Thursday, 4 May 2017

PRINCE PHILIP RETIRES



Buckingham Palace has announced that Prince Philip is to finally retire, aged 95. Fair enough I suppose. I was thinking of doing the same thing when I'm 95.

I don't know how long Reptilians normally live for, David Icke doesn't say in any of the books he has written on the subject as far as I am aware (to tell the truth, I haven't actually read any) but I may be wrong.

Anyway, I met Prince Philip briefly in 1968 while serving in the Royal Air Force at RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire. 

A poor quality image of a Type 12
Imperial War Museum
At the time, RAF Wyton was home to most of the RAFs photographic reconnaissance capability and I worked in what was called "The Factory". This was a building away from the main base and which housed the main facility for processing and interpreting photographic film. The two main pieces of equipment were 5 Type 12 film processors which developed the 9" film from the large cameras and a type 11 film processor which dealt with the 70mm film from the smaller tactical cameras.

One day we were informed that Prince Philip was going to make an "informal" visit to the station. 

Prince Philip was generally well regarded by the armed forces; our calling him "Phil the Greek" as we tended to do, was actually far more an affectionate term than a discourteous one.

Having served in the Royal Navy and a combat veteran, he was seen as more "one of us" than the other royals who just dressed up for the occasion. There was also a fairly high opinion of his sense of humour in those days before everything anyone in the public eye said was put through the "politically correct" mill.

Me (background) and my mate Ron Bevan working on a Type 11
This wasn't at the Factory but somewhere in Germany.
Came the day of the visit, there we were, standing to attention next to our designated machine, looking very competent in our spotless white coats and hoping to God that the films we had running through the machines didn't break (which they had a tendency to do from time to time).

Prince Philip, looking very regal and attired as a Marshal of the Royal Air Force got to me, looked at me, looked at my Type 11, looked back at me and said "going all right then?" which I thought was very gracious then moved on. I managed to stammer a "yes Sir" before remembering I was supposed to say "yes, Your Highness" but by that time, he had already found something else to look at and I didn't think I should chase after him to correct my faux-pas. The Station Commander who was in the following train winked at me as he went past so I suppose I did all right. I imagine he was hoping to God the film didn't break as well.



AND FINALLY...................................


The most utterly mind blowing second hand car commercial ever.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Me with my Mum and Little Brother Martin
in the garden in Wickham Lane in around 1955.
I'm the one with the garden shears and the intense expression.
I'm currently in the process of writing an article about my childhood home in Wickham Lane, Abbey Wood. It was inspired by a picture posted on Facebook a while back of an elderly couple standing in their back garden a couple of doors along from my Grandparents address.

Researching a particular incident in my childhood has taken me to the Heritage Centre in Woolwich and a long trawl through copies of the Kentish Independent dated around the early 1960s.

Reading the stories published in these early issues, I was reminded just how little some things have changed over the intervening years, and also, just how much.

Many of the stories have a depressing familiarity to them: Loutish behaviour by juveniles, dodgy estate agents, drunks crashing cars, complaints to the council about new roads/houses, worries about what the Russians are getting up to. There is even an ongoing debate about an EU referendum (this was about whether we should join rather than leave). Anyone going to sleep in 1961 and waking up today might wonder if any time had passed at all.

Then again, there are some aspects to the stories, when you look at the pages in more depth, that make you realise just what a strange place the past is.

Attacks on Police Officers are regularly reported; I don't know if that is because such stories were deemed to be more newsworthy then as now but there was hardly a week went by when another case was being reported.

The aforementioned juvenile delinquents were more likely to be sent to Borstal rather than the current policy of getting a social worker to tell them off. The massive influx of immigrants had only just gotten going so crimes committed by one would get special attention although the miscreant would be described as "coloured" not "black", which was considered rude.

A couple of the stories that featured regularly brought back some interesting memories. 

The Autostacker


The Woolwich Autostacker.
Photographer unknown
Anyone living withing 10 miles of Woolwich and over 60 years of age should remember the Autostacker.

This £102,000 nine storey, fully automated parking facility, designed by J.A. Sterling of the WW2 Rhine Bailey Bridge fame and built in Beresford Street on the site of an old cinema, was intended to hold up to 256 cars.

It was opened to much fanfare by Princess Margaret on 11th May 1961 where the demonstration vehicle got stuck. Later that day when no lesser person than TV personality Fyfe Robertson arrived to cover it's opening for the BBC Tonight programme it still wasn't working.

It never moved again.

There is surprisingly little information about this temple to 1960s technology, you could have a look here, which is about as much as I can find. But to sum it up in just a few words, let's just say, 'think Titanic without the icebergs' and that should give you a good idea of what was going on.  The Kentish Independent of course had a ringside seat to the entire sorry saga and covered in in many issues.

There is a rather upbeat and subsequently over-optimistic report from the BBC about the Autostacker, made before it actually opened. The item reports that it was demolished a year after it was constructed and several other sources make a similar claim but in fact there were still reports of attempts to repair it in 1963 editions of the Kentish Independent and demolition didn't actually start until 1965. Click here for some pictures of the demolition, taken in 1966.

The Smallpox Epidemic.


Another story covered extensively by the Kentish Independent was about the Smallpox Epidemic. In 1962, Smallpox arrived in the UK for the first time in decades. It had been so long since the last outbreak that at first, it wasn't identified until those carrying the virus had infected many other people. The result was devastating and eventually dozens of people would die before the outbreak was brought under control. I remember queueing up with my Mum outside the medical centre in Plumstead to get my vaccination. Fortunately the anti-vaccine lunatic movement was going through a bit of a lull at the time so everyone got their jab. I dread to think what would happen if something like that happened today. You would have thousands of people refusing to be vaccinated, claiming that they would be protected by eating healthy food, rubbing homoeopathic ointment on their affected parts or praying to the Lord Jesus.

James Gilray cartoon depicting the effects
of the Smallpox vaccine.
Incidentally, anyone thinking that the anti-vaccine hoax movement is something new, think again. When Edward Jenner first started vaccinating people against Smallpox, the live Cow Pox virus used was believed by some to cause terrible side effects to people receiving it. There was a lot of opposition from the news media at the time with lurid cartoons depicting what would happen to you if you were vaccinated. One claim was that it would cause you to develop cow like characteristics (autism hadn't been discovered back then). The main opponents though were religionist extremists who believed that preventing someone from getting Smallpox was defying God's will. Not a lot different form the conspiracy theory nutters you get today.

The Classified Ads.


The classified ads were something of an eye opener too. There were a surprising number of jobs on offer, mostly in local industry, all divided into "jobs for men" and "jobs for women and girls" as was proper. Most unions at that time were opposed to equal pay for women and tried to keep some occupations exclusively male.

I had forgotten just how industrialised south east London was up the the mid 60s.

In the early 60s, the government decided to rectify the north/south divide in employment by offering financial incentives to companies who wanted to set up businesses in the north of England. What actually happened was that many of the firms operating in the south, and London in particular simply closed down their operation and moved it north. One by one, all the factories which ran alongside the lower road from Plumstead to Charlton closed down and left thousands without work.


Changes in shopping habits.


In 1961, most retail outlets were either department stores, which Woolwich had an abundant supply of, or small shops specialising in particular areas. In those days, you bought your groceries from the grocer, your milk from the dairy, your bread from the baker and your greens from the greengrocer. Woe betide any shopkeeper trying to sell anything outside their given remit. Then as 1962 turns into 1963, you begin to start seeing adverts for those new-fangled supermarkets.

With their huge customer base and economic clout, they were able to sweep away many of the restrictive retail practices that had limited choice and kept prices high for customers.

It was in this era that we saw pretty much the end of Retail Price Maintenence. This was a rather unsavoury practice, supported in law, where the manufacturer could set the retail price of their goods so there could be no competition between retailers. When the new supermarkets started ignoring the regulation and discounting anyway, there was a short, sharp battle between them and manufacturers which the manufacturers were never going to win. Futile attempts to refuse to supply offending retailers were simply laughed off. There was no way that any manufacturer could afford to lose that much trade.

Anyone remember Victor Value? I wonder what happened to them: pink stamps as well?


Looking at the prices on that Victor Value advert reminded me of something else that has changed a lot since 1961 and that's the price of consumer goods, especially electronic goods. Comparing the price of supermarket shopping is difficult as there isn't much indication of the size of the product.

Today, many goods manufacturers sell their products in unusual weights and sizes so it's easy to impose a (sometimes substantial) price increase by simply reducing the pack size. You see this a lot in things like washing powder - Surf, for instance, increased the price of their product by 25%, not by increasing the price but by reducing the pack size. Cans of beans currently weigh in at 410 grams. There isn't any valid reason for doing this, it's just so they can reduce the size again the next time they want to charge more without telling us.

I went on about it a bit in a recent blog.

Electronic goods though, that's a different story. In the Kentish Independent edition dated 27 October 1961, a electrical goods retailer was selling the top of the range 19" Philips Alpine television for just 67 Guineas. Before decimalisation, retailers would often price their goods in guineas. A Guinea was worth 21 shillings, or £1.05 in today's money. It ceased being legal tender in 1816 but it was the pre-decimal version of adding 99p to the end of every price to make it look like they were not charging as much as they were.

Anyway, back to the new telly. 67 Guineas would be worth £1429.90 today according to the Bank of England inflation calculator. You could buy a pretty impressive 4k ready, state of the art piece of kit for that sort of money if you went to your local retailer tomorrow.

In the summer of 1962, you could buy a Roberts transistor radio for 17 Guineas or £332 today. Remember, this was all pretty basic stuff by today's standard.

And then I was shocked by all the cigarette commercials: it's amazing how quickly you forget.


Image courtesy of Hugh Neal
Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich
Co-incidentally, as I was composing this piece, last weeks episode of Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich featured an item about the Silica Shop and shows where relative prices have changed beyond recognition.

Situated in Hatherley Road, Sidcup, this was the "place to go" for all your computing requirements during the 1980s. At that time, I was working as a freelance photographer and used to get all my films processed and printed by Patrick Haggerty's photographic studio a couple of doors down.

While waiting for my work to be done, I would browse in the window of the Silica Shop dreaming of the day I might be able to afford to buy anything they had for sale. Their 1980s advert that Arthur Pewty displayed shows a good reason why I couldn't.

The top of the range Atari Mega ST computer with a 14" colour monitor came in at an eye-watering £1498; that would be over £4000 today. Remember, all you got for your money was a keyboard, mouse and monitor. No hard drive (you had to load any program you wanted to use from a floppy disk every time), no speakers and a paltry 4MB of memory. I doubt you could spend £4000 on a home computer today, even if you added on every peripheral you could think of.




ON THE GAME


The lovely Monika, pictured here,
charges £1000 a night
Someone seems to be trying to tell me something. My Gmail account keeps spamming me with adverts for dating sites; not the main official ones, so to speak, but rather the ones that are just a cover for prostitutes advertising their services. No matter how many times I keep telling them that these ads are "inappropriate" (you do get a choice of reasons for deleting them), they keep on coming.

Now I have Facebook trying to "suggest" that I might like to visit Dior Escorts, a website advertising the services of young ladies who, for the right price, will escort you all night long. "High class call girls and sexy English escorts" they claim but all the profiles I looked at, the girls were east European.

It took me ages to realise what they were selling, I had to study the page for hours. You can study the page as well if you want but don't click on the link unless you are very broad minded.

I don't know how these people got to me but at least I can draw some comfort in knowing that they haven't managed to get my bank details yet. If they had, they would know there was no way I could afford the prices these girls are charging. I might just manage to be able to pay for a five minute knee-trembler with one of the skanks on Plumstead Corner if it was the best day I ever had; but even then, only maybe.









Monday, 24 April 2017

SO IT CONTINUES


As part of his continuing creeping Islamification of London, our Muslim Mayor, Sadiq Khan has joined forces with CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale) to monitor and try and prevent the closure of pubs in and around London.

The licensed trade magazine "Pub & Bar"is one of the publications warning about this new threat to our traditional British way of life.

"It is hugely encouraging to see the mayor acknowledge the vital contribution being made by pubs and confirm his support for the sector" warns Kate Nicholls, ALMR Chief Executive).

Don't say you weren't told this would happen.


FAKE NEWS STRIKES AGAIN

Dairy produce in it's raw state
My dear Wife, Mrs Grump has both rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis so my interest was aroused when my attention was drawn to the following headline on the BBC News website. According to a survey carried out by the Osteoporosis Society

"Dairy-free diets warning over risk to bone health"

we were told. Underneath this rather alarming headline was a picture of someone pouring milk out of a jug, just in case you don't know what a dairy product is, followed by the even more alarming warning that "diets that cut out dairy food could be a "ticking time bomb" for young people's bone health".

However, buried in the copy is an actual quote from the Osteoporosis Society which reads

"Consuming foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, such as dairy products, green leafy vegetables, salmon, sardines, broccoli and baked beans, is particularly important before the age of 25"

In other words, they are not saying that dairy-free diets are a risk to bone health.

So what's going on?

As I have said on many occasions, the Thamesmead Grump never takes news headlines at face value and so decided to go digging. Just as well I did, especially when during the early part of my research, I came across even more hysterical headlines from other news sources relating to the same survey.
See -  The MetroThe TimesDaily Express.

In fact, some of these reports were so hysterical that the Osteoporosis Society contacted the Vegan Society to set the record straight and asked to quote them on alternative sources of calcium on their website.

It goes like this - us humans need vitamin D. It's needed in order that our bodies can metabolise calcium and turn it into useful things like bones and teeth, without which we would look very silly indeed. Some of this vitamin D we create ourselves by the effect of sunlight on the skin, the rest we get from our diet.

Historically, the typical western diet comprising as it does, of a large amount of vitamin D rich foods like milk and cheese, provided us with our normal requirement. However, this isn't an option for some people.

An ability to digest lactose into adulthood is a recent genetic mutation; usually the hormone, lactase which breaks down the lactose sugar in milk is only produced in humans in early childhood but for some of us it continues to be produced into adulthood. Not everyone carries this mutation so cannot digest milk or it's derivatives.

Fortunately, for those diagnosed with lactose intolerance, help is readily at hand in the form of advice on alternative foods that can replace the missing vitamin D.

There are also some people who choose not to eat dairy products for ethical reasons. Concern for animal welfare is often cited as a reason. Veganism is one of the ethical movements that chooses not to include any animal products in the diet but again, for those who follow this particular movement there is plenty of advice available on alternative dietary choices.

What the Osteoporosis Society was expressing concern about was the increasing tendency for following fad diets, often invented by people with no qualification in nutrition and endorsed by TV celebrities. Some of these can be very strange indeed and involve removing specific food types for no good reason and then not replacing the missing supplements with any suitable alternative.

Sadly, it seems that it's the very young who are most easily influenced by these unhealthy fads and are the ones most likely to suffer in later life.

If you are considering cutting out calcium rich dairy foods for medical or ethical reasons, then get some proper advice on what to replace them with. Although The Osteoporosis Society suggestion about replacing them with beans I think needs a risk assessment first in view of it's possible effect on global warming.


MADDIE - THE TRUTH


The tragic case of Madeline McCann rumbles on with ever increasingly hysterical claims as to what really happened. It seems she has
*been buried on a beach by her parents
*been kidnapped by slave traders and sold to a rich family
*had the circumstances of her disappearance covered up by MI5

I suppose it's only a matter of time before Bigfoot will become involved, along with the Reptilian Overlords and the flying saucer people. Then again, I am not a regular reader of Natural News so perhaps I'm already too late.


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

BARKING MAD



Those of us who have a morbid fascination with the darker side of human nature will be following the story of Alex Jones' custody battle with some interest.

Alex Jones is an American basket case who regularly appears on TV and other media, screaming hysterically about the latest "conspiracy cover up" by the government. To get some idea, think David Icke meets Adolph Hitler. 

He briefly appeared on the Andrew Neil show on the BBC in 2013 where he was described thus:-
"We have an idiot on the programme".

If you managed to miss the interview, you can watch it here.



He is currently in a legal battle with his ex-Wife over custody of their 14 year old Son in which she is arguing that he is mentally unstable, dangerous  and not fit to be a father. She presents as evidence his regular TV appearances and the opinions he espouses.

His own lawyer is arguing in his defence that the persona he shows in his public appearances is nothing but an act and shouldn't be taken seriously.


At a recent pretrial hearing, attorney Randall Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo that using his client Alex Jones’ on-air Infowars persona to evaluate Alex Jones as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in “Batman.”
“He’s playing a character,” Wilhite said of Jones. “He is a performance artist.”
This presents Alex Jones himself with a dilemma. Is he going to deny what his own attorney is saying about him and, by so doing, as good as admit that his ex is correct; or, is he going to admit that his lawyer is correct and his whole show is nothing more than an act?

It wouldn't matter if it were not for the fact that there are some people so stupid that they actually believe the stuff he is saying. Probably the sickest thing he is doing is to claim that the massacre of school children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax perpetrated by the government in order to justify introducing gun controls.

Some of the people who do believe this garbage have actually gone so far as to physically threaten the parents of dead children, claiming that they are part of the hoax.

Either way, it's probably not going to make much difference in the long run which argument he uses. There will always be people stupid enough to fall for this sort of stuff and there will always be someone ready to pander to it, especially if there's a profit to be made.


THE GENERAL ELECTION

A Statement by the Thamesmead Grump

The Thamesmead Grump does not feel it necessary to make any comments regarding the forthcoming general election. The public have had enough of elections and opinions about them and so I see no need for me to make any reference to it in any future blog.




Monday, 20 March 2017

BRIGHT SPARKS


Many years ago, British Gas, (a utility company with an appalling customer service rating), used to send people threatening letters claiming that they owed £0.00 and threatening legal action if it wasn't paid. I wrote about them a couple of years ago in a brief piece, you can read it here

It seems that they are not the only company with a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to customer relations.

Up until march this year, I bought my electricity from a company called OVO. I moved to them from Atlantic Electric because they were a lot cheaper and, as far as I could tell, the electricity they supplied was of a similar quality. 

I had joined a 2 year fixed tariff contract and this ended at the end of February. They wrote to me to let me know my agreement was coming to an end and, as a good will gesture, agreed to continue supplying me with their electricity with only a 20% increase in price.

Looking around for another supplier, I found a small company called "The Energy Deal" who could supply me with their electricity for the same price OVO were originally charging me, so I signed up with them. 

Everything went smoothly, The Energy Deal said hello, OVO said goodbye and that was that; or so I supposed.

Imagine my surprise then when I received an email from OVO telling me how pleased they were that I was staying with them and telling me how much they were going to be charging me in future. According to their letter, "based on your tariff and energy use, we think your energy will cost you £0.00 for the next 12 months".

If they had told me that was what they were going to charge me originally, I never would have left them.


POKING AROUND


The Poke is a website which specialises in reporting some of the more unusual and interesting stories appearing on social media and the news. I often have a look at it and find most of the stories quite entertaining. 

The site is free to access and they get their funding by running lots of click-bait ads. These are the ones where "you won't believe how this woman lost 300lbs in just 10 days" and "this miracle treatment Doctors don't want you to know about" type stories which are meant to encourage you to click on them and so create internet traffic for advertising revenue.

The trouble is, because of the nature of the site itself, being full of incredible and absurd stories, it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the genuine stories and the click-bait ads. Perhaps that's the idea.

Anyway, I'd finished reading all the latest stories and thought, just for a bit of fun, I would try one or two of the click-bait ones.

"This Diabetes Breakthrough Will Bankrupt The Diabetes Industry" screamed the first one. I wasn't aware that there was a diabetes industry but I decided to take a look anyway.

It opened up into a screen that looked like this


A bit of research told me that 1st Browser is a nasty piece of work which, when downloaded, re-directs all your searches to sites trying to sell you things. It's difficult to get rid of, or so I'm told. Not a problem I will have because I wasn't stupid enough to click on the link. I don't see it doing much to cure my diabetes either.

Going back to The Poke, the ad was still there (they seem to cycle them so you don't always get the same ones) so I clicked on it again. This time another offer popped up


No, this isn't going to cure me either.

Not to be disheartened, I tried a different one. This told me that "New British Diet Pill Works Too Good".


As you can see, this one must work because there is a picture of a very fat lady next to a picture of a very slim lady. These two pictures are the same lady, or so we are told, so it must be true, with the legend "Lost 3.0 stone in 6 weeks!". Don't forget the exclamation mark, very important.

There are a number of important points to consider if you are thinking of trying this product. First, beware of the free trial promotions on offer. There are a number of reports of companies selling this product deducting the full payment from customers' credit cards even after they have cancelled within the contracted period.

Next, the product itself. Firstly, they claim that their product has been "clinically proven" to produce various results. They provide no evidence of any clinical trials to support any such thing. They won't even disclose the actual ingredients so no safe clinical testing could ever be carried out.

When you are looking for suspicious claims for health products, there is one word to look out for perhaps more than any other. Forget vibrations, quantum, wellness or anything like that. No, the word is "detox".

If you want to know what the word "detox" actually means then have a read of this Wikipedia entry. As most of you won't bother, here is the most relevant extract.

"Detoxification or detoxication (detox for short) is the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism, including the human body, which is mainly carried out by the liver. Additionally, it can refer to the period of withdrawal during which an organism returns to homeostasis after long-term use of an addictive substance. In medicine, detoxification can be achieved by decontamination of poison ingestion and the use of antidotes as well as techniques such as dialysis and (in a limited number of cases) chelation therapy".

"Certain approaches in alternative medicine claim to remove "toxins" from the body through herbal, electrical or electromagnetic treatments. These toxins are undefined and have no scientific basis,(Mayo Clinic) making the validity of such techniques questionable. There is little evidence for toxic accumulation in these cases, as the liver and kidneys automatically detoxify and excrete many toxic materials including metabolic wastes. Under this theory if toxins are too rapidly released without being safely eliminated (such as when metabolizing fat that stores toxins) they can damage the body and cause malaise

Read that last sentence again very carefully. What it's saying is that so-called alternative medicine treatments don't do anything. It's just as well because if they did, in an uncontrolled way, (and none of the peddlers of this stuff are actually medically qualified), you could do yourself real harm.

If you see the word "detox" in anything other than it's correct clinical context, you are about to be shaken down till your teeth rattle. They claim that the "Pure Colon Detox" has been clinically proven to "Help Eliminate Extremely Damaging Toxins That Have Built Up Over The Years".

Apart from the fact that you should always be suspicious of anyone using Nigerian 419 scam type emphasis on capital letters, you should also be aware that, while there is a clinical definition of the term "detox", this isn't it.

Quite how you are suppose to "clinically prove" something which has no clinical basis is something they don't care to explain. It's like trying to "clinically prove" that it's unlucky to walk under a ladder.