Tuesday, 24 March 2015

RAF Wickenby - Now just a private airfield

On Sunday 22 March we took a drive to this airfield, just to have a cuppa coffee, a chat with whomsoever was unlucky enough to be collared by Yours Truly and having a chinwag about whatever aeroplane they had just flown in for, literally, a flying visit.

As usual, I nip upstairs after having a coffee in the 'NAAFI' kaff, to meander around the mini-museum here.

This airfield was home to squadron 12 and squadron 626 of Bomber Command during the 1943-1945 period of WW2. I always think of the many hundreds of young men, over 1000 aircrew, who flew out of here and never made it back. What a huge waste of life and the subsequent heartbreak for thousands more who loved these brave lads.

My somewhat sepulchral commentary is poor and the video is very amateur; forgive me for that.

A week or so back some low-life scum removed the two bronze plaques of the two squadrons from the memorial at the entrance to this airfield.  All of us in the Friends of Wickenby Museum and Airfield were thoroughly sickened by this damnable theft.  To the thieving toe-rags who stole these plaques for scrap I hope you can sleep well.  If you never wake up again then that would be just reward for your deplorable action last week!

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Voice of Racing

I've just been listening to Sir Peter O'Sullivan on BBC radio 4 and so many memories came flooding back.

You may not know this chap but he is still known in horse-racing circles as 'The Voice of Racing'. He celebrated his 97th birthday a few days ago and to listen to him on the radio again was marvellous.

He was born in 1918, in Ireland, and became the BBC's best ever racing commentator. I think the then Queen Mother loved him just as much as she loved having a punt on the races. He was everybody's favourite. 

You could hear every word he uttered when calling the race. The noise of the crowds and the excitement of the race never affected his commentary.  He also owned some classy horses, one of which was Be Friendly.  Attivo was another top class thoroughbred.

Peter O'Sullivan also was the racing correspondent of the Daily Express for many years and tipped many winners for his followers.

I 'knew' him, so to speak, when I worked in the bookie business, from 1956 to around the early 1970s.  I first spoke to him when I was working for Albert Cook & Son, turf accountants, at 801 Wandsworth Road, London in the early 1960s. He had an account with us.

One morning I picked up the phone on my desk and this mellifluous voice said to me:  "Good morning. Would you please ask Albert (my boss) what is the best price he can offer me on Gay Don in the National."  (Gay Don is not the real name of the horse, I cannot remember this far back).

I then asked my boss, saying it was Peter O'Sullivan asking for the price.

The boss scanned the Sporting Life lists to see what the average price was.  He said to me that if Peter was interested then he must have some inside info on this horse.  The price the boss came up with was 33-1 and said so to Peter O'Sullivan.

"Is that the very BEST price he can offer?" asks Peter.

I relayed this question to the boss.  He then said 'Oh well, tell him 40-1 is the absolute tops', which I duly gave to Peter.

I heard quite a hearty chuckle on the end of the phone line then Peter said: "Well, thank Albert for his very generous offer but tell him I shall NOT be wanting to back Gay Don at this price. He died yesterday!" and then he put the phone down.

What a great sense of humour he had, and still has I reckon.

Happy 97th Sir Peter, and when you get to the 100th, which I am sure you will, I will send you a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY message then.

I enjoyed a lot of my time in the bookie world. One met so many notable people, good and not so good.  Sir Peter was the best of all. Ronnie and Reggie Kray were way down the list, having met these two notorious guys on more than one occasion, each time in a friendly way I'm glad to say.  The racing world is full of larger than life characters.

Here's a link to an example of Sir Peter's professionalism as he commentated on a race in which his own horse, Be Friendly, was running.  He gives a clear and unbiased account of the race and is typical of this great man's skill in calling the race.


Sunday, 8 March 2015


What a ridiculous situation in England where retail stores over a 280 square metre floor-space are forced to close their doors at the end of SIX HOURS continuous trading on Sunday.

This means that large stores, supermarkets etc., must close their doors by 4 p.m. if they started trading at 10 a.m.

The latest they can stay open is 6 p.m. if they started at midday but most stick at 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The stores that advertise 24 hour opening have to comply with the Sunday law and thus they close at 4 p.m. and re-open at one minute past midnight on Monday.

This stupid law, some twenty years old now, makes no sense to me.  Employees are protected if they do NOT  wish to work on Sundays. An employee CANNOT be dismissed or treated in an unfavourable way for choosing not to work on Sundays.

This Sunday trading law seems to be something to do with religion, in my opinion.  If it is, then what about Jewish employees who are contracted to work on Saturdays?  If it is NOT about religion then what?  Why should Sunday be any different from the rest of the week.

All our political 'leaders' claim to be believers in God or some other deity as far as I know.   Most of them seem to me to be somewhat two-faced or downright liars.  If Janus were still a God, as the Romans once thought, then politicians would most likely kowtow to Janus, usually depicted with two faces!

Stuff the Sunday laws!

(I'm nipping out to Asda before they close!)