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Permission to speak, sir?

Sad news today of the death of the actor Clive Dunn, best known for his role as Lance Corporal Jones in the much-loved series, Dad’s Army.  He has passed away at the age of 92 at his home in Portugal.   Apparently in recent years he was struggling to see, but his mind was as sharp as ever.   In an interview for this month’s edition of Oldie magazine, he was  asked what it was like being 92. He replied simply: ‘It’s like being  91.’

I think it is widely known that the actor was actually only 48 when he began playing the doddery pensioner in the BBC comedy in 1968. The series ran until 1977, regularly attracting 18million viewers, and is still repeated to this day.   Few know, however, the real wartime service of the man behind bungling Corporal Jones, who saw active service with the 4th Hussars during the Second World War and spent four years as a prisoner of war in Austria.

I grew up with Dad’s Army and Lance Corporal Jones was a favourite of mine – he had all the best lines and several catchphrases that never failed to make me laugh – “Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring, don’t panic”, “They don’t like it up ’em” and “Permission to speak, sir”,  whilst always enjoying telling long rambling stories of his wartime heroics but often forgetting whether he was fighting ‘the Bosch’ or ‘the fuzzie-wuzzies’ in Sudan!

Above all, however, what never ceased to crack me up was his complete inability to stand to attention at the same time as the rest of the platoon – always just a beat behind the rest – so sit back and enjoy these clips of a very funny man – RIP Clive Dunn.

Farewell old friend

BBC Ceefax, the world’s first teletext service, has taken its final bow as the UK’s digital switchover is completed.

Ceefax was launched on 23 September 1974 to give BBC viewers the chance to check the latest news headlines, sports scores, weather forecast or TV listings – in a pre-internet era where the only alternative was to wait for the next TV or radio bulletin to be aired.  Its premise was to give viewers free access to the same information that was coming into the BBC newsroom, as soon as the BBC’s journalists had received it.

Initially developed when BBC engineers, exploring ways to provide subtitles to enable viewers with hearing problems to enjoy BBC TV programmes, found it was possible to transmit full pages of text information in the “spare lines” transmitted on the analogue TV signal.

It was called Ceefax, simply because viewers would be able to quickly “see the facts” of any story of the day.

Its audience peaked in the 1990s when it had 20 million viewers who checked the service at least once a week. Since the launch of the National Lottery in 1994, dozens of jackpot winners have revealed that they first learned their life had been changed when they checked their numbers on Ceefax.

Anyone who grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s will be familiar with Ceefax but because of the wonders of technology, these teletext-type services are no longer our go-to resource for the latest news and weather.  ITV and Channel 4’s Teletext was shut off in 2009 and now those with a soft spot for the BBC’s Ceefax have been cut off, too.

Today we’ve seen Twitter users are sharing #Ceefax memories and wishing the old girl farewell. The image below is currently doing the rounds.  I’m not sure who’s behind it but it certainly gave me a smile.

The launch of the UK’s TV digital signal, and the announcement that the analogue TV signal would disappear in a staged switch-off over five years meant a slow withdrawal of Ceefax, ending with the final broadcast tonight in Northern Ireland when Olympic Gold Medallist, Mary Peters, had the dubious honour of ending the service.

Another happy memory consigned to the virtual rubbish bin after 38 years of loyal service – what will we see disappear next?

The Why Factor?

And so we find ourselves at that time of year when our weekend TV entertainment is taken over once again by reality shows!

Now I must admit that I am a bit of a fan of Strictly Come Dancing [if I can ignore the bits where the geriatric Bruce Forsyth mumbles his way painfully through the bad script on his autocue while Tess Daly smiles through gritted teeth every time he touches her, or the fact that the new judge, Darcey Bussell, is possibly the most irritating woman in the history of television!].  What I like most about this show is the opportunity to see the professional dancers show us that Latin and Ballroom dancing is still an art form to be enjoyed.

On the other side we are then subjected to the X Factor which, for me, has surely passed its sell-by date?  Last night saw the return of the live shows in the studio and once again I was underwhelmed by the so-called talent up on stage.  I’m not sure precisely where any of these people come from but I am pretty confident that there are much better performers in the local pubs and clubs than the sorry few that make it to this stage of the competition.  Perhaps it sounds different to the people in the studio but to us at home it can be rather embarrassingly awful to sit through.

I also wonder what the contestants themselves think will happen after their 15 minutes of fame?  Previous winners have all but disappeared from the face of this earth with some maybe achieving a few column inches in various tabloid newspapers for wearing something awful or falling out of a nightclub – a lasting career in the music business?  I seriously doubt it!  We listen to Louis, Tulisa, Nicole and Gary banging on about finding someone “current” and “exciting” and we are then subjected to distinctly average covers of songs by the likes of Queen, Spandau Ballet and John Lennon?  What’s that all about?

There is a glimmer of hope this evening however.  Season 2 of Homeland starts on Channel4 at 9.00pm.  If it is as gripping as Season 1 then we’re in for a treat!

Mañana, Mañana

If there was a Degree in procrastination, I would have a First Class with Honours!  I know that the best way to deal with this somewhat negative trait is to write a list of all those things I need to do and work my way through them until they are completed.  Saying it is easy – doing it is another matter!

Take the kitchen unit I ordered to give me more workspace.  Having eventually found something I thought would work, I ordered it and the company duly delivered it a few days later – in a flat box!  Of course I hadn’t read the small print and didn’t realise it was self-assembly.  Well I opened the box and looked at the instructions, found there were 27 different parts and hurriedly put the instructions back in the box and walked away. 

Seeing the box in my hall ever day made me feel extremely guilty – but not guilty enough to get it out and get on with it.  I made excuses – I didn’t have the time, it would be too difficult, my electric screwdriver needed charging – anything that meant I didn’t have to actually do it!

Now I realised that this piece of furniture could not put itself together but I also knew that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do battle with the screwdriver.  So it was several weeks before I took the plunge and set about building the thing.  An hour and a half later I had finished and sat back, pleased with the results.  So why couldn’t I have done this when it first arrived?  Simple, it was easier to put it off until another day.

It is comforting to know I’m not alone.  Here are just two examples that I found on the BBC website today that I can totally identify with and which made me laugh out loud:

A friend of mine, who I’ll call “Dave” (because that was his name) said he would do anything to avoid A-level revision. At one point he infamously found himself weighing the cat, convinced that he would only be able to settle down to work if he had that data to hand. As a result, some 25 years later, the act of procrastination is referred to by my family as “weighing the cat”. I Whitten, Sittingbourne, Kent

I started up the Stirling University Procrastination Society in 1980. It was a resounding success. Not one person bothered to return their registration form on time and we never got round to holding any meetings. Well done us. Yay! JohnB, Berkshire

But wait a minute!  I am even procrastinating now!  I should be working but instead I am writing this post.  It is perhaps true then that the work you do whilst procrastinating is the work that you should do for the rest of your life ….. 

…. I’ll let you know tomorrow!!!

The reign of Spain continues in Ukraine

So that’s it – the end of another tournament and Spain are the worthy winners, beating Italy 4-0 to enter the record books as the only team to win 3 consecutive major international competitions, Euro2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro2012 – quite an achievement for a team often described throughout this competition as “boring”.

Well they were far from boring tonight.  If you watched the game you’ll know that this was a game totally dominated by Spain from the start and their passing game meant Italy had very little chance of doing anything on the rare occasions when Spain allowed them to take possession of the ball.

Leading through first-half goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba, Spain’s victory was sealed when final substitute Thiago Motta was stretchered off, leaving the Azzurri to play the final half hour with 10 men.  And just to rub it in, Chelsea duo Fernando Torres and Juan Mata scored in the final minutes to complete a sensational victory.

Former Arsenal player, Cesc Fabregas, got his own back.  In his post-match interview with the BBC he said:

“It feels really, really amazing. It’s one of the best days of my life.  “I don’t think we realise what we’ve done. But in time we’ll see what we’ve done.  “Are we boring?  People who think we are boring, I don’t think they understand the game.”

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