Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin

Yes, I was there but didn’t bring the wall down.

Though I did my bit for the West, exchanged money on the street to give western currency to an East German Guy. Though I almost paid the price for that gesture.

On my return to the West I was detained at Checkpoint Charlie for 40 minutes.

At that time I was a film editor for the BBC, so showed them my BBC pass hoping that it would help, they just pushed it to one side.

I was then hoping for a strip search by a Russian beauty but the East German police sent out a Russian female wrestler to deal with me. I quickly went off the strip search idea.

Walked safely back to the West to be greeted with a hug from a Canadian, who had witnessed my predicament. I felt like Solzhenitsyn.

I had a German girlfriend in Berlin at the time. She was livid when I told her what had happened. She was not so much annoyed at me being detained by the police and KGB but at me being set free. She said had it been her they would have kept her in a cell for a night.

“They’ve only let you go because you are British.”


Note: Photos of Berlin Wall to follow.




“It’s Facebook and Google who came along and ate up all newspapers’ classified ads. Yet it’s the BBC, who run no ads, that gets the blame, while it’s Google and Facebook that get the helpful tax arrangements from HMRC.” – Guardian Edinburgh international television festival, 2015 – Armando Iannucci


Unfortunately the BBC has become an organisation which would not commission any of his programmes now. The talent has long ago sailed away from the BBC and the ship is not about to come back. Documentaries are dead. Original drama is dead. Music and Arts are nearly dead.BBC is truly a journalistic organisation now, it has always wanted to be that.     I don’t think there is any future for it.

The Tories will finish it off in the next five years.

The public will only defend it when it is too late. Sad but true.

Regarding drama one offs and series Netflix and HBO have replaced the BBC.

A few years ago HBO, against the trend, decided they would continue with original drama and Netflix decided to get into it having been a channel which only bought it. They have now moved into feature film production.

I recall the great speech which Kevin Spacey made a few years ago regarding original dramas and the need to back writers.

BBC was great while it lasted.

Ministers want BBC to consider ‘assisted suicide’, says Armando Iannucci

Kevin Spacey – speech at Edinburgh, 2013

New Set Up for UK Parliamentary Question Time


I would reorganise the way Parliamentary Question Time (PMQs) is set up in the British Parliament. The public are exhausted by the continual Punch and Judy approach to politics. The present set up is not ‘fit for purpose’ as the cliche goes.

Under the present system both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition face each other across the House and are mainly concerned with how their performance will be perceived by their own party members and the media.

With regard to live BBC TV transmissions of PMQs they don’t seem to have helped the public. The main goal for the PM and Leader of the Opposition is not to reveal a weakness, show any sign of being out of touch or a complete fool. PMQs have never taken on the substance or the gravitas that is required, unless of course, the House of Commons is presented with the death of an MP or leader of a party. On the occasions when that has happened the House takes on the mood of the final act in King Lear.

Time for a change, time to create and manage a better PMQ approach in the House.

I propose the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition position themselves in front of the Speaker (behind the table on the left of the image above) and address MPs on both sides of the House.  This would cut down the ‘knock about’ cheap theatre approach and bring political credibility and social responsibility to the procedure. 

With a little luck the behavior of the MPs would improve by not having the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition facing each other as if they are squaring up for a duel. 

Throughout Europe parliaments are ‘in the round’ not directly facing each other. 

There will be many British Politicians who are reticent to change a system that has been in place for a hundred years or more but it might be worth a try for one session of the next Parliament. The only people who would fight this change would be newspaper editors and TV journalists who seem to get turned on by the abysmal PMQs spectacle.

Writing on behalf of millions of the British public I can confidently say we are all sick of the present system.






Qatar – World Cup, 2022 – Sorted


Image: FIFA

At the moment there seems to be a few people having a good moan about a football game being played near Christmas. I think you’ll find that a few of the teams taking part in the World Cup 2022 don’t believe in Christmas.

Anyway before this posts gets too serious it is not a primarily a political post.

Of all the perceived problems of moving the World Cup to December English supporters are mainly concerned about the excruciating decision that will need to be taken on December 18th; whether to go on a shopping expedition, stay at home and watch a football match or go down to the pub to join in with the rabble as they shout at a large screen on the wall.

Then there is the very real moan in England about having to venture out in the middle of December like Scott of the Antarctic, dressed in fifteen t-shirts and four sweaters (unless you live in Newcastle where one t-shirt will suffice). You will hear in households up and down the country a refrain of Scott’s famous last line, ‘I am just going out to watch France v Brasil, I may be gone some time.’

Fear not, I have a compromise.

The BBC could record all the matches but not show them. Record the matches then stick the recordings into the BBC Library. Keep them there and transmit later in June, 2023.

Using this unique approach to deferred broadcasting it would simply be like any previous World Cup tournament. Brits could watch in their traditional time slots, during a warm spell in the weather; it would also still enable overweight men to continue the time honoured tradition of ripping off their shirts to stand in city squares looking like Mel Gibson on an off night.

Of course, for the BBC to pull off this meddle with time the whole nation would have to go into a worldwide media blackout from December onwards so that all the matches could then be viewed as ‘live’ at a later date.

None of the results or news about the tournament as it is played in December 2022 would be leaked.

The entire English football squad would have to swear to keep their performances and results secret. MI5 and MI6 could help out with that. Though if one should see an England team member at a British airport kicking ten bells out of a luggage trolley in December one could assume that the tournament did not go well.

All right, I hear you say, how do you stop the Tabloid newspapers ( I use the term newspapers loosely) from leaking results and the winner of the tournament? You do a deal with FIFA that all press releases are in Arabic. By the time the Red Tops have worked their way through the translation we’ll be into the middle of June.

Should a leak manage to get out into the public domain (all journalists will break embargoes if the cheque is large enough) I can confidently write now, six years before the tournament, that it would say, ‘Germany win final against France 2-0.’


Vasiliy Mitrokhin – ex KGB who defected to UK – archive


When Vasiliy Mitrokhin walked into the British Embassy in Riga (the Latvian capital) they couldn’t believe their luck.

He had first approached the Americans but they thought he was making up a fantasy life.

Fortunately someone at the Brit Embassy took him at face value and made an appointment for him to meet someone in the intelligence service.

Mitrokhin was one of the few people to have access to the entire KGB archive and had papers for all past and current missions. Over a long period he had copied their papers and hidden his copies under his house. He knew that one day they would be his passport out of the Soviet Union.

He brought them all out with him when MI6 assisted his passage from Europe into the UK. There is an excellent book you can buy by Christopher Andrew ( who interviewed him).

The Russian scientists could never work out where and how they were getting accurate instructions on how to build a Nuclear Bomb. They had been helped by one Senior Airforce Officer in the USA who had walked into a Russian embassy in America and handed over a complete file of how to build a bomb.

Below is an online archive the Americans have set up but you can also access Vasiliy Mitrokhin material via Churchill College, Cambridge (open to the public).


University  of Cambridge – Churchill College

edited: 3rd March, 2017

Vasiliy Mitrokhin – USA site – there was a page on the link below but it has been deleted.

Leave your Children at the Railway Station

More than 400,000 youngsters are starting university in the UK this year. That means hundreds of thousands of parents saying goodbye.” BBC News

I don’t know why parents put themselves through this emotional turmoil. It would be better for all to say goodbye to them at home, take them to the railway station and wish them well from there.

When I left home for film school mum and dad took me to the railway station. I had one suitcase. I didn’t take the whole bedroom with me. Looking back I think that is the best way. You become independent far quicker.

I can understand that parents want the best for their children but I don’t think they help them by my moving everything but the kitchen sink down to the university campus. As for driving them down? We have a very good railway system in this country.

One thing, the most important, which this article does not touch upon is the parents who are going to suffer deep depression for the first time in their lives. Maybe the journalist didn’t want to make a daunting experience more traumatic. It cannot be easy to live in a house which has had some of the heart and soul taken away from it.

So, better to leave your children at the railway station. See them off. Wish them well. Don’t drive them down to the college, university. They are young adults now, not four year olds at the primary school gates.

Good luck.

Mini iPad for Shooting and Editing

Here is a short film I put together using an Apple iPad Mini.

I wanted to see what the small tablet is like to use for shooting, editing, music creation.

Here is the first video. I will post, at a later date, instructions on how to use the editing tool iMovie and the music App Garageband.

Comedy Carpet, Blackpool


Live it, don’t film it.


I wonder how many people, who go to a music gig, later regret spending their time filming it on a phone instead of simply enjoying the experience.

There was a rock gig recently where the band, The Lumineers, stopped playing and asked the audience to stop filming them.

I can understand people filming their friends who they have attended the gig with but not the band. It should remain in your head and your heart. No need to film it. It will not only look bad but also sound atrocious.


People don’t get a phone out at cinemas, theatres or art exhibitions. Maybe it is something in the soul of music fans in that they expect something for free all the time. Never satiated.

I expect Jimmy Hendrix’s album title ‘Are You Experienced’ make come to have a new meaning in the music gig arena.

Live it, don’t film it.


Syria – Calm Heads need to Prevail


The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) was solved by a trade off which was kept secret. Similar calm heads are required regarding the outcome in Syria.

The problem now for all politicians is the 24/7 media world, bloggers, Facebook and Twitter. Too many people, broadcasters and journalists report the simplest of comments and professional Tv and Radio journalists strike down any politician who has the courage and conviction to change their minds.

Politicians are now expected never to change their mind on any given problem. No one else in any society lives their lives under the same constraints.

People change their minds every day. A politician changes their mind and it is reported as a revolt, climb down, a sign of weakness.

I recall Denis Healey, when he was Secretary for Defence, making a statement in the House of Commons over the question of nuclear arms. He was shouted down by opposition MPs.

Afterwards he remarked that he thought the idea of having a parliament is that you listen to a reasoned argument and change your mind if you hear a better proposition.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was solved by a trade off which was kept secret. In order for the Russians to withdraw their missiles from Cuban bases the Americans agreed to remove their missiles from Turkey but asked the Russians not to make it public.

It appeared that the Americans had stayed strong and forced a climb down by the Russians. In the end diplomacy had worked, not the warmongers who wanted to have a crack at the Russians in a war that would have destroyed much of the USA and just about the whole of Europe.

It is to be hoped that diplomacy will solve the situation in Syria.

So far, most of the interviews I have heard on radio are driven by presenters hoping they will get a ‘declaration of war’ live on air.


Twitter – New Rules of engagement

Twitter – New Rules of engagement

From January, 2013 everyone will have their followers deleted and you will have to start assembling new followers.

All the people you follow will be removed from your account.

Everyone will start with a clean slate.

From now on, at the end of every year, all accounts will be cleared of followers.

This will ensure you all make the effort to talk to new people (apart from Bots who don’t talk to anyone).

Anyone who you have previously followed cannot be followed again for at least a year.


2013 – find new people to follower, accept new followers.

2014 – account cleared, start again; though you cannot follow anyone your followed in 2013

2015 – account cleared, start again; you can now follow people you followed in 2013 but not anyone you followed in 2014.

Special rule – anyone who plays an electric keyboard is not allowed to follow a pianist, a trombonist, or come to think of it, a percussionist ….

Are you still with me at the back?

There will be no appeals, exceptions, or twisting the rules.

Happy hunting.