Sunday, March 01, 2015

  

It`s not been a comfortable weekend for us English sports fans.   I woke up this morning to the news that the England cricket team had once again been stuffed by a former colony, in the process of which England became only the second team in World Cup history to lose by nine wickets having posted a total over 300.   The endangered species to which I referred last week is now in danger of becoming extinct.  Yikes!!

This afternoon, against my better judgement on a fine Spring day, I watched the England Rugby team lose to Ireland in Dublin and thus deny themselves any chance of the Six Nations Championship.   No complaints - Ireland were the better team and deserved their victory.  I guess it just wasn`t meant to be.

Yesterday, in keeping with Snopper Street tradition, the fortunes of our various football teams were, as ever, followed with eager anticipation.   The Saints, having gone a goal down after just 72 seconds, lost to the Throstles of West Bromwich Albion and with other results not going our way, the Saints now drop down to sixth in the Premier League, leaving their Champions League hopes in considerable doubt.   I guess it just wasn`t meant to be.

Elsewhere, my respective neighbours saw both West Ham and Gillingham lose at home and to compound the felony, Truro City went down 2-0 to Cirencester, thus putting a bit of a damper on their play-off hopes.  I guess it just wasn`t meant to be, to be fair.

Some years ago, the Chelsea leg end that is John Terry was interviewed following an unexpected reverse in some Cup Final or other.   His reaction?  "Well, I guess it just wasn`t meant to be."   We here in our slightly depressed enclave know what you mean, John.  Or maybe it`s our old friend Karma rearing its head again and striking back following my derision of Dejan Lovren and his hopeless but infinitely enjoyable penalty miss the other evening?   

Friday, February 27, 2015


KARMA AT ITS FINEST...

In recent years, my beloved Saints have had a few employees who have caused a bit of trouble either by behaving like a twonk, as in the case of Dani Osvaldo, or expressing a desire to leave the club for a bigger stage.  Kenwyne Jones went on strike and refused to play for Southampton in order to facilitate a move to Stoke, of all places.   

Most players who have `moved on` have done so with good grace and an understanding on the part of the club and the supporters that it was in everyone`s interests for them to leave - Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ricky Lambert among them.  Last year saw the departure of Luke Shaw to Manchester United, Calum Chambers to Arsenal, both departures being met with a collective shrug of the shoulders.  Adam Lallana`s move to Liverpool was tinged not only with regret but also with a feeling of desertion by a player who just a few weeks earlier had vowed his intention to remain.


But the case of Dejan Lovren stands out because he announced his determination to leave by declaring that his "head was already at Anfield" and sure enough his £20 million move to Liverpool was concluded shortly afterwards.  His time there so far has been mixed, not just through the occasional injury but he seemed to be out of favour when it came to team selection.   


Last night in Turkey, however, he played in Liverpool`s Europa League encounter with Besiktas.  The game went to extra time and then penalties, the first nine of which, including those from Lambert and Lallana, were unerringly dispatched beyond the despairing clutches of the Besiktas custodian.  So the whole game and Liverpool`s continued interest in European competition all hinged on the final penalty.  It was taken by Lovren, who smashed the ball over the crossbar and away into the Turkish night.


Sometimes, all you have to do is sit back and watch as karma produces its finest and most satisfying outcome.


Thursday, February 26, 2015



MOVE ALONG PLEASE....

Poor Ann.   It never rains but it pours.  Of course, some people are born to misfortune, others have misfortune thrust upon them but it seems in the case of the unfortunate Mrs. Barnes that she may well be the victim of her own misfortune.

The `incidents` revolving around her time as Kent`s Police and Crime Commissioner are well documented - the bungled appointment of one Paris Brown as the first Youth Commissioner, followed by some unseemly allegations involving Ms. Brown`s successor in the post;  a Channel Four documentary that highlighted Mrs. Barnes`s ineptitude; criticisms over her Ann Force One self-publicising official mode of transport; and just recently a skirmish with the Crown Prosecution Service about allegations of driving around Dartford without insurance.  Fortunately for her, the CPS have come to the conclusion that there is `insufficient evidence` and that it `would not be in the public interest` to pursue that line of inquiry any further.   

Now I have no doubt that in other parts of the country there are Police and Crime Commissioners doing a splendid job in carrying out the original intention of the role which included responsibilities to:-

* secure an efficient and effective police for their area;
* appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force and if necessary
  dismiss them;
* set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
* set the force budget and determine the precept;

Now, given the doubts surrounding the concept of these Commissioners, now that we have them anyway, surely the taxpayers of Kent are entitled to expect that the role will be discharged with the degree of competence that justifies the £85,000 salary.   We hear a lot these days about police `performance` and I have no doubt that the bobbies on the beat are under enormous pressure due to budget cuts, bureaucratic procedures and staff reductions and I have every sympathy with them.   

But in Kent at least, it seems that the perception of police performance is unfairly influenced by the antics of the Police and Crime Commissioner.   Maybe she is just unlucky but the example she sets cannot fill those within her charge or those who pay for the privilege with the degree of confidence that the post demands.   There will be an election for the role in a year or so.  As far as the present incumbent is concerned, as there is `insufficient evidence` and that it is probably `not in the public interest` for her to continue in office beyond the next election,  it really is a case of `move along, please - nothing to see here.`  

Monday, February 23, 2015

BEYOND PARODY..

Over two months to go before the General Election and already the build up to it is becoming tiresome.  Now I`ve long thought that events in the Westminster Village are almost indistinguishable from the soap operas we see on television. The essential difference, of course, is that Westminster is supposed to be serious but in many way it mirrors events in Albert Square, Coronation Street or Emmerdale.

In Westminster there are plots and counter plots, intrigue, crimes and misdemeanours and a cast of characters that might come straight out of Llaregub - the fishers, the farmers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cocklewomen and the tidy wives. 

And the Pantomime villain, the court jester and the serial buffoon. And like Bobby Ewing coming back from the dead and right on cue we now have the return of John, aka Lord, Prescott, one time Deputy Prime Minister, ship`s steward and erstwhile Police and Crime Commissioner, who will act in an unpaid capacity as adviser to Labour Leader Ed Milliband on climate change.  The unpaid bit is interesting, as being Lord Prescott all he has to do is nip next door into the House of Lords, sign the book and pick up his £300 a day attendance allowance.

Now things don`t look good for Ed Milliband at the moment, so in a move that is beyond parody they dust Prescott off and bring him back out of the shadows once more to punch below his weight and confound us with his mangled syntax. What is revealing about this is the notion that bringing this boorish oaf back into mainstream politics will enthuse disillusioned Labour voters on the basis that Prescott is one of the old school grass roots dinosaurs - one of their own - and awfully keen on climate change which is, of course, one of their prime electoral concerns.  Well, it is, isn`t it?    There`s more than a hint of desperation about it.

I confess that I don`t watch soap operas - and I have genuinely never seen an episode of Coronation Street in all the years it`s been going - but there`s no need to really when there`s Westminster to keep us guessing as to what might happen next in the latest unscripted story line.  I`ll be looking out for developments in the Straw/Rifkind `cash for access` allegations, which will be every bit as entertaining as the intrigue surrounding Lucy Beale`s demise.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


ENDANGERED SPECIES..

There seems to be an increasing number of advertisements on television asking us to donate £3 a month to protect endangered species.  The one that caught my eye recently was pulling at the heartstrings and concerned the plight of polar bears which apparently are now `endangered.`  I don`t know whether the appeal was serious or an attempt to claim the prize as irony of the year because whilst polar bears might look soft and cuddly when they are young, they grow into marauding carnivores and given the opportunity they will happily bite your head off and have you for lunch.

So, no, I`m afraid I`m not sending £3 a month to protect a species that, even if it forsakes its carnivorous ways will still not have the mental capacity to understand that we are being protective of it.  They strike me as an ungrateful lot, on a par with some recipients of our overseas aid budget.

Instead, I`m on the lookout for a much more worthwhile cause to support and if any outfit needs it right now it`s the England cricket team who are in desperate need of a charitable respite, a safe haven, a forgiving sanctuary where they can escape  from their antipodean travails.   I`m not sure that £3 a month will do much good but it`s the thought that counts.  I`ll look out for the advert.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


They say that a week is a long time in politics.  They should have tried two weeks as a National Serviceman.   I kept a diary during my first few months doing Her Majesty`s pleasure in the chilled wilderness of Catterick in North Yorkshire and I still have that diary to this day.   As this is the season for me to reminisce about those times all those years ago, I had a look at the diary today, especially on this Thursday when I was exactly two weeks into my enforced conscription.   

And it was an auspicious day because the Troop of 04/60 were no longer the newest recruits in those austere and forbidding barracks, home of the training regiment, the 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, who Mrs. Snopper, with unfailing insight, always referred to as Dragon Guards.   Anyway, we looked out of our barrack room window and saw the latest consignment of conscripts clambering out of the 3-ton Bedford truck, bearing their suitcases in one hand and their fears and bewilderment in the other.  "Get some in," we cried in the kind of unison that was hewn from two weeks of collective togetherness.

I had learned a lot in those two weeks.  Useful skills such as turning left and right, stopping and starting, marching slowly and quickly and responding to a name which was constantly prefixed as `spewy` and ``orrible.`  My surname also acquired an appendix in the form of a number which was not only quoted in response to questions but which also had to be stamped on each and every item of clothing and equipment which had been thrown at me two weeks` previously in the Quartermasters Stores.  Good idea, but one of the numbers was missing from the collection of stamps, so every item was a number short, thus immediately calling into doubt the  veracity of one`s military identity.

But back to my diary which, when I looked at it this afternoon, was singularly absent of any entries for those first few days apart from recurring one-liners, `Bulling.` This was probably because there was simply no time - an 0630 reveille began a day of constant movement between barrack square, gymnasium, `dining hall` and lecture room. 

So much so that, when evening came, we spent the whole of our `free time` constantly polishing and bulling assorted items of equipment ready to be inspected by corporals, sergeants and the odd officer.   Boots, webbing, brasses - all the usual stuff that go to make a soldier look the part - and, intriguingly, gaiters.   I never understood gaiters - I still don`t and they, along with some other strange items of military equipment, remain a mystery to this day.  

And so, as we gazed triumphantly at the newly arrived conscripts, I comforted myself with the knowledge that as they began their own journey into the unknown, at least I only had another 717 days to do.


A MATTER OF CONVENIENCE ?..

It`s that time of year when the various local authorities and agencies are beginning to announce their Council Tax plans for the coming financial year.   The good news is that our local Parish Council has decided not to increase its precept at all this coming year but the less good news is that both the County Council and the local District Council are each raising their share of the Council Tax by 1.99%.   (Goodness knows what the Police and other `agencies` might do but it all adds up.)

Now 1.99% is something of a magic figure.   If the councils want to go just that bit further and make it 2% then they would have to call a referendum to see what us Council Taxpayers think about that.   So they have dodged that issue - some might call it a cop out - by sticking to the highest increase possible without the need for a referendum.  The downside of a referendum is that the councils would have to bear the costs of organising it which in turn would mean that the Council tax payers end up paying anyway. 

So I`m not too sure whether I`m in favour of the 1.99% tactic or whether I wouldn`t prefer a referendum anyway.  But one thing I do know is that I feel almost cheated by this financial and political sleight of hand; it smacks of a matter of convenience; all a bit sneaky.  Whatever it may be, I`m left with a feeling of being denied the opportunity to have a direct say about the council proposals.  In the absence of a referendum it`s reminiscent of the calls for a referendum on Britain`s membership of the EU, where we haven`t had a vote since 1974.

Once again I am reminded of the three great fibs of life - the cheque is in the post; I`ll respect you in the morning; and I`m from the council and I`m here to help you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


IT`S THE BISHOP !!..

Watch out.  The House of Bishops are issuing a letter to urge parishioners to vote at the General Election and are calling for a debate on issues such as nuclear defence and the economy.   The Bishops are expected to back the concept of a living wage and urge political parties to refrain from turning groups such as immigrants and those on benefits into scapegoats.   They are also expected to say that the case for the Trident nuclear deterrent needs to be re-examined and that more EU integration is needed.

Now, of course, the Bishops are not claiming to tell people how to vote but rather why people should bother to vote at all.   The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr. Alan Wilson, said that their letter was aimed at addressing the feeling of "cynicism and disenchantment with professional politicians" and to help voters "take a fresh look at things."

Sounds a bit plausible, but if their main aim in issuing the letter is simply to encourage people to think before they vote, then why not just say that, given that they should  say anything at all that might brand them with accusations of political interference?   As it is, the`shopping list` of issues they have quite openly referred to will surely make voters think that the Bishops have a political agenda all of their own.  Pity the law does not permit them to put up their own candidates

Such is my own cynicism and disenchantment that the only worry I have in making any sort of comment about Bishops and their ilk, is that I might find myself waking up in a future life as a Manchester United fan, which must surely be the ultimate in eternal damnation.