Thursday, July 31, 2014


I was out for an evening stroll with Barney our Retriever and we wandered down the lane to where the village green is and as we got there, we were confronted with a steady convoy of smart cars, even smarter caravans and accompanying white vans leaving the area and heading off towards the sunset.   So, Dibley breathes again, as our unwelcome `travelling visitors` have complied with the Court Order, vacated the area they had been illegally occupying for the past week and taken up travelling.

And now the work of repairing damage and quite literally decontaminating the wooded area and much of the stream is under way, we feel that the area is becoming ours once again. Well, almost.  The clean up operation has only been mildly successful with the local Borough Council claiming they have done what they can, there`s nothing more they can do and we must wait for some rain to do the rest.  "I`m from the Council and I`m here to help you!" comes flooding back to my mind.

Now as any significant rain is not forecast until next week at the earliest it means we are still wary of letting children and dogs loose to enjoy the freedom they should have.  On the plus side, `security measures` are being installed to prevent a recurrence of the illegal entry, especially as the travellers and their scouts and outriders have been spotted not a million miles from here.  

I wouldn`t wish their unwelcome presence on anyone but I really do hope we here have seen the last of them.   I`ve got a load of pegs going cheap but the lucky heather is wilting a bit and anyway it doesn`t work.  I should know, I`m a Saints fan!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Recent events at Southampton have meant that the onset of another Premier League season in just three weeks time is being looked at with something of a jaundiced view. Now as a Saints fan since my Dad first took me to The Dell in 1946 you would think that I had grown used to the ups and downs (literally,) the slings and arrows, the false dawns and the perennial bewilderment that comes with the territory, but the selling of most of last year`s successful team, along with the mysteries of the boardroom, have raised new questions about what seems to be a one-way street of loyalty between the football club and its fans.

My suspicion is that the real culprit here is the Premier League itself. Rather than being a reasonable contest between teams playing football, it has instead become a contest between those with the biggest cheque books.  It has become a contest between financial egos (Abramovich, Sheik Mansour, the Glazers et al) and when Southampton were bought by the late Markus Liebherr there was the fleeting notion that we might sup at the same table.   A whimsical notion indeed, as Southampton is not part of some sprawling conurbation, St. Mary`s Stadium holds a mere 32,000 and our place in the food chain has always seen our talented academy graduates being gobbled up by the wolf gang higher up the ladder (Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bale, Shaw, Lallana and so on.)

So it is with a shrug of inevitability that I face the new season with mixed feelings - last season we had the impertinence to reach our glass ceiling and next season brings once again the prospect of a struggle for survival with a hugely depleted squad, an accidental owner in the late Markus`s daughter quite probably looking to sell the club to the highest bidder and a boardroom headed by an ice hockey coach.   

Part of me wants the Saints to survive and prosper, especially after all these years of sticking by them, but another part of me almost wishes (and I know I should be careful what I wish for) that we could get back to where the hopes and expectations are reduced and where competition is that elusive but reasonable contest between teams playing football.   As for the Premier League ("The best league in the world (tm)") it reminds me more and more of food retailing - it has become the Waitrose of football, catering for an affluent niche customer base, where quality and price may be of less concern than the cache of being seen in there, whereas those like me who remember flat caps and rattles might prefer the unpretentious surroundings of the nearest Aldi.

High up on the Hampshire Downs above the Meon Valley lies the village of Hambledon, once, in the 1760s and 1770s, the home of the most successful village cricket team in the land.  On Broadhalfpenny Down`s fabled pitch, Hambledon took on and beat all comers - even the All England team.   In 1908, when cricket returned to the village after a 116-year absence, a celebratory match was arranged when Hambledon again beat an All England side.   Even then, The Times was lamenting the change in the way cricket was played and organised: "from an occasional pastime, marked by geniality and rapture, into a more or less mechanical trade."

And so today, as the Premier League is gearing up for the next ten predictable months of the Super Sundays, Magic Mondays and Midweek Specials of its more or less mechanical trade, my heart sinks a little, not just for Southampton`s prospects but also for the long ago passing of geniality and rapture.

Oh dear!

Monday, July 28, 2014


We are fortunate to live in a small village in Kent.  The photo on the right shows a bit of the village green. Admittedly the photo taken in winter doesn`t really do it justice but in the height of summer it`s a pleasant spot, with a stream running through it, picnic tables and a nice play area for the children and we local residents don`t mind the occasional visitors, parking nearby and letting them and their children enjoy it.

The occasional visitor is one thing but it`s quite a different matter when about 18 `travellers` uproot a gatepost, remove fencing and drive their 18 vehicles, along with caravans and white vans, onto the green.   This happened towards the end of last week and this is what the same area looks like this evening:-

Now of course the local council has followed the correct procedure and is applying for a court order tomorrow so that our visitors can `move along, please.`  That takes time and we all understand that but it`s all the other issues, apart from the trespass, that have caused so much distress to local residents over the weekend.  Issues such as sanitation, or the lack of it resulting in bushes being used for various bodily functions;  public order issues over such things as foul and abusive language to local people, night time disturbances, the contamination of the little stream running through the park and the rubbish and litter all over the site.

And, of course, once our visitors have departed, it will be the local council who have to clean up the mess and return the area to its original state, erect more fencing and gates, all at the expense of the local council taxpayers.

I`m told that `even` the travellers have human rights, which is an intriguing concept as it implies that they have a right to cause criminal damage, effect forced entry and commit a number of offences, whereas the rights of local residents to live in peace and harmony are shattered by those who seem to be able to run roughshod over the law of the land.  To be fair to them, the `authorities` are doing what they can so my recollection of life`s three great lies might be a little unfair.  They are, of course."I`ll respect you in the morning!,"  "The cheque is in the post!," and "I`m from the Council and I`m here to help you!!"

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Now let me see.   Last season, Southampton finished a creditable eighth in the Premier League.   Since then manager Mauricio Pochettino has gone to Tottenham Hotspur, along with his support staff.   And over the summer quite a number of players have moved or are in the process of moving to other clubs.   Off the top of my head they are:-

Rickie Lambert to Liverpool - £4million
Adam Lallana to Southpool - £27million
Dejan Lovren to Liverhampton - £20million
Luke Shaw to Manchester United - £30million
Calum Chambers to Arsenal - £16million
Morgan Schneiderlin very likely to Arsenal or Tottenham (another £20million?)
Dani Osvaldo possibly to Inter for whatever we can get for him.

And who`s to say there might not be others?  No wonder the club flag is flying at half mast.  But to be fair, we have secured a couple of promising replacements and it is crushingly obvious that we need quite a few more.

I`m beginning to feel a little sorry for new manager Ronald Koeman although it might be claimed that, with all these departures, at least he has the chance to rebuild the team in his own way.   If so, then we supporters will reserve judgement and see what the season brings.   But what really gets to me is the repeated insistence of Les Reed, a club director, that `Southampton are not a selling club!`   Well, Les, not sure that sounds quite right any more.

Never mind, my ticket for the final pre-season masochistic friendly against Bayer Leverkusen arrived this morning.  At least it will be a day out.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Well, it may not be working in cricket too well but the judicial appeal process has come up with a couple of good decisions in the last couple of days.   First there was the appeal by former Lost Prophet Ian Watkins to reduce his 35-year sentence for a string of sex offences against children, one of which was the attempted rape of a baby.   But one of the judges who heard the case said that the punishment handed down was appropriate, saying, "These offences against children were of shocking depravity, which demanded a very lengthy prison sentence."

In another heartening judgement, two convicted killers who argued that a ban on prisoners voting in the Scottish independence referendum infringed their human rights, lost their bid to overturn it in the UK`s highest court.   In yet another outbreak of common sense, the Tory Scottish justice spokesperson, one Margaret Mitchell, welcomed the decision, saying, "Voting is a basic human right and it is completely correct that you forfeit that right when you commit a crime and are sent to prison."  

So, Judges 2 - Appellants 0.  (Although the cynic and minor rebel in me suggests that giving the referendum vote to Scottish prisoners might just help the cause for independence - every little helps and all that.)

But to go by these two decisions at least, it gives hope that the judicial decision review system might be beginning to get it right.   The other interesting decision this week seems to have been the awarding of £680,000 to Sharon Shoesmith, sacked as head of Children`s Services in Haringey Council following the appalling murder of Baby P on her watch.  Now there has been a bit of an outcry about the amount of compensation involved here but it might be worth remembering that the Appeal Court ruled last year that the then Children`s Secretary, Ed Balls, removed Shoesmith from her post in December 2008 and was partly responsible for Haringey`s subsequently unlawful decision to sack her without compensation.

Justice is justice, whatever the circumstances and however much the massive amount of compensation might grate, especially with the Council taxpayers of Haringey, Mrs. Shoesmith had been denied due process which, at least in the eyes of the law, has now been recognised as another `basic human right.`  Just a pity Baby P didn`t enjoy the same privilege.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


So, another series of the BBC Coast programme has just hit our screens - we`re now up to Series 9!   Now all those years ago when it started, it actually seemed to be about the coastline of the British Isles and so it was a good idea, especially for the BBC with the commercial spin-offs of books, DVDs and what have you.   But as time and the series have gone on, the original concept of showing the glories of our coastline has become lost amongst a welter of programmes about Australia, the European coast and programmes more about the indulgences of the `presenters` than what the viewing public might expect from a programme called `Coast.`

I saw bits of last week`s effort and all of last night`s second in the series and I almost despair that the BBC have still not done the justice to our coastline that it deserves.  One of the wonders of this country is, of course, the 690-mile long South West Coast Path leading from Minehead in Somerset around to Poole in Dorset but last night the only concession to this national treasure was a `feature` about the Victorian hunt for ferns around Lynmouth, gushingly `presented` by some daffy woman who was clearly more interested in ferns than Lynmouth.

The picture above shows yet another daffy `presenter` taking a ride on the big dipper at Blackpool to demonstrate the physics of fear - just about as far away from the glories of the coastline as it`s possible to get.   Add to that the perennially effete Mark Horton indulging in the historical aspects of Lundy Island and I`ve given up with Nicholas Crane, who went back to somewhere he`s been to before in this programme obviously because he likes the north west coast of Scotland.

The BBC website for Coast helpfully includes a facility to allow viewers to suggest how the programme might be improved, so I`ve responded by saying that it`s simple really - just ditch all the oblique, manufactured features vaguely connected to the coast and just allow the coastline to speak for itself.   It might turn out to be a travelogue, but I suspect that`s what the viewing audience might prefer rather than this increasingly self-indulgent, over- presented, very annoying and hugely expensive interpretation of our island shore.   And who knows, the BBC might sell more DVDs and books if they got back to the basics of what they`re trying to do.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


It`s reported that estimates of Tony Blair`s wealth are anything between £20million and £100million but at that financial altitude it doesn`t really matter that  much.  There is, of course, something a little odd about someone acquiring that sort of cash, eleven properties around the world, a reported £250,000 for giving a speech, having `An Office` and generally living the good life following a chequered career in politics paid from the public purse.

What`s even more odd is that, as he is a former Prime Minister of the UK, he is entitled to round-the-clock security protection, estimated to cost the UK taxpayer anything between £250,000 and £1million a year depending on who you listen to.   The odd thing, of course, is not so much the round-the-clock security protection, for if anyone needs it, it should be Blair, but the fact that anyone with his sort of wonga should really be paying for his own protection rather than relying on the UK taxpayers, many of whom admittedly might like to get their hands on him.   No wonder he`s laughing all the way to a few banks.

Now maybe, just maybe, I might not mind quite so much if in his capacity as `Middle East Peace Envoy` he was able to earn his money by contributing to some peace in the middle east rather than the carnage we see every day between Israel and Palestine......or even if there was a semblance of `normality` in Iraq.   All in all, friend Blair seems not to represent value for money to the British taxpayer and the longer he goes on the less fit for purpose he becomes.   Nothing new there then.