to resign from the Lords if a safe seat is found. He is a proper Brexiteer, and my guess is he thinks he would make a much better party leader than the Rich Boy and I suspect that many party members agree with him. I can see a scenario where the Rich Boy loses the next general election and resigns the leadership and Frosty takes over as a new broom. I can see him marmalising Sir Beer at the dispatch box.
Fabio’s Gelato, based in Hitchin and with a second ice cream parlour in Letchworth only began making its Percy Pig ice cream last week, but they have already had a letter from Marks and Spencer. The polite letter said they are quite happy that Fabio Vincenti carries on adding Percy Pigs to his ice cream but says that Percy Pig is their trademark and suggests he changes the name to something like ‘Pig Faces’. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a marketing man came up with that awful suggestion and Fabio agrees. He is to rename the ice cream to ‘Fabio’s Pigs’ which I think sounds much better and should satisfy everyone. My only surprise is that M&S have not launched their own Percy Pig ice cream, they have used the name on everything from pyjamas to shopping bags.
I read that HMS Glasgow, the first Type 26 frigate, that is being fitted out at the moment has suffered sabotage. Some 60 cables on the ship have been cut and the cost of the damage is being assessed in both time and money. Some 23,000 cables for both power and data were installed and tested during the ship’s construction so it may not be able to rerun some of them. But the question I have is how has someone got access to do this? Security on this type of project is pretty tight and no one gets access without a security check. Someone has been free to wander around the ship cutting cables, so that points to a worker with a grudge. I guess the Old Bill will be carrying out one of their usual useless investigations and not finding the culprit.
I don’t know if you have ever watched that programme on one of the obscure TV channels where they follow the boats going out to catch king crabs. Well, I understand that Norwegian fishermen are now making a fortune catching them off their Arctic coast. Apparently, a Russian scientist had the bright idea of introducing red king crabs to the Russian Arctic. He brought in some 200 and they soon colonised the area. The adult king crab grows up to 18” across, weighs 4 Kg and has no natural predators. They also reproduce very quickly with each female laying up to 500 eggs a year. When the crabs first spread along the coast to Norway, they were considered a pest, but the European market for crab meat has taken off and now king crabs sell for €50 a kilo and those Norwegian fishermen are racking it in.
Today Kemi Badenoch is off to Switzerland to start negotiations on a free trade agreement. We currently have an agreement with them based on rolling over the old EU trade agreement, but it isn’t really suitable for the type of trade we do with the Swiss having been more slanted towards the French and the Germans. The current agreement hardly covers our common interests in the service and financial industries. The word I hear is that we will be including all the old things as well as negotiating on the new ones.
Morning all, it’s a rather nice sunny one and pleasantly warm here in London. It’s also relaxed in the office today, first we are having brunch with farmers in the garden, then the Rich Boy is going to Iceland for the Council of Europe meeting. I was interested to smell bacon being cooked; I’ll see if I can scrounge some. I heard on the radio this morning that unemployment went up by 0.1% to 3.1%, but there are still over 1.1 million job vacancies in the U.K. Are these the fruit pickers and lorry divers I heard about yesterday?
I see that the union representing consultants in the NHS are balloting their members on action after talks on their demands for a 35% wage increase broke down. This is absolute lunacy, the starting pay for newly qualified consultants is £88,364 pa increasing to £91,131 pa after a year. This increases to a maximum of £119,113 pa so a 35% increase must equate to something like a minimum of £30,000 a year, a wage many people would be happy to earn. On top of this consultants are also eligible for Local Clinical Excellence Awards and National Clinical Impact Awards. The level of LCEA paid depends on local arrangements but last year amounted to £7,900 per consultant. The NCIA is paid at three levels £20,000, £30,000 and £40,000 pa. These are not poorly paid workers but highly paid specialists who want even more.
In Derby the council has recently decided to sell off a car park, that they no longer use, for housing. Until recently the car park was used by council workers in a nearby building and by local residents. The council stopped using the building and decided to sell off the land where they think 30 houses could be built, so with very little notice the council closed the car park by placing a barrier across the entrance. But that wasn’t enough, the rear entrance to two houses leads through a wall onto the car park, so the council has concreted fences across the gate. Local residents think it is because they have formed a company to bid for the land with the intention of building only eight houses but also allotments, a community orchard and some local car parking. Could a council really be that petty?
The Australian police are busy testing drivers involved in accidents with a new blood test in addition to the normal alcohol and drug tests. The new test is supposed to be able to detect if a driver is suffering fatigue from insufficient sleep. I am amazed that such a test is even possible let alone possible to carry out at the roadside. The threat is that if the test is successful, it will be taken up here. I don’t know if it is possible to define a fatigue level by how much sleep a person has had. People like Churchill and Thatcher are notorious for surviving on only a few hours’ sleep every night. How would it be possible to legislate for people like them?
I see that the Paris canals are being cleaned for the first time in 15 years because they might look ok but are horrid underwater, a complete dumping ground for Parisians. They are doing it section by section, first building a dam, then draining the water to a low level to capture the aquatic life. Then the last water is drained revealing all sorts of junk and treasures; thousands of wine bottles, rolls of carpet, hundreds of bikes, shopping trollies and old electrical goods like radios and fridges are revealed in the mud. But there are also a lot of things that have been stolen and dumped like mobile phones, chalices from churches and Jewellery. Even guns and swords were found amid the motor scooters, street signs and plastic bins. Finally, the mud is bulldozed out and the water let back in and the fish returned. That is also ready for more to be dumped and found in 15 years when it is all done again.
SNP MP Patrick Grady asked the question, “Why are there no ‘armoured’ ships based in Scotland? at Defence Questions in the Commons yesterday. The defence secretary took the question seriously, telling the idiot that the nuclear deterrent was based at Faslane, and the SNP policy was to get rid of it, but I was intrigued by the use of archaic language. The term ‘armoured ship’ disappeared with the last of the huge battleships and cruisers. Ships are no longer heavily armoured, instead they rely on missiles to stop them being attacked. If I would have been answering the question I would have told him that no ‘armoured ships’ are based anywhere in the U.K.and was he suggesting we return to a fleet of battleships based at Scapa Flow?
When the Scottishland polis applied for a warrant to search the home of Wee Krankie and her husband it took the judge two weeks to grant it. The question is why did it take so long? Surely if it had been a suspected drug factory or an armed robber the warrant would have been granted instantly. So, what was the difference in this case? They were looking for a missing £600,000 so this was a high-value crime. But of course, it was political and one would hope that the Scottishland judiciary were independent and not political. This event would seem to indicate otherwise. A more sceptical cat than me might suggest that a two-week delay gives people the chance to dispose of evidence and to move camper vans after being tipped off, but there is no evidence that happened. But still, no reason for the delay has been given and I doubt it ever will be.
Another lovely morning here with a clear blue sky and it’s a touch warmer again. I understand we are in for a few nice days, with the possible exception of showers on Friday. I enjoyed the ‘Farm to Fork’ meeting in the back garden yesterday. Some nice people stroked me, and I tried some bacon (very nice), burger (nice) and chicken burger (the best).
The word in the aviation world is that America’s Delta Airline is about to place a bumper order for Airbus wide-body planes. The story is that they need to upgrade their fleet and will purchase up to 200 aircraft. They currently operate nearly 150 old Boeing 767s of various types and around 40 old Airbus A330ceo models. They also operate some 28 A350-900neo planes with 16 more still to be delivered and 22 Airbus A330-900neo with another 22 on order. It is the old Boeings that they really need to replace. They are well past their best and, apparently, Delta have looked at upgrading the Business Class offering on the 767 but it makes no sense financially. And the average age of the A330ceo fleet is over 20 years. The word is they will place a big order split mainly over A330neo, and A350-900neo and some A350-1000neo planes for the longer routes.
I hear that Westminster Council has backed down in its row with Greggs over them selling hot food late at night from its branch in Leicester Square. The company had found a big demand for their popular Sausage rolls from late-night revellers coming out of the bars and cinemas in the area, but the council said no. Greggs were appealing to the court with a three-day hearing pencilled in. But Westminster Council have backed down and Greggs will be allowed to sell sausage rolls and pasties until 1 am. However other hot food items must not be sold after 11 pm. So, if you want soup at midnight you can’t have it and must make do with a pastie. Stupid isn’t it, to me it looks like Westminster Council is being petty.
In Greenwich the council is at war with the residents of one of its estates. The homes on the estate don’t have any gardens, only small front yards and the council has been confiscating items from these ‘gardens’ like pot plants and gnomes claiming that they are safety and fire hazards. The residents claim that the council is working on a 360cm wide clear walkway from the front door where the building regulations only say 90cm are needed. Sounds like a case of council overkill to me.
Japan has recently lifted its compulsory Covid 19 face mask requirements quite some time after the rest of the world. Now I read that three years of compulsory masks has become ingrained in the Japanese lifestyle and with half the face covered many Japanese have forgotten how to smile. But it’s an ill will that blow no good and I hear of someone setting up a company that teaches people how to smile again. Apparently, business was good and it came to the notice of the Japanese press who publicised the company resulting in business increasing five times. What is that old saying – a fool and his money are soon parted.
Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of the famous Dambusters raid in WW2, when the RAF’s 617 Squadron attacked three hydroelectric dams in Germany with bouncing bombs flooding vast areas of land and damaging industries. To celebrate the anniversary a surviving Avro Lancaster flew over the RAF museum at Hendon and then over the 28 RAF Bomber Command airfields where Lancasters were based during WW2. If you saw it you were lucky as it was one of only two Lancs. still flying. Did you hear the glorious roar of its four Rolls Royce Merlin engines? Something never to be forgotten.
I hear that the Chinese authorities have written to several foreign embassies in Beijing telling them to take down what they refer to as ‘politicised propaganda’. This actually refers to Ukrainian flags that many of the embassies have chosen to fly. The problem is that embassies are actually treated as part of the nation they represent. This makes it almost impossible for the Chinese to enforce the demand short of throwing the embassy out of the country. I hear that, consequently, most of the embassies that received a letter intend to ignore it.
A pleasant warmish and sunny morning for my trip to the bottom of the garden. Once again, we are short of the Rich Boy who is off on another jolly. This time it’s to Japan and a G7 meeting. He is also expected to sign industrial and defence agreements with the Japanese which I hear are worth some £18 billion in Japanese investment in Britain. I hope he likes raw fish; I do, so he should have taken me.
I have been chuckling about this story of Ginge and Whinge who claim to have been involved in a ‘near catastrophic high-speed chase’ in New York. It sounds like their SUV was followed by photographers in cars and on motorbikes, everyone seems to be treating the story with a high degree of scepticism because a ‘high-speed chase’ in the middle of New York is hardly likely as the traffic is as bad as in London and averages about 8mph. The police say no one was hurt or arrested and there were no accidents. The Mayor of NY said, ‘A two-hour high-speed chase is hard to believe.’ Well, I’m sure something happened, and W&G were obviously reluctant to lead the reporters to where they were staying at a friend’s apartment. But it seems odd to me that this happened just when Ginge is involved in a court case about the withdrawal of routine armed police protection in the U.K.
Romania has just taken its last MiG-21 out of service. The old Soviet Union era fighter jet has lingered in Romanian Air Force service long after leaving front line service with most of the 60 nations who have operated it. The plane first flew in the mid 1950s and had been in service, in its various models, with the Romanians since 1962. Most of the dozen or so countries still operating it are not exactly major nations; like Yemen, Mali and Angola and most of them are just waiting for the delivery of more modern planes they have on order. Romania is replacing their MiG-21s with American F-16s and one of the few more important air forces still flying them, India, plans to withdraw them all by 2025.
The working from home era introduced during lockdown is melting away slowly, particularly in the world of finance. The latest company to tell its workers to get back to the office is Blackrock, who claim to be the world’s biggest money managers with some $6 trillion under their control. They have told their employees that they are expected to be back in the office at least four days a week from September. In the past where finance houses have led, other companies have followed.
Why is it that most of the strange stories I hear come from the US? On Saturday a police officer in Springfield, Colorado pulled over a driver for suspected drunk driving as the officer approached the car, he saw the driver move into the front passenger seat and put his dog behind the wheel. The man then claimed that he hadn’t been drunk driving. When the officer said he was going to arrest him on suspicion and take him to the police station to undergo tests the man attempted to run. However, in his inebriated state he only managed 60 yards. Isn’t Springfield the home of the Simpsons? Could the driver have been Homer, it sounds like the sort of thing he would have done.
Today’s news on the Type 31 Inspiration Class frigates currently under construction is that the MoD has decided to upgrade its armaments. For once the MoD has listened to critics who said that the ship, as ordered, carried too light attacking abilities. The beauty of the Babcock Type 31 design is that it is a big ship with plenty of space to carry whatever weapons a customer chooses. Although Babcock are building the ship, it’s armament are being supplied ‘free issue’ by the MoD and they had chosen only to install 4 x Mark 41 Vertical Launch Silos. However, the ships were designed with the structural steel to carry 4 x 8 Mark 41 VLSs and that is just what the MoD was announced today, the Type 31 will now have 32 cells, the same as Type 26 frigate being built by Bae Systems. The Mark 41 VLS cell is standard across many of our allies and can be loaded with a “quad pack” of four Sea Ceptor missiles meaning the Type 31 can now carry 128 missiles. This should do away with the line that the ship is under armed.
A burglary at Swindon West Police Point has led to Wiltshire Police calling a ‘critical incident’. The burglar took a police uniform and what the Wiltshire Police call ‘items of police equipment’. It seems the police are worried that someone plans to impersonate an officer. They have arrested an 18-year-old but not recovered anything. It makes me wonder if ‘police points’ (is that a new woke name for police stations?) have burglar alarms and should the Wiltshire Police not be embarrassed to have been burglarised (which is I understand the woke word to use).
Not quite so sunny this morning but still warmish. I see the Sunday Times annual Rich List is out this weekend and the word is the Rich Boy and his uber-rich wife have fallen down the list. It seems his wife’s wealth has not kept up with the growth of some others. Of course, the Queen has disappeared from the new list and her wealth has been passed to King Jug Ears. The way the list is compiled has been changed this year so Jug Ears is not very high.
The US Air Force has officially started the competition for what it is calling the Next Generation Air Dominance fighter (NGAD). This is the plane that will replace the F-22 Raptor that is widely regarded as being the most advanced fighter aircraft on the planet and one which they say they will not export to even their closest allies, not that any have been interested in buying it. The NGAD will be stealthy and employ all the latest technology. The big US contractors, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are all expected to take part and a winner could be announced as early as next year with a development contract being placed. The USAF expect to see a demonstrator flying and the three big airframe builders have already been doing this with some odd-looking test aircraft. They expect a competition between Pratt & Whitney and General Electric for the engine to power NGAD and it to be able to control around about five drone fighters flying alongside it.
I hear that Rolls-Royce are going to pause development of its huge new UltraFan engine that it recently ran a test version of. Why you may ask. Well, it seems that it is so far in advance that there is no manufacturer looking for an engine as powerful as it yet. Roll-Royce are confident of the concept and are now waiting for a suitable airframe to emerge. Rolls say that some of the new materials and components used in the engine read across to current engines like its Trent XWB and they will be incorporated to improve the efficiency of current offerings making them even more competitive.
Two rather contrasting employment announcements yesterday, BT are looking at losing 50,000 workers. Mind you it is over a decade and many of them will be sub-contractors involved in the rollout of the Outreach high-speed fibre telecommunications network. In ten years’ time the project will be completed, and the installers just won’t be needed. On the other hand, I hear that BAE wants to recruit 6,000 skilled workers because of the AUKUS submarine project. The new design of nuclear-powered attack boat will be designed in the U.K. and built in the U.K. for the Royal Navy and initially for the Australian Navy before a second production yard is established in Sydney for the Aussies. The 6,000 workers are for the design phase of the project and as many as 17,000 could be required once construction starts. The new design will replace the Astute Class of submarine, not all of which have been built yet!
A very strange tale reaches me from Hong Kong. The pilots of Cathay Pacific Airways have had an email from the airline telling them that they must stop taxiing slowly both before and after takeoff or they will be disciplined. It seems that authorities at many airports, including the airline’s home base of Hong Kong, have reported that Cathay pilots have been taxiing far more slowly, on average, than other airlines. Airports monitor taxi speeds because a slow plane causes airport congestion. But why are Cathay pilots slower than other airlines? Well, post-Covid Cathay have started paying pilots by the total hours they actually fly and that includes taxi times. So if you taxi slowly you get more pay. If they didn’t get paid for time spent taxiing, I bet there would be complaints they taxied too fast.
I understand that when the new summer railway timetables kick in this Sunday, apart from the Elizabeth Line which is finally to run its full service, GWR is to make the most changes. This is for several reasons, they are making changes to better reflect the use of services post-Covid when apparently people are travelling ‘differently’, whatever that means. As the recovery in passenger numbers post-Covid continues, 5% more services into London will be offered. On top of that, services have had to be modified to allow the running of additional Elizabeth Line services to and from Reading and Heathrow. I hope people are ready for the new timetable and changes in their train times.
So, there is another row in Scottishland about which jail a ‘transgender’ paedophile should go to. This one used ‘its’ male bits to sexually assault a young girl. Surely the answer is very simple if ‘it’ still has ‘its’ male bit ‘it’ goes to a male prison. Why can’t Hamsa Useless say this instead of just saying ‘it’ will be placed in appropriate jail? It seems that he doesn’t want to upset the likes of Stonewall who say that people are whatever gender they claim to be. Is this because his government is being propped up by the Scottishland Green Party who support this Stonewall rubbish?
Another lovely sunny morning today and the forecast for the weekend in London is very good for a change. The overnight results in the local elections in Northern Ireland seem to indicate that Sinn Féin have picked up seats from minor parties and the DUP have stood still, so in many parts of the nation nothing has changed and deadlock remains.
Back in January last year the Coal Authority approved the expansion of Aberpergwm opencast coal mine in Neath Port Talbot to produce 40 million tonnes of coal during the life of the extension. The mine is the only producer of high-grade anthracite in Western Europe and supplies the nearby Tata Steel plant in Port Talbot. Yesterday an environmental group asked a court for a Judicial Review into the decision, but it was refused, upsetting the environmentalists who of course said, ‘We think the judge got it wrong,’ well as someone once said, ‘They would wouldn’t they.’
I am hearing that Sniffer Joe has done a ‘U’ to on the supply of F-16 jets to the Ukraine. Up until now he has always stood in the way of the Ukraine being allowed to buy the planes from America or for countries who operate them from passing them on. But I hear that word now coming out of Washington is that if countries want to donate F-16s they will not object. But why does Ukraine want F-16s? I suspect it is because they are so widely used across the world, they think they are more likely to be able to pick up a decent size fleet with just a few from numerous countries. I hear that specific F-16 pilot training is to start immediately and Ukraine already have promises of over 50 aircraft most of which are old models. But I hear that the F-16 is a bit fussy in that it needs a clear, clean runway due to its ‘chin’ engine intake, and clear clean runways are few and far between in the Ukraine.
Do you remember the problem with the Boeing 737 Max and the automatic system that was not documented and caused two fatal crashes grounding the plane for years while the problem was sorted out? It appears that the latest version of the 737, the MAX10, has a new automatic system that the crew has no control over. The problem is that the plane has been lengthened by 66 inches. This means that on take-off, as the plane rotates its tail it is highly likely to hit the runway. To alleviate this the undercarriage has been redesigned to automatically extend 24 inches on take-off. But this means it also must automatically retract that same 24 inches for the landing gear to be able to fit into its slots in the plane. So once again Boeing has introduced an automated system outside the pilot’s control which is one less thing for the pilot to do and is great until it goes wrong.
Reports I hear say that the owner of Tata, the owner of Land Rover Jaguar, is trying to decide where to build an electric vehicle batteries plant. The options are said to be Spain and U.K. I hear that the government is in discussion with Tata had has so far offered about £500 million in subsidies and aid. The chosen site for a possible U.K. site is in Somerset and I hear the £500 million matches what Tata have been asking for including cash subsidies, cheap electricity, upgrades to the electrical supply and to the local transport network. Of course, all this can be matched by the Spanish, but I hear we have been a little cleverer here in that Tata have been offered an additional £300 million to upgrade the steel plant that it owns in Port Talbot to meet net zero. The government say the two are not linked, but if you believe that I have a bridge for sale.
I read a report from the Russian media that one of their tank battalions, call sign Tiger, have fought off an attack by Ukrainian Leopard MBTs. The report says Russian intelligence detected the Ukrainian tanks advance and Tiger fired at them forcing them to retreat. However, the report says they failed to hit anything. This follows a previous report that in April Russian forces captured a Leopard 2 intact but failed to be able to move it to behind the Russian line, so it was abandoned. There were also several reports from 2022 of battles with the Leopard 2 but this was before Ukraine had them. The propaganda coming from both sides in this war matches the output of Comical Ali.
Word of an embarrassing event reaches me from the Philippines. The president, various ministers and military leaders all gathered on a pier to watch a demonstration of the Philippines Navy’s latest warship fire its new anti-aircraft missile, the French Mistral 3. The idea was it would be fired at a target drone. The guests sat and waited and waited and nothing happened. Eventually it was announced that the test was off as the drone had failed to launch. The navy say it was not their fault and the missile system on the ship were fully functional.
I’m done nice and early for another week and it’s still lovely and warm outside today. With the not-so-rich Rich Boy still in the land of the rising sun I am thinking I will repeat last week’s successful visit to see if any of my friends in the office have any cat treats. Then a late morning and afternoon snooze on my favourite windowsill. I should be back with you all again next week.
© WorthingGooner 2023