Sunday, September 14, 2014

SHORT MEMORIES..


Yesterday was a good day to be a Saints fan.  Not just the thumping 4-0 win over Newcastle United but also the conclusion of ex-Saints left back Francis Benali`s epic run for the Cancer Relief charity.   Over the past 21 days, Franny has run 1,000 miles - averaging 46 miles a day - and in the process has visited every Premier League stadium, from Newcastle to Swansea and all points in between, culminating in his arrival at St. Mary`s, where he was lauded by the near 30,000 attendees.

The photo above shows Newcastle`s current manager, Alan Pardew, when, in happier times as Southampton manager, he welcomed the signing of Rickie Lambert in a £1million swoop from Bristol Rovers who themselves have fallen on hard times following their relegation to the Football Conference.   Lambert was not the only astute signing made by Pardew - others included Jose Fonte, now Saints captain, Dean Hammond, Lee Barnard, Dan Harding and others who formed the team that began to see the Saints rise from the obscurity of League One back to the Premier League.

It was as recently as 2010 that I made the trip to Wembley to see Saints win their first silverware since 1976 by beating Carlisle 4-1 in the final of the Johnstone`s Paint Trophy. Pardew quite rightly took much of the credit for the club`s success and so it came as a surprise when, just a few short months later, he was dismissed among rumours of low staff morale and conflicts with the club chairman.   In December of that year he was appointed manager of Newcastle United.

Sadly for him, recent results have seen Newcastle tumble to the bottom of the league and yesterday Pardew cut a lonely figure as he sat in the `dugout` watching his team capitulate to yet another embarrassing defeat.   Some 2,500 Newcastle fans had made the long journey to Southampton and they were quick to renew their siren calls for Pardew`s dismissal. Banners were waved, insults bellowed and calls for his departure echoed around St. Mary`s.   Now it`s the way of football I suppose but it was perhaps less than fitting for the Saints fans to join in the derision aimed at Pardew and starting the witless chant of `You`re getting sacked in the morning.`

Now I hold no particular candle for Alan Pardew - he`s a multi-millionaire football man who seems to have done very well out of the beautiful game and to that extent perhaps sympathy might be a misguided notion.   But I did find it disappointing that the Saints faithful seemed to have short memories for the contribution that he made to the club`s resurgence quite literally from the jaws of annihilation.   He may well be sacked one morning before long, but it seemed unbecoming  for the Saints fans to wish it on someone who deserved their thanks rather than their mockery.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Intuition is a wonderful thing.  There are times when you just know that something ain`t right.  You`re not quite sure what it is and it`s difficult to put your finger on it but you sense there`s something in the air that is disturbing.

Now I had hoped to make these rambles a Scottish referendum-free zone, but it`s not easy to escape all the sound and the fury going on north of the border.   And with the referendum vote less than a week away, the temperature is rising.   It`s reaching the stage where it`s getting impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff, since logical argument has been displaced by rant, claim, counter claim, personal insults and unremitting brouhaha. 

So what is it that`s making me uneasy?   I think it might be just that - the welter of coverage so that, if I had the misfortune to be Scottish and wishing to cast my vote on the basis of reliable information, I would not be at all sure that I could trust anything that I was hearing, reading or seeing.   I might be driven to the reasonable conclusion that the protagonists of the `No` vote were mainly English politicians more concerned with their own futures than the future of Scotland, never mind the Union. 

I might have grounds to suspect that the BBC`s relentless output is as much to do with its upcoming charter renewal than its remit to provide unbiased, neutral and factual reporting.  I might even suspect that the BBC`s coverage has been `influenced` by those who will sit in judgement of their licence renewal.   And I might suspect that most, if not all, of the threats made by big business of dire consequences if the Scots dare to vote `Yes` might turn out to be bluster to avoid any `inconveniences` that might come their way.  

And in a moment of extreme fantasy, I might even suspect that a dubious ballot result could be on the cards.   As I say, it might be that my intuition is misguided - it won`t be the first time - but there is most definitely something in the Scottish air that is unpalatable, almost sinister and it`s no way to run a referendum campaign on something so potentially momentous.

But what could trouble me yet more is the concern that the shenanigans we are witnessing now might well be a dress rehearsal for the referendum we`ve been promised for 2017 on membership of the EU......if Cameron gets re-elected, if he successfully renegotiates our terms of membership and if pigs might fly after all.   Things in Scotland are bad enough, but I shudder at the prospect of a `charm offensive` being waged by the likes of Juncker, Merkel and the rest of the EU elite.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A CANTERBURY TALE..

Some months ago I bought a new car.  Prior to that I went back to the dealership from where I had bought my previous two cars, only to be told that they had changed dealership and were no longer selling the make of car to which I had grown accustomed.   I was directed to another dealer, this time a large nation-wide company on the other side of town.

They seemed generally disinterested, despite the fact that I was in the market to buy a new, top of the range model.  They took my contact details promising to get in touch, but a few weeks went by and I heard nothing from them.  I came to the conclusion that large nation-wide companies were probably like that and therefore what I needed was a smaller, preferably family run concern who might provide a more personal service. 

I trawled the county and found a smaller, family run dealership an hour`s drive away in Canterbury.  So I went down there, had a chat with them, had a test drive and bought the car I had been looking for.  I was impressed with the quality of service, the attention to detail and the personal interest shown in what was, after all, a significant transaction.  So far, so good.

Now I have been very pleased with the new car but it`s the little things isn`t it?   Like the fact that one of the screws holding the rear number plate inexplicably sheared off and, more recently, the cable which releases the `flap` securing the fuel cap broke, which meant that I had to use BluTack to keep the number plate in place and to keep the fuel `flap` closed.   So today I went back to family-friendly dealer who apologised for the inconvenience and fixed the problems with a refreshing cheerfulness.

Trouble is, I don`t see much of Canterbury - bastion of Christianity, Cathedral city, UNESCO World Heritage Site, originally Cantwareburh (stronghold of the Kent people,) home of Kent County Cricket Club, birthplace of famous people such as Christopher Marlowe (there`s a theatre named for him,) Orlando Bloom, Fiona Phillips no less and David Gower went to school there.  Canterbury also has the inevitable trading estate, populated by all the usual suspects - Currys/PC World, Marks and Spencer, KFC and more car dealerships than you can shake a stick at, including my family friendly one.

Maybe next time, I`ll explore what the city has to offer beyond the confines of its ubiquitous trading estate.   I`m sure a certain Mr. Chaucer would approve.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


It was very distressing to hear about the fate of the 50-year old gentleman who was killed by a great white shark in Byron Bay, New South Wales and it must have been horrifying for his now widow who was on the beach at the time and watched the tragedy unfold.

What intrigued me was the interview given afterwards by some uniformed Aussie Police-like lady who mentioned that great white sharks are apparently a protected species.  So, rather than shoot this mindless killer dead in the water, the authorities are having to try to `relocate` it somewhere away from human activity and `manage` the activities of that particular species.

It`s extraordinary.  In this country we have enough trouble with things like adders being a protected species but can there really be any merit in protecting great white sharks whose main claim to fame is precisely the kind of malevolence displayed by this most recent example?  

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And on the subject of protected species, the pound sterling looks as if it could do with some protection from the effects of uncertainty over the outcome of the Scottish referendum.  The panic has now seen the value of the pound come under pressure which is surprising given the firm refusal to allow Scotland to continue using the pound if the Scots vote to go it alone.   In which case, the Scots will have to invent a currency of their own, which could be The Jimmy, with 100 sous-esque Seeyous making up one Jimmy?   

Sunday, September 07, 2014

DON`T PANIC - OH, OK THEN...


First things first.  Cornwall was, as ever, wonderful. Glorious weather, inspiring coast path walks and a good journey home.   But each time I go there I feel a sense of escape from an increasingly mad world, so maybe it`s no wonder that I ask myself what it is that I have come home to.

Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Ebola, migrants amassing in Calais in the misguided belief that England is the land of milk and honey, the EU threatening life as we know it by banning powerful irons, kettles, vacuum cleaners and anything else remotely `powerful` ......and the spectacle of the referendum for Scottish Independence looming on the horizon.  And it`s this last item that seems to be the one that is causing panic among the Westminster elite, following the publication of a YouGov poll that gives a slight lead to the `Yes` campaign for independence.

It`s panic alright.  You know it when you see and hear it and the Westminster parties are upping their efforts to persuade the Scots to vote to stay as part of the UK.  And among the latest set of tactics is the promise of yet more power being devolved to the Scottish Parliament if the good folk of Scotland vote `No.`  (I thought devo-max was off the agenda and anyway why can`t we in England have the same degree of devolved power as the Scots?)

But what is truly frightening is the promise of panic visits to Scotland in the last days before the 18th September vote by Dave Cameron, Ed Milliband and even the oafish Lord Prescott, of whom I hoped we had heard the last.   Seems to me that this prospect, together with the endless threats, scaremongering, bullying and doubtful promises, is the one most likely to guarantee a majority of Scots voting to leave the UK. 

And what strikes me as increasingly astonishing is that some 500,000 EU nationals who are resident in Scotland are entitled to vote, whereas we in the rest of the UK are not allowed to, even though it could mean the break up of the United Kingdom.  A mad world in a panic and I`m just sorry I have to wait another three weeks before I can escape all the madness and head down the A303 again.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

THE CALL OF KERNOW..


This is a pretty spectacular area of North Cornwall and it`s one which seems to have drawn us back over the years.  Our first visit was many years ago when we were staying near Bideford in Devon and made the journey to Polzeath on a glorious sunny day.  

We walked from there to Daymer Bay along the Greenaway and were captivated by the scene across the Camel Estuary towards Padstow.  Seeing that, we became determined to find a holiday retreat in that area and so began a number of visits - Trelights, Port Isaac, St. Minver, St. Merryn, Trebetherick - and in the process we have walked the coast path and enjoyed the freedom, the open air and the wonderful , ever changing land and seascape.

So, tomorrow we`re off again; this time to stay at Trevone.  After a couple of Autumnal weeks, the weather seems set fair for next week and so we will look forward to Stepper Point, Pentire Head, the seven bays around Trevone, the Camel Trail and maybe one or two a little further afield.   Polly Joke, down the coast near Crantock, has, like the rest of Cornwall, always called us back and we might find it difficult not to answer the call.

Back in a week or so, but I`ll leave you with this view of Trevone so you know what I`ve got to put up with for the next week:-


Tuesday, August 26, 2014


A BRIEF RHETORICAL CONVERSATION..

Well, the new Premier League season is now under way and for us Saints fans the early signs are `middling.`   A spirited 2-1 defeat away at Liverpool has been followed by a dull, lifeless 0-0 draw against West Brom at St. Mary`s.   The loss of a number of key players hasn`t helped although new manager Ronald Koeman is trying to rebuild the team and has already brought in some useful looking replacements.

I`ve been impressed with Koeman - another of football`s `legends` - he seems assured, competent, personable, determined - I like the cut of his jib and I wish him well.   Rumours abound concerning yet more signings as the transfer window nears the end of its useful life and currently there is speculation that Koeman wants to sign at least two more players before the window slams shut.  One of those is Atletico Madrid`s Belgian international defender Toby Alderweireld who is also attracting the attention of Monaco.

I imagine that, even as I write, a brief rhetorical conversation is taking place between Toby and his agent.  It probably goes like this:-

"Well, Tobe, I`ve had a couple of offers for you.  One is from Monaco, the sun-drenched luxurious millionaire tax haven on the Mediterranean coast, where the football club has again qualified for the European Champions League and who are rolling in cash so they can offer you a big upgrade on your wages here at Atletico.  Err....the other offer is from Southampton."