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Showing posts from May, 2006

Not So Dry

When I left Thanet just after 9am this morning, it was in the middle of a howling wind and driving rain. If it had snowed, like it did in ‘75’, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

The rain and solid muddy skies didn’t stop until we popped-up above the clouds at over five thousand feet with a thin layer of ice on the leading edges of my wings. “It’s the day before June” I thought, “and outside it’s five degree below zero.”

It wasn’t much better until just before Southampton, when the cloud started to break but I’m pleased to see that for the coming weekend, temperatures of 18 Celsius are promised. It’s not a heat wave but it can’t get much worse.

And as for the drought, I can assure you that England, as far as Weston Super Mare, is looking very green, very lush and very wet indeed!

Long Voyage Home

Ericsson Boat Ocean Challenge Portsmouth 2006_09
For any sailing enthusiasts among you, here are some photos taken from above the Volvo Ocean Challenge today at Portsmouth. "Flying the flag" for Sony Ericsson, as the boats came in over the finish line on their race home from South America and Rio, with swarms of motor launches and small yachts going out to meet them as they arrived in the dock in front of the Spinnaker centre. Didn't have my proper camera with me though!See BBC News report.

Unfit for Purpose

Watching the Trevor Macdonald report tonight, I can’t help thinking that our new Home Office Minister, John Reid, may have unwittingly written this government’s epitaph, “Not fit for purpose.”

Can anyone, I wonder tell me anything that is actually fit for purpose out their in the public sector. No really, just one example of a big government project or department. You know, like the Child Support Agency, The Probation Service, the Immigration Service, and The NHS. Come on… just one.

I had another experience of the Inland Revenue this month. Sitting on the board of creditors for a company in administration for the last four years, we’ve been waiting for the all clear to pay people back a percentage of the money they lost, including the company’s employees. Everything was held-up earlier in the year when the Inland Revenue, as a preferred creditor – isn’t it always - disagreed with the administrator, one of the UK’s largest accountancy companies. To cut a long story short, the administrat…

Mission Impossible

Something wasn’t quite right with the Barclays online banking site this week. As I write this column, I’ll ‘Ping’ it one more time to be sure and the result is a ‘No response from server’ message, so all is not well in the wonderful world of online finance.

Being curious as to the cause and wanting to know if a client payment had made its way by BACS into my business account, I decided to call the Barclays helpline. This was answered by a pleasant young woman with an Indian accent, who requested my online account information.

“Are you in Mumbai by any chance”, I asked. “Yes”, she answered.
“Do you know your website is only working intermittently, if at all,” I told her.
“I’ll have to report it”, she said “but let me help you log on to your account.”
“But I can’t”, I added, “The server is timing out.”

Rather than continue, I said I would try Barclays in the UK, easier for both us I though, but then discovered that the helpline number I was searching for, took me back to, guess where? Not qui…

Burning Bush

If you think it’s windy now on the north east coast of Kent, then be prepared for even stronger winds mid afternoon, so best tie down any loose dogs and children, just in case.

I counted fourteen ships sheltering in the “Margate Roads” earlier.

Following on from the Cannes release of the "The Da Vinci Code", If you need something to cheer you up, then here's a re-dubbed version of the trailer for the film, "The Ten Commandments", starring Charlton Heston as Moses or was that Ben Hur? I've granted the voice of Samuel L. Jackson a temporary bad language exclusion just this once.

A Secret Mission in Uncharted Space

Well, I found out who the Hollywood movie people are. Its Ridley Scott films as the production company and Kevin Spacey directing, so as they won’t be coming to Thanet to film, - too far - I guess I have to go to them at Elstree airfield or at least that’s what the fax I have here tells me.

They're asking for an "English Patient" like effect with an old biplane - I had rather hoped for an F15 - but it’s not until next week though, so if I’m allowed, I’ll take as many photos as I can to share with you. I’m still not sure you the really big Hollywood star is, as they won’t tell me but I’m assured it’s not Tom Cruise, which is a relief!

Principles of Flight

In case you happen to be wondering why, after years of my writing columns for Computer Weekly and Silicon and general "tech" stuff on IT, there's rather less of it around on this weblog, then it's because I'm experiencing a career change of sorts.

Having taken over the aerial banner-towing company, Airads from the famous “Captain Bob”, I find that I’m being overwhelmed with demand for ‘Gigs’ like the FA Cup Final in the last entry. So I’m dashing around the country with my team of professional pilots, flying banners around big sporting events, police messages, trade union rallies, pop concerts and let’s not forget “Will You Marry Me” messages over Southend Pier and other romantic spots.

It's a tough life but someone has to do it and when IT or Netcrime calls, I get the other members of the team to do the flying but as IT, ecrime and banners both appear to be seasonal occupations at different times of the year, I'm looking for a new career over the Christmas…

Winging It

I see from the Mail on Sunday this morning that a taxi driver showed more “bottle” than me when faced with an almost identical situation in the BBC News studio.

The mystery cabbie man stepped unwittingly into the national spotlight when he was interviewed by mistake on the corporation's News 24 channel. You can watch the video here.

With the seconds ticking down to a studio discussion about a court case involving Apple Computer and The Beatles' record label, a floor manager had run to reception and grabbed the man, thinking he was Guy Kewney, editor of, a specialist internet publication. I know Guy's work and can confirm that he looks nothing like the ‘black cabbie’ who took his place.

The same thing almost happened to me a couple of years ago in the same studio. I forget what I was in there to talk about but the floor manager marched me into the studio, sat me down next to the news reader and then left.

I had a moment or so before going live; and the weather …

FA Cup Final

Just back from the FA Cup Final in Cardiff where I had an unusual view of the match from above. Pictures can be found here for anyone who might be interested in a view of footballers’ heads.

From what I could see, buzzing around above the pitch, most of the first half of the game appeared to be played around the Liverpool goal but I’ll try and get a better look in the TV highlights later tonight.

Star Struck

Apparently Hollywood doesn't want to film its sequel to the Battle Of Britain here because the film crew can't find it on the map so they've decided to film it outside London instead and have asked to borrow an aircraft. I still don't know who the mystery star pilot is. Hope it's Sandra Bullock though!

You'll Never Fly Alone

I had almost forgotten it was FA Cup Final Day on Saturday until I had a call this afternoon requesting a banner, supporting a Liverpool Football club website, to be flown around the stadium for ninety minutes during the match.

I can try and watch the action on the big screen from the air but I think the rest of you will be able to see rather more than me! None of the cold ‘Fosters’ either I’m afraid.

Mission Impossible

Had a call from a film company today. They want a banner flown over Brighton next month but more interestingly, it’s to do with a major production involving a big “Hollywood star.”

It seems that the movie star is the banner pilot in the plot and so they want to film him in the cockpit and want to know where they can do this. I’ve suggested they do it down here in Thanet at the airstrip but it all sounds very complicated and involves a “Unit Move” for the entire film crew to do it.

I wonder if it’s Tom Cruise?

Cry Havoc

A poor start for the new Home Secretary, John Reid, now facing a fresh crisis over foreign criminals, after a senior immigration official revealed that more than half of the 1,023 released in error will remain at liberty on the streets of Britain. Rather like unwelcome house guests that steal the furniture, we’re stuck with them and their continuing lawlessness until they’re too old or too dead to commit any more havoc or they’re banged-up in a prison, an asylum or a nursing home or both at our expense.

I think it’s time to leave Iraq. Yesterday’s “Black Hawk Down” type incident with a British helicopter over Basra simply reinforced my opinion. From now, things can only get much worse and yet our government continues to lie to us in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Listen to the new Defense Secretary this morning and he’ll tell you that we are winning hearts and minds and that the Iraqi army and police are trained-up and ready to take our place in maintaining law and …

Upside News

Doing more flying work than IT of late for my Airads business, which has suddenly taken off in more ways than one, you'll probably find this weblog a little quiet over the next few days as I'll be spending more time in the air than on the ground and as yet, haven't worked out how to post a weblog without taking my hands off the controls. One day, I'm certain that technology will find a solution to this problem, in the same way that my phone has a nasty habit of ringing just as I'm about to take off or I'm on final approach to the runway, really it does!

I'm due to take the happy winners of the Thanet Gazumph's cancer charity auction for a fly-around tomorrow, if I get back in time, so I'll try and remember to record it on my camera.