Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Liz Fraser and other characters

Liz Fraser and other Characters - my autobiography 

I really liked this book - it is very candid, although not sensationalist.
Liz Frazer had an absolutely prolific career - she did masses of live TV in the 1950's , became a film star in the 1960's and had a varied set of parts in the theatre.

At one time she had cornered the market is portraying a certain type of sexy and comic blonde, so much so that directors would ask for a "Liz Fraser type",
but there was clearly a lot more to her talents than just comedy. As one of her neighbours said to her - "I didn't know you could act"

As in all lives, there is the unexpected - born in 1930, she was evacuated to Kent, next door to Winston Churchill ! who used to sit her on his knee and allow her to collect acorns for his pigs.  Then of course people realised evacuating children to the part of England nearest Nazi occupied Europe was not entirely wise - so she was moved to another family in Devon.

Her father died when she was just 11 :-(

Liz has worked with almost anybody who was anyone, a veritable A-Z.  I counted 36 famous people just in the b section of the Index - but it is never done in a  name dropping way - just little pen portraits of what they were like to work with.  Liz's huge affection for Tony Hancock and Sid James is very touching.  She doesn't hold back from the less pleasant side of Peter Sellers or a few others, but never in a nasty way.

Ironic is too weak a word, it is truly unfair that someone who was sought by so many men had two unhappy marriages.  The first to someone who was a thief and a liar, a fantasist :-(  the second was to a TV producer who was also a womaniser and  an alcoholic.  He dropped dead aged 41.

Who would guess Liz Frazer was a volunteer for the Samaritans charity for years fielding calls form wold be suicides ? Or her battle with breast cancer? Her love of boxing, football, playing bridge and investing in the stock market ?  her Conservative politics ? That she wanted to have children but was unable to or that she wrote poems and her own lines for pantomines.
I haven't mentioned the Carry On films, as I hope she will be remembered for much more than that.

The Staves

The Staves are a band composed of three sisters form Watford.   Jessica is the one who plays guitar, Camilla plays the Ukelele (don't panic, it's not George Formby) and Emily gets to do the occasional keyboard or drum.

A review in the Guardian described them as like Angels forced to make their way in the music business.

The songs are all credited to the Staves, so it is not possible to disentangle who wrote what or how the writing partnership works.

It is difficult to describe who they sound like - I would suggest they are like singer-song writers form 70's California (in a  good way) - Crosby Stills and Nash ? Peter Paul and Mary ? but with the voices of three women.

The harmonies are Divine - who knows they could go on to be massive stars, have a cult following or just fade away.  I suspect they haven't yet written a chart hit - but who cares ?

and perhaps the best way to find out is to listen.

Getting phophecies wrong - Nostradamus

I have a book - Nostradamus - the end of the millennium prophecies 1992-2001. It was publsihed in 1991.

Well - you might be able to predict how the prophecies got on.

Gems from the book include the following

1992 Geoerge Bush Re-elected (er, no, he lost to Bill Clinton)

1992 The Coronation of Charles III, the present Prince of Wales - (20+ years Later and his mum Elizabeth II is still on the throne !)

1993 California Earthquake plunges half of California underwater [California has lots of earthquakes so bravely they predicted the day and the very time itself - 7.05 on 8th May 1993]  It was going to be BAD. San Fransico, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego and Lower California all lost beneath the ocean and a new coast line formed.

"Nothing comparible to the predicted earthquake in 1993 has yet been experienced in America. Even the worst quake in 1906 ..... is likely to be viewed as minor by comparison (sic)"

- you've guessed it no earthquakes in California in 1993.  (you probably missed the predicted mass evacuation between 6th March 1992 and 3rd April 1993, the giant wave hitting Mexico, Hollywood being destroyed)

The humans landing on Mars in the year 2000 either never happend or was kept secret.  
The admission of women priest to the Church of England did take place - but it was predicted this would be on 2nd and 5th May 1995 and it actually happened in 1994.

What to conclude ?  Fiurstly, Nostradamus is not making these predictions - he is dead and it is other people in this case using a 'decoding method'. Secondly,  that people won't stop buying books about Nostradamus and his predictions.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Nothing new under the sun

The Sun makes up a story and runs it on the front page - a tiny correction is printed much later.

An interesting story, I remember reading reports of the Sun report and giving it the benefit of the doubt as being true.

To my mind, not only should newspapers who are shown to be wrecklessly and deliberately wrong be made to print apologies  with same prominence as the original article, the offended against person should be given control of what is printed.  So instead of the weasel word such as the sun is delighted to set the record straight - the article could instead say there was never any evidence of this story but such are the low journalistic standards employed by the sun, they ran it anyway as they thought it would boost sales.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Ignorance is bliss ?

Last night the Hansard Society published its10th annual “audit of political engagement”.

We learnt that barely 20 per cent of the public can name their local MP, half the number of just two years ago. Just one in 10 of 18- to 24-year-olds say they are certain to vote, down from three in 10 two years ago. Only 41 per cent of adults say they are guaranteed to vote in the next general election, compared to 48 per cent last year. And 20 per cent of voters are certain not to vote, twice as many as two years ago.
The scale of public ignorance is impressive: one third of voters are under the impression that they elect members of the House of Lords.

The burning of the Wickerman

A Day in May
the scarecrow
for titans
watches the celebrations
from afar
a corner of a field
hemmed in by trees
there will be no escape

the old play
reenacted once more
boasts and battles
life and death
reborn heroes
is this how it must be?

the music
drifts across the houses
drifts across the generations
to Romans, Jutes and an age of iron
carried on the wind
carrying backwards and forwards
thoughts to and from another time

children dance in front of the stage
like licks of flame
joy like fire
bursts from within
it spreads by contagion
to the youths and the women
and finally the old men

the sun sets
and the lot is drawn
no Tullund man today
not that kind of sacrifice
the match, the torch
the white light doubles
and doubles again
the yearning to touch the danger
is so strong
the dance continues

alive the giant
and dies
the straw
like the wishes and dreams
so carefully attached
sent skyward
and blown
to dust
by it's own inferno
the wickerman is gone

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Euro Myth Buster

There are three recurring myths about EU rules on migration and benefits:

First, it is a myth that EU law gives all EU citizens an unconditional right to reside freely in the UK or another Member State. In reality, this right is subject to important restrictions, notably employment.

Second, it is a myth that EU law means that EU migrants are automatically entitled to claim benefits in the UK or another Member State. In fact, EU rules require migrants to meet stringent requirements before they can be eligible either for means tested “social assistance” benefits like housing benefit and income support or for social security benefits like child benefit, invalidity benefit or contribution-based Jobseekers’ Allowance.  Remember, those that work here are contributing through their taxes.

The third, linked, myth is that EU rules somehow encourage so-called benefit tourism. In fact, the rules are designed to prevent “benefit tourism”.

The Euromyth Buster campaign is building quite a following… with plenty of Europhiles and Eurosceptics getting involved in the debate at

Monday, 13 May 2013

Adge - King of the Wurzels

A lovely little biography by John Hudson about Adge Cutler, leader of the "Scrumpy and Weston" band the Wurzels.

The Album - Cutler of the West (the third he recorded) is one I remember fondly from my childhood. A mixture of the comic and the heartfelt ballads.

In one sense, there is not much to tell about Adge Cutler - he died tragically in a car crash probably just of the verge of super-stardom (well in England anyway).  The Wurzels carried on without him and had the big hits that had eluded him, for better or worse always being associated with Combined Harvester.

Never-the-less - it is an interesting life and a slice of 1950's/60's/70's England - tales of the early folk music scene, publicity stunts, trips to Spain, being a  roadie, friendship with clarinetist Acker Bilk.

I love his quote "If Chuck Berry can write about Memphis Tennessee. why can't I write about Easton-in-Gordano, Somerset." So that is what he did.

His legacy of four Albums and around 30 songs is not a large one, but it is a great one. As each album was made he contributed fewer songs.  Few comics are entertaining 40 years on, Adge manages it. He had something unique - or as his agent put it, they sing songs about cider and manure and stuff - do us a favour, give it a go.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Richie Havens RIP

When I first watched Woodstock, many years ago I didn't really appreciate this song, now it is one of my faves.  He only improvised this song as he had played every other song he could think of.

I hope they haven't got any spare bedrooms

In total, the 71 MPs claimed £926,159.75 of taxpayer cash to cover mortgage interest over the 15-month period

For those without a calculator, that means the average claim per MP over 12 months was £10,435.60.

Or about equilvent to a years minimum wage. 

Or twice the average Housing Benefit Claim.

The largest claims made by Labour's Michael Connarty – who received £34,168 relating to a property in London. Surely here's one MP who won't be supporting the benefits cap ?
David Miliband claimed £5,903 on a property in his former seat of South Shields. Well he's not short of a few pounds. The House of Commons register reveals that he has ben paid nearly £1 million – from outside interests since losing the party leadership to his brother, including £125,000 for 15 days’ work as a director of Sunderland football club owned by a super-rich businessman with interests in private equity. Approximately £60,000 has come his way from the UAE, a gulf state with an unappetising human rights record, and another hefty chunk from St James’s Place, a company that advises very rich people how to invest their money.

Greed pure and simple - the only explanation of why he would be claiming what to him is such a triffling sum.