Thursday, 17 May 2012
Tea and slippers for the birthday boy!
TODAY is my birthday, a life which began just a few days after Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile.
It seems like I have been running hard to keep up with life ever since with no fame or fortune, just an ordinary existence which has had some rich moments.
So what sticks in my mind as I look back nearly 40 years? (All right, all right! So I’m lying and I’ll never see 50 again. Give a birthday boy a break!).
To coin a famous phrase, I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
Thousands of illegal electricity lines snaking into a slum in Rio, streams like the silver veins of some giant leaf laid out on the ground beneath my parachute, 500,000 people packed into a single stretch of street in Istanbul and the glorious ruins of Machu Picchu viewed from a nearby mountain top I’d climbed.
I’ve drunk fruit schnapps in broad daylight on a glacier at 3am, relaxed with a gin and tonic in the ornate interior of an old Luftwaffe headquarters, sipped a beer from the safety of a tree platform above a crocodile-infested lake in Sri Lanka and enjoyed a glass of champagne 20ft under the streets of Weymouth surrounded by thousands of bottles of wine.
By day I’ve seen people mugged on the streets of New York and at night I once had my pocket picked by an elephant in Bangkok.
I’ve nearly drowned three times, been shot at in a city centre and was once chased for a quarter of a mile through Manchester by a man with a huge knife.
Two planes I’ve been on have been struck by lightning, a hotel I stayed in was badly damaged two weeks later by the terrible Boxing Day tsunami and I walked through Kings Cross and away to safety 30 seconds before the IRA bombed the station.
I’ve interviewed the famous from Prime Ministers to the Archbishop of Canterbury and people wealthy beyond belief in places ranging from mid-flight aircraft to 400ft under ground in a cave, from the crisp freezing air of the Arctic Circle to a steam room the size of a sofa in Jordan where the leaking boiler threatened to explode at any moment.
For all those unusual situations, there is no place like home and my celebrations today will probably involve a mug of tea while relaxing in the garden. The toast will be – growing old disgracefully!
Has the world really gone mad - or is it just me?
BRAVE police officers are risking their sanity to guard the Olympic torch as it passes round Dorset and the rest of the country.
Hang on a minute! Surely I’ve got that wrong because we are talking about a happy event with people lining the route and cheering the torch as it passes by?
But no, sadly, I’ve got it right because Olympic and security bosses feel that the perils of Portland Bill, the anguish of Avalanche Road, the fearsomeness of Fortuneswell, the rigours of Rodwell Road and the sheer trauma of Trinity Road could have a serious mental effect on the Boys in Blue.
Naturally they must receive every possible support for such an arduous task and it appears that now includes psychological counselling being made available for torch officers to help them “reintegrate” after the event. Is there no end to this lunacy?
I’ve seen police officers do fantastic jobs in the worst possible situations from consoling a mother who has just had her child killed in a road accident to comforting a badly injured pensioner attacked in their own home.
Those were mentally traumatic situations, not being in the middle of celebrations for the Olympic torch.
But it appears – as ever – that so called experts know better, perhaps in their unending attempt to get themselves awarded a gold medal for wasting money.
Even watches are a security risk!
A FUNNY thing happened to me while I was in prison on Portland for the official opening of a new relaxation area facility for older prisoners.
Members of the Press due to cover the event were waiting to be taken through security gates... and waiting and waiting and waiting.
In all it took nearly 40 minutes to be allowed in for which the Verne’s involvement with an Olympic security exercise in London and off Portland was to blame.
So as you can see we had plenty of time to read all the warning notices on various walls which essentially ranged from stern words on behaviour to a ban on hoodies or long cardigans with pockets, presumably to prevent any contraband being handed over at visiting time.
All well and good so far. Then we came to the notice which banned watches!
Apparently they might conceal weapons although you are hardly going to conceal knuckledusters or a blacksmith’s industrial file in a Casio. You’d need to bake a decent sized cake for that. Still, a sign of the security times I suppose.