Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Britain is no country for more and more old men who continue to die unexpectedly before their time

Tucked away in national newspapers last week, making no waves and no headlines was the news that : 

Thousands of old man and women have died unexpectedly during the past year, driving a rise in overall death rates which is baffling public health chiefs.

It was based on a Government report which began :

We have observed higher than expected provisional counts of deaths for the year 2012; especially in persons aged over 80. 

It went on to say that :

 'female mortality over 85 increased in these published tables by 5% in 2012, while male mortality over 85 increased by 3%'.

* 'the pattern of deaths so far in 2013 had indicated, if anything, a further deterioration in mortality compared with that observed over the corresponding period in 2012.'  

* 'cumulated deaths per week are averaging around 10,500 which is around six hundred more than would be expected'.

Speaking to the 'Health Service Journal', Professor of Human Geography, University of Sheffield, Danny Dorling said 

“Elevated mortality amongst the elderly is often about people dying two or five years earlier than would be expected given recent rates. It is possible that cuts or freezes to services have a particular bad effect on this group - even cuts and freezes that might appear very minor - because the group is so vulnerable."

He went on to outline possible causes for this increase in the number of deaths of old man and women arising from the fact that they are the ones who :

* suffer from increased anxiety as a result of knowing they might have to move home or even have no home in a time of crisis in the funding of a large number of care homes for old people.

* get left a little longer in overstretched Accident and Emergency Services in hospitals.

*  are most neglected when the carer visiting them has only 15 minutes when they used to have 30.

My post  on Monday, 13 May 2013 :

Britain is no country for old men who need help with dressing and eating

Monday, 22 July 2013

Britain is no country for old men living in the less than idyllic English countryside

An article in the 'Guardian' today was entitled :
English country life holds serious challenges for older people
Charity finds biggest obstacles are lack of public transport, high prices, dearth of shops and poor access to social care

It reveals that a new 'Age UK' poll and its report, 'Later Life In Rural England', finds that nearly 1 in 4 old men and women aged 60 who live in the countryside, say that doing so presents them with difficulties their old counterparts in the towns and cities don't face, which are the result of the :

* cuts to local bus services.
* lack of nearby shops and services.
* high cost of heating and living.
* lack of access to health and social care.
* difficulties getting broadband.

For many old men and women life is not a rural idyll and :

*  the number aged over 65 with social care needs is projected to increase by 70% over the next 16 years.

* the number of cases of depression, stroke, falls and dementia is also projected to grow between 50% and 60%, compared with up to 42% in urban areas.

* 1.5 million old people in rural areas are reliant on oil to heat their homes which frequently costs more than electricity and gas and can only be bought in large quantities, resulting  in sizeable upfront costs.

Age UK is calling for the prevention of loneliness to be made a priority, which has been shown to be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Michelle Mitchell, the Charity Director General, said :
"Life in rural England is very tough for many people. Too many are stranded at home, lonely and isolated, struggling to the shops, Post Office and even hospital, because of a lack of local bus services.
The high cost of heating because so many rural homes are badly insulated and are off the mains gas grid as well as the challenge of getting adequate social care all add up to make life in the countryside difficult for many and far from the stereotype of a rural paradise.

With rural communities ageing rapidly, it’s more critical than ever that the Government and local authorities make sure that the older people who live there, many of them frail and vulnerable, have access to the services and facilities they need to live as independent and fulfilling lives as possible."

The Prince's Countryside Fund, which supports people who live and work in rural areas, is backing the Report. Director Victoria Harris said:
"We know that rural isolation and lack of services are a real problem across the UK with post offices, village shops and pubs closing at an alarming rate. These closures tend to hit groups such as the elderly particularly hard and combined with the decline of local transport it is a major issue. This report highlights some of the major concerns facing the UK countryside today and we welcome any opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our rural communities."

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" and old men, "Thanks" to an old Professor of Geriatric Medicine called John Brocklehurst

John,who has died at the age of 89, was the leading geriatrician of his generation and old men and women in Britain have reason to be grateful for the key contributions he made to their clinical care and to the way their medical services should be organised.

What you possibly didn't know about John, that he :

* was born in Liverpool, where his father was electrical engineer and grew up with his parents Baptist beliefs, was educated at Glasgow High School and Ayr Academy (right) and graduated from Glasgow University as a medical doctor at the age of 26 in 1950.

* after working in junior hospital posts and a two-year spell as senior medical officer on the troopship 'Medway', inspired by his religion he joined the Grenfell Mission in Labrador, Canada, as medical officer in 1955, returned to Britain in 1957 and became a consultant geriatrician in various hospitals for nearly a decade, managing to fit research around his punishing clinical work load.

* was appointed a Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester at the age of 46 in 1970, where his department acquired an international reputation, enhanced by the 'Unit for Biological Ageing Research' which he created.

* not only played a key role in establishing old-age medicine as a thriving academic discipline but did not distance him from the practical needs of patients and added to the understanding and management of urinary and faecal incontinence, a topic of supreme importance to many thousands of old people and the subject of his first book in 1951.

* brought scientific gerontology to bear on the understanding of the diseases of old age and his commitment to bringing together science and daily practice resulted in his monumental 'Textbook of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology' in 1973, pre-eminent in its field and now in its seventh edition.

* showed how biological ageing modifies the symptoms of disease and an old man or woman with, for example, a chest infection leading to not only a cough and shortness of breath but also confusion, incontinence or falls, a realisation which meant that in an old person there might be a readily remedial cause for what might have seemed an irreversible change.

* made significant contributions to the understanding of stroke, falls, and nutrition and therapeutics in old age and his research into day hospitals and geriatric rehabilitation units as user-friendly settings for the investigation and treatment of some frail old people has a particular resonance today in the light of revelations of inappropriate and often negligent care.

* was President of the British Geriatrics Society from 1984-86 and, following his retirement, took a leading role in the Royal College of Physicians Research Unit from 1989-98.

* travelled widely, was an excellent mandolin player and a talented artist whose portraits were particularly striking.

* attended the Manchester Medical Society meeting of past Presidents in 2003 seated bottom row second in from the right.

His friend Raymond Tallis wrote of him :

'John was a modest, courteous man with a quiet sense of humour. The last time I met him, a few days before his death, he talked in particular about his time in Labrador. Although he had lost the religious underpinning of the vocation that took him there, he retained the commitment to making the world a better place as a humanist.'

What better epitaph might an old man have ?

Friday, 19 July 2013

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old doctor of astrophysics called Brian May aka as a guitarist who played in a band called Queen

Brian musician, singer, songwriter and astrophysicist who achieved international fame as the guitarist of 'Queen' is 66 years old today.

What you possibly didn't know about Brian, that he :

* was an only child, grew up in Hampton in London, his father was a draughtsman at the Ministry of Aviation and at school he formed his first band called 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'.

* left school and studied mathematics and physics at Imperial College London graduated and when he was 21, formed the band 'Smile' which contained drummer Roger Taylor.

* at the age of 24, with Roger, joined Freddie Mercury and John Deacon to form 'Queen' went on to write, among other songs, 'We Will Rock You'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iikKzQwgBJc and 'I Want It All'.

* after the 'Live Aid' concert in summer 1985, was phoned along with his band mates by Freddie who proposed writing a song together and the result was 'One Vision', with Brian on music, Roger on lyrics and Freddie as producer and arranger.

* has stated in interviews that he suffered from severe depression in the late 1980s and early 90s, even to the point of contemplating suicide, for reasons related to  his troubled first marriage, perceived failure as a husband and father, his father's  death and Freddie Mercury's illness and death in 1991 which he chose to deal by working hard, first by finishing his solo album, 'Back to the Light' and then touring worldwide to promote it.

* has worked extensively with stage actress and singer Kerry Ellis after he cast her in the musical 'We Will Rock You'.
With Kerry Ellis in Hyde Park in 2010 :

* earned a doctorate in astrophysics from Imperial College in 2007 and is currently the Chancellor of 'Liverpool John Moores University' after being awarded an honorary fellowship for his contribution to astronomy and services to the public understanding of science and with duties of presiding over graduation ceremonies and representing the University on special occasions. 

* appeared on the 700th edition of the tv programme,'The Sky at Night', hosted by Patrick Moore and on which the Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, said: "I don't know any scientist who looks as much as like Isaac Newton as you do" to which Brian said : "that could be my after dinner comment, thank you very much".

* in 2009, published a book entitled 'A Village Lost and Found: Scenes in Our Village', a collection of stereoscopic photographs taken by the Victorian photographer T. R. Williams and sold with a stereoscope.

* formed a group called 'Save Me' to promote decent treatment for animals with a particular emphasis on preventing hunting of foxes and the culling of badgers and said in an interview in 2010 that he "would rather be remembered for his animal rights work, than for his music or science" and this year joined fellow French guitar player Jean-Pierre Danel for a charity launched for the benefit of animal rights in France.

* was ranked at number 39 on the 'Rolling Stone' Magazine's list of the '100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time' and will be immortalised by playing in 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Britain is no country for hot old men in a heatwave

Britain is hot at the moment. The jet stream is well to the north of its usual summer path and has allowed high pressure to build and the heat increase under cloudless skies. 30 million people, about  half the people in Britain, are now in The Meteorological Office 'Heatwave level 3' warning in Southern England, warning social and health care workers to focus on the very young, the very old and those with chronic diseases.
Today’s high temperature marks the fifth day in a row that the thermometer reading has exceeded 30C, representing the longest heatwave for seven years.

Professor Ben Armstrong, an epidemiological statistician at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:
“Our previous studies have shown that as temperatures rise above a certain threshold, the risk of death increases. Using the same model, we estimate that the current heatwave has caused the premature deaths of 650 people. The excess is likely to have been overwhelmingly among the elderly, especially those over 75, some of which may have been among people who would have died just a few weeks later if there had been no heatwave.”

As forecasters predicted little respite until at least the end of next week, this number is likely to double.

Old men and women die in the heat in Britain because they  :
don't drink enough to keep their bodies hydrated.
* close up the widows to protect themselves from burglars.
* with air conditioning,  get cold and then turn up the thermostat to get warm.

 By the same token, Britain is a country where old men die in unnecessary numbers in winter cold :
 My post from :

Thursday, 17 January 2013

    Britain is a country where fewer old men than usual will die from the cold this winter because of a charity called Age UK and 'Spread the Warmth'

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old chimp called Louis who, when young, played a secret agent called Brooke Bond

Louis has died at the age of 37 at his home in Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire where the curator, Dr Charlotte Macdonald said: "Louis was a very gentle and laid-back chimp, a favourite with everyone.
Born at Twycross, he was one of the original PG Tips chimps. Although gone, Louis will never be forgotten."

His passing takes old men back to the tv adverts they watched in the 1970's and 80's when they were young men, because Louis was one of the original 'Brook Bond PG Tips' chimps advertising the tea brand.

They remember him dressed as James Bond, a secret agent just as debonair as Sean Connery’s 007 and with even more chest hair. With his catchphrase "The name’s Bond. Brooke Bond", he was voiced by the suave actor Michael Jayston and became an instant hit when he first appeared in 1981.

Moreover, they didn’t have to get used to a series of different faces playing Bond. It was always Louis. Yet the fame never went to his head. Dr Charlotte said : "He was quiet and calm, which is quite unusual for male chimps. He was sociable and popular with the keepers."

Six years ago, the PG Tips chimp adverts, which ran from 1956 to 2001, were voted the 'most memorable in TV history', narrowly ahead of the aliens advertising Cadbury’s Smash instant mashed potato, who laughed so rudely at earth people peeling potatoes with our metal knives, boiling them for 20 of our minutes and then smashing them all to bits. My old friend KM who worked for Cadburys at the time, acquired one of the aliens which he took home, sadly, it too was smashed to bits - by his kids.

But just as the chimps’ tea  parties once held at London Zoo fell prey to growing sensibilities about the perceived exploitation of animals, so too did the PG Tips commercials. In 2001, following complaints by animal rights activists, the axe fell. The decision reflected the political correctness of the times, but it was still widely lamented.

The Seventies, were TV advertising’s golden age with :

* Cinzano ads starring Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter, which celebrated cack-handedness and was conceived by Alan Parker, who later directed the movies 'Midnight Express' and 'Mississippi Burning'. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PirMZGL-0mQ

* a young lad pushing a bike loaded with loaves of Hovis up a steep cobbled street to Dvorak’s 'New World Symphony' directed by young Ridley Scott. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Mq59ykPnAE

Louis' 43-year-old partner, Choppers, is bearing up well, Dr Charlotte added : "They were together a very long time, and chimps can pine just like humans, but she’s eating well, which is good."

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Britain once a country where old men had less help to dress and eat, take heart, for they have a champion in Saint Norman Lamb, Minister for their Care and Support

Back in May  I posted :

Britain is no country for old men who need help with dressing and eating
Tucked away in the 'Guardian' last week was a small article which spelt big implications for thousands of old men and women in Britain :
Warning over care of the elderly and disabled after £2.7 billion cut

Now, in July help is at hand. Norman Lamb, Government 'Minister for Care and Support' has a cunning plan to provide help to wash and feed old men and women as well as provide companionship and here's the clever bit :
it won't cost a single penny !
Norman has come up with a number of astonishing insights and useful proposals, that :

* Britain’s attitude to the elderly was “uncivilised” and the public must acknowledge that pensioners living nearby need their help.
* the 173,000 existing neighbourhood watch groups, covering 8 million homes, could apply for 'care status'. 
* emphasised that he did not want to devalue the role of skilled and trained carers and neighbourhood watch groups would not be a replacement for professionals.
*  professional carers could give neighbourhood watch groups training and “We could do an awful lot through the internet … guidance and support through that route could easily be a good collaboration between a local caring service and the neighbours on that street.”

* care services were being put under increasing strain because of the growing elderly population and his scheme would help to reduce the number of pensioners forced into care homes.

* “The truth is that many people in this day and age live miserable lives. If someone lives on their own and has substantial care needs, and the extent of their life is getting out of bed, getting washed, sitting in a chair and going back to bed, with no one to see during the day, that is a miserable life."

* “We have a national movement that looks out for whether our houses are being burgled, so should we not be thinking — all of us stepping up to the plate — about whether there are people on our streets who have care needs, or who might just be very lonely and could do with a bit of companionship?”

Norman has quite rightly denied that his plans represent  the “state abdicating its responsibility” and said the measures would be about “recognising that there needs to be a collaboration between communities and the statutory authorities and services”.

Paul Green, from 'Saga': “Anything that goes to show that Britain is a caring society and one which promotes good neighbourliness can only be a good thing and neighbourhood watch is a good place to start. But when it comes to providing more intimate, personal care there is probably a greater element of screening and training that may be necessary.”

So Britain's old men say : "Thanks Norm. Good to know we've got a Minister like you watching out for us and getting others to 'step up to the plate' without costing the taxpayers any money."

Monday, 15 July 2013

Britain is still a country for, as long as he deems, and says "Happy Birthday" to a controversial and perfectly enunciated old art critic called Brian Sewell

Brian, who writes for the 'London Evening Standard', who is noted for artistic conservatism and his acerbic view of the Turner Prize and conceptual art and is no stranger to controversy, is 82 years old today.

What you possibly didn't know about Brian, that he :
* was born the illegitimate son of the composer Peter Warlock, who died seven months before he was born, was brought up in , Kensington, London and has said that he knew he was probably gay at the age of six, was educated at the independent Haberdasher Aske's Boy School, where. in his autobiography, states that he lost his virginity to a fellow pupil at the age of 15.

 *  left school and studied at the Courtauld Institute at the University of London in the 1950s where he was tutored by Anthony Blunt who had worked as a spy for Soviet Russia for 20 years and became his close friend.

* after graduating in 1957, worked at Christie's Auction House specialising in Old Master paintings and drawings., left and became an art dealer then undertook his National Service in the Royal Army Service Corps where he gained a commission.

* in 1984, became art critic for the London Evening Standard and went on to win press awards including 'Critic of the Year' in 1988, 'Arts Journalist of the Year' in 1994, the 'Hawthornden Prize for Art Criticism 'in 1995 and the 'Foreign Press Award' (Arts) in 2000 and in  2003, the 'George Orwell Prize' for his column in the Standard.

 * appeared on BBC Radio and tv in the 1990s and became known for his clipped 'received pronunciation' English diction and anti-populist sentiments and courted controversy by offending people in Gateshead by claiming an exhibition was too important to be held only at the town's Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and should be shown to "more sophisticated" audiences in London and by disparaging Liverpool as a cultural city.

* in 1994, was attacked by 35 art world signatories who wrote a letter to the Evening Standard attacking him for 'homphobia', 'misogyny', 'demagogy'. 'hypocricy' , 'artistic prejudice', 'formulaic insults and predictable scurrility'' and received, in turn ,a letter of support  from 20 other art world signatories who accused the writers of attempted censorship to promote 'a relentless programme of neo-conceptual art in all the main London venues'.

* in 2003, made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela  in a documentary called 'The Naked Pilrgim'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k96exTLtz6A followed by two more series : 'Brian Sewell's Phantoms & Shadows: 100 Years of Rolls-Royce' in 2004 and 'Brian Sewell's Grand Tour'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq9IInCfNrs visiting beautiful cities, museums, towns, churches, historic sights, meeting a local to discuss culture and art and reflected the 18th century, giving the perspective of what it would have been like as a 'Grand Tourist'.

* in his 2009 BBC documentary about the so-called' North-South Divide' in England, caused controversy by declaring that the solution to the divide was to send a pox or a plague upon the North so that the people there can all just die quietly.

 *  in  2010 in the tv show 'Facejacker', was satirically portrayed as a character called Brian Badonde (left), an inept art critic presenting a show called 'Voyage in to Art' with the fictional speech impediment 'Bourettes' which caused him to begin every word with a 'B', and referred to art as 'bart' and was loud, flamboyant and openly homosexual.

* is a noted aficionado of classic automobiles, a fan of stock car racing, has written extensively about cars, classic and contemporary,  and in his tv series, on the pilgrimage to Santiago and the Grand Tour, drove his venerable Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC coupĂ©.

* wrote in the 'Sunday Mail' yesterday about his plans to end his life :

- when  'the bone-rot will reach a point – not beyond endurance but beyond my willingness to endure it – when drugs prescribed to numb the pain so affect the functions of my brain that all the pleasures of music, art and books are dulled, and I merely exist.'

- would  write a note addressed ‘To whom it may concern’ explaining that I am committing suicide, that I am in sound mind, that no one else has been involved and, if I am discovered before my heart has stopped, I do not want to be resuscitated.'

- would go to a bench – 'foolishly installed by the local authority on a road so heavy with traffic that no one ever sits there – make myself comfortable and down as many pills as I can with a bottle of Bombay Gin, the only spirit that I like, to send them on their way.'
- has left his body to a teaching hospital 'for the use and abuse of medical students – and my sole misgiving is that, having filled it with poisons, I may have rendered it useless'.

- believed that : 'there are those who damn the suicide for invading the prerogative of the Almighty. Many years, however, have passed since I abandoned the beliefs, observances and irrational prejudices of Christianity, and I have no moral or religious inhibitions against suicide.'  


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to a disarming and charming old, tv world travelling programme maker, called Alan Wicker

Alan, who is remembered as an interviewer for his thick spectacles, immaculate blue blazer, neat military moustache, and persistently unjudgmental and blandly phrased questions and had a career which outlasted those of many of his rivals, has died at the age of 87.

What you possibly didn't know about Alan, that he :

* was born in Cairo in 1925, where his father was a captain in the Hussars and when he died three years later, was brought to Britain by his mother with his sister and settled in London, where from the age of 11 he went to the prestigious Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School where he excelled at cross-country running and while at school camp at Teignmouth, Devon began his love affair with travel by setting off on a bus along the coast road to see how far he could get to that mecca, Torquay.

* on the death of his sister, found his relationship with his mother grew more intense and he later claimed : "We adored one another," and that this was what made him appreciate women, one of the "great pleasures" of his life and he was later devastated by her death.

* left school at the age of 16 in 1941 during the Second World War and after joining the Army at the age of 18,  was commissioned as an officer in the Devonshire Regiment and then joined the Film and Photo Unit in Italy in 1943, where he filmed at Anzio in Italy and met the commander Field Marshal Montgomery.

*  revealed in his tv series 'Whicker's War' in 2004, that he was one of the first in the Allied forces to enter Milan and  took into custody an SS General and troopers who were looking after the SS vault of money and also shot footage of the body of the dead Benito Mussolini.

* after the War, he worked as a reporter for the 'Exchange Telegraph' news agency and was a correspondent during the Korean War and was doing odd jobs for BBC radio when Alasdair Milne, then working for its flagship current affairs programme 'Tonight', spotted his ability to ask 'impertinent' questions without giving offence and in 1957 became an international reporter for the programme.

*  created the series 'Whicker's World' in 1959 and followed with 'Whicker's South Seas,' 'Whicker Way Out West', 'Whicker Down Mexico Way', 'Whicker's Orient', 'Whicker's Miss World' , amaking sure that he did not appear too much in them, letting the interviewees be the stars.

* in 1963 interviewed American oil billionaire, John Paul Getty and was able to suggest that Getty's success in business was matched by his failure as a human being without being thrown out.

* interviewed hippies in San Francisco in 1967 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUkctpGlA0U

* in a 1969 tv documentary about Haiti, demonstrated his ability to ask the most piercing questions while giving those being questioned no personal provocation or excuse to break off the interview when he asked the notorious dictator 'Papa Doc' Duvalier, in kindly, innocently interested and rather baffled tones: "But Papa Doc, they say you torture people?"

* his singular style was parodied in 1972 in a Monty Python sketch with the whole team doing Wicker impressions on  Whicker Island.

*  kept travelling the world for 60 years in search of exotic and humanly interesting material, often about the rich, flying  100,000 miles a year for British audiences of up to 15 million and seeing his programmes also sell well abroad.

* in 1978, he flew the 7,000 miles back to London from Singapore to receive a Bafta Richard Dimbleby award and immediately flew back again and won many other awards in his career, including the Screenwriters' Guild 'Best Documentary Script'.

* in the 1990s one of his younger colleagues, Peter Salmon commissioned 'Whicker's World' programmes on Hong Kong and Spain , despite feeling that his manner and interests were not those of a new generation because he felt that, as an interviewer, Alan was without peer, able to get more than anyone else out of a one-to-one interview.

* in 2009 at the age of 84, returned to some of the locations featured in 'Wicker's World' in the series 'Wicker's Journey of a Lifetime' and met with people he had interviewed decades earlier to see how their lives had progressed since the initial meeting.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Britain is no country for the old veterans who fought, in a now forgotten war in Korea, when they were young men

About 300 old men, Korean War veterans, marched through London this week to mark 60 years since the end of their 'Forgotten War' in 1953. After marching from Horse Guards Parade they attended a service in Westminster Abbey where a Service of Thanksgiving was held to mark the end of the War, which saw more than 1,000 British servicemen killed and 1,060 taken prisoner.
What most people in Britain do not know is :

* after the surrender of the Empire of Japan at the end of the Second World War in September 1945,  the Korean Peninsula was divided along the 38th Parallel, with U.S. military forces occupying the southern half and Soviet Russia forces occupying the northern half.

* with the onset of the Cold War, the Parallel increasingly became a political border between the two Korean states and tension escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces invaded South Korea in 1950.
British troops served on the Korean Peninsula as part of a United Nations force and where nearly the whole of the 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment were killed or taken prisoner during the Battle of the River Imjin in April 1951.
The old veterans assembling for the parade recalled living in trenches in desolate mountains where the weather would swing to extremes as the seasons changed and  also heavy fighting, often hand-to-hand, with North Korean and Chinese soldiers who frequently attacked in overwhelming numbers.

Colin Thackery, 83 years old :
who served with the Royal Artillery, got frostbite in one leg and was also partially deafened by artillery fire during the War said : “My memory of it first of all is the extreme cold. I was up in the mountains and that’s where we really learnt the meaning of wind chill.”

Jim Wilkinson, 80 :
who lost the tips of several fingers and was sprayed with shrapnel when a member of his combat patrol stood on a mine. and served with the Royal Fusiliers, said: “You could drown in the monsoon, freeze to death in the winter and die of sunstroke in the winter.”

Why were they and the War forgotten ?
The veterans believe that the War was eclipsed by the Second World War and  subsequent conflicts elsewhere in the world. Jim said: “The only people who haven’t forgotten are the Koreans. They haven’t forgotten us. They are so grateful. We get invited to all sorts of functions.”

In a message to the veterans, Park Geun-hye, the South Korean President, said: “Your noble sacrifice laid the groundwork for the development of the Republic of Korea and has served as a foundation for mutual trust between Korea and the United Kingdom.”
An Armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, but the peninsula remains divided, with the North and South Korean armies glaring at each other across a strip of no man’s land.

Colin said: “It’s never finished has it? They are still at it, more’s the pity. I often wonder what it was all about.” 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Britain is still a country for, but only just, and says "Happy Birthday to an old blues guitarist called Wilko Johnson

Wilko, former rhythm and blues,'Dr Feelgood' guitarist and founding father of the English punk movement is 66 years old today. Showung fortitude in the face of death, he has spoken of the strange "euphoria" he has experienced since being diagnosed with terminal cancer and said the news made him feel "vividly alive" and had lifted the bouts of depression he had previously experienced. Last year he was given 9 or 10 months to live and refused chemotherapy when it was clear it might only add another two months to his life. Well, here we are in July and he is still with us.

"Every little thing you see, every cold breeze against your face, every brick in the road, you think 'I'm alive, I'm alive' - I hope I can hang onto that. I've had a fantastic life. When I think about the things that have happened to me and the things I've done, I think anybody who asks for more would just be being greedy. I don't wanna be greedy.This position I'm in is so strange, in that I do feel fit and yet I know death is upon me. I'm not hoping for a miracle cure or anything. I just hope it spares me long enough to do these gigs - then I'll be a happy man."

What you possibly didn't know about Wilko, that he :

* was born in Canvey Island, Essex, which may explain his nostalgia for the sight of the River Thames which he shares with Jools Holland :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpBbjyfCB2o

*  went to Westcliff High School for Boy and played in several local groups, before going to the University of Newcastle to study English, including early Anglo-Saxon literature and ancient Icelandic sagas.

* after graduating, travelled overland to India, before returning to Essex to play with the 'Pigboy Charlie Band', which evolved into 'Dr Feelgood' where he developed his own style, coupling choppy playing with novel dress of  black suit and unfashionable pudding basin haircut and jerky movements on stage.

* played riffs and solos at the same time on a vintage Fender Telecaster without using a pick which allowed him to move without fear of losing it..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEzKXW8q3Dw

* featured in the BBC4 three-part documentary series, 'Punk Britannia' in 2012, which stressed the importance of Dr Feelgood as 'pub rockers, a generation of bands sandwiched between 60s hippies and mid-70s punks who will help pave the way towards the short, sharp shock of punk'.

* reviewing his autobiography, 'Looking back at Me', Mark Blake of 'Q Magazine' said of Dr Feelgood : 'In the mid-70s the band's brutish R and B and their guitarists eye-popping thousand-yard stare inspired a young John Lydon, Paul Weller and Suggs from Madness.'

* left the band in 1977. joined the 'Solid Senders', then, in 1980, Ian Dury's band, 'The Blockheads' before forming the 'Wilko Johnson Band' and continued to pursue his musical career in the 1980s and 90s.

* in 2009, appeared in the documentary film 'Oil City Confidential' and was described by :
- reviewer, Philip French as : "a wild man, off stage and on, funny, eloquent and charismatic"
- director, Julien Temple  : "an extraordinary man – one of the great English eccentrics."
 Peter Bradshaw of the 'Guardian' as : 'the best rockumentary yet, the most likeable thing about this very likable film is the way it promotes Wilko Johnson as a 100-1 shot for the title of Greatest Living Englishman.'http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CZMLs8Ke40

* made his acting debut, cast in the role of mute executioner 'Ilyn Payne', in the HBO fantasy series 'Game of Thrones' after the producers had seen him in 'Oil City Confidential'  and said :
"They said they wanted somebody really sinister who went around looking daggers at people before killing them. That made it easy. Looking daggers at people is what I do all the time, it's like second nature to me."

*  played a farewell tour this summer, which was meant to end with two appearances in his Canvey Island home town which were cancelled after he fell ill following his tv appearance with 'Madness'.

* believed he'd never appear on stage again but then confirmed he'd play the 'Cornbury Festival', Oxfordshire, on July 7, the  'DV8 Festival' in Fibbers, York on July 14, the 'Cusworth Music Festival', Doncaster, on August 25 and the 'Great British R'n'B Festival', Lancashire, on August 26.

 So it's "Happy Birthday Wilko" for another summer, at least.
“I always had this idea that when I grew I old I would be sitting in an Oxford college room with the sun slanting through the mullioned windows, I would be reading medieval poetry and I would be wise. The nearer I got to being old, the more I realised the wisdom wasn’t coming. So I’m just as confused as ever. Now I won’t actually grow either old or wise.”