Hello merry readers and welcome to another week of my diary and thoughts. I start this week in a good mood, I have had a good weekend, nothing special for me to report on has happened in Number 10. The weekend relief feeder was one who has been in before and knew what was required and where everything was, and they actually talked to me! It is funny how some of these reliefs have no idea that I understand every little thing they say and do.
I have just heard about a man on a cruise on the Princess Cruise Sea Princess who paid to visit the ship’s doctor because he had a pain in his leg. The doctor examined him and took a medical history. The man told him about various things including a hip replacement he had some time ago. The doctor said he thought he had an infection in the artificial joint, prescribed antibiotics and presented him with a bill for £2,400. After three days there was no improvement so the doctor decided it was a medical emergency and called a coastguard helicopter to fly the man to the nearest land that was Shetland. In the hospital they quickly decided the man had a strained muscle, and prescribed rest. The ship, with his wife on board, was now in on its way back to Southampton so he had to spend more money to fly home. Hopefully his medical insurance will pay for the treatment and additional travel as he was not an emergency, just a misdiagnosis by the ship’s doctor.
I hear of a miracle occurring on the fringes of South London. Nearly a hundred years ago the black veined white butterfly was officially declared extinct. This particular butterfly was first recorded when Charles II was on the throne and was declared extinct in 1925. However, a miracle appears to have occurred and for the last month people have been spotting examples of the species among their favourite habitat: hawthorn and blackthorn trees on the edge of Southeast London. Has the butterfly been hiding all this time, or has it spontaneously risen from the dead?
The Rosebank oil field is about 80 miles west of the Shetlands and contains a minimum of 300 million barrels of oil, maybe 500 million barrels. It is currently awaiting a production license that is expected to be granted this month and alone could supply 8% of our energy needs. But under Labour’s plans it could be the last U.K. oil field to be developed. Under Labour’s policy for government, they intend to ban licences for oil and gas searches, a mad idea that will mean all oil would have to be imported. So stupid is the idea, that even Labour-supporting unions have come out against it. It is not just that oil is used to produce petrol and diesel, it is all the other products that come from it that would be the problem. Just think of all the things made from plastic, or things that need lubricants like EVs, or even green things like bicycles or that squeaky door hinge or cutting fluid on a lathe, Labour is effectively saying it’s OK to import the lubricants, but we can’t make our own. What a ludicrous position.
Following on from the last story, I just watched Labour peer Lord Forkbender discuss the Labour green policies on the TV. The man is delusional, he argued in favour of the policy saying that it “made sense” to run down our own oil production as it would be replaced by “green energy.” When it was pointed out that this was impossible as “green energy” was intermittent he said we could fill the gaps with imported oil! The questioner then pointed out that that was a stupid policy as it would damage U.K. employment, balance of payments and have us rely on the nations like Saudi Arabia and hope they don’t put up the price to exploit us. Forkbender’s reply was that we had to lead the world. Of course, the discussion never got around to things like plastics, pharmaceuticals, fertiliser, lubricants or even the tarmac on on our roads. The man’s a fool.
Yesterday’s F1 race at Barcelona proved to be, as expected, another case of the pack all chasing Red Bull’s Verstappen. But what was noticeable was the improvement of the Mercedes cars that with upgrades and design changes to their cars managed to get second and third place. But after the race Mercedes team representatives and drivers Hamilton and Russell’s physiotherapists were called to the stewards’ offices. It seems they were charged with breaching the parc ferme instructions. At the end of a race the cars are officially isolated in parc ferme conditions and before this race an instruction was issued that only team mechanics cooling the car and drivers and FIA officials were allowed in the parc ferme until after the ceremony to award the prizes. The team’s physios were found guilty of breaching this rule and the team was fined £8,600 which is a flea bite in the overall team budget.
A trial of universal basic income is going to take place in England. Thirty people living in London’s East Finchley and Jarrow in the Northeast will be paid £1,600 a month with no obligation to do anything to get it. Unlike the dole there is no need to prove you are looking for work, it’s just free money. Interestingly £1,600 a month is more than someone on the basic wage would earn in a month. What encouragement does UBI give anyone to ever move off benefits and get a job?
I learn that the operator of the world’s largest fleet of the Airbus A220, Air Baltic, would like to take up the options that it holds on 30 additional A220-300 aircraft, the current largest version of the aircraft. However, it is dependent on the Latvian flag carrier having a successful IPO of its shares. In addition, the single aircraft type airline would like to take options on another 20 A220s and says if Airbus were to launch the much-touted larger version the A220-500 it would swap some orders and options to that version of the plane. There has been some speculation that the new version will be launched at the upcoming Paris Air Show but personally I don’t think it will happen, but then I could be wrong, I am not infallible.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the regional India airline Indigo and their discussions with Airbus over another order for more Airbus A320 family aircraft. They currently operate nearly 700 A320s of various types and have outstanding orders for nearly 1,000 more. I hear the discussions are now complete and Indigo are ready to order another 500 A320s, presumably neos. I hear nothing as to what models of A320 they are buying but it’s likely to include some of the new long-range and extra long-range versions. What I do hear is that Indigo have negotiated a price cut of around 50% on the book price. Oh, and just as a little extra, Indigo are in discussions over an order for 25 wide-body jets with Airbus and Boeing. Will it be the A330 neo or the 787? If I was the Boeing salesman, I wouldn’t be too expectant.
Apple today launched it latest product, the Vision Pro, a pair of augmented reality goggles. Well, they look like fun as they can mix reality with computer images, a vast improvement on Google’s Meta World which is all computer-generated images and has not really taken off. But this new device will only be sold in the US and costs the equivalent of £2,850 a time. It sounds a bit like the launch of other Apple devices that people said would never catch on like the iPhone or the Apple Watch. iPhones spawned Android phones and together they are just about the only mobile phones worth buying. While people laughed at the Apple Watch, and they now sell in millions. However, I don’t think I’ll be getting a Vision Pro until the cost comes down considerably.
The other big question of the day is, has the long-awaited counter-offensive started in the Ukraine? The Russians report that they have defeated three large attacks, while the Ukrainians say there haven’t been any large-scale attacks. Once again it seems to be a case of trying to read between the lines and work out what is really happening. I doubt that Ukraine would announce they were attacking in force anywhere, it is not in their interest. Similarly Russia would not admit losing ground, even if they were, so they will obviously say they have defeated attacks whether they have or haven’t, it is not in their interest. So, I guess we will just have to wait and see what occurs and where the armies land up in a few months’ time.
As you probably know BT Sport is being killed off by its new owners, Warner Bros./Discovery, and is about to become TNT Sport for the new football season. I hear that one of the stalwarts of its football coverage, the ex-Norwich, Blackburn and Celtic player, Chris Sutton, has jumped ship and joined Sky Sports. I hear the plan is that he will be used to front a revamped version of Sky’s Scottishland football shows. Apparently, Sutton will still be continuing to do his work on BBC Radio 5.
Eurostar is making changes to its services from London to the Continent. Firstly, it is suspending its direct train services to Rotterdam and Amsterdam for a year. Whether this is a question of passenger numbers or the new EU policy of making visitors from outside the EU get a £9 ‘visa’, is not really clear. The upcoming visa restrictions are likely to slow down boarding at St Pancras even more than Brexit already has, add to that a year’s building work at Amsterdam Station and the halt in service makes sense. Secondly, it is stopping through trains to Disney Paris, the last one ran this morning. This does seem to be a case of economics. The train operator says that you can still get there by train, but you will just have to change trains in France. I understand that you can change in Paris, but this involves moving from one terminal to another and getting a commuter RVR service. Alternatively, you can change trains at Lille and get a TGV service. Two problems here, Lille is only a small station and under-fives do not get a seat on TVGs and have to sit on a parent’s lap.
Another nice sunny and warm morning. It is quiet here again as the Rich Boy flew off to Washington last night to meet with Sniffer Joe. It will be interesting to see if Sniffer, who is old enough to be the Rich Boy’s grandfather, can remember his name.
I hear that Prince Harry has given evidence in the High Court yesterday that his mobile phone was first hacked in 2006. Which is particularly interesting as he also said that got his first mobile phone in 2008! The Daily Mirror must have been very clever to hack his phone two years before he got it! This morning the media seem to be of one voice, Ginge kept calm, but big holes were torn in much of his witness statement. For example, many of the things he claims could only have been sourced by phone hacking, were shown to have actually come from Palace Press releases. So, he is back in court this morning to face more questions.
Yesterday I mentioned the new Apple Vision Pro, at the same time that it was announced Apple also announced the next versions of its operating system which are expected to be out in beta next month, but not actually released until the autumn. For iPhones it will be iOS 17, for iPads it will be IPadOS17 and for the Apple Mac it will be macOS Sonoma. The Mac will at last be getting a number of the features available on iPhones and iPads. I nearly forgot, if you have an Apple Watch it gets watchOS 10 which is I hear a big update and even allows you to choose a Snoopy and Woodstock watch face.
Tipping for good service is not something I mind seeing. A minimum wage waitress who has given you fast and attractive service in my view has earned her 10%. However, I learn that in the US the bare minimum tip is 15% and the norm is considered to be 18% or 20%. But it is the new idea of adding tips to a self-service machine or checkout that amazes me. I read of a woman who bought a chicken wrap and a bottle of water from a vending machine at Newark Airport and when she went to pay with a credit card, a screen popped up asking if she wanted to add 18% or 20% as a tip. At the very bottom in small text was the “no tip” option. It begs the question who gets the tip, the man who loads the machine, the owner of the machine or the machine itself?
I hear that Emirates is looking at options for replacing its outgoing giant double-deck Airbus A380s. There are only really two options, the Boeing 777X, which is not yet in production or the Airbus A350-1000 or just possibly the Boeing 787. Whatever they finally go for, Emirates are believed to be in the market for 150 to 200 new wide-body aircraft. Rolls-Royce currently power most of the Emirate’s fleet and would be hoping that the new aircraft is either the A350 which only comes with Rolls engines and not the 777 which is exclusively powered by GE. If by any chance Emirates go for the 787 both Rolls and GE can supply engines.
I read that one resident of the town of Invergordon in Scottishland has complained about cruise ships sounding their horns as they sail. Consequently, the council has asked ships visiting the deep-water port not to sound their horns. However, it may not be the law, but it is a universal convention for ships to signal with their horn. For example, three short blasts warn other ships that the ship is about to go astern, and one long blast means the ship is about to sail. As the sounding of a ship’s horn is generally a warning to other shipping that something is about to occur are the council going to take responsibility for any accidents resulting from the request?
I see that Apple is to change autocorrect so that it allows you to swear in text messages without changing the word you type to duck or rugger. It will finally be catching up with Android which has allowed you to write swear words for some time without swapping them. Well, as I am such a well-behaved and good-mannered cat, I would never think of writing swear words, but I do sometimes get fed up when autocorrect pops in a new word. For example, in this paragraph it wanted me to use autoclave instead of autocorrect and my scribe tells me that when he worked for Babcock it kept changing it to Baboon!
It’s yet another warm and sunny morning and nice and quiet here again at No. 10 with the Rich boy still away.
A report out yesterday says that Sir Beer Korma’s idea of adding VAT to private school fees will probably not raise the £1.6 billion that Labour claimed. The report points out that Labour numbers are based on adding 20% to ALL private school fees including boarding schools of which the accommodation & living part of the fee is by law VAT free. If they want to change this, it will affect state boarding schools so the law will have to be changed very carefully. But Labour have only said they intend to remove charitable status from private schools. Then the report says Labour have used out-of-date numbers for those in private education and if every single one of them were to pay the VAT it would only raise £1.2 billion. Finally, the report says that what the Labour numbers have not taken into account is the cost of publicly educating children withdrawn from private education. For every child whose parents can’t afford another 20% on their school fees not only do local authorities have to find them a school place but that £1.2 billion rapidly reduces. The report concludes that the policy could actually land up costing money rather than raising it!
China’s first home-built cruise ship has just set sail on its sea trials. The Chinese say that the 135,000-tonne ‘Luxury’ Adora Magic City will carry 5,246 passengers and 1,000 crew. This compares in size to the P&O ships Iona and Arvia but for the same number of passengers they have nearly 2,000 crew. The passenger-to-crew ratio is very important on Western cruise ships and is what gives passengers the luxury feel. P&O by no means consider themselves to be a luxury cruise line. For that you need to move up to Silverseas, Seaborne or Regent Severn Seas and there you will find a much lower passenger-to-crew ratio. I guess the Chinese idea of luxury is different to other countries.
The government has announced that it is going to pay the £200 million needed to build the Cambridge South railway station on the east-west railway that is currently under construction. The case for the station seems to have been pretty solid, it is to be built to serve the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and is expected to serve 1.8 million passengers a year.
Word reaches me from the West Midlands that the 11km extension to the Birmingham Metro is in trouble. Back in 2019 a Bouygues-led consortium was awarded a £450 million contract to build the extension from Wednesbury to Brierley Hillside, linking Dudley with Birmingham, Wolverhampton and the national rail network. Despite the injection of another £60 million from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, it looks like finishing the line is considered to be ‘unaffordable’, hence it is being proposed that the extension should finish a station short of its ultimate destination, and will instead stop at Merry Hill, with passengers having to walk or catch a bus to Brierley Hillside.
I read that the Babcock International subsidiary Babcock Canada has signed an agreement with Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries to bid for the Canadian Patrol Submarine Project (CPSP). The Canadians are looking at replacing their existing Victoria Class submarines which are old U.K. boats that were upgraded to Canadian Navy requirements for electronics but never performed as well as when in the Royal Navy. Under the proposal, HHI would build the boats and Babcock maintain them.
So far this month every opinion poll except one has given Labour a 14% lead over the Tories. The odd one out is, of course, as usual, Omnisis which gives Labour a 21% lead. Now what I find odd is that if you go back months, you will find that it is always Omnisis that is out of step with just about every other opinion poll. Occasionally you get an outlier, where a poll differs from the majority of the others, but the following month it tends to return to the pack, and which normally shows a spread within a few percent of each other. But not Omnisis they always give a much bigger lead to Labour than anyone else. A month ago, they were giving Labour a 27% lead when the others were on 14% so I suppose that tells us something. What is interesting is that who commissions the poll is never stated, I wonder if it could be the Labour Party?
Hi everyone, warm and sunny again, this is getting monotonous. The Rich Boy arrived back early this morning and woke me up coming in. It was just like having Bozzie crashing around. I see that the senile Sniffer Joe got it wrong again addressing him as Mr President rather than Mr Prime Minister. I really wonder how Americans can seriously consider voting for someone who is so clearly a beer short of a six-pack.
The infamous Hull 801, otherwise known as the CalMac ferry Glen Sannox is getting ready to sail under its own power for the first time. It is only five years late, a mere eight years after construction began and hundreds of million over budget. Apparently, the shipyard has been briefing the media that the ship is ready to begin sea trials, and all its machinery and electrics are working. However, it does not yet have the necessary certificates to sail and people who have been on board say it is a total mess with cable and equipment everywhere and hardly a ceiling panel in place. A few areas, like the bridge, have been tidied up for the cameras, so is this just a bit of propaganda put out by Ferguson Marine or is it nearly ready for sail?
The word I hear is that the Ukraine is expecting to receive over 50 F-16 fighters from various sources. These are old planes and depending on the version acquired likely not to be a match in a dogfight with Russian front-line jets. One of the biggest problems is that the early versions of the F-16 could only be armed with air-to-air missiles of the day with a range of 20 to 30 miles while the Russian front-line jets are armed with 50-to-60-mile range jets. Of course, more modern versions of the plane can match the Russians with longer-range missiles, but it is highly unlikely that Ukraine will be getting modern F-16s. However, I do hear that after selling 25 aircraft to Canada, Australia still has 41 F/A-18 jets in storage as they are being replaced by F-35s. Of course, the US retains the right to who can use these planes and I hear they are ‘inclined’ to letting them be passed on to Ukrainian.
A draft report claims that it has identified where the North begins in England. The report says that the North-South divide is indicated by the ratio of Greggs to Pret A Manger. If you have more Greggs, you live in the North, more Pret and you live in the South. What a load of rubbish. As there are more Greggs than Pret in Cornwall, apparently Cornwall is in the North. My scribe tells me that down on the South Coast, where he lives, they had a Greggs when he moved in 35 years ago so they mean that Worthing was in the North. But a branch of Pret opens there tomorrow, so with one of each has Worthing been moved to the Midlands?
Talking of the South Coast I hear that the NHS’s oldest building is about to be replaced. The 11 storey Louisa Martindale building at Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital has taken 15 years to complete and initially replaces the Banks Building that was built in 1828! The £500 million building will ultimately have 40 wards and 65% of beds are in single rooms while the rest are in four-bed bays. All the spaces have full-height glass windows with views over the coast, the town and the downs. Various departments with be moved into the building in stages starting with outpatients on 12th June. Once the Barry Building has been emptied it will be demolished.
Yesterday, Eurostat, the European Union’s Statistical Organisation revised its figures and indicated that the Eurozone had slipped into recession with negative growth for the last two quarters. This is unlike the U.K. where the numbers have been positive, if only just. But it is Ireland that seems to be the new sick man of Europe, those same revised statistics have shown their growth figures moving from minus 2.7% to a disastrous 4.6%. Other countries that had negative growth included Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Malta and the Netherlands. But Michel Barnier says none of these financial woes are the fault of the EU, apparently, he thinks it is all because of Brexit! I wonder what the rejoinders have to say about the wonderful EU and Eurozone now?
I hear of an interesting lawsuit in the United States. A company called Wilson Aerospace alleges that Boeing stole trade secrets for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Wilson had a contract to supply patented specialist tools, but Boeing cancelled the contract and Wilson allege that Boeing fabricated their own versions of Wilson tools, infringing on its intellectual property. The claim also says that the poorly fabricated tools used on the NASA rockets caused fuel leaks that repeatedly delayed the $4.1b Artemis I launch and that ‘critical’ safety flaws may have endangered astronauts. In addition, Wilson claims that at a meeting to demonstrate the ability of Wilson specialist tools that could tighten fuel pipe joints in a highly restricted space, seven of the people Boeing brought to the demonstration were employees of their main competitor who Boeing then used to fabricate the fake tool from Wilson’s drawings. This is one I will be interested in following closely.
Yet another beautiful day today. It’s a big day today, it’s national gin day and national knife throwing day! It’s also the first day in parliament without Bozzie and the old Dorris. Like Trump, Bozzie says he has been stitched up by the investigation and I’m inclined to agree. But I am a bit of a conspiracy theorist and I wonder if the Dorris has resigned her ‘ultra’ safe seat so Bozzie can make a comeback at the bye-election.
Labour have backed down on their policy, announced in 2021, of spending £28 billion a year on green investment. Rachel Reeves appears to have finally realised that this equates to £1,000 a head of extra tax per taxpayer, and that they have overestimated the take from other tax sources such as non-dom’s, fossil fuel windfall tax and VAT on private schools which is losing them support in areas they need to win. So, bang goes one of Labour’s flagship policies I wonder what will be next?
The auction by the administrators of Spanish company Pullmantur Cruises fell flat yesterday with no one making the minimum bid. The three cruise ship company got into financial trouble during the Covid pandemic when all cruising was halted as it had insufficient funds to ride the problems. It eventually was declared insolvent earlier this year. The administrators not only had a minimum bid in place, wanted a schedule of payments and a plan of how bidders intended to reorganise the brand. I understand that the plan now is to hold another auction later this year. I suspect that something about the auction conditions will have to change, or the result will be no one bidding again.
Qantas, the Australian airline, has revised its ‘style and grooming’ guidelines and abandoned the differences between male and female cabin crew. Some of the changes make sense, like no longer forcing female cabin crew on long haul flights to wear high heel shoes and allowing them to wear flats or boots. But is allowing both male and female cabin crew to grow their hair long and have it in a ponytail or bun, wear diamond earrings and wear makeup really what passengers want or is it bowing down to the woke agenda?
Still in the airline world, the US Airline, American, has just changed the rules on checked-in baggage. As of 6th June, people flying in Economy are no longer allowed a free checked-in hold suitcase or bag. This is obviously a money-raising exercise as you can now still have a checked-in bag, but it will cost you $75. If you want to take a second bag it will cost another $100 and a third another $200. So, three bags will cost you $375. At the moment they are the only US airline to introduce this rule, but if it works, and they don’t lose passengers, you can see all the others following suit.
So Sad Dick has jumped on the political bandwagon and moaned that the government plans to moor one of the barges housing the cross-channel boat people in the Royal Docks, close to the GLC and his office. He then said that he understood the only people who could object were the Royal Docks authorities. But what he didn’t say was that the government and the Royal Docks had discussed this months ago and decided that the Royal Docks was not the right place for a barge for several reasons, such as the proximity to the Docklands Airport, and the lack of services available in the area. So Sad Dick is both a NIMBY and political opportunist who has no alternatives to offer.
I wish I knew what was going on in the Russia-Ukraine war. All I hear is propaganda from one side and then another. The Russians say they have wiped out a Ukrainian tank assault, except when you look closely at the pictures it was combined harvesters and other farm equipment. The Ukraine MoD say they shoot down every missile launched on Kiev, then I see buildings blown up. Then there is that dam, Ukraine says the Russians blew it up and the Russians claim the Ukraine did it by shelling it. Russia says the Ukraine spring offence has commenced and they are mowing down thousands of Ukrainians. The Ukrainians say they have launched ‘probing attacks and that Russia is giving up ground.’ One day we will know the truth.
Well, that’s me done for the week and I am now having two weeks off because my scribe is off on his holidays again. I wonder what a cruise would be like, laying around in the sun doing nothing, all the Felix I could eat? I’d be as fat as a pig. Anyway, I should be back with you all again in a few weeks once WG is back from his two-week break.
© WorthingGooner 2023