Mid-Summer Madness

Back in early June Britain Lacks Talent approached its 16th series final with the voices of complaint getting louder. With growing numbers pulling holes in the crumbling facade of impartiality and honesty after another outsider is given a spot in the final totally against the run of play. All the acts that did not get through have had little to say (were gagging orders pre-conditions?) but those that know they were better will have had a sad return to their day jobs. The following final did nothing to quieten the moans - as two talented and hard working young finalists were out-voted in favour of a crazy, high-vis jacket wearing, comic from Norway ... Figures! Hopefully the promised quarter million pound prize will be enough for him to quit while ahead.

Rasputin_200Meanwhile in Ukraine early June saw the Wagner mercenaries pulling back and leaving the Russian army in control. The official line being that their tasks had been achieved. However an alternative view is that they have had enough and want to get out while they can i.e. before a Ukrainian counter-offensive cuts them off. That week’s drone attacks on the outskirts of Moscow were not from long-range raising concerns in the Kremlin that Russians were involved.

However today all of that changed as the Wagner forces showed they had totally different plans. Their taking control of the city of Rostov-on-Don seemingly without a shot being fired marked the beginning of a military coup. The almost total lack of response from the Russian Army must be interpreted as either tacit support, fear or a simply lack of capability. Further stories in the media claim that a separate Wagner force is heading to Moscow to take power. The powers in Moscow are preparing defences but it remains to be seen if the defenders actually put up a fight.

Not that any of this will impact the British mid-summer social schedule of horse races, tennis, cricket and Glastonbury... and the BBC’s paid holidays covering safe events.

tags: War, Europe, Russia, Mad Vlad, Kremlin, Death



History Repeats

Last night saw the latest in the long line of Eurovision Song Contests (ESCs) - and even though every song was new the result turned out to be strangely familiar.

Eurovision2023aFirstly Sweden lived-up to their favourite status - just - by winning for the 7th time. And the UK reverted to its frequent tail-end placing by finishing in 25th position [out of 26]. With our only bright spot being to finish ahead of Germany’s Lord of the Lost. But congrats to the BBC’s Liverpool / Ukraine team that got through the whole complex mega-event with few obvious hitches.

However the whole camp, multi-day, muti-million pound event did very little of practical value to help Ukraine expel its Russian invaders. The continued exclusion of Russia and its collaborators and the moral support for the victims did help in some small way. But more weapons, ammunition and trained fighters are far greater needs.

tags: war, conflict, Russia, Ukraine, Eurovision, UK, Sweden



Coronation Day






Spring Has Sprung

MunsterManNo posts for over two months - but the world keeps turning ...

True the war in Ukraine - as reported in the UK - has become somewhat bogged down in terms of territory gained or lost. And there is a feeling that Russia has now played all the cards it had - short of nuclear mass destruction. However lives are still being lost on both sides - and the damage to infra-structure continues to mount.

The Russian command seems to put little value on the lives of its troops - mere expendable pawns - but the surviving soldiers might make them regret their callous disregard. Mad Vlad Putin and his Imperial style of command could well trigger a revolt of the military like the one the ended the reign of the Czar.

Back on the domestic front the big political surprise was the sudden resignation of Scotland’s First Minister for no believable reasons. Rapidly followed by police raids, more resignations and unexplained missing funds. The total domination of the SNP has evaporated leaving the new First Minister looking lost and in charge of a sinking political battleship. How could anyone in the SNP leadership have contrived to be left with a mint 100,000 camper van on the ex-First Minister’s mother-in-law’s drive - or have considered it a legitimate party expense?

Coronation1953-1But it’s not all bad news. First we have the coronation of King Charles III. A rare event that will be a first - for anyone not able to remember 1953. Hopefully the 2023 edition will be remembered for good weather and a happy time with friends and family - as it was last time.

But it’s a sign of the times that there are subjects of the crown who consider their views so important - and their causes so serious that they need to disrupt what the majority want to see and support. Their cries ring out. Ban horse racing! Ban oil! Ban the monarchy! Ban meat! Ban the police! Ban cars! Ban .... whatever!

Then shortly after the coronation we have Liverpool hosting the Ukrainian winners of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) from last year. This is quite an event for the BBC to organise especially when it is looking for voluntary redundancies to help with its struggling finances. Quite why it agreed to hold it is unclear - but there is growing evidence that the current TV licence revenue could decline rapidly as on-line services takeover from TV & radio programme transmissions. That aside the British entry for 2023 could get as high as a top-ten place - partly because of the politics. But the chance of getting near betting favourites Sweden in the final score are close to zero.

Finally here’s to the memory of all those lost in recent months. They will be missed ...

tags: war, conflict, Russia, Ukraine, Scotland, politics, King, crown



Bring Back Self Sufficiency

Despite almost 12 months of fighting Russia has not destroyed the heroic Ukrainian resistance. It has however lost huge numbers of personnel - some reports claiming over 700 soldiers lost in one day. And it has used up world war quantities of ammunition, vehicles and missiles partly because the most effective Ukrainian weapons have been supplied by NATO governments.

Rasputin_200Within the next few weeks there are predictions that Russia will throw even more troops, shells and missiles into an all-out assault in a renewed attempt by Putin to crush the nation and replace the population with Russians. The fact that a terminally-ill Putin is still in control being the black cloud hanging over all of eastern Europe. And the need for the Ukrainian edition of the Eurovision Song Contest to come from Liverpool shows what could become the norm if Putin wins.

If the sheer numbers on the Russian side do overwhelm the defenders - and Kyiv falls - then expect the conflict to spill over westwards. At first into former Soviet republics then into a full WW3. If this happens UK troops will be manning the front line and the British Isles a sitting target for long range missile attacks. At this point the years of cut-backs on defence spending and the reliance of overseas suppliers for both weapons and ammunition will come home to roost.

A clear lesson learnt on both world wars was that victory went to the side that could produce the most weapons. Something forgotten by today’s controllers of our defence budgets. You would have hoped that Putin’s attack last February was the wake-up call for boosting the manufacture of munitions. But no evidence has been seen of this happening.

It is right to help Ukraine by providing weapons ammunition and training. Most of their army is, after all, just normal civilians defending their homeland. But the lack of additional investment means that the UK is in danger of  being defenceless should escalation occur. And with politicians like Boris Johnson saying that ALL our fighter jets should go to Ukraine it’s not just the deranged Putin that we have to worry about.

Come the 13th of May the best situation would be for Ukraine to be celebrating and never needing to host any international events in exile again. And that the sovereignty of nations is respected world-wide.

tags: War, Europe, Russia, Mad Vlad, Kremlin, Death



Don’t Start From Here - 2

It was 10 years ago that this blog raised concerns about the proposed London to Birmingham rail link - HS2. Concerns that were shared by many others. Then the project had a base level budget of 16,800 million for the initial London to Birmingham section of the line. Both the London and Birmingham ends having an interchange station as well a terminus.

At the northern end the interchange will be in Solihull and be a relatively simple design providing two double-sided island platforms. Current estimates are for this station to cost 370 million and be ready by 2026 - the year that the whole London-Birmingham line was supposed to open.

OldOakCommon1At the southern end the interchange will be at Old Oak Common - the site in the days of steam of the Great Western Railway’s main London locomotive deport.

This station is positioned amongst a network of rail lines the most important of which are the mainline to Bristol, Devon, Cornwall, South Wales and the new Crossrail line. At first politicians tried to kill off the station plans but engineering common sense eventually silenced the critics. Now the station is predicted to be one of the busiest and most important in the capital. The 14 platforms will form a new super-hub set to be the best-connected and largest new railway station ever built in the UK.

As the importance of Old Oak Common Interchange has increased so the cost-benefit figures for Euston have become much less appealing. The section from Euston to the interchange is a most complex and costly few miles. And since all the HS2 trains will stop at the interchange they won’t have chance to get up much speed relative to conventional trains or even the Underground. The time to get here from Euston via HS2 services will be little different to that from Paddington or the Central London stations via the Elizabeth Line

So why spend a large chunk of the overall budget on a section of track that will add little additional public access and slow down the high-speed services?

Terminating at Old Oak Common could cut a significant chunk out of the excessive and escalating project costs. It might even bring forward the completion date. Anyone who lives or works within walking distance of Euston (and commutes to / from Birmingham) will be disappointed - but this is supposed to be a national project.

HS2 will remain a loss-making burden on the UK tax payer for the whole of its projected 60 year lifespan - so let’s hope that politicians don’t make this misguided project even worse ....

tags: railway, hst, high speed, victorian, transport, big spender






Divorced From Reality

Today’s high profile story on the Express website shows that old and long-discredited story lines are still useable in 2023.

anchorman2023To quote ... UK snow forecast: -12C Polar blast to spark worst January deluge in a decade
Winter is about to roar back with a -12C Polar blast threatening one of the worst January snow deluges for more than a decade. By Nathan Rao 11:01, Wed, Jan 11, 2023 | UPDATED: 13:36, Wed, Jan 11, 2023

So let’s see how accurately this forecast matches to reality. Based on the past record of Nathan and his sources any degree of match-up will be down to sheer coincidence. [Update Sun 12 Feb 2023 - No snow on any day at Grandad Towers.]

Much the same could be said about the headline-filling book out this week that claims to be non-fiction by Harry Windsor (formerly known as Prince). Grandad won’t be buying a copy - and given the number of reviews, quotes and interviews in circulation there seems little point - even if the hard back version is going at half-price.

Not only is the book hyped-up in the extreme but what Harry seems to have told his ghost-writer does not always align with the known facts. For example to claim that he was at Eton college when the Queen Mother died when he was in fact on a skiing holiday in Switzerland with Charles and William is very wide of the mark. Being alone at college rather than having fun in the snow with his father and brother may be a better fit to the intended storyline but it’s certainly fictional rather than factual.

But the growing list of dubious recollections cannot all be levelled at the ghost-writer. It has been Harry himself making statements to camera that are sometimes hard to believe. His various complaints about his cottage at Kensington Palace are typical. It was too small and lacked the status and facilities befitting a prince. The ceilings were too low - and he did not know who lived here before but if they were taller than him they would be banging their heads all the time. Given that the prior occupants were William and Kate the whinging distortions and selective amnesia of Harry call into question his grip on reality.

Any lack of accuracy has, however, not stopped the stories being very profitable for the renegade couple. Quite how long the millions keep arriving in sufficient quantities to fund their expensive lifestyle is anyone’s guess. But they have already been given far more the average citizen could dream of - even with a lottery win. One day life may take back what it has given them ...

tags: Lies, distortions, half-truths, invented, artificial, fame, privilege, media




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