Diana

It was twenty years ago that someone currently called ‘Princess Diana’ died in a car crash in Paris.

Diana Spencer was a commoner ie not royalty, until she married Prince Charles, twelve or more years her senior. Diana became royal. When Queen Elizabeth II dies, Charles will become king and Diana would have been queen.

People apparently loved her. To me she was a clothes horse, hanging around with beautiful people and with as much intelligence as, well, a clothes horse. You can read all the stories about her and Charles. Did they have affairs? Is Henry (Harry, her son) the son of another man? And so on, let’s not feed that too much.

They divorced, and, as a courtesy title, she was allowed to be Diana, Princess of Wales. I don’t think she was ever ‘Princess Diana’, but I haven’t checked.

When her car crashed and she was killed (plenty of conspiracy theories about that too), everyone in the nation, we were told, wept. Tony Blair rose to the occasion. Real news stopped for days. Florists made a fortune with people who had never met her, or seen her even in real life, people who only know the propaganda about her, apparently too distraught for words, buying literally tonnes of flowers to leave on the streets of London to decay.

And so on. If you were alive then you will remember.

Now, to, um, celebrate, the tv channels here and elsewhere have been showing pretty thin ‘documentaries’ about all these events. And drama. How Diana affected my life… William and Harry talk about their mother. Even a special Songs of Praise with Aled Jones…

I look at these with total disgust. Not cashing in at all, are they?

Airport time

If you are coming to London for a holiday, then you will probably either come by train from Europe, or by plane.

London has many airports, depending on how you define ‘London’. An airport sometimes, if rarely considered as a London airport is Southend. Let’s ignore that.

The two smaller airports outside London to the north/east are Luton and Stansted. These mostly cater for budget airlines. Nearer is Gatwick to the South and Heathrow to the west.

In addition, there is a smaller airport in the docklands area, called London City airport which caters to smaller planes and closer destinations.

Luton and Stansted have coach services to London, and regular train services. The Luton one is actually a bus ride (free) from the airport.

The main two, then, are Gatwick and Heathrow.

Gatwick has two terminals. If you are coming onto central London, there are coaches or trains. Yes, you can get a taxi but it will be very expensive.

There are regular trains going to Victoria, London Bridge and St Pancras, or there is a premium express service to Victoria. From Victoria Station it is easy to get to most of central London, by tube, taxi or bus. Of course, a factor for you is also how many people you have in your party, your bags and so on.

Heathrow is one of the biggest airports in the world, and has five terminals. They are not all close together. Is it a good distance from Heathrow to London, perhaps 20 miles.

You have many options, coach (cheap but slow), taxi (door to door but expensive), tube (Piccadilly line takes you right through the centre and is not expensive, but is hard work after a long flight) and the Heathrow Express train to Paddington. This is relatively quick (15 minutes) but expensive.

In addition, you can hire cars with a driver 9eg Adison Lee)  and minicabs which will quote you a flat rate. Do not think of hiring a self-drive car if you are staying in central London. You will have congestion charge to deal with, parking, traffic jams and more. None of this is any fun.

Above all, plan your journey before you leave home. Look for apps for most of these services, and do not buy tickets from random people on the streets. Find an official sales desk or ticket machine.

Our advice is that it is worth paying a bit extra for the better and faster services. It can be much easier, saves you time and gets you off to a good start on your holiday.

It’s a lottery

When the UK lottery started, in, what 1994, it was a novelty. You picked 6 numbers, from 49, and bet £1. If you got 3 numbers you won £10, and the prizes went up from there. Get all 6 numbers and you won lots of millions.

We did it for a bit, a few pounds a week, because we could afford it and it was fun and we did have some winnings, the largest being just over £100 I believe. But if we didn’t do it, we didn’t much care, and if we didn’t win, which mostly we didn’t, it was not the end of the world.

I was a Maths teacher then, and there was lots of useful material you could get out of it. What are your chances of winning? Well, of winning the jackpot, one in just less than fourteen million. It has changed now, I believe, more expensive, more numbers and smaller prizes.

People had many interesting ideas about the lottery. “Well, someone has to win and it could be me” was one. Well, of course, no-one has to win the jackpot, which is why you get rollovers.

“There’s no way to guarantee a win” was another. This is actually not true. If you bought every possible different ticket, all nearly 14 million of them, you would be guaranteed to get the jackpot, and every other minor prize several times over. The prize money would have to be over about £14m to make a profit, and goodness knows where you could find a machine to process that many tickets. Plus, if someone else chooses the winning numbers, you have to share.

“All combinations are equal, so I use my family’s birthdays”. Yes, lots of people do this, meaning numbers up to 31. Actually, if you go for higher numbers, you will still have the same chance of winning, but a reduced chance of having to share.

The best way to win is open a savings account at your bank.

Do the right thing

President Trump, they say, is a warm, compassionate, caring man. They say. Where is the evidence for this? I have no idea. Who says it? Why, Anthony Scaramucci, who was sacked 15 days before he began his job as White House Communications Director.

President Trump, they say, likes to confound people by doing the opposite of what they expect him to do. As President of the USA, leader of the free world, we expect the President to be a statesman, we expect him to do the right thing. He therefore must be doing the wrong thing, by his own admission.

The world is not a safe place. The USA makes the world less happy than it could be. The USA is not a happy place. With protests, statues being torn down, far right white supremacists believing it is fine to kill their fellow countrymen on the street and the President refusing to clearly condemn any of it, for fear of upsetting his supporters or speaking against his beliefs, this is not good.