This is Robert Llewellyn's personal blog. The views contained in here are mine alone and do not reflect the views or opinions of anyone else I work with or for. Just thought I ought to make that clear.

Tuesday
May142013

One of the many Gigs I Didn't Get.

Just managed to do a bit of data mining on some old files I found tucked in an old folder on an old hard drive in an old box under a pile of old papers.

The following extract is from a work diary I was keeping on my original Macintosh (an SE 2 20) I bought after working on Red Dwarf series 3 in 1989. 

I wrote the following on the 14th of December 1989.

Robin Driscoll and I had a meeting this morning with Rowan Atkinson after watching his half hour thingy and I'm supposed to write three ten minute ideas for him by mid January. Yeas, well, we shall see won't we. The ideas have to be visual, and definitely have a punch line. The characters name is Mr Bean, and in the ones I saw there were some very good car gags, the little red mini that always knocks something over when he parks it and occasionally drives a Reliant Robin into a ditch. 

That was it. I'd forgotten about the meeting and as you may have guessed by now my ideas were never used, hey ho.

I do know that Robin, who's a lovely chap and a brilliant comic actor in his own right went on to work with Rowan for many years and he helped create the Mr Bean we all know and love. 

 

 

Tuesday
Apr232013

It really was all black and white in the 1970's

Just found this old snap, taken on Ryecroft Street in Fulham in early 1978. Yes, that slim young man (I was 22) was me.


The picture was taken by Angie Hunter who lived in the same house. She later went on to be Tony Blair's right hand woman during his 1st term at number 10. I never got invited to any parties though. :-)

Yes, I used to smoke, shocking to remember. Stopped in '89, started again in 2000! Doh! Stopped in 2003.
The shoes, I made those myself, it's what I used to do. I was at that time a 'shoemaker.' Not a 'cobbler.' A cobbler mends shoes. I made them, a shoemaker is posher okay. 

The jumper was a real Swedish number my then girlfriend gave me, she was half Swedish.

Sunday
Apr072013

The Barbie Land Rover

I’ve owned 3 Land Rovers in my life. I loved them all, big, brutish, rough as guts rattling road legal tractors that they are.

The first was a dirty matt red 110” Defender pick up with a factory installed 3.5 liter V8. It had a chronically noisy gearbox that became truly deafening when I fitted a Fairey Overdrive.

When our son was born, I drove my wife (in labour at the time) 50 miles up the M5 to Worcester hospital flat out, we maybe touched 70 mph twice. The noise was so overwhelming I couldn’t hear my wife swearing in loud Australian as she experienced contractions. We made it okay, oh yes, and the reason we had to drive to Worcester was that was the only hospital near us with a birthing tub. Both my kids were born under water and interestingly they are both amazing swimmers, but that’s another topic.

We fitted a baby seat on the cubby box in the cab and my pre toddler son liked nothing more than to push his little foot on the massive gear stick and kick the car out of gear just when I really needed to be in gear. Oh, the joy they bring.

With the arrival of my daughter, and for reasons that now totally elude me, I traded that old tank in for a 110” Defender station wagon, again a V8 petrol model, it was in exquisite condition and even then, back in 1996, it cost close to £80 to fill the tank.

In 1998 I traded that monster machine in for the 90” Defender SV pictured above. The young man standing in front of the car is my son aged 5, he’s now approaching 20.

This Landy had a 2.5 TDi under the bonnet, I didn’t much like the sound it made, it sounded like a bread van. I missed the burble of the old V8 petrol but the diesel was a tiny bit more economic to run.

This Land Rover became a vital part of the Scrapheap Challenge production crew from 1998 to 2001, it went everywhere we went, never got stuck, due to the rag top it could have camera mounts clamped to it. Lots of shots of weird contraptions hobbling along were filmed from the back of this Landy. It once conveyed 14 people in the back (they were all standing) out of a quarry and up to the catering wagon.

Some of the more rufty tufty members of the Scrapheap crew were critical of my Landy's paint job, it was a light metallic green and they dubbed it ‘Bobby’s Barbie Landy.’ I wasn’t threatened, they were just jealous. 

During it’s hectic life on Scrapheap a lot of young men ‘had a go’ off roading at various locations we filmed at. I drove it into the sea at Pendine Sands in South Wales so we could get a better shot of the scrappy races vehicles arriving for the race, waves were breaking over the bonnet but it never got stuck.

I ‘steam cleaned’ it later that day in order to ‘wash the salt off’ and then two weeks later had to replace all the brake disks as they looked like something pulled up from the hull of the Mary Rose. That was expensive, and embarrassing.

Mechanic at garage: ‘Where’s it been Robert?’

Me: ‘Um, it might have got a bit of sea water near it.’

In later life we used it to pull a horsebox when my daughter rode a pony, we attended numerous ‘Pony Club’ events, me looking like a tramp, all the other parents in their Range Rovers looking like the front cover of Country Life.

My Landy pulled more Range Rovers with road tyres off level, damp grass than I ever want to remember. Also, having learned to drive tractors at an early age, I can reverse trailers. I don’t enjoy doing it, it’s not a task I seek out but I reversed a lot of Range Rovers and horseboxes out of gates all over the South Midlands. Oh the joy.

A few years ago when our village was cut off in the snow and all the schools were closed, all the kids in the village went up to a local hill that seems designed for tobogganing and I tied a long tow rope on the back. 20 kids at a time sat on their toboggans, held onto the rope and got pulled back up the hill. It never got stuck.

Last week I finally sold the Land Rover back to the man I bought it from. It seemed fitting, he’s a Land Rover fanatic and skilled mechanic so I’m sure he’ll look after it a lot better than I did. The heater doesn’t work, nor does the fuel gage, the drivers door doesn’t shut, the bonnet doesn’t open very easily and there are some bits of mysterious metal rubbing together somewhere underneath.

On the last day I owned it I got in and tried to start it. Flat battery, we just don’t use it any more, in fact we’ve done less than 200 miles in it in the last year. As a final indignity to its he-man prowess, I had to jump start it from my Nissan Leaf.

If all goes to plan, in a few weeks I’ll be test-driving the Land Rover Defender electric, one of seven all electric Defenders that Land Rover revealed at the recent Geneva motor show. I’m intrigued.

 

Friday
Mar222013

Old Tech

I have ‘worked in the TV industry’ for the last 25 years, I understand how the industry works and why it exists, how it is financed and who makes the most money out of it (not the people who appear on the screen)

When I got back to my hotel room last night the telly started working as I walked into the room. I hadn’t touched a button, merely slid my key card into the little slidey thing by the door and kerchung. MTV, ‘worlds sexiest music videos’  appeared in glorious colour. Lovely.

I started channel hopping, something people have been doing for the last 40 years or so. Before that you had to stand up and turn a clunky knob on the telly to change channels. In fact when I was a kid you didn’t even do that, we had a nine inch Bakelite telly that only got the BBC.

‘We’re not having that awful commercial rubbish in this house.’ Said my mum.

The actual screen of the telly in the hotel, the machine itself is amazing, flat screen, incredible definition, top notch sound. That was all good but I was immediately aware of some numpty in some obscure office in London who had pre-decided what I could watch. A scheduler, a person who organises the schedule, a person who’s job it is to tell you what you can see and when.

Suddenly the technology I was using seemed archaic and limited, clunky and crude and above all, out-dated. The menu system is nothing short of tragic, finding out what you can watch is next to impossible, searching for a specific thing you want to watch? Forget it.

It’s crap, it’s a broken model, it doesn’t work and my experience in the hotel room reminded me why I don’t have Sky and why I don’t watch much broadcast telly any more.

Breaking Bad and House of Cards on Netflix is how I want my telly. It’s all available, all the time, I decide my own schedule, I watch it when it fits in with my time table, I’m no longer prepared to operate my life around the vague whim of some self important numpty in NoHo.

I’ll watch the news at a scheduled time and that’s about it. I know some people like to watch men running around with balls on a nice grass lawn and that’s fine too. But for the rest of it, I only have one thing to suggest. ‘Schedulers, sling yer hook.’

Monday
Feb252013

Britain’s Plutonium Mountain

Even someone of my generation can feel rightly pissed off with the overly confident and simultaneously paranoid numpties of the 1950’s with their blind faith in nuclear weapons and their ‘balance of power’ obsessions. They have left us with a right old mess in the playroom.

These glorious islands we call the United Kingdom house the largest stockpile of civil grade plutonium….. (suitable Clarksonian pause) ….. in the world.

I have just listened to this alarming BBC radio 4 program called ‘Britain’s Plutonium Mountain.’

The cost of dealing with this toxic legacy are too enormous and depressing to recount, listen to the show if you want the figures, however I couldn’t help but speculate for just a bit after I’d heard it.

I admit I’m a dreamer, a barely educated fool and I’m often accused of ‘not living in the real world,’ however I think we can all agree that ‘the real world’ that created this nuclear nightmare is not particularly fiscally prudent or sane one.

So bare with me for a short moment of idiotic fantasy. Just imagine if instead of spending uncountable billions on newer, ever more complex, ever more fragile technologies to use this ‘ultimate fuel’ to generate our electricity, we had back in 1953 followed the hippy dippy route of developing massive, expensive, hard to connect to the grid off shore wind farms and massive, expensive, hard to construct expensive grid level storage. We could have spent say £20 billion of tax payers hard earned money doing this over the last 55 years, that would have been a lot less than we have spent on our nuclear programs, but where would we be now?

Oh yes, I get it, a massive proportion if not the entirety of our electricity would be generated with renewable sources, we wouldn’t have to import dangerous and expensive fissile or hydrocarbon fuels from dodgy and dangerous sources, our economy would be healthier because we’d spent the money for that electricity within our own system, it would employ thousands to construct and maintain the systems, the environment around us would be safer, we wouldn’t have to deal with this insane stockpile of lethal stuff that will just not go away for hundreds of thousands of years.

But that’s just silly, the ‘real world’ solution is to continue to spend billions and billions of pounds shoring up an utterly non-functioning system because we are buggered if we don’t.

No one from the pro nuclear lobby ever mentions Sellafield and the incredibly important work of the very brave men and women who work there dealing with this hideous inheritance. The armed men who guard this deadly stockpile twenty four hours a day at unimaginable cost. This isn’t party political in any way, every shade of government for the last 50 years has been sucked into this mess

Just in case you can’t be bothered to listen to the program, I will précis one bit of our proud nuclear history.

It is theoretically possible to combine plutonium with other mildly less dangerous fissile material to create a ‘mixed oxide’ or MOX fuel. The French do it, not really anyone else.

In 1993 we started building a MOX plant at Sellafield with an initial cost of £265 million, but before building was finished guess what? Yes, it ended up a little bit more expensive, £437 million and with one other teeny weeny problemette. It didn’t work.

Yes, clever men in suits, scientists and politicians managed to spend £437 million of our taxpayers money doing diddly-squit.

Not only that, it is now going to cost literally billions to decommission the site. Before the MOX plant was finally closed down it had produced just over 1% of what it was supposed to do. It was described in a memo from the American government revealed by Wikileaks as ‘the biggest technological white elephant in British history.’

You have to laugh or you go mad.

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