Heroic Drinking in Tanganyika

One of Hosking’s jobs in Tanganyika was to buy the drinks for the dinner parties held by the mining community – the rations consisted of a crate of beer or a bottle of whisky per person. ‘It sounds more than excessive to write this today,’ Hosking notes, ‘but no one seemed to get drunk.’

Review of Exceeding My Brief: Memoirs of a Disobedient Civil Servant by Barbara Hoskings London Review of Books

Posted in Autobiography, Health, History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Japanese Koi Carp



Koi carp

Anything strike you as special about this fish here? Well, it’s worth 1.8 million dollars. It won grand champion at the All Japan Koi Show in 2017, and is the most expensive koi fish ever sold.


Posted in Economics, wildlife | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A start a middle and an end

I’ll start this story in a tenants association hall in Myrtle Road, Harold Hill. I used the small bar for a pint or two in the 1980s when I heard that the chair had decided to resign. I put my name forward. To my great surprise I won. I was completely out of my depth. My Committee was quite large with a number of spirited individuals. I was 37 years old and considered by many to be a young pup. A lot of the Committee were in their 60s/70s. One character was an ex-Councillor named Jim Driscall who enjoyed confrontation.

Betty Strathern was resolute however that power lay in the hands of ordinary people using the association hall. Many politicians saw we had a big membership and wanted to utilise it for their own ends. Betty and I agreed that this was an opportunity for the local community.

Funnily enough, around that time a particular event happened. I had formed a group called Home Owners Protection Group. The group was formed from the people who had exercised their right to buy their homes under Margaret Thatcher’s relatively new Right to Buy Act. This was only a vociferous group of twenty people.

Our group HOPG learnt, because Betty and I had engaged an independent accredited building surveyor, that the homes bought under Right to Buy had many faults. They had  serious structural and other faults because of the way the GLC had managed the building construction programme. O.K. they were cheap. Most mortgages were for 10 to 15 thousand pounds, but when I made the results of the surveyors investigation known, all hell erupted.

I contacted our MP Sir Nicholas Bonsor and invited him to a meeting of residents in the hall one Wednesday night. Well he had no idea what was awaiting him that evening as he started to address the meeting. I was chairing the meeting. After a suitable period of time when he was fearing for his life and I suggested he might arrange for a small delegation of our buyers to meet the Housing Minister. He leaped at this and promptly removed himself from the meeting, promising that he’d be in touch very soon.

We met the minister, Ian Gow, who was pompous and arrogant. His first words, “It’s caveat-emptor – is it not?” (Let the buyer beware.) He didn’t appreciated what six home buyers thought of his housing policy before that night. He did by the time we left. When I argued that these were people buying their homes at both the behest and encouragement of his Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The complicit deviousness of the GLC to conceal the inherent faults was, “not only fundamentally wrong but tantamount to fraud.”  It seemed to me the GLC off-loaded their responsibility for future repairs onto people who couldn’t afford it. I said I would make this clear to everyone on Harold Hill. I also said I’d publicise this to anyone considering taking up Right to Buy nationally.

We were ushered out by two burly security guards, but much to my amazement we  received a letter a few days later from the Chief Executive of the GLC. We were informed that as the GLC was in the process of being subsumed by Havering Council. They would be responsible for complaints about alleged faults on properties defined as the fourth phase of the Harold Hill development programme. Senior Havering and GLC Officers discuss our concerns at another meeting in the Myrtle Road hall the following Wednesday.

The Havering team arrived in good time but the GLC delegates were very late. Councillor Bert James, chair of Housing, tore into us in a quite unexpected tirade. He accused us of exaggerating the problems. He had no intention of giving us any more of his time and was therefore leaving the meeting. Storming to the door he collided with the representatives from the GLC who’d been held up by an accident on the A12. Councillor James looked like a fool and clearly put him on the wrong foot subsequently.

I showed photos of poor workmanship and building faults our surveyor had identified in his private report to us. As photos was handed round the meeting I emphasised to Councillor James how my fertile imagination had exaggerated the problems.

The long and the short of this was that a few months later the then home owners were offered a one-off £2000 payment but no further claim could be made against the Council or the GLC. When you consider the houses were selling for £10-15 thousand it was a very good deal.

So the end of this story is never give up. When faced with bureaucracy, especially from the Council or Government, fight on.


Posted in Autobiography, Economics, History, housing, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kindred Spirits

A doctor, a dentist and a lawyer were in a boat together when a wave came along and washed them all overboard.

Unable to get back into the boat, they decided two would hold on to the boat and the third would swim to shore for help.

They noticed that there were hundreds of sharks between them and land. Without a word the lawyer took off!  As he swam the sharks move aside.

The dentist yelled, “It’s a miracle!”

“No,” said the doctor, “That’s professional courtesy!”


Posted in Humour, wildlife | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Film Review: Maradona (director – Asif Kapadia)

Diego Maradona’s reputation, as a footballer, has survived the decades since retirement. His reputation has also survived revelations about his criminal and sleazy life-style whilst in Naples, which is remarkable testament to his genius. This documentary enhances Maradona’s reputation notwithstanding its unflinching forensic approach.

Maradona’s footballing life is documented beautifully with archive footage. The grinding poverty of his childhood and his nihilistic neighbourhood didn’t destroy him. Sport as a route to fame and fortune is well told. His boyish good looks and magnetic personality revealed his inner insecurities. Fame and fortune quickly soured as he became a prisoner in his own home. Like other mega-stars (1) he couldn’t cope and like them he succumbed to drugs and loose women.

The final scenes of this wonderful documentary show Maradona as a bloated wreck of a man but retaining his magnetism as a personality.

His two goals against England 22nd June 1986 are well worth viewing.


1 George Best comes to mind in a British context.

Posted in Autobiography, Film, Review, Sport | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Brash Machismo

A male politician
Poorly served by an absent beautician
Strutted his flamboyance
Much to every ones annoyance.
His behaviour toward others
Especially young Mothers
Only added more pain
To his Marley formed chain.
Words truly unbalanced
Judiciously ungallant
Never his fault
Atomic number twenty seven, cobalt.
Civil servants disposable
fodder, quite unemotional
Nothing very notable
language, uncontrollable.
Fit to lead, others to supercede
Unfortunates may bleed
But never suppress his greed
March on, proceed.
The highest pinnacle
Not just a magnetic binnacle
An old Eton rake
Morals of an eastern indigo snake,
A zip-wire freak
Without any hidden mystique
Profligate with others money
With as much sense as an Easter bunny.
There struts a man of, diminishing stature
Who can eulogise over the death of Thatcher
The vile pair, will no doubt, tell
There was never a good reason, to put them in Hell!

Posted in Poetry, Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Hands up anyone who doesn’t think Trump is an idiot

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment