Yesterday evening when I was doing my slow breast stroke in the pool down at the deep end, I found myself wondering, not for the first time, what would happen if my shiny new heart valve developed a fault and stopped working. I grimly realised that in all probability I would swiftly drop down to the bottom of the pool and that would be that.
Noo and her son had popped out do a bit of shopping so nobody would be around to rescue me. But even if they were home, surely there would be little they could do, even if they were able perform the unlikely feat of hauling a 90 kilo dead weight from the bottom of the pool onto dry land? If the valve was faulty, no amount of resuscitation would get it going again – or would it? Who knows?
Why I should have such dark thoughts whenever I go swimming is a bit of a mystery, for if my valve is going to fail, it is far more like to happen during the 23 hours, 50 minutes a day I am on dry land, than during the 10 minutes per day I am out of depth in my swimming pool.
And in any case, why should I suppose that the valve might be faulty? Why should I trust my own, abused, ‘nature-made’, over something ‘man- made’ that has been inserted in its midst? I guess I have always been one of those people who have an innate distrust of anything man-made. For example, I will never go on potentially dangerous fairground rides – partly because I am by nature a coward, but more because I simply don’t trust them.
And you know what? Every time I read about a roller coaster or some other hair- raising theme park ride that has malfunctioned and people were injured, I inwardly smirk to myself, as it simply meant that I was right after all, and you can’t trust anything man-made in this world.
The same principal applies to lifts, cable cars and even aeroplanes; although through the years I have taught myself to be resigned to the possibility of death when travelling on one of these dangerous and obviously flawed man- made contraptions. But unless I wish to be a hermit, I am obliged to utilise such 21st century accoutrements; but roller coasters, I am not; and I always keep my distance.
Having said that, I do believe that matters of life and death are largely out of our hands. I am not in any way a religious person and have no belief in any kind of God or ‘Higher Power’ but in some slightly irrational way; I believe that if it’s our time to go, we will go. So often the good die young and the wicked live to an advanced age – or is that just our perception? It could well be that for every ‘good person’ who dies before their time, there are 100 who live into their dotage.
Last night as I sat down to watch some TV, I felt my heart behaving in a most irregular fashion. One second it was racing at the rate of knots and the next moment it would suddenly cease, then sort double beat a couple of times before racing away once again. It was pronounced enough for me to feel it though my chest and when I took my pulse, it felt quite bizarre. I suppose I was having palpitations, or maybe a heart arrhythmia, or who knows – maybe both?
I wasn’t particularly worried – as I seem to have adopted a more philosophical approach to life since my heart operation. I am lucky to be alive and will do my best to follow medical advice to stay alive as long as possible – but if it isn’t to be, and if it turns out that have been fitted with a ‘Friday afternoon production-line’ valve, then there’s little I can do about it, so best not to dwell on it too much. Nature also has its off days.
For the past two days I have started taking a low dosage ace inhibitor (ramipril) in an effort to reduce my very high blood pressure, so I will see what effect that has – if any. And no, the side effects of this drug do not include palpitations.
Never mind the Olympics – what about Queen Lizzie’s security?
Someone from the Royal household must have been reading my blog, as I learned with delight the other day that The Royal family are trying to rebrand themselves as a “core” of principal figures centred on the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry – something I have been banging on about for years.
Once they have achieved this worthy aim, the next step should be to return all their extensive estates and palaces to the nation and rent a couple of nice little semi-detached houses in the newly named Staines upon Thames. Who knows, maybe they will lucky enough to have Ricky Gervais as a neighbour.
As part of the Royal’s noble plan, Police, senior Home Office officials and representatives of the Royal household will carry out an inquiry, which could lead to “non-working” members of the Royal family losing their armed guards.
Pressure to cut the £128 million annual bill for royal protection, which is handled by a dedicated unit at Scotland Yard known as SO14, has been mounting. SO14 is thought to have 400 officers, who are responsible for guarding about 20 members of the Royal family and their homes.
In recent cut-backs on Royal security, The Duke of York’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, were among the first royal figures to have their protection downgraded.
The Duke, (Randy Andy), was reported to have opposed the move but nevertheless last year it emerged that they would get protection only at official royal events. There had been long-running controversy over the high cost of the princesses’ security arrangements, estimated to have been £500,000 a year.
In 2009, while Princess Eugenie was on a six-week gap-year trip to Cambodia, her police team intervened to protect her from robbers who had grabbed a friend’s purse.
But now, as the Royal family continues to redefine itself around its core members, other peripheral figures may also have their security details reassessed to save money.
Princess Alexandra, the Queen’s cousin, for example, conducts about 120 royal engagements a year, and her home in south-west London, receives 24-hour protection.
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester have all, at times, received police protection on official duties.
The cut backs are being considered at a time when the addition of the Duchess of Cambridge, (‘our common Katie’), to the Royal family is thought to have added considerably to Scotland Yard’s expenditure.
The Duke and Duchess’s decision to live in a cottage outside the perimeter of RAF Valley on Anglesey while he works as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot has added more than £1 million a year to the security bill. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper for Baldy Bill to quit his job? Just asking….
We are not amused…
All this comes at a time when it has been revealed that dear old Lizzie avoided personally giving Mick Jagger his knighthood because she thought he was an ‘inappropriate candidate’ for the honour. The 86 year-old monarch is said to have not had “the stomach” to present the knighthood on account of his anti-establishment views and his relationship with her sister, the late Princess Margaret.
I can’t imagine why Granny Liz should bear such grudges – just because he poked her sister and once called the Queen the “Chief Witch” and proclaimed “anarchy is the only slight glimmer of hope”. And God forbid that she made herself unavailable for the ceremony just because Jagger had seven children by four women, as well as a long-term love affair with fellow musician David Bowie in the 1970s…
Hmm…even I can see why she might not have been too amused….
OK folks, I admit it; I am now coming round to the ever growing view that Romney is a first class idiot.
I know I have spent countless column inches deriding Obama, his left leaning, socialist policies and failure to deliver on campaign promises, and I openly admit that by nature I am far more conservative in nature than a majority of American Democrat supporters.
I was prepare to hold judgement on the considerable number of apparent U-turns Romney has made during his battle for nomination, as to a large extent I doubt if he made any more ‘about faces’ than most candidates have been obliged to perform in order to gain public office. Adapting your policies to fall in with the majority party line views is par for the course and Obama has certainly been no exception to this.
But when this fool succeeds in upsetting 63 million of America’s closest allies with just a few ill-chosen remarks, then I start to have grave doubts as to his credentials to be the next President of the greatest power in the world.
And these comments weren’t just some offhand remarks made on the stump. No, these were responses to a network interview on the eve of his departure to The UK and other foreign countries to prove to the folks back home that he was a figure of standing and could be trusted to strut the international stage as the leader of his great country.
In case you aren’t aware, the ‘Mitt the Nit’ cast aspersions on the Olympic preparations and even imputed that the British public wasn’t wholeheartedly behind the event. What exactly was he trying to say? That he knew better than the British organisers – because he was the hero who rescued the WINTER Olympics which were located in the back of beyond, as opposed to the holding the REAL Olympics right slap bang in the centre of one of the largest and busiest cities on Earth, within a stone’s throw from the seat of government?
It matters not whether he was right or wrong – we will know that over the next three weeks. But what an arrogant, self-serving, short sighted idiot to make such derogatory statements about a country, just prior to making a trip there to establish his credentials as a world statesman.
Mitt the Nit will have to do a lot of persuading over the next 100 days to convince this blogger that Obama shouldn’t be given a second term in office.
‘Superstar’ and all that jazz….
For its sins, one of Britain’s 21st Century more dubious claims to fame is the phenomenal success it has achieved in exporting its reality, talent and quiz shows to the far corners of the Earth.
Shows like ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire, ‘Weakest Link’, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, ‘Idol’, ‘Strictly come dancing’, (‘Dancing with the stars’), ‘Masterchef’ ‘ and countless more have propelled the UK to own a whopping 43% of all ‘entertainment format’ shows that were broadcast throughout the world in 2011. By contrast, the USA had a 22% share.
Quiz shows soon bore me and cooking and other reality shows leave me cold, but I have always been a glutton for talent shows, right back to the days as a kid when I used to watch Hughie Green’s ‘Opportunity Knocks’, and this is not the first time I have written about this subject in my blog.
To me they are simply ‘new-age’ entertainment shows, sometimes laughable, often funny, and occasionally inspiring but always nearly worth watching. They have replaced the old fashioned variety or traditional music shows that used to dominate our TV screens from the 70’s to the 90’s, and in my opinion have, on the whole done a pretty good job. If they hadn’t they wouldn’t have attracted so many millions of devoted followers throughout the world.
These days I confess to suffering more and more from ‘talent-show fatigue’. Over the past few years I have seen ‘Pop Idol’ ‘American Idol, ‘X Factor’, (UK & USA), Britain’s, (and America’s got Talent) to name but a few. Then most recently, there was the Voice.
The problem is that they are all starting become the same. Banal interviews with the contestants produce the same asinine answers, hard luck stories are two a penny, tears are produced by all and sundry at a drop of hat, and frankly, by and large the font of real talent seems to be drying up.
The exception would probably have to be last years’ America Idol where the quality of talent was as high has I have ever known it, but that apart, it is all becoming a pretty tawdry affair. Last year’s UK ‘X factor’ was pretty dire, but that paled into insignificance when compared to BBC’s latest offering.
I am referring to the ‘Voice’, (not a British ‘invention’ – thank God), which apart from having the gimmick of the judges not seeing the singer during the initial selection process, was simply a generic regurgitation of all that is bad about the current talent show formats. Even the so-called gimmick of judging talent on the voice alone was a load of rubbish.
It simply doesn’t work like that in today’s modern world. Not only does a singer have to be able to sing, but he/she has to look the part as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be young and handsome or beautiful but it does mean that they have to somehow come across as likeable, attractive people with shed loads of charisma if they are going to go anywhere in today’s social media loving, MTV age.
My point was clearly borne out when, in the later rounds all the best ‘voices’ were voted off in preference to singers with inferior talent, but who looked much better. But my main grouse with this show was the endless boring platitudes spouted by the celebrity judges; I started to hate Danny, (who the F.. is Danny?), with a purple passion every time he opened his silly mouthy, and Will.i.am and Tom Jones and Jessie J weren’t far behind.
The band was pretty second rate and the choreography was abysmal, and to top it all, once the viewers had voted off the few contestants who could actually sing, we were left with a bunch of second rate cabaret performers who, I imagine, would have difficulty getting employment singing on any self-respecting cruise ship.
But then, a couple of weeks ago, I happened to stumble upon an ITV talent show called ‘Superstar’. It was one of those Andrew Lloyd Webber shows where the purpose of the competition was to find a star for his latest West End musical production. I hadn’t seen any of the previous programmes in this specialist talent genre, (e.g the search for ‘Maria’ for ‘The Sound of Music’), but decided to give this one a go.
It was being shown over 12 days, with the last 9 days being shown live, so at least it wouldn’t drag on for interminable weeks, during which time I would keep forgetting who the singers were.
This time, Andrew was looking for a male tenor to star as Jesus in a new ‘arena-style’ production of ‘Jesus Star Superstar.’ The two pre-recorded audition programmes which narrowed the budding Jesus’s down to 11contestants were a bit naff, but anyone who bothered to tune in for the live shows was in for a special treat.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this was the most entertaining, inspiring and almost mesmerising talent show I have ever seen. The role of Jesus is probably the most demanding role that any singer will have to play in his life, and his singing range has to be awesome, powerful and emotional in equal parts.
The eleven young men who we had the pleasure of seeing perform over 9 days were all stars in their own right. On top of this, the backing band was simply outstanding, as was the staging and choreography. I actually felt sorry for the singers as they had to learn a minimum of two new songs every day and rehearse them to the point where they delivered flawless, inspiring performances.
I also liked the choice of songs which was mix of updated timeless classics and a good, varied selection of modern songs, some of which I had never heard before.
As the nine days progressed, and a singer was voted off each day, it became virtually impossible to say who would eventually win the prize – so good was each and every performer. The last show, which had the final showdown between the three remaining, incredible singers – each one of which could easily have played the lead – was certainly one the best moments I have ever experienced in my long and glorious talent- show watching years.
Well done Andrew, (who in spite of his lack of charm, I have actually started to warm to); and well done ITV and all the production staff who brought such a great show to our screens. They have now set the bar so high that I seriously doubt that I will be watching too many talent shows for quite a while to come.
Well… with the possible exception, maybe, of ‘Britain’s got Talent’. I just love those auditions – they are so hilarious… so crazy…so zany… so British….
Last time out, a dog won! You couldn’t get more utterly, ridiculously British than that!
Maybe ‘Mitt the Nit’ could do a double act with the dog and regain the love of the British people.
Enjoy the Olympics folks…
Butt…Butt..Butt…I don’t give a Hoot!