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Posts by John
Sad news that the last of the three Andrews Sisters has died. So it seems appropriate to make a little tribute to them.
The Andrews Sisters’ recordings gain, I think, from the scratchiness of the old 78rpm records. As with Glenn Miller’s recordings, I find the sound of vinyl or CD lacks the atmosphere of old. So here is a selection drawn from my collection of their 78s which shows the range of styles in which they sang.
And a final recording with Bing Crosby:
It’s been a really long time since my last post. So without further ado, here’s another collection of tracks from my 78 rpm collection.
I’ve always liked Glenn Miller’s music. But, for me, listening to it on vinyl or CD misses something. The scratchiness of a 78 adds to the atmosphere, I think. See what you think by clicking here to listen to it.
I’ve previously posted one side of a 12″ 78 which formed the main soundtrack of the film While I Live. Perhaps the main theme in the film is a well-known piano piece, The Dream of Olwen.
Changing the mood a bit, here’s a dance track (“dance” being as in the 1920s or thereabouts), After I Say I’m Sorry. And a largish vocal group that might just qualify as a choir sings the waltz Can’t You Hear Me Say I Love You (sorry this record’s a bit worn). One thing I like about this record is the sound of the cymbals. Often in old recordings they sounded like someone whacking an old tin can.
This track has nothing to do with the artist Rex Whistler but in bygone days, there seemed to be some sort of fad for people who whistled songs. Such as this – The Warbler’s Serenade.
Until the next time.
Today (15 August) Royal Mail stamps changed their mind. I’ll leave it to their own words at Royal Mail announcement.
Thousands of people retweeted my original tweet of 7 August and it’s still being retweeted today. Many more thousands of people posted their own tweets in support of equality and the campaign was supported by a number of bloggers. It’s thanks to everyone that we’ve achieved this turnaround.
This post has been long in the writing. Over 48 hours in fact. On 7 August, in the evening, I tweeted something. I just wanted to make a point and expected maybe a few of my friends would retweet. I had no idea that what followed would follow. Within minutes, over 5,000 people had retweeted my tweet. The number is still increasing. On top of that, there were people who, because of the way Twitter seems to work, retweeted under their own ID. Someone told me last night that there had been over 10,000 responses to my original message. I think everyone has lost count. But, it seems, I started something.
I’ve had a long and candid conversation with someone from Royal Mail. During that conversation, some promises were made by both sides. I hope I’m keeping to my side of the bargain. Royal Mail have already kept one of their promises. Others will take longer to consider. I promised to try to be fair in my blog post, even if I did not agree with Royal Mail. I have promised that if they comment on this post I will publish their comment. Can’t be fairer than that. And, of course, I will also publish anyone else’s comments.
Before continuing, I want to give some credit to the people in the Royal Mail setup who form what I’ll call their “social media team”. They don’t make the decisions. They sit in the firing line. As one put it “Social media is a 24 hour thing. Sleep is for the weak.” I’ve added to their workload directly and indirectly. They’ve also had to contend with complaints about under-supply of Olympian stamps and so on. They can’t win of course. No-one in their position ever will. But, you Royal Mail bosses, they, like the people who come to our letterboxes day in, day out, in all weathers, are more important to the business than you. Anyone in the firing line is worth ten of anyone sitting in a comfortable office with a team of servants between them and reality. But I digress!
So here’s the story (so far).
I want to make it quite clear that it has ALWAYS been Royal Mail’s intention to paint a box gold in the home town of every Paralympian gold medal winner. In this they are treating Paralympians equally. I have never said otherwise.
When all the excitement of the Olympics dies down, there will be another event – the Paralympics. This is where athletes with disabilities compete. Our GB Paralympians will have trained just as hard, some say harder, than their Olympic counterparts. Some have been born with a disability; others have sustained injuries whether playing on railway lines or as members of our armed forces. They will compete with the same spirit, the same desire to win. But Royal Mail will not honour Paralympian gold medal winners with their own stamp. They will, instead, be featured on a set of six stamps, a sort of group hug thing.
This is because Royal Mail and ParalympicsGB (who agree with Royal Mail’s approach) think that our Paralympians will win too many gold medals. Now, I may be wrong here but would it not be the case that, if they win more golds than the Olympians have, this simply means that a higher proportion of them are the best in the world? Does first class achievement deserve second class recognition?
After talking to Royal Mail, I admit that I can sort of see their point. I’m pretty sure that somewhere in their hierarchy there is someone admitting to him- or her- self that they got things wrong. I’ve included links to other blogs and web sites below and won’t repeat them here. You can read for yourself. Actually, I don’t blame Royal Mail as much as the British Paralympic Association. The Olympic stamp operation has been years in the planning. I have to accept that it is now too late to do anything about the Paralympics. But in the period when Royal Mail were discussing the how-to’s with ParalympicsGB they (PGB) acquiesced too quickly.
What we have ended up with is both Royal Mail and ParalympicsGB saying that our Paralympians are too good and for practical reasons they need to be taken down a peg or two. I can understand Royal Mail saying this but ParalympicsGB?
Baroness Grey-Thompson is a patron of ParalympicsGB. Not that long ago she had bad experiences on the London Tube simply because she had a disabiilty. Apparently not a one-off. She is an inspiration to many but some people didn’t see that. If someone has a disability they are, it seems, fair game for whatever treatment someone wants to dish out.
The Paralympics provide an opportunity to drive home the message that Paralympians, like any people with a disability, are just as good as anyone else. They are a lot more capable than many.
They are certainly a lot more inspirational.
Granted that the projected medal tally may be the result of the UK investing more in sport for those with a disability than other countries but then the UK probably invests more money in training 100 metre athletes than a certain Mr Bolt’s country. Investing money is only part of the equation. Far more important is the ability, drive and dedication, the will to win, of the individuals.
Royal Mail say it’s logistically impossible to run off that number of stamps. It is now, unfortunately. But it was not at some point in the past. And at that point ParalympicsGB could have made a difference. They chose not to push the point. Today people are saying that because they said ok, that’s fine. Why is anyone arguing for more? Someone tweeted me “There’s no point in putting public pressure on them if the people that actually matter made the decision.” So if ParalympicsGB are the people that actually matter and, if the vast majority of tweets are to be believed, people are holding them to account, it is they and not Royal Mail who need to say sorry.
Around here, the latest BT Phone Book has, as its cover-boy, a certain Paralympian, Nathan Stephens. BT gave him a cover before he even became a Paralympian. Because he’s a local guy who did well. I know a lot of people who have kept that phone book in its cellophane wrapper as a memento. But we will not have the opportunity to queue at our post office to get a little stamp. For 60p we could have had a little bit of sticky paper that we could have put into a frame or something as a permanent souvenir of Nathan’s gold (and he stands as much chance of winning one, if not more chance, than most of the Olympian gold winners).
You may have noticed that I have not used the term “disabled” but rather use the phrase ”with a disability”. There is a difference. You perceive someone to be disabled or not based on what you see. You will not necessarily see that someone is totally deaf (if totally deaf they may not wear a hearing aid). That someone has a disability may be beyond your perception.
Similarly I don’t tag someone “epileptic”. But I may say that person suffers from occasional epileptic fits.
As I said, on the evening of 7 August I innocently tweeted
So @RoyalMail don’t plan to issue stamps if any Paralympians get golds. Please RT if you agree this is totally unfair. #paragoldstamps
I added a hashtag (the #) as that seems to be the way to go on Twitter.
I thought maybe I’d get a few retweets. But I was happy I’d made my point; an individual cannot achieve more, I thought. If I’d had any notion in advance of what followed I’d have been a bit more careful with my 140 characters. As it was, I spent a lot of time tweeting corrections – mentioning that Royal Mail WERE issuing stamps (though not individual ones) and providing links to the Royal Mail web site and to the page on the ParalympicsGB site where they issued a statement later that evening. Thanks to the many who then re-tweeted my corrections and links. Not everyone agreed with me but the majority did. And when the “correction” messages circulated the responses became “shame”, “not good enough” and so on.
There were two things wrong with my tweet. I said “RoyalMail don’t plan to issue stamps if …”. Actually, they did intend to issue a 6-pack of stamps. But on the other hand, that was irrespective of how many, if any, golds were won. If, as someone suggested, there were 100 Paralympian golds, that would mean cramming over 10 people onto a single stamp. A few people actually said I was right to say that as, in effect, there would be six stamps if there wasn’t a single gold medal winner and so Royal Mail’s plans were actually to ignore golds. But the bigger response was “not if but when”. I did tweet many times a correction about the “don’t plan” bit and, to be fair to them, Royal Mail acknowledge this as they were seeing all the tweets.
But, overall, what was coming back to me was a feeling that ParalympicsGB had let people down. I have to say that I get the impression that whilst many think Royal Mail may have scored a public relations own goal and that their logistics excuse is a red herring, it is the British Paralympic Association that’s the target of the bile.
In general, the vibe I get (and as the person who started all this, I’m getting more feedback than many people) is that the powers that be should have thought more. If the logistics of doing something for Paralympians were impossible then what might be done for Olympians should be limited. The word “equality” is being repeated time and again.
Having spoken to Royal Mail, I have to say that I think that if they could turn back the clock they would have done things differently. Behind the scenes, I think they have been caught out by not only the strength of feeling about the Paralympics but by the number of Olympic golds. They have had to deal with complaints about insufficent supplies of Olympian stamps. At one point, they ran out of gold paint.
But, as I have said that someone else said, the people that matter have said ok. So it is not Royal Mail who have let people down, it is the British Paralympic Association. The people that matter could have done better! You may disagree with me but that is my view.
And what happened?
Apart from the thousands of retweets, a number of blogs and websites covered the issue. Those I know about are linked here. Links open in a new window/tab depending on your browser settings. If you know of other links I should include, please let me know.
Channel 4 are the Paralympics broadcaster as the BBC decided not to fill that role. Yet another instance of the Paralympics being treated differently!
I hope I’ve got that right. This is a really well-balanced article.
Other newspapers have covered this but, as yet, I haven’t tracked down the links.
A Little Diversion
As I’ve mentioned above, after my initial tweet on 7 August I spent some time tweeting out a correction linking to the Royal Mail web site. I was surprised, therefore, to get a message on the morning of 8 August to say that the page to which I was sending out links had changed. More fundamentally, I was told, it looked like Royal Mail were trying to undermine my “campaign” (?) by making it look like they had issued a detailed statement on 6 August, the day before I tweeted. I put this to Royal Mail and they responded straight away that this was not their intention; it was a result of “the system” doing whatever “the system” does. And one of the Royal Mail promises was to correct that. They didn’t waste time. The date of their statement has been changed to 8 August. This is a small issue for me but, it seems, a bigger one for others. But it is a diversion and Royal Mail have sorted things.
The End Game
There won’t be individual stamps for Paralympian Gold medal winners. Whilst I think that Royal Mail are genuine in thinking, with the benefit of that wonderful thing, hindsight, that they could have done better, they simply cannot ramp things up in time. But I have made a few suggestions to Royal Mail and they have promised to look at them seriously. I’ll wait and see what happens.
I do think that the British Paralympic Association need to say sorry. Sorry for accepting second best treatment. Sorry for not stamping a foot or two. Sorry for not realising that they could have done better.
It would also be nice if Royal Mail were to acknowledge that, with the benefit of hindsight, they could have done better themselves. That as an organisation that subscribes to the equality agenda, they shot a little bit wide of the mark.
It’s too late to change but saying “sorry” (and meaning it) will mean a lot.
Because our Paralympians deserve no less!
Today, an 86 year old woman stood for over three hours, smiling and waving. Beside her, a 90 year old chap (91 next week) stood, steadfastly supporting the woman he loves (and who he knows loves him). Seating had been provided, presumably to be used, but anyone in their right minds would know that this woman wouldn’t sit down in the circumstances.
Perhaps more impressively, whilst travelling on one barge to another, and despite an expected bit of rocking, the 86 year old woman stood without holding onto anything for dear life, demonstrating a better set of “sea legs” than those who are many years younger than her.
People often criticise this woman for her somewhat cosseted lifestyle with servants at her beck and call and all the trappings that go with her job. But they forget that this woman happens to have a lot of “personal wealth”. She could happily retire and live a life of just as much (if not more) luxury without having to turn out in all weathers, shake hundreds of hands, keep smiling however tired she is and stick a bung in it for hours if necessary despite pressures of wanting a pee!
She works a seven day week, more or less 52.143 weeks a year.
She’s not allowed to speak her mind.
She has to do what “her” Government tell her to do.
Everything she does is photographed by relentless paparazzi.
Her every gesture is dissected, analysed, dismantled and rebuilt to mean whatever the person doing the dissection etc wants. So she needs to be careful (hence, I think, the often gruff face).
Then tomorrow she’ll be at it again. Doing the job as it were.
I’m 30 years younger and I couldn’t do what she does, luxury lifestyle or not. In fact I wouldn’t do what she does for all the tea in China and all the money in the world. Would you?
I’m not an ardent monarchist by any means.
But I salute Queen Elizabeth the Second.