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……. Coming through the rye!  

By Mike Cunningham On June 1st, 2014 at 2:51 pm


At my time of life, I was under the impression I had seen and heard of most things in this complex world we live in, but even I was taken aback at the news that this bloke has been sentenced to ten years in the chokey for ‘threatening to burn down a farmhouse and kill the farmer’ because the famer stopped him rolling around in cow slurry, and masturbating while he did so!

I speak from experience when I state that there are few things in the area of mental health disorders which would surprise me, mainly because I have a wide knowledge of the conditions and various malaises suffered by those unfortunate enough to have a mental health problem inflicted upon them; this experience and knowledge gained through the long illness suffered by my beloved wife, as well as the tortuous treatments ladled out over some forty three -odd years of our marriage.

But because nothing surprises me regarding mental health problems, the fact that, in our ‘beloved’ NHS, there are few things more truthful that stating that Mental Health is the true ‘Orphan’ both in funding, attitudes and hope for a better life for the afflicted, within the monstrous goliath which is the NHS; I think it is fair to ask if a e-mail onslaught against our MP’s may, just may, prove fruitful.

When there are plans to give young children huge doses of very expensive drug regimes when those children are being considered for ‘Gender Re-assignment’ surgery, surely it is about time that someone speaks up for those who literally cannot speak for themselves, and gain access to further scarce funding for both research as well as ongoing care for those true unfortunates with ongoing mental health problems.


and this is how he will be remembered

By Mike Cunningham On January 17th, 2014 at 1:02 pm

As I am firmly of a right-wing perspective and persuasion, to state that I held in strong affection a man who always held strong left-wing views is no anomaly; in fact I hold several members and former members of the Labour Party as people who are always to be remembered as people of conviction and purpose, never veering from the course that guided their very lives. That I often thought that their pathways was the way towards delusion and devastation is beside the point, they did not hedge their bets, they did not adopt and discard policies and beliefs with the changing of the seasons or even the months, they were true to their standards. Names such as the glorious lunacy of Antony Wedgewood (Tony) Benn is one, where a scion of the aristocracy tried, without any success whatsoever, to announce to everyone, in that truly cut-glass accent, that he was just another Labour supporter, was so funny; mainly because he thought he had achieved proletarian anonymity.

I write of one such left-wing man, whose beliefs were well hidden to most, whose talent and range of acting could be written for a long time, who was a good kind father, husband; but will forever be thought of as the slow-witted ‘Trigger’ of ‘Only Fools and Horses’. A man whose innate acting ability, along with the ability to keep a dead-pan face, resulted in the two best-remembered clips on television. A man for indeed all seasons, and who will forever be remembered as the man who identified the most fleeting film actor who ever played a role by his words “Ghandi”!


By Patrick Van Roy On December 6th, 2013 at 11:41 am


No sadness, but a celebration!

By Mike Cunningham On November 2nd, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I urge you to visit the Obituary of an Engineer; a man who made, restored, repaired all manner of things, and rejoiced in all things steam-driven and mechanical.

One thing alone gives the viewer an advantage, the video in the Telegraph’s piece is not polluted with any advertising at all!

His summing-up of modern Britain is both succint and very very true:-


“Our fate is a microcosm of the country’s attitude to value-added manufacturing,” Minns reflected. “We make nothing, and we don’t care. We’re not even a nation of shopkeepers, we’re a nation of shelf-stackers — Napoleon must be screaming with laughter.”


and ignorance is truly bliss

By Mike Cunningham On September 20th, 2013 at 6:57 pm

One of the nastier aspects of the Gauleiters who rule us all under the heavy disguise of Local Government is their singular dislike for anything religious. My second son was planning his wedding, and because it was to be a civil ceremony, had to get the Registry Office people involved. One of the strongest diktats produced by these rigid clowns was ‘There must be No Religious Music at all during the wedding Ceremony’.

Now I must confess that my religion, which was once such a great part of my life, no longer holds any great thrall for me. The reasons for my withdrawal are many and varied, but they do exist; and the one strand of my old religion which still calls strongly to me is its music. Many of the Masters of the Renaissance and afterwards had religion and their beliefs at the very heart of their compositions, and when you hear the soaring strains from a Thomas Tallis or a Monteverdi piece, you can well understand the saying ‘All to the Honour and glory of God’. Not for one moment would I contend that the composers who do not have any religious fervour inbuilt to their works are any the worse for that lack; but for me, the music which holds the love and wonder of a Divine Creator has a special power.

At my son’s request, I compiled a selection of music on a CD, from which my son and his wife-to-be chose the strains which would celebrate their Union, and, unknown to me, for the entrance music, they chose this minor masterpiece.


My eldest brother, now dead, leant forward and whispered to me, ‘Hoi, I thought that the hard-faced supervisor didn’t allow any religious or sacred music, How did you get that one past her?’

I simply replied, ‘What they don’t recognise, doesn’t worry them!’

The badge of honour.

By Mike Cunningham On May 8th, 2013 at 12:03 pm


aMerchantcapI wore the cap badge of the Merchant Navy in the years of my youth, along with the purple-stripe bordered by gold braid denoting Engineer Officer on my uniform. Before I met and married my wife, I had many ports and many trips under my cap, and it is only now, in the evening of my life, have I come to understand how important the sea was and is to us; a Maritime Nation.


Imagine, if you will, your departure from the port of Halifax in Nova Scotia in the early years between 1939 & 1945. Your ship is tasked to a convoy, protected by a tiny number of inadequately-equipped escort vessels; tiny because of the short-sighted policies of successive British Governments who had decided that the best form of defence for a maritime nation was to do very, very little indeed. You sailed on that ship in the full knowledge that there were men intent upon only one thing; your death, along with your shipmates, and the destruction of your ship by means of torpedoes, or heavy-calibre gunfire. The gunfire was preferred by the German U-Boat commanders in the early days of the War; partly because the shells were easier to carry in a cramped submarine, and partly because many Merchant vessels sailed completely unarmed, and the escort vessels could not be everywhere at once.

If you were an Engineer Officer, eight hours out of every 24 were spent on watch in the Engine Room, sited by necessity in the bowels of the ship. Your job might also be an engine-room greaser, or a fireman, keeping steam up in the boilers to help propel your ship across the Atlantic, but you shared the same hours as the Officers, and the same dangers as well. The only protection from the ever-restless sea were  sheets of steel, riveted together to form the hull of your ship, and clear access to ladders leading up top. Ladders which were never bolted to the supporting girders, but instead were firmly held by rope; so as to minimise the effects of shock after an explosion. An explosion which, if aimed at the midships of the vessel, would almost certainly result in a huge influx of water, acting as its own battering ram, flooding the very bowels of your ship, and drowning anyone in its path who was unlucky enough to be caught down below.

Some time back, re-read a novel entitled Westbound, Warbound by Alexander Fullerton, and once again realized how good a writer this man is. His writing career commenced with an autobiographical novel of his service with HM Submarines in the Far East towards the end of the Second World War, and the instant success of his first offering pushed him to write on a full-time basis. His novel ‘Westbound, Warbound’ is a one-off, telling as it does the story of a tramp steamer caught up firstly in the seas which embraced the final days of the pocket-battleship ‘Graf Spee’, and then to their travails whilst inching through a North Atlantic hurricane at the same time as being in constant danger of sinking! This book is about the men who brought Britain through the War by offering themselves as open targets for the U-boat menace, armed with a single six-pounder and a rationed number of shells! The men whose work, sacrifice, lives and deaths are forever remembered in the Merchant Seamen’s Memorials opposite the Tower of London and in Liverpool have had very few books written of their deeds, partly, one supposes, that there isn’t much glamour in stories of drowning, or burning alive, or freezing to death within three minutes of your ship’s slowly sinking beneath the waves after enemy action!

His hero is a deck officer, doing the everyday things which are his calling, from taking a ‘star sight’ to advising an illiterate seaman about the benefit of learning how to read.  Fullerton has met men such as this young officer, and more than likely has killed very similar young men who sailed in the Japanese ships which his submarine sank in the shallow waters of Sumatra and Malaya! The novels which have been bought by the thousand telling of the fighting ships of the Allied forces sometimes forget that the slow, plodding freighters, tankers and liners have stories too, and they should also be remembered by an audience which unfortunately these days, doesn’t even know, never mind remember, of the sacrifices which were made so that they can slouch down and watch  ‘Top Gear’ or ‘Broadchurch’ in warmth and comfort!


The photo of the Merchant Navy Memorial in Liverpool is of course self-explanatory, but the next photo depicts a ship heading into a storm, showing what perils there were even without the torpedoes and the gunfire, and the final one shows what might have been seen on a convoy to Murmansk.




























‘Oh hear us when we cry to thee, For those in peril on the sea.’


To the memory of Mumtaz

By Mike Cunningham On October 5th, 2012 at 9:56 pm

One of the greatest exhibitions of love and remembrance ever built is the Taj Mahal. It was built to the memory of Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. As the Muslim world will never erect or commission a statue or a painting of a beloved one, or a figure in their religion, the intention was to cause an edifice of such magnificence that the automatic reaction of the onlooker would be to remember the name of the person buried in such a magnificent place.




So would ATW readers agree with me  that the intention to build a $1 billion duplicate Taj Mahal, complete with a shopping mall, hotels and access to a stupefyingly huge Ferris wheel in a proposed 107-square mile holiday and pleasure complex is tasteless, ludicrous, completely mercenary in the thinking; and maybe a ‘Taj’ too far?



By Mike Cunningham On May 25th, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I have to report a ‘sea-change’ in my life-style and habits. I came home from the weekly ‘shop’, unloaded and stacked all the food, perishables, dairy etc. in the fridge, frozen gear in the freezer, tins in the cupboards etc., the usual round. Made my wife a cup of tea, and one for myself too, sat down after clearing up; reached for the remote to switch the tuner on, and then paused. It was five-past-six in the evening, the 6 p.m. news had already commenced, and still I paused; and then clicked the remote to…..Classic FM, where I listened to a Piano Concerto by Robert Schumann, then Delibes, Karl Jenkins, and much more after that was finished.

I realised that if I had tuned to the BBC news, I would be hearing of the latest stories from the Leveson Inquiry, where I would be regaled with lots of gossip and crap dressed up as useful evidence about politicians and their spin-doctors; and who said what, to whom, and when. I would also be learning the latest in the tortured trials of the Eurozone idiots, along with, hopefully, a bookmaker giving odds on when Greece would default; or Spain, or indeed Ireland. We would then be regaled with ‘news’ about the progress of the Olympic torch, and how it is being greeted by cheering crowds. Seems to me that they must have very little to do with their time except by watching a re-enactment of a ‘inspiring activity’ which was, unfortunately, invented by none other than Adolf Hitler’s Nazis for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. No doubt we would also have heard the real Fat Controller, Alec Salmond himself, telling us all how wonderful it would be once Scotland become Independent. Add to that deep pit of sludge by mention of Spain’s banking woes, Paralympic ticket sales, or rather the lack of sales; and a statement by a Labour MP to the end that she wished that a ‘lager-drinking oaf’ should be killed before he could breed!

Sorry, folks, but this evening is for me and the music, possibly a glass of wine, and memories of an eldest brother who has just died from a mixture of pulmonary fibrosis and cancer.

Oh Dear!

By ATWadmin On September 29th, 2010 at 11:58 am


I was in charge, a few years back now, of parts of the Mechanical & Electrical installation of a very large project in the City of London. The actual site was huge, as it spread all over the area which was the Liverpool Street Station, with three large office blocks actually built on top of ten railtracks within the station proper.

The project part which I am discussing was the installation of the pipes or conduits which were to carry large, bulky high voltage cables across eight of the rail tracks. A huge concrete slab had been built over the whole station; which acted as the basement for the building structure, and we had to supply the power from the roadside to the switchgear which was across eight of the tracks. The pipes, which were made of steel, were six inches in diameter, and the task was to sling some twelve parallel pipe sections at 900 across the eight tracks and platforms.

We had from midnight Friday, until five a.m. Monday morning to get a gang of contractors to accomplish the following:-

  • Erect a scaffold across all eight tracks and five platforms which would be safe and secure to carry all the workforce necessary to do the job.
  • Drill and fix two hundred support fastenings into stressed concrete panels which formed the base of the slab across the station.
  • Screw together, support, sling, fix and fasten all the pipework across all the platforms and double rail tracks which would carry the cables to the substation.
  • Test the structure with appropriate weights to ensure structural integrity.
  • Remove all the scaffolding, tools and equipment, and hand back the station to British Rail.

I, as the Manager for this particular sector of the works, worked out the method statement for the whole weekend, talked it through with the Contractor, and finally approved it.

The one thing which you should realise was that, to shut the whole Station down for a whole weekend was a big, big, big deal; there was a great deal of cost involved for British Rail, coaches would carry hundreds of passengers to and from a station down the line into the terminus area, lots of items were arranged, and nothing was going to go wrong!

In the world in which we live, I can just imagine the Gods up on Mount Olympus watching as we mere mortals made our plans, and reviewed our strategies, and silently laughing their socks off!

I live in the North-East of England, so I made tracks for the road north at four p.m. on the Friday; but before I left, I dropped my head around the contractor’s door, and just reminded him that I was expecting a clean run throughout the weekend. He nodded, and assured me that the team was on the ball!

I got back on site early on the Monday morning, checked on my paperwork, put my workboots and coat on, and trotted down on to the platforms to check on the progress of the job. Now, anyone who has ever walked on a railway station platform knows how long they are, so you can maybe picture me as I walked up the platform away from the old booking hall, aiming for the point where the pipes were to be fixed to the slab ceiling, which was some 130 yards up the platform. Wearing my hi-viz coat, helmet, boots; all dressed up for the party, I reached the actual spot where the cables were due to rise from the ground ducts and run across all eight rail tracks in the newly-installed pipes.

I looked up, and found; absolutely nothing. Nix, nada, zilch, zero! Just a blank slab some ten feet above me where there was supposed to be twelve runs of six-inch steel pipes! So I checked my positions, made absolutely sure I was in the right position, looked up again, and still saw absolutely nothing at all.

So I trundled slowly back down the platform, up the stairs and along the huge site until I got to the electrical contractor’s site office, walked in, sat down, accepted a coffee, then asked my buddy how the weekend had gone; and to my utter amazement, he grinned and replied that the whole job had gone off like clockwork. I gently asked if he was satisfied with the progress of the job, and once again he reassured me that everyone was delighted with the progress, as the station was actually handed back to British Rail some twenty minutes early!

So, not wanting to appear totally manic, I asked him if he would maybe drop back down to the platform with me, and talk me through the job as it had happened. So he put his hard-hat on, his coat, and off we trundled. Down on to the old booking hall, on to the platform, chatting all the while. We walked up the length, but then he stopped, pointed up and said, “There you is, Mike! Don’t they look wonderful?” And they did look pretty smart, all twelve six-inch steel pipes, correctly supported and clamped to the base of the slab, running all the way across the rail tracks and platforms.

I really hated to say the words which destroyed his morning, but I had to. “Paddy,” I murmured, “Paddy; yes, you’ve taken the entire weekend, yes, you handed the Station back twenty minutes ahead of time, but you have placed all twelve pipes some thirty yards short of the actual position as required on the drawings!”

Oh Dear!


X-posted from Fire, Pillage & Plague