Good morning everyone, and welcome to my 200th diary entry. Wow, 200 editions, that means I have been writing this diary for over four years (if you count all those holidays my scribe goes on). I wonder how much longer I have left as I am an old cat now. Would a new, younger ‘Chief Mouser’ be bothered to take over, would they even have my powers of communication with WG? I suppose time will tell.
I understand that Saudi Arabia wants to join the Tempest jet fighter project. The main participants, U.K., Italy and Japan, are believed to be happy to accept them. I don’t think that the Saudis have a very big aircraft manufacturing industry as they import all their civil and military aircraft, but they do have pots of money to invest. I suspect I have inadvertently touched on the reason the Saudis want into this project. It’s because the Germans are objecting to us selling Eurofighter Typhoons to the Saudis, and if they invest in this project, they get around German objections. Meanwhile, the Germans have palled up with the French and Spanish for a rival development. Interestingly, as usual the Frogs are demanding project leadership, and this project stalled over that demand.
So the Liebore party have done a U-turn on ULEZ. Only a month ago they were in favour of them because of ‘clean air’. Today they have announced that under a Liebore government ULEZ will not spread to the rest of the U.K. Isn’t that a bit late, they are already being introduced into towns all over the country. But why the U-turn, it’s simple, Liebore have reflected on the result of the Uxbridge bye-election which was supposed to be a shoo-in for them, and they lost to the Tories. They reckon that ULEZ is a vote loser.
I hear that people are leaving Liebore Wales and heading to Tory England because of the waiting lists for the NHS. Despite the long waiting lists in England, they are still shorter than in Wales. The English waiting list has been growing, but the time people must wait in England is falling, something that is not happening in Wales. The last lot of numbers showed a dramatic fall in people waiting over two years in England to 347. In Wales the two-year waiting list is over 300,000, where the population is 18 times less than that in England.
Some time ago TalkTalk hit broadband problems. Their customer growth stalled, and they were in trouble. The board decided to sell off parts of the business and the first bit to go is Business Broadband for which they have about 80,000 customers. Several companies have expressed an interest in purchasing this division, but only this weekend has the Sky broadband business division apparently joined the party. Sky Business have recently been pushing this service hard and would love to pick up an extra 80,000 business customers.
Poland’s rush to rearm is progressing fast. They have just been test-firing the Polish version of the South Korean K239 Chunmoo multiple rocket launch system (MRLS) on a South Korean firing range. The K239 has been integrated onto a Polish eight-wheel chassis with a Polish electronic firing system. These are just the first prototypes of the system which is due to be made in Poland as soon are the testing is accepted. The basic Polish version of the K239 is to carry two launchers, one a six-rocket launcher with a 50-mile range and the second a single rocket launcher with a 280-mile range. Poland has approximately 250 of the launchers on order to supplement the 500 US HiMAR launchers it has ordered because HiMARs is taking so long to deliver.
I hear that the Russian Airline, Red, has been suffering problems with its planes. The airline operates three Boeing 777s and since sanctions on Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine they have been having trouble getting spares. Now two of the three are being repaired stranding some 410 passengers in Turkey for the last 48 hours while they wait for one to be repaired and another flight is 11 hours late departing Moscow. With Boeing and Airbus both not delivering new planes or spare parts Russian airlines are having to strip working parts from grounded planes. Things can only get worse until the sanctions are lifted.
A pleasant morning in London and I hear that there is no rain forecast today so I will be on the windowsill as soon as I have been around the building on my patrol. So, the EU says it will not negotiate an illegal immigrant ‘returns’ agreement. Well, I never for a moment thought they would. They are only too happy to dump these people on us, they don’t want them and are only too happy for the French to escort them to our waters. This is where the Liebore idea of negotiating with the French/EU is badly flawed.
The Air Accident Investigation Authority (AAIA) of Hong Kong has just published its report on four flights into Hong Kong in 2019. The four flights were all making instrument landings onto the same runway, 24 Right, when they suddenly veered away to the north. But they all had one other thing in common they were all Boeing 787s. What the AAIA found was that the problem was with the Boeing software on the plane’s autopilot flight director. In each case the pilot was able to put the plane into manual control and successfully execute a go-around. Boeing say they have upgraded the software on all 787s, but Boeing does seem to have problems with software. Is it because it is written on the cheap?
Hard luck if you were travelling from Sicily to Britain on Sunday evening. Once again Mount Etna erupted and has spread large amounts of volcanic dust over the island. EasyJet, RyanAir and British Airways all cancelled flights out of Catania when the runways were covered in dust. Etna is the most active volcano in Europe and erupts on a regular basis.
Mohammed Ahmad, 24, was in court today charged with stealing a Mercedes taxi at Gatwick Airport last September. Video shows him leaping in the cab while the driver was unloading baggage. It seems that Ahmad was upset because another taxi driver had refused to take him from the airport. There then followed a chase around the motorway network by a relay of police cars at speeds up to 130 mph. A one point the police deployed a stinger and punctured a tyre, but Ahmad continued driving on the rim. The car eventually came to a halt in a cul-de-sac in Wolverhampton, Ahmad’s hometown, where he attempted to run for it but was quickly caught. He was disqualified from driving for 18 months and was ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work as part of a 14-month suspended prison sentence. In addition, he was told to pay £841.53 in compensation to the taxi driver. He must also pay £425 court costs and a victim surcharge of £187.
Yesterday the head of the US Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday retired and a woman Admiral Lisa Franchetti, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations was nominated to replace him. However, there is a bit of a problem in that an Alabama Senator objects to the Navy policy of moving a service woman across state borders to get abortions and contraception advice. To try to force a change of policy he has organised a ban on Navy promotions that has gone on for eight months. Franchetti has still to go before a congressional confirmation to become the first female Chief of Naval Operations.
In Manea, Cambridgeshire a new car park was opened at the railway station on 7th August. The station serves a village of around 2,500 people, cost around £1,000,000 to build and can house 112 cars. The station is lightly used, and the local council’s thinking was that a car park would attract more passengers and if the station got more passengers, it would get more trains stopping. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, in the first week the car park has only been used by three cars in total.
I read that Royal Caribbean International Cruises has sent out a survey to people who have previously sailed with them, asking their views on the possibility of Royal Caribbean making a charge for pizza from an outlet called Giovanni’s, from which Pizza is currently free of charge. All cruise ships have several food outlets which are included in the fare, these will almost certainly include the main dining room, the buffet, and a snack outlet. In WG’s cruise postcards he often writes of lunching on a free burger, hotdog, or pizza from a snack outlet, but he usually sails on British P&O. On American Royal Caribbean they have obviously looked at the numbers eating ‘free’ pizza and seen another money stream.
I must be getting old; I woke up early needing a pee. As I wandered down to the bottom of the garden the sky to the east was bright orange heralding a lovely day. Another fall in inflation today, down to 6.8%. When the Rich Boy made his promise to halve inflation by the end of the year it was at 10.1% so he could just about make it. Now for the promise on stopping the boats.
I read that two baby beavers have been born in West Sussex for the first time in 500 years. Some time ago a male beaver was released into a fenced-off enclosure on the Knepp estate near Horsham. Banksy, the male, proceeded to build dams, create several ponds and to construct a lodge. He was then joined by a female beaver, Brooke, and it seems they get on well as this summer two kits (baby beavers) have been seen playing in ponds. Apparently, the ponds have brought much more wildlife to the estate as there is always drinking water for it. Fish have been found in the ponds and have grown large on the bugs that have found a home on the pond and the beavers love the fish.
I hear that in the U.K. we are still very short of public chargers for EVs. At the end of July this year we had 45,737 of them at 26,805 locations across the U.K. The major problem is that 31.7% are in London and 12.5% in the Southeast of England. So getting on for half these chargers are actually in the Southeast of England. These are to serve the 2.3 million EVs (full and hybrid) in the U.K. which is only 7% of the total number of cars. I hear you asking about home chargers, well I understand that there are about 300,000, well under the total of EVs so a lot of public charging is going on. Why don’t people charge at home? The answer is twofold, only 40% of urban homes in the U.K. have off-street parking and it is very, very slow.
Yesterday five people were arrested, three of whom are believed to be Bulgarians, who were charged with spying for the Russians. The three, one man who was living in a guest house in Great Yarmouth and the other two, who were living as a married couple in Harrow, were arrested back in January. They appeared at the Old Bailey yesterday and have been remanded to appear there again early next year. Not much information as to what they were doing has been released but it seems the Bulgarians all had multiple identities, with fake passports and identity documents for the UK, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, and the Czech Republic being recovered. I wonder if they are really Bulgarians, could they be Russians?
My scribe had a close squeak yesterday on the way home on the A24 into Worthing. On his way home he overtook a trailer loaded with cattle, only to learn that minutes later the trailer overturned on a sharp bend and the cattle escaped. Police and firemen from Worthing attend the accident and the road was closed in both directions while the eight yearling cattle were rounded up. The farmer brought another trailer and the yearlings are all safely back on the farm.
Owners of Rivian electric pickup trucks have for some time been complaining of high tyre wear. The makers of the recommended tyres, Pirelli, say a set should be good for 50,000 miles, but owners report having to replace them after doing just 6,000 miles which is a bit expensive. It seems that the tyre problem is down to a number of things, partly the driver using a driving mode called ‘converse’ which puts all the drive through the front wheels, but also due to the high ‘toe-in’ the pickup trunk is designed with and also its heavy curb weight of 7,000 lbs. In the U.K. it starts at £56,000 for the cheapest version and goes up to £75,000 for the most expensive with more power and a bigger battery. I suppose at that sort of price a new set of tyres is nothing.
You may remember that back in July the Silverstone motor racing track hosted the British Formula One Grand Prix. I hear that over 480,000 people paid to get in over the three-day event. In fact, the traffic was so bad that Silverstone applied for a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) supposedly to protect the local villages of Silverstone and Whittlebury which are close to the track. Unfortunately, 33 locals fell foul of the TTRO and were where issued with fixed penalty notices which added up to £1,500. Locals have complained about this bitterly, saying that this was the first time that a TTRO has been used and that many of those fined were ‘blue badge’ holders for which there were no exemptions and parking permit holders who were parked outside their own homes. Apparently, traffic wardens were not told local parking permits were valid. It seems that Silverstone has paid the locals’ fines ‘as a goodwill gesture’ and acceptance of the miscommunication with traffic wardens.
Well, it is another lovely morning, I think I better make the most of the windowsill today as rain is forecast for tomorrow. When I saw the papers this morning, they were full of joyous reports on the England ladies footballers. They have done well so far, but they haven’t won anything yet. Let’s hope they do win on Sunday because I hear lots of MPs are pressing the Rich Boy to call a bank holiday with an open-top bus parade when the ladies get back from down under.
I hear that state-owned Qatar Airways has found a way around the strict Australian rules on the number of flights allowed at its four international airports, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Qatar Airways is allowed 28 flights to Australian international airports every week, which means they can operate one flight a day into each of the four. However, the rules allow them to operate any number of flights into other airports. So, Qatar has introduced a daily flight to Adelaide which has a stopover in Melbourne where they are allowed to pick up and drop off passengers. But the flight operates so that it lands in Melbourne at 11:30 at night and can’t take off to Adelaide until the overnight curfew is lifted at 05:30 consequently it usually has only one or two, and sometimes no passengers on that leg but has operated full between Qatar and Melbourne. The return flight is similarly timed. Oh, and it being an international flight Qatar is not allowed to pick up domestic passengers on the Melbourne, Adelaide leg.
I have just been watching a video of an American woman moaning about a vet refusing to treat her son who identifies as a cat. When the son became ill, she took him to a vet who said as her son had human physiology, he was not trained to examine him or licensed to do so. Initially the mother threatened to sue him but seems to have had second thoughts, I guess because even in the States she hasn’t a chance of winning. Now she is complaining that it is discriminatory.
It only seems a few days ago that I was talking about the world’s biggest container ship visiting Britain. Well, today I read about the latest contender for the title undergoing sea trails. MSC Türkiye sailed on its first test on Tuesday after being constructed in Eastern China. The new world’s biggest container ship can carry 24,346 standard containers.
The Polish shipbuilder Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa (PGZ) has this week cut the first metal for the first of three Miecznik frigates. These are Babcock Arrowhead 140 design ships, the same as the Type 31 frigates being built for the Royal Navy at Rosyth. The Miecznik frigates are being built with technical assistance from Babcock and all its partners in the Type 31 project and the ships are expected to hand over to the Polish Navy in 2026.
When you call 999 for an ambulance it’s because you are in urgent need of medical assistance. So, a family in the Northeast were a little surprised at how long it took for an ambulance to arrive, in fact it took so long that the patient died from a heart attack before they arrived. But what took so long was that they stopped to fill up with fuel on the way. Well, that would be understandable if they were very low, but suspicions were raised when it was realised that they only purchased half a tank of fuel meaning the tank was only half empty in the first place. So why did they stop, could it have been the fact that they also bought sandwiches?
I don’t eat it myself, but I know it is popular with lots of people, so I was a bit shocked to hear that Rude Health’s low-sugar almond and hazelnut granola boxes may be contaminated with small bits of stone. I often hear of problems with food and items being recalled by supermarkets for one reason or another, but stones in the food is a new one on me. I wonder how on earth it happened. You hear of the wrong ingredients going in things when there are several food production lines close to each other and they get mixed up by accident, but I don’t know of any food that includes stones!
Hi everyone, well it’s back to rain this morning. At least it’s not too heavy so I was able to take a quick walk this morning without getting too wet. I was nicely tucked up in my comfy cat basket last night when I was woken up by a catfight. I got up on the windowsill and nosed behind the blind, but I couldn’t see who it was, and I wasn’t going to go and find out. I went back to sleep!
My first story this morning is that the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) owned Great Northern Trains have received permission to upgrade their Class 717 train sets to the very latest specification of the European Train Control System. The version BL3R2 system, also known as version 3.6.0, will allow the trains to make full use of the latest digital infrastructure which has been installed on the East Coast Mainline as part of the East Coast digital programme. This is a government-funded programme that will eventually remove the signalling from trackside and instead put it into the driver’s cab. Testing of BL3R2 on the Class 717 will take place in the autumn before the whole fleet is upgraded during 2024, before the upgrade goes live in 2025. GTR already use the technology on its Thameslink Class 700 trainsets in the Thameslink ‘central core’ between St Pancras and London Bridge.
Another railway story. The Marston Vale line, which serves 12 stations between Bedford and Bletchley hasn’t run now since December and is now not expected to resume running trains on the line until ‘later in the autumn’. The problem is that London Northwestern Railway (LNR) who run the service don’t have any trains to run on the line. LNR had operated the service with three Class 230 trains, but all the maintenance of these diesel-electric trains was contracted out to Vivarail who manufactured the trains from old London Underground ‘D’ Class trains. Then back in December Vivarail went into administration and all maintenance and repair work on the Class 230 units stopped, LNR didn’t even have the ability to fuel the trains. LNR have now acquired three Class 150 trains from Northern Rail. These, nearly 40-year-old diesel multiple units, are commonly known as ‘Sprinters’ and have a reputation for being noisy, and having a poor ride and are being replaced all over the country but I suppose having a train service is better than not having a service. This time LNR will be doing all the maintenance in-house and that is what is taking the time, training the engineers and drivers which is being interrupted by industrial action. But they have found the time to repaint the trains in LNR livery!
You may have read that the newly formed Saudi football league has been scouring Europe for players and buying up (mainly older) players for inflated sums. The 31-year-old Brazilian national Neymar is a good example. He has just been sold by French team PSG to Al Hilal for what is believed to be €90million. But it is the ‘extras’ he is said to be getting I find amazing. Apparently, he has requested a 25-room mansion, swimming pool and sauna, eight workers to keep his house tidy, nine cars and all expenses paid for travel, restaurants and hotels.
A strike at the Defence Equipment & Support Agency plant at Beith, in Ayrshire, has been called off because both sides have agreed to talks at ACAS. The plant assembles Brimstone and StormShadow missiles, many of which are sent to the Ukraine. The dispute is with the GMB union whose workers are demanding a wage increase. The skilled workers on the site, who assemble the missiles, are not involved as they recently had big increases because they were being poached by private industry. The 50 workers who have been about to strike are the people who move the missiles and parts around the plant and are complaining that they want their differential restored. I suspect there is not a lot of difficulty in hiring unskilled labourers as opposed to skilled assembly workers hence the difference in wages.
Isn’t it nice to read about a British company buying an American company and not the other way around? BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence contractor, has agreed to purchase the US space technology company Ball Aerospace for $5.6 billion (£4.4 billion). The Colorado-based company is owned by the US company Ball Corporation and makes beer cans and aerosol bottles. BAE already has wide exposure to the US defence market where amongst other things it makes weapons and maintains warships. Ball Aerospace employs 5,200 people and is a high-tech focused business which specialises in instruments, sensors and spacecraft, including some of the most sensitive satellite technologies, as well as civilian applications such as monitoring weather patterns so it is quite a good fit as BAE does much of the same thing in the U.K.
Yesterday the BBC put out a message on Twitter, or whatever it is called today, saying that they have noticed a big drop in the number of Radio 4 listeners, particularly for its flagship news and current affairs programmes. It asks people to comment below the tweet on their thoughts as to why. I can tell them why, but they won’t accept it. The problem is that they have gone woke. All their programmes now feature woke agendas and woke presenters. It is all green this and transgender that. They were openly anti-Brexit when the majority of the country were in favour and couldn’t see it. Then if that is not enough they have ridiculous programmes on that no one is interested in. For example, last week, they had a whole half-hour programme about a man who made music by vibrating spiders’ webs, now that is remarkably niche, and I bet attracted a minute audience.
Well, it was a bit rough last night with a lot of rain just as it got dark. It’s gone this morning but it’s not wonderful as it’s still cloudy. I love the news coming out of Australia that the Aussies are moaning that the English Lionesses were “rough”. The poor little Matilda’s, if England had been rough, a lot more of them would have been booked. The Aussies love to call us whinging poms, but it is them that are whinging. Anyway, it is the Lionesses that will be playing in the final on Sunday, no matter how much the Aussies moan.
I hear that Carnival Cruises are now looking at soon launching its third at-sea roller coaster. The 800-metre tracks run around the top deck (19) of the ships and take two electric cars which each carry two people at $15 a ride per person. So far 150,000 people have ridden the ride called ‘Bolt’ which means they have taken $2.25 million dollars in fares. I wonder how much it cost to build?
With the conviction of the neonatal nurse Lucy Letby, it is intriguing to see that the government has launched an inquiry into the actions of the hospital trust. It has now emerged that for years consultants at the hospital had put all the evidence together and were convinced that Letby was the common denominator. They put together a spreadsheet of who was on duty when each baby died, and other babies were taken ill and the one common factor was Letby who was on duty on every occasion. The consultants took their fears to management who dismissed their worries out of hand even making them apologise to Letby and threatening them with being reported to the General Medical Council. I would hope there will be resignations from the trust.
Earlier this week I mentioned that Royal Caribbean had been surveying past passengers about charging for pizza that is currently a free dining option. I now hear that the results of the survey have been so conclusive that Royal Caribbean have backed down on the idea. It seems that around 80% of respondents were against charging and that 25% said that if Royal Caribbean did invoke a charge they would not sail with them again. Royal Caribbean’s president has said that passengers don’t need to be concerned they have no intention of charging for pizza. But clearly, they had thought about it, otherwise why would they have run the survey?
I had a little chuckle when I read that the EU has decided that speaking and understanding English will be mandatory for all EU international train drivers. This is despite us leaving the EU and it only being an official language in Ireland and Malta. But when you think about it, it really makes sense. English is the second language in most EU countries, and it is the common language of air travel. Logically a Spanish train driver taking his train from Barcelona to Marseilles would have to speak Spanish and French but if that train went on to Italy the driver would also have to be able to speak Italian. How much easier if all the communications were done in one language! Of course, the French wanted French and the Germans wanted German but obviously English made a lot more sense.
Another railway company has decided to ban e-bikes. As from the 4th September C2C are changing their terms and conditions of travel to ban e-bikes, e-scooters and e-hoverboards from their trains and stations on safety grounds. I’m sure you have seen film of the lithium batteries spontaneously bursting into flames, so I can quite understand C2C not wanting one to burst into flames halfway between London and Southend.
I was reading today that England fans have been piling on to last-minute flights to Australia. The last one that would get you there in time for Sunday’s kick-off took off at 21:15 on Friday night and would have cost you about £2,000. Then you would need to find a ticket and I understand the game is a sell out so that’s not going to be very easy. But there are some hospitality tickets available at £600 each. I think. I would rather watch it on the TV in the office and be given cat treats whilst sitting on a nice warm lap.
Today I learned something new. There is such a thing as a smart bag – a suitcase with built-in USB ports for charging the likes of iPhones from lithium batteries in the case. I have only discovered this because RyanAir, EasyJet and BA have all just changed their terms and conditions to ban them from carriage unless the batteries are removed and carried on your person. They’ll be banning smart tags next.
Right, I’m done for the week and it’s developing into quite a nice day here in Downing Street. It’s quite nice and I hope it’s going to be good enough for the windowsill this afternoon. It’s the ladies’ World Cup football back this weekend, I might watch the 3rd, 4th place playoff if I can be bothered, I rather like the Swedes. But tomorrow I will be backing England, I am after all an English cat. I’ll be back with you all again next week, everything being OK.
© WorthingGooner 2023