Friday, October 24, 2014

Well, at the beginning I suppose.  Let`s start with the latest wheeze to combat the onset of Alzheimer`s.   I see the embattled NHS are going to pay doctors £50 for each patient they diagnose as showing early signs of this distressing disease.  So a conversation might go like this:-

"Good morning, Doctor - how am I?"

"Well, let`s see.   What seems to be the problem?"

"I think I`ve broken my wrist - I had a bit of a fall coming down the stairs and it`s very painful."

"Let me have a look.  Ah, yes, I`m sorry to tell you that you are showing early signs of Alzheimer`s disease.   That`ll be £50 please.  Thank you."   Kerching!!

Almost as bizarre is the latest demand from the European Union for the UK to cough up an extra £1.7billion - that`s £170,000,000,000 - on top of the £8.6billion net we`re already paying annually.   Why?  Because `Brussels accountants` have recalculated the UK contribution and concluded that because our economy is doing rather well we should prop up other countries in the EU who aren`t doing as well as we are - intriguingly both France and Germany will receive `rebates` whilst the UK is expected to pay more.

Now these `Brussels accountants` are presumably the same ones whose `accounts` have not been signed off at audit for each of the past 19 years, so their `calculations` are perhaps open to scrutiny, especially as they claim the upturn in the UK economy is apparently due in part to drug dealing and prostitution.

It`s all honey and nuts to UKIP, of course, but here`s a thought.   Why not just refuse to pay it?  The EU will jump up and down and threaten us with fines and sanctions but it might hasten the date for the long promised referendum on whether we quit the EU or stay in.  Or it all might be a cunning plan whereby Cameron kicks up a fuss, the EU back down and Cameron comes home saying what a good deal he`s got from Brussels and allows him to plough on with his mission impossible to try to secure repatriation of powers from the EU. 

I wonder what the good folk of Rochester and Strood will make of it all.  Maybe this latest bout of EU madness will drive them to seek medical advice.  Oh, hang on - that`s where I started, isn`t it?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


The world is in too much of a hurry.  It`s a world of instant communication, hustle, bustle, me-me, now-now.   And so more than ever there is a need for quiet contemplation, for a bit of peace and comfort, perhaps an escape back to times when time itself was valued as a precious commodity rather than a challenge to be overcome.

Gerald Finzi (1901 - 1956) must surely be one of England`s most underrated composers. Maybe because he died at just 56 and his output was relatively short, he didn`t achieve the fame of English contemporaries such as Holst, Vaughan Williams or Walton but his work is as typically English as any of those.   The death of his first music teacher, Ernest Farrar, in The first World War had a profound effect on Finzi`s formative years, as did the loss of his father and three brothers at that time.

Perhaps another reason for his relative obscurity was that he disliked London and the city life, so he settled in Wiltshire, at Aldbourne, where he was able to devote himself to composing and apple growing at the same time saving a number of rare English apple varieties from extinction.  His profound love of the English countryside is perhaps best captured in the elegiac quality of his Romance in Eb major, written in 1928 when the world was so much more reflective than the one we have today.  So, if like Gerald Finzi you feel the need to escape to the country and lose yourself for eight minutes in the peace and tranquillity that he has left us, here it is:-

Monday, October 20, 2014

Snopper`s soccer snippets

Well, it has been a memorable weekend for us Saints fans but for me one of the most heartening things was the return of The Brick.   My picture shows our street`s local hero Scott (Get In) Wagstaff caught in the early stages of his now trademark goal celebration, the aforementioned Brick.   This extraordinary contortion involves Scotty launching himself backwards and falling flat on his back whilst awaiting the arrival of his team mates to join in the `celebration` of him scoring.   His late goal in an impressive 3-1 win against Coventry City sealed the win and ensured that Bristol City not only remain well clear at the top of League One but also retain their unbeaten run of 13 matches so far this season.  

In other news, Southampton`s 8-0 demolition of Sunderland is being met by the St. Mary`s faithful with a kind of quiet, numbed disbelief, perhaps knowing that their team`s current third place in the Premier League may only be a temporary visit, whilst finding comfort in the knowledge that, with 30 games left in the season, only 24 points are needed to ensure survival.   Such is the mindset of the Southampton fan - well this one anyway.

Elsewhere, the weekend for other clubs I follow was given added piquancy by P***smouth`s 3-0 defeat away at Gigg Lane, Bury; by my nearby club Maidstone United pulling away at the top of the Ryman Premier League; by Forest Green Rovers` win at newly relegated Bristol Rovers in the Conference and by my neighbour`s beloved Gillingham gaining a creditable point away at Rochdale - although there was a tinge of regret that Truro City could not overcome Biggleswade, who play Maidstone in the final qualifying round of the FA Cup.  

But The Brick is welcomed back once more and it`s reappearance crowned a weekend that might best be summed up by this image of Sunderland`s Stadium of LIght having been renamed following their south coast humiliation.   I know, I know - next weekend could be so very different, but I`m enjoying these moments.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


How quickly the hazy days of summer fade into the gloom of autumn and winter.   Was it just two short weeks ago today that I walked the coast path at Thurlestone on a fine, sun-filled, contented afternoon?   And how quickly that contentment can slip into a winter of discontent.   Not just with the weather but also with the prospect of what is in store over the next few months.

First, the commercial nonsense of Halloween - yet another in a growing list of unnecessary and unwanted items seemingly imported from America.  And the kids banging on the door demanding a trick or a treat and disturbing the peace of elderly folk like me - I`m going to get a sign to put on my door inviting them to try their hand next door.

And hard on the heels of that we will have Bonfire Night, supposedly `celebrating` a failed  attempt to blow up Parliament over 400 years ago.   And Barney our retriever cowering in a corner, terrified by the explosive bangs and disturbing the peace of elderly folk like me - I`m thinking of starting a `community initiative` on our village F***book page to ban fireworks on the basis that I would much rather celebrate a successful attempt to blow up Parliament than the bungled fiasco we`re supposed to remember, remember, with gunpowder treason and plot.

And then there`ll be Christmas - the annual excuse for yet another commercial bandwagon.   It`s started already, of course, with aisles in the supermarkets already devoted to what is laughingly described as `seasonal goods.`   It really is time we had a reality check and reminded ourselves of the true meaning of Santa`s birthday.

And then the New Year with more bangs, crashes and wallops to disturb the peace of elderly folk like me - sometimes I wish I could either hibernate or have enough money to flee the country to some magical destination where  no-one has heard or cares about Halloween, the gunpowder plot or even Santa`s birthday.  

And then the wind, the rain, the cold, the snow, flood and tempest but I`m told to be patient and wait all those months for the return of the sun.  But a winter of discontent loometh and a long wait until the son of York makes glorious summer once more and all the clouds that low`r`d upon our house in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Monday, October 13, 2014


I`m reliably informed that the winner of this year`s Man Booker Prize is about to be announced.  The short list seems to follow the pattern of books that are `literary,` deep, meaningful and oh, so very boring. Goodness knows what the long list must have been like.

But at least we have been spared the recent spate of `autobiographies` from luminaries such as Kevin Pietersen and Roy Keane, both of whom have sparked controversy with their `revelations.`  These wholly avoidable tomes are said to have included accounts of instances which reveal the `authors` in their true colours - Pietersen giving feeble self- justification for his many shortcomings and Keane, for example, giving no hint of regret for his appalling assault on Alf Inge Haaland.   And today we hear that, not content with already having decimated half a rain forest in previous sorties into the world of literature, yet another volume is about to hit the streets from `Sir` Alex Ferguson, of whom I really had hoped that we had heard the last.  

Rarely has the publication of new books been so depressing.  Why can`t books be like they used to be?  Books that told real stories in plain language, books with real and believable characters, books with morality at their heart, books that test the range of emotions before providing a happy and satisfying ending.

And so, in an attempt to escape the deep, meaningful, self-publicising and utterly boring newcomers to the country`s book stands, I turn once again to an old friend which has been there for me over so many years, through so much insecurity, turmoil and uncertainty - a friend who has always provided the comfort, the moral compass and the inspiration to face the world knowing that goodness, honesty and decency are still out there.  You just have to know where to find it.  

And I have been lucky to have by my side all these years a rather crumpled, rare copy of The Inquisitive Elf and each time I read it in my hours of need, I wonder how on earth Eunice Close never won the Man Booker Prize.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Sometimes, in the dead of night, a call of nature arouses me from my slumbers.  And then I find it difficult to get back to sleep again.   Why?  Well, I find my head spinning with music, the lyrics of songs and, not for the first time last night the lilting rhythm of the language of Under Milk Wood.

When it was shown on BBC Four back in June, I recorded the BBC Wales production of Dylan Thomas`s masterpiece, which was beautifully done by a distinguished all-Welsh cast.  So I have seen it quite a few times and never fail to be captivated by the quality of acting, interpretation and production with the result that large passages of it are firmly embedded in my head, which come back to me as I try to resume my slumbers - I should try counting sheep, I suppose, but there is so much about the good folk of Llareggub that defies unconsciousness.

But last night, I realised just how much BBC Wales had short changed us when, for production reasons I assume, sections of the original play for voices had had to be cut.  I went through who and what seemed to be missing and, as the starless, bible-black, moonless night wore on, I recalled Captain Cat hearing the naughty forfeiting children tumble and rhyme on the cobbles, with Gwennie calling the boys to kiss her or give her a penny.   And Billy, Johnny Cristo and Dicky answering her calls with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

And Bessie Bighead was missing too, once and only once kissed by long dead Gomer Owen because he was dared.   And no sign of Cherry Owen and Mrs. Cherry Owen, laughing delightedly together as over the bucket he went, sprawling and bawling, and the floor was all flagons and eels.  And no Lord Cut-Glass in his kitchen full of time or PC Attila Rees, dead to the dark and still foghorning; and no Utah Watkins counting the wife faced sheep as they leap the fences on the hill.

So, maybe one day BBC Wales will fill in the gaps and give voice to the missing persons in a follow up version of their original triumph. If not,  I suspect my nocturnal disturbances will continue to be bribed and lullabied to sleep in the silent black, bandaged night by the voices, hopes, dreams and despairs of that lulled and dumbfound town.    

(Like my recent discovery of dodder, it seems the lure of Under Milk Wood just grows on you.)

Thursday, October 09, 2014


It`s been a while since I sat down and watched a `lower league` football match on television but last night I saw the Johnstone`s Paint Trophy Southern Section encounter between Bristol City and Cheltenham Town.   There was a good reason to watch it, as our street`s local hero, Scott Wagstaff, was plying his trade as a pacy flanker in the Bristol City colours.

I wasn`t quite sure what to expect, having become accustomed to a recent diet of Premier League action following the progress of Southampton, currently doing rather well.   Now I promise that my impression of last night`s JPT game is not coloured by Scotty`s inclusion but I  genuinely enjoyed watching an excellent game between two teams who are only 40 miles apart and were clearly committed to this local derby.  

Particular features of the evening at Whaddon Road  were especially pleasing - the spirit in which the game was played by both teams, the endeavour, the not inconsiderable skill and although Bristol City ran out 3-1 winners, great credit was due to both sets of players for providing a very good and enjoyable evening`s football.

But what was such a pleasant change was the complete absence of any histrionics, diving, cheating and all the other `tactics` which are so prevalent especially in the Premier League, where I suppose we have got a bit used to such things  and almost accept them as `part of the game at the highest level.`   It was also refreshing to see the demeanour of the opposing managers and to hear their honest, considered and articulate post match interviews, again conducted in a spirit of mutual respect, all of which was again so far away from the tantrums, the feeble excuses and the stream of egotistical tosh we hear from the `best league in the world (tm)`

It made me long for the days of proper football, played by proper teams with proper managers in proper football grounds where financial and competitive ambitions may be modest but where the true spirit of the game surely resides.   And I suspect I may not be the only one with such dreams, living in hope that the game might somehow shed the lunacy of the Premier League and go back to its true origins and back to reality.  Yes, I know - they may say I`m a dreamer, but I`m not the only one?