Tag Archives: #2019

50 Year Old History Lesson-Man on the Moon

On July 16th 1969 Apollo X1 launched 3 astronauts on a historic mission into space: the goal, to put a man on the moon and bring him safely back to Earth. These last few days I’ve enjoyed learning more about Apollo 11’s story and seeing it through fresh eyes, thanks to three fabulous pieces of film. I’d like to share some thoughts about them here.

By chance, I discovered the “Apollo11 Movie” was showing in selected cinemas for a limited period, none of them local to where I live. Luckily I was on a whistle stop visit to Glasgow and managed to see it at the Film Theatre. Shortly after, at the local VUE cinema I attended a “one night only” Q&A viewing of the documentary film “Armstrong”. Then a few days ago, I watched a docu-drama on BBC2 called “Eight Days: to the Moon and Back”.  For “Armstrong” Neil’s family provided interviews and access to private home movies, whilst former work colleagues’ and friends, shared their memories of the man who made history. It greatly helped in understanding Neil a little bit more. The other two films used previously unseen footage mixed with recognisable archive material, and declassified audio files giving access to crew dialogue never heard before, which allowed a fresh perspective on events.

Sitting watching the “Apollo11 Movie” the sheer magnitude of the operation was overwhelming. I always knew the rocket was big, BUT the sight of workmen walking in front/alongside the platform taking Apollo XI to the launch pad, was stunning. The enormous platform tracks moving so slowly, giving the sense of barely perceptible movement emphasised just how huge the platform and its rocket load were. How tiny those men seemed in the vastness of it all, rather like the photo showing the lunar module on the moon surface, with a tiny Earth hanging above them in the blackness of space. Similarly the lunar module appeared miniscule against the moon backdrop on its return to the command module. The sheer size and weight of the rocket was unwittingly summed up by Neil’s eldest son in the “Armstrong” documentary. He couldn’t see the actual rocket on the launch pad after ignition, because it was engulfed in clouds of billowing smoke and initially rose very slowly. In every film the noise created by the fireball of burning rocket fuel was tremendous. The background music in the “Apollo 11 Movie” was powerfully atmospheric, complimented the spoken audio and beautifully enhanced the pictures seen. I wasn’t aware that as the astronauts were climbing into the capsule ready for lift-off, engineers were still at work fixing a critical valve that was showing a malfunction! I knew there was little fuel left in the lunar module as it approached the moon surface, but was shocked to read 16 seconds worth in the film. During the Q&A segment after “Armstrong” I heard it was 18 seconds, but both films agreed that less than 5% capacity was left in the tank.

The documentary regarding Neil Armstrong was informative, evocative and heartbreaking at times. The footage of Neil and Janet with their first two children Eric and Karen was particularly poignant, as Karen developed a brain tumour and died aged three on her parents wedding anniversary. Everyone was devastated, and clearly Neil threw himself into his work even more as a way of coping, or perhaps avoiding the emotional fallout. His wife Janet, the glue of the family kept things going, and had another son Mark shortly after Karen’s passing. Throughout the interviews it was obvious Neil’s long absences for work and his reluctance to talk about much of anything, hugely impacted on Janet.

From his first 20 cent toy aeroplane Armstrong was obsessed with flight, gaining his pilot’s licence before his driver’s one. He got a navy scholarship to university, served in Korea and returned afterwards to complete his studies. From there he went on to fly F-15s before joining the space program. NASA  protocol would have had Buzz Aldrin as first man, but Neil’s more measured quiet and introspective nature seems to have been considered more appropriate, considering the magnitude and significance of the moment. And so Buzz was relegated. I wonder if it was him who saluted the US flag after President Nixon’s phone call. I hadn’t fully appreciated the flag salute, until I recalled that Armstrong was termed a civilian astronaut. I thought they were either all military or civilian, having left the services to enter the space program. Another thing that surprised me, was the fact there had been great debate about whether the US or UN flag should be unfurled on the moon. Neil apparently said that “others cleverer and better educated than him made the decision”. Dumb debate I thought, American mission, money, vision and astronauts, so a no brainer for me. A beautiful song played as the credits rolled for “Armstrong”, and during the Q&A I discovered it was a poem written by Neil Armstrong’s son Mark and sung by Mark’s daughter. It was a fitting tribute.

“Eight Days: to the Moon & Back” was an intriguing mix of new and archive material with added dramatic enactment. The first fascinating insight was the number of hours in space each astronaut had accumulated before Apollo XI: Aldrin over 90, Collins over 70 and Armstrong barely over 13 hours. This may have been partly due to Neil’s uncomfortable ride on Gemini VIII which spun uncontrollably after docking with a target vehicle, resulting in the mission being curtailed. Talked about in the “Armstrong” film, Neil showed great presence of mind to save the situation. His eldest son recalled how NASA had installed a squawk box at home, so mission control transmissions could be heard. When things turned sour with possible fatal consequences, the squawk box went silent because NASA  didn’t want to broadcast bad news. Janet Armstrong went to mission control to find out what was going on, and was denied access or any news. Eric mused that he wouldn’t have liked to be the one facing his mother’s wrath that day.

I was reminded of a book called “The Astronaut Wives Club” that told the space program story, from the wives point of view. What was clear to me was the seemingly complete dereliction of duty NASA displayed toward the families. Effectively space program astronauts and their wives were launched into a celebrity kind of existence, without any media training, psychological, medical or pastoral care for the wives and families. The Armstrong squawk box saga was a prime example of this blasé attitude. The insatiable lust for any kind of news during the Apollo XI mission required the crew to make frequent TV broadcasts from space. And when they returned to Earth, a worldwide tour engulfed them and put them into a situation they were neither prepared nor trained for. It’s something of a miracle that Neil Armstrong with his few but pinpoint accurate words, had a way of summing up things beautifully. The sentiment “how vulnerable the Earth looked, how it must be protected not from natural disaster, or technology but from man himself” I found incredibly meaningful.

Two surprising nuggets of information came to light regarding Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on this historic mission. More than once it was acknowledged that Aldrin helped enable the lunar module to launch from the moon surface. A vital switch was broken and Aldrin fixed it with his felt tip pen. One report mentioned that Buzz found a piece of plastic on the lunar surface, which may have come off the module control panel due to a knock from a space suit. He picked it up and replaced it with the help of his pen. The second point I found extremely moving, and was reported in the “Eight Days: to the Moon and Back” program. Aldrin took a piece of communion bread from his church to the moon, so he could give thanks with his Sunday meal taken on the lunar surface. The audio accompaniment to this had Aldrin requesting “that the people of the world take a moment to give thanks in any way they feel appropriate”.  A dramatised segment depicted Aldrin taking his communion bread, before we saw real footage of Walter Cronkite the US news anchor covering the moon landing, bowing his head in silent prayer. I was deeply moved at this point, much the same as Cronkite himself had been when the lunar module safely landed. The great news man admitted to being lost for words and was seen to brush away a tear. The enormity of the whole thing still gets to me as well, and I shed tears too. Who wouldn’t be emotional witnessing humankind’s greatest technical achievement?

 

 

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Brexit-Three Years On From the EU Referendum

When the UK went to the polls on June 23rd 2016 and voted by a small margin to leave the European Union, I suspect that NOBODY believed this result would have created the utter shambles British politics is in today. Parliament has been paralysed for those three years due to a combination of the narrative being totally dominated by the Brexit issue and an ineffective (incompetent) Opposition.  Consequently, no meaningful decision making or action has taken place, and the act of “running the country” has effectively frozen. About the only thing Parliament has agreed on was that a NO-DEAL exit wasn’t an acceptable option, yet I don’t see anything being done to stop this scenario taking place.

Our membership of the EU is hanging by a thread, having passed the 31st March 2019 predicted exit date. David Cameron having mandated the referendum, for no better reason than to appease the more radical faction of his own political party, seemed shocked at the result and abruptly departed office, leaving someone else to clear up his mess and landing them with a thankless task. Theresa May stepped into the job she had coveted after a “political coronation”, and appeared to be always mindful of the radicals when trying to negotiate the terms of our EU departure. By doing so she failed on just about every level to please anybody, meaning an extension until October 31st was given, in an attempt to sort something out. Having failed to keep the Tories happy, May has stepped away from the cauldron and a Conservative leadership campaign between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt has begun. Campaign “hustings” have got underway, and I have no doubt that Brexit will dominate just about all of the discussions. The media seems to be salivating over these proceedings and report them in a way that suggests the general public has some meaningful say in the matter. Yet it’s the Tory membership (160,000 strong and around 0.25% of the population) who will decide the next British Prime Minister! When you look at these figures it doesn’t seem very democratic to me, it just magnifies the frailties of our “first past the post” political system, but that’s a totally different argument.

Personally I wouldn’t blame the EU if come October 31st they say Go and throw us out with or without a deal. Whoever is Prime Minister then, could say “they delivered Brexit as promised” without actually doing anything. If the British Parliament wants a deal, they have to vote for something that’s on the table. Further negotiations are not on offer the EU says, regardless of what British politicians say to the contrary. The vague hope of a further extension period may be offered as an olive branch by the EU, if a second referendum or a general election were on offer. In theory this could result in the stalemate between opposing sides being broken, but I’m not so sure myself. I have this ghastly feeling Johnson could be dumb/bullish enough to call an election, and win the damned thing outright, following the worldwide trend of “unexpected” election results. Despite his Leave campaign battle bus slogan “£350 million a week to the EU could go to the NHS” being an outright lie, he seems to be the leading candidate for the top job. Figure that one out!

My guess is that both leadership contenders will say just about anything to garner member votes. Like all politicians they are adept at not really directly answering a question, and using subtle changes in dialogue to suit the audience in front of them. I’ve read and heard so much nonsense since the EU referendum that I can’t take anything now at face value, and have become highly sceptical. For example I’ve seen “the £39 billion divorce settlement will be saved because it’s not legally binding”, or “the tariffs saved on goods from outside the EU will be enormous”. Neither of these statements hint at the alternative interpretation/truth: that the divorce settlement is payment for our legal obligations to date, or that the tariffs imposed from within the EU could be far higher resulting in costs going up.

Just two months after the EU referendum, standing at a bus stop in Stoke (area voted Leave), I was informed by a woman that the black foreign speaking customers who filled McDonalds, had two years to go back to where they came from and give us our jobs back! They were not like us she said. When I pointed out that’s not what the EU referendum was about, I was told that’s EXACTLY what it was for. As she ranted on, my ears bled and my heart grieved because she honestly believed what she was saying. Once again I had the feeling of mortification at being British, as described in a blog I posted months before the EU referendum. This is the link below:

https://angiesallsorts.wordpress.com/2015/09/18/national-identity-abroad/

I’ve always said that the Scottish Independence Referendum created a schism within my home nation and re-enforced the one between north and south. The EU referendum did exactly the same thing, polarising opinions and hammering home regional differences. And unfortunately it brought out the worst in some people too. The result somewhere down the line could be a distinctly un-united kingdom for a Britain that is most definitely not great anymore. And the responsibility for this outcome would lie at David Cameron’s door.

Had the narrative of British politics since 2016 been written as a novel a decade ago, it would have probably been considered an outrageous/great piece of fiction. Alas, today it is a sad horrible reality.

Hear Here 1: World Voice Day

I’ve just discovered April 16th is designated World Voice Day, an initiative to celebrate the most fundamental skill humans use to communicate. Everyday our voices are used to impart information and express thoughts and emotions, so when it goes wrong it’s a big issue. So any advice we can find on how to use the voice properly, giving it care, and knowing how to rehabilitate it correctly is essential, especially if you use your voice a lot professionally, or enjoy leisure pursuits such as singing.

Being married to a university lecturer, whilst doing hospital radio and football commentating myself as a volunteer, I’m only too well aware of the ravages the family vocals can suffer. Yet I know nothing about proper voice projection, nurse through the gremlins in an amateurish way and keep my fingers crossed. I’m hoping to pick up some tips online now I’m aware of this initiative.

Thinking about the voice, I was reminded of a wonderful free exhibition that was held in the British Library from late 2017-May 2018. This audio delight celebrated 140 Years of Recorded Sound and featured numerous examples from the earliest days of audio recording. These included a 1889 Ludwig Koch recording of the family pet a shama cage bird, an indigenous tribal song (late 1800s) and  a 1911 acoustic /1927 electric recording of the same orchestral piece highlighting the development of recording techniques, and a Radio Caroline sample. You could sit in two or three record booths and listen to a large selection box of vocals through headphones. The ones I noted hearing: a ropey recording of Florence Nightingale from 1890; Suffrage of Women Christabel Pankhurst 1908; Empire Exhibition speech by George V 1924; a very faint Amelia Earhart 1932; Great 1935 Radio Luxemburg Cashmere Bouquet Trio with piano excerpts. More modern sounds I enjoyed were Tony Blackburn introducing Radio 1 in 1967 and LL Cool J from 1985.

Mediums used to enable the audio to be heard were also displayed, such as gramophones, boom boxes and mp3 players, as well as the formats used to store the audio such as tapes, records and discs, alongside some more unusual and innovative forms. I was surprised to see X-RAY FILM records used to make bootleg audio from the late 40s to early 60s in Russia, playable STAMPS from Bhutan 1972 and VOICE LETTERS from the war years. The size of the audio paraphernalia varied enormously, from a gigantic 20 inch Pathe disc weighing over 2kg used for loudness at outdoor venues, to a miniature gramophone designed for the Queen Mary dolls house, complete with a 34mm 78rpm disc with a 22 second recording of God Save The King sung by Peter Dawson. Apparently 35,000 of these tiny discs were created in 1924 as souvenirs at 6p each!

Going back to the idea of large sized gadgets guaranteeing loudness in outside venues, I was struck by the sheer scale of the Sharp GF-777 radio cassette from 1983. Weighing over 12kg and at nearly 73cm wide it certainly lived up to the description boom box, and made me think of the opening credits of the TV show “Fame” with music blasting down the streets from music systems as students danced. Colour was added to the displays with pictorial record sleeves and maybe the odd small poster too.

Another element to the exhibition was a small section dedicated to how we used to listen to the radio, for so long the main form of entertainment in households before TV was commonplace. I was interested to see old Radio Times editions and fascinated to read excerpts from Alfred Taylor’s audio log from the 1920s. You see I had an audio log myself from the mid 70s to very late 80s, for my short-wave radio listening. My husband followed this pursuit too as a child/teenager, and he still has some of his paperwork. Alas, my childhood logbook is long gone now, but I resumed the activity in adulthood. It was lovely to think that an interest in radio, the ultimate vocal medium, traversed the decades to bring Alfred, Rob and I together in shared delight.

Off The Beaten Track 8

More Questions Than Answers

It’s been a gloomier Brexit week (24th-30th March) after MPs failed to pass any one of eight indicative amendments, meant to help find a way forward in our exit strategy from the European Union.  One thing was proved beyond doubt however, that MPs in Parliament know exactly what they don’t want, but have no idea what they do want, with regards to Brexit. I was reminded of the Johnny Nash song “There Are More Questions Than Answers” and found an unexpected cache of collective knowledge regarding this dilemma on Twitter!

By chance I came across a question well known classicist Mary Beard had put to her followers:

Ok one and all, let’s have the future exam questions that might get set on Brexit… 20/50/100 years hence. Any level from GCSE to degree! Make them smart and challenging!

One contributor Jens Wiechers put things this way-Really dark: Discuss the confluence of events that led to the 2nd Gunpowder plot, the destruction of Parliament, and the abolishment of parliamentary democracy in Britain

A disturbing yet scarily plausible scenario I thought. Many were equally thought provoking.

User Arthur Downing asked: Was Brexit a Tory party civil war, English civil war, or British civil war?  Muriel Esposito offered this philosophy exam question: Is the duty of an elected Government to make decisions for the greater good of its country, or to execute the will of its people? Discuss

Somewhat baffling (my medieval history/old English knowledge is scant to nonexistent)

Erica Laine-Discuss the concept of vassalage as seen in the 13th century and the 21st century as seen by Jacob Rees Mogg. Compare and contrast the treaties which informed The concepts. Why was JRM nicknamed Softsword after March 2019?

So it was good to see some science references I understood.

Toby Schuster put forward for Philosophy A-Level: Examine the veracity and plausibility of the Schrodinger immigrant (the one that steals all the jobs while simultaneously raking in all the benefits)

Richard Delevan asked: “Special place in hell”. Explain whether Brexit was endothermic or exothermic. Show your work. Bonus: defend or refute Donald Tusk’s theories on same.

As I read through some of the replies, I was interested to find that many people shared my feelings that the Brexit referendum could be the catalyst that leads to the eventual breakup of the UK. This sober mood was lightened by a healthy dose of much needed hilarity as well. This thread had me chuckling as it just highlights the craziness of the whole Brexit saga, detailing the rapid descent from serious to absurd in brilliant fashion.

To what extent can the break-up of the old United Kingdom into the independent nations of England, Scotland and Wales and the unification of Ireland be said to be caused by Brexit? How does this relate to the current moves for an independent Northumbria and Wessex? Adrian Bowyer

And Cornwall? Tom Scorza

That, united with Devon, became the new South West EU nation, after the “Clotted Cream agreement” in 2021 (jam 1st/clotted cream 1st on alternate days of the week, with two Sundays guaranteed per month on each option) Marta M Gonzalez #FPHD

And how did they solve the cream or jam first backstop? Richard Thomas #FBPE

Mix and spread the result… Adrian Bowyer

Mary Beard later offered another question-How do political systems ever manage to resolve irresolvable disagreements. Athenian democracy tried ostracism (exile one of the blighters for 10 years). Would it work for us. And WHO WD IT BE?

Immediately I thought of David Cameron who got the country into this Brexit mess in the first place. I spotted his name far less times than I expected, perhaps because since leaving Downing Street he has gone into a self imposed exile anyway. Another name I didn’t see as often as I expected was Theresa May. Landed with the Brexit task after Cameron stepped down, I feel she’s done the best job she can, but her inflexibility has made things worse. The Tory “spectre” names came up a lot: Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees Mogg, Michael Gove and to spread the political fallout a little wider Nigel Farage (UKIP) and former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair got an dishonourable mention too! Blair’s name pop up perplexed me a bit as he’s been long out of government. Yet it highlights a stark reality about peoples’ political instincts which can be fickle, because regardless of the issue under discussion, old prejudices and alliances come to the fore, for better or worse.

Nostalgic Memories-The Chip Book Club

It’s World Book Day today in the UK (March 7th) an initiative set up to encourage children to read more books. Apparently vouchers are made available to help kids purchase a book at low cost. There wasn’t anything like that in my day, BUT I remember very fondly saving my tuck shop money to buy books from The Chip Club (Scholastic Books). From the late 70s to early 80s I looked forward to reading the leaflet advertising the terms offers. I made my purchase and they were delivered to the school. It was my first foray into the heady excitement of buying books. I never did buy the Chip Club diary which was much coveted, but I managed to make enough purchases to earn a Super Chip badge, which I treasure to this day.

       My treasured Super Chip badge. Image credit abmj

Somehow my Chip Book Club library managed to survive the parental cull, when my Mammy would toss out books I’d read for jumble sale collections at the door. I think I tucked them away from display, simply because I never knew the entire time I was in Cleland, what belongings of mine would be missing when I got home. To my knowledge these are my Chip Club treasures.

                       My Chip Club Library. Image credit abmj

Later on as a young teenager, I persuaded my Mammy to get a membership for The Leisure Circle, to enable me to buy science, poetry and photography books from saved lunch money. Then when I married, I enjoyed being a member of The Softback Preview and World Books clubs with my husband, which partly explains our well stocked book shelves today. The thrill of being able to buy a book has never left me.

Off The Beaten Track 7

Remembering The Ten

Seventy-five years ago on February 22nd 1944 ten USAAF servicemen perished, when their American B-17 Flying Fortress crashed in Endcliffe Park Sheffield England. The plane was returning to Britain badly damaged after a sortie over Denmark, and probably flying with only one functioning engine. The park offered the only green oasis in a heavily built up area, and would have given the stricken craft a safe area for a crash landing. However, a group of boys from two rival schools had gathered there for a fight. They were familiar with the sound of aircraft overhead, but this one didn’t sound right. It flew over them low, circled and returned, and one of the crew signalled to the children to get out of the way. Not understanding the gravity of the situation, the children without moving waved back. The next time the plane circled it barely missed the roofs of housing and crashed into a wooded area. One young boy who witnessed that traumatic event never forgot the sacrifice those men made, so that he and his friends could live. The guilt he has felt over this has only intensified over the decades since.

Tony Foulds was almost eight years old when the aircraft with the call sign “Mi Amigo” crashed on that fateful day.  As a seventeen year old he began making a very personal homage to the fallen men, visiting the crash site, planting and tending flowers and tidying around. When a small memorial plaque was finally erected by the Sheffield RAF Association in 1969, Tony continued his pilgrimage to the ten by keeping the memorial in good order and visiting almost on a daily basis. Tony didn’t want those men forgotten and honoured them the best way he could. His dedication over the years virtually went unnoticed, until a chance encounter with BBC presenter Dan Walker.

Tony Foulds at memorial. Photo credit @mrdanwalker

On January 2nd this year whilst walking his dog in the park, Dan came across Tony and stopped to ask if he was ok. He took the time to listen to Tony as this amazing story was revealed, and heard that the old man’s dearest wish was for the “Mi Amigo” crew to be honoured with a flypast on the 75th anniversary of the crash. Dan said “leave it with me” despite having no military contacts. He took to Twitter after this fateful meeting and his tweet went viral, and so began a lot of background negotiations with relevant groups. Twenty days later, Tony Foulds sitting beside the US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson in the BBC Breakfast studio, heard that his flypast wish would come true. The memorial steps have also been fixed and a flag pole erected too.

https://twitter.com/search?q=%40BBCBreakfast&f=videos&src=tyah

Today on the 75th anniversary I watched a BBC special news report from Endcliffe Park, where thousands of people had gathered to witness this special occasion. Flanked by relatives of the “Mi Amigo” crew, Tony was in tears as he waved and greeted the flypast. The planes taking part were F-15E Striker Eagles from RAF Lakenheath, KC-135 Stratotanker, MC-130J Commando II, CV-22 Osprey from RAF Mildenhall, Typhoon from RAF Coningsby and Dakota from RAF Coningsby. They made a wondrous sight as I watched through a veil of tears myself. It was so nice to be able to celebrate such a sad yet uplifting news report. Having read around the story online, I saw somewhere that Tony has lived with Parkinson’s disease for a number of years. This makes his virtual daily visit to the memorial even more remarkable.

Tony thanked everyone for coming, saying the event wasn’t about him but the fallen ten servicemen. Tony truly believes he lives because they died, and his very humble thanks resulted in 66 years of personal homage in honour of that brave sacrifice. I salute Tony Foulds who grew from a traumatised boy into a dedicated champion of the “Mi Amigo” crew. Let’s celebrate that #tonygothisflypast and #RememberTheTen (Endcliffe Park memorial order) : John Kriegshauser, Lyle Curtis, John Humphrey, Melchor Hernandez, Robert Mayfield, Harry Estabrooks, Charles Tuttle, Maurice Robbins, Vito Ambrosio, and George Williams.

The “Mi Amigo” crew. Photo credit @IWMDuxford

Adrian Mole Discrepancies

Sue Townsend began her Mole writing in 1982 with the final book published in 2009.  I’ve read all the Adrian Mole books in order of publication, and it seems obvious they were never meant to be read in this manner, as the story line discrepancies are infuriating.  Reading a Townsend interview printed at the end of my last two books she said “once published, I never read my own work”. Believe me you can tell, because at times Sue talked about characters like she never knew their back story at all. Somehow I don’t think the Harry Potter generation from 1997 onwards would tolerate such a seemingly sloppy attitude toward the main characters story.

The first discrepancy I noticed was in characters ages. Adrian’s Secret Diary begins on New Year’s Day 1981 and on April 2nd he turned 14, making his birth year 1967. In the third book Adrian loses a year, seems to regain it again in later narratives, only to celebrate his 40th birthday in 2008! Yet an Adrian Mole CV printed at the back of the last book states he was born in 1967. The Mole boys’ age references are even worse. In “The Cappuccino Years” which spans from April 97 to May 98, William started nursery aged three in 97 (birthday July 1st) and Glenn celebrated becoming a teenager the following year on April 18th. So there are definitely 9 ¼ years between them, but in October 2002 at the start of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” the difference is eight years. Glenn is 17 (correct) and turns 18 the following April as a serving soldier in Kuwait. William is said to be 9 when really he was eight and this strand continues In “The Lost Diaries” where the narrative frankly gets totally lost, with William aged 7 and Glenn 13? William is simultaneously described as a seven year old being drilled for SAT exams, with prevailing references to nursery school participation, yet at five he would have been between these educational reference points.  Glenn meanwhile celebrated becoming 14 in January 2000 when he should actually have turned 15 that April instead?

“The Lost Diaries” wasn’t written as a novel originally, but appeared in The Guardian newspaper as a series of weekly articles known as the Diary of a Provincial Man, between December 1999 and November 2001.  This time period usefully filled some of the gap between the “Cappuccino” & “Weapons” narratives. However, it sticks out like a sore thumb with story plots that are full of contradiction, especially regarding Adrian and Pandora’s parents. Adrian’s mum Pauline falls in love with Pandora’s dad Ivan after the election of 1997 in” The Cappuccino Years”. This results in the even more unlikely get together of George Mole and Tania Braithwaite. Each new couple intend to marry. Sadly in “The Weapons of Mass Destruction” Ivan is said to have drowned on honeymoon, and the second anniversary of his death is mourned on Oct 2nd 2002. So it was with surprise I read the “Lost Diaries” to find Ivan married Pauline on 27th Nov 1999, returned hale and hearty from honeymoon, and worked from home for about a year before suffering a mental breakdown. With his wife Pauline’s knowledge, Ivan returned to Tania’s palatial and less chaotic home to recuperate. Tania’s husband George suffered a back injury putting up a pagoda in the garden and was hospitalised,  only to  succumb to numerous hospital borne infections as well, so is out of the way. Pauline suffers the indignity of jail time for hitting a policeman trying to remove her Beckham nativity scene, and on her release is said to be distraught to find that Ivan is back living with Tania! After fifteen months in the hospital George Mole is discharged on July 2nd 2001, goes on holiday with Pauline and remarries her on August 18th. Their son Adrian had wondered when they went on holiday if their respective partners knew about it. So there is no mention of divorce between Ivan/Pauline and Tania/George and Ivan is most definitely alive at this point. Another story thread that has been altered in the “Lost” book regards Grandma Sugden who is mentioned as having died over twenty years ago. This would have meant she wasn’t around by about 1980, yet throughout Adrian’s teenage years he writes about Grandma Sugden and family celebrating Christmas several times in the Mole household.

The “Cappuccino” book was published in 1999 and “Weapons” in 2004 long before the 2008 “Lost Diaries”, so the dialogue was established. The latter narrative had virtually no co-relation to the others at all, and it’s obvious it was written in a different way. The fact that September 11th 2001 has no distinct diary entry in the “Lost” tome, but is referred to later on speaks volumes. I suspect in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the USA, the Guardian’s Provincial articles were less likely to be published. However, the Sept 11th omission is cunningly dealt with by the suggestion that Adrian’s diary was confiscated by the security forces in late 2001. Could the daily diary entry have been removed?

Adrian’s half siblings Brett Slater and Rosie Mole are born in August and November of 1982. In” The Lost Diaries” Brett’s age of nineteen is actually correct, and Adrian enquires if his father has had any contact with Brett. Yet in “The Cappuccino Years” Adrian finds out that a young teenage Brett has met George several times at Tania’s home. In “The Wilderness Years” Adrian refers to his sister as Rosemary, stating he refuses to bastardise her name to Rosie, despite the fact she was actually given the name Rosie Germaine Mole. Mind you Townsend has form here, as Adrian’s middle initial A is supposed to be Albert after his paternal grandfather, but in “Growing Pains” it becomes Arnold and in “Weapons” it is Arthur. Adrian’s friend Nigel usually has the surname Hetherington but in the “Small Amphibians” text, he is referred to as Nigel Partridge.

With regard to Adrian’s son William, I got the feeling Townsend just wanted to forget the character completely. This was confirmed with an interview narrative from the author printed at the end of the final books. Sue said she regretted Adrian getting married, having William and ending up a single parent. It restricted Adrian as a character, so she packed William off to his mother Jo-Jo in Nigeria and literally forgot him. The narrative in the books from that moment read EXACTLY that way, William out of sight and totally out of mind, for both the author and consequently her main character Adrian. This left an unpleasant taste in my mouth in a similar way to Adrian’s two NEVER changing characteristics.

Throughout the entire Mole series of books Adrian displays pure unbridled jealousy toward anyone with academic success or writing prowess. He rages at Barry Kent becoming a successful writer, is condescending at a writing group member’s poetry success, seethes at hearing Kent’s mother (a toilet cleaner) has gained two degrees, and is baffled & infuriated when Pandora hires Mrs Kent and later Nigel as Parliamentary assistants, when it should be him in such a position. Adrian has difficulty in relationships where his partner has a degree/superior career track record, and almost chokes admitting his own mother wrote the Adrian Mole cookery book. For all the years of diligent writing, Adrian really isn’t that good a wordsmith but remains convinced of his own genius, whilst rubbishing everyone else’s efforts. These disagreeable attributes remain a constant throughout Adrian’s life which is possibly a good thing, when you consider the numerous other details that undergo change without warning or explanation.