Category: News


We’ve all been trying to get our heads around what happened in London yesterday. As you will know someone drove a car at speed across Westminster Bridge ploughing through pedestrians on the pavement causing death and damage to the people there. He then rammed the car into the railings, got out and then tried to gain access to the Palace of Westminster. One policeman was stabbed and then another one brought the attacker down with a gun. Both the policeman and the attacker died as did, so far, three people on the bridge. Several people are still seriously ill in hospital. We followed the events on radio and TV through the afternoon and by the time I was ready to leave for home there was a more than usual police presence on the streets of Manchester, 200 miles north of the capital. No doubt that was repeated across the country.

Sadly, this was expected. There have been attacks of this kind across the world and it’s never been ‘if’ but ‘when’ this would happen. As I write this I’m listening to the latest news on the radio. The attacker is from this country as we suspected. Some people are saying we should close our borders and keep people out. How this would help I am at a loss to understand. We are already great at keeping people out. If your papers aren’t in order as you arrive in the UK, if there is anything about you that border control doesn’t like about you, you will soon find yourself on the way back to whence you came.

This attack was perpetrated by a British person. Already here, living alongside of us. In spite of living in one of the most open, tolerant countries on the planet he has chosen to align himself with an idea alien to the values we hold dear in the UK and in other countries around the world. Ideas can not be kept out by stronger physical borders. You can’t send an army to defeat them. As I listen to the radio I hear that the police and security forces are raiding places across the country in an attempt to find out more about this person and his connections. This is all well and good. But to defeat the idea you have to be far cleverer than that.

Bad ideas can only be defeated by good ideas. In a country like the UK we have a lot going for us. We are rich, peaceful, tolerant. We are healthy, we live long, fulfilled lives. We have freedom, we can speak against ideas that we don’t like. We guard our rights and freedoms jealously. Other people, in much less tolerant, more violent parts of the world are threatened by this. They see people in their countries looking at how we live in countries like the UK and fear that they will want the same for themselves. They fear they will lose control over their people. They attack people in their own countries and seek to do the same in cities like London. 

The security forces have said they have thwarted several plots to do similar things in the UK over the last few years. But we are a country of 65,000,000, we can’t watch everyone. It wasn’t done with guns. He used a car and kitchen knives. You can’t ban them.

We will, over the next few days, unravel this plot, learn from it, mend the people who are  damaged and bury and mourn our dead. Then we will get back to normal. The Palace of Westminster is a public building. It’s the heart of our democracy. It’s called the ‘mother of Parliaments’, a template for other parliaments around the world. It will not be turned into an impenetrable fortress the PM has said. Which is right, if we did that these despicable people will have won. We have faced worse than this in out past and will face this.

I thought I’d share this written on a notice board in a London tube station yesterday.

 

 

I don’t normally post about the news on this blog. It’s really a place to organise my pictures in a coherent way and do a little writing. It’s a place where I like to mark things that I see as I wander around my city and the wider world. Of course it’s on the internet so anyone can read it and I’m honoured when people get in touch and say they enjoy it. And I’ve been amazed at the number of views it has had. 

But occasionally the news is so big that it can’t be ignored. 2016 hasn’t been a great year. We have lost far too many talented people. The Middle East is no closer to peace and everywhere there is uncertainty. The U.K. voted for Brexit and we have absolutely no idea what it means and where we will end up.

And if that wasn’t bad enough the USA has voted for Donald Trump to be the next president. What were they thinking? How he conducted himself in the campaign didn’t instill confidence in him outside of America though he does seem to be peddling back on a lot of things he said he would do if he should be elected. Maybe he didn’t expect to win and now he has it’s all as big a shock to him as it’s been to us. But if he didn’t intend to do these things if he won doesn’t this mean he lied to get elected?

He’s promised to bring back jobs to the USA and I feel bad for the people who expect their lives to be transformed as a result. Bringing back jobs will be difficult. It’s probably a much better idea for the cities suffering to reinvent themselves and capitalise on their strengths. Back in the 1980s Manchester was a basket case. They were talking about a ‘planned decline’. We didn’t want that and the city is now the poster boy for successful regeneration. We identified our strengths and assets and worked to them. Of course what works for Manchester won’t necessarily work for Leeds or Liverpool or Detroit or Gary. They will have to formulate their own plans. Sitting there and waiting for a former reality TV star to wave a wand and create industries with 1000s of well paid jobs isn’t an option. Taking control of your own destiny on a personal and city level will work.

And I’m very confused about how Hilary Clinton got more votes than Donald Trump and didn’t win! Doesn’t make sense to me and it isn’t democracy in my book.

This amused me though when it turned up in my Twitter feed.

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I’ve just been down to the local primary school to do my patriotic duty and vote in the EU referendum. Even though it was the middle of the day it was busy. The people manning it said that it has been busy all day and they expect queues later on today when people get in from work. It is the first time I’ve voted when I’ve felt my vote actually counted. I also took part in an exit poll as I left. That’s never happened before either. I have to say that I’m a big fan of Proportional Representation. It worries me that things like 15% of the vote for one party got 56 seats in the last general election while the same percentage for another party got them just 1. Democracy? Not a proper one yet.

The referendum has dominated the news here for the last few months. And as we have got close to the actual day, it’s being reported around the world. Important people from President Obama to David Beckham have been canvassed for their thoughts (both inners) and pundits from around the world have been opining about how it will affect the UK, Europe and the world generally. When the 5th richest country in the world contemplates a change in circumstances it will have repercussions for all. We will see.

And Manchester will be at the centre of it all tomorrow when the result comes in as the announcement will come from Manchester’s historic Town Hall. Albert Square is packed  with TV companies from around the world and the hotels and bars are full of the press waiting for the result. I’m not sure why it’s happening in Manchester. Maybe the government don’t want, if it’s OUT, the news coming from London. Or maybe they want to show Northern Powerhouse Manchester off to the world. Pictures of Manchester will be flashed around the world tomorrow. The sun is out and the city looks good. I’ll wave.

If you are interested, I voted to remain.

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If the UK votes to leave the EU next Thursday, Mr Cameron may have to go as well. Who will be PM? The money is on Boris. If the American electorate vote for Donald instead of Hillary in November this could be how Anglo American relations could look by Christmas. Spotted today by Shudehill tram station in Manchester.

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We’re having a new ship in the UK. It’s a £200,000,000 Royal Reserch Ship, a huge floating science laboratory that will conduct experiments on the high seas. As I post it’s being constructed a few miles from where I’m sat, in a shipyard in Birkenhead opposite the Liverpool waterfront on the Mersey. As the £200,000,000 is coming out of our pockets, the powers that be decided that it would be fun if we proposed names for this vessel and then voted on our favourite. I think they thought we’d be suggesting names like ‘Drake’ or ‘Raleigh’, some of our great maritime explorers. Or maybe ‘Darwin’ whose voyage helped him come up with the concept of natural selection and the origin of species.

Well we entered this project with enthusiasm, names have been suggested and votes have been cast. So far in front that it’s unlikely to be overtaken with nearly 125,000 votes is…

RRS Boaty McBoatface

If you’d like to see some more of the suggestions use the link below. It’s an entertaining read…

https://nameourship.nerc.ac.uk/entries.html

Of course, the powers that be are not at all happy with the outcome but are not sure how to deal with it. Being a royal ship, it’s name has to be approved by the Queen and no one wants the job of going to the palace to tell her. One of the powers that be was on BBC Radio 4’s PM News programme with the personable, but a bit naughty, archor man, Eddie Mair. I choked on a cherry tomato when Eddie pointed out that it’s not a boat but a ship and should therefore be called..

RRS Shippy McShipface

I can just hear the Queen launching this ship. ‘I name this ship….’

Prince….


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Prince (1957~2016)

We had barely enough time to digest the news about the passing of Victoria Wood and we were hit with the death of Prince. At 57, he has died far too young. As I post we have no idea what caused his untimely death but he hasn’t been well for a few weeks I hear.

I love his music. He was able to change styles and genres with ease and always came up with something cutting edge and thoughtful. None of your run of the mill ‘pop’ for Prince. Like David Bowie, we have lost a musical genius of global importance. As someone on TWITTER said, ‘Death isn’t so much using a scythe in 2016, more a combine harvester of the great, the good and the talented.’

Some reminders of his genius….’Purple Rain’….

And my personal favourite…’When Doves Cry’….

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Victoria Wood (1953~2016)

2016, so far, has been an appalling year for losing talented, well loved people. Some to illness, some to old age. We have hardly registered the last one when the next death is announced. People are right to think that this year has been worse than the average. BBC Radio 4 looked into it. What is happening is that in the 1950s people got TV, sport became part of the global entertainment industry, music went global and created a much bigger pool of globally, well known people. All those people are now in their late 70s and 80s and are just reaching the end of their lives. Sad but inevitable.

I’m not sure how it’s playing out in other countries. We all shared the loss of David Bowie but we have lost a lot of domestic famous people as well. Latest in the role call is Victoria Wood. She was only 62 and sucumbed to a short fight with cancer. She was diagnosed six months ago but chose to keep her fight to close family and friends. So it was a shock when her death appeared two days ago. 

We feel it particularly in Manchester as she was born in Prestwich, one of the northern suburbs. She was an actor, a comedien (who could be naughty but never crude) and a playwright. She has entertained us for four decades and was one of the first women to make it big in the world of comedy. Her comedy always had a northern edge that she refused to tone down for London audiences.  I went to see the Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of her ‘That Day We Sang’, a musical play about the famous recording of Henry Purcell’s  ‘Nymphs and Shepherds’ in the 1930s. It was press night and she was there. Leaving the theatre I found myself near her and was able to speak to her about the play. She, doubtless, had more important people to speak to but was happy to spend some time with one of the public. She was a lady.

Here’s her perpetual audience favourite, The Ballard of Barry and Freda. ‘Smack me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly’ indeed….

And here is the ‘Two Soups’ sketch she wrote for her good friend, Julie Walters (Ron Weasley’s mum)….

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It’s a big day for the Queen today as she celebrates her 90th birthday. She is spending it at Windsor Castle where she likes to spend the weekends when she is based in London. She’s been out and about in Windsor Town for the past couple of days, opening things and unveiling plaques and meeting lots of ordinary people which she does like to do. She’s been on the throne for 64 years and has always taken meeting ordinary people as a very important part of her role as head of state. And people enjoy meeting her as well. I know of no other head of state who has been in the job for so long who is greeted with such enthusiasm wherever she goes, both at home and abroad.

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She gets to meet lots of important people as well and must have met just about everyone who is anyone in any field of endeavour, sport, music, art, politics, theatre, movies, over her long reign. And she has a depth of understanding of world affairs that amaze people who meet her, expecting to meet a much loved, but out of touch woman, who lives in a series of palaces across the UK. At their weekly meetings, a long series of Prime Ministers appreciate her thoughts on whatever problems are facing us.

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As a modern democracy, the UK should abolish the monarchy, but through all the ups and downs the Royal Family and the U.K. have had, there is very little appetite to replace her or her descendents. The Royal Family is still there because we like it so and the Queen has always understood that and has adapted the family’s style accordingly.

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She may be 90 but has the demenour of a much younger woman. Having an interesting job (though she is scaling back on her commitments), surrounded by people who care and a careful diet could mean she will see a 100. Love this picture from Tim up in the ISS.

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Celebrations are low key today. It is her actual birthday and she will spend it with her family and friends at Windsor Castle. In June there is her official birthday when there will be more celebrations. And in July she will be coming to Manchester to commemorate the Battle of the Somme, 100 years ago in 2016. We are just having an ordinary dinner Chez Tom but we do have a bottle of champagne cooling to enjoy with it and raise a glass. 

Many Happy Returns….

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Kevin de Brunyne woke up to find himself the toast of Manchester this morning. Well the blue half of it at least. Manchester City’s Belgian international’s goal at the Ethihad Stadium last night propelled Manchester City into the semi finals of the European Championship for the first time in the club’s history. The first leg of the tie against Paris St. Germain was played in France a few days ago and was a 2-2 draw. All Manchester City needed to do was hold their nerve and keep Paris away from the City goalmouth. Away goals in a draw count for more than home goals so City would have gone through on the away goals rule. That’s never satisfactory in my mind. It was a tense match but Kevin came through in the last few minutes to score so Manchester City went through 3-2 on the night. The Paris St Germain manager was dismissive of City’s win but Manchester is going through to the semi final and Paris isn’t. So that’s that. I’m not sure who City will play in the semi final. It’s either German team, Bayern Munich, Spanish team, Real Madrid or the mighty Barcelona. Some people are saying these teams will be a hurdle Manchester City can’t take but we weren’t supposed to beat Paris St Germain either. We will see.

Thanks to Photo News for the great picture of Kevin.

Most people around the world will know of the BBC. Many will have watched programmes made by it. It’s one of our great national treasures. It produces some terrific TV; but also some excellent radio with several national stations and with most big cities and large towns having their own dedicated radio station. The jewel in the crown of the radio output is probably Radio 4, the national talk station. It provides us with a rich mixture of news, comment, comedy, stories, plays, intellectual games shows. And the cherry on the top of this output has to be The Archers. A national treasure imbedded in a national treasure.

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For those abroad who don’t know it, it is the world’s oldest running soap opera. It began 65 years ago as a drama that got across government information to farmers about farming in those years after WWII when we were trying to get back on our feet. It concerns the doings of a fictional farming family, the eponymous Archers, and their friends and neighbours. It is set in the fictional village in of Ambridge in the fictional county of Borcestshire. It’s somewhere is the rolling green countryside between Birnmingham and Cheltenham close to the beautiful Cotswolds Hill. Actors who join the cast find themselves in it for the long haul, often dying in the part. When they do we mourn the actor and the fictional person.

It plays for 15 minutes every evening at 7pm and gets repeated the following day at 2pm. On Sunday at 10am there is the omnibus edition. It’s a comfortable, well off soap opera set among well appointed farmhouses and picture perfect cottages. The action take place in expensive kitchens with Aga stoves in abundance. It has a loyal and fanatic fan base. I’m one of them having been introduced to it by older members of the family. We follow the stories and, of late, TWITTER, has allowed us to interact with the programme and other fans. Usually it’s a gentle poking of fun at some aspect of its cosy middle classness.

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But it’s taken a decidedly dark turn of late. About two years ago a new character arrived, Rob Titchener. He’d been brought in from Canada to run a big, new, industrial farm that had been set up on the edge of the village. He was married but we learned that the marriage was on the rocks. His eyes fell on Helen Archer. She has never been one of my favourite characters. She is her very own Greek Tragedy. Nowhere more so than in her relationships with men. Boyfriends came but mostly went. She did have a long term relationship with the local gamekeeper, an older guy, previously married, called Greg. That seemed to be going well and then he decided to commit suicide. Helen grieved but got back into the dating pool. She was having a bit of a thing with a hot, Australian barman but that came to a crashing end when she discovered Greg’s daughter, who she had given shelter to after she left her mother in France, in bed with her boy friend. Helen decided to give up on men but wanted a child so she went for the turkey baster option and Henry was born.

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It all seemed to be going well in Helen world and then Rob appeared and swept her off her feet. It then turned out that Rob’s wife, Jess, didn’t know that the marriage was over and turned up in Ambridge to play happy families. So Rob was living with Jess at the same time as having a torrid affair with Helen. Alarm bells were ringing in middle class sittings rooms across the UK but not, it seems, in Ambridge who thought that Rob was a throughly nice guy and were relieved that he managed to get rid of his unstable wife, Jess. We knew otherwise of course.

With Jess off the scene, Rob was able to pursue and woo Helen openly. Ambridge was uncertain at first but, eventually even her ‘on the button’ mother, Pat, was won over, delighted that Helen had at last found such a caring and attentive husband. But we knew different. The abuse began. In public he was kind and attentive, in private he was controlling and manipulative. I haven’t the time and the space to record all of the things he has done to Helen. He’s gradually separated her from her friends and family. He’s taken her car keys and controls he phone. She can’t go anywhere without his permission. All these things he’s done because he’s persuaded her she is mentally ill. He’s found things about her past and the people who used to support her and used them to isolate her. Her gay cousin’s, Adam, fling with a Polish strawberry picker, behind the back of his husband Ian, has been used to split her from Ian. He loathes her best friend, Kirsty, because she’s the only one who sees him for what he is. He is a Jekyll and Hyde creature, his moods swinging from attentive to abusive in seconds. She doesn’t know where she is and is doubting herself all the time. She thinks it’s her problems that are causing him to act so. We have now had physical violence and marital rape, one of which has caused her to fall pregnant. When we thought things couldn’t get worse, his mother came to visit. What a bitch!

Last night it reached a crescendo. Last week’s the scales were falling from Helen’s eyes. Kirsty got her to talk to a helpline and got her a secret phone. And Helen got Jess’s number and met up with her and Jess told her about her experiences. Helen decided to leave Rob but, instead of just grabbing Henry and running to the family home, she decided to cook dinner and tell him over that. It was never going to end well. And when Rob got nasty with Henry, Helen was pushed over the edge and, at the end of the programme, Rob was on the kitchen floor with a knife in his back.

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We listened shouting at the radio. By the end I was hugging a cushion and shaking. It was one of the most harrowing pieces of radio drama ever. TWITTER lit up as people rushed to share thoughts and fears. It was still going this morning when I looked on as people caught up with it. It’s been in all the papers this morning and the TV stations are following up on it as well as if it’s real news.

It has brought into the national consciousness this kind of abuse and has done good work to encourage people in this situation to come forward. To late for a local man here though who was in the same situation with an abusive wife. She has just been jailed because her husband ran onto a kitchen knife, several times. One TWITTER user has set up a giving page in Helen’s name with the money going to a charity that deals with abuse. As I post it has reached £90,000.