How the other half live … 60 metres below ground
as they await Armageddon 

TUNNEL VISION: Luxury bunkers like this are for sale in complexes 60 metres below ground   

HARDLY a day goes by without some nutcase Russian TV presenter, politician or even churchman threatening us all in the West with Armageddon at the hands of Putin’s Great’s Satanic weapons that can apparently strike deeper than the London Underground.

 Now Kim Jong Whatnot in North Korea and his toy generals threaten peace with his wonky nuclear missiles of death largely untested and with minds of their own on what to target.

 As wars rage on across the globe, the arguments against burning even a lump of coal from climate change protesters who threaten to stick their bottoms on to M-ways and prevent hospital operations, seem like nothing in comparison to wiping out humanity with hydrogen bombs and radioactivity. The wind will simply do the rest.

 And everyone knows now that Putin would not bat an eyelid at his own people being blasted to bits in his dream of being another Peter the Great.

 No wonder two of the fastest growing businesses in America are extra-large toilet seats for their rich comfort eaters frightened of Putin and Xi Jinpin … and nuclear bunkers in the gardens of Hollywood stars or anyone else who has a few million dollars to spare, according to press reports in New York the last few weeks. Facebook president Mark Zuckerman has his own luxury bunker, of course.

 But for the skint little people who don’t, there are companies digging away at the biggest real estate boom since condominiums … little cities for the people deep underground with luxury bunker apartments out in the American deserts. They are called Luxury Survival Apartments and are former US Army bases built of concrete and steel during the Cold War, now converted to provide life-saving shelter for entire families or groups in underground complexes the size of Manhattan. People even take second mortgages out on them.

 One company that runs a project says: “You can even treat them like a holiday home, visiting your bunker to stay in as often as you like.” There are 570 apartments for sale in our North America development … selling fast at around $55,000 with a ground rent of $1,100 a year at current prices and a deposit of $45,000.

 If you’ve got plenty of dosh, some bunker developers are offering swimming pools; home theatres, gymnasiums, community centres and even shooting ranges 50 metres underground, to keep your skills up to date for re-entering the new dangerous world of nightmare gangs following a new holocaust. Well-equipped armouries are in the bunker strongrooms too, if you left your Magnum .22 at home.

 But the bunker boom is not confined to America. Luxury bunkers are being developed all over the world in ex-military bases; old mines and abandoned underground train networks. Putin, who has 17 personal bunkers of his own, has started a craze. Amazing how many bunker buyers pick exotic locations though, like New Zealand, Hawaii, the Japanese mountains and even the Pacific … because surely, they won’t be seeing much 60 metres down.

 Underground tunnels and man-made caves are nothing new to Blighty of course. We’ve had secret tunnels under London and other cities for centuries. New Statesman journalist Duncan Campbell once found his way down to a miniature city through a portal on a traffic island in the Bethnal Green Road in the 1980s, if you remember, and took his mates down for a cycle ride through a network of caves that went on for 12 miles, past doors leading to Government buildings in Whitehall.

 Campbell claimed he once rode from St Paul’s to Fleet Street, on to Holborn and then Whitehall following signs deep underground that pointed the way. When he published his article, the doors and openings in and out of this wonderful human-made warren were sealed up, and no one has been down since, that we know of. The mind boggles at what might be going on down there now. If there is anything at all.

 But while other countries in Europe are busy developing bunkers private or public, the Government it seems has taken its eye off the ball. Other than mysterious communication centres for Ministers and vital people and a few hidden missile silos in the countryside. As far as we know.

 The idea that the four-minute warning would be followed by us all rushing to shelters specially built to save us, is not in Government thinking, no matter what party. Those who believe the Government has a master network of shelters to save us are like the silly people who think that one day humans will pop off and have a better life in space. Truth is, only the hand-picked will get tickets for the rockets as the others fry.

 All you ever hear these days are old nuclear bunkers being sold for around £25,000 built for people during the Cold War of the 1960s. One went in Doncaster recently. There are estimated to be hundreds of them in Blighty. Trouble is, they are not deep enough to stop Putin’s Satanic missile muscle. The only good advice in the Government nuclear war protection handbook, published in the 1980s is … keep out of the wind.

 Funeral favourite: Summer Wine

A grave matter …

WITH Christmas just a memory now with all the Press excitement about which song would be Christmas Number One and which ditty is the favourite festive jingle of all time, we move on. As we walk blindly into an uncertain future in 2024, we are treated to yet another list of chart toppers … this time the Top 20 funeral songs.

 And there are some unusual ditties, I would never have guessed for celebrating or mourning our deaths. Never mind, ‘Over The Rainbow’ at number 19 … the theme tune to ‘Match of the Day’ sits at No. 10. Well, at least everyone knows it, as Johnny goes to heaven to sit on the Man United benches with Bobby and Matt.

 And I’m not sure why, given that someone is dead in front of us, Eric Idle’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, is at No.11.

 There are the usual favourites we have all heard sitting in the pews of course … Ellie Goulding’s ‘How Long Will I Love You’, and ‘Time to Say Goodbye’, by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. Then there’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, by Celine Dion from the movie Titanic.

 Top of the Funeral Pops is, did you guess it? Last of the Summer Wine, the theme tune to the TV series about three old pals reliving their mischievous past in West Yorkshire. Apparently, it’s a popular song for the dear departed to show he or she will live a later life full of adventure.

 Others in the Top 20 are: ‘Canon in D’ by Pachelbel, apparently one of the most famous pieces of classical music ever. A beautiful harmony. ‘Soul Limbo’ by Booker T. & the MG’s, used as the theme for the BBC’s Test Cricket highlights. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ by Gerry and the Pacemakers, for obvious reasons. And ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams.

 One that doesn’t feature in the list is the wonderful little song from the 1920s, sung by Joe Brown who rounded off the memorial service to the late Beatle George Harrison with it and now rounds off all his stage shows with the same number: ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’.

 Joe’s wife Vicki, one of the iconic Vernon Girls from the Sixties, died of breast cancer in 1991 and the song always resonated with him.

 I went to see Joe, at a theatre in Southend-on-Sea, courtesy of the David Wigg concert ticket agency … a subsidiary of the Jeremy Gates Tours editorial holiday company and an offshoot of David Benson free car rental garage and John Lloyd, Wimbledon ticket entrepreneur.

 Rock singer Marty Wilde was on tour with a ‘solid gold’ rock n roll concert in the 80s with his close pal Joe; old heart-throb John Leyton, the Vernons, the Hollies and others. The manager of the Westcliff theatre had arranged the seats for the Express and I was writing a review, as we always did.

 Imagine my surprise and embarrassment when Marty finished his rendering of ‘A Teenager in Love’ and announced to the packed audience that Terry Manners from the Daily Express was in the audience writing about the performance … I wanted the floor to open and swallow my seat. The theatre manager had been over-enthusiastic. But Marty didn’t stop there. Over the microphone, he invited me back to his dressing room after the show.

 As time went on, I had decided not to go when towards the end of the production I was tapped on the shoulder by the manager who insisted I followed him with my wife Carol. Sheepishly we trailed behind.

 The dressing room was the size of a large cupboard when we got there, and we waited alone next to a pair of Marty’s sequined jeans over the back of a chair. Marty finally came in with towels around his head and shoulders, looking like Mohammed Ali and dripping with enough sweat to drown in. He seemed to fill all the available space left in the cupboard at his height of 6ft 5in. He was followed minutes later by Joe, also covered in so much sweat his glittering shirt was sticking to him … then came the Vernons and others. It was like a packed Tube train and difficult to drink the cold beer on offer. But we had a few laughs, although I am sure they could have all done without our presence. Joe however, held the room with his endless humour.

 The following year, I was on a packed airport bus to a plane to Tenerife at Gatwick when Marty got on with a guy, presumably his agent. Marty looked like his image, long sideburns; quiff in his hair; silver shirt … and I nodded to him. He stared right through me. But during the short trip to the jet, he kept looking over, then looking away, as if trying to remember me. Asking himself, who is that nodding wanker?

 Try to catch Joe on YouTube at the Adelphi Theatre in Liverpool where he sings his wonderful song: ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’ and plays his ukulele. He tells some wonderful jokes as well. What an entertainer. Worth every penny of his £80 million net fortune.

Remains of St Bride’s after the Blitz

Truth bombshell

LIKE many others I always believed that newspapers were relied upon by the British public during the Second World War and circulations grew. Faith of the readership was unbreakable, and people turned to the dailies particularly for the truth in what was going on. But apparently that was not true.

 What was true was that as Hitler started his murderous rampage across Europe, Britain had 34 dailies, nine of them national: 16 Sundays and evening publications in nearly 100 towns. A Government survey at the time revealed that every 100 families bought 95 morning papers and 58 evenings a day and 130 Sundays every week.

 But their influence was waning thanks to the disinformation they had churned out during the First World War, when people had largely been kept in the dark, mainly because of Draconian Government censorship.

 The death knell sounded in the period 1939-40 when radio quickly arrived in readers’ homes and brought the Front Line into their sitting rooms, according to historians. The BBC’s news bulletins succeeded in reaching an audience of 34 million in our population of 48 million.

 People trusted the wireless for wartime events and not the newspapers. Newspapers were too slow in reporting what was happening outside their front doors when the Blitz came along, especially those that reached them the next day. The Press Barons and Fleet Street were also hampered by disrupted transport; shortage of paper and late editions caused by power failures. Not to mention the bombs that fell on machine rooms. And Beaverbrook and Harmsworth were known to be on the dinner circuit of Government Ministers, promoting tales of victory soon or not reporting bad news at all. Meanwhile, our brave lads and lasses were dying, along with neighbours in the next road.

 It was to be the end of the beginning of the newspaper industry’s slow demise of a bible for truth in many respects.

 Fleet Street had its own share of the Blitz, of course. Our spiritual home St Bride’s church was bombed during the bombing of December 29, 1940. Express journalists and other staff joined firemen in the street, trying to save what artefacts they could from the altars and rooms across the road. The only thing that survived was the wedding cake steeple, famous throughout the country and used as a design by bakers for cakes.

 Fleet Street later raised the money for St Bride’s restoration, and it was then that burial chambers were discovered below, containing the remains of 227 bodies interred since the 17th century … and 7,000 skeletons in a communal charnel house.

 Not to mention a rusting lead coffin designed to stop body snatchers of the past with spring clips that trapped the robbers’ hands. It was big business. Doctors would pay £8 per body.

 “Copy! Deep down the hole, please Harry!”


15 January 2024