Thursday, April 30, 2009


I wonder if he’s in the AA?

Notes to the above – If you live in the UK, you will immediately find that hilariously funny, and be truly amazed at the genius of the writer for pointing it out to you. If however, you live further afield, you may be wondering “What in heaven’s name is all that about?”

I will explain.

“Tidly” – in the UK, those of us with very short “sticky-out” bits improve our inner self confidence by paying huge sums of money to the Government who will then allow us to put hysterically amusing witicisms on the Registration plates of our cars. I’ve met an Accountant who had AUD1T on his (presumably Tax deductable) car, and I was overtaken recently by, I think, Paul Daniels in a mauve Jaguar sports car, with a very long bonnet and the number MAJ1C. All very clever.

In the far distant past I used to live in Buckinghamshire (which explains what follows rather well actually) and a gentleman, or at least I assume he was a gentleman, owned a Jaguar XJS, the one with another very long bonnet or hood which stuck out over the engine for several feet.

His Registration was PEN15. You had the feeling that you’d want to wash your hands before you met him.

Anyway, back to the plot. “Tidly” is not an English word as afar as I, and Chambers Dictionary know, but “Tiddly” is.

That’s the first semantic hurdle one needs to jump.

Now “Tiddly” in England means – “smashed, rat-arsed, blotto, legless, tipsy, leathered, trashed, merry, bladdered, hammered, wasted, pissed, plastered”, or more prosaically “drunk, inebriated”, or “in your cups”.

That’s the second semantic hurdle one needs to jump.

The third hurdle is the amazing pun on “AA”, which is the key, the kernel, which unlocks the explosion of hysteria to be found in the first sentence of this epistle.

In this country, when your car breaks down you call the Automobile Association (AA, get it?), who, after waiting for about an hour, drive up in a bright yellow van, poke around in the engine bay, tell you they can’t fix it, and that it will have to be towed away/put on a lorry to go to a garage. Many millions of UK drivers belong to the AA, which gives them a great deal of automobilistic comfort. In the USA, I think it’s called the AAA, the American Automobile Association, and in other countries I suspect something different. Canada doubles up the CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), which is helpful, but destroys the point of the joke completely.

Now, in this country, if you end up getting “tiddly”, but in a serious, long term, having a quadruple Vodka for your breakfast, type of way, you can find salvation in the arms of Alcoholics Anonymous – or AA. The Twelve Steps and all that.

You may be getting some clues as to the nub of the joke by now.

AA? AA? Tidly? Tiddly? Yes?

Perhaps humour, like cheese, or a good friend of mine who shall be nameless, doesn’t travel too well.

Anyway, it seemed to amuse me at the time.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


A Canadian Airline Pilot/ex(?) Disc Jockey, bloggist (Whitenoise, by name) put up a posting the other day which showed a clip of U2 singing “Bad” at “Live Aid” in 1985. I hadn’t watched this or even thought much about the whole show for a few years, but this 12 minute YouTube extract shot me back 23 years in an instant. I was 39 again for a few precious minutes – for which, much thanks.

“Live Aid”, for those of a very certain age, was a magical afternoon/night - 10 hours of unmissable entertainment. Bod Geldof may not have been much of a singer, but by God, when he and Midge Ure (of Ultravox) decided to arrange a concert to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, he can’t in his wildest dreams have envisaged what they were going to achieve. The concert was planned to take place in 2 locations – Wembley Stadium in London and, semi concurrently, in JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. Geldof thought originally that they might raise up to £1 million.

He was slightly out – it finally ended up making around £150 million.

It was one of those events which totally gripped both the public’s and performers’ imagination and in the weeks before the event, it just grew and grew and grew. Finally on 13th July 1985, in boiling summer weather, it all got underway. At the time, it was the biggest outside broadcast ever, and in truth, it was a bit of a shambles, which added to the impact, in my view. Paul McCartney, closing the show at Wembley had the first two minutes of his set completely unamplified, when his microphone didn’t work.

But, in spite of the setbacks, it was a simply unforgettable experience for anyone who watched it. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so riveted by anything like this in the whole of my life. As it unfolded, you felt you were watching a real piece of history being made.


To get a clue of the scale of what Geldof pulled together, just read through the list of performers he managed to get on stage in the UK and the USA –

Status Quo, Style Council, Boomtown Rats, Adam Ant, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet, Joan Baez, Elvis Costello, Nik Kershaw, Four Tops, Billy Ocean, Sade, Black Sabbath, Run DMC, Sting, Phil Collins, REO Speedwagon, Howard Jones, Bryan Ferry, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Judas Priest, Paul Young, Bryan Adams, U2, Beach Boys, Dire Straits, Queen, Simple Minds, David Bowie, Pretenders, The Who, Santana, Elton John, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Kenny Loggins, The Cars, Neil Young, Thompson Twins, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Duran Duran, Patti Labelle, Hall & Oates, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Prince.

Not bad, eh? A well placed bomb or two that afternoon would have destroyed Pop Music as we then knew it throughout the entire world. It’s interesting to read the post event squirmings and explanations of those few performers whose egos prevented them from attending and performing.

I don’t suppose anything like it will ever happen again. It’s all about the timing. The conjunction of the planets, and all that. I even wonder, being someone to whom that list of people represented the best that Pop Music could ever, in all its history, have ever collected together, what the list of potential, let alone actual performers you’d pull together in 2009 would look like I know I’m a bit biased, but, if you think you can top that lot, just have a go.

I think you’d be wasting your time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Sir Clement Freud is dead. At 84, not a bad innings.

A strange man, who will, I imagine, be described by most writers as “lugubrious”, a word which probably means that 99% of the population will not understand what the writer of a tribute to him, is trying to convey. Just look at the dog he paired up with in a petfood commercial and you’ll get the message. The dog is the one on the left.


He (Clement Freud, that is) was one of those fascinating, increasingly rare characters who managed to dip his fingers, very successfully, into many pies. He was Aide to Field Marshall Montgomery in the Second World War, a Celebrity Chef, a Writer, a Radio panellist and broadcaster, an inveterate gambler – and a Liberal Member of Parliament for 14 years – a very rare beast indeed!! Grandson of Sigmund Freud, brother of Lucien and father of Emma, his family seems to be a collection of high achievers.

Speaking of MPs, coincidentally, or not, we’ve seen this week a particularly nasty bit of the underbelly of current British politics, with the Derek Draper/Damian (well named?) McBride saga of smear e-mails about Conservative MPs wives etc reaching a new low in the way our Political Parties (or at least, the Labour Party) choose today to conduct their business.

The contrast between Sir Clement’s approach to being a Member of Parliament, and the way it seems you have to behave as an MP today to ensure that your progress up the greasy pole is upwards rather than downwards is all too depressing. How many of the people who represent us in the mother of all Parliaments today are people who really merit a place there?

I’m not saying that yesterday is always better than today, but when you look at the way MPs behave, it’s certainly true in this case. I’ve just finished a book of World War 2 Diaries by Sir Allan (Tommy, don’t ask me why) Lascelles, who was Private Secretary to King George VI, and the comparison in these diaries between the way MPs handled themselves in the mid 40s when the country was, literally fighting for its life, and today, when, for the most part, it’s a “snout in the trough”, and bugger the rest of you attitude, is enough to make you lobby for a revolution.

Parliament then was a club where almost everyone got there on the back of achievements made in other walks of life. There was therefore a much wider level of experience, a wider knowledge, and much more of what I call “wisdom”. It used to be said that, somewhere among the 650 or so members, there would be a world expert on just about any subject on earth, and all you had to do was find him. Bee keeping, Nuclear Power, Indian History, there was usually someone there who knew more about it than anyone else. And so, the quality of debate was guaranteed to be higher. In addition, the integrity of the members, their diligence and sense of honour was of the highest order. We seem to have lost that – big time.

Today, following Blair’s deliberate, conscious, and unfortunately, successful, attempt over the last 10 years, to emasculate and destroy Parliament, the way the seat of Government actually operates today, almost makes it a pointless organisation. Only on very rare occasions, the last one I can remember being the revolt on the quite unnecessary 42 days detention proposal for terror suspects, does Parliament stand up and reflect the will of the people. And, even then, it only got the chance because the House of Lords threw the Bill out. By a million miles, that’s not what the population of this country wants from its governing body. But that’s what we’ve got.

The Clement Freuds of the world, independent people who did not have to rely on the MP’s salary to put bread on their family’s table, are an almost extinct species. A few of the others like Frank Field, Dennis Stringer, Tony Benn, the late Allan Clarke, are people who you would travel a long way to listen to – they held an opinion, with which you might not agree but you still wanted to hear it. They said what they thought, not what the party boss told them they needed to think, and the world (or at least this country) was a better place as a result.

The faceless automatons who drone on in Parliament today, using a language which is quite alien to most of us, follow the party line in a Stalinist-like slavish way. They are depressingly all too common, and seem to be the only ones who progress upwards in their respective parties.

Quite how we get Parliament to recover its rightful position as the forum for the highest level of debate in this country is quite beyond me. Perhaps Guy Fawkes had the right idea in 1605. It was just that he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and someone blabbed about his intentions, that screwed him up. At least we still celebrate what he tried to do once a year, although I suspect too few of us really recall his intentions when the fireworks and the party starts.

This is something that really gets me wound up. Nobody in charge of any of the political parties seems even to care about this fundamental change. Mr Brown and his acolytes continue to trample systematically on the ways of democracy, and just occasionally something like this week’s email smear saga shows just what it’s really like if you lift the edge of today’s Political Carpet, and see the utter nastiness and ruthlessness which sits underneath it all. Brown adopts his standard “Nothing to do with me, mate” approach. But perhaps we now start to see Brown’s position, with Ed Balls’ involvement becoming more visible. It looks something akin to the way Watergate crept up to engulf Richard Nixon. If he didn’t know about it, he was incompetent, if he did know about it, he was complicit. You choose.

The parliamentary system in this country used to have a reputation which was held up throughout the world as a shining example of how to run a country. Today, it runs more like a corrupt Banana republic, and I hope that’s not being unfair to those Banana republics which still exist in the world. It’s not as if the way it’s run today even works.

Sometimes I’m not too proud to be British.

Friday, April 10, 2009


A couple of posts ago, I rambled on about the Citroen 2CV, the “Deux Chevaux”, one of the greatest car designs ever. The piece was a bit of a precursor to some thoughts on another new car which has just hit the market. And the intriguing thing is, this one is also aimed at the bottom end of the market, actually a bit lower than the bottom end of the market.

The Tata Nano.

Rumours have been spreading for a couple of years now about how Ratan Tata, the Chairman of Tata Motors in India, was planning to build a “One Lakh” car. That’s 100,000 rupees or around £1,400. Now all of us bigheads
who work in the European Motor Industry know perfectly well that building a car for that amount of money is quite impossible, so we all ignore the whispers and get on with our jobs. After all, replacing the cloth seats in my Audi with leather ones costs a bit more that that, doesn't it?

Except that a couple of months ago, he showed the car off in its final form. And it is a remarkable piece of work.

Tata’s aim is to offer a way for a massive section of the Indian population to stop carrying their family around on a scooter, and to have access to a new car for the first time ever. So, he’s done what the designers of all the really iconic vehicles do, and tear up the engineering history books, don’t even look at the competition, and start with a very simple question –

“What is it EXACTLY that I’m trying to achieve?”

When he had got the answer to that sorted out he clearly made sure that all the minions under him who were doing the detailed and strategic design work, keep looking at everything they were doing, and asked if the results of their labour was in line with the brief. If YES, carry on, if NO, start again.

Setting yourself a target of One Lakh as a selling price, as he did, forced some very unconventional thinking. Your first thought is – “That’s simply impossible.” And, in some ways you’d be right. You couldn’t produce a car for around 50% of the cost of the current cheapest car in India without addressing and changing some pretty fundamental things.


The amazing thing, to my eyes at least, is that it still ends up looking pretty good. But when you look underneath the skin, you can start to see just how it has been done and that the sort of questions which were asked. Things like “How many wheels should it have?”, “How many doors, what sort of engine can we have, what’s the minimum level of performance we can live with, how low can we get it to weigh and so on.” Each of the answers leads to a way of improving the performance of one of the other important criteria. The more you lower the weight, the less power the engine needs, the simpler (say) the braking system needs to be, which in turn lowers the weight, which ……………….. - you get the point.

He ended up with a modern design that looks rather “cheeky”, but bears comparison in the way it has been conceived with the Citroen 2CV I eulogised over a couple of posts ago.

It’s as important for what it’s not got, as much as for what it has. It has only got a two cylinder engine (saves cost and weight), a 4 speed gearbox (saves cost and weight), one windscreen wiper (saves cost and weight), drum brakes (saves cost and weight), almost no instrumentation (saves cost and weight), lots of painted metal surfaces inside (saves cost and weight), no door for the boot (saves cost and weight, and adds strength), tiny little 12” wheels (saves cost and weight – although remember that the BMC Mini had 10” ones), no passenger seat adjustment (saves cost and weight), no glovebox (saves cost and weight) and so on.

Although disputed by Tata, I have little doubt that its crash performance may not be up to the levels of European cars (which also saves weight and cost by the way), and some of the petrolhead journalists will whinge about this, missing the point completely. Tata was not trying to match European safety levels, but trying to offer an alternative to the current "MPV" mode of transport in India – in their case, the rickshaw or the scooter, seen everywhere carrying whole families around. The improvement which the Nano offers in terms of safety should be compared to the scooter/rickshaw alternative, not a fully specced Volvo.

The new car also gives birth to another argument, which is unwinnable by either side. This is where the additional CO2 emissions caused by introducing a whole segment of Asia to hundreds of thousands of this new fangled motor car, to which they currently don’t have access, in one fell swoop, speeds up the course of the Planet’s demise. Yes, it possibly does (if you actually believe everything you read about Global Warming, which I most certainly don’t), but the answer is simple – What are you going to do about it? Ban it? Bomb the factories where it’s built? Tax it out of existence? Actually, just there, I was about to set off a tangential ranting about the Global Warming, Flat Earth, Hair Shirt, lobby, but it’s Good Friday today (anyone know why it’s called “Good”?), so perhaps I’ll leave that one until another day.

So, back to the Nano. It they ever bring it to Europe, as they have intimated they will, the danger is that it will have to undergo a massive redesign, because it’s not "safe" enough for us. It will end up getting the full set of European safety standards built into it, as well, no doubt, as a turbocharged diesel engine with a six speed semi automatic gearbox, air conditioning, power steering, a full Bose sound system, electric reclining seats and all the gizmos none of us in Europe can live without. The weight will double, as will the price. They may even get round to think of calling it a Smart Car, except some of our German friends have got there already. And some people will think they’ve done a really good thing, missing the point, once again, completely.

I still fail to understand why there is such a fetish in Europe about occupant safety in cars. In this country we kill about 8 people a day in car crashes, and yet the industry is forced to spend billions of pounds improving the cars to be even safer and safer. The poor souls injured in these crashes are transferred into hospitals where they are subjected to such things like MRSA, which kills 10 times as many people, and which can be reduced/eliminated by getting a few people to keep washing their hands, which I suspect might NOT cost billions. Yes, I know it's not as simple as that, but there is a real element of truth in it.

My simple mind keeps coming back to the outlandish (or is it?) idea that the best way to improve vehicle safety is to put a large, sharp spike sticking out from the centre of the steering wheel just touching the driver’s sternum, as well as totally banning the fitment of airbags. This could, at the same time, be allied to the banning of comprehensive insurance for vehicles, so that you had to bear the cost of any accident yourselves and could only get the other party’s insurance Company to pay, if you were blameless.

If we introduced these small changes, everyone would drive more slowly, the level of noxious emissions would go down, the number of pedestrians injured by the car would diminish, the cost of motoring would reduce, you could fit more cars on any given road, so congestion would reduce, the number of car accidents would be lower, and the construction of the car could become so much simpler (saving cost and weight). I’m not sure where this all leads, but it seems to me that there is therefore a reasonably logical case for banning all the current cars being built in Europe, and turning all the current factories over to building only Nanos.

And Nanos with spikes sticking out of their steering wheels at that!

I just can’t imagine anyone in our Government having the balls even to think about such a thing. Perhaps a Royal Commission is needed, chaired by Jeremy Clarkson.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I’ve just ordered a new Computer. Nothing fancy, it sits just a tiny little bit off the bottom of the range that Dell offer. And yet, it has a hard disc capacity of 1 Terrabyte.

I lose track of Noughts quite easily, but that means that I can store 1,000,000,000,000 bytey “things”. I hadn’t really given that sort of issue much thought until today, but I’ve suddenly realised just how big a number that really is.

If I started to count them all, at 1 every Second, I’d take 31,709 years or so to get to the end. It’s enough to store one complete Text Message for every person on the planet – not that I’ve got 6,250,000,000 different text messages in my mind to send to anyone. But you get my drift.

My mind wanders back 25 years to a night at work in around 1980. I used to be the Accounting Manager for a car company called Rover, or was it British Leyland, or even BL Cars, or conceivably Austin Morris? Anyway, there was a payroll of something around 27,000 people on the site, which I had to look after, so it was, at the time, a large and complex company.

At that time, many of the financial calculations we had to do to support the business were all done on piles and piles of pages of A3 Analysis paper, all printed with 13 columns for the information – 12 for each month and a thirteenth for a column to let you put the total in for a year. When we built up the Annual budget for the company we used to have a heap of around 50 of these pages all held together with a very High Tech Bulldog Clip. We used to write down on these enormous sheets of paper, very laboriously, all the vehicle sales volumes (by country, by model derivative etc etc), the sales revenues per vehicle (by country, by model derivative etc etc), the other costs, the overheads, the profit (or was it a loss? – I can’t remember), and then multiply all of them together in a frenzy of (hopefully) controlled number crunching. Remember, we’d only just got our first hand-held calculator, so it all had to be done by hand.

It took some 3 days for some poor sod (I did it once just to show I could) to go through all the numbers to work out the results. At which point someone took it to The Boss, who usually informed the messenger that someone in Higher Management, wherever that might have been, had reviewed the volumes or pricing or something, and they’d changed a few of the numbers, and it all needed to be done again. How character building was that? To this day, I’m surprised that a murder was never committed.

Back to that night in 1980. A guy came to see me after work, and brought with him a buff coloured typewriter sized box which he plonked on my desk. It had “Apple” written on it, and you thought “How cute.”. He put a small TV screen with a ghostly green flashing cursor, and pressed a few buttons on the keyboard. The screen lit up with something that looked like the child’s game Battleships. I wanted to get home, and wanted the guy to go away, like NOW, but something kept me interested.

He went down to a little square called A1, and typed a 2 into it, then moved the cursor (not that the word meant anything to me then) into the square below (A2) and typed a 3 into it. He then moved it all down into A3 and typed something like “=A1+A2” into the square and the number 5 popped into the box. I probably told him that I already knew that 3+2 equalled 5, and that if I checked it all on my new fangled calculator, that would indeed confirm it for him.

I was somewhat underwhelmed.

Then he put his cursor back in A1 and overtyped a 7 and the number in the A3 square changed immediately to a 10. “Oooh-er!”

“How the bloody hell did you do that?” I smelt smoke and mirrors, sleight of hand, and possibly witchcraft. Maybe all three, seeing we were in Birmingham.

He had just started to show me a little programme called “Visicalc”, a piece of utter computing genius developed by two guys called Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston. I realised in that couple of seconds that the way my working life was going to operate from that point onwards had just changed - totally.


I had to have one.So I did.

But, as usual, it wasn’t quite as simple as that. The programme was fabulous – so, so clever. The technology, however, which supported it was way, way behind the idea which it was there to support. The floppy discs which contained the information could hold 312,000 bytey things. The memory in the machine was, I think, 16 kilobytes. And I don’t think it even had a hard disc. So, on the one hand, the Good Lord gaveth, and on the other hand, he immediately tooketh it away again - at least, until the hardware manufacturers got their act together.

But it was still a piece of genius. We laboured frantically to jam what we wanted to do onto a series of these discs, and somehow managed to make it work. The spectre of the manager wandering in and changing the data on the Budget fell into the background as a non-event, and I still recall his disbelief, bordering on suspicion of a confidence trick, when we turned round a complete change to the numbers in an hour or so, rather than the days it took before. Magic.

But look at the numbers. 16k of memory, and we ran the Management Accounting systems for the UK’s largest car manufacturer on that. Today, my new machine, which I will use at home to play on, will have 3,072,000,000 bytes – some 190,000 times as much. My new hard disc could contain 3 million floppy discs. The mind boggles. I know about Moore’s law, but I’m still amazed.

And yet, what do we use all this capacity for?

Keeping pictures, by the thousand, that we’ll probably never look at again. We probably never glance at 95% of the images we take. And then, if all we do with the 5% that we do look at, is to send them to people across the internet, we immediately throw away another 99% of that 5%. It only gets used if we set to and print a decently sized image off it. So, for most people, almost all of the volume of the information we keep on a computer is redundant and utterly unnecessary.

Compare the size of a decent written file on a computer with a decent picture size. I do not find it difficult to press my camera’s shutter and generate 25 megabytes of data in a few milliseconds. Just to make it worse, it’s probably a rubbish picture, that I won’t give a second glance to, but it’s still 25 megabytes.

If I bothered to work out how much space is taken up with a long article in Microsoft Word, I’d be very hard pressed to generate a file of more than 100,000 bytes. Typing away for an evening leaves me with a file of about 25,000 bytes, around 0.1% of the size of the rubbish picture I’m just about to ignore. But it’s taken me a couple of hard worked hours to put it on the machine. And which am I more proud of? Which is the more meaningful demonstration of my intellect? You choose, but the writing has at least had 2 hours of attention from my brain.

So, back to my new computer. I suppose we buy these things, not because we NEED them, but because they’re available, and we can get our hands on them. Bragging rites as to the “Mine’s Bigger than Yours” size of a hard Disc is probably in there somewhere, but if we actually thought about it all, most of us could probably still manage with an Apple with a couple of 312kbyte discs and 16kb of memory.

Apollo 11 did, but then it nearly crashed while landing on the Moon, so perhaps I’d better think of a better example.

So, have I just cancelled my order with Dell?

Have I hell.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


A posting by a Canadian e-friend about the demise of "The Record Shop" in his neck of the woods has set my mind going. I am of a sufficiently advanced age to remember when my father used to play records which were made of shellac, ran at 78 rpm and broke if you dropped them. I think prehistoric is probably the right word I'm trying to describe.

I can just (meaningfully) remember Bill Haley and the Comets coming to the UK in the mid Fifties with cinema seats being ripped up at his concerts. But only because I read it in the newspapers. I really found out at first hand about Pop Music around 1957, when I was 11. I went with my cousin, who was older than me, and was therefore in all probability responsible for what my parents saw as some form of irredeemable mental decline, to Whitby, a small seaside village on the Yorkshire Coast.

One of my founding memories was going to a café, near the harbour, which had a juke box and feeding Sixpences into it. We played the first pop song which totally gripped my mind over and over and over again – probably 20 times. It must have driven the poor café owner demented, unless of course he shared out intoxication, which I suspect he did not.

It was Paul Anka’s “Diana”.

It was a song which I can still remember hit me like a Thunderbolt. That mesmerising saxophone introduction, and the gradually rising phrases in the song which the singer blasted out had me totally “gone”. Solid Gone. I had never heard anything like it before.

I wasn’t alone. The record shot to the top of the British Hit Parade, and stayed there for umpteen weeks, and sold well over 1 million copies in the UK alone. My 7 inch 45 RPM copy was played so much I could almost hear the song on the other side being played backwards.

From then on, the local record shop became a very regular haunt. You skulked in the soundproof booths, and tried to con the shop owner to play every new record that came in. He knew full well that kids of our age had no money so the idea of any of us actually buying a record was out of the question, but he still indulged our passions. I suppose he was like a musical drug dealer, feeding our desires to get us hooked so that, when the money did start to roll in, he could reap his financial rewards. A sort of long term social investment in the teenage life of the town. Very strategic in a way, although the possibility exists that he just liked listening to the music.

Buddy Holly was The Man for me when I really got into the music, and I owned everything he recorded up until the day he was killed. That was the first of those days in my life, where you remember for ever where you were when the news broke. You know the thing – Kennedy, John Lennon, Challenger and 9/11 - interestingly, all four are in America, and two in New York. Even after 60-odd years, there aren’t that many of them that I recall.

It was early 1959, and I was idly reading the newspaper, lying on the floor in our small living room, when I turned the page and there was a picture of a plane crash. And the headline about him, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper ("Chantilly Lace, and a pretty face, and a Pony Tail hanging down, a Wiggle in her walk, and a Giggle in her talk …….." Very profound but a Great Song!). And the shock was there because the article was buried in the middle of the paper, and you came across it almost as an afterthought. Bang.

It was just a few weeks ago when I realised that February 3rd 2009 was the fiftieth anniversary of that day. It really hit me that day as a rather scary demonstration of the way my life is flashing past at an exponentially increasing rate, and that there’s a lot more behind me that is left to come. How very depressing.

Carpe Diem. Be-Bop-A-Lula.