Well, it’s Monday again and surprise, surprise it’s wet. It was nice not to have the pro-Hamas lot ‘marching for peace’ in central London on Saturday. I really wish I could understand what they are trying to achieve. What possible effect could our parliament calling for a ceasefire have? Neither side is going to stop fighting any time soon unless the other does too. The Israelis might call a temporary halt in exchange for some of the hostages. But Hamas will only give up hostages if they can see something in it for them, like a chance to regroup.
So a draft report says Sad Dick lied about the effects of the Low Emissions Zone in the TfL adverts he plastered all over London. But what punishment is there for him lying to us? Well, it seems there isn’t one that has any effect. He will, at most, be told he is a very naughty boy and not to do it again and that will not make any difference to Sad Dick, he has got away with lying and will happily do it again if it is to his advantage.
Here’s a cautionary tale for anyone thinking of going on a Carnival Cruise out of Miami. A family from Texas were boarding Carnival Horizon when the mother was pulled out of the queue because an X-ray revealed she had a pair of nail clippers in her luggage. Security took her to one side and searched her bag. In it they found an unopened bag of Gummies (fruit gum) which contained CBD which in most US States is a banned drug but is extracted from cannabis and hemp. She has now been banned for life from travelling Carnival. In the U.K. you can buy similar CBD sweets from the likes of Holland and Barrett as the extract is not going to get you high but is used for things like helping you sleep and arthritic pain.
One of the side effects of ULEZ is to force the NHS into spending £65 million to replace perfectly good ambulances with ones that comply with the ULEZ emissions rules. Of course, it is not just the London Ambulance Service that is going to have to replace ambulances but many of the surrounding services are also affected as some of their areas fall into ULEZ. On top of that, surrounding services often must transport patients into central London specialist hospitals. For example, Southeast Coast Ambulance Service has to replace 279 ambulances and London Ambulance Service 255. And there are several other services that need to replace ambulances at a mere £140,000 each. TfL have been kind enough to allow the emergency services until next year to make the change but will then start charging the drivers £12.50 a day. I wonder what would happen if ambulance crews refused to operate non-compliant vehicles?
I keep reading reports that Ukrainian forces have crossed the Dnipro River at several points and that Russian forces have withdrawn several miles. I have yet to see lots of proof of this, but I have seen the internet announcement that the Russians put out saying that their forces had regrouped further away from the river, before they withdrew from it. However, they have admitted that Ukraine is in the village of Krynky, several kilometres from the river. Three days ago, the Russians said the Ukrainian forces would be crushed, something I have not seen happening. I really don’t know what is happening in the area and I don’t expect to hear much but propaganda from either side.
The sale of vegetarian food in the U.K. seems to have taken a tumble, particularly meat replacements. Because of this Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have all cut their veggie ranges by 10%. Pret A Manger has cut its veggie outlets by 75%. Beyond Meat, the plant-based food manufacturer, has reported a 10% drop in sales, particularly of its plant-based veggie burgers. On the opposite side, sales of meat-based products have been steadily rising for the last 10 years and the biggest increase has been in burgers. Beyond Meat say they expect to make 20% of their workforce redundant. I promise I will not become vegetarian!
Amazon Prime are getting very close to releasing the next Jack Reacher series. The first series was a smash hit mainly because the channel didn’t hesitate in showing Reacher as the tough man that Lee Child portrays in the books. The film cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher and anyone less like the Reacher described in the books you could not imagine. Reacher Series 1 was based on the first of Lee Child’s Reacher books and wandered away from the story in several places. Many people called for Reacher’s partners in Series 1 to reappear in Series 2, but I understand that is not going to happen. At the end of each Reacher book, he walks away from the setting and the next book is a separate story and they can be read in any order. In fact, the second TV series is based on book 11, Bad Luck and Trouble. If you like the TV series, then you have no need to worry about material running out, Child has just had Reacher book 28 published and 29 is scheduled for next October!
Wow, I have woken up to a dry day! It’s not particularly warm but at least I didn’t get my fur damp going down the garden. I see that Just Stop Oil were out again yesterday blocking London’s roads. I hear that one in ten of those arrested in the past three weeks have been arrested more than once. It seems that they are often banned from coming into central London but simply ignore the ban and as soon as they are sentenced, they are back protesting. What is the answer? Well prison, but they are full, so magistrates are reluctant to send them there. This old cat thinks that we should round them up and stick them in old military camps.
The next couple of weeks could see the death of Freeview TV in the U.K. The World Radiocommunications Conference runs from yesterday until 15th December in Dubai and will allocate radio frequencies from 2030. Previous meetings reallocated some frequencies used by some TV channels to mobile phones and meant the retuning of many TV channels. The U.K., in the form of OFCOM, and the EU have been pressing for things to be left as they are and it is possible that the WRC will agree. But the problem is they gather every four years to allocate the frequencies. Perhaps the answer is going to be to switch all terrestrial TV to the internet on the recently announced Freely service.
The woke, left-leaning Guardian is delighted to quote a report that says wood-burning stoves are more expensive to run than a gas boiler. The report talks about it costing about £2,200 a year to heat an average home with a wood burning and £1,000 if you use a gas boiler. Personally, I think it is rubbish as the cost depends on what you pay for the wood. If you live in the country the chances are you will be gathering your timber from fallen trees and it would cost you absolutely nothing!
If you buy a new car the chances are it will not come with a spare wheel. Of the hundreds of models on sale in the U.K. only six, and they are mostly older models, come with a spare wheel, either full size or ‘get you home’. That translates to just 3% of cars sold. Why you may ask. Well, it seems it is because of emissions regulations. The manufacturers need to make the basic car as light as possible to keep the emissions down so the removal of the spare wheel as standard is an obvious weight saver. However, you can still buy a spare wheel as an optional extra, but it is now only available as a dealer-fitted option, thus keeping within the emissions weight rules. Last year the AA were called out to 200,000 flat tyres where the car didn’t have a spare wheel! Oh, I nearly forgot EVs rarely have spare wheels for a different reason, the space where the wheel should be is needed for the battery.
Sixteen years ago this week, Amazon launched its first Kindle reader. It came out at about the same time as the iPhone and unlike the mobile was rather poo-pooed by the reviewers. For $400 you got a 6” device that stored hundreds of books that could be downloaded for free over a built-in internet or 3G phone connection. The early models had buttons to turn pages and search for books in its memory or on the internet. These days they have touch screens and if you want a 4/5G model it costs extra as does the version that comes advertisement-free. But no one now considers them an innovation, they are as mainstream as the iPhone and have seen off several rivals like the Kobo reader. Happy birthday Kindle.
One of Italy’s biggest Mafia trials has just finished. More than 200 defendants were found guilty and in total were sentenced to 2,200 years in prison, while another 100 defendants were found not guilty. The defendants were accused of being members of, or associated with the ‘Ndrangheta’, a Mafia gang said to have an annual turnover of $60 billion. The trial has been going on for over three years and has involved thousands of witnesses and officials. It is incredible how big the Italian Mafia gangs are and how they have their tentacles into everything.
I hear that Japanese company SMBC Aviation Capital has signed a contract to purchase 60 additional Airbus A320neo family aircraft to add to the 10 they ordered last month. SMBC are the world’s second-largest aircraft leasing company and appears to have bet around $3.4 billion on the continued recovery of the airline business. They count Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. among their shareholders and contributed almost 20 billion yen to Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group’s profits during the April to September period of this year. Very nearly half of all aircraft are owned by leasing companies and an A320neo costs between $280,000 to $380,000 to lease per month. It’s big business.
Morning all, it’s dry but cold this morning. The Rich Boy was busy yesterday morning meeting the President of South Korea and his wife. He was quite dressed up when he left here to pop up the road to Horse Guards Parade to join the King and Queen and Prince William and Princess Kate in greeting them. Then he and his misses were really tarted up in the evening when they went to a royal banquet at the Palace. I hear that there is a big trade deal between us and South Korea in the offing.
As it’s the winter statement today everyone was up and about early. There was a very early cabinet meeting (8:00am!) to brief everyone on what Hunt is going to say after PMQs. The word is we are seeing some tax cuts, mind you who knows what taxes are going to be cut, 1p off National Insurance for both employers and employees is one that I keep hearing. We shall see what is happening soon.
I see the Museum of London has decided that the Black Death was racist because it affected black women more than white women. This is a little odd as the Black Death hit Britain between 1348 and 1350 and there were very few black people in the country at that time and they only looked at 145 sets of remains from three cemeteries. They then used a formula they invented to decide which of the bones they were looking at were from black women. But I suspect the researchers have given themselves away as they have renamed the Black Death as the Great Pestilence.
Westminster Council has a bit of a problem. They had a lot of complaints about street artists making noise and causing a disturbance around Leicester Square, so they brought in a licence for street performers. But this also meant that performers in the Covent Garden Piazza, where people have been performing for 400 years suddenly needed a license. Unsurprisingly the Covent Garden performers all refused and just carried on. Westminster sent in a couple of their enforcement officers who were chased off by the crowd. The council is now trying to decide how to proceed, should they hire more enforcement officers, call in the police (who are not interested in a breach of the council bylaws) or just give an exemption to performances in Covent Garden which have never been a problem?
An odd story reaches me from Portsmouth where all the city’s on-street EV charging points have been turned off in a safety row. Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) raised safety concerns yesterday when it revealed that the chargers drew their power from the streetlights which SSEN maintains. SSEN say they have no record of an application to use their electricity network. The 98 points across the city have been in use since 2019 and it raises the question as to where the money paid for electricity by drivers has been going. If you plugged your EV into the nearest lamppost, I suspect you might be in trouble.
At long last I hear that the factory producing the Ajax family of armoured fighting vehicles for the Army is in full production. The vehicles have been tested and much modified to iron out all the problems in the prototypes, including horrendous vibration and noise. The General Dynamics factory in Merthyr Tidfil in South Wales is now working flat out to build the six types of nearly 600 vehicles ordered. Unusually for an armoured vehicle they are not being built individually in cells but are on a production line. I only hope that after all this time and money they prove to be good on the battlefield.
I told you a little while ago that Ryanair had lost a court case to On the Beach over cancelled flights where they had sold flights as part of a package and had to pay £2 million in compensation. Now I hear that Ryanair has paid a similar sum to Travel Republic for precisely the same thing. I wonder how many more travel companies will be making claims against Ryanair and how much it will cost?
Good morning my friends, gosh it’s chilly this morning, my paws were quite cold when I returned from my trip down to the bottom of the garden. I had a warm in front of the radiator and feel a lot happier now. The news this morning is that following the swing to the Right in Argentina, the Dutch have voted for a Right-wing party in their general election. Interestingly the new biggest Dutch parliamentary party have policies of leaving the EU and cutting immigration. I shall be watching this one closely.
Last week Division One Barnsley beat non-league Horsham 3-0 in an FA Cup replay but today I hear Barnsley have been thrown out of the Cup for playing an ineligible unregistered player in the match against Horsham and in previous rounds. Now little Horsham have been reinstated to the cup and will take Barnsley’s place in the next round and will play at Division 2 Sutton. I suspect that Horsham will be delighted to receive the extra money for playing in the next round, win or lose.
When you read about the amount of food they serve on cruise ships it makes me shudder. I have just seen what Carnival expect to serve their passengers on Thanksgiving. Over this year’s holiday they expect to serve 110,000 turkey meals with 48,000 lbs of turkey and 600 gallons of gravy. Now I quite like turkey, it is very like chicken, but even I couldn’t imagine what 48,000 lbs of turkey meat looks like. Mind you I don’t fancy the traditional Thanksgiving desserts of pumpkin pie and pecan pie, much too sweet for me.
I hear that Elon Musk is considering building a second gigafactory in Europe now that his Berlin factory is churning out 500,000 EVs a year. Back in 2019 Musk decided to build in Germany because he was worried about Brexit. Now several years later I understand that the experience of building the factory in Germany has not been very easy. But could the next Tesla gigafactory come to the U.K? Apparently, we were second in the last contest, but the site Tesla were being offered in Somerset has been taken up by Tata for their EV battery factory. The alternatives are in the West Midlands and possibly the BritishVolt factory in the North East where the new owners seem to have financial problems. But of course, the deciding factor will be how much money the government is willing to throw in.
More on electric vehicles. I hear that after months of negotiations with the government, Nissan is to announce that it is going to build the electric successors to the Qashqai and Duke at its Sunderland plant. Some months ago, Nissan announced that after 2030 they would not be producing any petrol or diesel models anywhere in the world. As the petrol and diesel Qashqai and Duke are currently built at Sunderland, alongside the electric Leaf, and they are building a huge battery factory next to the car plant, it was either build the electric models there or import them. The clue is in the size of the battery factory which I believe will produce a third of the UK’s EV battery requirements in 2030. I suspect that Nissan has been seeing how much money it can get out of the government before it announces what it planned to do all along.
In the autumn statement, Hunt said the government are likely to sell off the shares they still own in NatWest in a public offering. He even mentioned “Tell Sid”, which made a load of people ask, “Who’s Sid?” Being a well-educated cat I know that the “Tell Sid” campaign was how the government sold off shares to the public when British Gas shares were sold to the public in the 1980s so you will have to be over 60 to have actually seen the adverts and bought British Gas shares at the time.
A company called ‘Life at Sea Cruises’ seems to be having problems living up to its name. Next week it was supposed to have passengers departing on a three-year, round the world, cruise, but it looks certain that won’t be departing because they don’t have a ship! Over the past couple of years, loads of older cruise ships have gone for scrap so you would think they could have bought one of the younger ships heading for the scrapper’s beaches in Asia. The cruise that was supposed to last 1,095 days and visit 382 ports in 140 countries cost about $115,500 per person and was costed on 540 double cabins being sold mostly to gullible Americans. In fact, I hear the first cruise is around 50% sold. So what is the problem? It seems several financial backers have pulled out, so they don’t have the cash to buy and refurbish a ship. The company originally intended to purchase the 20-year-old AIDAAura but took so long over negotiations it was sold to somebody else. I haven’t heard what ship they are looking at now, but I will tell you when I hear.
Good morning all, it’s getting colder out there and it’s not even winter yet. I see that snow showers are forecast in the north of the country. I guess I am lucky living in central London where we hardly ever see snow because the buildings make it warmer. When it does snow in London it melts quickly, thank goodness, as it is horrible for us cats as we are only small and even an inch or two is hard to cope with.
When I first heard my first story today, I thought someone was pulling my leg but apparently it is true, British Airways pilots are being employed to help Premier League referees to get VAR decisions right. When a pilot communicates with Air Traffic Control it is very important to make sure that the information going in both directions is precise and accurate, lives depend on it, so it is somewhat formulaic, and instructions are repeated back so it is clear they have been understood. It is just this that the BA pilots have been trying to instil in referees in their communications with the VAR officials. The release of the taped Ref/VAR conversations on several recent controversial goals incidents have revealed miscommunication and complete chaos on more than one occasion. A BA pilot usually starts a conversation formally by saying something like, ‘Good morning tower, this is Speedbird 101 requesting permission to taxi.’ While a referee has often been heard to start, ‘Hi mate, was that a goal?’
I hear that Emirates Airlines make more money from their flights from Dubai to Heathrow than on their entire network of flights to Western Asia (India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka). Most days the six Airbus A380 flights they operate into Heathrow are sold out. Add in additional multiple daily flights to Gatwick, Stanstead, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow and it is not surprising that Emirates say the U.K. is their most important destination and are looking at adding additional flights.
In the London Borough of Havering, I read that ULEZ protesters have adopted a new tactic. They have been sending Sad Dick a merry Christmas message by decorating the ULEZ camera poles with Christmas decorations. They are adorned with tinsel, baubles, paper chains and even Santa hats. They have not been damaging the cameras, just making them stand out and ridiculing them. Apparently, people have been donating money and spare decorations, so the protesters will be busy for some time to come. I wonder if what they are doing is illegal in any way?
As part of the visit by the South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, we have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to upgrade the present trade agreement. They have announced several new deals like the £9.7bn investment by the country’s sovereign wealth fund into UK assets to fund renewables, green infrastructure and waste-management projects. But the thing I think could be most significant is the MoU signed by British power consultants Mott MacDonald and South Korea’s KEPCO Engineering & Construction Company to explore the potential for it to build a large-scale nuclear facility in the UK. Comes at the same time as an announcement of £21bn of investment from South Korea in the UK energy and infrastructure projects. Mott and KEPCO are already working on a nuclear power station in Abu Dhabi, which comprises four AP1400 nuclear reactors. Six of this class of reactor are in use, six more under construction, another is in final testing and a 14th unit is in final commissioning. Could we have found someone to help build our big nuclear power stations on time and to cost?
This year, in case you don’t want to buy one for your office Christmas party, Lidl is offering to rent you a Christmas sweater. It will cost you £2 a day for a minimum of three days but it will save you buying a £40 sweater that you put in the bottom of a drawer and forget about. The only problem is that it has the Lidl name all over it so you will be a walking advertisement for them, and everyone will know you rented it. By the way, I will not be wearing clothes for Christmas, I draw the line at a bow tie.
According to French sources, Uzbekistan is looking at buying the Dassault Rafale multi-role fighter jet. France seems to have found a sweet spot for sales to countries who have previously been Russian clients but want something more advanced than the Russians are offering without buying from America. Uzbekistan, currently operating a fleet of Russian aircraft, could be joining the likes of India, Indonesia, the UAE, Egypt, Qatar, Greece and Croatia who have purchased the Rafale. Other nations who are looking at the Rafale include Serbia and Colombia.
Gosh, it’s Saturday again, doesn’t it come around quickly! Well, it’s sunny and dry this morning, but gosh it’s cold again in London. I had a little laugh this morning when I heard that Paris Hilton had named her new baby girl London. When she grows up and tries to check in to the Hilton Hotel in London’s Park Lane, can you imagine the confusion when London Hilton checks in to the London Hilton!
I have been reading about a man, his wife and six-month-old baby who have booked to go on a cruise on the P&O Azura. They booked an inside cabin with a double bed and a cot for the baby. When they got confirmation of the cruise booking, they were told that they had twin beds. When they complained it was wrong, they were told because there were three people in the cabin and as one would be using a fold-down bed it was impossible to arrange the others as a double as space didn’t allow it. He explained that no one would be using the pull-down bed as the third person was a baby who would be using a cot. As way of an apology, they were upgraded to an outside obstructed view cabin and the same problem occurred, twin beds were shown on the confirmation. It seems the computer says three people in a cabin equals one must be using a pull-down bed therefore the beds must be in twin bed arrangement. Is it impossible for the computer to be programmed to see a cot has been booked and you can have a double bed! The computer says ‘No’.
For six months, from June 2024, Eurostar trains will run empty between Amsterdam and Brussels, only picking up London-bound passengers once the train reaches Brussels. It is because a new terminal building, to take many more international passengers, is being constructed at Amsterdam station. The idea is to be able to handle more passengers more quickly. The trains are still going to run from London to Amsterdam because they only have to get off the train in Amsterdam. All the processing is done before they board. Hence the trains will have to return empty until their first stop at Brussels until the work is complete in January 2025. Passengers from Amsterdam to London will have to use local services to Brussels where they can check in for London.
The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), which is in charge of the project to convert the derelict Casement Park stadium into a 34,500-capacity stadium ready for the Euro 2028 have announced they are looking for a new contractor to do the work. Back in 2013 the job had been awarded to a joint venture by the England-based Buckingham Group and the Northern Ireland firm Heron Bros. However, the Buckingham Group went into administration in September and Heron Bros say they cannot manage the contract on their own. Under Northern Irish law, the GAA must look for a new contractor, but it is understood they will look favourably on any bid by Heron Bros should they be able to form a joint venture company. Whoever wins the job is going to have to move quickly as the kick-off date for the competition is fixed.
I read the BBC have banned employees from going on tomorrow’s march against anti-Semitism in London. Isn’t this a bit strange? The BBC didn’t ban employees from going on Black Lives Matter or pro-Palestinian marches which truly divide opinion but banning employees on marching in favour of something that is actually illegal in the U.K. the BBC gets hot and bothered. This makes the BBC look even worse in its stance in the current Hamas – Israel conflict where it already refuses to call Hamas terrorists. Now they look like they are endorsing anti-Semitism.
A few weeks ago, I heard a shadow minister talking about the Liebore promise to spend £28 billion a year on ‘green’ investments. They said it would be several years before they managed to build up to that sum. Yesterday they went a step further saying they would not be able to meet this £28 billion target. I wonder what their next move will be, they have already said they will not be reversing many of the Tory spending decisions. I think these two parties, are two cheeks of the same arse.
I had to read this twice for it to sink in. Every year HMRC send out five million letters to taxpayers to tell them how to claim back overpaid tax into their bank accounts. If HMRC don’t get a reply saying what account the money is to be paid into within three weeks they send out a cheque to the address they have on record. As of the beginning of November over 650,000 of this year’s cheques, for hundreds of pounds each, have not been cashed. And the HMRC say it is the same every year. How can people afford to throw away hundreds of pounds? In total, millions of pounds remain unclaimed every year, I just don’t understand.
That’s me done for the week. Although it’s lovely and sunny out in the street it’s much too cold out there for me to take my special place on the windowsill today. Just like last week it’s going to be a comfy chair in reception from where I can keep my eye on this afternoon’s comings and goings in front of the fire. See you all next week.
© WorthingGooner 2023