We sat, nervously, waiting for the big event to happen.
The midwife was a wonderful example of her profession; large-bosoms, with a smile for us both, she oozed confidence. She lived at the other end of the crescent. She was at Oxford, our modest terraced house was at Cambridge Gardens.
It was a blissful day. Now, with the passage of years, it has become idyllic. My wife, Sue, looked radiant if apprehensive. She’d chosen to have the midwife come to our house. It was the right decision. She was relaxed and the midwife was our neighbour.
I was at home. This often felt like a rare event. Newly promoted I wanted to make an impression but really I would grab any opportunity to work overtime. As Sue never worked during those early days of motherhood it was clearly my job to be the bread-winner. I doubled my pay with overtime, often at the most inconvenient times.
Not today. I was at home.
The midwife stood up. ‘I think it’s time we went up upstairs,’ she said, ‘can you make us a cup of tea.’
Nervously I went to the kitchen, and made tea. How long did that take? It seemed like moments.
Racing upstairs with the tea tray I was greeted by the wonderful sight of my new daughter snuggled against my wife’s chest. Magical.
I don’t remember any baby cries. Kate (really Katherine Louise) seemed very content to be in our world, her new world.
Sue had made a crib, covering the wicker-work with soft cloth. New bed linen, all hand-made, waited for the new occupant.
What can you say when looking at your newly-born child? It’s a miracle of nature. Sue was exhausted but radiant.
Eventually it was decided to let Kate go to sleep. What a moment to remember as I picked up this precious bundle and lowered her into the crib. Her small hand grasped mine. Absolute perfection.
Some would suggest, and as yet we have no proof, that Harry has, at last returned the Royal Family to the British. The Hanoverian link has been broken.
Whether that is true depends upon a DNA test, and despite all the rumours no proof that Harry is the legitimate offspring of the heir to the throne has ever been given. Plenty of bluster. No proof.
Someone could surely pick up a glass, or some object containing a DNA sample and have that examined. In a very British way eyes have been closed, and its all been tucked away, and not spoken about.
We live in changing times. Our sovereign is coming to the end of her superb reign. We like having a monarch. Imagine President Blair or some other tainted politician being the supreme authority, even if powerless.
Prince Charles is to be admired. He’s worked tirelessly for decades. He was forced, in many ways, to reject the love of his life. This he did, and that didn’t work out too well. At least we got an heir and a spare.
That potential King has now produced his own heirs. His brother, Harry, has slipped down the pecking order. He faces a life of representing our monarch for the rest of his life. He will be the best man,never the groom.
Couple to that his choice of partner. Meghan is a forthright young woman. She lacks the quiet sophistication of her sister-in-law, who will go on to become a consort we will all admire. The Duchess of Sussex has a past that will reverberate. She’s done little that any other exuberant young woman would not have done, but our press and media have decided she is persona non grata, and besides Harry is a nice bloke, but lacks the gravitas needed of a senior royal. That just means he will not put up with any nonsense. He will speak his mind.
This is all very modern. The United Kingdom is now in danger of fragmenting. Our glamour is tarnished. A frightening error has meant we will be thrown out of a cosy club where we have been happy enough for a long time. Our Queen Victoria produced children who sat on the thrones, usually as consort, of all the major sovereignties of Europe. That gave us power, so did our domination of about a third of the world. The European Union has been a suitable substitute, and it has kept the peace in Europe for nearly 80 years.
That may change. Europe is starting to shift. Dangerously it is moving to the right. At the same time a new social revolution is now starting. Work will no longer be the glue that held down the majority of the population. Automation, in all its forms, will takeover from the peasantry. We are already noticing that we have too many people in this world. That needs to be solved.
The USA believes it is the dominant force in the world. That is increasingly being questioned. China is acquiring control through acquisition not conquest. India is raising its head. Russia has increasing influence in the Middle East, and could well dominate Turkey to create a new power band across the heartland of the world. The USA has plundered and been increasingly arrogant. How much longer the world will tolerate this teenage upstart will be interesting to watch.
The United Kingdom faces a difficult time. Our new Prime Minister was born in the USA of Turkish parentage. He has no real allegiance to our country, except through attendance at a posh school. He appears at this stage to be relishing power. Whether that will prove satisfactory only time will tell.
The Elizabeth Tower is the face of the British Houses of Parliament. It houses the clock, which faces out to the world on four faces, and contains the bells which chime, the largest is known as Big Ben. The Tower was known as Big Ben until 2012 when it was renamed Elizabeth to honour the 60-year reign of our monarch.
That’s all about to change as the tower is being completely restored. The original cost was £29 million, that has now crept p to £61 million, no doubt thanks to the vigilance of the quantity surveyors (QS) on the project. As I was once a QS I can only applaud their determination, as a tax-payer I remain doubtful.
Started in 2017 it is nearing completion in 2020. The scaffolding is slowly being removed. Once complete we shall see several changes. Plenty of gold leaf, black paint removed by a tasteful blue. The new colour scheme brings the Tower back to its original state, with over 14 layers of black paint removed.
Restoring has meant undertaking key internal and external conservation and refurbishment works, including waterproofing and addressing severe condensation problems as well as modernising the building to improve standards in safety, access and visitor and workspace facilities. The project includes:
Work to prevent the clock mechanism from failing, as it is currently in a chronic state.
Addressing urgent problems caused by decay to the fabric of the building, both internally and externally.
Health & safety and fire safety improvements, including installation of a lift.
Enhanced energy efficiency through modern lighting of the tower face and other measures.
1289-90 The first clock tower was erected in New Palace Yard. It had one dial and a bell
1367 The early clock tower was replaced with a new tower and clock. This was the first public chiming clock in England.
1699 The clock tower had fallen into disrepair. Its bell was sent to St Paul’s Cathedral but broke en route
1707 The medieval clock tower was pulled down and a sun dial put up in its place
1716 The bell from the clock tower was recast
and later hung in the South West Tower of St Paul’s Cathedral. If Big
Ben is ever unable to strike, the bell in St Paul’s is heard instead
1834 The Palace of Westminster was almost completely destroyed by fire.
1840 Construction of the new Palace of
Westminster began. Architect, Charles Barry won the commission to design
the new palace and included a clock tower in his final designs.
1843 Construction began on the Clock Tower. Foundation stone was laid.
1846 A competition was held to decide who should
build the clock. The Astronomer Royal, Sir George Airy was the referee.
Stipulations for the clocks accuracy meant it took seven years before
the designs were finalised.
1852 John Dent was appointed to build the clock
to the designs of Edmund Beckett Denison. This was the same year that
the new Palace of Westminster, designed by architect Sir Charles Barry
with the assistance of Augustus Welby Pugin, was opened by Queen
Victoria at the State Opening.
1854 The clock mechanism was completed.
1856 The first ‘Big Ben’ bell was cast at
Warners of Norton near Stockton-on-Tees, the bell was originally to be
called ‘Royal Victoria’.
1857 The first ‘Big Ben’ developed a four foot
(1.2m) crack during testing and was condemned. Warners, the bell’s
manufacturer, and Edmund Beckett Denison, designer of the Great Clock,
clashed over who was responsible for the damage.
1858 In April, the second ‘Big Ben’ was cast by
the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in East London. It was transported to New
Palace Yard on a carriage drawn by 16 white horses and raised to the
1859 The Great Clock started ticking on 31 May
and the Great Bell’s strikes were heard for the first time on 11 July.
Later that year, Big Ben was found to be fractured in two places. While a
solution was sought, Big Ben remained silent with the largest quarter
bell striking the hourly chime.
1863 At the suggestion of Sir George Airy, the
Astronomer Royal, Big Ben was turned by an eighth and the hammer size
was reduced thus allowing Big Ben to strike the hours once more. A
telegraphic link to the Greenwich Observatory was installed to check the
accuracy of the time keeping.
1923 BBC Radio first broadcast Big Ben’s chimes to the United Kingdom on New Year’s Eve.
1932 Big Ben’s strikes broadcast internationally
for the first time by the Empire Service (later the World Service) as
part of King George V’s Christmas broadcast.
1939 From this date until April 1945, the clock
dials remained in darkness to comply with blackout regulations during
the Second World War.
1945 The clock dials were re-illuminated when the wartime blackout regulations were lifted.
1976 In the middle of the night on the 5 August,
a mechanical failure caused serious damage to the Great Clock. The
pendulum weights spiralled out of control down the weight shaft and the
clock mechanism exploded. Big Ben was silenced for nearly nine months.
The repairs were completed in time for the bells to ring out to mark the
occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee visit to Westminster
Hall in May 1977.
2007 Big Ben and the quarter bells were silenced
from 11 August to 1 October while the Great Clock underwent essential
2009 Big Ben celebrated its 150th anniversary with a year of events and activities.
2012 The Clock Tower was renamed the Elizabeth Tower to honour Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.
This location assumes that Scotland will leave the United Kingdom. Whatever place is chosen it will help us all to move the centre of power out of London. After all Canberra became Australia’s capital once all the indigenous folk had been removed. Think of the housing possibilities, and the reduced risk of running into Al Jemal.