Remembering the Blessed Margaret thru two videos

I lack the eloquence and intellect to offer a eulogy to Margaret Thatcher. I know others will do it better. I heard  Charles Moore, Michael Howard, and Norman Tebbit on BBC Radio 4 World at One provide just such measured responses.

The Margaret Thatcher Foundation has two videos to understand the qualities of Margaret Thatcher as a great Prime Minister and person. I’ve watched both again, an unquestionable great in world politics. The eulogy to Ronald Regan I’ve commented on before, contains this fine turn of phrase, which equally applies to her.

For the final years of his life, Ronnie’s mind was clouded by illness. That cloud has now lifted. He is himself again, more himself than at any time on this Earth, for we may be sure that the Big Fellow upstairs never forgets those who remember him. And as the last journey of this faithful pilgrim took him beyond the sunset, and as heaven’s morning broke, I like to think, in the words of Bunyan, that “all the trumpets sounded on the other side.

Michael Howard said of her speech to Parliament that it was the finest he ever heard, and was amazed at her strength and courage to deliver such a speech at such a moment.

Watch and reflect on the passing of the greatest political post-war figure of our nation.

Farewell to the Blessed Margaret

Finding the right words to say farewell on the death of someone is never easy. And so it is with the sad loss of Margaret Thatcher. This short video will surely bring back memories to those of us who lived through the difficult times of the 1970’s, when many of us feared the demise of Great Britain.

Like many, I was proud to have met her. It’s one of my fondest lifetime memories.

A picture of three great Brits

The BBC’s Sports 2012 Personality of the Year [SPOTY] was announced last night. I watched some of it, particularly the Lifetime Achievement Award to Sebastian Coe, and the SPOTY to Bradley Wiggins. The audience got it right when they gave David Beckham the biggest cheer of the night, on arriving to announce these awards, followed by the Duchess of Cambridge who presented the award. 

Determined, gritty, brilliant bike rider, and a sportsman with a character, Bradley Wiggins was my choice for SPOTY.

Three top Brits

Losing a local war hero

ArmedForcesFlag2010Sad news to report, Ted Dunford, Camberley resident and war hero, passed away this week aged 92.

Ted attended Surrey Heath’s Armed Forces Day flag raisings, including when I was Mayor of Surrey Heath. It was wonderful to have a war hero among the flag raising party.  

Ted was also a long serving member of Camberley & District Probus Club, of which I’m a more recent member. Here’s a little bit about the wartime exploits of Flt. Lt. Ted Dunford DFC, and his flying of the famous de Havilland Mosquito.

FltLtTedDunfordDFC“Ted Dunford joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in January 1939 at the age of 19. He was mobilised on September 1, 1939. Ted spent the next year training in the UK culminating in receiving his wings in September 1940. He was sent to Southern Rhodesia as a flying instructor, then returned to the UK to join the Mosquitoes of 608 Sqdn. in the Light Night Striking Force (based at Downham Market, Norfolk), flying fast high level raids, navigated by Flt/Sgt. Bill Read (RCAF) and carrying four 500lb bombs, and later re-equipped to deliver the 4000lb “cookie”.”

“On one raid, flak over Berlin caused serious damage, including total loss of aileron control. The subsequent return flight and successful landing (at the third attempt) was recognised by the award of a DFC. On completion of the tour of 55 raids (including 27 to Berlin), navigator Flt/Sgt. Bill Read was awarded the DFM. After the war Ted flew for another 28 years as an airline captain.”

 I’m proud to have met Ted.

How to commemorate 100 yrs since WW1 began

I’m delighted that the government intend to mark the centenary of the Great War under plans announced by the Prime Minister yesterday.

Having recently spent a week in the Somme region of France, understanding the nature of trench warfare, and visiting numerous Commonwealth war graves, I’m keen that any commemoration places limits on any glorification of war. And so I’m pleased that the Prime Minister said this in his announcement,

“However frustrating and however difficult the debates in Europe, 100 years on we sort out our differences through dialogue at meetings around conference tables, not through the battle on the fields of Flanders or the frozen lakes of Western Russia,”

He said the First World War “matters not just in our heads, but in our hearts”, which must give countries across Europe “a confidence and determination never to go back”.

One of the party in the summer school is involved in taking small parties of school children to visit the WW1 battlefields and war graves. I must say that’s not something I thought happened. It’s also pleasing, therefore, to hear the Prime Minister building on this by putting education at the centre of the commemoration, saying,

“The centenary will also provide the foundations upon which to build an enduring cultural and educational legacy to put young people front and centre in our commemoration and to ensure that the sacrifice and service of 100 years ago is still remembered in 100 years’ time.”

In the summer school we heard of some of the individual acts of heroism and sacrifice. My idea, of how to commemorate the centenary of WW1, is that we tell some of these stories, specifically adapted for radio. Say, in a 15 minute programme beginning on the 100th anniversary of the start of the conflict on August 4th, 2014.

Perhaps, two stories could be told in that 15 minutes, which could be played on radio each week, so that in a year we’ll have heard 100 stories. Thereby matching the centenary. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of images of the Great War. A chance to listen, and imagine can be, I think, more powerful than a surfeit of images.

I’m even tempted to be the producer of the series.

Poults and Ollie are heroes

I don’t play golf. I haven’t the mental strength to rise above wayward drives, missed putts and lost balls. I am a lover of sporting endeavour, and the Ryder Cup golf competition is jam-packed full of it.

I’ve stayed up late at night to watch highlights on BBC TV. The action on the final day was nothing short of miraculous. Real edge of the seat viewing.

I know that the Ryder Cup is a team format, which is unusual in golf, and that therefore its invidious to select individuals from within a winning team. But, it’s impossible not to mention two heroic performances.

Ian Poulter’s passionate charge, in partnership with Rory McIlroy, in the Saturday afternoon fourballs gave the European team hope. Up to then they had been thoroughly outplayed by USA’s superior putting.

Ian Poulter ‘Poults’ driving passion for the team combined perfectly with the modest passion of Europe team captain José María Olazábal to fire up the team for the final day singles matches. My two heroes of this Ryder Cup. Here are a few words from both,

BBC’s Tom Fordyce article about Europe’s position late on Saturday afternoon:

But dramatic late points from Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and the brilliant Ian Poulter – his third of the competition – gave Europe late hope of an unlikely comeback. “That was unbelievable,” said Poulter, who notched up his 11th victory in 14 matches, despite being two down with six holes to play. “We had to get something going. From then on my putter warmed up nicely, having been pretty cold for the first 13 holes. “

“Then it just went crazy. It was tough out there. We’re in Chicago, they’ve had a few drinks today and they weren’t making it easy for us. I will be honest, it was brutal.”

Again from the BBC report, here’s what Ian Poulter said after the cup was won:

“This was a team performance and the team have done an unbelievable job,” said Poulter, one of Olazábal’s two wildcards. “There was a buzz in the team room last night that didn’t feel like we had a four-point deficit.

“For some reason, everyone was calm. Everyone was cracking jokes. We just felt we had that tiny little chance and the boys have proved it today and made history. It has been unbelievable.”

“My captain picked me to come and play and I owe it to him, and Seve, to be here today. It’s pretty special.”

That team talk from José María Olazábal on Saturday night must’ve been quite something. Here are a few views on it

There was widespread praise for Olazábal from his team. Nobody was any more fulsome than the world No 1 Rory McIlroy. “He has made us cry in the team room this week,” said McIlroy. “Some of us have broken down into tears with some of his speeches. And to play so well out here today knowing that Seve’s looking down on us, it’s just been one of the most incredible days that I’ve ever had on the golf course.”

And from Ian Poulter again,  “Ollie said to us that the Ryder Cup is what memories and dreams are made of and last night that team-room was buzzing,” he said. “We weren’t four points down. We felt like we were all square. We just knew we had a chance. And do you know this is history right here. We knew Ollie had us wearing Seve’s navy blue and white for a reason,” said Poulter. “We had Seve on our bags, on our shirts and in our hearts. We did this for Seve.”

Finally, these are stirring words from José María Olazábal, “All men die, but not all men live, and you made me feel alive again this week,”

Must stop now, as am getting quite emotional myself.

Jokes about quantum mechanics

In Robert Colville’s article in the Daily Telegraph about the Higgs boson, he quoted two jokes. Both require a degree of knowledge, though not necessarily understanding, of particle physics and quantum mechanics.

  • “The Higgs boson walks into a Catholic church, and the priest says: ‘What are you doing here?’ The Higgs says: ‘Well, you can’t have mass without me.’ ”
  • Then there’s the one about the Uncertainty Principle, which holds that you can know the position of a particle, or its velocity, but not both. “Schrödinger and Heisenberg are speeding down the motorway, and get stopped by the police. ‘Do you know how fast you were going?’ says the officer. ‘No,’ says Heisenberg, ‘but I can tell you exactly where we are…’ ”

Why, you may ask, are they funny to me? Well, on my bedside table, in addition to a dictionary and my current reading, is Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher by physicist Richard Feynman. Here’s a description of the book, which includes a chapter on quantum mechanics and the Uncertainty Principle:

It contains the six easiest chapters from Richard P. Feynman’s landmark work, Lectures on Physics—specifically designed for the general, non-scientist reader. Feynman gave these lectures just once, to a group of university undergraduates in 1961 and 1962.

I dip into Six Easy Pieces now and again. The result is that it serves as a constant reminder to me that I lack the necessary intelligence to understand quantum mechanics and the mathematics associated with it. Oh, and much else besides.

Years ago I saw a BBC Horizon programme about Richard Feynman – The Pleasure of Finding Things Out [and HERE for the longer version, inferior picture quality though]. I was captivated by his immense humanity, and picking up his book Six Easy Pieces I somehow feel that his genius and humanity coming off the page. Odd I know. But he was a great man.

Remembering the heroes of the first World War

Every time I visit northern France, I try to make time to visit a war grave. The opportunity for quiet contemplation on sacrifice, heroism, service and duty of those involved is humbling, and always tad emotional.

On one visit we stopped at a small war grave cemetery for British soldiers. Beautifully designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and wonderfully located on the side of a hill overlooking a verdant valley, it was full of the graves of officers and men in their teens and twenties. I can’t remember whose grave I stood in front of, not important really, but I thanked them all for giving their lives for our freedom.

This year when we travelled to Germany for a town twinning celebration we stopped at a small field of French war graves. Doesn’t matter where they come from, war visits tragedy on all sides. A solitary, yet uplifting experience. On the journey home, we stopped at Verdun.

I’ve visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, the most moving part of which, for me anyway, is the reconstructed piece of railway next to the Far East Prisoners of War Memorial.

Saving lives carries on regardless of the election

Yesterday I was with a party on a full day visit to the RNLI’s base in Poole. A truly amazing day. The visit included the RNLI’s Lifeboat College, where they train lifeboat crew in a specially designed facility that can replicate night-time storm conditions. We also visited their lifeboat resource yard, clambering over and seeing many different types of lifeboat, from the biggest Severn class, to a specialist hovercraft, and smaller inshore lifeboats.

Here’s a picture of me and a crew member of the Shoreham Lifeboat, which you can see in the background in for an engine repair.

A few key facts about the organisation. All its income derives from donations and legacies, with less than 1% coming from government, and even that small amount comes from the Irish government. It needs almost £500,000 a day to run. Lifeboat crew are volunteers.

Unlike me to be lost for words. But this was one such occasion. Pride that the nation has such an organisation, unbounded respect for the selfless courage and bravery of lifeboat crew, and the professionalism of everyone involved with the RNLI.