Things I miss

Things I Miss About Ireland

Decent sausages, bacon and white pudding.

Countless radio stations that play songs I actually recognise.

Coming home from a night out at 3am and finding the streets packed with cars and people.

The country shutting down for a huge celebration for every bronze medal won in the Olympics.

The way the landscape changes with every mile.

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road deaths

OK, I know I said I would stop with the statistics, but this one was on my mind.

In the UK in 2008, 2,538 people were killed in road incidents.

In Ireland, the number killed in the same year was 279.

In the whole of Australia in the same period, 1,464 people were killed in road incidents.

In all statistics, this includes drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists etc.

So per head of population, you are almost twice as likely to get killed in a road traffic incident in this country as in the UK. As a scooter rider in Melbourne, this does not surprise me in the least.

Interesting that the death rate in Ireland and Australia is so similar. I wonder if this is to do with the rural population, who might take more chances with speeding, drink driving etc. because the police presence will be lighter? My gut tells me this is something to do with drink driving but I will have to investigate further.

I would also love to compare road deaths involving or caused by novice drivers, but it seems that will take a bit more digging to find comparable statistics.

  Population Road Deaths 2008 Average per 100k pop.
UK 61,000,000 2,538 4.2
Ireland 4,150,000 279 6.7
Australia 21,000,000 1,464 7.0

crime capital

It seems every morning I open the Age newspaper website, at least two of the main headlines refer to another murder, stabbing, shooting somewhere in Melbourne. The other thing that is beginning raise alarm bells is the number of serious injuries or deaths on the roads, so often by young people still on their P plates acting like idiots.

I wondered if my concerns were just down to me getting older and more easily alarmed, or whether I was simply not used to this level of violent deaths. Coming from several years in London, surely this was all in my head?

So, sitting here on a Sunday morning with a coffee in hand, I decided to do a quick comparison of murder levels in London and Melbourne. I used to live in the Borough of Brent, which was reputed to be a tough place to live. Harlesden, my first address in this part of the city, was known at the time as the murder capital of London.

So how does Melbourne – and my new borough of Maribyrnong – compare?

I looked up crime stats for each city and each borough for the last two years, and the numbers were shocking. Since we moved here, so many people have told us how much safer it is living here than in London, and that they appreciate the feeling of security of living in such a safe city compared to London.

Turns out it’s all a myth.

Take the city comparisons first. London, a city of 7.6 million people, has had a yearly average of 142 homicides in the past two years. That is 1.9 homicides per 100,000 of population.

Melbourne on the other hand, a city of 5.2 million people, experienced a yearly average of  173 homicides in the same time period. That is 3.3 homicides per 100,000 people.

Looking at these figures, you are almost twice as likely to get murdered in Melbourne as in London.

The local government figures are even more interesting. The Borough of Brent has just over 260,000 inhabitants and has had a yearly average of 7.5 homicides per year in the past two years. That’s about 2.8 homicides per 100,000 people.

Maribyrnong, a borough of about 68,500 people, has had a yearly average of  6 homicides in the past two years. That comes out as 8.75 homicides per 100,000 people.

So, in my local government area compared to a borough once known as the murder capital of London, I am almost three times more likely to get murdered.

I was going to continue on to analyse road traffic injuries and deaths, and sex crimes, once I’d finished with murders, but my comfort levels are already so compromised I think I’ll stop there.

And people wonder why Orlando and I are so security conscious?

  Average Murders 2007-09 Average per 100k pop. Population of Area
Melbourne 173.5 3.3 5,257,576
Maribyrnong 6 8.75 68,571
London 142.5 1.9 7,500,000
Brent 7.5 2.8 263,500

melbourne vs. london weather

I’m sick to death of Aussies telling me that London (European) weather is shit. Here are the facts:

Annual data 1971 – 2000



Average rainfall



Days of rainfall >1mm



Hours of sunshine



Max temp



Min temp



A bit more sunshine here in Melbourne and – hey, what’s this? – a bit more rain too! Who knew?

back with a vengeance

Yes, I’m back after a lengthy absence, but I guess most of you have seen me in one place or another in October so you all know what I’ve been up to!

After almost exactly a year, it was fantastic to spend a couple of weeks back in Dublin with the family. It was my mother’s 80th birthday so there was plenty to celebrate. Joe, Elva and I also got to celebrate our joint 40th – one just past, and two impending – with a wonderful Thai dinner and a glass or two of red.London, on the other hand, was a blur.

I hardly stopped from the moment I arrived, and was glad of the little sleep I got on the flight back to Aus. Fiona was a gracious hostess, even laying on lunch for my visitors, and I loved getting to know her two daughters Harriet and Lottie all over again.

Thanks to all the LAS crew who came to see me in the Stage Door and beyond on the Thursday night. It was really like old times to be back amongst you again. I did panic when the night was over: it was something I had looked forward to for months and suddenly it was all over. There are no photos yet (am waiting for Huggy) but I am sure there will be one or two memorable ones!

The Friday night was no less enjoyable – twenty more close friends ate, drank and talked the evening away in Mar i Terra. I feel as if I didn’t have enough time to talk for long enough to everybody, but your presence was so much appreciated. Mo, don’t forget the photos!

There are links to the photos of the various nights on the front page so I hope you enjoy going through them.

Finally, congratulations to Lee and Fi on the safe arrival of baby Jake, who completes their trio of beautiful boys. He arrived on 27 October and so joins the ranks of the most powerful beings on earth: Scorpios.

Back here in Melbourne, it has been a hectic but amazing weekend celebrating my Big 4-0 with the Bollywood Movie Stars party on Saturday night. Check out for links to the photo galleries.

Normal service will now be resumed, and I promise more website and blog updates in the coming weeks, including the much awaited Desert Island Discs compilation. To those of you who are still outstanding (you know who you are): GET WRITING!

Roy Webb MBE 1945 – 2006

A great friend, a trusted mentor, a bon vivant and a sharply-dressed gent
It is a year, almost to the day, since I last saw Roy. It was my last day at London Ambulance Service. Not trusting even our CEO do to the job, Roy delayed one of his early chemo sessions to give the official farewell speech at my leaving do in the boardroom.
As usual, he held the audience in the palm of his hand while he spoke off the cuff, regaling us with tall tales, most of which had Roy in the starring role. He loved the limelight and he was a natural showman.
At work Roy was no less of a superstar. When Roy said he was passionate about patients, you believed him. He broke all the rules over the years, in the name of better patient care.
He often exasperated the rest of us who followed along behind, tidying up after him, and doing the necessary paperwork. But you could never question his motives.He knew more about excellent patient care than anyone, and was known all over London for it. Once we did a survey of hospitals whose contracts we had lost, and asked what they missed about the LAS. One hospital simply replied “Roy Webb”. To many in south-west London, Roy Webb was the LAS.
Last July, we had a managers’ away day which conveniently coincided with Roy’s 60th birthday. Roy turned up in his new Porsche, baseball cap at a rakish angle, grinning from ear to ear. He looked every inch the man who had decided to grow old disgracefully. Roy continued to be the star of the show that evening at a formal dinner in his honour, complete with champagne and birthday cake. Naturally, he lapped up all the attention, and was one of the last to bed.

Two days later was the 7th of July, the London bombings. Roy was the lynchpin of the PTS response. He spent all day running up and down to Gold Control in the boardroom, offering PTS up for anything he thought we could do, then relaying it to us for execution. He was personally responsible for the broad role PTS played on the day, volunteering our ambulances to rescue stranded schoolchildren and elderly people, to get HQ staff home at night and to ferry equipment all over London. He was the one who suggested putting PTS ambulances alongside A&E in the response cells we set up.
He worked over 14 hours straight that day, finally leaving for home at almost eleven o’clock at night.
It was for these actions, and many more like them, that Roy was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.
Here he is with Sue on the day.
Outside work, he was a great friend. Most of all I will remember Roy’s tremendous support when my own father died: Roy was in constant contact, sending me daily, sometimes hourly, text messages, helping to get me through the tough days.
I will always remember Roy’s infectious laugh – he somehow managed to sound roguish and sheepish at the same time.
I will also remember Roy Webb, the Michael Caine impersonator – recently Roy chose a Mini as his new car just so he could pretend he was starring in a remake of The Italian Job. His favourite line was “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” and he worked it into every conversation. He even took a photo of it at Buckingham Palace the day he got his MBE.
I will remember Roy as the ultimate sharp-dressed gentleman, his taste in clothing getting more and more expensive and exquisite as the years progressed. He wasn’t above doing what it took to hide the baldness, though.
But most of all I will remember Roy’s resolutely upbeat and optimistic take on life. He wrote to me a few months ago telling me how he was getting on. He quoted his doctor who had said “Roy, you know I can’t make you better” to which Roy’s response was “But you can make me better than today”.
The Roy Webb Appreciation Society has a worldwide membership. Sue’s daughter Jo, who also lives here in Melbourne, will be lighting a candle for Roy round about now, to commemorate his life. As for the rest of us here who knew and loved Roy, we will be marking the occasion exactly as Roy would have wished. We have booked a table at an expensive restaurant. We will get all dressed up in our designer gear. We will order a ridiculously expensive bottle of red wine. And as the sun sets across the bay, we will raise our glasses and toast the most wonderful bloke in the world.
Goodbye, mate – we will miss you.

Sad News

We learned this week of the sad loss of my friend Keith’s wife Jan to cancer. Keith was our Director of PTS at the London Ambulance Service for a number of years, and he is a great guy. We have kept in touch since both moving on, and he dropped me a note yesterday to tell of his very sad news. Many of you who read this website will have known and respected Keith – if you wish to drop me a note I will make sure that any messages of sympathy are passed on.