Saturday, 8 February 2014

Weekend Wonders No More

Sadly, the Sunday People has decided to close its web-based edition so there won't be any more of my 'Weekend Wonders' columns. So here are the final two that I wrote that won't make it to print. Enjoy!

A Potty Brush with Statistics

The UK’s first ever mobile phone (or cell phone) call was made on January 1st 1985 when comedian Ernie Wise made a call from St Katherine’s Dock in London to the headquarters of Vodafone in Newbury, Berkshire. At that time, Vodafone was such a small outfit that their HQ was in an office above an Indian restaurant. When ‘Little Ern’ made his pioneering call, mobile phones cost £2000 a time (1985 prices), had a battery the size of a briefcase with a 20 minute lifespan, and used analogue rather than digital transmission. Consequently, you could listen in on people’s conversations by finding the right frequency on your radio. It took Vodafone nine years to sign up its millionth customer, but only a further 18 months to reach two million.

In November 2007, it was estimated that there were 3.3 billion mobile phones in use worldwide and, in 2012, a study by World Bank revealed that around 75% of the world’s population have access to one. It’s been claimed that there are now more mobile phones than toothbrushes. In 2011 this fact was researched by writer Nicole Hall who discovered that there are, on average, 3.2 billion toothbrushes sold each year. And, at the time of her research, there were around four billion mobile phone contracts in existence. So it’s fair to say that there are almost certainly more mobile phone subscriptions than there are toothbrushes (in current use) on the planet.

Slightly more distressing is the fact that more people have access to a mobile phone than to a loo. A UN study in 2013 found that 6 billion people have access to a mobile phone but only 4.5 billion have access to working toilets. In India alone around half of its 1.2 billion residents are mobile subscribers, but only 366 million people have access to proper sanitation.

Child stars

There are many movies that feature children who quickly become big stars. But what happens afterwards? Where are they now? Many go on to successful adult acting careers like Henry Thomas who played Elliott in ET(1982). As Henry Jackson Thomas, he’s appeared in films like Gangs of New York and Legends of the Fall and starred as Norman Bates in Psycho IV (1990). Similarly, the star of Kes, David Bradley, has had a successful theatre career as Dai Bradley and has recently moved back into movies, notably in the Jason Statham vehicle Hummingbird (2012).

 But many others go on to have very different lives. Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), made no more films and is now a vet specialising in large exotic animals found in zoos and safari parks. Mark Lester, who played Oliver Twist in Oliver! (1968) is now an osteopath and acupuncturist and was, for a time, a close friend of Michael Jackson. Meanwhile, Mara Wilson who played Matilda (199) works for a charity exploring use of colour in therapy.

The three children in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) have had diverse careers. Carrie Rawlins was played by Cindy O’Callaghan, who later turned up on Eastenders as Andrea Price but who is now a child psychologist. Older brother Charlie was played by Ian Weighill who is now a driver for South West Trains. And young Paul was played by Roy Snart, who is now managing director of a software company.

Mary Poppins (1964) children Karen Dotrice (Jane) and Matthew Garber (Michael) had very different lives. Karen was a successful actress before retiring to be a full time mum. But Matthew contracted hepatitis and tragically died at the age of just 21.

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