Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
Posted: September 9th, 2013 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft, Grandparents, Product reviews | No Comments »
In the past couple of years we have seen a steady stream of movies portraying later life and in particular different models of retirement living.
Robot & Frank
On the one hand, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel followed a group of British pensioners opting to spend their retirement in a run down hotel in India rather than moving in with family or downsizing to an assisted living facility.
In Quartet, another comedy drama, a group of retired musicians live together in an altogether more upmarket country house.
And most recently, Robot and Frank, looks forward to the “near future” when the children of a retired cat burglar buy their father a humanoid robot as an alternative to putting him in a retirement home.
So, here we have three models of retirement, two communal and one living independently at home. Which one would you opt for, given the choice?
The Marigold Hotel is most akin to a typical “old people’s home” in that the residents are a disparate group thrown together by age and circumstance rather than shared interests albeit in in an unusual location. In the film, the residents gradually coalesce into a group and become empowered in their new environment whether to end a loveless marriage or take over the hotel’s accounts.
The residents of Beacham House in Quartet are on the face of it a more confident and feisty bunch brought together by a love of their art. However, the home has fallen on tough times and the residents need to come together to raise funds to ensure its survival. Again, like Marigold Hotel the group pulls together, this time to organise a successful fundraising concert.
In both cases, the residents are empowered to take control of the homes in which they live, somewhat at odds with the usual promise of today’s retirement homes of needing to “spend less time on everyday chores and responsibilities” and not a little worrying for those wanting a quiet life. And both are based on a model of living communally - which will not suit everybody.
In Robot and Frank, Frank is supported to live independently by a very sophisticated robot which is programmed to monitor his health and well being in such a way as replicates a caring human relationship. After some initial resistance, Frank thrives within this quasi-friendship until driven by his own self interest, he opts to erase the robot’s memory and consequently their relationship.
And in all cases it is the quality of the relationships between the resident, the staff and residents, and even Frank and his robot, which has the most impact on the quality of life of the aging protoganists. Even in the squabbles and politicking between the Marigold Hotel and Beacham House residents, there is the sense of life still being lived and enjoyed. Whilst there is a hotel to be saved, a residential home to be funded or a heist to be organised, life has purpose and meaning. And that is as important in older age as at any other life stage.
Posted: January 31st, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft, Retirement | No Comments »
When I first began this blog, my older cousin Howard agreed to pen a few missives about what it was actually like to be retired. His column ended up running to over 70 posts and rather ironically he has now “retired” from this activity to pursue other writing opportunities. Here is one of my favourite posts.
Frugality is coming back into fashion. Discussing this over a decent bottle of claret the other day I found myself remembering habits I formed in childhood when “rationing was on”, some of which survive. For example, when I have toast and marmalade or jam I never butter the toast first and apply the preserve on top. I should think that this was a common practice when I was a child, but by the time days of plenty returned, with butter pouring in from New Zealand I was set in my ways, and so I remain. People occasionally make personal remarks about this, suggesting that my behaviour is rooted in my working class upbringing, and they are generally a few years my junior, their childhood having started after rationing “went out”.
My wife in particular enjoys commenting on this, usually at breakfast in smart hotels. Her childhood was very different from mine. Rationing was over for one thing, but also, both her parents being medical consultants, there was more money kicking about, and she was brought up in a castle in Hampshire where she, her sister and her brothers, all had their own bedrooms. And they had servants. There was Mr Cake, the gardener, who had his own toilet, and Mrs Cakebread, a sort of housekeeper. In addition there was a man whose sole duty was to retrieve the children’s tennis balls from the moat, and another who made the mustard. Her brother Martin so impressed the mother of a university friend, who came from a simpler background in Newcastle, that whenever young Martin went to stay she would remove that harsh, shiny toilet paper, called I think Bronco, and substitute the gentler, softer variety advertised by puppies. No such consideration was shown to poor Cake in whose garden loo hung squares of paper cut from the daily paper, threaded on string.
Sugar in tea was another thing. Adults put sugar in their first cup, but not in the second – the residual sweetness from the first had to suffice – while children, in our house anyway, were never offered sugar. To this day I do not sweeten tea, and even the smell of it makes me queasy. Coffee I do like sweet, but I was a young adult when first I encountered it. Now of course not taking sugar is all the rage and whenever I ask for it for my coffee when visiting there is always a great pantomime search - “I know we have some somewhere” - you’d think I’d asked for an ashtray.
Once we embarked on the second bottle of claret memories really started to flow. My Uncle and Auntie were both longsighted, but he refused to have an eye test relying instead on inheriting her spectacles whenever she had a new prescription. Auntie’s taste in frames ran to ornate pink; Uncle was surely the only lorry driver in Hull, or anywhere else, to whip out a pair of Edna Everage specials to study delivery notes. I remember watching him adjusting the focal length along his nose as he struggled to pick winners from the racing pages and saying to his wife, “It’s you, you got your eyes tested”. I am sure now that this was not, as I thought at the time, eccentricity but frugality with origins in wartime shortages and pre-NHS concerns about cost. Faced as we are by an uncertain future we can learn from this.
Now I’m off to root about in my neighbour’s wheelie bin in search of nourishing kitchen scraps. I heard they had dinner party last night, to which I was not invited.
Posted: October 17th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
A recently published survey of 13-18 year olds asked for their views on the best/most important inventions made during the past 25 years. It revealed an insight into the thinking of this mysterious age group - referred to by Alan Coren as that miserable period between Meccano and sex. Their values are idiosyncratic to say the least, rating fake tan (fifth) more highly than the Internet (19th) and mobile phones (16th). Their grasp of history is a bit off too: they have the Apple Mac and hair straighteners on the list. Hair straighteners came in at 17th, again ahead of the Internet, and also ahead of satellite navigation. I seem to remember that hair straighteners were the Christmas gift of choice among teenage girls in the sixties.
It is sobering to think that people in the top end of this age group have the vote, and that there are plans to bring in sixteen and seventeen year olds. How will they be able to make balanced judgements about the problems of the euro zone and the Common Agricultural Policy when they are capable of elevating the importance of fake tan above the Internet. But it probably doesn’t matter since few of them will bother to vote. Very few 18-25 year olds currently trudge down to the polling stations, and there is no reason to think their younger siblings will be any better. It’s a curious thing that politicians deplore the low turn-outs at elections and yet, as Harold Wilson used to put, yearn to “place the levers of power within the reach of the young”, which will serve only to drive the percentages down. What they should do is to hold all elections on a Sunday, the only sensible thing the French can manage to do, give two votes to all electors over forty except pensioners who should get five.
It is slightly disconcerting that several items in the juvenile top twenty I know nothing at all about. I have no idea what an Xbox is, and although I nod knowingly when iPods are mentioned I have only a vague idea about what they do, and have never knowingly seen one. I’m struggling to think what I would have nominated for the top twenty if quizzed in, say, 1960. Antibiotics I suppose, organ transplantation perhaps, certainly the telly. I seem to remember being quite keen on the atom bomb at the time, though I hope I would have had the good taste not to write that down. Tipped fags were seen as quite an advance, too, I recall – Craven A, “for your throat’s sake” were all the rage. But not all inventions were good – drip dry nylon shirts, for example, to which my mother was firmly attached.
Also in the news this week, a bunch of young teachers (highly trained professionals) in Hull have unwisely aired their views, on a publicly accessible social networking site, about their pupils whom they clearly find repellent. They attribute the vileness of their charges to the popularity of incest in the city. I don’t remember anything of that, and I’m sure I would have noticed.
Posted: October 7th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | Comments Off
When you are retired days are very much alike, but yesterday stood out. First, I went to the local surgery where I had two back-to-back appointments with nurses – one for routine blood pressure and general check up, the second for a ‘flu jab. The first nurse, Helen, was running on time, the second, Paula, behind by thirty minutes. I mentioned this to Helen when I went in and she promptly transferred the ‘flu jab job over to herself, so easing the pressure on her colleague and saving me a long wait. She also noticed that I am due a blood test for cholesterol in November and offered to do that too. In fifteen minutes blood was drawn, injection given, BP measured, and I hopped onto the scales. If only everywhere in the public sector could be so efficient and flexible. It seems to me that the clinical staff in the NHS are fine, it’s the box wallahs who run things that are the problem; so are they obsessed by their own processes they have forgotten why they’re there.
Blood pressure was fine – no Olympic athlete could boast better – but I was amazed by the reading on the scales; even allowing for car keys and change for parking it was a bit shocking, but no comment from Nurse Helen. We did the usual tap dance round how many units of alcohol I consume a week, and off I went.
Encouraged by this clean bill of health I nipped over the road to the Royal Oak to “use” some alcohol as we now say and I noticed a number of police officers, some of them pretty senior, milling about around the house next door. It was until recently the vicarage but is now undergoing major refurbishment in preparation for occupation by some aristocrats. When I returned from the pub an hour or so later they were still there. At ten o’clock I was preparing to turn in having exhausted myself watching the final of The Great British Bake-off when there was loud knocking on the door – two large police officers had come to tell me that human remains had been found on the building site, that the area had been cordoned off as a crime scene, and that a police car would be stationed near my back gate overnight. There was no cause for alarm.
Given that the house next door, like mine, had been built on a churchyard it seemed pretty obvious to me what they are dealing with (next week’s headlines in the local press will nevertheless read BODY FOUND IN GRAVEYARD SHOCK) but the worst has to be assumed. A forensic pathologist is due this morning from London to determine the age of the remains. Isn’t there one in Leeds or Sheffield, both of which have departments of forensic medicine in the medical schools? The problem now is that if the remains are more than a hundred years old the police will melt away, but they will be replaced by archaeologists whose sense of urgency is rather less than that shown by the rozzers, understandable given their speciality, and the building work may never be completed. I gather that the local press are sending a cub reporter to interview me. I’ll have to make stuff up if there is to be any chance of hitting the front page – dark hints about the vicar, perhaps.
Posted: September 4th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | Comments Off
From 1986 to 1995, with one exception, one or both of my children were sitting public examinations and a stressful time it was – for me, that is, never for them as far as I could detect. Even now we have interests in annual results which we confidently (and accurately) predict will be good; excitement without the worry. This year Nephew Mikey took a First in physiology during his medical training, Number Charlie was awarded twelve grade A GCSEs, mostly starred, and our young friends Gemma and Lily secured their places at Leeds and Hull universities respectively. I felt no pain at all.
But how different things now are. When Mikey’s granny, a retired doctor herself and now in her nineties, heard about his First she said, “In my day they didn’t give you a BSc every time you did a bit of physiology – it’s ridiculous. If he goes on like this, by the time he qualifies he’ll have so many letters after his name there won’t be room for them all on his Harley Street notepaper.” I know the feeling.
When I was a schoolboy we did six or seven O Levels, stars didn’t exist, and A grades, while not rare exactly, but pretty unusual. What are we doing to our children putting them through twelve? Many – perhaps most – pupils went on to good universities (the only kind we had then) without a single A grade to their names. The universities were many fewer, and they were smaller, but with only 3% destined to go there the competition was probably less fierce.
I don’t subscribe to the cynics’ view that standards are falling year on year, though I do think there is something fishy about the introduction of star A grades – a sign surely of grade inflation. Nor do I accept the educational establishment’s claim that our children are getting brighter (ask a biology teacher, if you can find one, about evolution) and the teachers more brilliant. Things are not getting worse – we are still turning out world class doctors, engineers and so on after all – but nor are they improving to the extent that the proliferation of A grades are claimed to indicate.
However, a recent proposed change to the GCSE regime whereby 10% of marks will be allocated to be won or lost on assessment of grammar and punctuation highlights a real problem. It is only a proposal, which the teaching profession will oppose, probably successfully, but I agree with it. This summer I read a school report on a school leaver. It was excellent in that it reported on a high level of achievement, but the document itself was a disgrace. There were numerous spelling mistakes, and the deployment of apostrophes was idiosyncratic; it was the work of someone who had heard of them but who knew nothing of possession and omission, and it was shameful. At a good secondary school (not local) with which I have a slight connection a teacher in her late sixties was obliged to write all the leavers’ reports because the standard of written English among her younger colleagues is so poor that the Head was not prepared to allow it leave the premises. That teacher has now retired. Next year, who knows?
So, this is why the teachers will fight the proposed reform. Grammar and punctuation have been side-lined in schools for decades, starting in the sixties, and most teachers now in service have been ill-served by this. Many will not be able to implement the reform, and they will oppose it.
Of course, there is one aspect of education that is now infinitely worse now than it was in my day. I paid no tuition fees, my City of Hull Major award (£100 per term) was enough to live on and on top of it I was given three return rail fares a year to Bristol, and £15 a year for books. Now it is £9000 in fees, and nothing else. I would not have been able to go.
Posted: August 31st, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft, Health | No Comments »
I have always found the notion of the perfectibility of man implausible, and possibly dangerous, and I am staggered that politicians believe that human beings can be moved closer to perfection by legislation.
This has been going on for as long as I can remember, but the latest bout of this nonsense, coming from the LibDem wing of the Government of all places, is particularly crass. The plan is to tax “bad” or unhealthy food and in doing so tackle the obesity epidemic.
I have always taken the view that the only purpose of taxation should be to raise revenue, and that attempts to use it to change people’s behaviour is both unfair and bound to fail. Taxes on tobacco and alcohol have increased steeply over recent decades, with every increase being followed by a temporary dip in consumption. Tobacco consumption has fallen since the sixties, largely as a result of social pressure, health awareness and changing attitudes. It has taken two generations. Even recent legislation outlawing smoking in various places has done little more than move smokers to other locations. We have seen the preposterous spectacle of council officers, accompanied by police officers, stopping cars on the M11 in attempts to catch people smoking in company cars, which is illegal.
Laws should be easy to apply, enforceable, and generally regarded as sensible. So how will they, the zealous food police, go about implementing this new idea? Their first problem will be to identify the target foods, and to set a level of taxation that might deter their consumption. This will be difficult, because almost any food could be so categorised. Fish and chips, I suppose, might be first up, along with burgers and fries, and most people would agree that any diet that consists predominantly of these dishes is an unhealthy one, but in the context of a balanced diet they are unexceptionable. And this is the point – there no are bad foods, only bad diets. There is no way of knowing which people are eating cod and chips three or four times a week and which eat them occasionally, on a trip to the seaside or on bonfire night, say. Would a 10% – or even a 20% – tax on a fish supper convert the former to fresh fruit and grilled chicken, and even if it would why should the five-a-day enthusiasts who fancy a trip to the fish shop a few times a year be fiscally coerced?
And what about those tasty cheesecakes from Waitrose – would Mrs Clegg be happy to see them hammered too, for surely three or four of those a week would turn you into a porker in no time? And what about profiteroles, and soft French cheeses? I suspect that there’s a bit of a class thing going on. We see it in other areas – planning for example. In the fifties and sixties TV aerials sprang up first and mainly in prosperous residential areas because televisions were very expensive, so much so that people without the funds for a telly would scrape together enough cash for an aerial only, which would proclaim to the neighbours that you were doing well. Now it’s satellite dishes, which are commonly found in poorer residential areas such as council estates, and attitudes have changed – they are seen as infra dig, a sign that you watch too much telly, not “one of us”. Try getting planning permission for a dish in a conservation area (and you will need it) and you’ll see what I mean, but you don’t even need permission for a TV aerial, because watching Channel Four News and Panorama is OK. It will be working class foods that will take the hits.
I assume that the lawyers in the Civil Service will try to warn the politicians about the problems they face in taxing bad food, but you cannot be sure – after all, such complex and unenforceable legislation will require many lawyers for many years. Pity Arnold “Two Dinners” Goodman isn’t still around to talk sense on this one.
Posted: August 15th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
Hearing aid-sporting men everywhere were stunned and alarmed by reports by UK research findings published in the ENT journal The Laryngoscope linking hearing loss to consumption of Viagra, the little blue pill invented by those clever Americans to boost their fading stamina. Bootleg supplies quickly found their way across the Atlantic, concealed in the briefcases of jaded British businessmen with $8 a pill to spare. The rest is history, but not all of it stimulating according to researchers at London’s Charing Cross Hospital who were quickly on the case. Early hearing loss has often been attributed to frequent transatlantic flights, and now we know why.
It seems that the hearing loss can be temporary, or it can be permanent. It can afflict both ears, or just the one. So that narrows things down.
As one who wears silver prawn-like devices tucked behind the ears I understand only too well the concerns of the “innocent deaf”, who until these findings could pass unremarked as they sloped round the shops looking for bargains. Now they are in danger of being stalked, followed home even, by unhappy housewives who, having spotted the nifty devices behind the ear, draw faulty conclusions and see them as alluring signals, see a causal connection where none exists – necessarily.
What is to be done? My solution is simple. The “innocent deaf” should continue to be issued with the silver jobbies, but the pill-popping jet-setters should be obliged instead to wear models coloured Viagra blue, a modern mark of Cain, that will clearly distinguish them from the shy merely deaf. But I fear that such a strategy would be denounced as stigmatising, a violation of someone’s human rights. But whose?
If you see a group of old guys conducting a shouted conversation outside Waitrose you can be sure that they have plenty of air miles and an optimistic view of what lies ahead. Outside Morrison’s they will have the anxious, haunted look of men who have never been further than Bridlington on an East Yorkshire bus and a fear of flying. I think the RIND should be all over this problem.
Posted: August 8th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | Comments Off
After our local district council dished out planning consent to Lidl and Aldi to build supermarkets, both within a few hundred yards of existing Netto and Morrison’s stores, it continued to press on with a hugely unpopular proposal to to flog a large car park (itself unpopular thanks to the high charges fixed by the council) for a cool £5m to accommodate yet another supermarket. Local rumour had it that the council had been in cahoots with Sainsbury’s, strongly denied by the council. That’s five supermarkets for a population of about fifteen thousand.
The aspiration is for Malton to become a regional, even national shopping destination. I can see it now – people in Bolton waking up on a Saturday morning and saying, “What shall we do today? I know, let’s go shopping in Malton.” Then jumping in their cars and making a two hundred mile round trip, with petrol at six quid a gallon, to do the weekly shop in a small market town they’ve never heard of, avoiding York and Harrogate, which they have, in their excitement to reach us.
Now, Malton is a splendid place where I shop every day, seldom feeling the need to go to York or Harrogate, except to buy out of the way items such as a new wig, or a pair of spats, but we should try to stay real. Anyway, recent events have been interesting. Lidl opened, and appears to be struggling, as does Netto judging by their car parks; Aldi has announced that it will not now proceed with its plan. And, here’s the kicker, Sainsbury’s have withdrawn its interest in the car park scheme, which the council was of course unaware of, but revealed that it is exploring another possible council-owned site elsewhere in the town. We await unconvincing denials.
This situation is not unique to Malton. East Hertfordshire District Council is proposing to sell off its car parks in Bishop’s Stortford, a larger and more prosperous town than Malton, for an even cooler£100m to enable a retail development at the heart of which will be – a supermarket. Again, there is fierce local opposition from existing retailers and people who live and work in the town because they will have nowhere to park, and anyway they think they’ve got enough supermarkets.
But the council’s real problem is coming from its own employees at its headquarters, which are located in the town. It seems that council workers, who by “custom and practice” are allowed to park free in the council car parks that are slated for sale and will have to make alternative, expensive arrangements. It looks like the pen pushers and blotter jotters may have more clout than the rate-payers, and suggestions are being made that they may be able to park free under a deal with the developer. Things are explosive among the townsfolk who had hitherto been unaware of this valuable perquisite available only civil servants.
Back to Malton. I don’t know what will happen. I predicted the withdrawal of Aldi, but not that of Sainsbury’s. Netto will not close, although it is hardly thriving, because it is to be remodelled as a full blown Asda (who own it), but I predict that Lidl will. As for Sainsbury’s, who knows? But I think we may keep our car park.
Posted: July 23rd, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
After recent reports that GPs are to be urged routinely to administer breath tests to those over sixty five in an attempt to enforce a new, lower limit of alcohol consumption on this patient group, and to run blood tests to detect abuse of illegal substances, I am happy to say that there has been more cheerful reading in the medical press. On three fronts, in fact.
Firstly, the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has published research reporting that the chemical compound resveratrol, a substance produced during exercise that protects the body from the deadly consequences of a sedentary life style, occurs naturally in red wine. This means that those of us who have not done so already can cancel our gym memberships and go for the burn while relaxing in front of the telly. The editor of the journal, Dr Gerald Weissmann, is quoted as saying “There are overwhelming data showing that the human body needs physical activity, but for some of us getting that activity isn’t easy. Resveratrol may not be a substitute for exercise, but it could slow deterioration until someone can get moving again.” Good enough for me, Dr Weissmann, and thank you for letting us know.
The plan then is this: switch to red exclusively, then go for a sensible jog of an evening while watching Channel Four News, and at the weekend do a half marathon. You’ll be in cracking shape in no time. Don’t let the fact that the original research was conducted in Strasbourg put you off – they do some pretty nifty science over there in France.
Secondly, clinical scientists in this country have discovered that high salt intake is not bad for you. Indeed, lowering your consumption can be very bad for you, even fatal, causing, among other problems, your kidneys to explode (this is not the precise medical term, which is in Latin). So now it appears that the sinister gangs of council employees who tour fish and chip shops, most recently in Grimsby of all places, confiscating salt shakers have, far from protecting their constituents from hypertension as they in their conceit believed, been posing a serious risk to life.Will they repent?
Thirdly, it has been announced that the received advice from NHS Direct and others that we all drink eight pints of water a day (coffee doesn’t count) is not only unhelpful nonsense but dangerous. Just this week the press reported that Nigella Lawson has been warned by her doctor about her self-confessed aquaholic life style – there was a photograph of her clutching several bottles of the stuff. Shall we now see an end to the spectacle of sanctimonious twits toting bottles of water wherever they go?
Must go – I’m planning to do a hundred press-ups before dinner.
Posted: July 14th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | Comments Off
I am interested in education: I was once a schoolboy, I was briefly a teacher, and I supervised, perhaps not entirely helpfully, the education of my children. I have followed press reports over the last decade or so of Government efforts to make access to university education “fairer”. Although the proposals, coming no doubt from privately educated Oxbridge graduates whose hearts are in the right place, and signed off by ministers whose thinking seems to be connected to reality only where it touches, have ranged largely from the absurdly impractical to border-line lunatic, and they have failed.
The latest wheeze is to compel the universities, which are suspected of having secret lists of “A” Level subjects that they discount when offering places, to come clean. I think they should come clean, and I cannot think of a single good reason why these lists should be secret. However, the Department of Education has produced an interesting and damning argument. Middle class children, they say, have intelligent, educated parents who have the wit to deduce what these dodgy subjects may be, whereas “disadvantaged” children, blithely unaware and without shrewd parental guidance, come to grief. This line of reasoning overlooks the fact that all children trudge into school every day where they mix with scores of middle class, intelligent and educated adults who are paid to look after them educationally – their teachers. I myself had poorly educated parents with little insight into or knowledge of the world of education, but my teachers filled the gap.
Ah but, they say, teachers are guiding children towards the soft subjects because good grades in these are easier to come by and serve to boost schools’ scores based on public examination results. This appears to be a widely accepted as an unintended consequence of school league tables. But where does professionalism come in? Would we accept a situation in which surgeons confronted by patients with dicky prostates packed them off to have their tonsils whipped out because that would improve their ratings? I don’t think so.
I was ranting about this to a friend over a bottle of wine when I remembered an incident from my own schooldays in the early sixties. There was at that time a national school quiz, broadcast on the wireless, called Top of the Form, a sort of University Challenge for secondary schools. Teams of four would be entered representing the age range of the school – a 12 year old, one of fourteen, another of sixteen, and a sixth former. The competing teams did not meet in a studio; they assembled in their own schools but were audio-linked so they could hear each other, as could their supporters gathered in the school halls, at that time cutting edge technology.
Anyway, in the final my school (Hull Grammar School) competed against a bunch of selling platers from Newcastle, and our youngest representative, called Brennan, was asked to name the drummer in a group called The Beatles. This he could not do, and a howl of disbelief went up in both Hull and Newcastle, the Newcastle lot no doubt smelling blood. Although I was a sixth-former I happened to know this boy because his older brother, also called Brennan, was a contemporary of mine. He was a clever little devil with exclusively intellectual interests, and rather serious – an expert on heraldry, I remember – and he was devastated to have let the school down, as he thought, by not knowing what every schoolboy clearly knew. He was found, after the recording finished, weeping in the cloakroom. A few days after the programme was aired he received a letter from a retired Colonel congratulating him on not knowing Ringo Starr’s name, enclosing a postal order for £5 as a reward. There was a man who knew a thing or two about what’s worth knowing.
Hull Grammar School won, by the way.