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News From California (California, Norfolk, UK) by YOUR CELEBRITY DJ MIKE STEVENS BA HUMBUG

Tis’ the season to be jolly

It’s that time of year again when the festive spirit hits the air and the seasonal dash to grab a Cash Dispenser (ATM) becomes a necessity in the run up to Christmas. No fewer than four have been removed from our local area in recent weeks. The first from our shopping centre, then came the raid on the local bowling alley and the agricultural college. Finally a gang wearing masks and carrying crowbars invading the bar at the University during daylight hours and attempted to jemmy another machine from the wall. This was in full view of the occupants of the bar which included some Green Party representatives. Presumably they thought it was all part of a recycling exercise. On this occasion, however the gang were caught after writing off a police car in the process. They are now being held for this and some of the other offences.

In spite of the recession there seems to be an awful lot of money around as the stores are bursting with Christmas shoppers. No doubt Mr Visa and Mr Wonga (APR 365%) has something to do with their newfound wealth. The stores too are going out of their way to entice customers. Once upon a time we had the price cutting of the January Sales to look forward to. Now prices are being slashed throughout December, in some case as much as 50%. Nothing seems to get in the way of the annual spend fest that is Christmas. They usually form a queue outside the local Citizens Advice in the New Year when the first repayment notice hits them.

A much publicised cause for concern is the recent spate of scary clowns that has been plaguing parts of the County. These characters loom up on unsuspecting members of the public. Just what their aim is has not been clarified. It is very unlikely that anyone is going to be entertained by the experience. I mean has anyone over the age of 5 ever found clowns to be funny? It has been remarked that they should be easy to catch as their getaway cars invariably break down.

Our local Club scene has long been a cause for concern. Thousands of people are out on the streets on regular basis flocking to local bars and clubs. At any weekend this can involve up to 10,000 people partying their way down the Price of Wales Road. I recently found myself, when coming out of the cinema you understand, witnessing this spectacle. Even as early as 8 in the evening the number of skimpily dressed young lady-persons flashing their underwear, or lack of it, on a chilly evening was quite alarming. Fuelled by large quantities of cheap alcohol consumed before leaving home they embark on their night of revelry. So bad is this problem that the club owners have now elected to breathalyse the punters before they enter the clubs. Surely there are better ways of controlling the situation which costs us thousands of pounds in terms of police cover and hospital treatment to those who overdose on ‘fun’.

You will no doubt have seen some of the results of the recent storms that hit the East coast of England, including California. We suffered more than most and parts of the County slipped into the sea during the course of the night. Along with the cliff falls went a number of precariously perched homes as well as the traditional seaside businesses. It’s hard to appreciate what the power of the sea can do even though there was ample warning and hastily erected flood defences were set up. In the end the elements will always win. Sad too was the number of recently born seal pups who suddenly found themselves without their mothers. Thankfully a large number of these have been rescued and are being cared for at a rescue centre.  If you want to lend a bit of financial help go to

lost crocscromer piercromer pierbeach huts

We’ve also had to say goodbye to a couple of our local celebrities. Trisha, off daytime telly, has decided to depart her home overlooking the local golf course to live in the USA where a revival of her flagging TV career is bringing in the viewers. We are sad to say goodbye also to American writer Bill Bryson who has recently moved to Hampshire after living here for the last 10 years. Readers of his recent book, which focussed on the Victorian vicarage that was his home, entitled “At Home” will be relieved to hear that he managed to sell it for just over £2m, which was around double what he paid for it. Notable was that part of the house sales ‘blurb’ pointed out that the house was ‘in easy reach of Waitrose’. Obviously a sales clincher when you’ve got that much money to spend.  He obviously makes more money out writing than I do!

father christmas


One character that may be missing from the festive scene this year is one “Father Christmas” and his many lookalikes. As part of ‘Operation Yewtree’ they are being rounded up as part of the national Police campaign to ‘bang up’ every bloke over the age of 70. The operation has been renamed ‘Operation Christmas Tree’ for the duration. Old gentleman enticing young children to sit on their knee and giving them a Christmas surprise are deemed to be very suspect, to say nothing of going into kids bedrooms in the middle of the night. And then there is the business of coming down peoples chimneys.  They claim, in their defence, to be under the influence of brandy flavoured mince pies and several small Sherries. “This is not acceptable “, said Inspector Napper of the SPU (Special Perv Unit). “Getting all those BBC Johnnies was just a start; we will not rest until Britain’s prisons are turned into old people’s homes”.

In spite of all that, Merry Christmas !

© Mike Stevens 2013



arion vulgaris slugOur local research centre has given us something else to worry about. It seems that Britain is suffering from an invasion of foreigners.  Not news, I hear you cry, but these incomers are not Albanian ATM fixers, Bulgarian child traffickers or Polish plumbers. What has been spotted in the leafy lanes of rural Norfolk is ‘Arion Vulgaris’. Not as you might expect an entrant from some obscure country in the Eurovision Song Contest. It is something I’m guessing you are all familiar with, the common Spanish slug. Somehow these slimy buggers have made it to our shores and are presenting a danger to the biological infrastructure. How do they get here? Are they paying vast sums of Euros to a ‘fixer’ who is launching them in tiny boats? Perhaps they are clinging to the underside of lorries in order to pass through the channel tunnel without showing their passports. Whichever way the John Innes Research Centre has spotted their existence on these shores and formed ‘Slug Watch’ in order for us to identify where the slimy creatures are hiding. "We want photos and sightings from members of the public to help build a picture of how widespread the Spanish slug has become" said an earnest research scientist. The danger is that these slugs might (if you are of a sensitive disposition look away now!) might have sex with our British slugs. Judging by the size of them I would estimate that they could have a bit of hanky-panky with several of  our much smaller native species AT THE SAME TIME! Perhaps the organisers of Slug Watch would be interested in some candid shots of slimy interracial encounters. We are told that these creatures live on a diet of dead things and sh*t. Well we certainly have got a good supply of both so they shouldn’t go hungry after a night on the slime. Discarded kebabs which litter the Prince of Wales Road at weekends fulfil both their nutritional requirements in one convenient package.

Where would it all end? Nature may well take its course when the winter comes as they are understandably used to a much milder climate and will hopefully freeze to death. Doubtless some well-meaning animal preservation group will find sufficient old ladies to knit them little woolly jumpers to see them through the harsher months.

rolf harris/jimmy savileAn evident danger to any male over 70 who has worked in the media in some way is that he will eventually be scooped up in the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile scandal. Hardly a week goes by without some D list personality being picked up and identified as a molester of some kind. Even Rolf (can you see what it is yet?) Harris has found himself, rightly or wrongly, under the scrutiny of the law. Locally another broadcaster previously employed by the BBC recently found himself in front of the court after years of inducing young boys to parade in shorts whilst he did the same, and a lot more besides. Thankfully the good Judge decided he must go away for 22 years, a punishment that evaded the aforementioned Mr Savile.
Now I’m not condoning what these people do in any way, but what amazes me is the amount of time that has had to pass before they are brought to Court and, more importantly, stopped. I recall many years ago talking to a family whose daughter had been on ‘Jim’ll Fix it’. They told me that they thought it was odd that the children in the programme were only enabled to encounter Mr Savile whilst the show was taking place. At the time I put this down to the possibility that he hated kids. How wrong could I have been? Our local miscreant carried out his nefarious activities over a period of 20 years. In that time he was ‘active’ in the scout movement, involved with Norwich City Football club  and, most surprisingly, was loaned children for the weekend  in a be-friending scheme run by the Social Services Childrens department. In addition to this he was approved as an adopter. Subsequently the adoption broke down and though a few questions were asked the whole thing was swept under the carpet. Clearly there needs to be more vigilance in protecting children and vulnerable people and any sensitivities about offending anyone of any race, colour, creed or celebrity status should not get in the way of investigations taking place.

Followers of the ‘Great Eastern Incinerator’ saga may be pleased to know that the plot has taken another intriguing turn. The story so far is that an incinerator is needed to dispose of our rising mounds of waste. A site was located and the locals rose up against the idea. Inquiry followed inquiry as both sides battled it out to support their own particular ends. Now the Government has stepped in and has withdrawn, without notice, a £170 million subsidy to help finance the project. When it then became apparent that this might be an opportunity of abandoning the idea altogether it was then realised that the order had already been made to the American constructor and that by pulling out at this stage we would have to compensate them from the public coffers to the tune of £20+ million. Some estimated that the claim might be as much as five times this sum. The Council sat and decided to press ahead, but then realised that the project might not get the requisite planning permission so not only might we be several million out of pocket but still short of a plan to dispose of a mountain of waste.  And we vote these people in to run our affairs!  Most of all we would have no facility to cremate the thousands of Spanish slugs that are in danger of overwhelming us all with their foreign slimyness.

Mike Stevens  ©  2013


The Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness*

gogo gorillasAs I write this in the opening days of October we are looking back on a remarkably warm summer with only the occasional spells of wet weather to keep the countryside green. My central heating system has not felt the need to kick in since April and my gas bill is looking extremely healthy. On top of that a government funded scheme, through the gas and electric service providers, has carried out cavity wall insulation on my home at no cost to me. This is currently available to anyone that wants it irrespective of age or income. We have had temperatures to rival Spain and even today the sun is shining with a promise of something around 70˚F. Obviously this has done a lot for tourism in the area and plenty of people have been tempted to save their money by taking at least one of their annual holidays in the UK. Whether this is a going to be a continuing pattern is anybody’s guess, but, at the moment we are making the most of it. Is global warming playing a part? I have absolutely no idea.
Of course the warm balmy days of mid-September could only mean one thing. The supermarkets and mega stores have inevitably started to put up their Christmas stock. Aisle after aisle in one local store is filled with Christmas detritus. Inflatable reindeer, illuminated Father Christmas’s, tinselly shiny stuff with no apparent purpose, wrapping paper, and the rest. I saw the first Christmas cards on sale in the city centre in August! What is the matter with people? Sainsbury’s were selling boxes of mince pies with ‘Merry Christmas’ and holly motifs on the packaging. The boxes bore the message “consume by October 14th”. And all this was available while people were still enjoying days on the beach.

Anyone following our Gorilla trail saga will be pleased to know it reached a satisfactory conclusion. Throughout the summer about 50 life size and individually decorated gorillas have been scattered around the city. The Gorilla trail has been popular with young and old alike with a noticeable increase in visitors to come and see them. These worthy animals finally went up for auction and the total sum that was raised was over £270,000 which was split between two charities. The controversial 'Freddy' gorilla which had to be changed after objections from the Freddy Mercury Trust went for a record £20,000. Many of us wondered what it might have made had the original features been retained.

The saga of the waste incinerator is hotting up again, if you pardon the pun. This is a long running battle between the townsfolk of Kings Lynn, together with environ-mentalists, and the local council, over the construction of a plant to process the increasing amounts of waste we generate. This is as an alternative to simply burying the stuff which not only pollutes the land but is also to be subject to a government imposed penalty. Another solution has come to the fore. This is to simply crate up the stuff and send it to a processing plant in the Netherlands near Amsterdam where apparently they welcome other peoples crap and cheerfully burn the stuff in close proximity to an intensely populated area. Now I have a lot of time for the Dutch having lived in their country for a while. They only register as ‘slightly annoying’ on my irritating foreigners scale. It’s a clean and tidy country with everything spick and span at all times. After having built most of their country ‘from the sea up’ they are anxious to preserve it and make the most of it so I would regard any of their environmental decisions as being pretty valid ones. So here they are burning rubbish on an international scale, and presumably generating electricity from the process. They also make great use of wind power by installing turbines everywhere. Both these concepts are alien to many of our locals who fight tooth ands nail to prevent either. I would tend to side with the Dutch on their resourcefulness rather than the bands of white haired locals wielding banners declaring ‘ban everything, we don’t want change’. Yet these same self-styled environmentalists will cheerfully bung our rubbish into a container and send it to our nearest foreign neighbour where any noxious fumes from the process could easily blow across the short distance over the sea back to our shores. There is more to follow later this year. In the meantime this whole saga has cost us millions at a time when the council are looking to cut back services to the tune of £170 million over the next 3 years in order to satisfy the Government of the day.

Many of you will be familiar with the splendid organisation ‘Childline’ started a few years ago by Esther Rantzen. It provides a contact for children in trouble and is excellent at kicking the backsides of locally authorities who often turn their backs on abuse and neglect. When it started, ‘Childline’ was overwhelmed by calls and still they keep on coming. Now a part of the NSPCC organisation, it continues its valuable work. Esther has now turned her attention to another unmet need; that of the people at the other end of the age scale.  The growing numbers of elderly people in UK are often finding it difficult to cope and find their way through the endless red tape to enable them to access the services they require, and have paid for, which can help them to live as normal a life as possible in their own homes. With local authority spending cuts it seems that the first things to go are services to the over 65s, even simple things like day-centres where people can gather for a cuppa and a chat are closing. The prospect of going into a ‘twilight home’ is often a frightening one either because of the financial sacrifices that have to be made or, too often, the prospect of rough and undignified treatment when you get there. I won’t bore you with statistics around instances of what has become to be known as ‘elder abuse’, but they are distressing. To this end Esther has found funding to set up the ‘Silver Line’, a 24/7 phone service that people can contact when they are lonely and confused. I predict the lines will be hot from the day of launch.

It seems so sad that a valuable sector of the community is treated this way. Is it just a British thing, or is it a more widespread problem across Europe and beyond? A friend of mine, who incidentally has good contacts with her daughters who live close by, said to me that she felt that once you pass 70 you become more and more invisible. The present generation might feel a bit different when they hit the 70s as it seems that many of them will still have to be working in order pay their way and the prospect of a pension is drifting further and further away. Perhaps those of us who are ‘baby boomers’ are the lucky ones. Anyway, good luck to the ‘Silver Line’.

your iphoneTo end on a higher note I have just changed my mobile contract and entered the world of Smart Phones. My previous one was a Nokia and had hints of smartness about it, but not enough to save the company that made it. Now I have a big shiny Android phone which performs to my every whim and is even capable of listening to what I have to say, something people rarely do. I’m not a follower of the Apple clan. The concept of being a slave to the cult of Steve Jobs is a bit spooky in my estimation. I have to hand it to the late Mr Jobs that he pulled off the marketing trick of the last century, and this one, when his company is capable of having customers queue round the block for the latest Apple phone. This they were doing recently when not one, but two new devices were on offer. Try to tell the punters that Apple make the phones for about £150 and they contain a screen made by LG, a camera by Sony and a Samsung processor chip and they still rush to buy the things. Biggest laugh was a fake advert which told Apple owners that by upgrading to the latest operating system, OS7, their phones would be waterproof. Apparently quite a few phones were written off by owners who believe that Apple can do no wrong.

Well that’s all for this time. I’m just going to consult my phone to find out what the weather is going to be like tomorrow,  and if there is a meaning to life. Apparently it has several answers to this.

© Mike Stevens 2013

*Thanks to Keats for that one!


Open Season for a Partridge August 2013

alpha papaThere is a date in the calendar when it’s ok permitted to shoot a partridge in the UK. Local interest recently has been in one Partridge in particular. Disguised as a fictional Norfolk radio DJ Alan Partridge appears to have become the nation’s favourite with the release of the film Alpha Papa.

Now let me express an interest here. Firstly I live in Norfolk, and secondly I spent several years on a local radio station as a presenter. We’ve come to take Mr. Steve Coogan’s character in good part, for it is he who created this nightmare. Alan Partridge had been around for quite some time. First as a radio character and then came a gradual move into television with a mock chat show and then a series around his 'demotion' to Radio Norwich and finally North Norfolk Digital. Surprisingly, both these stations exist in real life, although North Norfolk isn’t 'digital', nor is it in central Norwich as the film suggests. Neither station has ever shown any indication that they want to sue Mr. Coogan. In fact they may feel flattered because like many local radio stations they have ‘Partridges’ on the payroll. Believe me it’s an easy role to slip in to. There is a certain Mr. Wally Web who has an early morning slot on the local BBC station. He’s a nice man, but we will say no more.

Alan’s portrayal of the inhabitants of the County as being a bit rustic and, well it has to be said, thick, matters not a jot. Perhaps we don’t know. Pointing at airplanes has ceased to be a pastime and we no longer regard traffic lights as ‘the illuminations’. Nor do we organize bus trips round the M25. I didn’t make that one up. Seemingly we are happy in our ignorance and always ready to protest about anything that points to ‘a change’. Such was the love of Mr. Coogan/Partridge that a Facebook campaign was launched to bring the Alpha Papa film premiere to Norfolk. It happened, and after appearing to adoring crowds outside one of our cheaper cinemas, in character, Alan then helicoptered to London to his West End launch.

alan patridge NorwichWe began to wonder where Alan became Steve, and vice versa. During the shooting of the film in the city centre some colleagues arranged to meet Steve Coogan in a pub in order to shoot a short video promo for our independent cinema. He agreed to do this, studied the notes we gave him and then immediately switched into Alan Partridge mode. Quite a lot of what followed ended up on the cutting room floor.

Eager tourists are now being shown round the city on ‘Alan Partridge Tours’ at £6 a head with a free pot of mustard thrown in. Apart from a few locations there is little to link the redoubtable Alan with our fair city. Still business is business and the venture is very popular. As for the film, well, I’ve seen better, a lot better.

Shortly after my last rant about the Olympics appeared the ‘legacy machine’ went into action to celebrate the first anniversary of the event. Much was made of the amount of income that the Games and its aftermath had generated. If memory serves me this figure was around £10B which sort of balances out with the similarly quoted cost of the Games in the first place. Nothing was made of the certain fact that a lot of the profits were whisked away by overseas companies who supplied a lot of the key services. The government injected £29m of our money into the thing at one stage which equates to £1m for every major medal the UK team won. Deal or no deal?

The school summer holidays are in full swing. The question comes to mind as to where the little darlings are spending their leisure time. Are they out enjoying the sports facilities (see Olympic Legacy etc. etc.), parks and play equipment thoughtfully funded out of the rates? I can tell you they are not. For most of the day the estate is silent with not a child or young person to be seen. Perhaps they are all too fat to go out. Recent figures have revealed that one in four children in the area are fat to the point of being obese, and a lot more are borderline overweight. But, here’s the thing, it is not considered appropriate for the medical authorities to write to the parents expressing their concern in terms of fattiness. Certainly they are not allowed to use the ‘f’ word. What the heck are they? My thesaurus thoughtfully provides cumbersome, bulky, plump, flabby or hefty as alternatives. If this state goes on with children getting increasingly heavier then there is a risk that we will all tip into the North Sea. Perhaps we should reach a reciprocal arrangement with North Wales to ‘plump’ up their kids in order to keep the Country balanced.

Finally,... What happened to Freddy the Gorilla I hear you ask? Well, after much debate with the Mercury Foundation Freddy was recycled and reappeared looking, not like Freddy Mercury, but as a gorilla in a Freddy costume. Honour was satisfied, but the fun was lost. He’s now been joined by a Partridge Gorilla and both will be up for auction later this year.

© Mike Stevens 2013


Legacy and a Legend July 2013

uk olympicsIt hardly seems a year ago when a large proportion of the population of the UK were going moist with excitement about the prospect of the 2012 Olympics. Snatched from under the noses of the French, who in retrospect must have been relieved, we galloped on from 2005 when the final result was announced. At first the estimated cost of the bun fight was pitched at £2.4 billion, but that target was rapidly passed until it doubled and then eventually quadrupled to reach a much quoted figure of £9.3 billion. Analysts have since suggested that the true cost was well in excess of that; perhaps even double. This was at a time of severe austerity when vital public services were being cut back or eliminated entirely. Hospitals and schools were running short of cash, the needs of the elderly and infirm were, and still are, not being met satisfactorily. But we pressed on led by Crown Prince Boris who promised that this event would leave a ‘legacy’ and the effects would be felt long after the games had closed. He was right there!
Those who got to see the games live, although many failed to get tickets for the events they wanted to see, had their fill. The television schedule was full of it. I managed to avoid everything except for the few seconds as I dived for the remote control during news bulletins. To this day I have no idea what a ‘Mo’ or a ‘Wiggins’ is, or what they do. I also passed on the much lauded opening ceremony which was a snip at £27million. To this day I do not see why little more than an hour of entertainment featuring performers who were unpaid, a major symphony orchestra playing along to a pre-recorded track whilst Rowan Atkinson, bless him, knocks out a 20 year old comedy routine and finally Dame Paula McCartney  was wheeled out to sing out of tune. The whole event was masterminded by a major film director who must have dreamed of that sort of money to finance a movie which, at least, would have lasting value. Nevertheless the whole thing gained momentum; by that time I think people had stopped wondering how much it was all costing. The site was surrounded by missile launchers, frigates, fighter planes and enough soldiery to run a small war.
Around the country the ‘torch relay’ touched every major town and city. Torch bearers were sports men and women and local heroes interspersed with unknown sporting legends such as Will I Am, Matt Smith and Bruce Forsyth. It quickly became apparent after the first torch went on Ebay that there were more than one; eight thousand in fact. It also transpired that the ‘sacred flame’ was not carried by torch all the time. It emerged from a lantern in the back of the tour bus as each town was entered. Things are never quite what they seem.
I could go on, but editorial control demands that I don’t. It brings me back to the ‘legacy’ bit. I was reminded of it as I passed through Stratford station the other day. The venue now resembles a building site once more. Many of the structures have been dismantled and ‘recycled’. The future of the stadium has been discussed endlessly as the organisers tried to establish some interest from London football clubs. In order to establish its future use as anything more money has had to be spent on a major conversion job. Other venues like the Velodrome and the swimming pool have also had to undergo major transformations. A local organisation has, with some reluctance one feels, agreed to take them on as a paid concern but was quoted as saying they might just ‘break even’ on the deal. I suspect the gate prices are going to be beyond the resources of much of the general public. The massive ‘Orbit’ structure still stands looking like a badly assembled helter-skelter. Admittedly its cost of £19 million was donated, but surely that sort of money could have been put to better use. As for the nationwide ‘legacy’ it has been reported that people are even less interested in taking part in sport than they were before the Games. Local Authorities, including our own, continue to cut back on funding for sports facilities. Where opportunities remain they are being handed over to private companies who are charging way over the odds for the use of pools, courts and tracks. Even a kick-about in the park in some parts of the Country now has a price tag attached to it, and in London people have to buy a permit to walk their dogs in designated areas. Schools are no longer required to set aside time each week to get fat kids to chase after a ball or hang upside down on wall bars. 
Much was promised for the future use of the site. The Olympic Village has been sold at a ‘knock-down’ price to the Qatari ruling family's property company in a deal that leaves UK taxpayers £275m out of pocket. They already own chunks of London’s financial district, Chelsea Barracks and, of course, Harrods. It remains to be seen how much cheap housing comes out of the Olympic deal.
Now before we leave this subject I have to say I have no problem with international sports competitions as such, but why does this colossal road show have rumble round the planet every few years, ruining the economy and the environment in its wake. Already the Rio Games and the forthcoming football World Cup are chalking up bills topping £20 billion. Understandably the populace is not happy especially the poorer end of the community which is living in slums and depends for a great deal of its revenue from the sale of drugs which are, apparently, banned where sports are concerned. Why can’t we have key venues for each event around the world that can be used over and over again? The world is united by television so that everyone can get the benefits of first class sporting performances without a first class debt at the end of it.
Freddie gogo gorillaI’ve just got time to slot in a local story. The city centre is a temporary home to a tribe of over 50 gorillas. They are not the real thing, but life size glass fibre ones, which have been cleverly decorated by various artists, schools and local organisations. They are sponsored and will eventually be auctioned off at the end of the summer. The proceeds are divided between a local children’s charity and a wildlife organisation. A few years ago a similar campaign involving elephants raised over £200,000. One animal was sold for £20,000, so we are not talking peanuts here. Pride of place in the centre of the city this time was a magnificent creation depicting Freddie Mercury of Queen resplendent in a yellow jacket. Unfortunately a charity set up in memory of Freddie, the singer not the gorilla, heard about it and threatened to sue unless the statue was removed. So poor old Freddie was bundled unceremoniously into the back of a van and the odds are on him re-emerging as the legendary local Radio Presenter, Alan Partridge. Shame that anyone could be so petty. Even Brian May of the band said so and made his thoughts known. I doubt if Freddie himself would have minded.
© Mike Stevens 2013


You kip if you want to- May 2013

boudiccaOnce again those of us who could be bothered have been to the polling booths. This time it was to elect our councillors at County Hall. For a long time this has been a Tory bastion harking back to the days, no doubt, when the Lords of the Manor held sway over the “great unwashed”. The populous would respectfully touch their forelocks and vote for the ‘master’ for fear of losing their jobs and the tied cottages that went with them. Now the tables have turned. Not from an influx of Greenery or Limp Dems but from those vociferous upstarts the UKIP. Whilst not gaining the majority of seats they did upset the apple cart to the extent that the council no longer has an overall majority rule for the first time since the departure of Boudicca.
Although the same thing happened in other parts of the Country it seems to have escaped many peoples attention that whoever sits on the throne in County Hall has no say in matters of national or international policy. They can’t vote us out of the European Union, stop foreigners coming into the Country, invade Poland or bring back smoking in pubs. These are all policies, well almost all, which Nigel Farage leader of UKIP and, strangely, MEP postulates. He’s sort of right of the Tory Party and maintains that were Margaret Thatcher still in the driving seat then there would be no need for UKIP. However as she is now safely delivered to the Great Tory Party in sky where she is no doubt hand-bagging the Almighty this is no longer possible.

no incineration plant kings lynnLocally this debacle has left our local leaders in a stalemate situation. Nobody, seemingly, wants to get into bed, as it were, with Nigel to defeat any Tory decisions so everything is in deadlock and will probably remain so. The biggest decision needing to be made is whether an incineration plant in West Norfolk should be built to dispose of our increasingly large mountains of rubbish. Failure to do so will mean that the County will be paying large sums into the new Government Landfill tax. It seems that everyone in West Norfolk, even the lardy-arsed ones who smoke like chimneys are, it would appear, experts on health and safety. They voted for anyone who laid claim to being against the project. The debate has now dragged on for months with the Tory Council supporting the idea along with the American company Cory Wheelabrator who are to build it, together with the Government, who have put several millions in the kitty to support the deal. Yet another top level enquiry costing us tens of thousands of Pounds is underway. Inevitably any result will be challenged, and so it goes on. In the meantime seagulls wheel around for pickings from the open sewers that are our active landfill sites.

Whilst this political infighting gums up the works the County has been assessed by Ofsted of having a child protection set-up that is inadequate and “unfit for purpose” and that large number of schools in the County are functioning at a dangerously low level. There are apparently an increasing number of children who have the attention span of a gnat and over a thousand local kids who have been removed from their parents, who possibly also do not have the attention span of the aforementioned insect. This has created a problem that has been generated over several generations to a point where it seems there is no viable solution, unless the proposed incineration plant has an as yet undisclosed more sinister purpose.

To return to the ‘foreigner’ thing it has been noted that UKIP did rather well not so much in areas where there are large ethnic populations, but in ones like ours where people feared that we might become one. We are certainly spared any ghettos. Even the new local Muslim centre, in what was formally a pub, keeps a low profile and a cardboard notice on the front door points visitors to ‘go round the back’. The fact is that if our Asian, Portuguese and Polish immigrants, the majority of whom are ‘legal’ and employed, were to be asked to leave then the local health services and the agricultural industry would shut down overnight. I rely on Asian doctors and a Nigerian dentist. Less skilled immigrants are, initially, happy to work for the Government designated ‘minimum wage’ whereas the natives are less inclined to do so, hence the need for foreign employment. The Government would do well to consider enforcing employers to pay a ‘living’ wage, which is not the same thing as a ‘minimum’ one and they would save the Country millions of Pounds in subsidies to prop up lousy wages to ensure families can survive and, most importantly, make it worth their while to find a job.

I expected to give you some good news as some recent government statistics had determined that near my location we had achieved one of the lowest crime rates in the UK. However my elation was soon dashed when it became widely reported that the police, under an unknown authority, possibly the Home Office, were now frequently downgrading incidents. A stolen mobile phone is now simply recorded as ‘lost property’ and, more alarmingly offences of physical and sexual assault are being dealt with by instant  ‘on the spot’ cautions and not recorded in the crime statistics. The Metropolitan Police had issued 30,000 cautions in the past year including, alarmingly, 5 for rape. Well it’s just another way of air brushing the crime figures, and the jails are rather full.

Apart from one day last month when the temperature rose to be above that in Malaga the Spring is bowing out in a less than cheerful manner. Still we are optimistic and with the Coalition still, allegedly, in charge we have retained our traditional British sense of humour.

© Mike Stevens 2013



California Norfolk riding giantsFirst I’d like to say that it’s good to be back. Those of you who followed my ramblings in the original Olive Press will know that I am the self-styled, voice of sanity from here in the UK. It’s my job to provide a note of caution to those of you are thinking  of drawing out your life savings from the Bank of Cyprus and fleeing from the possibility of the Independent State of Catalonia. A state which I envisage will involve setting up a North Korean style regime with a lot of formation marching by people wearing boiler suits and sombreros, whilst threatening the rest of the planet with intercontinental ballistic donkeys.

If you are wondering about the ‘California’ in the title this is not a message from sun-kissed, down-town LA. Rather it is our local version here in eastern England popularly known as ‘California Cliffs’ which is a sort of council estate on wheels overlooking, and sometimes falling into, the North Sea. It’s a popular resort area just north of Gt. Yarmouth with more than a touch of ‘Hi-di-hi’ about it. In many ways it is as far removed from the resorts of sunny Spain that you can get. If your idea of a holiday is Bingo, chips, kebabs, karaoke, tatty souvenir shops and more chips (and more Bingo) then this is the destination for you!  If your idea of cuisine is an economy burger the contents of which, we now know, once came last in 3.30 at Heydock Park then you are in for a gourmet treat.
This brings to mind my first topic for this edition, holidays. This is the time of year when we Brits think of getting away from it all and soaking up the sun, sea and atmosphere in some far-off clime. I have to inform you that in the nature of research I spent a few days last year in your neck of the Spanish woods. Somewhere, I was reliably informed, the sun was shining, but it was hard to see from the smoke haze from yet another forest fire. However the food was good and the company exceptional and I shall be back for another dose at some point.

It seems that many countries that were once the destination of the English tourist are now having to look elsewhere for pleasure seekers. As well as Spain, also Greece, Cyprus, Italy and other Mediterranean countries have seen a downturn in the number of sun fried Brits that were once their reliable source of income. In their place, and there are sounds of rejoicing here, come the Russians and the Chinese to fill the void. It is not unusual to see airport signs, as I did in Turkey, in the Cyrillic alphabet. Now I would add a note of caution here. It may be that the Brits, and the Germans and Dutch etc. are staying away from your much loved resort destinations not because of the financial situation at home, but BECAUSE of the onslaught of Russians and Chinese.

These people, from my observations, who have some new found wealth and are now free from the shackles which once bound them, are now enjoying the luxury of foreign travel. Unused to the ways of the world they come, not only with currency, but a complete inability to queue properly, a surly attitude towards hotel and restaurant staff and, in the case of the Chinese, a complete inability to flush the toilet. Chinese visitors to the UK flock to pay through the nose for luxury goods in some of our top class shops somehow not noticing that most of the designer goods they purchase so eagerly bear the label ‘Made in China’. My how we laugh!

The Russians who seem mostly to have dressed from a bargain sale at Primark, festoon themselves in tacky bling and drink in quantities that puts some 18-30 groups to shame. The difference is that they do all of this with sour expressions, which seem to indicate that they really wish they were somewhere else dining on potato peelings and drinking hooch vodka. Perhaps that is why they are all furiously bashing away on their lap-tops at the poolside communicating, one assumes with their beloved homeland. Yes, we’ve all got laptops, but we don’t feel the need to take them to the ruddy beach! Popular belief has it that when we once railed against the Germans for getting to the pool in the small hours to secure sun loungers with a well- placed towel, the Russians have gone one step further by hauling the loungers up to their hotel rooms at the end of the day.

If we could guarantee destinations where these people were somehow segregated from the rest of us, or perhaps had been on a special course to educate them in the ways of the civilised world before they pour off the next  ‘Aeroflop’  or Chinese Airways flight, then perhaps we might return in significant numbers to boost your coffers. Think on, the Spanish Tourist Board. And where is this racist going for his holidays I hear you ask? Well, in the first instance, it’ll be Germany. I’ll be packing lots of beach towels and will get back to you later this year with the results.

national health tentMore to report on our beloved National Health Service. Apart from bumping off old people, a practise which is by no means new, there is now an obstacle to getting into the hospital in the first instance. I’m not talking about scheduled operations and the lengthy waiting lists, but the simple expedient of getting emergency treatment in your hour of need. Locally the ambulance service has been criticised for failing to turn up in a reasonable time. Young and old have been left at the roadside, literally, whilst waiting for help to show up. The cause of this is not entirely due to an inefficient ambulance service, but the fact that when they come to discharge their load at the local hospital it somehow cannot cope. It has not been unusual lately for 10-15 ambulances to be queuing up at the A & E department. Not only are people not being treated in a decent amount of time, but the ambulance is tied up and unable to meet other emergencies. The solution came in guise of a M.A.S.H  style solution. You must remember the 1970s TV series, not I hasten to add, the version we get on satellite now. I’m talking about the proper one without the ‘laughter track’. To the sound of ‘incoming wounded’ the local multi trillion Pound Norfolk and Norwich hospital has now installed a tent outside A & E in which to offload the surfeit of patients. How resourceful is that? Especially in the minus zero temperatures we had earlier in the year.

Well I had much more to tell you funseekers, but it will have to wait until another day. In the meantime Adiós for now and hang on to those Euros!

© Mike Stevens 2013



wild about christmas

When the editor reminded me that this article was to be destined for the Christmas edition it came as a surprise. After all we've had Christmas displays in the shops here since late August. Anyone who bought mince pies for the great day at that time will find they are already well past their 'sell by' date. Anyway to give my effort a festive spin I have festooned my computer with bunting and lights and Simon Cowell is on top of my Christmas tree this year.
There are few enterprises in the UK at the moment that can be described as booming. The exception to the rule has to be the prison 'industry'. I won't bore you with statistics, but suffice to say Her Maj is looking after record numbers of adults and children in our various prisons, detention centres and sundry lock-ups. The recent spell of rioting produced even more customers for this expensive service. However, things are not always as what one would expect when making the punishment fit the crime.
santa on the beach

A gentleman by the name of Mohammed Rafiq was making a considerable sum of money, estimated at £1million a year, with his various cannabis farming projects. He was brought to justice last year and banged locally up for 6 years after being caught for one of his gardening enterprises after police came upon 3000 cannabis plants at various addresses around the city. Recently he was scheduled to appear back in court to enable the seizure of his ill-gotten gains to be paid back into the public purse. When he failed to appear a letter was received by the Judge stating that Mr Rafiq had "other commitments''. Further investigation revealed that the prison authorities had no idea he was due back in court and, barely 13 months into his sentence Mr Rafiq had been sent on 'home leave', presumably to do some work on his allotment. Understandably Judge Jacobs, who is a fair man, blew his judicial top.
Cost cutting is top of the agenda in many parts of Europe. Our local council, after much deliberation and consultation have come up with the following proposals. Topically, number one on the list is reducing Christmas lighting. This year we are having just Father Christmas and not the reindeer as well. This is followed by increasing the cost of a burial plot from £715 to £860. Given the size of some people these days this seems fair given the extra acreage involved in parking more lardy individuals. Something in the region of £40,000 can be gained by charging for replacement wheelie bins. One wonders what people are doing with them. I could go on, but this is probably sufficient to give the Greeks a head start on how to sort out their Euro crisis.
Christmas is the time for family games. Some newcomers into this market, which you may have some difficulty finding, are:
A hilarious new card game with a twist. Players are allowed to cheat at every opportunity. The aim is to obtain maximum Bunga-Bunga points. This game is for adults only. Warning: players are requested to remove various items of clothing throughout the game.
Dress the Chav
A new computer game (X-Box 360, PS3 and Amstrad CPC -128k version)
Players assume the identity of Essex Chavs. The objective of the game is to kit them out with all the latest fashion accessories, Nike, Reebok and Kappa sports gear and assorted bling. Get the lady players drunk, vajezzled and pregnant (but not necessarily in that order). Get the guys stoned, court orders and nights out with Jordan. This new 2012 edition includes options for players to batter their way into JD Sports and get stuff for free!
Dale Farm Challenge
The latest family board game. The objective is to move the Pikeys off the board and at the same time recover lead from Church roofs, copper cable from railway signalling systems, telephone wiring and the metal bits from War Memorials. Extra points can be gained by stopping fly-tipping and dodgy tarmac drives. The winner is the one who can achieve all this for less than £18million.
2012 Lego Olympics
Build a replica of the 2012 London Olympic site and then dismantle it because it is of no further practical use to anyone.

Well another year older, but probably not much wiser. May I wish you all a Merry Christmas and may Satander always be with you.

Mike Stevens 2011. [email protected]
If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog,


Travelling while I can still 'Afjord' it. NOV 2011




Travel, it is said, broadens the mind. It also diminishes the bank balance. My most recent venture into foreign lands took me to Norway which is, apparently, the second most expensive place to live in the World. Anyway it was on my list of places to see before I shuffle off this mortal coil, and it is relatively close, so I embarked on my journey from the local airport, via Schiphol, to Bergen.





The first thing we noticed at Bergen airport was that at no time did anyone want to see our passports. We were sniffed by an over-enthusiastic spaniel and anyone who exhibited any of the darker shades in the Dulux catalogue was hauled off to have their luggage searched. One unfortunate lady had her bra contents handled in full view of the rest of us, and whilst she was still wearing it!

NorwayFortunately we passed whatever test there was and were on our way to our destination of Balestrand on the Sognefjord. Even in the rain, and it rains a lot in Norway, the scenery did not disappoint. The road twists and winds, up and down, and when it meets an obstacle, like a mountain it just ploughs straight through it, sometimes for several kilometres. No expense is spared in road safety in Norway. They accept that multi-lane motorways are a bit out of the question, so they compromise by getting you through things rather than round them. If they hit a stretch if water then you are onto a ferry. It is not unusual that a ferry journey carrying dozens of cars, buses and trucks will take all of about 10 minutes. On one route we would drive off after one such journey, turn the bus round and reload while the ferry then went off for another ten minute trip in another direction. It all gets a bit surreal after a while. Needless to say the system runs like clockwork.



Arriving at our hotel we were suitably impressed. The frontage is a classic Norwegian wooden construction, attached to a more conventional concrete building from the 60's. The hotel, which resembles a cross between a country house and a museum, has changed little since the days when Kaiser Wilhelm II, and his natty moustache, used it as a holiday destination. Although he would wine and dine in the hotel he would stay in a warship parked outside; along with several other warships. These trips came to an end when his mate Franz Ferdinand got into a spot of bother in 1914.



I will not linger over the catering arrangements. Suffice to say I have never seen so much food in quantity and variety in one place. We counted around 30 variations in the sweet course alone! Naturally you want a little alcoholic beverage with your meal. It is then that the reality of Norway hits home. One of our fellow travellers elected to have a small bottled beer. When it arrived we set to work translating the bill; it was a little short of £11! A more modest draught beer could be had for £9 and should you want to indulge in an exotic gin and tonic you would be almost £12.00 worse off. An examination of the wine list revealed why the bottles were kept in locked cabinets. A modest bottle of 2010 Chateau Aldi would set you back around £50+. I leave it to you to translate this into Euros. But I can vouch for the fact that the water is very good, and thankfully free. The Norwegians, probably rightly, have clung on to their Krone and doubtless won't be joining you in bailing out the Greeks.

Norway wine safeBuying booze in the local supermarket offers little in the way of a bargain. Wine and spirits are unobtainable, or more likely unaffordable. Should you be observed drinking a can of lager on your hotel balcony you are at risk of being arrested as it is an offence to drink in public. Although our tour leader admitted she had never seen a policeman emerge from the local police station in 7 years. In any case it was closed at weekends. Front doors and cars are left unlocked, children leave their bicycles propped up unsecured. Crime is pretty much non-existent, except unfortunately for a recent gun related incident. As it is a very much a huntin' shootin' and fishin' country children are taught to use guns at a very young age; although they are taught to aim at over abundant wildlife rather than each other.

Perhaps it would be impossible to explain to a Norwegian what a 'hose pipe ban' is. Water comes at you from all directions. It fills the fjords which are staggeringly deep, plunges down mountainsides in thousands of spectacular waterfalls and, I can vouch for this, falls from the sky quite a lot. It also sits on top of mountains in the form of glaciers which, we were informed, are shrinking. Although the expert at the glacier museum lectured us at length about this he could not explain global warming. Thoughtfully the museum provided us with a barrow load of 'glacier' to poke and probe. Obviously this exercise of providing a daily sample was playing a small part in the shrinking glacier situation.

Norway is certainly a place worth visiting. The beauty of the place is staggering and the lifestyle quite unlike anywhere else I've been. Should you want to live there then you are required to have undergone 300 hours of tuition in the language and be deemed a competent speaker. Failure to do this and you're 'out'. Would I recommend a trip? Of course I would. Save your pennies and go, stay on land rather than the insular world of the cruise ship, and drink lots of water.

©Mike Stevens 2011. [email protected]
If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog,

all quiet on the eastern front - oct 2011

uk riots 2011It cannot have escaped your attention that, at the beginning of August, we had a spot of bother back here in the home country. Gangs of yobs took to the streets breaking into shops, looting and destroying property. Thankfully this activity was limited to some inner city areas and was not the start of a major civil war despite what you may have read in the Daily Mail. We were danger-free locally as youths planning to break into 'Poundland' to "get shiny stuff" were overcome by a bout of apathy and stayed at home instead. Seriously though, the riots on the streets shocked us all, but I cannot say it came as anything of a surprise.

Sadly a number of victims, some of whom lost their lives, were immigrant business people who, unlike the yobs, have not forgotten what the meaning of 'work ethic' is all about.

stop lootingWe can look at a variety of causes for the situation, poor parenting, a failing education system, lack of jobs etc. There was a certain irony in the situation for high on the list of items to be 'liberated' was designer sportswear and electrical goods. Almost all of this would bear the label 'Made in China'. Our reliance on a market place saturated with goods from this part of world means that jobs in a once great manufacturing industry have disappeared. Until the European Community wakes up to this, puts a block on far eastern imports and reinvigorates its own industrial potential there is little hope in balancing our books. Why people venerate the likes of Sugar and Dyson I never understand. All they did is take their manufacturing facilities and jobs out of the UK.

church towerBack to local matters the fear of technological change has struck yet again. Much of the County is out of range of high speed broadband, and was likely to remain so for some time, until a plan was hatched by an organisation called Wispire planned to make use of the numerous church towers to install local Wi-Fi transmitters. Money would go to maintaining our magnificent church architecture. Good deal all round you might think, but no, along comes an organisation called Electrosensitivity UK who feel that electromagnetic waves cause their members to suffer from "sleep problems, headaches, tinnitus, dry skin, chest pains and stress". I thought all these symptoms came as a result of having a Coalition Government!


lattitudeMy faith in human nature was restored when I recently took a visit to the Latitude Festival. Following on from Glastonbury there has been a growth industry in Festivals in the UK. Latitude is a relative, slightly upmarket, newcomer. Being held close to the posh resort of Southwold, it has been given the reputation of catering for festival goers who frequent Waitrose. As well as music there were sectors designated to drama, dance, comedy and literature. There was even an area devoted to knitting. How British is that? What I found inspiring was that somewhere around 25,000 people of all ages on what must have been the wettest day ever were enjoying themselves without aggravation, loutishness or drunken behaviour. In fact the only police presence I saw all day was a solitary plod with a speed gun on the main road out of the site. Thanks to the helpful signals from motorists warning others his time was wasted. Maybe there is hope for the UK after all.

©Mike Stevens 2011. [email protected]
If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog,

"summer madness" - aug 2011

boycott murdockI will not be mourning the passing of the recently defunct News of the World. I do recall that it was my parents' choice of Sunday broadsheet. Stock in trade used to be its reporting of salacious court items usually involving encounters with scoutmasters and vicars. Also featured were activities in seaside hotels, usually Brighton. One of the partners of a crumbling relationship would check into a hotel where a startled maid would burst into the bedroom at an opportune moment. In the subsequent divorce court hearing evidence was provided of infidelity and an order would be granted. The News of the World at that time was very fond of the phrase 'intercourse took place' neglecting to point out that this was usually of the verbal kind because the whole thing was a set-up. Similar stories were repeated week after week and the 'surprising couples in bed' business in Brighton was obviously something of a cottage industry as no doubt money changed hands. I predict that the 'Sun on Sunday' will be launched very soon.

Queen Charlotte Pub'The Queen Charlotte' pub was a favourite venue for fans of live music. However the neighbours complained about the noise and the coming and going of customers so the establishment was closed in 2008. The building is now going to take on a new lease of life, as a Muslim Centre! In a building where previously 'time' was called twice a day now this will increase to 6 times with an early alarm call at around 2.30am. The neighbours will probably not be able to complain about this. The local website of the new owners preaches that the political leaders of the UK and the USA are 'cowards' for intervening in Libya and Afghanistan. Somehow the tragedies of 9/11, Lockerbie, and the London bombings are overlooked. As one local wit pointed out, pork scratchings will no longer be on the menu.

norwich memorial gardensI've referenced the saga of the Norwich war memorial in the past. For many years this monument and gardens in the centre of the city had become a rest stop for local alkies and people dining on the fat inducing delicacies purchased in the market below the site. Surely not a fitting tribute to the heroes of two World Wars. It eventually fell into such a state that the dilapidated area was fenced off in 2004. After numerous funding struggles the refurbishment work was eventually completed earlier this year at a cost of £2.6m!

Paul de Monchaux, whose works include a memorial to Wilfred Owen in Shropshire, the BBC Churchill memorial and a memorial to Second World War slave workers in Jersey, was selected from a shortlist by the Memorial Gardens steering group to create the sculpture.
The result is Breath, a bronze companion piece to the Sir Edwin Lutyens' war memorial, which has been installed in the space in the memorial gardens where the memorial stood before it was turned to face City Hall.
The inscription beneath the sculpture states: "The living honour the dead, only a breath divides them."
Mr de Monchaux said: "The Lutyens memorial is about death and this is about life. There is a link between the two in terms of metaphor.

sunblockYou would think after all this the project would be deemed a success. It would be, but for the fact that the citizens are complaining that they are tripping over it! The steps have been re-constructed in the same way as they have been for the last 50 or so years but are now causing people to fall. A can of yellow paint to highlight the edges would be the immediate and cheap answer. Well you're wrong. Apparently the colour of the actual stones has to be changed and a further cost to the local taxpayers is going to be in the order of £25,000. At least this will prevent the consumers of a few midday cans of Special Brew from suing the Council. See adverts for 'Have you had an accident at work?'
On a final high note our East Anglian singer songwriter Ed Sheeran released his first record recently and within a week it had reached No 3 in the charts selling over 200,000 copies. Not bad for a 20 year old prepared to work hard for his profession. Watch out for the album out later this year.

© Mike Stevens 2011. [email protected]
If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog,


"Norfolk Snippets..." - July 2011

leaking waterWe have not seen any substantial amounts of rain for almost two months now. Unlike the rest of the UK East Anglia has avoided any heavy downpours. The grass is starting to look a bit brown, all except for the extreme end of my front lawn. A neighbour has a leak originating from his water meter. As a result a slow, but steady, trickle of water rises from the ground causing a sort of mini water hole. This is much to the delight of passing animals and birds that stop by for a drink. Whilst one half of my lawn is starting to resemble a desert in the other part herds of wildebeest graze in the luscious grassland. We have contacted the Water Board. Their response was that they would send someone in a couple of days to 'paint a circle round it'. Strapped for resources for an immediate repair they need to make some gesture that something is requiring their attention. However two weeks later we have seen neither painter or repair crew.
Ed SheeranThere has been a flurry of interest locally in that a young lad had risen to the dizzy height of being in the final of the annual karaoke-fest and freak show 'Britain's Got Talent'. Twelve year old Ronan Parke from Norwich was heavily tipped as being the winner of this year's event. It was heavily featured in the Press that he had been 'groomed' for some time by Simon Cowell and was already in possession of a record contract from the Svengali of Pop. All these rumours were so strenuously denied by Mr Cowell that one might be led to believe there might be a modicum of truth in some of it. However, our little sparkle of talent was pipped at the post by another singer. Doubtless both will be swept up in a flurry of promotion and exposure for a few months before they are relegated to cruise ships and holiday camps which is hardly an international career of stadium performances and repeated album releases which every successful entrant is led to expect. Still it keeps the wolf from Simon's door. Doubtless young Ronan's career will be cut short anyway through nature's way of dealing with every pubescent teenager when he wakes up to find he has a voice like a raspy saw.
Real success comes from being original and gifted, and through sheer hard work. Another young performer from East Anglia has been gigging around the country since he left school. He has released his own CD's which he sells from his backpack whilst on his travels. Largely unsupported commercially he has built up a loyal fan base without the need for appearing on TV talent shows. Although never having a record in the charts he made a recent appearance on 'Later with Jules Holland' and now has a major record contract with an album coming out in the autumn. Check out the name Ed Sheeran. He's certainly destined for a big success.
ed sheeran



"3 years ago (at 17) he won our 'Next Big Thing' competition despite breaking 3 guitar strings in one song. He just carried on singing. He has worked very hard doing almost 1000 gigs since then. He now has the same agent as Elton John and is just embarking on a promotional tour for his first official CD which comes out in August. He comes from Framlingham in Suffolk. Check out the solo version of Wayfarin' Stranger which he did live on TV. No room for error." ,Mike
Doubtless you will have seen or heard about the scandals featured in a recent Panorama programme surrounding residential health care facilities bought in by many local authorities, including our own. Many elderly and infirm people are now left wondering what will happen to them if their needs can no longer be met by a badly run, and near bankrupt, private care company. Doubtless a man will be sent out to paint a line around the hapless individuals in order to identify them for future attention.

© Mike Stevens 2011. [email protected]
If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog,


'It's a shore thing… '- may 2011

incernatorThe environ-mentalists are at it again! You will recall the local fire-breathing hostility to the presence of land based wind turbines. The noise, confused bats, radar distortion and eyesore claims rain down on every planning application. Site them off-shore was the solution; problem solved. Not bloody likely! Now a campaign has been launched to 'protect our seascapes'. We are not talking of the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean here, or the wild balmy surf of the Caribbean. It's about the North friggin' Sea. The conservation clan want to keep it free of oil rigs, dredgers and, most of all, wind farms. At the best of times the North Sea is grey. The only annual variations are different shades of grey interspersed by oil slicks discharged from ships cleaning their tanks, un-processed sewage, and passing Spanish trawlers nicking what's left of our fish stocks. No sign of dolphins leaping into the air, just the occasional seal coughing when he realises his tasty fish snack is actually a discarded prophylactic from the Great Yarmouth sewage outlet. Most of the time the world's busiest shipping highway has little to commend itself other than fulfilling the function of separating the land from the sky. The possibility of a place to generate cheap electrical power is entirely overlooked in the argument.

say noThe same goes for the latest waste incinerator plant project. The coalition government has imposed a heavy financial penalty on local authorities who continue to bury their environmental waste in the ground. It serves no useful purpose other than providing material for future editions of 'Time Team'. The resulting mulch leaks into water courses polluting crops. A scheme for a state-of-the art reprocessing and electricity generating plant to be built in the west of the County has met with the full approval of the County Council, backed by the Government, and open hostility by the local populace. The opposition mounted a campaign whereby they claimed that 90% of the electorate voted against the scheme. Now this is from an area that barely musters 50% of the population who can get off their backsides to vote at the time of an election. Present a petition in the shopping precinct and you will usually get signature from people who sign just to make annoying buggers go away. Add to being told that the gaseous output from the plant will give their off-spring webbed feet and an IQ equal to that of Katy Price and of course people will sign. Many of the locals have these characteristics already, brought upon by decades of in-breeding. However, one is reassured that the 65,000 people who were afraid of breathing in toxic fumes were of course non-smokers. However, judging from my observations on the High Street, I very much doubt it. Chav' mums breathing 'Lambert and Butler No 1' fumes over their snotty infants tell another story. Still I expect the arguments will rattle on for months from one expensive enquiry to another.


It's in my contract to end on a note of optimism. A half page ad in the local paper the other day revealed to us that now was the time we should be booking for the Christmas events at the local Holiday Inn. At the time of writing I have yet to unpeel my first chocolate egg. Let me be the first to wish you all a merry Christmas.
© Mike Stevens 2011. [email protected]
If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog,


'Britain's going potty! ' - April 2011

pot holesThis month is something of a 'mardle' which, in case you are not familiar with the Norfolk dialect, is a general gossip.

Since the sub Arctic winter of 2010 our roads have become pockmarked with holes, cracks and minor chasms. A local motorist counted over 50 in one street alone. For those who can afford the luxury of filling up at £7 a gallon our roads have become hazardous and painful places to travel. The unwary can expect a sharp thud every time they hit a hole, a burst tyre or expensive bodywork damage.

Councils are debating whether it is a more economic option just to pay the resulting insurance claims rather than spend money on fixing the road. Money is supposedly being made available from central Government, but amounts are certainly nowhere near the estimated £5m required.

pot holesPerhaps we should take a leaf out of the book of the German town of Niederzimmern where local residents were invited to sponsor potholes at 50€ a go. The filled pothole bore the name of the person sponsoring it. On that basis many of our roads would resemble the telephone directory.

The current round of cuts and economies continues to hit us from all directions. One of the latest is from our local newspaper publisher. In addition to providing a daily paper and an assortment of fringe interest publications they publish the Eastern Evening News. Forced to make economies the publishers have now decided to save money on distribution costs. Their evening paper is now delivered first thing in the morning alongside the daily paper. Now I have to say that the EEN does not feature the highest levels of journalistic expertise. Typical story-lines generally feature the tragedy of human existence, animals, terminal illnesses, children and protests against anything that will bring Norfolk into the 21st century.

norwich bus in holeOn the subject of things to protest about there appears to be another one to add to the list of phone masts, wind turbines, Tesco's etc. Redundant fields are being looked at as likely sites for solar panels for the generation of electricity. Planning departments have recently been objecting to people who install panels on their roofs and there are fears that fields of the devices will be 'unsightly' and 'targets for vandalism'. It is only a matter of time before someone comes up with a theory that they suck up the light from the sun and as a consequence we will risk living in permanent darkness. Norfolk people fear change in any shape or form.

schlagloch_niederzimmernWell that's enough 'mardling' for one day. You'll excuse me as I have just spotted this headline in the evening paper, "Single mother of six, battling against cancer, rescues kitten from pothole during protest march to prevent construction of phone mast". Sounds like a winner!

© Mike Stevens 2011. [email protected]
If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog,


'What are we allowed to laugh at? - March 2011

mexicanViewers of 'Top Gear' were recently treated to a few 'off the wall comments' about Mexicans as a result of the revelation that the country has produced a luxury sports car. That alone in itself is an incongruity for who could every wish to own such vehicle in one of the poorest countries in the Americas? I accept that Clarkson and Co is not to everyone's taste, but it is an entertainment show pure and simple, and an opportunity for three middle age men to make chumps of themselves and each other; and it is one of the most popular TV shows 'in the world'.

clarksonI have a colleague who has worked with one of the TG team and he can assert that the characterizations on screen are pretty far removed from how the participants are in everyday life. It is only one hours viewing in a week and those who do not like to watch it have the option of switching it off. I choose not to watch the nightly dose of dysfunctional families involving each other in violence, rape, crime, drunkenness and sexual deviancy, but I accept that many find 'Eastenders' both entertaining and, sadly, a blueprint for their own lives.
top gear mexicoTo return to the latest 'Top Gear' debacle the comments made about Mexican stereotypes forced the BBC to apologise to the Mexican ambassador for this 'outrageous behaviour'. Where, I ask will this all end? I don't suppose for one moment that Manuel, the hapless Spanish waiter in Fawlty Towers, represents the entire Spanish nation. You are best to judge. Do we have to apologise to the French and the Germans for 'Allo 'Allo? Trawling through a succession of British sketch and comedy shows over the years just about every nation would require an apology. Additionally every class and region of the UK also comes up as a subject of humorous joshing. In Norfolk we are often portrayed as being mentally deficient and incestuous to the point of having webbed feet; and we can include Mr Clarkson as one who has made such remarks.

mastrettaDo we take offence by all this? Well, I'm happy to say in the main we don't. Part of the British character is to know how to laugh at our own eccentricities just as much as those of others. Only those groups with some level of insecurity about their status on the world stage would seem to rise to the bait should their national characteristics or religious philosophies become the subject of humour.

In the course of the 'Top Gear' debate I heard an American pundit say that he struggled to understand why the British made fun of foreigners, and themselves. He attributed this phenomenon to our 'loss of Empire' and status in world. Ye're right! But who finds the majority of American TV comedy funny? Most of it is trotted out in endless episodes frequently recycling old ideas, penned by huge teams of writers, canned laughter bolted on for effect and adhering to a formula such that a representative of every ethnic group has to be included in the cast, preferably in a positive role. Sanitized for your protection!
How boring it would be if we were to become slaves to political correctness to the point that there was nothing we could joke about any more. Some humour crosses national boundaries, and some does not. So I'm sorry 'Mr Mexican Ambassador' that our boys fail to make you laugh, but perhaps you should spend more of your time worrying why an estimated over 10 million of your fellow countrymen have risked life and limb escaping Mexico to live in the USA where they make up almost 50% of the illegal immigrants. Now that really is a joke! Now excuse me whilst I go and paddle my webbed feet.
© Mike Stevens 2011. [email protected]
If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog,


inature wedding



News from our california correspondent (norfolk)
'Nice Day for a White Wedding… ' By your celebrity DJ, you can listen to him live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00

wedding in the snowMy niece decided to buck all normal trends and get married on a Thursday at the beginning of December. Wise move, as there were significant savings to be made in doing so. What she hadn't reckoned with was just how white the wedding was going to be. It's not generally the case that snow makes its appearance at that time of year, but in 2010, it certainly did. We set out for Kent in my son's trusty old BMW the day before in good weather and daylight with a view towards arriving at out hotel in Folkestone in the early evening. All went well with just a smattering of snow en route. No hold-ups crossing the Thames at Dartford. For us East Anglians this is the equivalent of 'going abroad'. The huge bill-board size electronic traffic signs gave no indication that the M20 had any form of hold-up or hazard. In fact we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves that things were going so well.

wedding in the snowThe snowfall increased slightly, but we were still making good progress. Our elation was brought to an abrupt halt about 10 miles short of our destination. The monster trucks heading for the ports ground to a halt in all three lanes. Car drivers made valiant attempts to weave their way through the mêlée, but eventually we were beaten. Everything stopped! It was about 8.00pm.

wedding in the snow


wedding in the snowThe short version is that we remained there for 7 hours whilst the snow continued to fall and the temperature dipped well below freezing. Our inept attempt at persuading the pride of Eastern Europe's lorry fleet to pull over into one lane went unheeded. A system called 'Operation Stack' which the authorities initiate whenever there is a rough sea, or the French decide to block their side of the channel with dead sheep, failed to operate. It seems like that if a bit of snow is added to the equation any plans fall apart and the police retreat to somewhere warm. Doubtless they wanted to ensure their helmets did not get cold. We, and no doubt several others, rang the boys in blue to ask if they were proposing to do anything about it. They assured us that the matter was in hand, but the video images on our iphone revealed that apart from putting out a few cones at Junction 11 nothing was happening at all. This situation prevailed for several hours whilst traffic in the London direction continued to move normally and unhindered.

wedding in the snowThe Dunkirk spirit did prevail as it always does on these occasions. English people started speaking to complete strangers, including foreigners. Lorry drivers dished out hot drinks from their microwaves. Our request to the authorities for Vera Lynn to be winched in from the White Cliffs of Dover just up the road was ignored.

wedding in the snowSometime around 4.00am yellow jackets appeared through the snow flurries and the convoy slowly got on the move again enabling us to reach our destination about half an hour later leaving us to marvel at the inability of the British to cope in what was, after all, only a modest amount of snowfall.


wedding in the snowWe settled down for what was left of a good night's sleep at the inaptly named 'Grand Hotel Burstin', (minus 3 Stars). This emporium is a sort of vertical Butlin's with over 800 rooms firmly fixed in the 1950's. For our sins we were rudely awoken at 7.30am by a siren and flashing red light over our beds indicating a fire. Under the circumstances, and given that a good fire would improve lack of heating in the hotel no end, it was best ignored and we turned over and snatched an additional couple of hours sleep.
wedding in the snowAfter that it all went very well.

© Mike Stevens 2011.
If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog,
or email:
[email protected]


News from our California correspondent (Norfolk)
'ANOTHER YEAR PASSES BY… ' By your celebrity DJ, you can listen to him live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00


As we enter 2011 I suppose you are expecting a few jolly quips of optimism at the dawn of another year. Let me warn you that if you are expecting the usual mix of humour and nostalgia then you are in for a disappointment. I'm writing this in early November looking out over Wroxham Broad in bright autumn sunshine. The shopping centres in the city are heaving with people doing their Christmas shopping as they have been for the last couple of months and, on the surface, all looks right with the world.


The prospects for the next year, or even several years have become suddenly bleak for a lot of us still hanging on in the UK. The key word of the moment is 'cuts' and this is what we are expecting. Our local Council is set to axe 3000 jobs in an effort to balance the books, although one could question why they got into such a mess in the first place. Services to young and old are already on the line and community schemes which have already been running on a shoestring and a lot of good will have already found their funding disappear. Retirement homes have been sold off to the private sector where they will charge fees beyond the reach of many people. Services for children are also being looked at with a view to selling them off or closing them altogether. An organisation helping the hundreds of young people in the County to find jobs has more than halved its resources with a result that the majority of the staff will soon find themselves in the dole queue. Nationally we can expect a rise in the amount of money that young people will require to go through university. Soon they will be leaving with a degree, often of little value, and a debt of something in excess of £30,000.
MARVIN DEPRESSIONThe police, court services and prisons are also being severely targeted for staff cuts. This would be no comfort to an elderly friend of mine. As a pensioner of 84 who lives alone and values her independence she maintains herself on a modest pension. Barely able to walk she relies on trips into town on her motorised scooter to do her weekly shop. Whilst sitting on the scooter at the check-out of her local branch of Iceland she was preparing to pay for the goods. She was distracted by a man with a strong foreign accent who she struggled to understand. As she did so his accomplice took off with her purse containing £80 and her bank cards. This was in a busy store where in spite of the attendance of the police the pair was not apprehended, nor are they ever likely to be. Romanian 'guests' to this country are usually the most likely cause of this kind of crime.
Hiving off public services has already got off to a bad start in the city. Not only did the firm appointed to collect our rubbish and maintain our streets and public housing, has gone bust, but we have since learned that the £1million they owe to their subcontractors is unlikely to be paid.
Whatever your political leaning, a Party that seeks to balance the books, get the spongers into employment and generally try to put the Country back on its feet again should be commended. Alas a lot of impulsive and short term fixes is not going to do the job. It's rather like being governed by the Daily Mail. People will no longer have a long term security if they live in Council accommodation. People on the dole after a year will have to do a week or two of community service or risk losing their benefits. Whilst this might be a salutary lesson for some of them it is not a way of creating genuine careers for people with a reasonable enough income to make it more worthwhile to be employed.
As ever we Brits will grin and bear it as a bunch of amateurs in Westminster flounder around trying to create the illusion that they know what they are doing with what little of our money they have. Millions will be spent on hand-outs to foreign Countries and pointless military exercises. Meanwhile little will be done to try to re-vitalise industry and create jobs for our young people many of whom find it impossible now to leave the family home for some kind of independence.
THINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTERSorry to start the New Year on such a low note but we might still be able to take a hint from the theme song of the previous government and hope that 'Things can only get better'. At least we have inevitable farce of the overpriced 2012 Olympics to look forward to.

© Mike Stevens 2010. If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog, email: [email protected]

'Unattended foreigners are likely to explode… ’ By your celebrity DJ, you can listen to him live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00

EXPLODING HEADAmericans have been alerted to the fact that, in certain European countries including the UK, there is a raised possibility of terrorist attack. On their alert scale the warning has gone from ‘orange blush’ to ‘puce’. The likelihood is, apparently, that should you be standing around in identifiable groups, i.e. wearing loud Bermuda shorts, someone wanting a short cut to Paradise may detonate in your vicinity. Paradise apparently includes such rewards as “gardens of delight”, running water and an endless supply of virgins. It would be obvious to any sane person that such a situation is something we would all wish to avoid. I refer of course to the accidental dispatch of bystanders rather than the questionable benefits of spending eternity interspersing bouts of vigorous fornication with a little light pruning and the occasional paddle. Have you ever considered what happens to female martyrs? Presumably virgins are not in the deal as ‘lady-love’ is out of the question. Could it be that they are treated to the delights of hairy rampant Welsh centre-forwards for all Eternity?
SARDINESWhilst the Americans, and doubtless other nationalities, have been warned about all this, to date, we have been told nothing. It would seem we are made of stern stuff in the UK. On the day after the tragedies on the London underground and buses were commuters finding safer ways to go about their business or staying at home? Not a bit of it. They were piling into the tunnels as usual like sardines climbing into their can. When aeroplanes are dropping out the sky we just mutter and moan that the airport security checks are taking longer than usual. We’re more anxious to get to Gatwick Village than avoid the risk of the plane making an unscheduled stop by way of an in-flight plummet.
UNATTENDEDIf we heeded all these warnings I expect we’d never travel anywhere, even a short hike down to the corner shop. Do all nationalities feel the same way I wonder? It seems to me that the French never travel; at least I’ve only seen the odd one or two. The danger for them appears to be confronting any food that isn’t French. In the naivety of youth I once accompanied some French visitors on a trip to see the sights of the Capital. When it came to mealtime they would only settle for a French restaurant, actually one of the most famous and pricy ones in London, where they tucked into snails, all sorts of pretentious muck and unmentionable animal by-products. Not wanting to risk any adverse after effects I demanded a mixed grill, which to their credit the restaurant provided.
Most nationalities have succeeded in overcoming the fear of any threat from the Germans, apart from their strategic towel-laying and unexpected exhibitions of blatant nudity. In fact they have been beaten at their own game by the Russians, now free of their Communist chains. Whilst not actually offering a major hazard they would win first prize in a ‘how not to behave in another Country’ competition. I guess the rest of the world does not match up to a week in the Gulag where the misery is ‘on tap’ and does not have to be self-created.
Now I’m not one for taking too many risks, but I have booked to spend Christmas in Dubrovnik. Come to think of it last time I was there they were heavily shelling the place a couple of weeks later. Guess I’ll do the British thing and take a chance anyway.
© Mike Stevens 2010
If you need to contact Mike you can now do so at his blog,
or email: [email protected]

'Britain at the cutting edge ’ By your celebrity DJ, you can listen to him live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00

britanniaWith over a hundred days in the driving seat the Coalition has now made its direction painfully clear. The amount of debts racked up under the previous regime was obviously unsustainable in the longer term. It now seems we have waved ‘goodbye’ to one partnership who loved to hate each other, only to be landed with another. Now we have an even more unlikely double act in the driving seat and I’m not sure who is reading the map.

Their priority is wielding the axe at everything in sight. Daily we are hearing of cutting back the funding to all our public services. The police could be losing 40,000 officers nationwide. One can only hope that the criminal fraternity will be making similar cutbacks in their activities. The Post Office is to be flogged off to the highest bidder. Private enterprise, whilst it may have its advantages, does not have a very good track record in the public sector.

rubbish Our own local government department has long given up the responsibility of emptying bins, cleaning the streets and maintaining council property. When someone offers to do a job at a rate 30% cheaper than anyone else you would probably be suspicious. Within months of taking on the job Connaught, apparently in debt to the tune of £220 million, went into receivership leaving workers and tenants wondering what was going to happen next. Not so much of a bargain was it?

budget cutbacksNever fear, we are told, ‘front line services’ will not be affected. I would be the first in line to concede that there is probably a lot of dead wood in all public services, but even taking that into consideration what exactly will we be left with by way of a useful provision if one in four public workers is on the dole? Strangely it would appear that money is still available to prop up unwinnable wars, or to give hand-outs to countries with records of corruption who can barely sustain themselves even when not faced with catastrophic crises. Sad those these disasters are it often seems to me that they strike in places where the world is totally out of balance with what nature can provide. The planet is patently overpopulated and the persistent rape of what it has to offer has decimated the environment and wildlife putting us all in danger from global warming. Is it any wonder that nature finds a way of fight back?

coalitionSomehow we can find a few million to protect an elderly German visitor who heads up an organisation seemingly hell bent on promoting further unrestricted increases to the world’s population in already poor communities.

And we shouldn’t forget the billions of Pounds of our money going into a pointless sporting event which is going to make a favoured few much richer and the poorer end of the community wondering why a velodromeproject that might put a roof over the heads of young families has been replaced by a useless thing like a Velodrome, whatever that is. Somebody at the top needs to get their priorities in order or else we are on the road to a bigger disaster.
© Mike Stevens 2010 If you want to contact Mike he will be pleased to hear from you. email: [email protected]

Trotting round Turkey ’ By your celebrity DJ, you can listen to hime live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00

turkey beachturkey boats

Turkey3 bells turkey

If you’re wondering where some of the Brit tourists are disappearing to this year then you might start looking in Turkey. After a gap of over 20 years I took a return visit there recently to see what had changed. On my previous visit it was almost tourist-free.

Simple coastal villages had inevitably changed into tourist hot spots. Refreshingly there are differences from what you find in Mediterranean countries. Turkish resorts are largely devoid of tower block hotels. Nothing built in recent years is over 5 stories high by law, partly for aesthetic reasons, and possibly because of susceptibility of certain regions to the occasional earthquake. One of the dangers of holidaying in Spain is finding you are within spitting distance of a building site. The Turks suspend all construction work during the peak holiday months.

english breakfastEverywhere seemed to be remarkably clean and is scrubbed down daily. Even in the height of summer there was no sign of a plague of biting insects. You could eat at a roadside restaurant without being pestered by stray animals. Only on rare occasions did I see any sign of the local police. Crime, I was told, was pretty non-existent particularly from the locals. Maybe ‘Midnight Express’ has acted as a deterrent although it is still a banned film in Turkey.

The basic needs of the British tourist are already being catered for. A genuine ‘English Breakfast’ is on sale practically everywhere for about £3 with the assurance that it includes Heinz Baked beans and HP sauce. Such is the availability of the aforementioned culinary embellishment that one suspects it is piped in directly from the Netherlands now that the UK seems to be incapable of making the stuff. One breakfast variation was billed as a ‘Lorry driver’s breakfast’, presumably without the smell of someone who has slept fully dressed in his cab.

blackpoolEntertainment includes the inevitable disco establishments. One hotel was offering a drag act ‘direct from Blackpool’, but I guess it takes all sorts. The popular Three Bells pub enticed its customers with a Christmas theme. There was a decorated tree at the entrance and the owner would greet you with ‘Merry Christmas’ as you entered whilst a short burst of artificial snow would descend. In temperatures in excess of 30°C and Turkey being a predominantly Muslim country this was more than a bit surreal. However, the food was good as it is everywhere, and the beer was cheap.

In spite of their apparent honesty in many quarters they seem to have no qualms when it comes to selling fake branded goods. Customers are encouraged to buy with signs reading ‘The Turkish Primark’ or ‘Asda Price’. No matter if the clothes fall apart after the second wash, which actually they don’t, most people know they are not getting the real deal, especially when purchasing a new Rolex for £40. Even the local chemist was selling packets of Viagra with an offer to ‘buy one, get one free’ I have not researched whether this product stands up or not.

MosqueAlready Brits are settling in the country and speaking the language like natives. Who can blame them? The countryside is green, fresh vegetables and seafood are available everywhere. There is more than ample scope for the amateur historian. The people are friendly and helpful and it’s outside the dreaded Euro-zone. Anyone looking for golf courses might be disappointed. The calls to prayer are a bit irritating especially as most of the locals appear to ignore them. All in all it is a bit of an odd Country, not quite fitting in with either the east or west, which it bridges. Sadly it might eventually be spoilt by mass tourism, but maybe they have learned a thing or two from other countries mistakes and will hang on to some measure of uniqueness.
© Mike Stevens 2010 If you want to contact Mike he will be pleased to hear from you. email: [email protected]

viagrasunday lunch


'Any offers? ’
By your celebrity DJ, you can listen to hime live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00

politiciansThe debate goes on. Just where did the Country go wrong? Perhaps some of the key players a bit past their sell-by date. Where they in the wrong positions? Are they over-paid? Perhaps it was wrong to put a non-English chap in charge. Just in case you think I had taken a sudden interest in football and the fate of our plucky lads being defeated by the Germans rest assured I am, of course, referring to the outcome of the recent General Election.

If anyone is suspected of cranial derangement some simple verbal tests are usually given.


leader slapFirst of which is to ask the person for the name of the current Prime Minister. Now in the past this has been a relatively easy question to answer. Most of our previous PMs could be brought to mind by some distinctive character trait. Harold Wilson could easily be recalled because he smoked a pipe and advised us that ‘a week is a long time in politics’. Edward Heath had a great love of sailing and, as it can now be revealed, sailors. Margaret Thatcher was renowned for screeching at people whilst wielding a handbag and snatching bottles of milk from small children. The blessed Saint Tony would invariably appear clutching the hand of a rather unattractive woman as they moved between their various luxurious homes. Under the present circumstances, with no clear winner in UK Politics stakes, I suspect there is a strong possibility that there are an increasing number of people who would struggle to identify just who is currently in charge of Planet UK. Having got ourselves into this situation through the Ballot box are we all going just a bit mental?


What is there to identify the present leader, or as it turns out, leaders? There appears to be a distinctive smug expression of one who is safe in the knowledge that, in spite of the financial pickle the Country finds itself in, David Cameron sits on an estimated personal fortune in excess of £3million. His political bedfellow Nick Clegg is obviously not short of a bob or two either having access to a 10 bedroom chateau in France as a family holiday home. Neither half is exactly on their financial uppers!
Edward heath





A political cartoon drawn by Duncan Macpherson in 1972. Depicts then-Prime Minister Edward Heath as a British colonial in conflict with the native Irish, represented by a leprechaun



Churchill_1881_age-7They have repeatedly told us that the Country has run out of money. Not really much of a surprise when you look at the past regime’s propensity to spend money on financing crackpot initiatives, bailing out bankers and running lesbian collectives. Well, you know the sort of thing. Their erstwhile leader Stormin’ Gordon has not been seen since Election Day. He appears to have gone to ground in his native Scotland where, no doubt, he is frantically penning letters along the lines of:



‘Dear (insert name of banking supremo), You may remember that I gave you all that money recently to stop you having to close the bank down because you could not give the great unwashed their money back. Well, I’m looking to a career move and wonder if you had any vacancies. I could change the blotters for you, or sit inside the ATM machine and push money through the slot. I’ve had lots of experience of giving away money that belongs to someone else……Yours hopefully, GB.’

Harald WilsonMaggie Thatcher

In the meantime we are told to prepare for ‘austerity measures’, tightening of belts etc. Numerous public service jobs are going for the chop, prisons are apparently going to be emptied and at the same time financial cutbacks are to be expected in the police service. Even if there were jobs to be had the demand for them will increase as the retirement age is being moved steadily upwards. It won’t be long before someone suggests putting the UK on EBay and selling the lot off to the highest bidder.
© Mike Stevens 2010 If you want to contact Mike he will be pleased to hear from you. email: [email protected]

'A load of balls…………...! ’ By your celebrity DJ, you can listen to hime live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00 © Mike Stevens   June 2010

world cupFootball mania seems to have gripped our nation. Something called the ‘World Cup’ is happening in South Africa and it’s very important. So important in fact that we are all expected to wear special underpants with the England logo on, as if that is going to make any difference to the team’s performance. There is an assumption, of course, that we all give a damn. Football was banned at my secondary school. Anyone caught at a match, or playing it, would be flogged. Going further back to junior school days I was taken on a trip to a Schoolboy International at Wembley. This was the proper Wembley, not the one we have now where the grass has to be rolled up like a Cyril Lord carpet after ever game. You may think such awesome surroundings would have a lasting effect on a small lad. Alas all I enjoyed was the Community singing before the match and the marching band during the interval, or should that be half-time?

fifa worls cup 2010fifa world cup 2010fifa world cup 2010fifa world cup 2010fifa world cup 2010fifa world cup 2010
fifa world cup 2010


When you weigh it up the whole ritual of football is a bit strange. Thousands of people, mainly men, gather around a field whilst a bunch of beautifully coiffured individuals with their underpants showing run round a after a ball pausing only occasionally to give their fellow players a girly hug & a peck on the cheek. After the match they all go and sit in a big bath together and play hide the soap. Any hint of injury or a bit of pain during the match and they are writhing a round in simulated agony whilst a man in black shorts who, I’m informed, is fatherless, blows a whistle and waves bits of coloured cardboard. The unfortunate individual is then carted off having damaged his delicate ankle, or worse still, with something called groin strain, whatever that is. Now I once met a bunch of male ballet dancers who were rehearsing at our local theatre. I appreciate that ballet is not recognised as the most masculine of occupations. These guys had foot and leg injuries which were not only painful but would have had your average International football player in cotton wool for months. Undaunted, agony or not, these dancers went on stage night after night giving an A1 performance because that was what they were paid to do. I rest my case.

fifa worls cup 2010fifa worls cup 2010

Then there are the spectators, or fans. They come in all shapes and sizes, usually extra large because of the pies they consume. Quite often they are in various states of inebriation including, apparently, our local Number 1 one fan, Delia Smith. She has been witnessed coming onto the ground yelling “Let’s be havin’ you” one suspects somewhat worse for the cooking sherry. Not a good example to the young.

fifa world cup 2010fifa world cup 2010
Football players are also renowned for not being the brightest of individuals. I appreciate this is probably a bit unfair, but a fair indicator is their taste in female companions. Most famous is the woman who is deluded enough to think she can sing, but bright enough to attach herself to one David Beckham who is, apparently, a God and a rich one at that. David was heard one day celebrating with shouts of “45 days, 45 days!" Posh, the ‘singer’, asks him why he's celebrating and David replies, "Well Victoria, I've done this jigsaw in only 45 days." "Is that good then David?" asks Posh. "You bet", said the jubilant David, "It says 3 to 6 years on the box."
As you head for the other side of the world to be fleeced, mugged, overcharged for accommodation which is a hundred miles away from where you want to be clutching an overpriced counterfeit ticket I can only say that you brought it upon yourself.

© Mike Stevens 2010
If you want to contact Mike he will be pleased to hear from you. email: [email protected]


'BT – Phone home…..! ’ By your celebrity DJ, you can listen to hime live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00 © Mike Stevens


I don't like your toneMay 2010

et phone homeI’d never considered how much we rely on the telephone until yesterday. My shiny new all-singing, all-dancing mobile went missing. I knew it was around the house somewhere. I also knew that it was switched on in the hope that someone would give me a call. This was probably unlikely as I had not yet passed round my new number. Never mind, at least I was open to receive important messages from Virgin Media and Nokia. I reached for the handset of the house phone with the intention of ringing the mobile and locating it by sound. I tapped away and nothing happened. I put the phone to my ear and there was silence, well, just a faint buzz.

bt glideOMG I thought, for I am already thinking in ‘text-think’. A few minutes juggling with various handsets revealed that my outside line had died. In deference to Virgin Media and their fibre optic cables this was a pretty uncommon occurrence. Unlike for BT customers who were recently unable to contact the continent because of a fire at a London exchange, or the assorted regions who periodically suffer from loss of service because enterprising criminals have been digging up the cables in order to profit from selling the copper. So there I was cut off from the civilised world unable to communicate, or be communicated with. How would those eager foreign gentlemen be able to enlighten me with the joyous news that by the grace of some Act of Parliament, which I have frankly never heard of, my debts could be written off at a stroke. I’ve never gone any further in these conversations because, firstly, I don’t really have any debts and secondly because Mummy told me never to talk to strangers.

tardis police phone box
A bit of frantic searching and I located my new mobile in the back pocket of yesterdays trousers. This did set me thinking about a time when we were less reliant on the phone. In my childhood the phone was regarded as a bit of a luxury. We only had one because my father was a policeman and communication was needed to alert him to rounding up stray cattle or whatever qualified as a police emergency in those days.
My parents never had a phone they owned themselves until well into retirement. Somehow, like millions of others they survived without one, not succumbing to becoming what the GPO called charmingly ‘a subscriber’. My father was a bit put out when push button handsets came in. There was a considerable delay on the dial-ups before communication was achieved that enabled you time to collect your thoughts. Phone calls had to be very short, so there was no time for waffle.

et phone home
Now children are barely out of the pram when they get their first mobile phone. People hold inane, and loud, conversations in public places. Teenagers download music, and men, desperate for ‘entertainment’ are able to watch dubious videos on their mobile screens; or so they tell me.
Doubtless like everyone else I will be sucked into the electronic vortex. I now carry the best part of my record collection in my back pocket and wonder how I lived without it. I’ve got to leave it there, something, somewhere, is ringing. © Mike Stevens 2010
If you want to contact Mike he will be pleased to hear from you. email: [email protected]


rudy krolopp

motorola prototypes





Photos above and left: Prototypes developed by Motorola designers included (top to bottom) a retractable version, a flip mouthpiece not unlike those seen today, a banana-like model, and a double-flip design. Rudy Krolopp holds Motorola’s first commercial cell phone, the $3,995 Dynatac 8000X, in 1984.




There's a very interesting/amusing story on the development of the mobile phone in the winter issue of Invention and Technology magazine. Motorola introduced the world's first handheld portable cell phone in 1973. What's so interesting is that nobody -- including Motorola -- thought the cell phone would be of much use to anyone. Because it was so big. Motorola's real motivation in prototyping the cell phone, it turns out, was to get the FCC to allot more spectrum for car phones, which they saw as a lucrative market for their equipment-making business. But this is a fascinating R&D story -- nobody thought they could pull it off. Could such a behemoth be turned into something light enough to carry around? In an age of satellite communication, trips to the moon, and the seeming miracle of the pocket calculator, it was assumed that any engineering challenge would eventually be overcome. But even if it was possible, so what? Why would anyone pay a monthly subscription fee and hefty per-call charges when 10-cents-a-call phone booths were everywhere?
liquid telephonemagneto phone191 dial phone1876 - LIQUID TELEPHONE - "Mr. Watson, come here; I want you!" It was the night of March 10. These first historic words, uttered by Alexander Graham Bell when he spilled some sulphuric acid he had been using in his tests, climaxed two years of extensive experimentation.
1882 - MAGNETO WALL SET - This handsome, oak-encased instrument, the first telephone built for the Bell System by Western Electric, used Bell's hand receiver and Blakes' transmitter. It was the standard for many years and one of the first to place the crank more conveniently on the side.
1919 - DIAL TELEPHONE - Coast-to-coast phone service had begun in 1915, and the United States had topped 100 million in population. Dial service was coming in strongly. Invented in 1892, it was many years before the complex equipment had been sufficiently developed for use in larger cities.
1949 desk phone1956 wall phone1969 picture phone1949 - "500" TYPE DESK SET - After catching up with the immense backlog of work caused by the war, the Bell System brought out this new model with improved talking and hearing qualities and an adjustable volume control for the bell. Rugged and functional, it is constantly being improved.
1956 - WALL TELEPHONE - The telephone returns to the wall in this companion piece to the "500" desk set. The wall set is most often used in businesses and homes where counter and desk space is at a premium. It is popular in such home areas as basements and kitchens.
1969 - PICTUREPHONE SET - Men walked on the moon and a new model of telephone that made it possible to see the person to whom you're talking was market-tested. The Mod II set has a feature for individual or group viewing. Major use is for visual conferencing between different cities.
1973 touch phone1976 transaction phone1973 - TOUCH-A-MATIC TELEPHONE - The Touch-A-Matic set is the first telephone with a solid state memory. At the touch of a single button, it can automatically dial any of 31 pre-recorded numbers. It is one of many communications advances that derive from the invention of the transistor by Bell Labs.
1976 - TRANSACTION TELEPHONE - As the telephone marks its 100th birthday, the Bell System offers a phone to make shopping more convenient. The Transaction telephone links with a bank's or credit bureau's computer to verify balances or transfer funds. It can also perform inventory control jobs.

'Electoral Roll ...! ’ By your celebrity DJ, you can listen to hime live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00 © Mike Stevens

April 2010

i never voted tory beforeI’ve just been confronted by a huge billboard poster which depicts a personable looking chap in a blue boiler suit standing in front of a pile of flexible piping. The words underneath this picture are “I’ve never voted Tory before, but we need to sort out the economy”. I don’t know about the chap’s voting history, but I’ll not argue with the second part. But is this the way to do it? It would appear that our monetary problems can be solved by a sort of Dynarod solution. Just a quick flush through the system and everything will be OK again. Of course this is just the sort of potty stuff we can expect as we face the run up to the elections in May.

say no
The lunatic fringe, or ‘Politicians’ as they like to call themselves have torn themselves away from filling in their expense claims, cleaning their moats and taking out mortgages on non-existent property and are once again appealing to the populace to come out and vote for them to join the most exclusive club in London.

The current crew have not only managed to land us in a catastrophic debt but also into unwinnable conflicts largely, one suspects, to provide their former leader, and his charming wife, with American holiday and shopping opportunities and consultative appointments in his ‘retirement’. One cannot help but feel that the current, unelected, leader’s policy of hand-outs of our money to failing financial institutions will open doors to similarly lucrative posts in the banking sector for him one day.

shit creekStormin’ Gordon is seemingly a hard taskmaster and the school bully. The political ‘fix-its’ have done their work in order to try to remedy his public image. However, I’d much prefer to see Gordon throw the odd punch than, as we do now, see a sickly lop-sided grin instantly appear every time the cameras point in his direction. He looks as though he has just bitten the head off a, rather tasty, baby.
Consider the alternatives. There is the Conservative Party offering policies that are not a million miles from the stuff we got from ‘New Labour’ and we are not going to fall for that one again. Then there is UKIP who seem to think we are spending £40million a day in Europe, presumably to keep you lot in free swimming pools. Following behind are the Lib-Dems and assorted nutter brigades who, even if we vote for them would never know what to do if they were, by some miracle, elected.
Most of British public will stay in their homes on polling day as they so often do. Many young people who are entitled to vote just simply won’t be able to because they have not bothered to register.

gordan without lemon

Just in case you are thinking of returning to this green and pleasant land in order to join in the fun I can now inform you that there is now a Santander Bank on every High Street just to make you feel at home. Please don’t tell me they are failing as well as they have some of my money!
© Mike Stevens 2010
If you want to contact Mike he will be pleased to hear from you.
email: [email protected]

I want to sell you a Tory: Hilarious (and politically incorrect) election posters from a century ago

chinaman posterHard times (left): But is it really so different today? Telling Porkies (right): Nothing new about dirty tactics

A "Chinaman" poster from 1909 - featuring a character who has an uncanny resemblance to Tony Blair - was designed as an attack on Liberal prime minister Herbert Asquith's Free Trade policy.
It implies the policy will result in a flood of substandard, cheap Chinese pork replacing English bacon.
Here is proof, should any be needed, that there's nothing new about dirty tactics in the battle for power.
And while many of the posters seem outdated, there are some which seem strangely pertinent to British politics today.

british politic postersbritish politic postersbritish politic postersbritish politic postersbritish politic postersbritish politic postersbritish politic postersbritish politic posters

'the white stuff...! ’ By your celebrity DJ, © Mike Stevens 2010

uk snow 2010

uk snow 2010The fact of the matter is that at the beginning of the year some cold white fluffy stuff fell from the sky and huge areas of the UK were instantly thrown into a state of utter chaos. This is called ‘snow’ and despite its regular appearance around the world its arrival in this Country always seems to catch us out. Before you rise up against me I know that several parts of Spain were affected as well. My heart bleeds for those of you who woke up to find your swimming pool like an Olympic ice rink and the solar panels out of action. Whilst some parts of the UK did have exceptional amounts of the stuff what fell in our part of the world was modest by comparison. Nothing more than a few inches. No small children lost in drifts.

uk snow 2010uk snowsnowballssnowball

snowball fightA mere dusting of snow on the main roads and traffic ground to a halt. Vehicles unaccountably swerved into one another even when going at a snail’s pace. Two cars, on a perfectly straight piece of road nearby managed to end up totally upside down in the ditch. Schools, of course, have to be closed. This is not because of their inaccessibility, but because the education authority does not want to be sued by parents of little darlings who slip up in the playground. The snowball fights of our youth are totally out of the question. They contravene just about every aspect of Health and Safety; and probably discrimination as well.
It is said that in Norwich the coming of snow can be compared to local sexual activity. You may only get a few inches, but you will be totally buggered. There are no signs of snow shifting machinery. Even if they exist how do the operators get to work? The local council boasted about the amount of grit and salt it had in store. This stockpile remains reasonably static because it seldom seems to be used. I think someone sprinkles it on with a salt cellar. They even brought an extra load in by ship to a local port. This arrived just in time for a new Labour Government directive which said it should be diverted and sent to areas where the authorities had not been so prudent.

snow ball fightThen the siege mentality sets in. Those with 4x4s descend on the supermarkets and the occupants strip the shelves. Just how much do you need in reserve to get over a week of snow? One supermarket observed that there was a run on carrots. This was not for people who were anxious to get their ‘five a day’ but to provide snowmen with noses!
Power cuts were in evidence in the more northerly regions, often running for days at a time. The bins stand outside unemptied even though we have adhered to the complicated Christmas/New schedule that was, expensively, distributed before the holiday season. Now it’s another addition to the re-cycling bin.
Now all of this is blamed, as ever, on Global Warming. Although I’ve not worked out how this should make things colder rather than hotter. With the melting of the Northern ice cap we can expect polar bears to be moving south to Iceland, although how they will be able to get the packets of discounted frozen dinners-for-one open I cannot comprehend. The thing is that nothing will be learnt from this farce and we can look forward to it all happening again next winter.
© Mike Stevens 2010
If you want to contact Mike he will be pleased to hear from you.
email: [email protected]


'mary, has the postman come yet?...! ’





Postman Pat, with or without his black and white cat, didn’t call today. We are suffering the effects of a postal strike. It’s a real retro experience.


ROYAL MAILThe picket lines at the local sorting office are manned (or is that personned), and from somewhere appears the obligatory oil drum which serves as a brazier. Where do you get an oil drum these days? Most of them must have been commandeered by steel bands.

POSTMAN PATThen there is the question of Picket line etiquette. How do you express your feelings as you pass by in the car? Does a ‘toot’ on the horn express solidarity with the brothers or, alternatively mean, get back to work you lazy bastards? One never knows what to do. Any attempt at hand gestures is sure to be misinterpreted.


These are ‘one day at a time’ events, just long enough to permit the system to back up like a dodgy sewage system. The ‘brothers’ have decided to call a truce this side of Christmas, so panic not, your Christmas cards will get through.

The thing is that the Post Office has been going slowly pear shaped for several years. Remember when they introduced First and Second class mail back in ’68? I’ve yet to come across a class-ridden postal service anywhere else. Presumably Second Class mail would be transported on foot by a spotty youth "in a cleft stick", whilst First Class is borne on a silver tray by a butler; at least it should be for something like 6 shillings in old money it now costs to send a letter. More recently the system has been further complicated by the introduction of different size ‘slots’. Whilst weight still plays a part in determining the cost of sending a letter now it has to be able to pass through the eye of a needle if it is to travel at minimum rates. For anything fatter than a gnat’s dangly bits you get charged more.

Automation has probably taken the fun out of working in the sorting office where every postman starts his day. In my misspent youth I worked in a local one during the Christmas period. Parcels would whistle through the air aimed, hopefully, at the right sorting bag. Sometimes you were rewarded with a satisfying crash as Auntie’s Royal Doulton came to a sudden stop on the hard floor. It seemed to be standard practice that any package containing an LP, if you remember what they were, would be mysteriously opened and the contents played on a battered Dansette until it was time to wrap it up again at the end of the shift. An added bonus was that the office had to sort out mail for Royal persons staying at Sandringham . There were hoots of delight at some of the cards that ‘her Maj’ received from her loyal, and obviously dyslexic, subjects.


All this entertainment has now been largely replaced by machinery and the highlight of Postie’s day is no more. They now have to trudge round with armfuls of junk mail advertising the local takeaway and cut-price stores. Anything really valuable goes with the courier firms that have suddenly prospered in the last few years. Mail goes by the interweb so letters, First or Second class don’t get to drop on the doormat any more, unless they are from Michael Parkinson who seems to have taken a sudden interest in selling funeral plans. What I really feel sorry for are all those dogs that no longer have to opportunity to chew bits out of the postman’s trousers.
© Mike Stevens 2009
If you want to contact Mike he will be pleased to hear from you.
email: [email protected]

'summer has ended, that's official...! ’ nOV 2009

BEACH AT THE END OF SUMMERThis week it rained. This may not seem like a momentous event but, in our part of the world at least, we have seen nothing more than a slight dampening since the beginning of July. That’s nearly 3 months without rain. What we didn’t get was the promised scorching hot ‘barbeque’ summer. The forecasters got that wrong; as usual.

AIRCON Not being a lover of anything over 70°, in old money, I went out and bought an air conditioner in readiness. This was not one of those wall mounted jobs which I’m sure you all have, but it was a box on wheels somewhat akin to the Teletubbies hoover. The problem with these devices is where to stick the long flexible hose. No suggestions please! Opening the window rather defeats the objective.HOME MADE AIRCON I compromised by threading it into my redundant hot air system heating vents. Whilst the temperature in the main bedroom plunged to a tolerable level the back room warmed up like a crematorium furnace. Still, mission accomplished, but as the machine makes a noise like Concorde taking off it did rather defeat the object of getting a decent night’s sleep.

DRIED LAWNWater was, of course, at a premium although we were not subject to hosepipe bans. Being on a water meter makes you wary of using a hosepipe because of the cost. For some reason our water is owned by a French Company and nobody likes giving in to the French. As a result of this the garden became a solid block of earth, and the upside was that I only used the lawn mower twice all summer.



The threat of swine flu hung over us. Heavy advertising about what to do, and where to go, was everywhere.







Convenient notices appeared outside doctors surgeries, chemists and hospitals which said, in so many words, ‘If you have Swine flu please go somewhere else’.



Apparently you had to self diagnose from the internet, email the surgery and a man in a space suit would come round and push drugs under the door. Anyway I escaped and it is reckoned that many of the people who took time off work to get over swine flu didn’t actually have it anyway, but who was to know?






Another threat of the summer which was totally unexpected was the plague of bishybarneybees on a biblical scale. Now those of you who are not natives of Norfolk will not know that this is local name for the common ladybird.

For some reason, apparently attributable to a surplus of aphids, they descended on us in huge clouds, covering car windscreens, pavements and, presumably, aphids. It was not a pretty sight. Now we seem to have a surfeit of huge spiders. Apparently the hot weather has encouraged them to grow to twice their normal size. All of this is beginning to sound like a second rate horror movie. ‘Curse of the Killer Ladybirds’!



The Secret of Bishy Barnabee
You may be wondering just how Bishy Barnabee got it's name... well, 'Bishy Barnabee' is an old Norfolk name for a ladybird! Some say it's named after a bishop (although quite why a bishop was ever associated with a ladybird isn't clear!).
Here's a little rhyme about it:
Tell me when your wedding be:
If it be tomorrow day,
Take your wings and fly away."



Another plague, brought on by the credit crunch, was the ‘Curse of the British Tourist’. People were forced by economic stringencies to give up their holidays abroad and stay at home. This was at least a welcome plague for the British holiday industry, such as it is. They were everywhere. Hotels and guest houses were full for once and the Norfolk Broads had a record season as boat hirers put-putted their way round the waterways, occasionally falling in and having to be rescued.

Whether we put this all down to global warming or holes in the ozone layer is anybody’s guess. My money is on next year being exactly the opposite and all the holidaymakers will be heading back to Spain and giving us natives a chance to moan in peace.
© Mike Stevens 2009
If you want to contact Mike he will be pleased to hear from you.
email: [email protected]




BRIT FREEAn internet hotel booking company recently undertook its annual survey to determine who the world’s worst hotel guests were. On a worldwide scale the French unsurprisingly topped the poll, but within the European Zone the Brits won the accolade. It set me thinking if, after all these years, your average British tourist has really come to terms with foreign travel.

Our ventures abroad really came into their own with the invention of Package Tours in the 1960’s. I’m talking about the days when the family packed just about everything they owned and headed off to Luton airport for their annual foreign jaunt. These were the heady times of Clarkson’s holidays when planes, some still with propellers, would propel them to Spanish shores and other sundry destinations. If you were lucky they might still be in business to get you home. At the airport there would be travellers seemingly equipped for every eventuality. Stories abound of customers attempting to smuggle portable TVs on board because they didn’t want to miss their favourite programmes. For some reason the Duty FLIGHTSFree shops would be invaded by the trippers seemingly unaware that drink and cigarettes would be available at the point of destination, in all probability cheaper than at the airport. Men would, for some bizarre reason stock up on cigars and would puff their way around the airport presumably in some sort of Churchillian gesture to show Johnny Foreigner what being British was all about. No matter that they usually smoked Woodbines.

DRUNKSBRITS ABROADMy mother resisted going abroad for many years largely on the basis that she ‘liked to know what she was eating’ and her suspicions about the arrangements in foreign toilets. I suspect these were fairly common beliefs. The change of diet to something that bore no resemblance to anything on the limited British menu of the time was a real threat. To this end café owners cashed in by offering a ‘Proper English Breakfast’ much sought after by those wanting to avoid the nasty foreign stuff. ‘Tea like mother makes’ is still to be seen on the menu boards outside cafes in many parts of the Europe. Anxious to cut a few financial corners tea-making equipment would be packed into suitcases where the resultant brew would be met with disappointment because the ‘water tastes funny’. In the process of conducting these experiments fuses would be blown in hotel rooms all round Europe.

The motivation behind this annual exodus was not the guaranteed sunshine, the opportunity to see historic sites or to absorb aspects of foreign cultures. The prime motivator was the fact that you could drink all day, and relative to the UK, cheaply. Not surprisingly overseas bar owners could be led to believe that we were a nation of alcoholics. Yet again your ‘foreign’ product was regarded with suspicion. The beer had to be served from bottles and barrels with a recognisable label. Watneys Red Barrel was soon available throughout Europe. Nobody drank it except the Brits because it was so bloody awful. Your average donkey after nibbling on a few grapes and a small field could probably produce something similar at no cost to the consumer. I suspect that there are still barrels of it stored away in Spain somewhere to this day; Watneys Red Barrel not donkey pee. Once a base amount of 10 or so pints of beer had been consumed your connoisseur was ready to move on to the local hard stuff which, normally partaken in small measures, would be consumed in similar quantities to the beer. This would inevitably lead to calls being made on ‘the big white telephone’, assuming it was reached in time. The ‘Proper English Breakfast’ would then make a sudden reappearance.

BRITS ABROADCommunication with foreigners was made, largely, by shouting loudly and s l o w l y at them as if this achieved some miraculous translation. Another way of communicating was to perform some form of ritualistic gestures. I recall a trip with some mates to Yugoslavia when we were presented with bowls of watery soup for breakfast. My intrepid friend performed a passable imitation of a chicken. The waitress nodded knowingly and, smiling, broke a raw egg into his soup.

Another novelty for your holidaying Brit tourist was the attraction of naturist beaches. Your average English person likes to keep their personal plumbing arrangements discretely covered at all times. Having being briefed, or is that debriefed, by the holiday rep that a certain beach in the area catered for the unclothed this would prompt the Brits to take a leisurely stroll ‘just to check the scenery’. Easily identified by their grey socks worn with sandals these curious tourists, usually male, would be investigating to see if their expectations matched up to what they had learned from the 1960’s soft porn movies. Often they were hugely disappointed by the lack of well proportioned young ladies playing enthusiastically with beach balls.

CHEAP FLIGHTSNow has anything really changed? The British tourist can now travel to more destinations and much further from home than ever before. Perhaps they are a bit more cosmopolitan when it comes to food and drink, after all where can you go that hasn’t got a McDonalds? Now your Brit has different weapons at their disposal. The ability to complain that the facilities provided are not up to 5 Star standards even though the cost of being jetted to the other end of Europe and housed, fed and watered three times a day would barely buy you a return train ticket to London at home. The objective is to find fault and claim substantial compensation for their ‘suffering’ through some cowboy no-win-no-fee legal firm. No matter that they neglected to wear sun cream, drank excessively and laid themselves open to being a snack bar for every flying insect. If their holiday had not come up to the standard of some God forsaken British seaside resort they find cause to sue. Better if they had stayed in the UK in first place.




With the advent of stag party tourists, ‘all inclusives’, 18-30 groups and, more worrying, the Saga Louts, who are the 1960’s tourists stuck in an alcoholic time warp, it is apparent that some things haven’t changed very much. Some resorts still cater for the worst kind of visitor and as a result they still get them.







Thankfully there are places which have either abandoned their former tackiness or never succumbed to it in the first place. This is why you would have found me on the island of Ischia near Naples earlier this year where there was not a McDonald’s or an English breakfast establishment to be found. Sorry Spain, but I will be back, I promise.

© Mike Stevens 2009


65'Gitin’ orn….! ’ August 2009

rretirement cakeretirement

carbon footprintI read recently that the current generation of 60-70 year olds are now deemed environmentally unfriendly. This is probably going to come as a great shock to all of those ‘baby boomers’ conceived in Anderson Shelters during the last ‘unpleasantness’ with Germany. The theory is this; we are all living longer and a lot fitter than we used to be. We have after all had a reasonable diet. Rickets, scurvy, mad cow disease and consumption are things of the past, except in certain parts of Norfolk. We now fall into one of two basic categories. Either we are sitting around at home using lots of electricity to keep ourselves warm, or cool, using additional megawatts surfing the internet and using all sorts of electronic gadgetry. Conversely we are jetting off around the world to visit all those places we never had the time and money to see before and in the process of doing this we are punching holes in the ozone layer and sucking up fuel. Either way the environment cannot win. We are damaging the planet by living longer!

air raidTime was when growing old was a fairly simple affair. Your employer presented you with a cheap clock for all your years of hard slog and experience then kicked you, fairly unceremoniously, out the door to be replaced by some spotty oik who probably couldn’t find his own bottom without a map. Then it was round to Marks for a nice warm ‘cardie’ followed by a sortie round the charity shop for a few ill fitting cast-offs all smelling mysteriously of Vick, then back home to await the arrival of your meals on wheels lady.old tour bus You were fully equipped for retirement. Highlights of the week would be a visit from the chiropodist, and occasionally, a jolly mystery tour in some battered coach. If you were lucky the latter occasion would be enhanced by the driver getting lost and arguments breaking out amongst the passengers as to which is the best route home. That’s the ‘mystery’ part.

keeping fit
Social events would be at the local ‘Darby and Joan’ club where you would be treated to ‘reminiscence therapy’ which would lead to riveting topics being discussed such as why we no longer need Ration Books, how nice that Mr Churchill was and how much better he would be at getting rid of all the foreigners, and what a struggle it is to manage decimal currency. A sing-song would be the order of the day running through the Vera Lynn back catalogue. I suppose we might be coming up to a time when this will be replaced by the Sex Pistols greatest hits. When you could no longer cope with all this excitement it was off to the local Council run ‘Twilight Home for the Bewildered’ for a diet of watery soup, group incontinence and sitting around watching endless re-runs of ‘Cash in the Attic’. Eventually clogs would be popped and your ‘nearest and dearest‘ would then fight over what little you left behind. All this might probably happen before you reached your statutory three score and ten.

Now it’s a very different story. It’s ‘keep fit’ classes, yoga and the University of the Third Age, whatever that is. The leader of my local ramblers group is a sprightly gent of eighty-one whom I struggle to keep up with. The less mobile equip themselves with one of those electric scooter things. A trip to the shopping centre these days is like finding yourself in the midst of a geriatric Grand Prix. Tartan shopper trolleys are so ‘last year’.


bus passPensioners, or senior citizens, or whatever they are supposed to be called, take full advantage of the Government backed free bus fare scheme. The Government subsidies barely kept pace with the demand as enterprising seniors worked out how they could get from one end of the Country to another without paying a penny. Often when they get to Lands End, or wherever, they probably forget why they had gone there in the first place. Now local authorities have had to restrict the scheme or go bust. No pun intended! If you fancy a bit of aquatic exercise there is free pool time at your local sports centre that is if you can manage to find the free transport there and back. This too has had to be cut back because of over-demand. Some pensioners have found a trip down to the local pool saves on running bath water at home, although there have been no reports yet of the washing of smalls in the shallow end.


Medical advances have enabled worn out bodily parts to be replaced. How much longer before we have the totally bionic pensioner outpacing the younger members of society? Viagra and other performance enhancing drugs are available on the NHS and those with a bit of money to spend can look forward to pregnancy in their sixties. Of course all this available at a price and the availability of funds depends on where you live in the UK. The scheme is better known as the Post Code lottery. Life becomes a gamble.

nhs postcode lotterywhat gps admit

It has only just dawned on the politicians that are currently running the show, when they are not moving house or spending our money on luxury items, that this population of ‘oldies’ is increasing at a phenomenal rate and is costing the Country money. In fact it is now predicted that within the next 20 years more than half the population of the UK will be over 50. Saga never had it so good.

Making pensions go further is becoming more of a problem. The UK pension is probably one of the lowest in Europe. Of course you can claim extra allowances, but the forms you have to fill in are so long and take up so much time you could probably drop dead before you have completed the task. Perhaps that was the original idea? Anyway, I was going to end this article on a jolly, upbeat and optimistic note about the joys of getting older. However, I cannot remember what it was…funny that seems to be happening quite a lot lately….
© Mike Stevens 2009

'don't get me started! ’ JULY 2009

ANNOYEDHave you ever wondered what new laws you would make, should you be given the power to do so? A fellow presenter on the radio station I work for features an item where she gives air-time to local minor celebrities, passing tramps and anyone else she can persuade to come on her programme, to talk about what they would do if they were able to ‘rule the world’. Once you start to think about this a mental list of sundry punishments for those who irritate you on a daily basis will soon form in your mind. We’re not talking anything major here like dangerous driving or being a politician and fiddling expenses to pay for ‘duck islands’, just targeting all those irritating t***ers in everyday life that really get up your nose.





Top of my list are mobile phone users. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not totally against the things and I have one, which I occasionally switch on, sometimes as often as twice a week. Other people seem to be totally addicted to the things. They simply cannot leave home without them. You cannot avoid the inane conversations they have as they walk along the street, shop in the supermarket or travel on public transport. People blather on about what baked beans should they should buy or some intensively mind numbing event in their dismal lives which they glamorise into such a fashion so as to believe they are living in an episode of ‘Eastenders’. In reality the incident is so tedious it is only one stage removed from the experience of watching paint dry; but then so is ‘Eastenders’.

BORNG PHONE CALLSThen there are the mobile phone users with additional plastic devices stuck in the ears which are about as undetectable as a National Health hearing aid circa 1950. This enables them to wander down the street apparently talking to themselves about…well…see the above. There was once a time when we kept these conversations to ourselves or at least to the privacy of our own homes. We did not inflict them on the rest of humanity. My belief is that mobile phone connections should be set to a maximum time limit of one minute; by Law. Any offenders who overstep this time would have one ear surgically removed and their phones trampled on by a specially trained team of Morris Dancers.

CLUTCHERSCLUTCHERSThen there are what I call the ‘clutchers’. They walk along the street, jog, cycle, or sometimes drive clutching either a bottle or a polystyrene container. It seems they need, at regular intervals, to replenish their systems with either a bottle of so-called spa water drawn from the tap of some middle-European sewage reprocessing department or, worst of all, consume coffee. Now there is nothing wrong with an invigorating cup of traditional Nescafe into which you can dunk your Garibaldi. FROTHY COFFEEThese offenders, however, have obviously been duped into entering one of the High Street chain of coffee merchants who sell vastly overpriced frothy milk/water mixtures enhanced with a dash of coffee flavouring and seemingly sprinkled with what appears to be chocolate coloured dandruff. They then ponce along the street clutching their beverage containers before them like they have discovered the Holy Grail. Apart from indicating to all and sundry that they are total ****ers, the ‘clutching’ is a bit of a give-away, it is also made obvious that they can easily be conned into buying almost anything. This ‘clutching’ is both irritating and dangerous. They could have somebody’s eye out! Offenders should be made to drink several litres of their obnoxious liquid in one session, and suffer the consequences of staying awake for several days whilst sitting on the toilet.

MENS SHOPSThe next item may well serve to alienate me from 50% of the readers of this column, but what the heck! I refer to women in men’s clothing departments. These fall into roughly three categories. There are the feelers and fondlers who wander round caressing everything on the racks. Imagine what would happen to us chaps if we were found doing this to ‘ladies unmentionables’ in the lingerie department of Dorothy Perkins; or am I missing out on something here? Then there are the stout ladies in sensible shoes buying large sweaters, rugby shirts and roomy boxer shorts, presumably for themselves. Surely there are special shops for these people. Finally, and worst of all, are ladies accompanying their male companions. No matter what age their male accompanists are the environment causes those of the feminine persuasion to treat them as if they were all about five years old.

Unwanted advice like “Do you like the blue ones or the green ones?”, “Isn’t it a bit tight round the crotch?”, or “will you be able to sit down comfortably?” is all very well, but we are able to make up our own minds thank you very much ladies. If we look like a sack of manure tied up with string this is precisely the look were are trying to create. The subtle combination of bottle green trousers and an orange striped golfing jumper is, to us, a unique fashion statement. So there! And do we really want ladies who seem to spend an inordinate amount of time examining men’s underwear apparently testing them for expandability. This exercise can be far more rewarding for all concerned when the men are actually inside the afore mentioned garments.

MEN ONLYMy rule would be that women would be banned from these shops for at least two days a week when men could be free to choose their own stuff without coming under scrutiny or criticism. Women who break this rule would be made to spend an afternoon wandering round the Marks and Spencer’s Ladies department whilst wearing a straight jacket. With no chance of ‘feeling and fondling’, or indeed trying anything on, they would suffer intense mental trauma.

Restrictions on the lengths of these articles forbid me from telling you the punishments I would inflict on those who eat in cinemas, swim back stroke, have excessive tattooing, take children into restaurants, wear thongs, shout at foreigners, moan about the weather and have any interest whatsoever in football. Suffice it to say that the screams of pain would keep you awake at night and the increase in business for funeral directors would make you consider making the trade a worthwhile investment opportunity. Now when is Kate going to ask me on her programme?


' out of bounds....’ MAY 2009

NorwichBy your celebrity DJ, you can listen to hime live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00
east angliaIn April this year some parts of the UK got bigger and other parts disappeared altogether. The power structure of the Shires was changing. Whether it is for the better, or worse, remains to be seen. The whole idea is urged on by the Government, who want to get closer to the people. Scary thought!

Whilst the rest of the Country was undergoing changes, closer to home we were still undecided. The first moves were mooted some time ago when Norwich decided it might like to declare its independence from the County of Norfolk. Not a great idea when you consider what happened to Rhodesia when it dropped out of the Commonwealth. This proposal started a number of balls rolling.

The County Council are not the happiest of bunnies at the prospect; after all they would be losing a substantial part of their income to provide us with all the “amenities” that we enjoy. Norwich would have to expand the boundaries of the city in order to take in extra revenue, and other authorities would lose on the deal. Faced with this prospect the idea also sparked off several other districts having a similar idea. If Norwich were to become independent then perhaps this could happen to other parts of the County.

little kingdom

All of a sudden ‘little kingdoms’ were being planned. West Norfolk would have its own domain and the fen dwellers and other assorted swamp people would be able to make their own rules. They could launch invasion forces from the port of King’s Lynn on a scale which has not been seen since the ill-fated movie ‘Revolution’ was made there in the 80’s.revolution









More worrying was that in the East a new alliance was proposed with, horror of horrors, a part of Suffolk being joined to the County.

yartoftThe area including Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft was proposed to be the Serfdom of ‘Yartoft’.

The picture painted was that this delightful area with its rather drab and down-at-heel coastal resorts would become a kind of English Costa. However its supporters had failed to take into account one or two major flaws in this scheme of things. Norfolk dwellers regard the natives of Suffolk with some suspicion. They are seen as a kind of sub-human species who possibly have webbed feet and are prone to uncontrolled interbreeding. To be fair this is a view shared by Suffolk dwellers regarding their Northern neighbours.




Added to this you would have to take into account the rivalry of their respective football teams. The ‘Canaries’ and the ‘Tractor Boys’ meet occasionally on the football field cheered, or jeered on by their fans. The former team rallied on by the unedifying sight of the blessed Delia, the TV cook, obviously overdosing on the cooking sherry. All this does not bode well for unity.

deliadelia logo


The central part of Norfolk would be fairly easy to become autonomous populated as it is by people from Portugal and Poland, with the occasional enclave of Chinese. They could drop the use of the English language altogether, introduce the Euro and provide a steady income from packing vegetables and plumbing. The Chinese would be fairly self sustaining from the increasing trend of turning suburban semis into cannabis farms.

jaguarThe remainder of the County Council was to declare that local rule should be dropped altogether and that they, from their 12 storey tower block full of pen pushers and bureaucrats, should take control of everything. This is an organisation that has just successfully lost £32 million in investments in Icelandic Banks. One of their projects last year was to install a redundant Jaguar fighter aircraft in their car park which, it has been noted, points in the direction of the UNISON union office. On the other hand Norwich City Council managed to hit worldwide headlines by turning out several old age pensioners from their homes so that the head of housing, and her boyfriend, along with several other assorted Council lackeys could move into low cost housing. They are also responsible for a neglected war memorial which has resembled a demolition site for the last four years whilst they decide what to do with it. It has been described as being somewhat worse than the one in Baghdad. In the meantime they managed to fund a collection of assorted statues, on a prime site in the city centre, resembling volcanic fallout, and for some unknown reason, includes a human brain. It has to be said this assemblage does serve one useful purpose in providing somewhere for customers of MacDonald’s to sit down whilst they consume the contents of their paper bags. Norwich people know a thing or two about ‘fine dining’. In the interest of European friendship these edifices were designed by a French artist.

brainSo either way the prospect does not look good. The only thing that separates one organisation from another is the ingenious ways in which they find to waste our hard earned cash. Shortly we are to be faced with local elections, parish council elections and Euro elections. Most of the outcomes will be pointless if boundaries are suddenly changed. But, never fear, it takes years before any decisions are ever made. It has to pass Councillors, who will not want to lose their jobs, committees, sub-committees and countless other gatherings each with an axe to grind. By the time a decision is reached the costing of the venture will be so out of date that they will have to start all over again.

Change to Norfolk, if it ever comes, comes very slowly. Eventually a mushy compromise will be reached which is covered by the local expression in Norfolk, we “du diffrunt bor”. Well that’s our explanation for everything!
© Mike Stevens 2009


' Things that stick up! ’

flat norfolk“Very flat, Norfolk”, was a remark made by a character in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives”. Well, that’s not strictly true, there are some bumpy bits, and around some of the edges it is getting dangerously close to disappearing below sea level. In fact it has already been proposed that some parts of the Broads area, a popular tourist destination, should be turned over to the sea and flooded.

towerNorfolk folk, obviously want to conserve their flat landscape, and seem to have an aversion to anything that sticks up more than a few feet off the ground. When a proposal is made to erect a mobile phone mast the natives will certainly rise up in anger. Previous objections to these necessities of modern life where previously focussed on the “it will fry our brains” argument.

brain fryingThere was an apparent belief that people would be rendered insensible and their children, in particular, would become mindless zombies and bump into the furniture.

adhdNow there are a significant number of kids like that already having been dosed on a regular basis with drugs to combat ADHD. Or “naughty kids disease” as I prefer to call it. Nevertheless, either to dispel the theory or out of necessity, mobile masts appear on the top of council flats and hospital buildings because no real scientific evidence of “brain frying” exists.

dangerCampaigners have had to resort to other methods of protest in order to rid their area of this supposed “evil”.

Having failed to make any headway on the dangerous “rays” theory the next argument to be put forward is about the physical appearance of things. Although many are little more conspicuous than your average streetlight it has to be agreed that they do stick up in the air. Such goings-on are not in line with the Norfolk flat-earth theory. Although they can be disguised as other things, like trees for example, they are still objected to on a regular basis even though we now seem to live in a society with one ear glued permanently to a mobile phone and therefore have to rely on the things being built somewhere.

But a far greater evil has arrived to besmirch the landscape. The world energy crisis has brought about the need for alternative energy sources and with this has come the innovation of the “wind farm”. The introduction of the first wind generator to Norfolk was seen as a novelty. It was the centre attraction of the Ecotec Centre, a well-meaning theme park designed to educate people about the benefits of recycling. ecotechHowever the joys of discovering that you could grow vegetables in recycled human 'poo' somehow failed to equal the attractions of Alton Towers and the centre closed leaving only the major exhibit which was a large wind generator. Not only could the natives go to point at this magnificent piece of engineering, but they could ascend the tower and point down .


pointingI should explain that Norfolk people like things to point at. "Look Mummy, the lights are changing colour all on their own, red, amber and green, is it magic?",”Hush my child, they are called traffic lights and are powered by dark forces". When the M25 was opened they even ran coach trips to enable local people to gaze upon it, and point.

wind farmturbineecotech

But I digress. Having one wind generator to point at was one thing but “farms” of them was quite another. Now I have seen the forests of turbines on Spanish hillsides and I can assure you that plans for developments locally are on a much smaller scale. Probably ten machines at the most. Nevertheless planning applications are opposed on a regular basis. The noise will be a disturbance, is one argument. What about the birds? Won't they fly into them? Another fear was they would disturb the radar system which scans the skies over Norfolk. Now I'm left to wonder what kind of air security system we have that fails to determine the difference between a moving 747 and a stationary windmill, but there you go. Plans are submitted by individual farmers trying to scratch a living from their land to major industrialists like Lotus and Bernard Matthews. Obviously the turkey powered generators are not up to the job. All these applications are met with disapproval at some point. The benefits of saving the planet do not come into the argument at all. The overriding objection is that they will stick up in the air and spoil the view. The view of what? For the most part there is little view to spoil, and actually I find these windmills quite elegant.

millThe only exception to these objections is the construction of wind farms off the coast. The Scroby Sands development is comfortably placed a mile offshore. The turbines are seen more as a tourist attraction rather than a major contribution to minimise the effects of global warming. Something you can easily point at, and from a safe distance well out of reach of plummeting seagulls!

Now you may agree that the locals have a point. Maybe they want to preserve the landscape as it has always been. But you would be missing one factor here. For hundreds of years the Norfolk landscape has been dotted with windmills of all kinds. They ground the corn, and pumped the water into the dykes to keep huge parts of the landscape dry which are below sea level. Without them the North Norfolk coast and the productive fenlands of the Cambridgeshire borders would not exist. The ruins of these mills still stand, and in some cases have been rebuilt as holiday homes. Of course they are a lot smaller than the megaliths that generate todays power. The uses to which windmills are put may have changed, but the need to harness the power of nature still has its uses; this time to help save the planet.
© Mike Stevens 2009

old millmill

'Tescopoly strikes again!’



TESCO VANThe big news in town is not the credit crunch, unemployment or the likelihood of 2 centimetres of snow causing traffic chaos and several hundred schools to be closed. It is the news that Tesco Express is about to land in the Golden Triangle. Now I’d better explain that the Golden Triangle is not, as you might suppose, a high level to be reached in a computer game, nor is it a location where First Buses have mysteriously disappeared. It is, in fact a triangle shaped collection of streets of squat Victorian houses to the west of the city centre. They have very little in the way of front gardens and no garages. Indeed, when the dreaded grey and luminous blue wheelie bins were handed out recently many of the occupants could barely get out of their front doors because they were blocked by these plastic monstrosities. The residents were torn between the green ethic of recycling and the fact that the locality was beginning to look like Legoland. This is a minor scandal compared with their five year battle to prevent Tesco building a small convenience store on some waste ground in a side street off the main drag appropriately called Unthank Road.

SAY WHAT YOU FEELThe occupants of this area have, until the recent financial crash, been an estate agents dream. Living in the Golden Triangle is the local equivalent of London’s Notting Hill. Close to the city centre and the University it has attracted the yuppies, decision making high‐rollers and property speculators. Houses that would sell for about £120k if sited elsewhere would fetch twice that figure or more in the property boom. It was immensely desirable to live there even if some of the homes were sub‐let to scruffy students.

PROTESTORSNow the ‘yummy mummies’ clutch their designer clad infants to their bosoms and cover their eyes. Flags fly at half mast and everyone has stopped moaning about the bloody wheelie bins. In spite of a long and expensive campaign going back for 5 years Tesco has at last been given planning permission to build its little sub‐store. Of course there is some sympathy for the local traders, but it is really very unlikely that the trendy residents really do all their grocery shopping in one of the two Co‐ops. Perhaps they pop in occasionally for a bunch of eco‐friendly bananas, but that is probably about all. In fact one might suppose that if a mini Waitrose were to be built instead there would have been barely a raised eyebrow. Even a Marks and Spencer food store would have been acceptable with its selection of salads, which everyone knows are plucked by angels and washed in mermaids’ tears. At least that is what you would expect at the prices they charge. Even a branch of Sainsburys might have passed the yuppie test. Of course Sainsburys was invented to keep the riff‐raff out of Waitrose.
PROTESTORSAction groups were set up, websites appeared and banners were marched to City Hall. So far nobody has chained themselves to a Derby winner or appeared in a Superman outfit on the balcony at Buckingham Palace. The resplendent Art Deco monstrosity that is City Hall was the place to target. There the power of the City rests, astoundingly, with the Green Party. Now the philosophy of the ‘Greens’ is that if any other party is for something, then the ‘Greens’ are against it. Now everything is green in the Golden Triangle. They even hold a Greenstock festival where the natives dance naked around a burning wheelie bin. Apparently 66% of them vote for the Green Party and, presumably shop at the green grocers. So City Hall supported the residents in the fight. As each planning application was made, it was turned down. “What about the big lorries?” And “where would all the cars park?” Presumably the Co‐op parachute their supplies into the area. “What about the noise?” Do people trudge round the area in silence wearing carpet slippers? I think not.
PROTESTORSChildren were encouraged to make drawings of what they would like to see on the site and 200 of these were pinned to the safety fencing. Most of these drawings resembled edifices which were more horrific than a simple shop. Many of them appeared to depict a mattress factory undergoing a large explosion, but then most kids drawings look like that. Strange statistics appeared with a strong anti‐Tesco bias. Some genius dreamed up a ‘typical shopping basket’ and pointed out that a saving of £1.13 could be achieved by buying from the Co‐op. Now if you have been prepared to fork out £250k for a house you are hardly likely to fall apart over the cost of cut‐price toilet rolls, even if they are recycled!
PLANNED STOREEvery planning refusal was met with a further re‐application from the big T. In fact there were 8 in all, before I lost count. An independent planner was eventually called in by the Council to look at the residents objections. They were confident that he would support their cause. To their surprise, apart from an agreement to limiting the car park space, he decided that all their reasons to object to Tesco’s plans, which were mainly based on the ‘big lorry’ issue, were without any foundation whatsoever. As a consequence of this all planning refusals were over‐ruled and building can commence. The Council coffers are lighter by around £250,000 as a consequence which is what all the support for the activists cost the local tax payers.
ARLINGTON SERVICE STATIONOne local shop keeper was heard to quote “it is the start of a slippery slope”. There were declarations of “of course I will never shop there”, but strangely Tesco home delivery vans are frequently seen making drops in the area. Just in case you were wondering what was on the site before it became derelict it was not lush grassland with sheep grazing against a backdrop of sunlight dappled through tall resplendent oak trees. It was in fact the Arlington Service station which had an endless succession of cars going in and out day and night. I seem to recall there was something of a protest when it closed down. Some people are never satisfied!

© Mike Stevens 2009


By your celebrity DJ, you can listen to hime live on Wednesday mornings 10..00-13.00

WOOLWORTHSWhen started as a ‘new boy’ at a minor (very) English Public School more years ago than I care to remember we were given a list of school rules. I still have this and it might make a topic for another article but suffice to say most of the restrictions that were placed on all pupils are now handed out as punishments by juvenile courts.

WOOLWORTHSNot eating in the street, not being permitted to go out at any time without wearing the school uniform and being banned from all places of entertainment were fairly self-explanatory. However one rule puzzled me. ‘Members of the school are not permitted to enter chain stores during term time’. Now, apart from a cycle lock, I had never felt the need to buy a chain. What was dreadful about them? Was there a danger than small boys would roam the street wielding lengths of chain and threatening passersby? It was pointed out to me that chain stores were branches of nationwide stores that were familiar to every High Street. In those days this meant Woolworths, Marks and Spencer’s and British Home Stores. All these establishments were conveniently, or inconveniently, situated directly opposite the school entrance.

WOOLWORTHS CLOSINGNow I was not too concerned about the banishment from M & S. Perhaps the ‘powers that be’ were concerned that small boys would be corrupted by lingering in the lingerie department. After all this was an all boys school and we were also banned from going near girls. I suspect this had more to do with school uniforms only being obtainable from a designated outfitter who charged inflated prices and presumably gave generous ‘back hander’ to the headmaster. British Home Store seemed, almost exclusively, to sell lampshades as I recall. No great loss not going in there.

What did hurt was the forbidden territory of Woolworths. Now I had been brought up, as many of my generation had, to regard Woolly’s as a kind of Aladdin’s cave full of all sorts of goodies that we often affordable from meagre pocket money and holiday earnings. Who has never drooled over the day-glo splendour of the pick’n’mix section? In the early days there was none of the health and safety laws that ensured that consumable goods should be covered. Everything was exposed and many a child would scamper out of the store clutching a bizarre assortment of confectionary seasoned with fly droppings. Then there were the toys, again usually easily affordable, which came in garish boxes. Usually these were rip-offs of much more expensive items obtainable in ‘proper shops’. But did we care about the quality? Not a bit of it. Nor did we mind that the K-Tel records, which were so crammed with tracks that a grasshopper sneezing would send the pick-up arm on your record player scudding across the surface.
WOOLWORTH STAFFAll the stores had the same layout. You knew where you were in Woolworths. Somewhere at the right side of the store was a tea and coffee counter. For some unaccountable reason you could only stir your beverage using a communal teaspoon that was chained to the counter. Had they been plagued by a gang of ‘teaspoon bandits’ who had snatched their entire stock except for this solitary item?
‘Saturday girls’ had a certain allure. These were casual workers, very, who would stare disinterestedly at the produce and defy you to buy something. After all these were the days before ‘scanning’ and so buying an assortment of small goods at various prices would involve them in a massive exercise in mathematics which was never going to be the strong point of these ‘Saturday Girls’ who would do their calculating on the back of brown paper bags.
But, alas, on January the 6th 2009 all these stores, some of which had become ‘big w’s, closed their doors for the last time. it was a sorry sight to see the staff lockers, shelving and baskets for sale in those final days. ironically in the final weeks, as stock was reduced to a fraction of the original price, they were packed to doors. I suspect a lot of items, including the pick’n’mix were being bought purely out of nostalgia. cheap and nasty goods can still be bought in pound shops and their like, but we shall never see the variety of ‘tat’, albeit useful ‘tat’ under one roof again. and small public school boys will never feel the sense of elation as we did on the last day of term when we invaded woolworths for a bit of down to earth shoplifting.
© Mike Stevens December 2009


Farewell to the English ‘Local’

PUBST PETERSIf you are to believe the storylines of UK soap operas you may be led to think that the hub of any community is the neighbourhood pub. Whether it is the Rovers in Coronation Street, the Queen Vic in Eastenders or the dear old Bull in the Archers it appears that the whole community, rich or poor, pops in for a pint or a port and lemon at one time or another. Plots are hatched, hearts are broken and problems resolved within the oak covered walls of these cosy establishments.

PUBOLD PICTUREOLD PUBSadly this is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. No more are rosy cheeked landladies or busty barmaids pulling pints and dispensing crisps and pork scratchings; surely the food of the Gods! Old Jethro no longer sits in the corner of the inglenook toasting his boots in front of a blazing log fire picking the flies out of a pint of ‘Scruttocks Old Dirigible’ and making it last all evening. Darts and skittles are rapidly falling victims to health and safety regulations and, if they are played at all, are banished to some back ‘games’ room. The hazy fog that hung over the whole proceedings has gone with the onslaught of the smoking regulations. Even the prevalent smell of stale beer has been washed away by chemical cleaning agents in the name of hygiene.

CLOSED PUBThe sad truth is that British pubs are closing weekly. The doors are shutting for the last time and the windows are being boarded up to ward off the squatters and vandals. The demise is down to many causes and has been coming for some time. The ‘Olde Worlde’ pubs run by independent breweries were merged into the major chains that set out to ‘modernise‘ them. Most of the charm of these places was replaced by ‘theme’ interiors where everything was seemingly made of plastic, even the staff. Out went the Real Ales and in came exotic, and insipid, Continental lagers. Whatever they were called they somehow all tasted the same spewing forth propelled by high pressure gas from metal tanks rather than the traditional oaken barrels.

There was a time when a selection of curly sandwiches or the ‘Ploughman’s Lunch’ was enough to satisfy the gastronomic demands of your average pub‐goer. Then the brewery presented us with a menu the size of a barn door with all sorts of exotic dishes which, in reality, nestle in the bowels of the kitchen deep freeze ready to be popped into the microwave and served up with a sprig of parsley. We never really complained, after all we are British. Of course there were some establishments who had real chefs usually desperate for a TV series. If you were prepared to be put on a waiting list for several months to get a booking, you could be served a pretentious and wildly overpriced concoction which looked nice but frankly tasted of dog food. Somehow this was not really what most of us wanted.

The young customers were what the pub chains wanted. They could be lured in with ‘Happy Hours’ when the deal was to drink as much as you could at reduced prices. Even this was not enough for the serious party seeker on a night out. The standard practice, I am informed, is to drink a large quantity of supermarket alcohol at home before you embark on the evening’s jollity. And here is the first factor in the demise of the pub.

You local Lidl or CHEAP BEERTesco can supply booze at prices well below what some pubs pay their wholesalers. It has even been said that they sell alcohol at a lower prices than some bottled water.
When they are fuelled up by the ‘Happy Hour’ the revellers will soon move on to the clubs. Here they spend the rest of the night, and their money. I remember a time when discos overcame the licensing regulations by serving a ‘meal’ to their customers. Apparently you could legitimately serve booze after hours if the customer was eating. The ‘meal’ as I recall was ‘Scampi in a Basket’. A few lumps of re‐constituted fish product and half a dozen chips served on a sticky wickerwork container was all you needed to drink until the small hours.PUB FOOD

Live musical entertainment was once the mainstay of many larger pubs. Whether it was a bunch of rustic folksingers, or an emerging local Grunge band, people would pack the place to doors for the free entertainment and atmosphere. Alas music licences are now being regularly contested by neighbours who are mainly Yuppies living in new developments. They apparently ‘don’t like the noise’ and so that puts an end to years of good entertainment and fun.



BEERNext came the smoking ban. Now I, as a non‐smoker, was amongst the first to welcome this but I did feel that there ought to have been a compromise somehow. There was a time when we did have ‘Smoking Rooms’. It is true that the staff should be protected from the dangers of passive smoke inhalation but surely we could have come up with airtight hatch systems which, after all, have been well tested in Star Wars movies. The compromise is that people are banished to the great outdoors, whatever the weather, to crouch under a makeshift shelter usually with a gas patio heater punching an even greater hole in the ozone layer. Soon these are abandoned by even the most die-hard of addicts and alcohol from Netto, drunk at home, seems a much better option.

QUEEN VICThe credit crunch is probably the last nail in the coffin for many pubs. Even with the lifting of the restriction in drinking hours establishments are more or less empty on anything but Friday and Saturday nights. I’ve tried to find a way of ending this article on an optimistic note, but sadly there isn’t one. The only place you will soon be able to find a traditional English bar is in some Spanish resort. Make the most of them. They are probably the last British pubs we’ll ever see.
© Mike Stevens December 2008




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health food

Bad Food Britain: How A Nation Ruined Its Appetite
Author: Joanna Blythman -you can purchase her book from

bad food
Award-winning investigative food journalist, Joanne Blythman turns her attention to the current hot topic - the state of British food. What is it about the British and food? We just don't get it, do we? Britain is notorious worldwide for its bad food and increasingly corpulent population, but it's a habit we just can't seem to kick. Welcome to the country where recipe and diet books feature constantly in top 10 bestseller lists, but where the average meal takes only eight minutes to prepare and people spend more time watching celebrity chefs cooking on TV than doing any cooking themselves, the country where a dining room table is increasingly becoming an optional item of furniture.
Welcome to the nation that is almost pathologically obsessed with the safety and provenance of food but which relies on factory-prepared ready meals for sustenance, eating four times more of them than any other country in Europe, the country that never has its greasy fingers out of a packet of crisps, consuming more than the rest of Europe put together. Welcome to the affluent land where children eat food that is more nutritionally impoverished than their counterparts in South African townships, the country where hospitals can sell fast-food burgers, but not home-baked cake, the G8 state where even the Prime Minister refuses to eat broccoli.
Award-winning investigative food journalist Joanna Blythman takes us on an amusing, perceptive and subversive journey through Britain's contemporary food landscape, and traces the roots of our contemporary food troubles in deeply engrained ideas about class, modernity and progress.


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