Personal Reflections


The death of Neil Armstrong brings to mind the moon landings.

It is often said that you should remember where you were when President Kennedy was shot, or the Berlin Wall came down.
In fact with most great events I don't have the slightest idea where I was or what I was doing - but I do remember where I was when man first landed on the moon.
On July 20, 1969 I was at 35 Olde Cote Drive, Heston, England, with Chris Coles, lying on the sofa with the French windows open - it was a beautiful warm night.
And the program went on and on - and we went out and sat under the tree in the garden that always had the most magical blossoms in the summer.

Now the TV pictures were so blurry they could have been taken anywhere - but the photos were amazing - in fact too amazing.
The Hassleblad camera that was used was certainly a good camera, but Hasselblads, in the late sixties and early seventies, as I know from personal experience, were very, very difficult to use.
Digital cameras only need to be pointed at the subject, and the on-board computer does everything else.
A Hasselblad needs to be focussed, and the aperture and shutter speed needs to be calculated and set - and this has to be done while wearing incredibly thick gloves in the vacuum of space - and all the photos were perfect - so perfect that some of the graticules (cross-hairs) were obscured by objects in the picture ! - Weird ! And that's not the half as it - as they say !
But I'm not one of those weirdos who thinks that they never went to the moon.

But I do get a little spooked by the fact that the computing power that landed the lunar module was substantially less that the computing power in my digital watch.
So with all the computing power available today, why no moon-shots ?
So why have only twelve human beings walked the lunar surface ?
There are just eight astronauts alive today who have been to the moon, and they were all born in the 1930s.
You do the maths: the list of eyewitnesses to the thin sliver of history in which humans went to the moon is shrinking.

And then there's the problem of the Van Allen radiation belts, and the cosmic radiation on the moon.

Now at a time when people were worried about having their feet x-rayed, and wearing luminous watches, how did these guys take all this radiation and then live to ripe old ages.
And the low orbit of the space station is testimony to the dangers of radiation in space.
I was a bit moon crazy at the time.
I had a huge model of a Saturn Five rocket, and a model of the Lunar Module.

Being of the generation brought up on the adventures of Dan Dare, as a boy I expected that we would be exploring the solar system by the year 2000, as Frank Hampson prophesied in the Eagle comic.
I also thought that Britain would be in the forefront of space exploration.
After all, the Germans had been able to produce rockets even as the Third Reich was crumbling, and the technology of von Braun's A4 rockets was not particularly sophisticated or expensive.
But then I didn't realise that it would take a rocket the size of a Saturn V to lift a lunar module into space - and that would be beyond the financial resources of the UK.
But then, as we have a huge space station in orbit, why not send up a lunar module in bits, assemble it in orbit, and then fly it to the moon ? That could be done quite cheaply.

Yes - some people went to the moon - but it wasn't quite like they way it's presented - and in some way we've been warned off from ever going there again.


Skylon and
Dome of Discovery 
Skylon and Dome of Discovery
The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition held throughout the United Kingdom in the summer of 1951. It was organised by the government to give Britons a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of war and to promote the British contribution to science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts.
The Festival's centrepiece was in London on the South Bank of the Thames.
There were events in Poplar (Architecture), Battersea (The Festival Pleasure Gardens), South Kensington (Science) and Glasgow (Industrial Power).
Festival celebrations took place in Cardiff, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, Perth, Bournemouth, York, Aldeburgh, Inverness, Cheltenham, Oxford and elsewhere and there were touring exhibitions by land and sea.

2012 London Olympic Games
Closing Ceremony
2012 London Olympic Games
Opening Ceremony
There are undoubtedly some similarities between the Festival of Britain and the Ceremonies of the London Olympic Games.
Both were celebrations of a distinctively quirky kind of Englishness, and both attempted to tell something of our island history.
Both were undoubtedly, in the most part, unintelligible to those who had not grown up in these islands.
Both, it seems, were a resounding success (which could not be said of the Millenium Ehibition - organised by the 'far from gay' 'prince of darkness', Peter Mandleson, on behalf of his even creepier boss, Tony Blair).
1950s Design
Gomm G Plan Sideboard
1950s Technology
DeHaviland Comet
The author of this blog was privileged to attend both events.

The Festival of Britain had a permanent and positive effect on a country that had just emerged from the trauma of World War, and the event affected the attitudes towards the arts, design, science and technology for the remainder of the decade, and lifted the nation's spirits and cave the country a renewed confidence and vigour.
One wonders if the London 2012 Olympic will have a similar effect on a country that is at present suffering from a loss of confidence and self esteem brought on by the current appalling political and economic climate ?



I think if I hear the word legacy again I might go crazy !

The last time there was an Olympic Games in London in 1948 there was no talk of legacy.
That was the 'austerity games'. The Second World War had just ended and there was no money for anything - and yet Britain put on a good show.
Male athletes at the games were given a packed lunch of sandwiches and an apple, (and a pair of y-fronts (?) - not much compared to the hundreds of thousands that athletes make today (Tom - I hope that your reading this).
And remember - the people at that time had lost family members, homes, careers and almost everything - but didn't 'bleat on' about it - but instead got on with a great games !
But there was a legacy - even if no one spoke of it.

I went to school in the '50s and '60s. After junior school I went to a boy's school.

In both schools sport was pivotal. There were regular PE (Physical Education) lessons, and regular Games lessons - football or rugby in winter and field events in summer, and once every week there was swimming (right up to the age of 16 years - see right).
There were regular football and rugby matches between local schools, and an annual school swimming gala at the end of each summer term.
And once a year there was a borough sports (see left) in which all the schools in the borough competed against one another.

At my boy's school the boys idolised the PE/Games masters (Mr Evans and Mr Russell), and they in turn bought out the best in sporting an athletic abilities in their charges.
Now I train for three hours a day, (gym and pool) for seven days a week (Compare Tom Daley - six hours a week, for six days a week) - but that is not part of a 'legacy' - that's just normal - but not for people now.
My generation became, on average, obese an unhealthy (but not as obese and unhealthy of the upcoming generation).
What went wrong ?
Well, the intervening years complacency and affluence, and the rise of sedentary entertainment and occupations ruined the later generations.
And a bit of 'legacy' will not cure this problem.
Olympians are few and far between - but good health and fitness should be the birthright of all - but will only be achieved by a total overhaul of the values of our society.
At present we are too full of self-congratulation over the recent Games.
We will see if that 'good feeling' can be transformed into a youthful, happy and healthy society.



For me, the end of the Summer is always signified by the Promanade Concerts at the Albert Hall.
This year there has been a lot of Anton Bruckner.
When I was a boy, hardly anyone had heard of Bruckner - apart from me.
Perhaps it was his German connections that put people off - after-all he was one of Hitler's favourite composers !

Anton Bruckner (4 September 1824 – 11 October 1896) was an Austrian composer known for his symphonies, masses, and motets.
The first are considered emblematic of the final stage of Austro-German Romanticism because of their rich harmonic language, strongly polyphonic character, and considerable length.
Bruckner's compositions helped to define contemporary musical radicalism, owing to their dissonances, unprepared modulations, and roving harmonies.
Unlike other musical radicals, such as Richard Wagner or Hugo Wolf who fit the enfant terrible mould, Bruckner showed extreme humility before other musicians, Wagner in particular.

This apparent dichotomy between Bruckner the man and Bruckner the composer hampers efforts to describe his life in a way that gives a straightforward context for his music.
His works, the symphonies in particular, had detractors, most notably the influential Austrian critic Eduard Hanslick, and other supporters of Johannes Brahms, who pointed to their large size, use of repetition, and Bruckner's propensity to revise many of his works, often with the assistance of colleagues, and his apparent indecision about which versions he preferred.
On the other hand, Bruckner was greatly admired by subsequent composers, including his friend Gustav Mahler, who described him as "half simpleton, half God".

Bruckner is a composer obsessed by climaxes, and the juxtaposition of passage of delicate softness with monumental sonorities - and this betrays, rather too often I would say, his origins as an organist - the greatest perhaps of his generation.
But there is something else that is portrayed, or should one say betrayed, in his compositions, and that is the contrast between Austrian gemütlichkeit and the bombastic grandiosity of some aspects of the second and third Reiches.
The symphonies are, undoubtedly, prophetic, and, I must unfortunately conclude, essentially unsatisfying and immature in their repetitive magnificence - like an adolescent who feels that if enough instances of a weak argument are piled up then they will succeed just by sheer weight.
It is sad that Bruckner was unable to learn more from the master whom he adored - Richard Wagner !



Multiculturalism relates to communities containing multiple cultures and ethnicities.
The term is used in two broad ways, either descriptively or normatively.
As a descriptive term, it usually refers to the simple fact of cultural diversity: it is generally applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, sometime at the organizational level, e.g. schools, businesses, neighbourhoods, cities, or nations.
As a normative term, it refers to ideologies or policies that promote this diversity or its institutionalisation.
Does multiculturalism work in the United Kingdom ?
Recent figures show that only TWO percent of civil and religious partnerships are contracted between persons of different ethnicities !
The simple conclusion that can be derived from this fact is that you can can't enact laws that will make people love one-another.
The other, alarming, conclusion that can be derived from this statistic is that the different cultural, ethnic and religious groups in the United Kingdom are developing as separate entities - separate development !
Examples of countries like the Lebanon and Syria show what happens when groups develop in isolation and are then subjected to political and economic stress  - perhaps we should start worrying !



It's the big questions that many people are asking.
Yes, we did very well as far as winning medals, and there were very few major hitches - but what about the tourist bonanza ?
Well, I have been in London most days while the Games have been on - in places like the city, Kensington, Oxford Street etc.
What has been very noticeable has been how few people have been around, considering it's the height of the 'summer season'.
So, if you want to got to Harrods or Selfridges, and have the undivided attention of the assistants, then go when the Olympics are on !
But will the government eventually admit that their policy of keeping people out of London has had a catostrophic effect on the city's retail economy ? We shall see !


8th August 2012

Tom Daley was back training at the London 2012 Aquatics Centre yesterday ahead of the 10m individual platform competition.
The 18-year-old had spent the previous week training in Southend.
British Diving felt Daley and Peter Waterfield would benefit from getting out of the Olympic Village after their synchro debacle .
It meant they were away from all the distractions at the Olympics and allowed them more time in the pool to prepare for Friday night's heats.
Plymouth and Great Britain coach Andy Banks admitted they were happy with how their Southend break went.
'It did what it said on the tin," said Andy .
It got us out of the Olympic environment and allowed us to get dives under our belts.
We did what we wanted to do
With swimming and synchronised swimming taking place in the Aquatics Centre it is difficult to get the number of dives in that you want, but in Southend we had the pool to ourselves.'
Tom, looking relaxed and in good spirits, was pictured on Twitter crossing the athletes' bridge (see left) into the Olympic Park after his Southend break.
Andy insists Daley and Waterfield have both got over the disappointment of just missing out on a medal in the 10m synchro final.
The pair finished fourth after one bad dive cost them a medal.
Failing to make the podium in the synchro has increased the pressure on Daley in his individual event.
But Andy said: 'The pressure is high, but it is just like any other competition.'
Meanwhile, Andy said fellow divers Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow should be proud (?) of their performance at the Olympics.
The duo, who are current European champions, finished fifth in a highly-competitive women's 10m synchro final.
The pair set a new international personal best and again finished as Europe's top team.

10th August 2012

Tom Daley scraped into Olympics diving semis on 10th August 2012.
Tom survived a poor preliminary round in the 10m platform to edge through to Saturday's semi-finals.
A disappointing start was compounded by a sloppy fifth dive to leave him in 16th place with a round to go.
Tom did just enough with his final dive to move up to 15th, with the top 18 in the 32-man field progressing.
Team-mate Peter Waterfield could only finish 23rd and is now out, but the teenager never looked happy, and his fifth dive was one of the worst of his usually spectacular career, a 39.60 for a backward three-and-a-half somersault.
"If I was going to have a bad competition, today was the best to do it on," Tom said. "It was definitely the worst I've dived all year.
It's nerve-wracking because you don't know what is going to happen. In my last dive, it was now or never and thankfully I made it."
Daley's Chinese rival Qiu Bo (dubbed by Tom 'the robot', had guaranteed his qualification after five rounds and finished a massive 115.25 points clear of Tom's total.



When the news of Tia Sharp's disappearance was first broadcast my initial reaction was that a family member was probably involved.
This doesn't mean that I am claiming any form of clairvoyance, but rather that my experience of such events previously would lead me to such a conclusion.
It is a statistical fact that a person is most likely to be murdered by a close relative of a close associate.

On average, people are not murdered by strangers, and the whole concept of 'stranger-danger' , particularly with regard to children, is an over-played 'red-herring'.
Equally the last person reported to have seen the murder victim alive is the most likely to be the murderer.
So - two people must have been in the frame in this case, right from the beginning - the so called 'step-grandfather',  Stuart Hazell (37), and the grandmother, Christine Sharp (46).
And the house, being the last place that Tia Sharp was seen alive, should have been, right from the beginning a 'scene of crime' and made unavailable to the initial suspects.
Instead, it was the centre of repeated family meetings, and the family seemed to have more control over the matter than the police.

Four searches of the property were undertaken in the week during which Tia Sharp was missing, and eventually the body was found in the loft.
Now considering the small size of the house, and the hot August weather, one would have thought the presence of a body would have been obvious to anybody (unless it was stashed in a deep freeze) - but how could the police have searched such a small space and not found the body of a twelve year old girl ?
Undoubtedly such incompetence but deeply shake what remaining confidence (after last years riots) the public must have in the Metropolitan Police Force.



Tom Daley managed to win an Olympic Bronze Medal in the 10 Meter Platform Diving at the Aquatic Centre in London - 11th August 2012

Before the contest Tom said he would probably only win Bronze - and he was right !
Now is that really the attitude to go for when competing in an Olympic event - but then I suppose he wanted to let his fans down gently.

So why didn't Tom win Gold ?
To answer that, of course, if you want to be honest, you have to risk the police breaking down your front door - but we'll take the risk.

There are undoubtedly at least 5 reasons for Tom's failure to win the Gold medal that he should have won.

1 - He has experienced a growth spurt recently. This affects the brain's ability to judge accurately where it is in space, because the body's centre of gravity has altered. This may have been exacerbated by his recent weight loss.
2 - Poor coaching. The poor showing in both synchro and solo events point to the fact that there is a deficiency in the coaching regime.
3 - Tom's underestimation of the Chinese divers - suggesting that they were 'robots' and would 'break under pressure' - resulting in him not training sufficiently rigorously.
4 - The failure of  David Sparkes and Alexei Evangulov to bring Tom into line early enough when he was obviously spending too much time on non-diving commitments, which were being organised by Jamie Cunningham of Professional Sports Group.
5 - The initial contractual commitment to Professional Sports Group made by Tom's parents.

Jamie Cunningham has a lot to answer for in taking Tom's eye 'off the ball' in the run up to the Olympic Games.
Tom may have ended up with plenty of gold in the bank - thanks to Jamie - but he failed to get gold round his neck.

Tom Daley Celebrates his Third Place in the 10 Meter Diving

Tom Daley and the GB Diving Team Celebrate(?) in the Pool

This is the oddest aspect of the Final of the Olympic 10 meter Diving Contest.
The whole diving team, and the coaches, invaded the pool to perform an over the top celebration - presumably of Tom coming third (when he should have won gold).
It was noticeable that the Americans and Chinese, who had won Gold and Silver, did not make a splash, but behaved in a polite and respectful manner, as one would expect of professional athletes.
Tom, afterwards, said it was an "awesome moment" (awesome is 'prep-speak' for excellent or very good), and that his colleagues had planned the stunt in advance.
He said that everybody was just so overjoyed at his achievement - as we "don't normally get a medal" in the diving.
It also meant that the team had secured funding for the next Olympics.
Significantly Tom said, 'the bronze felt like a gold' - and that comment probably slipped out, as it seems that was the motivation behind the post-contest hype.
If British diving - and more importantly 'Brand Daley' are to prosper then, by using 'smoke and mirrors' the bronze must seem to be gold - and one suspects the distant hand of Jamie Cunningham's behind the supposedly spontaneous celebration in the pool.
However, the bronze was in no way a media coup for Tom, or Professional Sports Group, as Tom's poor result failed to reach the front pages of the following morning's papers.
Looked at objectively, the results of the GB Diving team were very poor, and one would hope that those responsible for the organisation and training of British divers would consider their positions very carefully, and hopefully take the honourable course of action.
Perhaps we should take a lesson from the real Olympic Games.
For the ancient Greeks there was no particular honour in taking part - the only honour was in winning, which for them meant coming first !


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