Hi folks, I’m back for yet another week of tales and trivia from Westminster. A beautiful morning, sunny and warm. As I wandered to the bottom of the garden, I could feel the sun through my fur and it was lovely. This morning I heard a story about a Plan B if Rwanda doesn’t work. Apparently, we are looking at now considering sending boat people to Ascension Island, which I understand is a small island in the middle of the South Atlantic not far south of the equator. It is only about 800 square miles with a population of around 1,000. But it has a runway because there is an RAF base and it is a British Overseas Territory and U.K. soil, so no human rights questions.
I see that now Sad Dick has expanded the £2,000 scrappage scheme for non ULEZ compliant cars to all residents of London, it comes with some restrictions. Firstly, it is only open for another fortnight, closing a week before the scheme begins. But secondly you must have owned the car for a minimum of a year. The idea is to stop people buying an old banger for £100 and scrapping it for £2,000. All well and good but wouldn’t it have been more sensible to make it unavailable for cars bought after the date the scheme was announced? Now if you happen to have bought a non-compliant car, say eleven months ago, with no thought of cheating the system you are stuck with it.
Another public relations disaster from NatWest emerged today. They are to limit access to cash to many people by changes to the limits on how much people can get out of a cash machine or over the counter from a bank. At the moment a NatWest customer, with enough money in their account, can withdraw up to £750 a day from an ATM or £20,000 in person over the counter at a branch. They have not said what the new limit will be only that it will be reduced. The claim is that this is to stop money laundering, but clearly it is because the bank wants customers to use credit and debit cards. They are much easier for a bank, no handling or counting cash saves them lots of money, besides they then know exactly what you are buying and who from.
With the launch of the Tesla Cybertruck pickup, Tesla seem to have encouraged their national branches to design accessories to sell to the public. In Germany they have come up with a beer carrier, which is hardly surprising. But it is China that has surpassed itself. They are offering a Tesla Logo branding iron. I’m not sure what you are supposed to use it on, obviously not your slaves, but do Chinese farmers brand their cows? Tesla make one suggestion, burger buns. The Chinese have also launched a cat Litter tray in the angular shape of the Cybertruck’s bed. The only thing is it is made of cardboard and we all know what happens when cardboard gets wet.
You might remember I told you about Air India ordering 190 Boeing 737 Max aircraft some time ago. Well Boeing has a bit of a problem with 737 Max aircraft ordered by Chinese airlines who have stopped taking deliveries since the problems with hidden software causing crashes. Boeing have some 228 Max models it has made and customers have yet to take. This includes 85 for Chinese airlines and 45 that have been ‘re-marketed’. Well, I hear that as part of its 190-plane order Air India is to take these 45 re-marketed aircraft. Of course, these are in effect second-hand and will be cheaper and quickly available, but they have been fitted out to suit various Chinese airlines and will need to be refitted to Air India specifications, but I bet Boeing are delighted to have shifted some of these white elephants.
The first two illegal immigrants arrived in the barge Bibby Stockholm this morning, accompanied by a security guard. Is this going to be the norm a guard for every two residents? Some more immigrants are expected this afternoon so we might find out. I hear that when this barge was used for accommodation for North Sea oil workers it was very popular with them. OK the bar has gone, and they are being asked to be two to a cabin but I hear that the cabins are bigger than a standard double on a Cunard liner and they are pretty luxurious. I wonder if they will be making claims for seasickness?
I keep hearing escaped animal stories at the moment. This time I hear that a bear being flown in the luggage hold from Dubai to Baghdad escaped from its cage on an Iraqi Airways flight. Apparently, the plane was taxiing out to the runway when the bear escaped, and it had to return so that the bear could be sedated and removed. Imagine being a passenger on that plane when the captain came on the Tannoy to announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry the take-off is going to be delayed we just need to recapture an escaped bear in the luggage hold and we will be on our way.”
It is a strange morning. It’s overcast, but warmer and only the slight possibility of rain so I took my time with my pre-breakfast perambulation, getting back to the flat just as my breakfast Felix was put on the floor. I hope you have all remembered that today is International Cats’ Day. I’m sure you have and have all got something special for your pet moggy. My feeder remembered and brought me a plastic mouse to play with. I am happy to play with it, but I refuse to chase it, I am too old and have to save my strength for real mice.
A problem on the Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2 in Italy this weekend. The ship was moored in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome when high winds blew it away from its mooring snapping its mooring ropes and causing it to move away from the dockside. This in turn caused two gangways to fall into the water, fortunately no one was on them at the time, so no one was hurt. I understand that one of the gangways was fished out of the dock, but the other was lost. A cruise ship normally carries its own gangways and runs them out at each port, so if they are short of one it could make it difficult for passengers embarking and disembarking.
The headline of a survey of 500 people who have purchased electric vehicles says, “30% of EV drivers are glad they made the move.” Well, this is an interesting result as firstly I assume the other 70% were unhappy with their purchase. But I find it rather surprising that this survey was of people who had already bought an EV, so they must have thought they were getting something better and most buyers were disappointed. 91% of the people surveyed said that EVs were difficult to get used to particularly their range on a charge.
I read that a 75-year-old Italian man has been killed in a cheese warehouse he owned where he was working. The warehouse contained wheels of the hard cheese Grana Padano, which were ripening. One shelf snapped and caused an avalanche of the cheese wheels that were stacked on shelves 10 metres high. The man was crushed under 25,000 cheese wheels. The local firefighters had to move the cheeses by hand to find his body, an operation that took them 12 hours.
I have been reading about a man in London who has been taking his cat out for bicycle rides in a basket on the front of the bike. During lockdown the man had started taking his blue-eyed, white, Norwegian Forest Cat out for a ride on his bike in a harness. Like many blue-eyed white cats Siggy is stone-deaf but apparently it doesn’t stop her asking to be taken for a ride. Siggy’s owner says when she wants to go on a ride through the streets of Belsize Park she goes to the front door and meows loudly. The cat is said to be more than happy riding in the bicycle’s shopping basket safely held in by its hardness. Siggy’s owner says she loves watching the sights she is passing and hissing at dogs.
A British company, Trinity Exploration & Production, is reported to have struck a large oil field in Trinidad. The onshore deposit is located quite deep, over 10,000 feet, and is said to be around 290 feet deep so is highly viable. After passing through the oil pool, they carried on drilling and found a second 65-foot deep pool under the first. The well has been temporarily capped until the exploration company is ready to carry out flow and pressure tests early next month. I wonder what Just Stop Oil think about this development?
Did you see the England women’s World Cup match on the TV yesterday, the one where they just managed to scrape a win on penalties? I ask, not because of the tactics or quality of the play, but because somehow the sound wasn’t synced with the pictures. The commentary was a second or two ahead of the on-screen action. It was as if the commentators were predicting the action, they would say ‘X passes to Y’ and then X would pass to Y. It was most odd. I noticed it right at the beginning when they kicked off on the commentary and then on the screen. But the oddest thing was hearing the commentators yelling about a Nigerian shot hitting the English crossbar before seeing it happen. I understand that this sort of thing happened long ago when the sound and picture were broadcast cast separately, and if you tuned your radio in correctly you could hear the TV sound. But I understand that the sound is now embedded in the digital signal so it just shouldn’t happen that the sound isn’t synced to the picture. I wonder if the problem was with the original broadcaster in Australia or introduced by the BBC in the U.K.?
Wow, a lovely morning in London and it is warm at last. This morning the story of Lee Anderson MP saying that if immigrants don’t want to get on the barge at Portland they can ‘F off back to France’ is still making the news. Of course, the BBC and The Guardian think it is awful, but what do the public think? Well, they were asked the question on Talk Radio’s breakfast programme this morning and the listeners were in overwhelming agreement with him. It wasn’t just 60 or 70% it was virtually 100%. The presenter said, “I am searching through the e-mails to try to find one from someone who disagrees with him, and I can’t find one. Then a lefty guest said Anderson was just ‘being populist’. Well, this cat says ignore the view of the populace at your peril.
The operator of the Channel Tunnel, Getlink, wants to extend its freight operation from the existing terminal at Folkestone to offer the option of another goods yard at Wembley. The problem is the loading gauge of the existing track to Wembley is not to the same size as through the tunnel and on the Continent. The rail tracks in the U.K. meet a minimum standard of W6a which is good for passenger traffic and means a height of 2.6 metres and a width of 2.4 metres. Some newer tracks are built to the W9 standard which is 2.74 metres by 2.6 metres. While the Continental standard is W12 which is 2.9 metres high by 2.6 metres wide and it is this standard that freight trains through the tunnel and the HS1 line meet. A study says the freight line from Folkestone to Wembley could be upgraded to W12 for £42 million which in my view is remarkably cheap by railway work standards. I understand that it would mean boring out the Saltwood Tunnel near Folkestone by 50mm, trimming back some platform edges and upgrading the trackside equipment. This cat says just get it done.
In Zimbabwe they have just brought online the latest 300Mw coal-fired unit at Hwange Power Station. There has been no thought of global warming in the country, only huge celebration that the latest addition to the Zimbabwean electricity grid has brought an end to what is officially called ‘load shedding’ but is otherwise better described as ‘black outs’. I suspect that environmental campaigners will get short shrift in Zimbabwe. This one coal-fired power station supplies more than 60% of the country’s electricity. Two little snippets of information, the latest two 300Mw units which have been constructed by the Chinese are only about two years late on programme and the power station used to be called Wankie Power Station. I wonder why the name was changed?
I hear that there is a rat infestation in Glasgow. I am not talking about politicians, but the four-legged rodents. The current leader of the council, the SNP’s Susan Aitken, has denied this and says that there are not more rats, it’s just that the ones there are ‘more visible’. I am not sure what that means. Are the rats going out partying, so more people are seeing them? Or perhaps they have all been issued with Hi-Viz jackets and hard hats so that they can be seen. I seem to remember that only recently there was a long strike by Glasgow binmen and rubbish piled up in the streets. Could this just possibly have something to do with the rat problem?
The latest I hear is that only 15 illegal immigrants boarded the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland yesterday and that at least 20 refused to board coaches from their nice comfy four-star all-around accommodation. The word is that many of them were acting on advice from charity ‘Care for Calais’ and claimed all sorts of things, like they had a fear of water, or their human rights were being abused. I understand that the government website says that asylum seekers are offered a single choice of accommodation and if they refuse it they will be subject to having their asylum application cancelled, which will lead to them being removed as illegal immigrants. They have been given a time limit of 24 hours to comply with the move, and as far as I am concerned it can’t happen quickly enough.
Today I hear that German industrial giant Siemens has huge problems. In 2017 they merged their wind turbine business with that of competitor Gamesa and thought that everything in the world was rosy. Unfortunately, they have rushed designs to the market without proper testing and it is costing them a small fortune in warranty claims. They have found wrinkles in their fibreglass turbine blades and the massive gearboxes have been failing. They have just announced that the wind turbine division lost £3.9 billion in the last year knocking £5 billion off Siemens’ stock market value. But it’s not just Siemens wind turbine business that is in trouble, the world’s biggest wind turbine, Vestas, lost £1.5 billion last year and another company, Vattenfall, has pulled out of a project it had been awarded off the coast of Norfolk. They claim that their costs have gone up by 40% in the last 10 months and the price they had agreed to sell the power at was no longer viable. We keep being told how cheap wind power is, I suspect this is soon going to be proved a lie.
I hear that yesterday’s overnight Brittany Ferry from Santander to Plymouth suffered an outbreak of food poisoning. The passengers woke up to find the ship diverting to the French port of Brest and numerous ambulances waiting at the dockside. It seems that during the night 34 crew members had gone down with food poisoning, but it had not affected a single passenger. Brittany Ferries say the Pont-Aven sailed with 998 passengers and 144 crew on board, so with 25% of the crew ill will it be able to continue to Plymouth? It also makes me wonder what was on the menu in the crew restaurant the previous evening.
Well, it is a second nice morning running, this is a record for summer 2023. Have you read the latest Time Out? They have a special article about me for yesterday’s International Cats’ Day. A lot of it is made up, but I rather liked it, especially the bit about me being in charge of the country while The Rich Boy is on holiday.
More SNP news. It is reported that Wee Krankies’s SNP managed to charge £14 million on official credit cards in the last three years. That is one hell of a lot of expenses. How did she manage to rack up so much? Well, it seems it was only the very best for her, no Tesco wellies or staying at the Premier Inn for her, it’s Hunters and five-star hotels and the purchase of nail varnish. If she and the party were milking the state, did she and her hubby also embezzle from the party?
Today I read that Fincantieri, the Italian shipbuilder, RINA, an international shipbuilding standards authority and Carnival, the cruise ship operator, have joined forces to investigate the possibility of powering cruise ships with nuclear reactors. Of course, they would need to be Small Modular Reactors, sealed for life, just like those that drive submarines and aircraft carriers. The ones in subs and carriers are of course built to military standards and are not quite the same as civil reactors. But numerous companies are developing SMRs so I expect someone will have a suitable design. The US Nimitz Class aircraft carrier weighs 100,000 tons and uses two Pressurised Water Reactors. Some of the modern cruise ships are double that size and need huge amounts of electricity for all the facilities on board. So perhaps one or two SME reactors on a cruise ship would make sense. Imagine no more refuelling with expensive oil or LNG. Of course, some nations (New Zealand?) ban visits by nuclear powered ships.
In Saudi Arabia they have just started to construct a new city project which will basically comprise of only two buildings. The 500-metre-high building will run side by side for 75 miles across the country and will be served by its own railway line from end to end. It will be divided into districts with homes, offices and shops and it’s claimed that no one will have to walk more than 10 minutes to work, or the shops, rendering cars unnecessary. The whole project has been costed at $1 trillion, but I bet that is an underestimate.
Do you remember seeing pictures of Hitler’s armoured train? Well, I have just been looking at pictures of Russia’s modern equivalent. It has armoured carriages mixed between flatbed cars. On the flatbeds are ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns and BMP 2 armoured personnel carriers. The carriages are built from 20mm steel plate lined with wood and then sandbags. To protect it, the locomotive is positioned in the middle of the train. What is its purpose? Well, I hear it has been developed to rush engineers to sections of track in occupied Ukraine that had been damaged in the fighting.
For some time, questions have been asked as to how North Korea gained the technology to build intercontinental ballistic missiles. It was long suspected that it came from China, but they have always denied either selling or giving them the technology. It is now believed to be Russian technology that is used, but the Russians didn’t give or sell it to them. The word is that the North Koreans hacked into one of the major research institutes and stole the information.
I have been listening to a woman who has been researching replacing her existing oil-fired boiler with a heat pump. The government has decreed that the sale of oil-fired central heating boilers will end in 2025 and the woman knows her boiler will need replacing about then. Installing a gas boiler is impossible as there is no gas in her village and she lives in a 19th-century house. She first found that a replacement heat pump would cost double a replacement oil-fired boiler. But it didn’t stop there as it was calculated that a heat pump would only circulate water at half an oil boiler’s temperature meaning that all the radiators would have to be replaced with bigger more efficient ones and to make them work all the micro-bore piping would have to be changed for bigger diameter pipes. Then the surveyor recommended that the house needed more insulation and in particular the windows all needed replacing. The windows alone were an additional £3,000. Unsurprisingly the woman has decided that she is going to buy another oil boiler before 2025.
Hi everyone, I knew the sunshine was too good to last, this morning it’s still warm but very cloudy. A bit of good financial news this morning, the second quarter GDP figures were out and the economy grew by 0.2%. This was against predictions, the naysayers would have us in recession, but keep being proved wrong.
Two leaks of data to report today, one caused by data hackers. I’m not sure how much the hack of the electoral register is. I’m pretty sure that anyone trying to find who lives where is pretty easy. The majority of the register is public anyway with only a small percentage of people asking for their names not to be published. As the Russians or Chinese are believed to be behind the hack, I am sure they already know who lives where better than we do. The release of the names and addresses of officers in the Northern Ireland police force is a bit more worrying as it could really endanger them. But this was a major cock up by someone who sent a spreadsheet with all the coppers names on it in answer to a Freedom of Information request. I suspect whoever did it will be in deep trouble.
I hear some news about Hong Kong-based airline Cathy Pacific. The airline suffered more than most under Covid because of the rigorous travel restrictions imposed by Hong Kong’s Chinese rulers and has subsequently lost a fortune in its last three financial years. Now I hear that passengers are returning and that it will show a profit in the next set of accounts. This has encouraged them, and I understand that they are on the verge of hardening up the options they hold on 32 Airbus A320neo aircraft into full orders. When airlines are ordering large batches of planes, it is good news for the world.
If I could, but being a cat, I can’t, I would be on the excursion from London Kings Cross to York for the Christmas market. The train will be steam hauled by Britannia Class locomotive 70000. The train leaves Kings Cross at 07:50 and picks up at Potters Bar and Hitchin and gives you over three hours in York. I have seen lots of pictures of York, and it looks a wonderful place. If you want Pullman-style accommodation with breakfast on the way out and dinner on the way back, it’s not cheap but it sounds a good day out.
Some time ago I told you about Carnival and Royal Caribbean charging passengers extra for more than one lobster tail on ‘lobster night’. Now I read of another cruise line bringing in additional charges in their main dining rooms. MSC is to charge $5 a dish, if you order more than one main course. They say this is to discourage people from ordering several courses and only eating the one they fancy the look of and wasting food. Mind you there are no restrictions on starters or desserts or the number of mains you can pick in the buffet. One thing I do hear, is that if you want more food in the buffet don’t take your empty plate for a refill, it is considered unhygienic, use a clean plate instead.
Still on the subject of cruises, I hear that Princess Cruises have come up with several new ways of taking money from passengers. They have started charging for all room service. Perhaps the silliest thing is the introduction of Princess Plus at $66 a day. For this you will get some items that you may or may not want like a drinks package, but it now includes two free pizzas from the pizza restaurant, until now the pizza restaurant has been free. You also get express boarding but as around 80% of passengers choose ‘Plus’ it might be quicker to go for standard boarding. Another new charge is a bit cheeky; they have a special wrist or pendant worn electronic door key and payment device which used to be mailed free to passengers in the whole of North America. Now they will be charging $10 but will no longer send it to addresses in Canada. It is all a way to extract more money from you.
So far this year 66 fast food delivery drivers in London have been arrested in a Home Office crackdown on delivery companies and restaurants. The Home Office believes that many restaurants and takeaway owners have been deliberately ignoring illegal immigrants doing deliveries for them directly, as have many of the big delivery companies like Deliveroo and Just Eat. If you have a long wait for your delivery it might be because the driver had been stopped by the police. This follows the same sort of crackdown in Brighton earlier this year. It makes you wonder how many of the thousands of delivery people you see on bikes and mopeds or in cars are doing it illegally. If they were on a powered vehicle, you can bet that 66 didn’t have a driving licence, tax or insurance.
Well, it’s a patchy sky this morning with a bit of sun, but it’s not as warm. I had a gentle stroll down the garden before breakfast and came back to a bowl of Felix Chicken. It’s at least a week since I was last given chicken which is too long. There are only a few Felix flavours and too many of them are fishy. I much prefer the poultry selection, but someone here seems to think I should also eat the fishy flavours, well I do because it’s that or nothing but really who can get enthusiastic about saithe and sardine? What the hell is saithe, it tastes like coley to me and that is not the best.
It is nice to read of one British car maker that seems to be doing well. I speak of Norfolk-based manufacturer Lotus who are now 51% owned by Chinese maker Geely. In the first six months of the year made and sold a record 2,200 cars, the majority of which were their Emira sports car. I doubt this production record will last very long as the production of their new electric sports utility, the Eletre, has just started at their new factory in Wuhan, China. Geely have said it is their intention to produce 150,000 EVs a year from the new factory by 2028. Lotus says their current order book is over 17,000. However, they must be very wealthy as the Eletre starts at £90,000 and the Emira starts at £81,000. Mind if you really do have a few bob they are producing a few all-electric Evija, which costs a mere £1.7 million each.
I hear that the powers that be have decided the Fresher Week at university this year should be renamed ‘Welcome’ week. Apparently, they think that Freshers Week is associated with getting drunk and having fun and this is wrong. One Scottishland university has decided that the ‘Welcome’ week highlight is going to be a ‘dry ceilidh’. I would have to be drunk to go to a ceilidh.
A little news today on the Fremantle Highway, the gigantic car carrier that caught fire over a week back. The ship had 3,783 cars on board of which it is believed 798 were electric. It was announced a little while ago that many of the cars had been produced by BMW and Mercedes. The fire has been extinguished and a salvage crew have been able to board it, attach towing cables, and the ship has been towed to the Netherlands. Now Rolls-Royce confirm that they also had a lot of cars on board and all prospective owners have been informed. There is however a little good news, it is thought that around 800 cars remain undamaged and can be salvaged. There is still no official word on what caused the fire, but it is suspected that it was the spontaneous combustion of an EV.
Travel on the London Underground at weekends is now back over the pre-Covid numbers. On a number of recent weekends, the number of travellers has reached over 110% of the pre-Covid numbers. It has been helped by a few big events at Wembley, including Harry Styles and Blur, and the 6.9 million it is claimed attended London Pride. What Transport for London need now is to see the weekday travel numbers return to pre-Covid levels, perhaps then they wouldn’t need the money that the ridiculous ULEZ scheme is expected to rake in.
I see a British Airways Concorde took to the air again this week. The plane is resident at the Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum in New York and was lifted high in the air by a crane before being deposited on a barge to be taken to the navy yard where the plane will undergo six months of refreshment work. It seems that seeing the plane swing high in the air attracted a lot of watchers with their cameras.
The developers Black Pearl Limited are looking at building three skyscrapers on a vacant site on Blackfriars Road. The biggest of the three would be a 200-metre tall 45-storey office block while the other two blocks would be for housing. These would be 44 stories high and 22 stories high. All three would be built on a three-storey podium. The housing blocks will include 433 new homes and the office block would include several sky gardens, while on the podium would be shops, workshops and rooms for hire by the hour. If given planning permission the office building would be the second tallest building on the South Bank with only the Shard being taller.
Right, I’m done for the week and it’s not a bad day, not as bad as yesterday but still quite nice and it’s forecast to be good enough for the windowsill this afternoon. Proper football is back today, so I will send off my ramblings to my scribe in the hope that his team wins and that he will be in a good mood when he sorts everything out tomorrow. I’ll be back with you all again next week, everything being OK.
© WorthingGooner 2023