Sunday, 29 June 2008

Joke for today..........

'Big Mugabe win in Zimbabwe poll' - BBC News 29th June 2008

........but don't worry 'Mr. President', the cell with your name on it and those of your henchmen is waiting at the International Criminal Court in The Hague where you and they will surely ultimately be called to account.

So enjoy your 'victory' - it wont last very long!


With Shirley still hobbling around on crutches - albeit slightly more 'spritely' these days! - we headed out to the lovely Thames riverside town of Marlow yesterday evening to meet up with our good friends Pam and Chas Watkins for dinner.

Marlow is one of those typically old-fashioned and picturesque Thames-side towns which you find all the way up the river; it's smart and trendy too with lots of eating places, bars and folks just ambling around although for some odd reason we didn't understand it seemed quieter last night; maybe the 'calm before the storm' of Henley Regatta next week?

Marlow is famous for quite a few things including notably the Marlow Bridge across the River Thames - there's been one there since 1227!! The present 'chain' suspension bridge built between 1829 and 1832 replaced a wooden one which fell down! It has a rather unique design which it shares with one of the major bridges in Budapest, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, which is the largest of the four suspension bridges designed by the Bristol born engineer, Tierney Clark.

The Two Brewers pub on St. Peters' Street opened in 1755 and is rumoured to have been the Inn where Jerome K Jerome wrote a few chapters of his famous book, 'Three Men in a Boat' - well, who knows?

The Two Brewers, Marlow

Anyway we enjoyed a nice meal in good company, as always with Pam and Chas. The occasion gave Chas and I the opportunity to talk through the logistics for our annual 'boys boating trip' on the River in advance of Henley Royal Regatta which starts on Wednesday - we're going to meet up on Thursday morning and cast off for a few days cruisin' 'n drinkin' along with Phil Henson, another old friend who also has a long-boat on the Thames; I think there'll be 5 of us in all on 2 boats this year which should be fun!

Let's see if the English summer can dish us up some nice warm sunny weather for a change!!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Boeing X48B

Something somewhat lighter today - six super shots of the first flight of the unmanned Boeing X48B on 20th July 2007; I hope you like them as much as I do!

Click on each photo for a closer look-see!

Click here for more information and photos, what a plane!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Zimbabwe - Nelson speaks

Now the best news of the week for me - Nelson Mandela attacks Zimambwe's tragic failure of leadership; aka Robert Mugabe

I'm sure this is a very significant and HEAVY nail in the coffin of Magabe's regime.

Mr Magabe, the end is nigh!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Crazy English!!

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England.
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing,
grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and
get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns down,
in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

Happy birthday, Max!!

It's our Grandson Max's 4th birthday today - 23rd June!

Here is a nice 'quickie' photo which Andrew sent us from his Blackberry - Max having fun with some of his friends at 'Sandbuckets', a local adventure playground close to where they live in Warriewood, NSW.

Isn't he growing up fast!

Proud Godfather!

Now here's a nice photo, don't you think?

It's our Godaughter Christina and me!

We scooted up the motorway to Leicester on Saturday to attend a party to celebrate our good friend Bettina’s 60th birthday!

It was a great occasion attended by her daughter (and our Goddaughter!) Christina, us and a whole host of Leicester friends – mostly Portuguese! And what a wonderful party it was too!

And the food – well wow! I don’t think I’ve seen a spread like it – all prepared and served up by Bettina and her friends Paula, Jorge and Sandra with help from numerous others who pitched in with a dish or two.

On a diet maybe? Well just forget it!! The food was absolutely delicious!! So now I’m fasting again to try to lose the naughty pounds I put on in just a few hours!

We stayed with Bettina overnight and helped clear up before helping ourselves to some ‘left-over’s’ – yes, you guessed it; naughty again!!

But it was nice to see some old faces again after so long – Mario, Shirley’s old boss from when she and Bettina worked together hairdressing and some of their colleagues, Louise, Jackie and Alison with their husbands respectively Neal, Paul and Craig – I think they all at some time used to ‘baby-sit’ for us when we lived in Leicester in the early 1980’s; they thought we lived in such a big, posh house!

They don’t seem to have changed a bit – but then again NONE of us have, huh?

Why so quiet, Nelson?

Nelson Mandela arrived in London this morning for a concert to celebrate his 90th birthday next month - he's a very special man, don't you think? Influential and statemanlike - a beacon for oppressed folks around the world.

.........but VERY quiet about the tragedy unfolding in Zimbabwe!

A few well-chosen words from the great man would make so much difference, wouldn't it?

Thursday, 19 June 2008


I've just signed up for a trial period for a new mail system - no not email, REAL mail!

It's a service just launched in the UK for mail to UK addresses - which you send via your computer; there's no need to buy paper, envelopes or stamps. The idea is that you pay 27p plus vat per letter and send it from your computer into the Viapost system - Viapost actually print the letter and mail it for you using sites they have closest to the recipient thereby reducing your carbon footprint!! 'Final-mile' delivery is by Royal Mail of course.

So far as I can see, folks (say) in Australia or anywhere else in the world can use the system for mailing letters to UK addresses and to me it's certainly worth looking into as the cost and the speed of delivery will be considerably better! For us in the UK it can save time and effort and 'guarantee' a faster service than the regular Royal Mail.

Go to the Viapost website for more information.

Airlines - best seats

Now here's is a pretty amazing service for anyone planning air travel.

Go here:

So when you've selected your flight and want to book and it shows you what the aircraft type is, open this site in another window and drill down to the page with the same airline and same plane type.

Then you will see a highly detailed seating plan to help you pick the best seats.

Easy-peasy huh?

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The Times Archive

Now here's an interesting thing if you've nothing better to do on a rainy day!

The Times has a free introductory offer to search their archives and explore 200 years of history as it appeared in the original pages of The Times newspaper from 1785-1985 - the offer enables the following access and options:

  • Every issue of The Times published between 1785-1985, digitally scanned and fully searchable
  • Click and drag navigation
  • Save, print, e-mail favourite articles
  • 150 topic pages, plus magnificent archive photo galleries
So go here all you historians (and the Bandicoots Trivia Quiz team!) out there - The Times Archive

PS - Democracy, Zimbabwe style

Today's quote from President Robert Mugabe:

"We fought for our country and a lot of blood was shed.

We are not going to give up our country because of a mere 'x'"

(meaning 'x' as on a ballot paper of course!)

Source: The Times, London 17th June 2008

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Happy Fathers' Day!

To all those Dads who need a break today.............

........Happy Fathers' Day!!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Yes, Chef!!

As most of you know, I normally live in the shadow of one of the really GREAT cooks in the world; yes, it’s my dear wife Shirley.

Well, these are unusual times – Shirley is currently hobbling around on crutches following surgery on her right foot last Monday so yours truly is having to resort to previously ‘hidden reserves’ in surviving; yes, thank goodness I was a Boy-Scout!! Um, in my early teens, I was actually a Patrol Leader of the Kingfisher Patrol in the 7th Orpington Scout Troop, many, many moons ago!! So I learned how to survive, knots and all!!

Well, tough times call for tough measures and as the saying goes, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going!!’

Since Shirley got discharged last Tuesday I’ve been very busy, domestically that is! Yes, administering to every whim and request from my dear wife as well as vacuuming, laundry, shopping, bed making and all those things that guys normally DON’T do but somehow miraculously do get done by ‘the fairies’ – cooking maybe included!

Now I know that among my friends far and wide there are some, not many I admit, who DO possess those culinary skills but up to now I’ve been in the majority, quietly enjoying the splendid cooking of our wives and relying on maybe just ‘setting the table’ and ‘washing up’ (um, that’s simply pressing the button on the dishwasher) as our contribution to the meal!

But here guys – I’ve broken NEW GROUND!! Yes, I’ve done my bit at the BBQ, pretending that ‘I’ve cooked the meal’ when I’ve only just stood over the flames and turned the beef burger or sausages over at the right moment. But REALLY cooking? Well listen here!

So far this week (and hey it’s still only Saturday!) I’ve served up Lasagna, Pork Chops with Pears and Maple Syrup, Roast Chicken Breast with Blue cheese, wrapped in bacon and tonight the ‘Pièce de résistance’ (so far!) Chicken Biryani served with roasted nuts, chilies and Nan bread and accompanied by a nice bottle of Spanish Rioja!! Plus I’ve roasted some very nice sweet peppers and served these for as a garnish for a salad lunch or two!

Oh and I’ve washed up as well!!

OK, I know I’ve got some catching up to do with some other members of my family and friends but I’m trying!!

Eat your heart out Jamie Oliver!!

Friday, 13 June 2008


........its almost over; well here in the UK at 9pm anyway. The Aussies have it behind them now but the Yanks still have most of it to go before they can breathe a sigh of relief!

Oh and I never knew that the 'fear' of the day was actually called paraskevidekatriaphobia

- and no, before you ask I can't pronounce it!!

A cry for help

Today, a nation is dying – dying because of a despotic and corrupt leader who has turned against his own people in his desire to hold on to power despite the wishes of the people; the nation is of course Zimbabwe and it’s President, Robert Mugabe.

I’m sure that many folks across the world are watching in horror as events unfold – hopes that somehow this human disaster would end seem to be sadly over optimistic and every day we hear of some new atrocity, some new injustice. I was touched by the text of a letter written by a 16-year old Zimbabwean girl – a cry for help if ever there was one.

So I’m devoting my Blog today to this letter in the hope that somehow, someway this will make a small difference – if only by encouraging more folks to join the tide of protest and disgust that is sweeping the World.

Dear World,

I am a 16 year old person living in Zimbabwe. I think the time has come for a more direct appeal, and so I am writing to you, the world. Maybe, just maybe, there might be someone out there who can help us.

It's tough here now. The inflation rate is so high that if you don't change money within 6 hours you could get half the amount of foreign currency that you would have originally received. We're starving now; people die around us. In the last year alone at least ten people associated personally with my family have died despite the fact that they were only middle-aged. Other people don't make it to middle age.

They don't even make it past childhood.

Our once-proud nation is on its knees. We flee or die. This beautiful, bountiful once-rich land has become a living hell. We have dealt with it until now; we have made a plan. That was the Zimbabwean motto: "MAKE A PLAN". But now we can't make a plan. We're too tired, too broken and too bankrupt. We can't afford life, and life does not cost much, not really.

We cannot afford to eat, we cannot afford to drink, and we cannot afford to make mistakes, because if we do we die. We don't have the capital to support ourselves, and those few who do, have to deal with the horror of watching their friends and family fall into absolute poverty as they cannot afford to help them.

We're waiting desperately for a great hand to pick us up out of the dirt because at the moment we are outnumbered by Fate herself and so we close our eyes and pray. We have fought for too long, and have been brought to breaking point. We simply stand, heads down, and bear it.

Our spirit has gone; we are defeated. After a valiant struggle of over fifteen years, we have been broken. There is no will left, no spirit.

Like a horse that has been beaten until it cannot fight anymore; we are the same, and, like that horse, we stand dusty, scarred and alone, with dried blood on our sides and lash marks along our flanks. Our ribs too stand out; our hide is also dull. Our eyes are glazed, our throats are parched, and our knees struggle to support us so that we stand with splayed legs to bear the brunt of the next beating, too dejected even to whimper... This is my plea. The thought of picking ourselves up again is sickening; one can only take so many blows before oblivion is reached, and we are teetering on the rim of the bottomless void.

One more push will be the end of us all...There must be someone out there who can do something. There must be someone out there who cares!

We are a destroyed nation, and the world sits back and watches, pretending they cannot hear our cries. I appeal to you all.


One day, not too far away now good WILL prevail over evil in Zimbabwe and this lovely Country will live again – let’s hope that the Zimbabwean people don’t have to wait too long!

Go to Help Save Zimbabwe to learn more.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Wish we were there?

We know the NSW coast between Mona Vale and Palm Beach very well and have a number of favourite spots to watch the sea and just 'chill out'.

When we're back in England we always keep up with the local Aussie news through the online edition of the Manley Daily - a free paper delivered 5 days a week across the Northern Beaches; yesterday it had this photo:

Yes, it's a single humpback whale which the Manley Daily says 'was certainly in a hurry to get to a warmer destination yesterday but had time to thrill onlookers with a majestic display of tricks just off the Heads.

Graham Lloyd of Palm Beach Ferry Service spotted the creature as he headed back up the coastline and took this picture."I tracked it all the way from the heads to just off Mona Vale Beach she put on quite a show," Mr Lloyd said.

"She was travelling quite quickly, approximately nine knots ... maybe she was trying to catch up to a pod, or just trying to get to the warmer waters quicker for some funny business."

The annual humpback migration provides enthusiasts and tourists alike with the chance to experience relatively close contact with these majestic mammals of the deep.

"These animals really are something that everyone should witness at least once in their lifetime," Mr Lloyd said.

Whale watchers believe that the ban on commercial whaling is having a positive effect on the humpback whale population, and they are expecting record numbers this year'

........wonderful, huh?

Even though it's winter-time Downunder there we still wish we could share the thrill of the whales on the move!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Shirley - Bulletin

  • 7.30pm Sunday - just returned from a nice sunny Sunday with Shirley's sister Wendy and her partner Tony who live in a quaint hamlet just outside Salisbury in the lovely County of Wiltshire.

    Doctors orders says Shirley can't have any more alcohol before her operation tomorrow - boo-hoo! Also she can't eat anything after 2.30am but I guess that shouldn't be a problem as she's not really into 'midnight-feasting'! But I think she can have a tea with no milk/sugar when she wakes but it's 'nil by mouth' from 6.30am.

    We're up at 5.30am tomorrow to get ready to take her into the Royal Berkshire Hospital for 7am.

  • 9am Monday - just arrived back from the Royal Berks where they've admitted Shirley for surgery later this morning; she's scheduled to go to theatre at 11am. She's fine, in good spirits on the surface but more than a little anxious inside at the prospect of what's to come!

    I'm going to phone the Ward around 1pm to see how things are and hope to be able to visit this afternoon, all being well.

  • 7pm Monday - having heard nothing and phones a few time, I decided to head up to the hospital at 2pm. When I arrived the Ward Sister said that Shirley was still in theatre so after just sitting by her empty bed, I wandered off for a walk and change of scenery.

    When I got back at almost 4.30pm the Sister said that Shirley was on her way back to the Ward so I hung around until I saw her being wheeled along the corridor waving to me!! She looked more than a little 'woosey' and the nurses settled her into bed. We were actually the first to check-in this morning at around 6.45am but it was not until after 2pm that Shirley got taken down to theatre - some wait with nothing to eat or drink!

    Anyway she seems 'ok' - drowsy of course and a little sore but she's had some morphine in addition to the drugs they gave her for the surgery. She had a little to drink and eat before I came away at about 6.30pm although she said she was feeling 'weird', not sicky, just weird. She has a bandage, not a plaster which she has to keep on, undisturbed, for a couple of weeks when the surgeon will have a look at it again.

    She's going to call me tomorrow morning after the Doctors have been around but we're hoping that they'll discharge her by the afternoon.

    Watch this space!

  • 8am Tuesday - Shirley phoned to say she's seen the Doctor and she's ok to come home later, once she's seen the physio and got her drugs from the Pharmacy. She says she had a restless night but her foot seems ok although they seem to have done something different than what she thought they were going to do! Oh well, I guess that's doctors for you!

    So all being well, I'll go and collect her later - she'll be on crutches of course but she has recent experience of using them so that shouldn't be a problem!!

  • 4pm Tuesday - she's home! Slightly out-of-it after the drugs etc. but she's ok and hobbling around on crutches again, just like 'old times' really!! Clare popped in to see her on her way home from work which was nice. I cooked dinner and cleared up and now she's gone to bed (7pm) to rest up and recover and hopefully get a good nights sleep.

    It's great to have her back!! 'Normal service' will hopefully be resumed soon!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Freddie rules! Yeah!

We headed out with the 'gang' (Tim, Val, John, Jo, Brian, Norma and Steve) last night - it was one of those old band 'tribute' acts which we go to from time to time; last night it was Queen or to be more precise, a guy trying (sadly not very successfully) to be Freddie Mercury!!

Still, we had a nice meal before the entertainment and the wine was flowing (as always!) so as the evening wore on, the quality of the act didn't really matter - and besides the piped backing music was the original REAL Queen music so if you closed your eyes you could just imagine it was Freddie himself!

And soon everyone was boogyin' like crazy - dancing to all the great songs, Radio Gaga, Fat Bottomed Girl and all those great hits, with all the animation and gyrations you could imagine and lots of 'air guitars' of course - YEAH!

Whether you liked Queen or not, Freddie was such an exceptional performer wasn't he?

And we still all miss him, don't we?

Friday, 6 June 2008

So, what's a-foot?!

Well, the dreaded day in Shirley's calendar is almost on us!

As you'll probably know, she has been unable to put a shoe on and walk for any distance because of a problem with the bones in her feet caused through years of standing for long periods of time; the problem of her broken foot/ankle a year or so ago was an entirely unrelated thing!

On Monday she goes into the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading to have her right foot 'fixed' - for the not-too-squeamish this involves physically breaking some bones in her foot and realigning them!!

Hopefully she wont be in for too long; maybe a couple of days. So I'm expecting to be a busy-bee for the next few weeks, running around, shopping, cooking, houseworking etc. and generally being at hand as she recovers!

I cant wait!!!!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Hey I'm famous - well, maybe

I just discovered something weird - nothing new in that I hear you say; weird things always seem to stick to weird people!!

Yes, yes, - ok to be serious now.

I was just looking at my Blog and that new 'thingy' I included a while back which shows (or says it shows) who's been looking at my Blog; well not precisely who, just where they come from and also where they came from web-wise (i.e. the last page they looked at before hitting my Blog.

Are you still with me?

Anyway there was a 'sign' that someone from Maryland, USA had arrived at my Blog from a site called Skeptical Science - so I went there myself only to find my original Blog posting on the site!! Plus would you believe, a link back to my Blog itself!!

I have no idea who put it there but maybe it's a site which just trawls the Internet looking for 'skeptical' items about Global Warming - go there and see for yourself; it's quite fascinating.

Did I say weird? Maybe I should say VERY WORRYING!!

I think I'd better watch what I post in future!!

Crime figures and lies, damned lies!

Now here’s something that will appal you – a real-life story from my sister Ruth made more interesting because both she and her husband John were police officers, many years ago!

I’ll leave some peripheral details out but this is the gist.

Picture this; Ruth goes to church and sits in the row nearest the back of the church along with some folks she knows. A (young-ish) man comes in and those around greet him – he’s not someone they know but he’s come to worship (or so they think!); he sits in the row behind and immediately behind where Ruth is sitting.

At sometime during the service someone across in the other pews notices that he hasn’t been standing during the singing of the hymns but doesn’t think anything of it – maybe he has a bad back?

Anyway the service progresses when Ruth and the others hear the door behind them close – again no-one thinks anything of this; maybe the guy felt that the service wasn’t doing anything for him?

And then for some reason Ruth reaches for her handbag under her seat – yes, you’ve got there before me I guess! The handbag zip had been opened and her mobile phone and wallet with cash/credit cards and all had gone.

Ruth phones John, still at home – he calls the credit card companies and gets the cards stopped immediately and then together they go down to the local Police Station to report the theft, less than an hour previously; they arrive to be ‘greeted’ by one of the new ‘Community Support Officers’ (CSO) who looks, Ruth thinks, somewhat dishevelled. But ok things are never what they used to be, are they – even policemen can look scruffy these days!!

Listen to this:

Ruth - ‘We’ve come to report a theft of items from my handbag’

CSO – ‘What have you lost?’

Ruth – ‘No, my mobile phone and wallet were stolen from my handbag’

CSO – ‘Where did you lose them?’

Ruth – ‘No, I didn’t lose them; they were stolen from my handbag in church’

CSO - ‘How do you know this?’

(Me, aside, dohhhh!!!)

Ruth explains that she knew the items were in the handbag when she entered church as she distinctly remembers switching her phone off when she arrived there.

CSO – ‘But you could have lost them?’

Ruth (getting more than a little exasperated by now!) – ‘No, the items were in my bag at the start of the service but were stolen by a man sitting behind me’

Looking quizzical, the CSO produces a form – headed ‘Lost Property’- and starts to fill it in.

At this point, John (who'd been quiet up to now) pipes up; ‘You know this isn’t a lost property issue, its theft, it’s a crime situation’

CSO says something which they both think is facetious and John says ‘Look, I spent over 30 years in the Police and I KNOW what a lost property item is and I know what a crime is’

CSO (sneering) – ‘yes but your not in the police now are you!’

(Me again – wow that’s appalling and very, very rude!)

John says he wants to see a senior officer, meaning at least the station sergeant (if they still have them these days!)

CSO gets up and disappears into the office behind – he returns a while later and says the senior officer says it’s a lost property situation and the CSO is dealing with it the right way.

John stands his ground and insists on seeing the senior officer – the CSO disappears again. They wait alone at the counter for maybe 20 minutes – a WPC walks through and asks where the CSO is; John says he’s gone to get the senior officer who they are waiting for.

More time passes and no-one returns – Ruth and John lose patience and leave the Police Station somewhat disgusted with the treatment they have received as victims of crime.

John writes two letters to his MP, one to the local office and the other to the House of Commons – some months later he is still waiting for even the courtesy of an acknowledgement!

So when the politicians trumpet how the UK crime figures are falling – don’t you believe them!

They’re recording everything as ‘lost property’!!

Another sad example of Britain today!

But there’s a happy footnote to this story – a week or so after the theft, Ruth had a call from a local pub. Apparently a cleaner had come across her wallet while cleaning the ladies toilet – in addition to credit cards the wallet also contained Ruth’s membership card for the Royal College of Nursing which had a phone number on it.

The publican, (presumably knowing how inefficient the police were nowadays!) called the RCN himself and got Ruth’s phone number – he called her and she was reunited with the wallet – sadly now missing not only a relatively small quantity of cash but also more distressingly a much treasured photo of our dear Mum which Ruth thinks must have just fallen out of the wallet when they were rifling through it. The credit cards were intact but useless now as they’d been cancelled immediately after they’d disappeared but thankfully her driving licence was still there.

So there ARE nice folks about after all (the cleaner and the publican) – I guess you just have to look harder for them these days!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

The beginning of the end of the World? (as we know it)

Now here's a scary thing (if you've got nothing better to do and have a few moments to spare reading this!) - courtesy of our very good friend Jon Price in Australia; Jon is good at opening our eyes to the REAL world!

Go here, where you will find a real-time image of the sun from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, located in deep space at the equilibrium point between solar and terrestrial gravity.

What is apprently scary about the picture is that there is only one tiny sunspot.

Disconcerting as it may be to true believers in global warming, the average temperature on Earth has remained steady or slowly declined during the past decade, despite the continued increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, and now the global temperature is falling precipitously.

All four agencies that track Earth’s temperature (the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the Christy group at the University of Alabama, and Remote Sensing Systems Inc in California) report that it cooled by about 0.7C in 2007. This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record and it puts us back where we were in 1930. If the temperature does not soon recover, we will have to conclude that global warming is over.

There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that 2007 was exceptionally cold. It snowed in Baghdad for the first time in centuries, the winter in China was simply terrible and the extent of Antarctic sea ice in the austral winter was the greatest on record since James Cook discovered the place in 1770.

It is generally not possible to draw conclusions about climatic trends from events in a single year, so I would normally dismiss this cold snap as transient, pending what happens in the next few years.

This is where SOHO comes in. The sunspot number follows a cycle of somewhat variable length, averaging 11 years. The most recent minimum was in March last year. The new cycle, No.24, was supposed to start soon after that, with a gradual build-up in sunspot numbers.

It didn’t happen. The first sunspot appeared in January this year and lasted only two days. A tiny spot appeared last Monday but vanished within 24 hours. Another little spot appeared this Monday. Pray that there will be many more, and soon.

The reason this matters is that there is a close correlation between variations in the sunspot cycle and Earth’s climate. The previous time a cycle was delayed like this was in the Dalton Minimum, an especially cold period that lasted several decades from 1790.

Northern winters became ferocious: in particular, the rout of Napoleon’s Grand Army during the retreat from Moscow in 1812 was at least partly due to the lack of sunspots.

That the rapid temperature decline in 2007 coincided with the failure of cycle No.24 to begin on schedule is not proof of a causal connection but it is cause for concern.

It is time to put aside the global warming dogma, at least to begin contingency planning about what to do if we are moving into another little ice age, similar to the one that lasted from 1100 to 1850.

There is no doubt that the next little ice age would be much worse than the previous one and much more harmful than anything warming may do. There are many more people now and we have become dependent on a few temperate agricultural areas, especially in the US and Canada. Global warming would increase agricultural output, but global cooling will decrease it.

Millions will starve if we do nothing to prepare for it (such as planning changes in agriculture to compensate), and millions more will die from cold-related diseases.

There is also another possibility, remote but much more serious. The Greenland and Antarctic ice cores and other evidence show that for the past several million years, severe glaciation has almost always afflicted our planet.

The bleak truth is that, under normal conditions, most of North America and Europe are buried under about 1.5km of ice. This bitterly frigid climate is interrupted occasionally by brief warm interglacials, typically lasting less than 10,000 years.

The interglacial we have enjoyed throughout recorded human history, called the Holocene, began 11,000 years ago, so the ice is overdue. We also know that glaciation can occur quickly: the required decline in global temperature is about 12C and it can happen in 20 years.

The next descent into an ice age is inevitable but may not happen for another 1000 years. On the other hand, it must be noted that the cooling in 2007 was even faster than in typical glacial transitions. If it continued for 20 years, the temperature would be 14C cooler in 2027.

By then, most of the advanced nations would have ceased to exist, vanishing under the ice, and the rest of the world would be faced with a catastrophe beyond imagining.

Australia may escape total annihilation but would surely be overrun by millions of refugees. Once the glaciation starts, it will last 1000 centuries, an incomprehensible stretch of time.

If the ice age is coming, there is a small chance that we could prevent or at least delay the transition, if we are prepared to take action soon enough and on a large enough scale.

For example: We could gather all the bulldozers in the world and use them to dirty the snow in Canada and Siberia in the hope of reducing the reflectance so as to absorb more warmth from the sun.

We also may be able to release enormous floods of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) from the hydrates under the Arctic permafrost and on the continental shelves, perhaps using nuclear weapons to destabilise the deposits.

We cannot really know, but my guess is that the odds are at least 50-50 that we will see significant cooling rather than warming in coming decades.

The probability that we are witnessing the onset of a real ice age is much less, perhaps one in 500, but not totally negligible.

All those urging action to curb global warming need to take off the blinkers and give some thought to what we should do if we are facing global cooling instead.

It will be difficult for people to face the truth when their reputations, careers, government grants or hopes for social change depend on global warming, but the fate of civilisation may be at stake.

In the famous words of Oliver Cromwell, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ; think it possible you may be mistaken.”

…………thank you for these words of comfort Jon!!

And here now - we all thought global WARMING was the problem!!

More kids havin' fun

OK, here's 3 kids having fun with the firemen Downunder!!

Jessica, Charlie and Max - May 2008

Cool kids huh?

Pavs Garden Café

We travelled down to visit Shirley’s Step-Mum Winnie yesterday – the day started out fine so we thought we’d suggest a drive down to Westgate-on-Sea, Kent which was one of the places she and Harold used to visit together fairly regularly.

Actually there are at least two other folks who will probably remember Westgate from their childhood – yup, that’s Clare and Andrew; and that’s probably at least 25 years ago too!

When we got to Westgate the weather had sadly deteriorated and it had started to rain a little – it was almost lunchtime so we parked the car and headed to the famous ‘Pavs Café’ on the seafront where we enjoyed a slightly naughty fish ‘n chips lunch!!

Pavs Café is one of those strange and rather unique ‘institutions’ you bump into every so often in dear old England – I’ve always wondered why it was so popular; before it changed hands a few years ago, there used to be signed photographs of famous people all around the walls, mostly actors and actresses.

So when I got home yesterday I did some research!!

It appears that Pavs Café was originally owned by a guy called Herbert Smith, a very big cheese in the post war UK film industry – he and his brother Sam formed British Lion Films and controlled the film studios at Denham before these were closed by the Rank Organisation – Herbert and Pav then moved in 'retirement' to Kent in 1950

Apparently, Herbert bought the cafe in 1951 when it was just a bit of a shed with a large space outside for seating called "The Garden". Neither Herbert nor his wife Pav knew anything about catering but Pavs Garden Café was to become one of those places which anyone who knew anything about Westgate-on-Sea knew all about.

Winnie recalled how she and Harold used to enjoy taking their grandchildren Clare and Andrew to Westgate and by all accounts the kids enjoyed it too - with buckets and spades, ice creams, rock pool fishing and all that goes with the old-style British beach holiday! I hope they still have many happy memories of those days too?

If you’ve time and have the inclination, there’s some fascinating history and photographs here – end of history lesson!!

Anyway, back to yesterday! By the time we’d finished and started walking along the promenade, the rain worsened and the wind coming off the sea was cold too!! So we headed back to the warmth of the car!!

Westgate-on-Sea in the cold and rain isn’t too attractive!!