Sunday, 30 December 2012

Ryanair: safety under extra scrutiny in Belgium.

I avoid so-called low-cost carriers like the plague, partly because the service on-board is dreadful, and partly because when you pay all the extras, they turn out to be more expensive than proper airlines, more often than not. In Belgium, Ryanair fly from Charleroi. Until a few years ago this airport was like something from the 1950s, but without the optimism. One terminal (at least thats what they called it), a cafe that I never once saw open, and a newspaper stand. It had to be seen to be believed, it really did. Its main saving grace was the fact that car parking was easy. You just parked by the side of the road and left it there until you came back. The old site is disused now, and has been replaced by a ghastly modern building. Belgium is defined by many by its total inability to understand what customer service involves. Belgian Service + Ryanair + Ghastly Airport = Bad Start To Holiday!

In fact, Ryanair seems to specialise in operating from such airports. Forli in Italy is a classic example, albeit with much better service because the staff are Italian. I love the Adriatic coast, so its  an airport I know well. Not that Forli is particularly near the coast. Nor is Bologna (Forli), to give it its full name, even remotely near Bologna. Forli changed hands from the Luftwaffe to the Royal Canadian Air Force after the war, but the town itself is best known as the birthplace of Mussolini. But I digress....

Ryanair also seem to employ extremely young pilots, who I expect learned their trade on computer games. I was told that the first time a co-pilot takes to the air is an operational flight for him. Before then its all simulators.

Now the Belgian government has revealed its concerns about the low levels of fuel being carried on Ryanair flights in order to cut costs. Apparently there were 3 seperate incidents of fuel shortage over Spain in one day. Perhaps passengers could be asked to pay, let us say, an extra €50 each to fill the tanks up? This could possibly be done by means of a whip-round in the departure lounge. There could be a screen showing the amount of fuel being piped in compared to the distance to be flown, with announcements that go something like this:

"1,200 miles to fly, and enough fuel for 1,250 miles. Who would like to give us an extra few bob at this moment? Consider it an investment for your children. And by the way, buy a Ryanair lottery card, and if you are lucky you can win enough money to buy us some de-icer for the wings when we return from  Reykjavik next week. You know it makes sense!"

There is a certain irony in all this, as after Ryanair, SleazyJet, and WizzAir, my least favourite carrier is Brussels Airlines. Its shit (although I did once fly as the only passenger from Birminghan to Brussels, and I was looked after like royalty. One of the very pretty Stewardesses spoilt the experience a tad though, as we were taxiing at Brum, she told me that "the pilot apologises for it being a bit bumpy, but the tyres are a bit flat"). But I did have the distinction of being the first person to fly with the carrier after they were grounded for a week or whatever it was because of the volcanic ash scare.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Gerry Anderson Has left the Building....

Every year, at Christmas, it seems that somebody special leaves us. Yesterday it was Gerry Anderson, who helped create some of the greatest characters, the greatest shows, and the greatest fantasies of our youth.

Thunderbirds, Stingray, Joe 90, and my own favourite - Fireball XL5 - and so many more as well. I watched these shows even before I saw, as a schoolboy, Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. But Anderson was not a fantasist, he was a harbinger of things to come. Anderson saw our future.

The sad fact that Neil Armstrong and Gerry Anderson left us in the same year will not be lost on those of us who as children looked up at the stars believing that against all the odds we would get there.

Their legacy can be found here.

Friday, 21 December 2012

World About to End: I'm off to the Pub!

Apparently, according to an old Mayan prophesy, the world is going to end at midnight tonight. I'm not sure if that is midnight GMT, or midnight Mayan time. Perhaps it will end in 24 seperate events, I don't know.

Armageddon holds no fears for me, because I've lived in Bermondsey.

The Chinese, on the other hand, are getting very stressed about this, and there are reports of the panic-buying of candles. This begs the question; if the world has ended, why will they need candles?

Al Jazeera are giving the event good coverage, as if they didn't already have enough superstitions to worry about, and the boys in Valhalla are all looking forward to a we told you so moment.

Actually, it just occured to me that the Norse legend of Ragnarök as being an end of world sort of thing was actually way ahead of its time. It involved rising sea levels immersing the land. Think about it; the Vikings foretold global warming.

I rather like all that Norse stuff. Thor always fascinated me as a boy. No turning the other cheek or forgiveness there - the meek shall inherit that which nobody else wants, I am afraid. Perhaps a bit of Odinism would help get Europe out of crisis, it would make about as much sense of some of the other stuff they've tried already.

On that subject, do you know what is the Russian word for one? Odin. Think about that......

London: Serial Killers on the Loose!

Did I miss something?

Have the rules on police officers carrying weapons in the UK changed recently, or are all motorcycle coppers now members of some firearms team? Because they have all got pistols now, it seems to me. I have even seen bobbies on the streets of Devon and Cornwall carrying sidearms seemingly as a matter of course.

I remember the day in 2005 that a 'suicide bomber' had been killed at Stockwell tube station. "At last, I thought. The Met have finally, for the first time got it right and have actually killed a terrorist instead of an innocent man" Silly me, it was just a bloke going to work. Jean Charles de Menezes was murdered.

What I remember most vividly on the morning, watching reports on the BBC just minutes after the slaughter of this innocent young guy, was an 'eye-witness' outside the station, a stocky, shaven-headed guy of around 30. He had seen it all, he said. The police were chasing this guy, who looked Indian, and who was wearing a very bulky jacket. The guy was trying to escape, he jumped on the train, there was a struggle and a lot of shouting, and then shots.

My guess is that this eye-witness was in fact a copper himself, and how interesting that what he said reflected almost exactly the lies put out initially by the police. Coincidence, huh?

And yes, they were lies. Lies put out by the police to protect the guilty and the incompetent.

The person in charge of all this, Cressida Dick, was actually promoted! Of course, p.c.s are very pc when it suits them, and how embarrassing it would be to even suggest that Britain's top woman cop might have been in charge of an operation that led to an innocent man having 7 bullets pumped into his head and police officers lying left right and centre. My goodness, if that were the case then some might even dare suggest that she only got to the top through positive discrimination. Nooooooo, that would never happen, would it?

Now we learn that Met officers involved in an altercation with Minister Andrew Mitchell might not have been quite telling the truth. Now there is a surprise! These are heavily armed officers, carrying automatic weapons on the streets of London, and it turns out that at least one, possibly more, is dishonest. Is not some psychometric testing carried out on these people before they are given guns, and, seemingly, immunity for their actions?

But shall I make a prediction? No action will be taken against any police officer in this case, no action is ever taken. And how weak this makes David Cameron look. He knew of 'inconsistencies', but chose to ignore them as he did not want to upset his relationship with officers who protect him.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Patti Page - As Pretty as a Picture!

Since I am talking about beautiful women.... Queeen Elizabeth II, Gina Lollabridgida,..... Might I just throw Patti Page into the equation?

Check this out guys!!!


A Chip Off The Old Block!

At the age of 8 or 9 years, I was watching the film 'Trapeze' at my grandmother's home one Sunday afternoon. This was the moment that I first discovered the existence of Gina Lollobridgida, who I immediately recognised as being totally unique, and totally perfect. It was love at first sight, and I spent much of the rest of my childhood wondering how I might find someone who looked exactly like that, but closer to my own age, of course.

The movie was made partly on location at the famous Circus Bouglione, which is currently in Brussels.

I took my son along to Bouglione, as I do every year. George is 7 years old. A trapeze act was about to begin, and 3 young ladies appeared. The conversation between George and myself went like this:

"Look, Dad, they are really pretty ladies, aren't they?"

"Yes George, they are. Very pretty."

"Are they Italian ladies?"

"Yes they are".

"Wow. When I grow up I'm going to marry some ladies like that!"

Nice one George!!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

I am not a Monarchist but.....

I truly believe that no single person could ever be more deserving of the title 'Majesty' than Queen Elizabeth II. 

And so I am delighted that a rather massive part of Antarctica is to be named after her. Queen Elizabeth Land - it is an honour for her, and also an abiding statement of who we are, and of the power that we can, should we so wish, wield. If only we might wield it more....

At a time when it is popular for certain elements in our society to self-flagellate, and when patriotism can be a questionable ideal, just look at this lady, and marvel at her beauty and her dignity.

Monday, 17 December 2012

A Few Critical Comments About Radio 4...

Let's be clear about this: cricket is not suitable for radio.

My heart sinks when I turn on Radio 4 and the cricket is on. It happened this morning, although I wasn't sure what I was listening to at first. Some posh bloke and a West Indian chatting about shirts, apparently. But then it all came into focus when the latter started to talk about the days when he only owned one set of whites.

After some minutes of this inane drivel, the posh bloke announced 'Well, this must be the longest drinks break in history...' Well I'm very sorry, Rupert, but this does not make for good listening. Is this really the reason other people pay the licence fee?

But Radio 4 can be even worse, of course. The Archers. This series has been running continuously for 125 years, and still nothing has happened. A bunch of yokels prattling endlessly on about the village féte and the price of slurry. Does nobody ever get laid in Ambridge?

But to really plumb the depths of broadcasting, there is one programme, and yes, it is on Rodio 4, that surely cannot be beaten for sheer inanity.

Gardener's Fucking Question Time.

What in God's name is that all about?

'Oh, I'd like to ask the panel, where is the best place to plant my begonias?' You can stick 'em up your arse as far as I'm concerned, mate. If its such a problem for you, and if you are really losing sleep over this, then Google it. Tosser. Who listens to this? It is surely a good argument against retirement.

Radio 4 is great for drama, news, and above all, comedy. There is nothing comical however about switching on the radio to hear those chilling words 'And now, the weekend omnibus edition of the Archers." There is nothing dramatic about listening to the posh bloke describing the three pigeons basking in the sun by the boundary, while the bowler walks purposefully, the ball in his hand, etc, etc.

But as for Gardener's Fucking Question Time, I tried, I really did, to listen to a whole show in the hope of extrapolating a single moment of interest or excitement. But it was to no avail.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Democracy Does Not Come Cheap.

I drove back to Brussels from Strasbourg today. It was a tiring week, so I decided to stay the extra night (not at taxpayer's expense, I hasten to add).

Driving through Lorraine, I stopped off at St Avold, to stretch my legs, and to spend some time with some fine men.

St Avold is the American military cemetery in Lorraine. It is a beautiful place, and almost 11,000 heroes rest there. I sometimes like to spend time here, and reflect.....

If you never saw it, then you should visit this sacred place. Walking from the small car park, and past the Chapel, one is suddenly faced with a breathtaking visage. It really does put everything into perspective very quickly.

To those of my colleagues who do the Strasbourg trip every month I would say that we see the signs to St Avold on the motorway, and it is actually only about 4-5 minutes off of the main road. Take some moments, visit, pay your respects, and reflect on how expensive democracy is. And thank God that it was not us that had to buy it!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Why We Demand A Referendum!

A discussion between Katie Hopkins and Nikki Sinclaire on why We Demand A Referendum!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sir Patrick Moore, A Real English Hero!

Too many obituaries this week...... Sir Patrick Moore has passed away at the age of 89.

To many, he was the greatest astronomer of his age,  a media star, a highly talented concert pianist, and in latter years he was known for his Eurosceptic politics, which I happen to agree with.

But to me, it was his work in Bomber Command during WW2 that defined him. More than one of my family would have been flying on ops with gen that Sir Patrick had perfected. He was a great man, and as a former member of the Royal Air Force myself, I am proud to have shaken his hand!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dave Brubeck Has Left The Building....

Just one day short of his 92nd birthday, Dave Brubeck has passed away. To me, and probably everyone else, Take Five was 5/4 jazz, just as it was the the Beat's entree into mainstream, and it was also the acceptable face of Bee-bop for the  Rockers. It was the point where Trad crossed over into modern jazz, or was it vice versa? Anyway, it was a truly enigmatic track, and I love it!

Without a doubt, one of the true greats of jazz. He will not be missed, because through his music he will never go away. He will always be with us.

We Demand A Referendum!

A great week for us in Brussels this week, where Nikki Sinclaire and Katie Hopkins were getting great attention from the media. Its starting to get really exciting now!

I know that Head Office is being swamped with enquiries and offers of support at the moment, its interesting to see where that support is coming from.

Really looking forward to this one!

Brussels: Jellyfish in action!!

An absolute pleasure and joy this evening.... a number of brewers from the North West of England were showing their excellent wares in Brussels tonight. It was wonderful company, and the beer was superb. I once worked for Fullers, the London brewers of great renown, and so I like to think that I know good beer when I taste it.

But the taste turned a wee bit sour.

As often happens at such events, there were some juvenile drunks present, making asses of themselves. In this instance, it must be mentioned, they were all UKIP staffers.

I was alerted by a colleague to an unpleasant situation that required my attention. Seemingly, several of my female colleagues were being accosted by these drunks, and were being attacked for having arrived at the event with yours truly. (Here I must explain - the UKIP Fuhrer does not like me very much, and the little folk of no consequence seem to think that they might win a smile, or at least a benevolent glance, if they are seen to be criticising me.) And so, they went for the girls.

And then I turned up. I asked that if these brave patriotic nationalists had a problem with me, might they wish to discuss it?

I never saw grown men run so fast. Three of them, and I will name: John T, James I, and a dodgy looking cove I never saw before in a ghastly combination of shirt and tie that even Del Trotter would have rejected.

Cowards or what? Absolutely devoid of the courage needed to back up their words when faced with another man they fled. It was hilarious; I never saw such spineless cowardice before. This was witnessed by at least one MEP, and so when UKIP are criticised for their performance in the future, do not be surprised. Their performance tonight was pathetic.

With the laughter of young girls ringing in their ears, they beat the hastiest retreat I saw for many a year.

Total tossers!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A little over a year ago, as part of a delegation from the European Parliament, I found myself sat in the office of Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of Palestine. He was one of the most impressive people I have met in many years of an  interesting political career.

As well as the West Bank, I visited Gaza City. If you did not actually see it, then you know nothing about it, trust me. I wanted to go on on that trip, because I wanted to confront some demons. You see, I know about divided communities. I served in Northern Ireland in the late 70s and early 80s, and I was on the Green Line in Cyprus with the UN. I wondered, having seen all of that as a young serviceman in my late teens and early 20s, how might it be to see a contemporary situation as a 50 year old man with quite a bit of political experience... It was humbling, to say the least. I learned a lot from the trip.

And now Palestine has been granted non-member observer status within the UN.

Like many, despite my absolute belief in the concept of statehood and self-determination as basic human rights, I was not sure about the timing of this. Its a complex issue to say the least.

But it has happened, and so let us move forward from this moment.

My first thought was that Palestine must now reciprocate, and throw an olive branch to Israel. The absolute top of the wish list is that Hamas recognises the state of Israel. But events moved quickly, and Israel appears to have got it all wrong. A vindictive acceleration of the settler programme, and another halting of the transfer of taxation revenue from Israel to the Palestinian Authority were quickly reported. Palestinians are paying tax to Israel, and they will see nothing of the proceeds in their own territory.

Israel has an absolute right to defend its territory and its people, (as does any legitimate state) but there is a certain irony in the fact that in Gaza they have created a walled and isolated community, separated on ethnic lines. I saw for myself children picking through the bulldozed remains of homes under the shadow of surveillance cameras and army posts. I could write more, but I think you get the picture. To be honest, when I saw this, I thought about the movie Schindler's list....

In Ramallah, we had dinner with the Mayor. The Mayor of Ramallah is a Christian Woman named Janet Mikhail. A Christian Woman. There we see the preconceptions about Arab society demolished on two fronts. While we were eating, two Palestinians, on Palestinian territory, were killed by Israeli helicopters.

Something is not right here.

England 38, All Blacks 21!

No further comment is necessary!