GET Going!

Back in the day, I left school on a Friday afternoon and seeing no reason to muck around and waste time, joined the Army the following Monday. As it happens, one of the Crumble Kids has a few months spare before he kicks off as a long term employee of HM Gov and what bat-shit-crazy plan has he come up with this time? He and a friend are planning kayaking the 2000 nautical miles between Grenada and Miami. Moscow is closer to London than is the length of this undertaking. I swear, that boy must spend every waking moment dreaming up things for his mother to worry about. She's had a lot to worry about.

With just 24 days to go before the start preparations for the Golden Arc Expedition are warming up and every day more kit arrives at the house from kind sponsors, more 'no thanks,' emails drop into the in-box from not so kind potential sponsors and new challenging last minute issues raise their ugly heads......... 'son, this kayak which is being shipped to Grenada from Vancouver; are you on top of import duties?' 'Import what Dad?' So, what's the point?

Will and his chum George have started a charity, the Get Exploring Trust, (Charity No 116901). The aim of the trust is simple and straight forward. It aims to assist in the advancement in life of young people between the ages of 13 and 25 by providing small to medium sized grants to allow them to access recreational and leisure time activities in the outdoors designed to improve their life conditions and life chances. 

It is extraordinary just what a great equaliser clinging to the side of a windswept hill can be when you are all cold, wet and hungry. Being close to the elements on land, at sea or in the air is inspirational and life affirming. Way too many of our kids don't get the opportunity to access the outdoors. They genuinely don't know what they are missing. The Trust will help more of them discover the outdoors, and themselves, and from there they can make their own minds up.

Now, here at Expedition Headquarters we're not proud  and will of course accept help in any shape or form. If anyone were so moved to assist in sponsoring the actual expedition then there are still some niggly, naggly safety items which need to be purchased but any advice or local contacts through the route would be gratefully received. Obviously, the funding of the expedition is completely segregated from raising funds for the charity. All charity monies will go to the purpose for which donors intend and we are funding both the expedition, and the charity's administrative costs, separately.

If you did wish to donate to the charity the 'giving,' page may be found here while our bank details are, HSBC Sort Code 40-34-18, Acc No 54342615.

Of course, should you happen to be enjoying the azzure blue waters of the Caribbean between October and December and happen to see two blokes paddling in the direction of Florida then do give them a wave. If you see them paddling out to the Atlantic then give Air, Sea Rescue a wave. A bed for the night or dinner would be nice but then we wouldn't want to spoil them, would we?

I will be updating throughout.

 

Weather; Changable.

I rather miss the days when the weather presenter looked and talked like your Geography teacher

I note the BBC have binned the Met Office as it's provider of weather forecasting services and will instead, be using the Dutch company MeteoGroup. None of this is actually news, we knew about the impending change a year ago and it is unlikely to lead to an improvement in the veracity of forecasts given the Dutch company will largely still be using Met Office data. 

Personally, I use the Norwegian forecaster which can be found at yr.no and find them, somewhat perversely, to be the best at forecasting local conditions in the UK.

Whoever is responsible for forecasting on television I am confident that the graphics/pretty girl arms race between broadcasters will continue unabated, except on local stations in the UK which tend to focus on a pretty girl / pretty boy arms race all of their own. 

They do great weather in Argentina...

For those who care not about tomorrows weather but nonetheless enjoy the forecasts I can happily direct you to weathergirlstv.com, a site devoted to weather girls from around the world (but with no Anne Lundon I have to say it is less than comprehensive). No prizes for spotting the common theme and here's a clue, it's not the weather.

Rio Review

Permanent Secretary     'Minister, may I have a word?'

Minister for Culture, Media & Sport 'Yes, what is it now?'

PS     'Well Minister, terrific news. Our athletes have blown the lights out. They've only gone and won more medals than they did in London. 66 in fact, including 27 golds.'

Minister    'They've gone and done bloody what? How in the blazes did that happen? It's the last thing I need. We'll have to redo the whole honours list. They'll want a bloody silly parade and drinks at No 10 and you can bet my tickets for the Six Nations they'll be crying for more money the moment they get back. Who's going to tell the luvvies their grants are going to be slashed to pay for more trampolining? Selfish sods. Don't they realise they're supposed to be plucky losers up against the drug fuelled might of East Germany and industrialised American athlete factories?. They're not supposed to win. Who in the flying fxck decided to change that script? I knew I should have stayed at Agriculture; teas with the WI, the odd shoot and make up an argument with Brussels if things were going astray. I don't need this, I absolutely don't.'

PS     'Quite Minister. Shall we look at the diary and see how you are fixed for the reception?'

As the Rio Olympics draw to a close we can reflect on what has been a reasonable showing from the British cohort and while doing so note what has become the new national sport, Having A Go At John Inverdale. I'm not quite sure what the origins of this new game are but with the current score of Twitterati 341,000 to John Inverdale 0 I think it's time to shore up his defence. I don't particularly care if he tweaked a few oversensitive princesses by making a couple of honest errors while live on television. He is a good guy, has long been an enthusiastic supporter of charitable works, (especially sports related endeavours such as CRY), and is a commentator who I at least, am happy to listen to. There is nothing wrong with being grounded and unassuming rather than over the top and emotional. Certainly, I would rather have a pint with Inverdale than I would Queen Clare and therein I suspect, lies the problem. 

While Rio has been memorable for many individual sportsmen, teams and their respective families and fans there has yet been, no 'one big thing,' that will stay in the memory for me. Perhaps that is a good thing for often the 'big things,' are bad things as with Munich or some incident of cheating or other. Yet, there have been moments in the Olympics that will honestly live forever, (or live forever honestly). 

Dick Fosbury; the man who changed the history of high jump

I'm thinking especially of that moment 48 years ago when a young man walked into the arena in Mexico City and turned a sport on it's head. I was a young boy but the day after we saw the Fosbury Flop for the first time it was all anyone, from kids up, could talk about. It was a remarkable moment and he was a remarkable man. I wonder how many kids ended up in A&E in the weeks following as we all tried to emulate the new technique?

Bugger Bristol

Disappointed

In the unlikely event that it passed you by, yesterday was A Level results day for students up and down the land. Cue photographs of happy girls dressed in inappropriately short skirts jumping in the air and a queue of middle aged know-it-all celebrities quoting themselves saying, 'exam results don't define you; look at how rich I am.' Unfortunately, for many kids, they kind of do. Certainly, underachieving immediately narrows down options and gives them less control over their own destiny. 

So, many kids will have found themselves in the position of narrowly missing a grade yesterday and will have turned to Clearing to find an alternative university slot, just as the daughter of a friend did yesterday. 

With nothing less than an A, her chosen faculty bounced her on the basis that her A* was not in the right subject. She called. The fellow on the end of the telephone was very helpful, 'Looks a bit odd he said, I'll take a look and get back to you. You're not a non EU national are you by chance? We've been told you'll have no problem if you're from outside the EU.'

You see, it's all about money. Non EU nationals pay more. It is time someone tore into these universities and ripped their pious sense of entitlement to shreds. The illusion that they promulgate of fairness and value in education is cracking. As it happens, the young girl concerned happily received an offer from another, and better rated, university. So Bristol University, you can mostly bugger off you mercenary sods.

Catch Up Crumble!

Nine Million Bicycles........ I fear, I've rather missed out.

Back to Desert Island Discs and last Sunday Kirsty Young presented the show with castaway, Nadiya Hussein, a young lady famous for being a bit useful in the kitchen and for being what the BBC appears keen to portray, (in a rather patronising way), 'a good next-door Muslim.' Mrs Hussein is indeed, an engaging lady and I rather enjoyed her selection of music. Now the famous Crumble playlists are, on the whole, at least 40 years behind current music trends and have a habit of going further back and loitering around the twenties and thirties with the occasional foray into the forties and fifties rather than into anything more fashionable. This may be why I had never heard of another lady called Katie Melua until she turned up on Mrs Hussein's DID playlist. I like Katie Melua and fear I have rather missed out. We're going to put that right. She wins immediate promotion into my 'Best Ever Dinner Party Playlist,' and my 'Going To Sleep,' playlist. It's iTunes-download-frenzy-time and thank you to Mrs Hussein; you're more than a cook to me.

I also note that Katie Melua is going on tour and is playing in Guildford in November. As luck would have it the show is sold out. I'm not surprised. I've only ever been to two concerts, (both to see Katherine Jenkins, once at Wisley and once at Hampton Court), and was thinking I might make this a third. Perhaps next time then. Still, the girl is a shoe-in for the 2016 Thinking Man's Crumpet list; that's for sure and for certain.

Am I Alone?

Am I alone in feeling increasingly uneasy about the growing jingoistic in-your-face celebrations following each medal success in the Olympics? Without wishing to detract from the efforts of dedicated individual sportsmen and teams, the absence of humility and magnanimity in victory from our media, led by guess who on the box, is becoming, quite frankly, somewhat embarrassing.  We don't usually win so much, so often. It is something we're not used to and we are collectively in danger of being seen as bad sports by the rest of the sporting world. After all, it is clear that we have out-spent many rivals to get to this position and there is a valid debate looming about value. That is, is it fair and reasonable to spend an average of something in the ball park of £5m from Lottery funding for each medal when we have tens of thousands of children who have no access to sport and toddlers with no access to green space and simple swing parks?

Whatever the result of that debate, it is time everyone dialled the emotion back a bit. The Dianaisation of every event in this country is quite frankly, becoming tedious and dull. It is not the British way and we're not making any friends believing or acting otherwise.

Life in Pieces

I am way behind with posts and intend to quickly regain lost momentum. Lobbing the odd comment onto The Facebook is no substitute for my usual arcane and eclectic ramblings here which is far more satisfying for your correspondent if not for my Mum and my two other loyal readers. So let's get started.

I am one of those crusty curmudgeons who heartily resents paying the BBC licence fee. The apparent aim of the BBC is to, 'enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.' Radio 4 apart, it does none of those for me. I can muster no enthusiasm for it's lack of editorial independence and independent thinking. The utter bilge that the Corporation serves up labelled 'entertainment,' is nothing of the sort as it competes with ITV in a race to see who can sink to the lowest common denominator the fastest. I look to the US for my televisual down time. The quality of comedy and drama being pumped out is astonishing and represents a very real threat to the future of the BBC, ITV and indeed SKY. They deserve what's coming.

 

If you're wondering what I'm talking about then wonder no more. I've been a fan of the comedy, Modern Family since it's inception. The joy of Modern Family is that in each episode there is a piece of every family's experience. Crackling show though it is, it has been usurped by an upstart must-watch newcomer called Life in Pieces. The format is to tell four short stories about the same family in each episode and it's a winner. I download it on Amazon Prime, (from the office because those thieving bastards from Openreach still want thirty eight grand to reinstall a broadband line at home which used to be there until they took it away and gave it to a neighbour). You should download it too. You will also, (probably), see a slice of your own experience in each episode. These well written and acted comedies from the States are flawless in their execution and it is somewhat embarrassing to note the meagre fare on offer from this side of the Atlantic relative to our own Golden Age of comedy way back when. Anyway, I'm here to help; hope you enjoy it.

The Real Americans

What with the Donald and Hilary show in full swing, our American friends are getting something of a bad press internationally. "Surely, a country like American can produce better presidential candidates than these two clowns?' the cry goes up. To be fair, most Americans are asking the self same question and of course they will produce better candidates, eventually. As Winston Churchill famously observed, 'Americans will always do the right thing, only after they have tried everything else.'

Despite the tub thumping political rhetoric, only an idiot would assume that the current candidates are a true and fair reflection of the American people. Of course they're not. It is easy to forget when watching the news that the United States is a country of small towns and villages rather than big cities. The cities catch the headlines but the beating heart and soul lies in the vast stretch of land between the east and west coasts. Small towns but big hearts.

Two recent examples of the true spirit of America touched me and I think they are worth sharing with anyone who may be losing confidence in what still remains the leader of the free world. First, the actor Tom Hanks recently appeared on Desert Island Discs in a 30 minute show which revealed his very ordinary start in life, his humility and compassion and an enduring optimism which is so characteristic of Americans. Then, I came across this clip of Florida farmer Johnny Georges appearing on a television programme called Shark Tank, (similar to Dragon's Den), on which he pitched a simple but effective water saving idea. If you could bottle decency, integrity and humility this is what it would look like. For as long as the United States produces men like Tom Hanks and Johnny Georges the world is going to be a better place and believe me, there are more gentlemen like these in the US than there are the muppets in Washington and media land.

Off to Bavaria or Off His Rocker

What passes for normal conversation at home,

Dad, I'm off to Bavaria next week.

I've been there, bloody nice place. Why are you going there son?

I've just booked myself on a 10 day paragliding course.

Right you are. Paragliding..... why paragliding son?

Because Dad, walking down the mountain is the boring bit.

Indubitably so son, indubitably so.

 

 

All Hands To Station

So, Mrs Flashbang has deserted us and is currently somewhere between Cumbria and Northumbria cycling a coast to coast route. That's my girl. Now, that leaves us with something of a change of regime domestically but nothing dramatic, we've been here before and discipline and routine are the order of the day. Stuff gets done. That is, right up until we arrive at this place for food and drink replenishment.

and this is a baby one in comparison to some

For most men, the supermarket trip is an elite participant sport for which they have had little or no training since young childhood, when they were dragged around by their short tempered mothers who never understood the importance of a quick sugar rush at 9am in the morning. Actually, watching badly behaved children is pretty good entertainment up and down the aisles. Take care though not to become obsessively distracted less you be mown down by a pensioner on a high speed mission on his mobility scooter to get to aisle 14 where the girl with the discount sticker gun is busy reducing the price of the tea cakes with raisins. In fact, the supermarket is alive with threats to the unwary. They include, but are not limited to, the wandering Wildebeest I described in Fat Delusional Birds and the unplanned 'just bumped into,' meeting with people you'd rather not stand and talk about nothing to for 20 minutes.

Sorry about the quality but it's a funny clip nonetheless

Then we have the wretched bloody store managers who think it's clever to play grocery hide-and-seek by moving entire rows of condiments and ingredients every six weeks to the nether reaches of the store, the check out assistant who takes the instruction to 'greet the customer,' as a personal lifestyle choice and questions you on 'your day,' as would the Gestapo and of course the moment when you realise that you didn't bring 8 'bags for life,' like the Missus told you to and you're now going to shell out for 8 flimsy plastic bags while attracting looks of contempt and disdain from the queues left and right of you who stare at you as if you're either a complete fool or are personally responsible for the deaths of baby seals and dolphins across the world.

This map becomes inverted though when women shop in supermarkets. Men lose any natural GPS in those places.

Let's face it, rather like childbirth, men are simply not designed for supermarkets. Too much nonsense, distractions, frippery and all out marketing psychological warfare which attempts to get us to do things we don't want to do. That simply reminds most men of their marriages. Most blokes could get by with no more than 30 basic ingredients, and that includes all the home hygiene kit, go home and knock up a pretty spectacular dinner. All of which could all fit in a much smaller retailing space than the modern iteration many of which are built on the scale of American nuclear powered aircraft carriers. We could call it a corner shop. Women though are made for supermarkets. Their normal mode of operations when shopping, say for clothes, becomes inverted when they walk through the doors of a supermarket. They hit the fruit and veg aisle with the sense of purpose of a Russian tank commander storming Berlin and go through the place like a freight train. Woe betide anyone who gets in their way, especially dazed men feeling their way around what for them, is alien space. That I fear, would mostly be me