Posted in News

Oh I say……..

Of course, I’m delighted that Ian McKellen, already a Knight, has been made a Companion of Honour, and that Parky has become a Knight.

But the award in the New Year’s Honours which I was most pleased to see was the CBE for Leslie Phillips.

Going right back to the days of “The Navy Lark” on the radio, Leslie has given so much joy to the millions who have seen and heard him.   And he’s a fine straight actor too, as his rarer dramatic outings have shown.

I thank him for the many great laughs he has given me.   This honour is well deserved.

Posted in News, Politics

Locked in the lavatory, no hairdresser, but she still triumphed!

What little gems come out of the National Archives each year when the release date for a particular story is reached.

It is wonderful to imagine Mother Thatcher being locked in the lavatory  –  albeit at a posh hotel in Houston  –  and poor old Denis got stuck there as well.   And then the information that she, Leader of the Opposition at the time, was not provided with a hairdresser or someone to press her dress.   A secretary had to take Mother’s clothes home to wash as there were no laundry facilities.   Apparently the visit was considered to be very successful.

Interesting, too, to learn that in 1977 the Labour Government prepared a briefing paper about her speeches and said……..

“the dominant characteristics of Mrs Thatcher’s speeches is that they say very little.   She never goes into details of Conservative policy on particular topics…………  This is clearly a considered approach…………  Nevertheless she is putting together a programme which will enable her to enter the next election with very few specific commitments.”

If that sounds like criticisms made in the last year or so about David Cameron, just remember Mrs T went on to a massive victory two years later!

Posted in News

Benazir Bhutto

Another tragic day for the world  –  and one which has seen the assassination of another woman who climbed to the top in her country against all the odds in a conservative muslim state.

Some of the obits have been less than generous in reviewing her life and achievements, but she was loved by vast numbers of her fellow countrymen and women.  

She returned to Pakistan knowing her life would be in danger from the moment she stepped on its soil.   She died while fighting an election campaign which looked as though she had a good chance of winning, and just after addressing a public meeting. 

Apart from the personal tragedy for her family and her party, her death signals a new and worrying step on the road which could lead to outright civil war.   Riots have already started.   Pakistan is poised on a knife edge.  Remember the country is a nuclear power.   2008 could see the start of bloody conflict, and victory for the medieval Taleban poised in the north.

This troubled region causes ever more problems for its own population and for the rest of the world.   We must all hope the violence does not escalate.

Posted in Music

Classical music can’t be bought in the shops

It’s a strange thing  –  Classic FM is an immensely popular radio station and has its own popular magazine.   Radio 3 seems to do well, and there are excellent classical music programmes on television, not frequently but fairly regularly, on BBC2 and BBC 4 in particular.

But have you tried buying classical music in the shops lately?

I went to a smallish town centre branch of WH Smith.   They had no music CDs or DVDs at all, just films.   I tried a big regional shopping centre branch of WH Smith.   They had music, but no classical to speak of;  just a few Three Tenors and Katherine Jenkins.   They are fine, but not what I wanted.  I wanted piano music by a particular artist.

I went to HMV.   Well, they must have it.   Aren’t HMV the centre of the universe as far as music recordings are concerned?   Not any more;  once again the only classical recordings I could find were the one or two current popular ones;   Katherine Jenkins again.

So certainly around where I live, it is impossible to buy classical music in the shops.

Back home, HMV’s website was able to supply exactly what I wanted, but now I have to wait for them to be shipped.

When the present generations of elderly and middle aged die off, it looks as though classical music will have a no doubt keen and devoted, but very small audience.   Popular music has taken over the world.

Posted in England and the English, Music

The RAF Bands do the heart good

This weekend I’ve been to see the Royal Air Force in concert;  the superb RAF bands.

What an evening!   These talented musicians, male and female, play several instruments each, and so obviously enjoy their playing.   The band includes woodwind, brass, and percussion.  I’ve always been a sucker for drums, and there were so many:  kettle drums, side drums, bass drum, a huge gong, and a dance-band-type drum kit.   What a wonderful noise!   Far more brass, of course, than in the average orchestra, and all these different instruments together producing a marvellous sound.  

But then the soloist performers:  a haunting flautist  –  Libby;  a violinist whose instrument seemed to speak  –  Claire;  a xylophonist  –  Jim, who had four different xylophones, and was accomplished master of all of them.

And then the RAF Squadronaires, today’s equivalent of the war-time Squadronaires founded in 1939.   Five saxophones, four trombones, five trumpets, a guitar, a keyboard, and the drums, and four glorious jazz pieces that really got the feet tapping.   A first this year, I think, in having two women among their number.

For the final section, Wing Commander Stuart Stirling, the RAF’s Principal Director of Music, led the entire band in a “Proms Finale”, which included “Sailing”, the “Hornpipe”, “Rule Britannia”, “Land of Hope and Glory” and the “Royal Air Force March Past”.

As every year when the Band comes, local Air Cadets were selling small waving Union Flags in aid of RAF charities.   So, when we got to “Land of Hope and Glory”, the entire theatre was standing, waving flags and singing.  

There are still patriots around, who are not afraid of upsetting the PC anti-nationalistic lobby, at least in this audience, many of whom were elderly gentlemen proudly wearing their RAF ties and blazers.   It does the heart good.

Posted in Uncategorized

Proposal to curtail parents’ choice about abortion on grounds of foetal abnormality

I was sorry to  see that an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has been moved in the Lords, to remove the right to abortion on grounds of foetal abnormality.   At the moment late abortion is permitted if tests suggest the baby will be seriously disabled, so pregnant women can make the decision to have an abortion if they discover their baby has a serious disability.

The amendment was tabled by Baroness Masham of Ilton, who said it was unacceptable for babies to be aborted for disabilities that can now be treated after advances in medical science.   It is very understandable that Lady Masham should  feel as she does.

Nevertheless, I must agree with the Antenatal Results and Choices charity, which said it was unthinkable that parents should be forced to have a disabled child when they felt they could not cope, or when the baby was likely to die at the time of birth.

I should have thought pregnancy was a difficult enough thing to go through without its being forced on someone who does not want to have the baby.   The emotional and mental turmoil of being forced to carry the child through to term, and then give birth to it could cause great unhappiness and possibly damage to the woman, and to the marriage or partnership.   It is also, of course, an assault on a woman’s rights over her own body.