It was 50 years ago today…

Fifty years ago today—Friday, 22nd November, 1963—a day of great events: C.S. Lewis, collapsed in his bedroom and died; Aldous Huxley, died in bed having, at his request, been administered LSD by his wife; John F. Kennedy, shot through the head by person or persons unknown Lee Harvey Oswald.

Can you remember where you were when you heard that JFK had been shot? They say you never forget. I almost certainly heard about it some time in the mid-to-late 1970s, but I'm buggered if I can remember where I was. So, I guess that disproves that crap theory.

Jen's mum, Pat, has the perfect alibi for the (first) Kennedy assassination: she was in a hospital in Halifax, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, giving birth to our lass.

Jen at the Angel of the North

Jen (right, slightly over the hill).

Thanks, Pat. Job well done!

Now, if you don't mind, Jen and I are off to Filey to celebrate. Rock and roll!


Compare and contrast

BBC: Napoleon Bonaparte painting by David identified
A painting of Napoleon Bonaparte by Jacques-Louis David has been identified in New York by a University of Reading researcher.

Does anyone else think Emperor Napoleon bore an uncanny resemblance to the suspiciously French-sounding James Bond villain Le Chiffre, as portrayed by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen in the movie Casino Royale?

Le Chiffre

Le Chiffre.



This one has conspiracy written all over it.

Diana ditch

BBC: Diana death: New information assessed by Scotland Yard

The Metropolitan Police is assessing new information it has recently received about the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed in 1997.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might point out how deeply suspicious it is that this story has broken just a couple of weeks before the premier of a brand new Princess Diana biopic.

Mind you, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I would no doubt also point out that Princess Diana was assassinated with a lethal MMR injection administered by MI6 agents working for Big Pharma, while Dodi Fayed was a lizard in human form who was abducted by aliens because Prince Philip didn't like the cut of his jib.

And have you noticed how ‘Princess Diana’ is an anagram of ‘rancid pansies’ (and ‘sardines panic’)? Well then!

Sublety and subterfuge

Have you seen there's a new book out claiming that Bruce Springsteen brought down the Berlin Wall (Amazon uk | .com)?

I like Bruce, but that's taking things a bit far. It took more than Cadillac Ranch to bring an end to communism. Yes, it will have helped, but winning the Cold War required more subtlety and subterfuge than that. Some of us were working unnoticed, behind the scenes, prodding here, pulling the right string there.

I can't go into details, obviously, but I can reveal that I did once sign a petition. Gorbachev was big on petitions. The biro is mightier than the Fender, remember that.

And, while we're at it, who do you think it was who leaked that Murdoch tape this week? I couldn't possibly comment, but work it out. It's not exactly Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Amazon uk | .com).

Rick at the Radar Station

On the moors between Hebden Bridge and Haworth, there's this utterly cool place that looks like something out of The X-Files: Oxenhope Moor Radar Station.

It was built during the Second World War, but is now owned by Bradford University, who use it for measuring the size of raindrops and the brightness of stars. Or so they would have us believe. There has been a spate of UFO sightings over Hebden Bridge in recent months, and people have started putting two and two together.

Bradford University recently announced that it will be demolishing the radar station. The good people of Hebden Bridge smell a conspiracy. What is it they don't want us to find out?

So, at 07:00 this morning, I headed up to the radar station looking for clues before they destroy the evidence. Here's what I came back with:

Trust no one. The truth is out there.

Weapon of choice

My dad has what can only be described as an unhealthy paranoia about the BBC. He thinks they're the spawn of Satan.

Like all the best paranoias and conspiracy theories, Dad's has a small toe-hold in reality. There certainly is a Southern England bias at the BBC, which is reflected in its news coverage and even its weather forecasts. But Dad seems to believe that every single BBC presenter or continuity announcer who pronounces their A's long was personally selected by the Director General to promote the corporation's Cockney Agenda.

Dad's fixation with the BBC began in the summer of 1982 during the Falklands War. Every evening, the Newsnight programme would wheel on some recently retired British general and get him to talk military tactics. Dad was convinced this was tantamount to treason. "The Argentinan Embassy will be noting all this down!" he would shout at Peter Snow.

In fact, Dad did have a point: I clearly remember how, during the early days of the war, when one Argentinian bomb hit a British warship but failed to explode, the BBC displayed a helpful graphic showing how the bomb should have been dropped. Next thing our lads in the South Atlantic knew, that was exactly how the bombs were being dropped—with far greater effect.

Ever since then, Dad has been convinced that the BBC's not particularly well-hidden agenda is to undermine British society and betray us to our enemies. He is, for example, the only person I know who believes that the Hutton Enquiry wasn't a shameless stitch-up, totally exhonorated the Blair government, and showed up the BBC and its Cockney Director General for what they really were.

This Tuesday, Dad's BBC paranoia finally tipped him over the edge. My parents and I were watching the comedy quiz show QI, when Stephen Fry asked a question along the lines of, "Why might it be dangerous to have a ship-load of pistachio nuts?" The answer, it turned out, was that large masses of pistachio nuts are prone to spontaneous combustion and can sometimes explode.

"There they go again!" Dad shouted at the telly. "Giving away information of use to terrorists!"

Mum and I thought we were going to die. We were laughing so much, we couldn't breath.

"I hardly think the pistachio nut is going to be the weapon of choice for a terrorist!" I gasped at Dad, still trying to work out out how to get my lungs to take in air.

Dad was adamant: "Mark my words, you'll be watching the news one day soon, saying 'Norm predicted that!'"