Monday, 18 November 2019


Test launch at Greenock - source

I recently stumbled across a reminder of how Hawker Hurricanes were used on a few merchant ships during WWII. My father alluded to it once or twice.

CAM ships were World War II-era British merchant ships used in convoys as an emergency stop-gap until sufficient escort carriers became available. CAM ship is an acronym for catapult aircraft merchant ship.

They were equipped with a rocket-propelled catapult launching a single Hawker Hurricane, dubbed a "Hurricat" or "Catafighter" to destroy or drive away an attacking bomber. Normally the Hurricane fighter would be lost when the pilot then bailed out or ditched in the ocean near the convoy. CAM ships continued to carry their normal cargoes after conversion...

In total, there were nine combat launches. Nine German aircraft were destroyed (four Condors, four Heinkels and a Junkers 88), one damaged and three chased away. Eight Hurricanes were ditched and only one pilot lost.

Somewhere in the Atlantic a Hurricane pilot climbs up the supporting superstructure and into the cockpit of his disposable hurricane. He is to be fired into the air by a rocket in order to attack an enemy bomber, knowing he will have to ditch the plane or parachute into the sea afterwards and hope for the best. Maybe we should pause for a moment and wonder what we have lost.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Harry and his declining popularity

The other day found Mrs H and I meandering around an antiques centre where they seem to think it a good idea to pipe radio programmes over the speaker system. Rather like walking round the Co-op with antiques instead of baked beans. 

I wouldn’t usually listen to radio folk pretending to be horribly enthusiastic about trivia, but a two-way discussion about Prince Harry caught my ear. Both interviewer and interviewee were agreed that Harry’s popularity has declined since his marriage and both were happy enough to claim that media intrusion must have something to do with it. 

They seemed to agree that Harry’s behaviour has something to do with it too but preferred to dance round that aspect of the problem rather than drag it out into the open. They didn't really want to suggest what this issue might be even though it must have been obvious to many listeners.

It's difficult for them. They could hardly point out that some people might see Harry as a woke wuss – at least not on air. They couldn’t even tone it down a little and suggest that Harry is showing himself to be a politically correct plonker under the thumb of a ghastly wife. 

That would have raised a storm of indignation from more than one direction. Yet if they had at least explored the perfectly legitimate plonker angle, maybe more people would actually listen to the radio.

Saturday, 16 November 2019


Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, on the left, plants a small tree

The Conservative Party has said it will plant 30 million trees a year by 2025 if it wins the general election - as the Liberal Democrats pledged to plant twice as many trees in the same period.

The Tories' £640m fund would be used to plant trees and restore peatland.

Labour dismissed the scheme and said the prime minister had an "atrocious environmental record".

The Lib Dems would plant 60 million trees a year across the UK by 2025, leader Jo Swinson said.

What does Jeremy Corbyn have to offer in the tree planting competition? I suggest he doubles the Lib Dem offer and goes for 120 million. Then it is over to the Greens who must think in terms of 240 million a year at least. 

Friday, 15 November 2019

Free for all

A revealing development I’m sure you’ll agree. 

“Diane Abbott tells me it will deliver at least eleventy six megapixies per second," John McDonnell replied when asked about the speed of his new broadband scheme. 

"That should be enough for a decent game of Space Invaders,” he added with a wintry smile.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The smart metre

CountryLiving has some eco-tips for those who prefer their Christmas to be cosily sanctimonious. There are thirteen in all, beginning with an invitation to rent your Christmas tree.

1 Rent a Christmas tree

Real Christmas trees are much more sustainable than artificial alternatives. In fact, one study concluded you'd have to use your fake fir for 20 years for it to be greener. That said, seven million real trees will be dumped in January rather than recycled.

This year you could go one further by renting a real tree from a British farm.

Number five is an invitation to pay more for your Christmas nosh.

5 Buy your food from the right place

Use the annual gastronomic extravaganza as an opportunity to show your support for some brilliant ethical small-scale producers. Turkey and any other cuts of meat you plan to serve are a good place to start: you’ll use fewer food miles, less packaging and you can feel confident that you haven’t supported any intensive farming practices

However my favourite is number four.

4 Get a smart metre

Wow at last - a metre not restricted to the boring old non-woke limit of one hundred centimetres? Sadly no. It is merely a plug for smart meters. Oh well - Christmas was always disappointing in one way or another.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Abandoned Russian homestead

Fascinating video although it could do with more context - or maybe wanting some context is a tribute to the video. 

Just a guy with a video camera but the BBC couldn't do it. The BBC would add context but lose everything else by telling rather than showing. It would tell us about the poignancy instead of allowing us to feel it in our own way - or not feel it at all. The Beeb would probably add some music too - music it just doesn't need.

Monday, 11 November 2019

When a picture paints few words

Luminaries from the world of nice pictures have decided that oil giant BP needs a little more money while people in Scotland need a little less art.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh has said it will no longer show the BP Portrait Award exhibition.

"We recognise the need to do all we can to address the climate emergency," National Galleries Scotland said.

The prize is run by London's National Portrait Gallery and has been sponsored by the oil giant for 30 years.

Maybe the whole thing is a piece of performance art.