“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible." T.E. Lawrence; Seven Pillars of Wisdom 

Hull City Council; Thinking & Doing

Not sure about the graphic though.....

Hull City Council have announced a scheme to create their own crypto currency with which citizens may be paid for doing jobs that benefit the community and which may then be used to pay for local services such as public transport, food banks or even council tax. At last, a council that is thinking and doing.

Notwithstanding it may be an April Foll story, (although the story was circulating yesterday), this is a great piece of mutually supporting creative planning. Designed to tackle local poverty, without knowing it they've just drawn the blueprint for what a Big Society really is. They probably also don't realise that I proposed a similar Community Credit scheme three years ago in a piece called, oddly enough, "Creating the Big Society," But hey, this isn't about trying to catch some airtime for a good idea that someone's else has also come up with! The important thing is that they're doing something about it.

The elegant enhancement in my scheme though is that citizens could also be fined credits / Hull Coins / widgets for minor offences and be forced to earn them through community work, or use those already earned, to pay the fines off. 

Anyway, I take my hat off to Hull, salute their innovation and applaud the can-do and will-do attitude. As an aside, what a great thing to do to bring a community together some 100 years after the same community stepped forward to help their countrymen and raised four Pals Battalions, the 10th Easy Yorks (Hull Commercials), 11th East Yorks (Hull Tradesmen), the 12th East Yorks (the Hull Sportsmen) and the 13th East Yorks, (T'Others) .......... only in Yorkshire.

Hull Volunteers

Train Goes Walkabout

Class 170/3 set of the type used by South West Trains on the Salisbury to Waterloo line

In a worrying incident this morning, several hundred passengers on the 06:45 commuter train from Salisbury to London have become stranded in Matlock, Derbyshire; some 150 miles from their intended destination. In what Network Rail managers called, a rail traffic control nightmare,€ the South West Trains service was redirected several times following an electrical fault which delayed the train at Basingstoke.

Mr Roy Parrish, Director of Services for Network Rail said,  "The train experienced electrical issues at Basingstoke and was moved temporarily onto another line to keep the main line clear. When the fault was cleared it was unfortunately not possible to move the service back because of other services using the main London line."€ He went on to explain that once on the Reading line it was easier to divert ahead via Reading but due to confusion there, the service was misdirected to Oxford by which time it had been inadvertently labelled in the Network Control Centre as a train destined for Birmingham New Street. Mr Parrish continued, "immediately the error was spotted, a decision was taken to bypass Birmingham and route the service up the Sheffield line from where is would continue to Doncaster and join the high speed East Coast line back south to London. The train though, broke down en route to Sheffield several miles outside Matlock."

€Although it sounds like a comedy of errors,€ a harassed Mr Parrish explained, "€œit really is just an unfortunate sequence of events. I want to emphasise that passenger safety has not been compromised and everything that can be done is being done to get these people to their destination."€

Matlock Station

Passengers on the train however, vented their anger and irritation to news desks by mobile telephone. Mrs Margaret Evans-Pritchard (67), a retired teacher from Shipton Bellinger was an exception and said in a telephone interview, "it's all been rather fun really, a sort of mystery tour and the Peak District is so pretty at this time of year." However, a Mr Francis Dart, (45), an insurance broker from Salisbury, summed up the prevailing dark mood on the train when he said, "it's utterly absurd. What should be a one and a half hour journey has taken all day going in the opposite direction and now we'€™re stuck in the middle of nowhere with only one loo between us. Just sums this country up."

Investigators from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch are said to be not involved given no incident€ has actually taken place but, they €œmay take an interest to see if lessons can be learned, an unnamed spokesman said. 

South West Trains said they were confident of getting all the passengers to their ultimate destinations in time for work tomorrow.

Wolverhampton or Bust

This is not Wolverhampton

Good morning and the schools and universities are starting to break up for Easter from this weekend and families will begin to drift off on holidays after the quarter end. Many will be drawn to the slopes to enjoy a last blast down the piste while others will seek more tranquil and warmer climes. Not me. I’m off to Wolverhampton, the Cote d’Azur of the West Midlands where I shall be at my post with water, hot sweet tea and jelly babies to hand supporting one of the Crumble barking mad loons in his attempt to complete the Tough Guy marathon.

Much maligned Wolverhampton is apparently the 9th unhappiest place to live in the UK and was disappointed in 2009 to be beaten by Detroit, Accra in Ghana, Los Angeles, San Salvador and four others for the Lonely Planet title of the worst place to live in the world. It was only included in the list, (the Lonely Planet hadn't actually been that deep into the Midlands), because of a reader anecdote that quoted a Wolverhampton man at Ground Zero just after 9/11 when George Bush visited. 'Bush comes up to shake his hand asks him where he's from. The man replies 'Wolverhampton'. 'I don't know that place,' says Bush. 'What state is it in?' 'The man from Wolverhampton looks around him and replies, 'It's pretty much like this really.'

Well I’m not having any of that nonsense and you can look forward to my Monday reportage on the trip as much as I’m looking forward to going.

Much Missed

Much missed

Attempting to figure out the short term ebb and flow of stock markets is, at the moment, every bit as challenging as trying to figure out what my tormentors at South West Trains are going to spring on me next. Arriving at Waterloo last night somewhat later than usual I was taken aback to discover that my journey home was to terminate at Guildford, some 22 miles short of my destination but the offer of rolling through the Surrey countryside at midnight in a double decker bus was obviously an experience I just couldn’t live without. Just to pile pain on misery I arrived at the station at ten to six this morning to find that the little station paper seller on the platform, which has been there as long as the station has, has abruptly had its lease terminated by South West Trains at a few days notice in favour of “redevelopment,” and that’s permanently buggered up my morning routine on a go forward basis. They are an absolute shower the lot of them and I look forward with unrestrained enthusiasm to the day that I can terminate them. 

Pains on Trains

I've traveled up and down the Portsmouth line to Haslemere for years. I've done it in first, in second, I've done it standing and I've done it staggering. I've traveled with loud drunks, happy drunks, noisy drunks, and punchy drunks. I've sat with the interesting, the dull, the entertaining and the downright miserable. I've listened to jokes, to tales of woe and of wonderment, sports reports and holidays from all over the world from companion travelers, some of whom I've known, many I haven’t. I prefer to sit in silence, happy in my own bubble for the 58 minutes in the day each way that is mine. In the old days it was 5 hours in Club to New York or Tokyo or even shorter on Concorde but we are where we are. Like many others, I've occasionally tolerated loud music from other peoples headphones. Although with whatever suppressing technology they now use it’s not the plague it used to be, most passengers ignore the hip-hap-housy-rag-rip-roll junk that some of these idiots play with equanimity.

Crumble's carriage on the 18:15pm shortly after switching his one-pod on

Crumble's carriage on the 18:15pm shortly after switching his one-pod on

That is, until one very particular piece of music is played. I've never seen such shuffling, nodding and shaking accompanied by those Death Ray Eyes as I do when I happen to play some pipe music on my one-pod. Indeed, the alacrity displayed to any other social nuisances is replaced with heightened tension, bulging eyes and elevated blood pressure. Poor souls, it’s not my fault if modern headphone sound suppression technology can’t cope with the massed bands of the Gordon Highlanders.

I simply like to think I’m there to enlighten and educate; I’ll bring them round......... eventually.

She's Gone..

This is girlspeak for "I've found someone else, you're history."

This is girlspeak for "I've found someone else, you're history."

So, Valentine’s Day didn’t go to plan; in fact it was disaster. She stomped off in a huff / let you down gently / spontaneously combusted in a super nova rage / didn’t turn up. Now you’re alone, dumped, cast adrift, let go, tinned. What next? Well, you could shrug your shoulders and look forward to the green grass on the hillside, move on and be happy but that is the least likely immediate outcome. First you probably need to go through the wallowing in misery phase and that, while not good, is an almost guaranteed prerequisite for letting go.

An essential first move is to phone a friend. This won’t end well but you’ll do it anyway, (it’s all part of the cathartic cleansing process). Your chum will turn up somewhat mystified as to why you’ve chosen him and while his thoughts are full of the forthcoming Six Nations round, six pints at the Nags Head and a greasy kebab on the way home you just want him to say the words, “she’ll be back.” He’ll say a lot more of course and may inadvertently say the SBB sentence but actually, that’s all you’ll be listening for and the rest will go over your head. Big mistake; in amongst the rest of his verbiage there will probably be some well intentioned and well thought out phrases that go something along the lines of, “she never seemed wholly committed,” “she always seemed to be busy when you needed her,” “she liked mirrors,” “and James,” “she never did quite understand the importance of the pack and the beauty of the driving maul,” “she always got a lot of texts,” “that Diana flicking hair thing never worked for me.”

What you should mostly be doing of course is staying off the booze, going on a fitness kick, eating healthily, throw yourself into work and book yourself on an Amazonian expedition to give yourself something to aim for. Work for a charity and take up a new hobby. In short, be interesting and interested. You won’t though; all that comes later.

Here you are then, the sob-story-loves-lost-track list. Interestingly, when I dipped into my imusic cloudy thing I notice that generally, they do seem to make an awful lot more sad songs than happy ones. Here are some of the best................ (and just to counterbalance it I’m going to post some upbeat tracks later this week). Anyway, as you’re staring into the bottom of your whisky glass here’s some music to make you feel even more maudlin, (the really heartbroken will just play the same track on loop):

It Keeps Raining                                Fats Domino (need just one track? This is the one).

A World Without Love.                      Peter & Gordon

Without You.                                      Nilsson (makes most lists)

You Were On My Mind.                     Crispin St Peters

Song To The Moon.                          Lesley Garret

Lara's Theme.                                     Dr Zhivago (Mrs Flashbang cries like a waterfall whenever                                                                                     she hears this.. don't ask)

Rose Marie.                                         Slim Whitman (everyone needs some Country in their lives)

You Don't Know What You've Got      Ral Donner

Only the Lonely.                                    Roy Orbison

Take These Chains From My Heart.     Dean Martin

Take That Look Off Your Face              Marti Webb

Different Drum.                                       Linda Ronstadt, (Stone Poneys)

Lovers Cross.                                         Jim Croce

Stand by Me.                                          Annalaise Emerick

Ashokan Farewell.                                  The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall.       The Inkspots

She's Not You.                                        Elvis Presley

I Was The One.                                        Elvis Presley

Are You Lonesome Tonight                    Elvis Presley (my.... this guy did sad)

Elusive Butterfly.                                       Bob Lind

Mandy.                                                     Barry Manilow

Out of Time.                                              Chris Farlowe

Harry's Game.                                           Clannad

Unchained Melody.                                   Elvis Presley (best version)

Long Gone Lonesome Blues.                    Leon Redbone

I Fall To Pieces.                                          Patsy Cline

Where Do You Go To (my lovely)              Peter Sarstedt

The Dark Island                                          Various, (you'll be able to catch me at my funeral                                                                                                            leaving the church to this one).

I've Had An Absolute **** Of A Day             Kevin "Bloody" Wilson (18+ X rude, do not ever listen                                                                                           in front of your mother, (he's Australian)).

That's enough to get you through the first bottle of Aberlour, (do not compromise on quality of whisky at this point in your life; you've been through enough and deserve a decent dram). Then it's time to suck it up, man up and move on. We'll deal with recovery in a later post!



Swiss Air Force Put Their Feet Up

'Jetman' Yves Rossy flies over Lake Lucerne, Switzerland-939499.jpg

I look on with bemused bafflement that Swiss Air Force F-18's and F-5 Tigers weren't scrambled during yesterday's Ethiopian Airlines hijack because "the Swiss Air Force is only available during office hours," reported to be between 8am till noon and then 1:30 to 5pm. Oh and they're closed at the weekend. Apparently the Italian and French Air Forces filled the gap.

Oh George; What Have You Done?

Unglued........................ should, oh really should and could have been so much better.

Unglued........................ should, oh really should and could have been so much better.

As an inveterate film goer, (when I have the opportunity), I’ll mostly go and see an average movie rather than none at all. I’ll read reviews but mostly prefer to make my own mind up. To this end I legged it with one of the Crumble Kids on Saturday and went to see George Clooney’s “Monuments Men.” After ten minutes, I began to wish I’d listened to the reviews but dug in nonetheless with the view that it had to pick up. It didn’t. There aren’t many movies I watch where I suffer from the magnetic pull of the foyer and fresh air but this one tested me to the limit of forbearance. Frankly, the movie’s only redemption was in the concept especially as it should have been so, so much better given the provenance of the cast. 

The cinema was quite full with an obvious demographic range tilted to the older which is unsurprising given there remains a ready and receptive audience in Britain for any Second World War cinema. When we eventually trudged to the film’s end though, there was just silence; no chatter, no emotion, no..... well nothing actually. I wasn’t alone in my disappointment. 

The disjointed timelines, and "Janet & John," explanations of the historical backdrop, did nothing to bring the viewer into the story. It felt actually as if the director and editors had a blazing row in the cutting room; inadvertently destroyed about 2000ft of reel and then had to glue together what was left as best they could and hope no one noticed. Oh and please, Hugh Bonneville as the least convincing Army officer ever regardless of what he's acting in? He gives cardboard a bad name and peaked in Notting Hill as the clueless stockbroker, (more accurate than anyone could ever believe). I thought he'd bottomed out in Downton Abbey but no, that was very much catching a falling knife.

How odd that the last movie I watched, Gravity, was a film that lifted, tested and enriched on every single cinematic level and was indeed, all the better for Mr Clooney’s on-screen presence.

Perhaps George, you should spend a bit of time doing your apprenticeship behind the camera and spend a year or two working with cinematographers, editors and the like before going straight to the first division. Some actors transition to being unbelievably good directors, Clint Eastwood being the obvious but this movie, well...... it’s a bit like an embarrassing episode in the family, “let’s just move on and say no more about it.”

The Great Beauty; raises the bar in a Citizen Kane order of magnitude. Oscar winner for sure and for certain.

On the way home then I felt I needed something to lift the spirit and soul so popped into the supermarket and bought a DVD of “The Great Beauty,” for £8. No one else in the family was in the least interested so I watched it alone. I was entranced. Every shot was a photograph and every one, every single one was good enough to cover the Sunday Times Supplement or be viewed in a gallery. They came thick and fast; the lighting, the contrasts, the framing; beauty and elegance indeed. I won’t bore you with the plot; in fact, the plot such as it is was pretty superfluous. The joy is in simply watching, feeding the eyes and looking on in wonderment that so much magic can be captured in such a short time. This film will live forever and sets a pretty high bar for those who aspire to purveying grace and beauty on the screen.

All of which sounds somewhat pretentious coming from an average film goes like me; I am after all, the least arty metrosexual person I know. If though, a three pints of Guinness and a hotdog in the West Stand at Twickenham individual like me feels like that then perhaps there might be something in it.

Where does that leave us? Well, anyone who loves art, photography and the art of films must see “The Great Beauty,” and if you don’t like art, photography and the art of films you should definitely see “The Great Beauty,” and do so with open eyes; it might just open your mind. Oh and George, in the words of Robert Capa, "if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough." Try it and then try again.

Valentine's Day The Crumble Way

That's my date sorted then.....

That's my date sorted then.....

So, Valentine's Day is upon us again. I've never been an enthusiastic subscriber to this kitsch rubbish. My line is "everyday is Valentine's Day in this house darling." Having started at the beginning of the marriage as I meant to go on if I turned up with a bunch of roses and a restaurant reservation it would be greeted with great suspicion by Mrs Flashbang who would immediately be on the front foot with the number of a divorce lawyer in one hand and a frying pan in the other. 

In fact, for those who feel boxed in Mole in this piece over at Slope has the right idea. He heartily recommends a number of options ranging from getting yourself arrested to getting kidnapped by Mexican drug lords. Actually, I would have though that getting the wife kidnapped by Mexican drug lords would be a more elegant and less intrusive solution. 

Still there will be some young, and old, blades out there who feel they just have to do the right thing and lads, good luck to all of you. For some of you, you will soar to the green sunlit uplands of romance; for the rest, there is only downside when you fail to meet her dizzy expectations and more importantly, those of her mother and friends. Your actions will be dissected, debated and discussed for weeks by text, phone and email. You meanwhile will end up confused and bewildered but yes, the best of intentions can blow up in your face just as surely as if she was an AQ suicide bomber.

Dinnae worry though, Crumble is here to help. Rule no 1, bin the restaurant. Go to a restaurant and you're setting yourself up for failure on an epic scale. Nervous, wine list anxiety attack, credit card limit scare, that being-watched-by-everyone-in-the-room syndrome, overdoing it on the cheap, (or stupidly expensive),  Red Aggravator from Chile and slurring your words........ it goes on. 


Instead, dine in. She won't care what you cook or how badly you do it. As long as you try your best, light some candles and make some sort of gesture to good hygienic practice she'll love you forever. There is no credit card or restaurant in the world that can replicate the warm glow she'll feel of her man taking care of her.

With candles we need music and here we go into overdrive. Just for you, the definitive track list for St Valentine's Day and love ever after and you won't, let me tell you, get this off your average radio DJ who spends his day gibbering utter rubbish like a Macau monkey.  

Chanson de Matin                                                  Edward Elgar

Salut d'amour                                                         Edward Elgar

Some Enchanted Evening                                     Rogers & Hammerstein

They Didn't Believe Me                                          Ambrose & His Orchestra

True Love (From High Society)                              Bing Crosby & Grace Kelly

Manhattan                                                               Ella Fitzgerald

C'est Si Bon (It's So Good)                                     Cyntia M.

The Way You Look Tonight                                   Fred Astaire

Hello Dolly                                                               Louis Armstrong

When I'm Sixty Four                                                 Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen

L'amore sei tu (I will always Love You)                    Katherine Jenkins

Oh Pretty Woman                                                     Roy Orbison

Can't Help Falling in Love                                        Elvis Presley

I'm Into Something Good                                         Hermans Hermits

Without You                                                               Harry Nilsson

You don't Have To Say You Love Me                       Dusty Springfield

The Wonder of You                                                   Elvis Presley

A World of Our Own                                                   The Seekers

Singing in the Rain                                                      Gene Kelly

We Have All The Time In The World                           Louis Armstrong

I Haven't Told Her, She Hasn't Told Me                      Peter Sellers

Nailed that then. Just pick up the ring on your way home and we've boxed that off. Tomorrow, I'll have a list for all those of you for whom it didn't work out. 

By the way, it's a full moon tonight. Why do I keep thinking of that Credence Clearwater Revival song...........

Onward & upward lads!


Then the Witch Hunt........ oh, think we've found her.

Well done Baroness Young, that's one hell of a bird sanctuary!

In the to-be-hoped-for public inquiry to follow the calamitous floods, the first witness on the stand should, on the basis of a cracking Spectator article in the Spectator by Christopher Booker, be one Baroness Young of Scone.

In it, he alludes to generations of local knowledge on water management being passed over in favour of fashionable green and wildlife lobbies. Coincidentally, my cab driver last night was very eloquent in making the same point. He himself is much involved in the TE2100 project for flood management in the Thames Estuary. Local man, local knowledge; along with the estuary fishing skippers, farmers and other locals with inherited knowledge. I've heard much the same from many river keepers up and down the country over the last ten years. So, how did water management come to be so combative?

Mr Booker believes the Baroness, (Lord Smith's predecessor at the EA), like some Wicked Witch of the West, is to a large degree culpable. 

Things got markedly worse after 2002 when the Baroness Young of Old Scone, a Labour peeress, became the agency’s new chief executive. Dredging virtually ceased altogether. The rivers began dangerously to silt up. The Baroness, who had previously run the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Natural England, talked obsessively about the need to promote the interests of wildlife. She was famously heard to say that she wanted to see ‘a limpet mine put on every pumping station’. The experts I was talking to had no doubt that this apparent wish to put the cause of nature over that of keeping the Levels properly drained was eventually going to create precisely the kind of disaster we are seeing today.
— Christopher Booker
Baroness Young; Pretty clear where her sympathies lie then

Baroness Young; Pretty clear where her sympathies lie then

I'm not going to rewrite Mr Booker's article except to echo one of the concluding points he makes; that the very animals and birds the Baroness and her misguided acolytes set out to promote have lost their habitats to a much greater extent as a result of her meddling. Oddly, in her answers to the House of Commons Report on Flooding 2007-8 she didn't much mention birds. You do though get a pretty good insight of how someone who has spent a lifetime as a government administrator in one form or another looks at problems. One other point, the second person on the stand at the inquiry should be the individual responsible for her appointment. Just where do these people come from who enjoy generational patronage from government departments with no obvious ability or experience to do the tasks set before them?

It's way beyond time to call time on this tacky and questionable practice of taking average people and promoting them from failure into quangos and EU positions. It's not the taxpayers problem if politicians don't have the moral courage to fire and forget. 

Blue Skies?

The view this morning from outside the office was nothing but uplifting. I think it’s the first blue sky I’ve seen this year!

Unlike some other parts of the country which continue to suffer although real perspective from the media was long since flushed away. Now though, that the pastures of South Western England are more easily identifiable with the paddy fields of South East Asia, and talk on the 06:00hrs from Haslemere is reminiscent of the Blitz, “I see Somerset was hit again last night,” “and they got the Rose & Crown in Chertsey,” it is reassuring that the governmental machine has at last rolled into action. Unfortunately, it again took a media storm and growing political embarrassment to force action to acknowledge the situation that the stoic citizens of the South West and elsewhere find themselves in and past errors of judgement which have exacerbated the problem.

Are not the floods though, another pressing indictment on short duration politics which constantly strive for immediate electoral favour without regard to long term unintended consequences? The paucity of multi decade planning is being laid bare across every part of our society and embrace energy, transport, defence, education and the vexatious issues of long term health and elderly care. We’ll have another opportunity to witness “last safe moment crisis management,” with the next financial crisis which is trundling down the tracks with an arrival time of later this year.

The political establishment would gather much more support if they focused more on doing the right thing, rather than always lurching for the politically expedient path. We’re not as stupid as they evidently think we are. 

A politician trying to look windswept & interesting (click)

Would it be too cynical to reflect that Berkshire and Surrey have been sacrificed to manage the water flow through London? As a plan it does have an economic logic although not for the citizens west of London. The flaw in the plan of course is that such is the weight of water, it’s displaying the temerity to go around the upstream weirs and is now encroaching as far as Richmond. Londoners may be phlegmatic but the floods are worsening, as evidenced by the Navy appearing upstream and not just the Army!  While politicians stare at the floods trying to look windswept and interesting, enquiring minds are left to ponder, what about the moles and is there any truth in the rumour that Somalian pirates have been spotted on the Somerset levels?


The drafting in of servicemen, if only to reassure citizens, is woefully overdue, even if they don't have the kit, (we sold it all), or training to make a significant difference. As Think Defence points out, using servicemen as general labour to fill sandbags, (probably because it fulfills some hearty belief in that's what soldiers do), is "pure tokenisim." 

There have been some suggestions of remustering the Civil Defence Corp. I think it's a great idea and long advocated here. Call it what you will, but a series of CDC detachments and or TA Royal Engineers stationed up and across the country with dedicated long term depots of food, fuel, light, shelter, pumps, earth moving kit, snow moving kit and so on to support the civil community in times of urgent need is an obvious good. It doesn't matter if they're young reserve soldiers or civilian middle aged and retired specialists, (perhaps a mixture of both), but the poverty of our preparations to deal with disaster is becoming a national embarrassment and a dereliction of duty by HMG. The Americans have FEMA , we've got a bunch of clowns in wellies. Mind you, in the US the Corp of Engineers look after the waterways but then they are almost half the size of the whole British Army.

Why doesn't it happen now? I suspect a mixture of self entitlement, self importance and self preservation from all currently involved. The whole structure, where one exists, needs a shake down.

For the moment, there are no winners. The Environment Agency has let itself and the country down, (even though many planning departments ignore their advice on developing on flood plains), the media are turning the whole thing into a hysterical circus with not even a crumb of scientific analysis, (Charles Glover's piece in the ST about farmers in Somerset putting their topsoil at risk in flooding by over planting with maize is an exception), Westminster have been shown to be the comedy act that they are and some householders have seen a lifetimes endeavor floating away toward the English Channel. All the rest of us, well we'll end up with the bill because we keep electing people with no vision, foresight or appreciation of risk.

Market watchers meanwhile are left to consider the weather impact on food prices. From the drought in California, the snowstorms across southern and eastern US, the hottest December on record in Brazil and our own floods there will be an inflationary impact to come on the High Street.