Saturday, 29 September 2012

Driving about.

As I remember, when the Labour government was elected in 1997, John Prescott was made the "Transport Supremo." He began his reign by vowing to take us all off the roads, and onto public transport. By the end of that government, in about 2009 wasn't it? - there were an extra FOUR MILLION cars on Britain's roads!
  Now I deplore this increase in private cars, and private car mileage as much as anyone. All the fuel consumed, the gridlock, the fumes, the accidents and so on. But I have to confess we have recently done two moderately long journeys. The first involved carrying 12 boxes each containing 46 books, and each box on its own was very heavy. These were distributed to a Cancer Centre and three hospitals across southern England. I attended a workshop at the centre, which was situated in the countryside well away from any railway station and bus route. We visited my brother and his wife, also living in very rural Gloucestershire. Then a couple of nights in a Travelodge, and we attended a wedding also very deep in the country and with no sign of a train or a bus. We drove home, making a visit to North London.
  On the next trip we also carried about four boxes of books, and made three visits on our way to Monmouth stopping overnight. We carried a dog part of the way, and half a dozen boxes full of jigsaw puzzles. After a meeting deep in the country north of Monmouth, we moved on in the late afternoon to a house above the Wye valley in deepest Wales, and stayed several nights with another brother. Finally we came back via Leamington Spa, visiting more family, and eventually picking up the dog again. We did each trip on a tank of diesel fuel.
  There is no way we could have achieved any of this by public transport, and the cost would have been far more than it was, with two people in the car all the time.
  And I have to admit, that even after getting on for 60 years driving, I still much enjoy it. Oh yes, I know all about motorways at the peak of congestion, with brake lights constantly coming on ahead, and traffic jams, and getting lost, and urban gridlock, but I still enjoy it on balance, and I have the best car I have ever owned since my first Morris 8 in 1956. It has amazing carrying capacity, goes as fast as I can legally drive, is amazingly comfortable for my bad back, and does over 50 miles to the gallon all the time. What more can I ask for?
  I have recently done a couple of days out with friends who can no longer drive. We got deliberately lost in the beautiful Suffolk country lanes, fetched up quite by chance at a wonderful country pub on each occasion, and much enjoyed the day out and a lot of reminiscing. We actually did a very small mileage, stopping to admire the view many times.
  Somehow, we have to accept that since Dr. Beeching axed all the small branch line feeders, rail travel has very limited use for most of us. The car is here to stay, and we have adapted our lives around it. Now we have to live with it, without covering our green and pleasant land with roads, and filling our lungs and our atmosphere with exhaust fumes. Electric cars may be part of the solution, and if they can fly so much the better, but my generation are simply bequeathing the next one with a problem that must be solved.
  Tom Tyler.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The great British Media.

I have to say I have felt desperately sorry for the British media over the past few months, and especially the popular press. First there was the Diamond Jubilee, with visits by the royal family all over the place, then the boating pageant, and Prince Philip's illness. It rained, but that didn't dampen peoples spirits, and the whole thing was a tremendous success, with Prince Philip making a remarkable recovery.
  And then to the Olympics. The media had guessed that the facilities would be delayed, over budget, and found wanting. None of that happened. In fact the facilities have been hailed all over the world as outstanding. Ah, but what about security. A bad let down by the G4S company! But even then it seemed there was a plan B, and the military were called in and responded with their usual superb skills and enthusiasm. Whether in Afghanistan or in the Olympic park our soldiers have been wonderful, and won all hearts. We touch wood, but so far three days to go and no problems.
  But, O horror, there were empty seats. And the poor deprived public clamouring for tickets! What a story to beat the organisers with. But alas, when you stage Olympic Games tickets have to be given to foreigners, regrettable though you may feel that to be! - and foreigners often do not turn up for a variety of good reasons. Nor do the sponsors who have helped fund the games always want all their tickets. Make any unoccupied seats available as quickly as possible to the public, and hey presto! the problem is solved! Except that another profitable media story goes begging.
   Where are our promised medals, the press screamed on the first 3 or 4 days? Forgetting that in many cases these days were occupied with heats, or the first of a series of races, as with the sailing! Then last weekend our tally of gold medals jumped to 18, wasn't it? We were third in the table! The press had to change everything and try and jump on the bandwagon of the national rejoicing at the wonderful successes of our brilliant athletes!
   Our government had already been hailing our TeamGB, and now the press had to follow suit, which is the one thing the media never wants to do, because it it vital to the press especially to highlight every national failure, and use it as a stick to beat the present government with. This supposedly means that when a General Election comes along certain of the press, and its overlords, can act as Kingmakers and wield the ultimate power to make or unmake governments. All in the name of the great God Democracy, you understand, and simply reflecting the will of the people - which they have greatly influenced.
  So the media hates a National success like the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, which lift all our spirits and make us all very proud to be British.
  And then to cap it all, waiting in the wings, are half a dozen or ten senior journalists accused of phone tapping, and other misdemeanour's. What do you do? One moment you are crowing at showing how a few MPs have fiddled their expenses, - for which they are rightly condemned, and the next you are giving evidence before an enquiry set up by those very MPs, who are asking a lot of nasty questions as though they were a bunch of investigative journalists! It is all enough to make the Murdoch family pack it in for keeps!
  Yes, you have to feel desperately sorry for our British media, but speaking for myself, and having been on the receiving end in the past, I feel it is high time it happened. And I am very proud to be British at the present moment!

Monday, 9 July 2012


We've all been at it. Watching the rain falling outside the window and emptying the rain gauge at frequent intervals! Watching with sadness the poor folk with flooded homes, - have seen that at first hand and never forgotten how ghastly it is, for months. Watching the roof going across at Wimbledon, - bit like watching cement dry! And the rest of the entire holiday season looks much the same, thanks to that infernal jetstream.
   Our little tiny swimming pool is heated by the sun ( joke!) and it was at last worth taking the winter cover off it about 2 weeks ago, - end of June. Since then I have been into it about three times, a chilly experience, but one which measures exactly the amount of sun and warm weather we haven't had this year. I thought last year was bad enough, but "Gee, you ain't see nuthing yet!"
   Enough weather moan. But holidays are an important part of our lives and our annual routine. So, with the Isle of Wight in our sights, - an old familiar stamping ground, we set off from merry Ipswich to join family and spend a week over there in a cottage. First stop London, where we found one of our proposed party was not at all well. Long debates about what to do, delaying for a day to see how things were, an excursion to the Model Village at Beaconscot, - still quite fascinating. Finally decision to abandon the trip, and return home to Ipswich with the suitcases of clothes, and boxes of non-perishable food, and picking up the dog again on the way.
   The rest of the week the family came to us, which was very nice, and especially to see more of the Scottish branch, who stayed a week. But it did feel strange to be where we were not supposed to be. We had got the garden and house as straight as they ever are before setting forth, so there was not a lot to be done there, though there are always jobs to be done in any garden, as you know. There was endless Wimbledon, a Cricket one day game to show the lovely Australians how to play the game, (what a dreadful gloat, but they were enjoying it so much just a few years ago!) and the British Grand Prix, which the right drivers didn't win!
  But always that feeling of something wrong. Out of place. We shouldn't be here. And the distinct lack of a holiday sent one looking through the diary to see when we might get another, proper one. It is a strange but apparently necessary part of our personal psychology.
   Monday morning again, and I turn another page in the diary, and it's back to the old familiar routine. Tricia has two normal working days, I have a couple of lectures, and my day working at the hospital, and a morning with our swimming group. All back to normal, with lots of extra things to do, like catching up on my much neglected blog. I really will try and do better in future!  All the best, Tom.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Great Scam

It all started, as so often is the case, with a phone call. A nice cheerful chap, Andy, with a really hot tip for an investment. Ridgeback Global Enterprises. Diamond mining, they had a couple of good licences, prospects very good etc. For several weeks I stalled him off, even though I was getting almost daily phone calls. He sent me what looked like very authentic literature. At length, partly to get him off my back, I made the minimum possible investment. He was disappointed, and suggested a bigger stake. I refused. The shares were one pence each. In due course the company was floated on the Frankfurt stock exchange, and the shares climbed at one point to eleven pence. I could keep an eye on them on my computer. Why didn't I sell? They only reached 11 pence for a few minutes, and then a "big investor" decided to take his profit, and the shares dropped back to 6 pence. But don't worry, Andy reassured me, they would go up again. Only they didn't. They slowly oozed lower, until they were worth nothing. And I hope I learned my lesson. The my dear friend Andy seemed to disappear, to be replaced by am answering machine which was never answered. And life went on.  Then came the clever bit!
  Again a phone call out of the blue. A lovely chap called Matthew Harvey, with good news! He had obtained a list of the Ridgeback shareholders, because his company Reliance Capital, was instructed to wind up the company. And, guess what. They found that the companies mining licences were worth a great deal of money, and they had an American Diamond mining company eager to buy them. I should also benefit from a 10 for 1 script share offer, and my shares should realise about double what I had paid for them. I should be paid in Euros, direct into my bank account. I should pay nothing, no admin charge or anything!
   The Tyler household became quite cheerful, and I filled in the necessary redemption form. We agreed that as long as we were not being asked for any money we could not go far wrong. Then dear Matthew phoned with fresh news. There had been a three for one share option offered by Ridgeback, which had to be honoured. The money was there. All I had to do was pay over three times my original investment, and hey presto! the money would be doubled, and the Euros flutter into my Bank account. I could almost hear them tinkling!
   Now I know I am naive, but not quite that stupid! Put down on paper like this, well after the event, it all looks very clear. Spread out over many weeks, with the friendly persuasive Matthew, it all seemed quite possible. But the moment Tricia and I were asked to actually hand over more money, we smelt something large, furry, smelly and with a long bald tail! I made a very interesting phone call to the Financial Standards Authority, and confirmed what I had suspected, - there were actively investigating Ridgeback. But I also received the official letter from the Liquidator who was appointed to deal with Ridgebacks affairs. My good friend Matthew also got wind of it, and wanted me to send him a copy. And for the first time a note of peevishness sounded in his voice, for by this time I had played him along for several weeks, always keeping his hopes nicely buoyed up. "The cheque is in the post" is a well known promise!
   Finally Matthew realised he had run out of time, and that it would be a good idea to change all his personal details very swiftly and move to South America. I miss his happy promising voice, with his ever good tidings. I sadly wonder how many other people he managed to con? It was a very clever one, building on an existing disappointing situation, promising redress, and at the start asking for no money at all!
  I hope this may prove a small warning, if one is needed! Next time I promise to blog weekly, and to be a lot more cheerful, despite the weather!  Tom Tyler.  

Monday, 14 May 2012

Cradle of Democracy

I dread to think what Plato would say about the current situation in Greece. Greece is supposed to be the cradle of civilisation, the starting point for all world democracies. Now the country seems on the verge of collapse, and all because the population have "had it too good for too long" and have no intention of tightening their belts sufficiently to start a movement back to solvency. One can easily understand why they are not pleased, as their situation is mirrored to a lesser extent by many other countries, including our own.
  This then is the logical end of our much vaunted democracy. Government by the selfishness of the people, whatever the consequences! As long as we stick to the principle of "one man one vote" there can never be any change, and the Greek situation will keep repeating itself in every democratic country round the world. So is the only answer dictatorship? Do we see in North Korea and many Middle Eastern Arab states the only answer, - where the rich and powerful tell everyone else what to do, and if you disobey you will suffer!
  There is perhaps another alternative, but I doubt if any country has the courage or the mechanism for trying it. It is not my idea, - I trace it back to the famous novelist Nevil Shute who wrote mainly in the 1940s and 1950s.  \he emigrated to Australia, partly because he was fed up with U.K. politics even then, I suspect. In his book "The Far Country" he visualises Australia in the future, with a "multiple voting" system. This works as follows.
   Every citizen above a certain age, say 16, has one vote. If you stay on in education to the age of 18, you qualify for a second vote. If you continue, and get a university degree, or train as an apprentice and get a qualification, you get a third vote. If you work or travel in at least three foreign countries you get a fourth vote, and if you are married and have a family, for at least 10 years, you get a fifth vote. The sixth vote is given for recognised community service, over a period of at least 10 years. The seventh vote is a direst gift of the Queen, given for exceptional service to the state.
  I'm not sure I have got the details exactly right, but you will get the idea. It would mean that someone who educates themselves, and then lives the life of a good citizen, making the maximum contribution to their nation and local community has a greater say in the running of their countries affairs compared to a person who drops out of school at 15 and lives on benefits with out attempting to get a job or make any contribution as a citizen whatever.
   Many would feel that this might be a system worth trying, as you would have a far higher proportion of votes being cast by those who take the trouble to try and understand what is going on in their country, and how the whole situation, say, in Britain in 2012, might be remedied and improved.
   But how would you ever introduce it, as if the principle was put forward by a party as an election manifesto it would automatically be voted down by the "non-thinking" majority?
   Yet many members of the population who do struggle to understand what is happening to us, and do hope that we can create a more stable future for our children and grandchildren, will recognise that some such system as the "Multiple Voting" system which rewarded education and endeavour might be a help.
  But would it still be "Democracy" and could we ever give up the principle of "one man, one vote" which we fought so hard in the past to attain?
   And next week I shall tell you all about  "The Great Scam."

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Warm friendship, cold weather!

Yesterday, the Saturday of Bank Holiday weekend was damp, cold and gloomy. Inside the house about 15 of us gathered, and all was warmth, cheerful sound, and much consumption of food and drink, - much of it brought to the feast by our guests. If you had calculated how long we had all known one another, it would have been between 52 and 64 years. Nine of those present had been to school with my wife, some from as young as five years old!
  If there is one thing which is far more valuable than the richest of treasures, it is the bond one has with long standing friends. True, when you meet up again you have a lot of news to catch up on. But the bond between you is so strong and long lasting, and you have so much in common, that you click back together as though you have seen one another only last week. I met up with a friend I last saw properly in about 1960, - though I had glimpsed her at a funeral a dozen years or so in the past. We pretty well picked up where we had left off.
   This privilege of keeping up with a circle of friends, near and far off, is going to be another priceless thing affected by the horrible hike in the cost of postage. This modest blog is one way of keeping in touch. I have resolved on another one. Each week I shall write a "newsy" email to a friend. When I mail it, I shall ask the recipient to print it out - preferably on re-cycled paper, put it in an old envelope, and then carry it to a favourite armchair, or even to bed, and read it imagining it is a real letter that has arrived through the post. This will be my small protest at the cost of stamps, and a lovely way of keeping in touch with long standing friends!
   We had visualised the "Vintage Chums" reunion being held in the garden, with some plopping into the swimming pool to cool off! The swimming pool still has it's cover over it. I haven't even bothered to see what the temperature of the water is. I know it was a lot warmer in March. Today we were supposed to take the old Sunbeam Talbot Tourer on a rally. We sadly cancelled as it was too cold and wet to contemplate it.
   Meanwhile, last week we had the usual annual dose of local elections. As always happens there were three results. First, the government took a drubbing, as always happens with mid-term elections. Second, the turn out was pitifully low, and so the result totally unrepresentative, - only the zealots bothered to vote. And third the media made a huge song and dance about it all, as though something of great significance had occurred which would affect the future of our country.
   What was of much more significance was that the shareholders of Aviva followed the example of those at Barclays, and voted in large numbers against the directors who are allowing the culture of naked greed to continue in our large financial institutions. I trust this will be a pointer to the future, and that thousands of other shareholders will join in, and eject whole boards of directors who don't change their present habits in double quick time.
   Our "Cancer Patient's Handbook" is spreading ever further afield, and cancer patients are apparently finding it helpful, and giving us most encouraging feedback. If you would like a copy, or copies, do please let us know. The whole venture is non-profit making, with any surplus money going to our Cancer Department here at Ipswich hospital.
  Well, I think that's enough to burden you with for one more week. We do hope you are all keeping well and happy, and will drop in to see us if you are ever up in Suffolk.  With all good wishes, T & T.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Foreign Parts

You realise the effect of age and disability when you cannot catch the snail which your plump and lovely French chef has deposited, with two others, on your dinner plate. And is it etiquette for your neighbour at the table to scoop it up and eat it if it clambers onto his plate, having made it's escape from your territory? Anyway, I feel snails are a much over-rated source of protein!
  Which may convey to you the fact that your liberation from my blog for two weeks is not due to the family embargo, but to the excursion we have recently made to La Belle France, by train and River Cruise. Our ship carried us from Avignon to Challons sur Saone in great comfort, together with a hundred and more citizens of the U.S.A. and a few others, the balance being from the U.K. We moved around from table to table, and found that the British embargo on certain dinner table topics, was completely and refreshingly ignored by our friends from "across the pond." One evening we had an extensive discussion about the historicity of the Gospel narratives, and the implications. As we alternated between British and U.S. guests, one had to be quite intellectually on one's toes!
   It was only my second ever real visit to France. Previously I had just passed through on the way to somewhere else. My viewpoint about our Gallic neighbours was, I think, derived from my father and his experiences in the trenches in the First World War. When the French army mutinied in 1917, the British had to take over their trenches as well as manning their own, and out thinly held line suffered appalling casualties as a result. As we were defending France at the time, it was an event that was hard to forgive and forget.
  However, back to the present, and I believe I made a discovery. Those of you who have seen me in the flesh, will know from my figure that I enjoy my food. The more flesh you have seen, the stronger will be your conviction! And you will also know, perhaps only by hearsay, that I am served by a ravishing and most expert personal chef.
   Now the food on our good ship Neptune was good, don't get me wrong. And every evening Madame Chef appeared to describe for us the Dinner menu. Exclamations such as "Ah", "Ou la la" "Magnifique" "Yum yum" and many others of a crooning and lip smacking nature abounded. We salivated accordingly, and there was a stampede when the dining room doors were flung open.  But, and here I will utter a blasphemy, the cooking was not as good or as imaginative as good English cooking, and there was a particular lack of vegetables with many dishes.
  But what about the visits to vinyards, and the wine tastings, so greatly talked up in the brochures? Well, I freely confess I am not a wine buff. I do drink wine, and I can tell the taste of one wine from another. I can tell which seems to go best with a particular food. I came to the conclusion that French wines are no better than wines from other parts of the world, including Britain, (We have an excellent vinyard at Bruisyard just up the road) and that a great deal of it is just "talking up" to try and impress the tourist. Wines were described as nutty, like a biscuit, fruity, earthy, apple flavoured, honey flavoured, cheeky, and so on, but to a mere wine drinker they all tasted much the same. The "ordinary" red and white wine supplied to us free with our evening dinner was to me just as good as any of the much more expensive varieties on offer.
   It is, I know, a terrible blasphemy, for which I deserve to be guillotined, but I reckon that our British cuisine, in both food and wine, is the equal of any to be found elsewhere in the world, and just because we do not make it a national obsession, and talk about it all the time, it should not be underrated. After all, food is better eaten than talked about!
   On our ship there was a splendid description of the history of France in the 20th Century. It stated
"France was much involved in both the 1st and 2nd World wars. The country was occupied by Germany between 1940 and 1944. France is famous for the great Invasion of Normandy in 1944, when the country was liberated."
  I suppose all countries tend to re-write their own histories when they get the chance! Now, as per family direction, you will be spared a Blog for at least a week!