Famous events and birthdays today

TODAY is the last day of July and it hasn’t been anything particularly spectacular, so what’s in a day? Well, quite a lot if it is July 31st.

On this day in 1498 Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Trinidad, in 1588 the English fleet destroyed the Spanish Armada and in 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers left England for America.

In 1792 the cornerstone was laid for the first US government building, the US mint in Philadelphia, and in 1856 Christchurch in New Zealand became chartered as a city.

In 1893 Henry Perky patented shredded wheat while in 1912 the US government banned films and photos of prize fights.

Teenager Ralph Samuelson, 18, hit the headlines in 1922 when he rode the world’s first water skis while in 1936 Japan was awarded the 1940 Olympics which were later cancelled.

In 1953 the Department of Health, Education and Welfare was created and Jim Laker took 10-53 in Australia’s second innings and 19-90 in the match.

In 1964 a Rolling Stones concert in Ireland was halted after 12 minutes because of a riot while 1970 saw the final day of the Royal Navy rum ration.

Astronauts took an electric car ride on the Moon in 1971 while in 2007 Operation Banner, the presence of the British Army in Northern Ireland – which was the longest ever British Army operation — came to an end.

The famous with birthdays on this day include American film producer Fred Quimby of Tom & Jerry fame, economist Milton Friedman, wine maker Jose Ignacio Domecq, French resistance leader Raymond Aubrac, Russian clown Oleg Popov, Australian tennis player Evonne Goolagong, US actor Wesley Snipes, Harry Potter author J.K.Rowling and Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenko.

And, while it now seems a lifetime ago, it is exactly a year ago today that Michael Phelps set a new record for the greatest number of medals won at the Olympics with an incredible new mark of 22.

So if you have a birthday or have achieved something memorable today, take a bow.



Cheers as Royal baby shown to crowds

SO we now have a new Royal baby, third in line to the throne and already a multi-million pound eggcup and bib industry in his own right.

This boost to the nation’s economy provided by the new third in line to the throne cannot be underestimated….apart from the truckloads of pink accessories for a girl which are now on their way to the rubbish tip.

There was an avalanche of congratulations once the news was displayed at the gates of Buckingham Palace with everyone from the British Prime Minister David Cameron and the US President Barack Obama down to people in Kate’s home village keen to get their “Good lucks” in.

There were a few winces at the baby’s weight – 8lbs plus – which is quite big for a first baby unless you happen to mention this within the hearing of any woman.

Do that and you’re bound to be regaled with horror stories of 11lb monsters, a labour lasting three days and comments such as: “There were no Press conferences for me….and the old man was down the pub when little Chelsea Marigold arrived. Drunken beast!”

There is already talk of what the baby might be called and Alexander seems to be one of the favourites with the bookies.

At least he won’t be short of a roof over his head and he’ll need it if he goes to live initially on Anglesey where Prince William is stationed because it gets a staggering 1,360mm of rain or more than 54 inches per year. That could play havoc with drying nappies.

All that is still some time ahead and the nation is much more concerned with rubbing its eyes, dazzled by the barrage of flash photography created by a national Press feeding frenzy when William and Kate walked out of hospital holding the coyly named “Baby Cambridge”.

Photographers stacked ten high used everything from Nikon’s finest to a Box Brownie to try and capture what commentators gushingly referred to as “probably the most important picture of their lives”.

Get real! Photographing a baby – even a Royal baby – comes a pretty poor second to capturing real hard news events from crashes to terrorism.

The only reason every single photographer was forced to put in an appearance is because their News Editors ordered them there. Some, believe it or not, had been outside the hospital for three weeks! How did they cope with calls of Nature?!

Interest in the Royal baby is massive but it is fuelled by national papers which, having started the fire, need to find more material to keep it well stoked.

And it’s not over yet, not by a long chalk.

After front pages dominated by tiny fingers clutching the air above a baby shawl we can look forward to news of the baby’s name, which member of staff won the Buckingham Palace sweepstake and the ninth consecutive evening party at Kate’s village pub to celebrate that. There can’t be too many villagers there left who don’t have a hangover.

And as the Royal rollercoaster gathers pace we are bound to see a descent into the nitty gritty with perhaps a lurid tabloid picture exclusive of the first nappy contents or similar.

The only safe way to sanity is to quietly acknowledge the monarchy moment and move on as swiftly as possible. After all, we now all have the second baby to look forward to, don’t we?


MPs pay: Too much to stomach?

TERROR-stricken MPS are begging Prime Minister David Cameron not to allow plans to go ahead to increase their wage by a whopping 11 percent.

The rise, worth nearly £8,000, is nearly four times the current 2.9 percent rate of inflation, but it is not the hugely unpopular “flash the cash” measure that MPs are worried about while the rest of us struggle to cope with austerity measures. Oh no.

Our elected representatives don’t give a left-handed tinker’s damn about the money, whether they’ve got it or whether we haven’t. Oh no.

What has got them absolutely quaking in their boots is not the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority recommendation that they get a massive pay rise  but the IPSA’s additional comment that MPs be forced to submit an annual report detailing what they have done and achieved during the year.

That little snippet has got them running round like headless chickens, gibbering with fear at the prospect of the public actually finding out how little they do or achieve for their megabucks.

And no wonder. If you’ve spent a year enjoying relaxing rounds of golf all over the country then you certainly don’t want it revealed that you’ve been paying an actor who looks just like you £30,000 a year to go to Parliament in your stead and just vote the party line.

Then there’s the Foreign Affairs Thinktank on Climate Action and Trade Symposium…..or FATCATS for short.

This brings together the cream of Parliament’s scheming, dodging, chiselling, blood-sucking elite for a series of foreign jaunts on the jolly boys’ outing to end all jolly boys’ outings.

These trips at taxpayers’ expense see MPs slurp determinedly to try and answer the vital question of whether wine at a five-star restaurant overlooking the Bay of Naples has been influenced by global pollution and inflation.

Equally pertinent is their search to discover whether the Baked Salmon a la Boris is being unduly influenced by Canadian sockeye quotas and whether terrorism has affected the quality of the local Bombe Surprise.

They then do their bit to support Portugal’s ailing EU position by rounding off their excellent meal – sorry, fact-finding workshop – with several glasses of a rather decent port.

Naturally there is a certain pecking order to this particular trough MPs are so eager to get their snouts in to, so those lacking the required porker power must look elsewhere for a hard day’s work….and there are plenty of available opportunities.

Few of us would envy any MP unlucky enough to be forced to serve on the Commons Select Committee for Fossil Fuel Exploitation, but there is actually a waiting list of members keen to get on it.

This may have something to do with the fact that meetings seem to coincide in situ with wherever the latest Grand Prix is being held in the world, the Select Committee flying out as observers for each one….with a few pit stops along the way of course.

Finally there are actually some MPs unable to get on any of these beanos who must rely on native cunning a little closer to home to get their kicks or kick-backs.

On the face of it, the Grass Roots Association for British and International Trade (GRABIT) appears to involve hard working MPs in a close scrutiny of how to encourage existing businesses to both expand in this country and abroad.

Even a close look at records of its meetings fails to reveal anything a bit “iffy”, discussions dealing with everything from companies in industry producing high tech tracking equipment to others in agriculture specialising in seed, all of which have clear possibilities for export as well as home application.

The key to unlock this beano comes when you look at the whole and realise that grass seed produces turf while for “tracking equipment” trying thinking goal-line technology.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, the MPs working on this committee are all keen football fans and get to hold their meetings every weekend in different parts of the country depending on where the best match is!

So by all means feel sorry for those performing vital and appreciated work for the nation at perhaps less than they should be getting such as nurses, but think long and hard before you shed too many tears for MPs whose new annual wage, if approved, will be a paltry £74,000.

Phew! What a Scorcher!


ONE moment we are wearing lifejackets and swimming for our lives with an umbrella strapped to our backs and the next it’s so hot you could fry an egg on Uncle Bernard’s bald patch.

Temperatures are soaring to the heady heights of more than 28 Centigrade (83F) and ordinary people are developing a yo-yo complex.

They just don’t know whether they are coming or going with miserable, cold and blustery weather one week and scorching conditions the next.

Current weather favours blazing sunshine, so that means gardeners wearing knotted handkerchiefs on their heads can be seen hauling cans of water about drenching vegetables and flowers to stop them from wilting in the heat.

All those brimming water butts are not so brimming now and many gardeners are having to dive into their sheds and rummage about for the garden hose ready for when butts run dry.

You wouldn’t have given a bent penny for the chance of seeing that a few weeks ago, but the dramatic change is not just affecting gardeners but beach life as well.

Barely a fortnight ago you needed a thick winter anorak to risk walking along Weymouth seafront in Dorset, grey clouds scudding overhead as a gusty wind whipped sand or a light drizzle into the faces of those hardy enough to be out for a bracing stroll.

The beach was virtually deserted then but the current heatwave has brought thousands out on to the sands to worship the sun and get a nice third degree burn tan.

The range of beachwear is startling from the Victorian full body costume complete with fake handlebar moustache jokingly worn by one man to postage stamp bikinis worn by young women as they ran squealing into the sea.

There were Panama hats dotted here and there, long legged shorts decorated in everything from tigers to tomatoes, sedate one piece suits for the more genteel lady and extravagant flounced affairs for women whose waistline had gone further south than Portland Bill.

It was all there to see, men’s physiques ranging from Hercules through Mr Ordinary to Could-do-Better and women’s vital statistics coming in three sizes – eggcup, teacup and Challenge Cup.

And through it all runs the quintessential characteristic which makes the English what they are – that little bit of strangeness.

When it was freezing cold, miserable and summer was just a myth you could still see perky gents out shopping in shorts and open-toed sandals and when the sun beat down you could still see people wearing thick jackets, top button undone of course. There are limits.

All that remains now is to look forward to winter which will probably be cold with variable amounts of rain, cloud, sleet, snow, hail, fog, frost…..and sunshine.

Which bits we get and when is in the lap of the Gods, but we’re ready for anything the elements can throw at us because we’re English and weather is in our blood.