Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I`ve lost count of the number of days Operation Stuck has been with us here in Kent - it`s been on and off for the best part of the summer but right now it looks like being on at least for the rest of this week.

There`s been a lot of talk concerning what to do about it but not much action and so a whole series of people are being inconvenienced either through striking French seamen or, more recently, increasing hordes of migrants invading the Channel Tunnel. 

We`re told that the migrants, all of whom seem to be male and between the ages of 18 and 30, are desperate people;  desperate to get away from war torn middle eastern countries or poverty stricken African ones and I absolutely understand the situation they are in and their determination to improve their circumstances and find a better life for themselves. 

But having made the perilous journey to mainland Europe, they don`t seem too desperate to want to stay in Italy, or go to Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany and they indeed seem even more desperate to get out of France and into England.  They don`t seem bothered about Wales or Scotland and Ireland never gets a mention in their ambitions.   There must be a reason and I think we all know what it is but we seem reluctant to admit to it, let alone do anything about it.  

And the knock on effect of the mayhem in and around Calais is that the M20 is closed, now in both directions as the lorries stack up;  the M2 alternative is not much better (someone I know took two and a half hours do get to Faversham which would normally take 40 minutes);  and the villages strung out along the A20 are suffering gridlock.  Dave Cameron says the position is `concerning` and he feels for the lorry drivers and the holiday makers who want to get to France.  Haven`t yet heard much sympathy for us residents of Kent who have to put up with the chaos that surrounds us.

So it`s getting serious, to the extent that my son and I have a planned visit to Canterbury tomorrow to watch Kent play Hampshire in the 50-over One Day Cup competition at the St. Lawrence Ground, but that is now in serious doubt.  The traffic problems might just be too daunting and we can do without the hassle and the uncertainty of it all.  Now that is serious.

Where`s Wat Tyler when you need him?

Monday, July 27, 2015


I don`t know too much about cycling but I now know a lot more than I did three weeks ago.   My own cycling experience is limited to having owned, thanks to a family bequest in my early teens, a custom built Norman Invader with GB Superhood brakes, 1" wheels and even a holder on the handlebars to put drinks bottles in.  It cost me all of £25 but it was over 60 years ago and I rode it a lot until I was whisked away to do my National Service. Afterwards, my ambitions turned to motor cars and I developed the notion that cycling somehow seemed to deny the invention of the internal combustion engine.

But in the last few years I have become quite keen on following the exploits of our professional cyclists - all stemming from the deluge of medals that came our way in the 2012 London Olympics.  I was captivated by the triumphs of Sir Bradley, Sir Chris, Victoria, Jason, Laura and the rest, all choreographed by Sir Dave to bring the sport to the forefront.   But more than that, on that occasion I was also captivated by the incisive, passionate commentary from Hugh Porter and Chris Boardman who drew on their vast experience to bring the events to life in our living rooms.

And so the past three weeks have seen me following the Tour de France with eager anticipation of yet another success for Sir Dave, Chris, Geraint, Richie and the rest of the Sky team and back up staff.  And what another triumph it has been - a historic one with Chris Froome being the first from Britain to win le Tour twice.   They deserve all the plaudits and acknowledgement that will surely come their way.

But once again the whole event would not have been so enjoyable to watch without the commentary from Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen (pictured above) and the summaries from Chris Boardman (again) and David Millar. 

They know their stuff, these guys, they`ve been there, done it and got tee-shirts by the score and it has added so much to the enjoyment of the cycling uneducated like me to learn about the tactics, the positioning, the team strategies and so much more.  And all of it anchored by Gary Imlach in his individual style which is restrained, low key, controlled and a million miles away from any self-promotion or pretension.

So I`ve learned a lot more in the last three weeks and it`s just a pity for it all to have been shown on the relatively `obscure` ITV4 Channel - the event itself and those responsible for bringing it to our screens deserve high praise and a bigger audience.  It almost made me wish I hadn`t give up on my Norman Invader - I could have been a contender.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


It`s interesting that the two female candidates for the Labour Leadership have started to play the `sexist` card in their increasingly desperate attempts to fend off the challenges from the two male candidates.   In many ways the whole thing is not only a bit of a shambles but also is becoming more entertaining, especially with the advent of Jeremy Corbyn who at least seems to believe in what he is saying even if no-one else does.

But Yvette Cooper - aka Mrs. Balls - has lead the counter offensive by asserting that both she and Liz Something, the other lady involved, are perfectly capable and certainly strong enough to lead the party and become Prime Minister, despite what Blair crony Lord Falconer may suggest.

She may be right but as she seems loath to stay at home and comfort Mr. Balls and the Balls children in their time of need following his own election defeat, perhaps she might consider the reality of how things were back in the day, when things were nicely straightforward.  Here`s what I mean:-

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I noticed that the main headline story on the BBC news yesterday was all about the fact that Barrack Obama was off to Kenya and in the process relegating other `stories` such as Turkey, Iraq, Syria and things like the Channel Tunnel problems making Kent, the one time Garden of England, the Lorry Park of the south east.

The BBC news headline went on to include an interview which President Obama had given to the BBC`s North American Editor, Jon Sopel and, of course, the BBC - being the Europhile, leftish, publicly funded outfit they are -  could not pass up the chance to get the President`s views on Britain`s place in Europe.  Perhaps unsurprisingly and citing things like global influence being lost, Obama went to some lengths to declare himself unhappy with the prospect of the UK pulling out of Europe if the referendum results in that conclusion.

Now I had really expected Obama to be at least `neutral` on this issue, given that it isn`t for leaders of other countries to try to influence us in the way we may vote - it`s bad enough having our own leaders doing that -  but at least that exchange gave me the chance to have a mini-rant about two issues which trouble me - the BBC and the EU - and in the process kill two birds with one stone.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


High degree of excitement for cosmologists when NASA announce this afternoon that they may have found a replica Earth in a far corner of our galaxy. The Kepler Space probe has been searching for planets like our Earth in the `Goldilocks` zone - neither to hot nor too cold so life might be sustained - and has so far discovered at least 4,000 candidates.

Problem is that the most likely candidate for being a replica of Planet Earth, called Kepler186f in the constellation of Cygnus, is 2939 trillion miles away or 500 light years, which means that the light we see from it now left there 500 years ago.   But if it turns out to be exactly like Earth then I wonder what the chances are that, right now, some septuagenarian crank is busy typing away up there on his ageing key board and speculating whether there`s anyone out there.

Wouldn`t surprise me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Today`s the day when both the House of Commons and the House of Lords pack up for their summer `recess.`  They won`t be back until early September and then only for a week or so before they have another month off for the `conference season.`  Then they`ll have a half term holiday and about another month over the Christmas and New Year period.   It all adds yet more legitimacy to their recent 10% pay award along with the corresponding increase in their pension pots.

Schools are also about to break up for the long summer holidays, followed by a half term break and then Christmas and the New Year.  All very familiar.  Now I might be wrong but I thought the long school summer holidays were introduced in the age of Captain Swing in order that children could help farmers at harvest time.   So I look forward to the teaching profession, at their upcoming `conference season` passing a resolution calling for MPs and peers to spend their summer break helping farmers to bring in the harvest bounty. Seems fair.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


And so another of life`s elusive milestones has been achieved.  As I lay mewling and puking in the gloom of The Verne on Portland`s granite isle all of 76 years ago this minute, I never imagined that here I would be, 76 years later, reaching yet another landmark in life`s rich pageant.   And I can`t begin to tell you how grateful I am for the privilege of still being here with most of my `faculties` still working well enough for me to appreciate it.

So I`ve had a look at the company I keep - those born on the same day - and I see that the selection is `mixed.` Amongst others Benedict Cumberbatch is 38 today; Brian May 67, Nicola Sturgeon is 44, Vitali Klitschko 43, Helen Skelton 31 - youngsters all - and Degas the painter and decorator was born on this day in 1834.

And it seems that in most years someone of `note` was born on 19th July, although Wikipedia`s list shows that some were born in 1938 and some in 1940 but none in 1939, when the 19th fell on a Wednesday, hence me being full of woe I imagine. I think that`s an omission that needs rectifying.