Talking on the Tube… has the whole world gone mad?

For a huge city, London is quite a friendly place.  We didn’t even make the list of the most unfriendly cities of 2016 and Londoners are many things but they don’t have a reputation as being eternally grumpy like Paris or Moscow or entirely lacking in concepts of personal space and good manners like others.   If you genuinely need help or assistance then almost everyone in London will go out of their way to help no matter how busy they are.

However, there is a red line in the sand that can’t be crossed.  Not a Barack Obama line that people don’t take seriously but the very defining issue of voluntarily talking on the morning commute.

A most likely very well meaning American by the name of Jonathan Dunne has decided it would be a great idea to hand out badges to Tube travellers that indicate that they would like to talk to their fellow travellers.

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That’s just not Cricket.  I mean, we’re British aren’t we?  Is our civilisation literally going down the tubes?  Isn’t this the antipathy of everything about living in London is all about.  If Londoners wanted to talk on the way to work, they would move out to… I don’t know, almost any other place in the world.  It is only a few weeks ago I blogged about these sort of issues which have plagued British travellers for centuries and now this… what a kick in the face!

Even this morning I was reading about a lady who dared to speak to a fellow traveller who was reading a novel which the loose-tongued lady had already read.  So perturbed by this, the traveller exited the carriage at the next stop and got on the adjoining one to carry on her commute in peace.  Squashed, humid, sticky, stinky perhaps but silently and in peace.

I’ve spent over 25 years commuting into London on and off.  I must say I really do value the silence and solitude.  It gives time to prepare yourself for the rest of the day.  To catch a breath or peace and quiet, if only to psych oneself up for the chaos when you get off the train.

Often when I leave the house at 6am or 6.30am, everyone sits in total silence and it is just nice and perfect.  Sometimes I get a later bus maybe around 7am and even the children generally sit in silence.  Of course, there is always the same one who wants to talk and doesn’t seem to get the hint that it’s not appropriate and it riles the 5-year-olds as much as the 70-year-olds.

It’s an integral part of our culture, stripped of privacy by having to mix with millions of people, the least we deserve is to have a bit of peace and quiet.  Maybe it has been the way ever since it was the social etiquette to require an introduction before one could speak?

People don’t sit in total silence all the time, the odd tut covers most problems in London without the actual need to speak.  What annoys me and I think most fellow passengers the most are people who talk on the phone for no reason, oblivious or actually fully aware but not caring that not one single other person wants to listen to one-half of a banal conversation.

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I don’t actually mind people who are friends talking to themselves on a carriage before I arrive and then continuing after I’ve got on the bus or train.  I don’t even mind office associates and friends who talk quietly, it’s fun to eavesdrop on people and learn a bit about others lives.  It’s the people early on a Sunday morning who have the whole long train to sit on and then sit one seat away from you only to talk loudly either in person or on their phone that annoys me, playing music that can be overheard from their tinny headphones too.  Can’t they see that I appreciate my peace and quiet, go and blither away someplace else?

If I want to talk to someone on the tube I will do, I distinctly remember talking to a stranger for almost 6 seconds in 2014. I don’t need someone forcing me to talk to people.   Next up, people will be wishing me to have a nice day when I go shopping and that just wouldn’t do.  Go and be happy and extroverted somewhere else!

 

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Portmanteaus from Brangelina to Brexit

Admittedly there isn’t much of a journey to along the alphabet from Brangelina to Brexit but these two events, which seem to have defined the summer illustrate just how much we use Portmanteaus from the important things in life to the whimsical.

For those who are not sure what exactly is a Portmanteau, it is when you join together two words and their meanings into a new word with a combined and related but still new meaning.

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Portmanteaus can be found in almost every walk of life and are an easy and inventive way to create a relatively new word when existing words no longer quite do the trick or when things have changed and a new event or item or situation is created.

For example, probably the biggest event of the year was the vote for Britain to decide its future status with the European Union which looks like it has resulted in a British Exit or Brexit.  Everyone knows what Brexit means from the very first time it has been explained to them.

Brangelina was created from the Hollywood stars Bradd Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  Each one previously an icon in their own right and yet once married, they became inseparable and pretty much acted as one person or identity and thus Brangelina was born.

The use of Portmanteaus in English is not a new phenomena.  That famous and beautiful area of England known as the Cotswolds is a portmanteau.  Wold is one of many localised English words for a valley.  Two thousand years ago, the Romans realised how rich and green the grass was here and supplemented the existing sheep with new ones from North Africa which they believed would help produce more wool.  Obviously sheep from Egypt or Libya might have issues with the temperature change in the winter and so the Romans built special huts and sheds to house the sheep.  These builds were known as Cots.   Hence Cotswolds means the valleys of sheep sheds and that description still very much suits the district today.

Portmanteaus have infiltrated every aspect of our lives from Labradoodles which are hybrids of Labrador and Poodle dogs to Digital Monsters or Digimon.  Alcopops, Brunch and Cheeseburgers are just some of the most obvious when it comes to food.

Many modern Portmanteaus have been born out of necessity.  Before the 20th century, we didn’t really have cars nor hijacking as we know it today but now we can all be scared of Carjacking.   I spend much of my life waiting to Chill and Relax, perhaps I could save time and just Chillax.

 

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I don’t like coffee but it’s a funny Portmanteau!

 

Britain has countless localised Portmanteaus, obviously the obvious ones like Britpop or what others call our comedy shows, Britcoms which is in turn related to the older Portmanteau of the Sitcom or Situation Comedy.  More unusual ones include Mizzle which is a mix of Mist and Drizzle (very fine and light rain) or Chavtastic which rather than being a fantastic Chav means to have many of the worst characteristics of a Chav.  Don’t ask what a Chav is.  Many people take a ride on the Chunnel or Channel Tunnel.

In fact, many of our most used words are Portmanteaus.  Vitamins are Vital Minerals.  Mopeds are motorised pedal bicycles, Paratroopers are troopers who us parachutes.  If police suspect you of drink-driving they might use a Breath Analyser or Breathalyser. Keeping with science there is Cyborg or Cybernetic Organism and Endorphins or Endogenous and morphine.

Even places can become Portmanteaus.  Starting off big with Eurasia or Europe and Asia or the combination of small but similarly characteristic states such as Benelux or Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg or Kentuckiana for the American states of Kentucky and Indiana.   Geographic closeness isn’t required to be part of a portmanteau.  New York and London can become Nylon. Here the word describes the many similarities in size, culture, lifestyle etc of the two cities.  To be truly global we can have Nylonkong which adds Hong Kong to the cosmopolitan mix.

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Whilst English and its ability to adapt and change means the language is richer in  Portmanteaus than most other languages, it is not in any way an English only way of constructing language.   Arabic and Hebrew are two languages that make great use of this technique as does Indonesian for example.  Many places in China are actually named by using Portmanteaus.  India is another country where the use of Portmanteaus is commonplace both within languages such as Hindi but also mixing local languages with English and resulting in words such as Hinglish and Bollywood.   However Spanish is known for not making great use of Portmanteaus.

Interestingly, despite Portmanteau obviously having French origins, in France itself they use the term ‘Mot-Valise’ which can be roughly translated as being a suitcase word and this term is merely a 20th-century translation of an English term.

I hope you enjoyed this post on my weblog or blog🙂

 

 

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The Bank of England issues plastic £5 notes

Tuesday sees the Bank of England issuing the first in the range of plastic bank notes which will begin the process of phasing out paper money forever.

The first note to be issued with be the £5 note and will see Sir Winston Churchill on one side of Fivers whilst the Queen will keep her traditional place on the other side of the note.

30 countries currently use Polymer-based notes, primarily but not entirely, those in hotter climates which  impacts on the lifespan of paper money.  The new notes released by the Bank of England will feature the most advanced anti-fraud measure of any money on the planet and illustrates just what a big change has taken place in the 320 years since the Bank commenced printing paper money.

Manufactured from a transparent plastic film and coated with an ink layer,polymer banknotes are seen as cleaner, more durable and more secure than paper. The material allows the inclusion of clear “windows” to protect against counterfeits.  Additionally, the money is expected to last 2.5 times longer and no longer degrade when accidentally put through a washing machine.

Last year, 21,835 notes were replaced due to damage – 5,364 of those were chewed or eaten, mostly by dogs but one was ruined by a parrot.

Sir Winston Churchill features on the new Polymer £5 note.

Sir Winston Churchill features on the new Polymer £5 note.

 

Churchill will be featured alongside a view of Westminster with Big Ben showing a time of 3 o’clock which is the approximate time on 13 May 1940 when Churchill declared in a speech: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Jane Austen will appear on Polymer £10 notes in 2017 and by 2020, the artist JMW Turner will be on the £20.  There is currently no time frame set for the replacement of paper £50 notes.

Sir Winston’s strong leadership qualities during the Second World War earned him a vast international following, particularly in the United States where he was granted honorary US citizenship.

He has been portrayed on the postage stamps of 150 nations with this particular depiction being based on the famous photo taken by photographer Yousuf Karsh

During his lifetime, Sir Winston received 37 orders, decorations and medals including Companion of Honour, Order of Merit, Order of the Garter and in 1953 the Nobel Prize for literature.

He died at the age of 90, on January 24, 1965, and was given a state funeral. Sir Winston was also the first commoner to be portrayed on a British coin – the 1965 crown or five shilling piece.

The first paper money appeared in 11th Century China with the Song Dynasty and came to prominence soon afterwards by The Mongols who used it across their empire.

It was Norway who first used paper money in Europe but the newly created Bank of England was quick to follow as King William III needed money for his war against France.   Initially deposits of gold would be left with the bank and a hand written note issued by a chief Cashier would declare “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of …”  which in effect guaranteed the note against gold.

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Bank of England £1 note from 1825

 

In the old days notes would be issued to any value but in the 18th century, it became increasingly the standard practice to issue standard values such as £20.  The guarantee to pay the bearer in gold ended in 1931 and now the notes are guaranteed against Securities rather than gold itself.

The old fiver, featuring prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, can still be used in shops until it is withdrawn from circulation in May 2017 but can still be exchanged for the polymer notes at the Bank of England afterwards.

Initially when paper notes were introduced, it afforded great potential for criminals to trick people out of their riches.  As most people were so poor that they could go their entire life without ever seeing even a small value note, it was easy to trick people out of their piles of gold and silver coins for a home-made pound note.  This was obviously highly illegal and was a capital punishment offence until the time of Queen Victoria.   These days it is estimated that less than 0.0075% of notes are forged and this tiny percentage will likely decrease with the introduction of polymer notes.

 

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A small step for man – A giant leap for my company, Ye Olde England Tours

It is now almost 3 years I started Ye Olde England Tours with the aim of providing a professional, friendly and totally personalised series of tours.  Originally there were just 5 tours to choose from and now have 39 (with some new ones about to launch).  250 tours (85 of them in this summer) and many thousands of miles driven and footsteps walked later, it is time to make a big move.

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As well as providing unique and high-quality tours for my very special tourists and giving me a way to pass on my love and enthusiasm for London, England and in fact the entire U.K.; I always try to give special experiences and let my tourists see the sights in a way that the big coach operators and multinationals can’t hope to reach.

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I’ve been more successful than I could ever have dreamed and over 2016, I’ve been turning down almost as many bookings as I’ve accepted which I hate doing.  I don’t like disappointing people making their holiday plans and obviously from a purely business point of view it is a nice problem to have but still a problem as I can only do 1 tour at a time.

That left 3 options, all of them very respectable in their own way.  One is to carry on as before and be more than content to be very busy but always be constrained by how much I can do with that constraint being myself!   The second would be to increase the price of the tours so that I do less work for the same or slightly more money.  The third choice would be to find someone to hire to make the business bigger.  I decided to go with option 3.  It takes a lot of hard work to build up an idea into a viable business.  Lots of people try and fail, sometimes down to bad luck or perhaps a business concept that can never work.  I didn’t know if I would fail or not but it ends up I’ve become too successful for my own good!   I feel I owe it to myself, my business and to my customers that I do the very best I can for all of us and that means expanding Ye Olde England Tours.

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For the last few months, I’ve been searching for someone who can help me so that I can offer the best tours possible to the most visitors I can.  Obviously, it was important to find the right person and it took a lot of searching to find someone flexible, talented, people-friendly and with more than a bit of know-how about tours and all things London/British history and culture.

I’m delighted to say that I can announce the search is over and I can announce that the wonderful Erin Tilley will now be taking some tours on a part-time basis (at least for now!!).  It means I don’t have to be double-booked so much and in peak periods work every day under the sun.  Also though, it makes Ye Olde England Tours twice as good as before and let’s face it… with over sixty 5-star reviews, we weren’t too shoddy to begin with.

In keeping with the ethical way I run my life, my business and treat customers, I’m so thrilled to be welcome Erin onboard.  Touring is a great way to make a living and not be stuck in the usual 9-5 job and I’m sure Erin will love it as much as I do and that all our tourists will love Erin too!

Who knows where it will end up.  Every business starts with an idea and one person.  Ye Olde England Tours is now past that stage.  More people, means more tours, means more reviews, means more bookings. In 20 years we could be the next Virgin Group or maybe back where we started.  I think it would be great to be in the middle with a small team of talented and nice people, working to make a bit of money and make people’s dreams come true. Whilst I can do a bit more with my book writing and blogging, so everyone’s a winner.

If you are coming to England and are interested in a very affordable put totally private and personalised tour then let me know at  Ye Olde England Tours

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Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the airing of the first ever Star Trek episode on television, September 8th 1966.   Star Trek was and remains one of the most beloved television shows in history and has influenced television and culture generally perhaps more ways than any other.

It’s hard to define what it is that made Star Trek special.  Right from the beginning it was clearly a more intelligent style of science fiction, forgoing the usual monsters of the weeks and hokey, childish stories of contemporary shows such as Lost In Space for something more sophisticated.

It’s easy to laugh at aspects of the original Star Trek now but for its time it was cutting edge.  A number of established and upcoming actors playing out stories written by serious sci-fi writers.  Unlike earlier shows, “almost” everything in Star Trek made sense.  It took place in a futuristic setting that was increasingly well thought out with established rules and boundaries that didn’t change week on week or simply to get out of difficult situations.

 

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Graphic from StarTrek.com

 

The stories were smart and often thought provoking, tackling tough issues that made people think about issues that many had never considered before.  It was set in a future where everyone was equal and treated each other with respect whilst gave hope that we as a planet and a species would eventually have a bright future.  It also made science fiction a respectable genre for television and cinema.

Sadly just as in the 1960’s, though we have progressed in many ways, some parts of our planet and our societies remain mired in old problems, let alone new ones and in my opinion, science fiction has one again returned to a base, implausible level.

Star Trek wasn’t just revolutionary television, it was revolutionary.  Compare the USS Enterprise, essentially a Navy warship in space with believable functionality, communities and systems.  As opposed to the rocket ships and flying sauces of earlier decades.  In fact, just compare the Enterprise to almost any other space vehicle on television or cinema such as a Star Wars fighter which for all intents and purpose is just a fire-splewing descendant of a jet fighter plane.  Communicators, computer networks, 3D printing were all commonplace to us Star Trek fans and some of us went on to make these things a reality.

Though Star Trek was a relatively expensively produced television show when it first came out, the show can sometimes look relatively cheap due to the massive amount of work that had to go into each show.  It’s easy for a contemporary show to create sets, costumes or locations.  We all know what a bag looks like or a room interior or a life-support machine in the current day.  Television companies can simply rent what they don’t own or can’t make.  It’s a bit harder to come up with a Romulan table or Vulcan townsquare.  Similarly human actors are easy to cast but from experience, it is harder to find real life Andorians or Gorn.   Everything had to be created from scratch, for as little money as possible and generally in the scope of just a few days.

Despite or perhaps because of its revolutionary nature, Star Trek was never a big hit with the television studios and it barely figured in the ratings.  Year by year, the budget was cut and its airing time moved to the dead-slot and 3 years and 39 episodes later, Star Trek was finished or so it seemed.

However, just weeks after Star Trek was cancelled, the studios came up with a more accurate way of calculating viewing figures and Star Trek which barely reached the Top 100 instantly ranked as a very top show to a very import demographic.  Some talked of resurrecting the show but it was too late, the sets had been trashed.

Instead Star Trek began to be shown in what is known as syndication, airing on the same TV channel at the same time each week or even each day.  It was cheap to show and its regularity brought it to ever increasing numbers of viewers.  Those who watched Star Trek, frequently loved it and even lived it at conventions.

A new Star Trek show that was in the works was shelved when Star Wars hit the big screen and it was decided that Star Trek should return to life on the big screen with Star Trek The Motion Picture.  A grand and slightly stodgy affair, more 2001 than Star Wars and a film that despite costing a fortune, delivered only a smattering of the characters that fans really watched the show for.

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Happily it was still enough to set off Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan that would prove to be one of the most well-loved and frequently quoted science fiction films of all time.  A series of variably successful and entertaining Star Trek films followed through the 1980’s and into the 90’s.

The huge success of Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home or the one with the whales as non-fans might know it as, led to the creation of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  With the original cast no longer up to the demands of weekly television, Star Trek moved forward a century. Some of the stories became more sophisticated and definitely they looked glossier onscreen with bigger budgets and more advanced technology.   It was Star Trek but not as we know it!  Deciding quite rightly that no one could out-Kirk, out-Vulcan Spock or out crotchety McCoy, new characters were created that were entirely different though many of them were loved just as much as there forebears.

Contact with the original Star Trek characters was kept to a minimum, sometimes to the annoyance of long-time fans for fear of the new show being at first overshadowed by its big brother and then latterly because the older Star Trek became relatively old and unfashionable… at least in the eyes of new showrunner Rick Berman who liked to steralise and blandify the universe in comparison to the pumping music and brightly lit originals.

In 1991, the final Star Trek movie, The Undiscovered Country was aired, like so many original Star Trek adventures, it told a contemporary story about the fall of the Berlin Wall in space.  The baton was passed in 1994 to Star Trek: Generations where finally Captain Kirk and Captain Picard met.  It was a momentous moment but a generally less good film with the most enjoyable moments seeming to be the first 20 minutes with the original characters and the final third with Kirk and Picard.

With the exception of the rather excellent Star Trek: First Contact and The Borg, the Next Generation ran with their own series of slightly disappointing and less than epic in scope films whilst on television we were treated to Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

DS9 to its fans or DS( to those with bad shift keys was a totally different type of Star Trek.  It’s characters were grittier and its setting slightly grim. Many storylines were told in a complex web over an entire year or even 7 years in a way that rewarded dedicated fans.  With a team of writers and producers that were largely independent from Rick Berman and Paramount Studios, we were treated to some of the most amazing Star Trek shows ever and many every bit as thought provoking as the original Star Trek.  However its divergence from TNG in particular did split the fanbase.

Whilst DS9 strutted its stuff, Star Trek Voyager exploded on the screen.  Voyager is often cited as the lamest of the Star Trek shows.  Rather a TNG-lite in a show that didn’t really respect its premises.  Characters that weren’t incredible, aliens that were largely forgettable and barely any of the wonder or morality of Star Trek or TNG.  In fact it was possible to see dozens of episodes in a row where every alien was bad.  Lots of relatively bland writing, often copies of earlier Star Trek episodes.  It was still Star Trek but for the first time, the quality was almost palpably less good.

Despite a strong urging not to, the studios felt the need to create another Star Trek series immediately after Voyager finished and with largely the same production team.  Though the new prequel setting provided for interesting stories and this time for more interesting characters and perhaps better actors, Enterprise boldly went where we had all gone before until even the studios realised the current set-up was burnt out.   At last a talented writer and fan of the original show, Manny Coto, took to the helm.  Immediately the show was revitalised, and it became much more like Star Trek.  Unlike Voyager or earlier Enterprise shows, it didn’t shun 60’s Star Trek but instead actively embraced it and the spirit of the show.  Despite a real surge in quality of the shows and improved viewr satisfaction, it was all too late and Star Trek Enterprise was cancelled.  To make it worse, Manny Coto wasn’t given the chance to take the show to wonderful places we all knew he wanted and in fact Rick Berman came back to make one of the most horrendous final episodes of any TV show almost as if to spite the fans who now generally despised him.

Star Trek fans had to make do with the over 700 hours of old Star Trek and for many TNG and DS9 were often made as familiar as the original Star Trek and even the classics of Voyager and the final season of Enterprise became much loved.  They were strange years for those of us used to new Star Trek shows but then news emerged that Star Trek was back and to be helmed by talented Sci-Fi geek JJ Abrams.

Many fans worried that the new Star Trek would be worse than before or even worse, as bad as the Star Wars prequels.  Yes, it would become modernised but the original characters were back and the essence of Star Trek was back too.  It was said that the whole enterprise (did you like that) wouldn’t have got off the ground had Leonard Nimoy not come back to lend credibility to the whole affair.  Mr. Nimoy had rather finished with Star Trek after he correctly concluded that the TNG era films (and subsequent shows) were being made by the numbers on a conveyor belt of cash making but largely bland writers with little care for the quality or integrity of the show.

Happily Star Trek came back to life and Spock Prime connected the old universe with the new in a way that wiped the slate clean but didn’t in anyway invalidate everything that came before it.  Three largely successful and entertaining movies later (this summers was in many ways the most 60’s feeling Star Trek since the 60’s) and we are on September 8th 2016.  A fourth film has been promised and more excitingly, a new Star Trek show on the USS Discovery is in the works and under a talented team is set to aire in January 2017.

Will Star Trek be here for its 100th birthday, 3 years after Vulcans make Firs Contact with us?   As Mr. Spock would say, there are always possibilities.

I’ve always loved Star Trek.  Born as I was in the final week of 1973, I wasn’t around for the original screening of the original show.  I did though quickly become a fan.  I remember seeing a beer advert featuring a Vulcan when I was 3 years old which made me laugh as I knew very well who Spock was.  I remember my first episode too, The Paradise Syndrome.

I must have watched each episode of the original series 500 times or more.  I love everything about the show, the characters, the story lines.  I gorged myself on books on the production stories behind the scenes, learning how they made everything to do with Star Trek.  The onset disasters and behind the curtain politics.  It even got me into writing.

I frequently hum the music from the shows, pretty much know every line of dialogue before it appears on tv and can guess what episode is being shown not just by the colour or orbit of the planet but often by the star patterns too.  I like spotting goofs and I like spotting how they re-utilise sets and objects in later episodes.  How the Engineering pipes have GNDN as if they carry energy or chemicals but it really only stands for Goes Nowhere Does Nothing.  How the necessity of invention and lack of money created great storytelling techniques.  Transporters invented because there was no way to cheaply land the Enterprise on a planet also were a great way to cut to the action of an episode so to speak.

I like the optimism of the show and the heart on sleeve nature of the characters.  Captain Kirk, the brash and brave Starfleet Captain whose very word meant life or death and the man who met God and wasn’t even impressed.  Mr. Spock, the most famous alien of all time.  Conflicted between logic and emotion.  A Vulcan on a ship of humans, neither Vulcan or human and feeling at home with neither and yet somehow being better than both.  Dr. McCoy, the most old-fashioned and principled person on television and my favourite character.   Scotty with his technical wizardry… the list goes on and on.

Whilst many of us take our moral compass from family and friends or religion; I know I am not the only one who is hugely influenced by Star Trek.  When something really tough comes up with no easy solution… what would Captain Kirk do?  If any writer or writers or performers can make people think or inspire them 50 years on then I don’t think anyone can ask for any more.

I think Star Trek is needed now more than every both for the real world we live in and the entertainment world too.  I don’t want the characters that I want to always be less than I am.  I don’t want mindless action.  I want dialogue that tests me, not the brain-dead vocabulary of Comicbook films that would have been beneath me when I was 5.  Yes I want to be entertained but I want to be challenged too.  I don’t want big explosions and characters I don’t aspire to be, I want pointy-eared aliens who can quote Shakespeare or related Babylonian legends.  I want to believe in characters at least as good if not better than I am and I want to see them challenged too, in ways that spark my imagination. I want weird and wonderful, I want Star Trek.

I could say I love the show, what my favourite episodes are or ongoing themes, perhaps narrow down my favourite quotes to perhaps 100 but I won’t… I will leave that for my upcoming Star Trek book!  I will say though Happy 50th Birthday to Star Trek and all those connected to it in any way at all.   You’ve been my friend and companion for 42 years and I sincerely hope to be there when Star trek hits 100, 3 years after Vulcan First Contact.

Will I still be here?  Will Star Trek?  Who knows but as Mr. Spock would say… there are always possibilities.

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3rd September 1939 – Britain Declares War On Germany

Today I was giving a tour of Chartwell House to two nice folk from Colorado, USA.  Chartwell House was the home of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and is full of his old belongings from his radio to his cigars.

Whilst we were busy enjoying the magnificent house, we came across a room-guide upstairs in the study room where Churchill used to work.  It is a magnificent old room with  at least elements that are getting on for 500 years old.

We had the most entertaining and informative, hopefully mutually so, conversation and debate about WW2 politics and how it is funny how things work out as they do. I mentioned the rather politically incorrect view that I see the French General De Gaulle as something of a coward for fleeing France in comparison to other elements of the French government who decided to stay and make the best of a bad situation.  As the war turned out the way it did, these politicians are largely seen as collaborators but I still see fleeing abroad as the easy route that anyone could have taken.

I was happy for the historian I was speaking to, to wholeheartedly agree with me and how he occassionally has had to speak up for seemingly blatantly wrong tours being given by French teachers to their students who are almost conditioned to study their history in a certain way.

He then mentioned the date, 3rd September. My guests and I looked at each other… of course it was the day that the U.K. had declared war on Germany and thus completed the act that we had tried so hard to avoid and yet had been thrust onto the world by a handful of individuals, most notably Herr Hitler.

We pondered all of this for a while, it somehow making a splendid trip to a splendid house, all the more memorable and our tour continued until towards the end of a house we met a splendid lady who I have only spoken to in passing before.

Today she was in the kitchen and informing all and sundry of how many of the gadgets in the room used to work and just how different the time was back then.  Of how the slightest luxory was a treat beyond words and how she was tasked with washing string so it could be re-used to tied up small parcels of meat from the butchers.  Also of the special instrument her mother had to make their weekly butter purchase at least look attractive as they were far too poor to purchase sufficient amounts even going by the impoverished standards of the day.

I’m not sure why, but she seemed to take a figurative fancy to me and my guests and she was telling us of how 77 years ago to that very moment, she and her family had been having a picnic on the moors of Devon and they had been listening to the radio.  She and her family were doing what pretty much the whole country must have done and indeed much of the world.  For the second time in 25 years, Great Britain had declared war on Germany for the at least nominal reasons of foreign treaty obligations.

I interjected for a moment and recited word for word the radio statement given by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.  I think it must have brought back even more of the memories for the wonderful lady whose eyes started watering before going on to inform us how everyone fell silent at the much feared but greatly anticipated news.

She was ever so proud of Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and his insistence that the right thing must be done no matter how difficult the task would prove to be.

At the end I gave her a big hug and then she hugged my American tourists before she came back to give the young chap (me, myself and I!) an even bigger hug.

Neville Chamberlain is often written about in a derogatory fashion due to him being one of the prominent politicians in the Appeasement movement, basically avoiding war at any cost to appease or satisfy Hitlers never ending demands.

Whilst I don’t deny Churchill was definitely the right man at the right time for the right job, it shouldn’t be forgotten just how Britain in particular was tired of war, having lost a generation of of young men just a few years earlier.  A great many people thought Appeasement was the right way to proceed especially as it wasn’t immediately clear at the time, just what a monster Hitler was.

Chamberlain was an old fashioned and honourable politician, possibly suffering from the early stages of cancer. His appeasement bought valuable time for the British military to prepare for a war which it wasn’t ready for.  When he travelled to Germany, the streets were lined with Germans cheering him and desperately hoping that peace could be achieved, something which drove Hitler absolutely mad with fury as he knew that he was making war impossible to avoid.

Lastly there was a quite a common acceptance that if Britain fought another World War then it would mark the end of its long period of global dominance and many were content to safeguard their number 1 position and let Hitler have whatever he wanted.   Whilst today there is not even an appetite ti fight in Syria and understandably so after other Middle-Eastern wars, the decision by Chamberlain to voluntarily declare war when not under threat itself and bring the Pax Britannica to a premature end is something that had never been seen before and has not happened since.  The only even that could match it today would be the USA declaring war on Russia for invading Crimea or attacking China for continued aggression in the South China Seas… both of which are highly unlikely, unpopular and obviously, something to be avoided.

As it happened, nothing could really be done to save Poland, especially as the Soviet Union had agreed with Hitler to invade and occupy the east of the country. Belgium and France would soon be overrun and Britain would be left almost alone with the exception of brave Commonwealth soldiers to fight Nazism under the inspired leadership of one Winston Churchill.

I think the marvellous lady we met at Chartwell put it right, that when there is evil it must be confronted at all costs but then afterwards we must even more strenuously not hold any grudges or biases and work and enjoy peace.

So as we all sit and enjoy the last moments of summer, I invite you to listen to the famous audio recording below which would set in motion the events of WW2 and change the world forever.  I think the pain in the voice of Neville Chamberlain is clear for all to see.

 

Posted in history, Life, Opinion, WW2 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Venting spleen against the spammers

If like me, you probably get more spam than legitimate email.   I’ve been on the internet since before the World Wide Web and I think I’m in the position to say that the quality of business spammers could be better.  I remember when the sons of illegitimately deposed presidents and wives of deceased African generals would be tugging at my heart strings and in a way that would very soon make me legitimagtely very rich for only a small monetary outlay.

These days, I seem to get lots of emails like this one below from Alen Fraser of Crushader Tech.   I thought I’d give him and them a piece of my mind.

Hello,    Team;

Hope you are doing well.
My Name is Alen SEO expert. As per my analysis, your website is not performing well in the Google organic search as well as your traffic / visitor is poor from the last couple of months due to some of the reasons. 

You might know about the frequent Google updates and as per the latest update, Google has completely dropped all authorship functionality from the search results and webmaster tools. So be careful with it and take the help of an SEO company to fix it.

Hi Alen, nice to hear from you not.  I appreciate that you think you might improve your chances of my purchasing your services by indicating that I am so stupid that I can’t work out what your name is without highlighting it.    Are you an idiot?

Also, there is no team, it is just me.  If you checked me out properly you would know that.  It’s not like I answer emails and use different names on my signatures or dress up in costumes when I give tours so that I can pretend there is a team.  It’s just me Alen…. is it just you too?


Some of the aspects are given below:

Your back links are not good enough, which affects link popularity.

Oh ok, I will take your word for it.

Some of the competitive Keywords are not on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing, which affects visibility.

I don’t think you’ve actually type in Ye Olde England Tours into the search engine. Try it and you will see I take up the entire first page on Google.  Guess my team is better than I thought.

What's that? My company Ye Olde England Tours monopolises the first page of the search rankings? But... but that would mean that Alen from Crushaders Tech is either a liar, incompetent or just wrong. Which could it be.... perhaps all three?

What’s that? My company Ye Olde England Tours monopolises the first page of the search rankings? But… but that would mean that Alen from Crushaders Tech is either a liar, incompetent or just wrong. Which could it be…. perhaps all three?

 

Errors and issues found in your website.

Aww man, I must have hired that same dimwit who wrote your emails!

BTW, check your video promo on Youtube.  You spell it Strategy, unless spelling leywords in your video promo is your ‘Strategi’   Don’t read anything into the fact that I highlighted that word for you Alen.  No really don’t.

Good Blogs, Articles and Press Release are not found for your website.

That would be the blog posts that get met well over 100,000 visitors a year would it… all from one person… me🙂

Your website overall SEO score affected due to no online promotion.

Apart from being featured on Trip Advisor, Get Your Guide… having one of the top personal blogs in the U.K.   having a number 1 selling book on Amazon, being featured on the BBC and Bloomberg…. yeah, I guess I have a shoddy attitude and really need to pull my socks up.

Your website generates less traffic as compare to your competitor.

What does this sentence even mean?  ‘Compare to you competitor’? I doubt you’d know my competitors if one bit you on your arse.

 

Presence of low quality inbound link.

Que?   You want me to pay you money for your services based on this???

 

Never utilizing your Google analytics and webmaster.

But at the top of the email you mention how Google has dropped all functionality from it?  Seems to me that I should count myself lucky that I didn’t waste my time with all of that and just used the free WordPress tools.  I know they aren’t what you want to hear because you can’t charge me for them.  I’m just happy with a 400% growth in my business in the last 2 years so I guess I will make do without them.

 

Area of Improvement

^^^^ So there is only one?

We will give you 1st page ranking on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.Improve your sales and brand value.

Thanks so much but if you even typed Ye Olde England Tours into Google you will see that it takes up ever slot of the first page on Google.

Improve your sales and brand value.

^^^ Oh ok, there is more than one area of improvement… you just can’t write.  Maybe I can provide you with some high quality blogs and articles… I’m a published author and historian you know.

 

We will recover from the recent Panda 4.2 Google updates.

I’m glad that you will recover from Panda 4.2 Google updates as man, that sounds bad.  Thank heavens it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  Maybe when you recover from that Panda issue, you might be in a better position to help me out?

 

We will provide you high quality Blogs, Articles and Press Release for your website.

I know you mean well but I think I will stick my own blogs and articles.  I’m very happy to take lessons from anyone and especially have talented people write for me but unless you have more book sales than I have then I’m not buying it… But if JK Rowling is on your team then I might consider it.

Increase your traffic flow.

 

What, isn’t 112,000 a year for one guy enough for you?

Target your local as well as global market to increase business.

Yesss, because there are lots of people in London who want tours of London.   You’re not the sharpest tool in the box are you Alen?
We will be optimizing your website in the major search engines like: Google, Yahoo & Bing, which results in improvements in keyword ranking, traffic, link popularity, goal conversion, and ROI from the first month.

Why don’t you start by optimising your email… I’m in the U.K.  For the best chance of success, you should really spell the words correctly as your hoped for clients use them.

Please reply back to get the “Company profile”, “Service details”, “Pricing”, “Client testimonial” “Proposal”, Free Website Audit Report.

Don’t hold your breath.

Thanks & Regards, 
Alen Fraser

Business Development Manager
Skype Id: sales.serp

Ph- (315) 557-0509 

Note: If you are not interested, please email with the subject line “Remove” and I will happy to update my data base

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 19.15.12.png

Crushaders Tech…. quality spammers at a price you really shouldn’t pay.  Still, got to love their strategi.  I wonder what an Analyzator is, I’m going to email them!!🙂

 

^^^ Believe me Alen, you poor excuse for a spammer.  I really could not be less interested.  Why am I even on your data base?  I have never, ever signed up to any business services.  I built my company entirely up by myself and as you obviously found me then I have no use for such fraudsters.

In what other line of life do I have to opt out of something I have never shown interest in?  You have no value whatsoever?   People don’t opt out of my tours, they have to buy them as they have value?   I don’t opt out of free food or free money from banks as these thinks are valuable.  People like you make me sick.

Why don’t you do what I did and work hard to create a business with value, that requires talent and contributes to the greater good of the world incase of bumming off people with actual talent.  That would be my strategi if I were you.  Why not email me $10,000 and I can help show you where you are going wrong.

You might want to try emailing Alen yourself at Alen Fraser <alenfraser06@gmail.com   For some reason though, unlike myself, his email doesn’t show up on Google.  He is either a low-life (and I’m not saying he’s a criminal…) with a fake email address or he needs to hire someone to improve his SEO.

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments