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.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Well, on Saturday I celebrated my 75th birthday and it was a good day all round, especially as my cheerful expectations remain undimmed.   I feel no different than I did 20 years ago and I know I`m fortunate to be `in good nick` (to quote from at least two birthday cards) but I really don`t want it to end - too much to live for and all that.    So I felt almost as if I were in some kind of protective bubble, keeping  me safe from the `realities` of the weekend for the rest of the world - yet another airplane catastrophe, more chaos than usual in the middle east, problems in most other parts of the world and, as if to confirm the drift into my second childhood, I could even cite the problems with English cricket and the uncertainties facing Saints supporters.

And, of course, now that I have passed another of life`s milestones, I no longer have to pay the BBC compulsory licence fee and promised that, in return, I would be more restrained in my comments concerning the BBC.   Fat chance.   The weekend has seen at least two more examples of the Python-esque world of BBC-land.  

First, we learned that people seeking employment with the BBC are asked to fill in a 31-page on-line questionnaire describing their sexual orientation, their religion, whether their parents went to university, whether their parents received income support and whether they themselves received free school meals.   As well as that, applicants must complete a Declaration of Interests form, giving details of any shareholdings, political membership or activity or any external business interests.   

Then there are 14 pages of terms and conditions to wade through, a six page guide to working time regulations, two pages about BBC values and two further pages of instructions.  BBC managers insist that all this is necessary to ensure the BBC is meeting its `diversity targets.`   It is truly beyond parody.  And at this rate, one day they will discover that white, straight, state-educated, male Caucasians are in the minority.  What will they do then, I wonder?

And it comes as no surprise to learn that the BBC sent no less than 188 staff to Hoylake to cover the Open Golf Championship - 82 more than the 106 competitors who started in the tournament.   I may not have to pay the licence fee any more but I still find that the BBC`s profligacy with other people`s money sometimes reaches such an art form as to qualify for entry into the Turner Prize.

So, a very good weekend for me, not such a good one for the BBC and the Turner Prize might just have found a new entry.

Friday, July 18, 2014


My love for Cornwall`s Roseland Peninsula is well documented in these pages, so for me to return to that subject again smacks of acute self-indulgence.   But I make no apology for that and as I bask in the hottest day of the year so far, my mind goes back to four weeks ago today when we made the long journey home, leaving the Roseland behind, at least until next time.

Now we`ve been to Rosevine, close to Portscatho on the Peninsula, lots of times and each time we leave I can`t wait to get back there.  It`s one of just a handful of places where I feel `right` and comfortable and free and at peace with the world we live in.

So, having handed out a self-indulgence alert and quite probably for my benefit only, I just want to describe one of our favourite Roseland rambles.   It goes like this........... 

Park the car at St. Anthony`s Head (Point 3 on the map) and wander down the hill to meet up with the South West Coast Path.  Follow the path down past the old paraffin store for the lighthouse and cross the bridge (newly rebuilt after the winter storms) and drop down to Molunan beach which is really only safely accessible by a rope alongside the cliff.....but the solitude and the feel of the secret beach is well worth the effort of clambering down.

After climbing back to the coast path, via the rope, follow the path along through the pines on Carricknath Point, where the path turns right and where there`s a handy seat looking out on the enchanting views across Carrick Roads to Falmouth and across to St. Mawes.   The path skirts the shoreline before going uphill and down to an estate track that leads to St. Anthony`s Church. (Point 2)

Now those who know me also know that my conviction concerning religion is limited to a philosophy that if/when I get up there and discover it`s all true after all, then I`ll be the first to apologise for having had any doubts.   However, possibly as a little insurance against that fateful day, I have also held a long fascination with church architecture and at the remote church of St. Anthony`s you come across "the best example in the county of what a parish church was like in the 12th and 13th centuries," according to Pevsner.   

The glory of the church, apart from its setting alongside Place House, is the crossover, which survives from the original 13th century building.   I managed to take this photograph of it by lying flat on my back on the floor and pointing my camera up to the crossover, so it might not quite do it justice and I was nervous of being discovered in a `compromising position.`

After that, a wander down to Place Quay (Point 1) is worth it for the view across to Cellars beach and St. Mawes and then there are choices about the way back to the car.   We have done the shortest way up the lane to the `military road` which leads back to St. Anthony`s Head and although it`s a pleasant wander, it`s still a road, so last month we opted to go back the way we had come.   At my pace, the whole thing took about four hours as there is so much to stop and admire so I was looking forward to visiting the excellent cafe back at the car park, only to discover that it was closed - divine retribution perhaps?

It`s entirely possible that I might bore you with a few more Roseland Rambles but, for me at least, their memories bring some escape from a world of turmoil and uncertainty and that, I guess, is what self-indulgence is all about.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


The gentleman pictured left, puffing his way up a steep French incline, is Brian Robinson, seen taking part in the 1958 Tour de France.  He has been in the news today because, at the age of 83, he was knocked off his bike by a car whilst out for a ride in his native Yorkshire.   He has been kept overnight in hospital suffering from a suspected broken collar bone and cuts and bruises.   Just what you don`t need when you`re 83.

There`s no doubt that Robinson was a trail blazer for British cycling on the Continent and he became the first Briton to finish Le Tour in 1955 and the first to win a stage in 1958. The report of his accident held a resonance for me for a couple of reasons.

As you can see, he was riding a very smart bike - blue frame; 1" wheels; Superhood brakes and even a bottle of water in a nifty holder on the handlebars.  At just about the same time as this picture was taken, I `inherited` £25 from a family heirloom and went to a bike shop in Maidstone and asked the owner to make a bike up for me.   So he did, complete with blue Norman Invader frame, GB Superhood brakes, 1" wheels and even a nifty holder on the handlebars for drinks bottles.   I really felt the part and spent many happy hours touring the highways and byways of deepest Kent.

Now in professional cycling in those days, I doubt if `performance enhancing drugs` had even been invented let alone taken and I`m pretty sure the training regime was as much to do with sheer grit and determination as anything else.   And Brian certainly had those qualities in abundance, but also a clever tactical brain that helped him judge a race, judge the opposition and judge when to make his move, all of which saw him dubbed as `Le Sage` by his growing band of French admirers, especially after that historic first ever stage win by a British cyclist.

I recall not long after that triumph being called upon by my father, who kept a pub at the time, to help out by `conversing` with a party of Frenchmen who had stopped off for some refreshment.   Now my French was very much pidgin, so too was their English, but we managed to pidgin our way through a drinks order and then turned the conversation to the one subject that stood any chance of uniting us - Le Tour and Le Sage.  The entente quickly became distinctly cordiale, thanks to our shared admiration for Brian Robinson`s contribution to one of the many things for which the French demonstrate their passion.

I still recall that incident very clearly and so I was sorry to hear of Brian`s accident and hope he makes a full and speedy recovery from his injuries.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


As I write, Dave Cameron`s big government reshuffle is under way.  It began last evening with the purge of white middle aged men from Dave`s cabinet and there are rumours that at least some of them will be replaced by `women.`   And you have to ask why. 

Is it just because they are women?  Is it because women in the cabinet might appeal more to women voters in the run-up to the next election?   Is it just possible that these women are genuinely talented and, like football transfers, an upgrade on what has gone before?   Or is it anything to do with our old friend diversity, in keeping with the political correctness of modern day living?

If so, then surely some cabinet posts should be handed to ethnic minority MPs, gay, lesbian and transgender ones and disabled ones as well as `women.`   Careful, Dave, or you might find yourself being accused of ignoring the cries of the white, middle aged, male lobby.

Monday, July 14, 2014

......AND WHILE WE`RE AT IT.....

.......I see that the BBC, another of the large publicly funded organisations, saw fit to squander yet another shed load of licence-payers` cash on a specially commissioned, hour long documentary about the career of footballer and TV pundit Alan Hansen.  Hansen has retired from Match of the Day after 22 years of punditry and before that, of course, he was a distinguished central defender for Liverpool in their more glorious days.

Now I have no problem with Mr. Hansen - he was a formidable pivot for Liverpool for many seasons and there are those, especially in the BBC it seems, who have admired his punditry delivered in his growling Caledonian mumble.  Now in both of these careers he has amassed a considerable fortune, and good luck to him, especially as reports indicate that the BBC paid him £50,000 each and every time he did his pundit thing on Match of the Day.

But he was a football pundit for goodness sake. But the BBC `documentary` - full of gushing fawnication - might have been more suited to an obituary of someone arguably more deserving of such attention.   I`ve no idea how much the documentary - mysteriously shown again last night - cost to produce but hour long programmes don`t come cheap.   But of course it`s other people`s that`s all right then.


I suppose that in the murky depths of every large publicly-funded organisation, there lies a `department` whose job it is to dream up ways of squandering the public funds which sustain them.   So in the European Union monolith we find there is an outfit known as the Protocol Service of the European Parliament and not to disappoint, they have come up with the monstrosity, shown above, which is the official sash of the European Parliament.

Now each of the 751 members of the EU Parliament is being urged to wear this extraordinary accessory as. according to on EU official, "MEPs pride themselves on not simply representing their countries but also being representatives of an overriding European interest as defined by the EU Treaty."  Oh dear.   It gets worse.  "Why shouldn`t our MEPs dress up?" he went on.  "This is the world`s first transnational parliament and it`s special."   

Of course, `European citizens` can also buy the golden tasselled sash emblazoned with the European Union flag for a mere £107 and it seems to me to be yet another example of the remoteness and self-centred delusions of grandeur that is now part of the EU way of life.   When the Parliament convened in Strasbourg last week it was opened with a military ceremony conducted by the Franco-German Eurocorps battle group raising the European flag accompanied by the EU official anthem, which, ironically, is Ode to Joy.

Is this really what we signed up for when we joined the Common Market all those years ago?