Tuesday, March 27, 2007


.....but not everyone, it seems, knows where that place is.

In a week when it seems to have become `fashionable` to apologise for just about anything and everything - even for events that happened centuries ago - I bring you a modern example of when apologies should be offered....and when they should not.
Some time last week, Manchester United played Middlesbrough in an FA Cup replay, which United won thanks to a mildly controversial penalty awarded to and coolly taken by Christiano Ronaldo. In a post-match interview with Ronaldo, Sky`s touchline reporter, Geoff Shreeves, felt it appropriate - which it was - to enquire as to the validity of the penalty award. Ronaldo, to his credit, replied thoughtfully and with good grace. However, the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, took immediate offence at Shreeves being so impertinent as to ask such a question and Ferguson exploded with a crude tantrum, a short extract of which went like this:-
Ferguson : `F*****g bastard.`
Shreeves : `Don`t talk to me like that.`
Ferguson : `F*** off to you.`
Shreeves : `Don`t talk to me like that. Don`t even think about it.`
Ferguson : `Don`t you think about it, you ****. F*** off. Right?`
Shreeves : `Listen, are you going to do this interview in a professional manner or not? Do you want to do it or not?`
Ferguson : `You f***ing be professional. You be professional. You`re the one.`
As I say, merely an extract but Shreeves managed to maintain his dignity in the face of this unprovoked onslaught.
Now, today it`s reported that because Sky are concerned about their `relationship` with Manchester United, Shreeves has been called upon to apologise to Ferguson for the affair, which strikes me as a classic case of apologies being proferred by the wounded party to the assailant. Surely, reason would suggest that it is Ferguson`s place to apologise, not only to Shreeves but also to the viewing public who witnessed this performance. But, as we live in a parallel universe, I doubt it will happen.
If apologies are to mean anything, they have to be given meaningfully, not used as a bargaining chip in a commercial or even a political world. I hope Shreeves` career flourishes from here on in, as he is the one who demonstrated professionalism in this sorry episode....but it wouldn`t surprise me one bit if he isn`t added to the list of journalists and media reporters to whom Ferguson refuses to speak .
As for Ferguson himself, it`s such a pity that a knight of the realm should behave in such an unseemly manner, when he might be a role model for others, given the success he has achieved as a football manager.
It was once said of Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery no less, that he was very successful as a general....but very unsuccessful as a man. I think the same might be said of Ferguson. Management by hairdryer is no substitute for the dignity and restraint expected of a knight of the realm.....and I make no apology for suggesting it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

......what a pity England`s "footballers" (the word is used lightly) do not show any sort of obligation towards the paying public, the game itself, their support staff and, most pointedly, their own self respect.
Saturday`s 0-0 draw against a spirited but limited Israel team was yet another in a litany of disappointments perpetrated by the pampered millionaires who currently wear the England shirts. Maybe we should be used to disppointments these days - after all, there have been enough of them in recent years, but I really felt that with the departure of Sven, Beckham and the former regime a new sense of urgency and pride might have emerged.
Saturday`s display was at best lacklustre and at worst shameful. No passion, no urgency, no intellingence (well, Rooney was on the pitch) and one gained the impression that they really couldn`t be bothered to be there, preferring instead to be at home in their palacial mansions, surrounded by their treasures and attended by the occasional WoG (wife or girlfriend.)
Qualification for the finals of the European Championship now seems more remote.....and yet, something deep within what must be my flawed psyche secretly hopes that these overpaid and over-pampered poseurs fail dismally, thus bringing down the wrath of a cheated nation on their collective shoulders. So, come on Andorra - go for it on Wednesday.
As for more mundane matters, my beloved Saints have representatives playing for their countries far and wide - Chris Baird for Northern Ireland, Gareth Bale for Wales, Gregorz Raziak for Poland, Pedro Pele for the Cape Verde Islands and Jhon (yes, that`s how it`s spelt) Viafara for Columbia. I hope they all return safely for the game against Wolves on Saturday, where passion, urgency and intelligence will be guaranteed.....hopefully By Saints as well.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

.......so said Bob Woolmer, gifted cricketer, international coach, gentleman and citizen of the world, tragically taken from us in a Jamaica hotel under circumstances which are not yet clear.
In a former life, some 25 years ago, Bob came to see me in my office; it was at the time when I was responsible, among other things, for commissioning new leisure centres for the local authority. Bob had heard about one of them being constructed in his home town, where he had gone to school and where he had business interests but Bob had set his heart on managing the new leisure centre.
Sadly, however, it didn`t happen for him and I now wonder whether the events of the last few days in the West Indies may not have happened had he been successful in his ambition all those years ago. On the other hand, of course, the cricketing prowess of Warwickshire, South Africa and Pakistan may not have reached the heights they did without Bob`s coaching and man-management skills.
The world of cricket - and beyond, especially in his native Kent - rightfully mourn this tragic loss and I join in that sorrow, having met him and admired his talent. It`s just a pity that his quotation can now be looked at with a different eye, for yesterday is the mystery....and we await the truth of how it may be resolved.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

For the first in what may prove to be a limited series, I want to take you back quite a few years - to the development of the Hovercraft and to a cottage by the sea.

When my father returned home in 1945 from spending five years in a German Prisoner of War camp, he got a job with the then BOAC, later to become British Airways. At the time, BOAC ran a fleet of flying boats and they had their maintenance base at Hythe on the western shore of Southampton Water.

The job had a cottage which went with it - one of a pair of semi-detached cottages named Grove Cottages, originally built in 1735. In the interests of brevity, I will not bore you with the quaintness of the cottage layout, but it did have a rear garden which reached down to the sea wall, where the waves of the twice-a-day Solent tides would lap in a language all their own. Sadly, the BOAC flying boat service was withdrawn in the early 1950s and with it went my father`s job and with it went our cottage.
Circumstances forced us to move from that `village by the sea` and start life elsewhere.....but it`s what happened to the cottage that gives rise to this particular `claim to fame.` Some time after we left, the site was taken over, the cottages were demolished and the site was used to construct the test tanks for Sir Christopher Cockerill`s development of his hovercraft invention. The development work was, of course, highly successful and led to the growth and spread of the hovercraft industry world-wide.
Some years later, the site of Grove Cottages was redeveloped once more, this time by the construction of a small, rather pleasant residential development, which was quite properly named Sir Christopher Court. Due to an odd configuration of the layout and, I suspect, the land ownership, not all of the site of our old back garden was included in the housing development and it is still possible to walk through a little public park, where there is a memorial to Sir Christopher, down to the same sea wall and look out across Southampton Water to the Weston shore (see photo at top and click on photo for enlarged image to read the inscription on the memorial.)

The big difference for me is that whereas when I was a boy, spending hours gazing in fascination at the huge liners - Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, the Union Castle liners - as they eased their way towards Southampton Docks from behind the flying boat maintenance hangars, nowadays the liners are fewer in number, superceded by cruise liners and container ships heading for Millbrook Container Terminal, and the view is not one of maintenance hangars any more, but of yet more housing development which has taken place on the site of that maintenance base from all those years ago.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

in case it comes true. So the old saying goes, and it`s surprising how often its wisdom is vindicated.
For some time now, I have been sanguine about the chances of my team, Southampton, achieving promotion back to the top flight of English football. At least I have been consistent in my assertion that, whilst from the financial point of view, promotion would be hugely beneficial, nevertheless from a football point of view, maybe the league we are currently in is more interesting.
Even at this late stage of the season, with only eight or nine games to go, it`s still possible - at least mathematically - for any of nine teams to be promoted and any of about the same number to be relegated. Contrast this with the awful predicatability of the Premiership, where in reality only one of two clubs are going to win it and maybe three of four clubs are going to go down.
I went to the game on Tuesday evening and saw Saints take a 2-0 lead, only to be clawed back to a 2-2 draw by Cardiff City. Last night, before a world-wide TV audience trying to escape the ravages of Comic Relief, Saints lost 2-1 to Colchester. Given that it was only the third home defeat of the season, maybe it wasn`t a reason for too much despair. However, it more or less put paid to any real chance we had of reaching promotion even through the dubious `play-off` system.
I think it means that my philosophical prediction of remaining in the Championship for at least another season - and enjoying the competitiveness and the unpredictability - will come to pass. And so the dream of returning to former glories - and remember that we went for 27 years before finally being relegated from the top flight - must remain a dream. But at the end of the day, that`s football and at least I have my cliches to console me.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Yes, folks, here in the UK it`s RED NOSE DAY again. It`s that time of year when we`re all supposed to put on red noses (in Alex Ferguson`s case already a permanent fixture) in aid of charity. How fetching.
This comes on top of Children in Need Day, appeals for anything and everything afflicting mankind across the world and the incessant promptings of Messrs. Geldof, Bono and their ilk.
Now, please don`t get me wrong - I do my bit for charity not just by making regular donations but also giving my time, experience and expertise to help one of our local hospices (see "Ed has Close Encounter with Snopper" in archive section, for example.) I do this willingly, butI do not need to be harangued, cajoled or made to feel silly by wearing a red nose in order to make my small contribution. I do get tired of a whole evening of BBC1 TV being devoted to an unending stream of alleged celebrities attempting to `entertain` whilst succeeding not only in making themselves look stupid but also leaving me feeling embarrassed for them by their antics.
One of the forerunners is Jonathan Ross (pictured) who himself benefits from an £18million contract with the BBC which I as a licence-payer consider as grotesque as his limited and often offensive `talent.` He can`t dance, can`t sing and isn`t funny, so it baffles me how he can command such riches. Maybe if he were to give, say, 10% of his annual salary to the charity I might feel a bit more charitable towards him. But I doubt it.
Of course, I will not be compelled to watch tonight`s nonsense so instead I will tune in to Sky Sports 2 to see Southampton FC take on Colchester , live from St. Mary`s Stadium. Sadly, family commitments do not enable me to make the journey for this evening`s game but at least the TV coverage should be rivetting. Now, if Mr. Ross is looking for a candidate that really needs all the help it can get, then he should look no further than the end of the rainbow in SO14.

Monday, March 12, 2007


The River Itchen gliding past St. Mary`s Stadium - home of Southampton Football Club - on its was down to the Solent. Tomorrow evening, Southampton play Cardiff City in a crucial game in the upper echelons of the Championship.

Now, I don`t always attend evening matches - well, it`s a long drive down from deepest Kent....and it seems to be an even longer drive home afterwards and I do find the night driving on the video game which our Motorways have become to be a bit tiring. I`ll do well to be home much before 1.00am, but as there is no `ordinary` Saturday afternoon fixture for about six weeks, I want to make the effort tomorrow. I plan to make it an occasion; I`ll leave home in the early afternoon, drive down to my `home` village on the shores of Southampton Water, meet up with some old friends there, have a thoroughly unhealthy tea, drive into Southampton, park at Town Quay and meet more good friends off the Isle of Wight ferry.

As for the football, Saints have recently hit the crest of a slump and will do well to claw their way back into the play-off zone of the top six teams in the league. Three successive away defeats have left us in eighth place, with some catching up to do. This could start tomorrow evening - I hope it does - but for me at least the football is just part of what will be an enjoyable day out - in the part of the world I love and with friends who I count myself fortunate to know.

There are those who seem to demand nothing less than unending success for the football club they follow, perhaps through a need to live their lives vicariously. As for me, I`m just glad of the day and all that it may offer - win, lose or draw. It really won`t be the end of the world if my team fail to get promoted.....as witnessed by the fact that this morning I renewed my season ticket for the next year......but it might just be the end of the world if for whatever reason the day ever arrives when I am unable to make the journey.

I hope that day is a long way off.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Yesterday, I paid my regular five-weekly visit to my local stylist - Chris of Larkfield, who once sat alongside Nicky Clarke, who could do with a good short back and sides himself. As usual, my visit turned out to be the rare pleasure it has become over the years. As I sat there, draped in her shroud with bits of very grey hair plunging floorwards, it occurred to me just what a wonderful service the hairdressers of the world provide. To stand on their feet all day, they must be supremely fit and with all the snipping they do, they must have wrists of steel.
They have my undying admiration for not only do they transform one`s persona with deft touches of their scissors, but they also provide a stimulating conversation, which means it becomes as much a social occasion as a much needed makeover. Now, it can`t be easy to maintain the highest professional standards of snipping whilst at the same time avoiding being bored silly by the preumably predictable, repetitive and no doubt often anodyne subjects under discussion. Some months ago, Chris actually produced a board on which she had written the list of subjects up for discussion that day - holidays, football, the weather being pretty high on the agenda.
They do this day in and day out - and it must take either a very compassionate personality or an iron will to resist the temptation to turn the scissors into an instant lethal weapon and bring the whole ritual to an end. Not that such thoughts would enter Chris`s head, of course - she is much too nice for that. Isn`t she? Isn`t she? Please tell me she is.
On the folicle front, the ravages of time are catching up with me - I have developed an ozone-layer-type hole on top which seems to be getting larger, despite my attempts to reduce carbon emissions. I am what you might (if you are in any way sympathetic) describe as `distinguished.` In other words, grey and thin on top. I suppose the day will come when I may need Chris`s services no more, which I will miss and regret. For Chris, however, it might herald the demise of yet another discussion about holidays......football.......the weather.......................

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The past week has seen an upsurge in Snopper`s social engagements, nearly all of which have involved `eating out.` A week ago today, middle son (well, he`s 41!!) returned from a couple of weeks `chilling` in the Maldives and we went for lunch at a local hostelry. I should confess at this point that it was the original intention to visit another venue where, allegedly, the menu was varied and `inventive.`
However, at the last moment my courage deserted me, so we ended up at the more `traditional` establishment where we have been on countless occasions and where the gammon steak with four slices of pineapple, chips and trimmings was excellent - cordon noir at its most refined.
Last Thursday, I had the very real pleasure of lunch with two former work colleagues - one of whom had recently retired, so it was the first time the three of us had lunched together as a trio of retirees. The venue was one we hadn`t tried before, but I have to say that I was mightily impressed with the quality of the ham, egg and chips which I enjoyed. Interestingly, none of us had `desserts` despite a close examination of the choice on offer; I suspect we were all trying to appear `sensible,` which is not what the retired are supposed to be at all.
On Sunday, a family get-together took place in the busy surroundings of an excellent pub/restaurant famous locally for the excellence of their cow pie. However, I plumped for the home made soup followed (it being Sunday) with a wonderful Sunday roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and vegetables - and finally a vast slice of lemon merangue pie and ice cream which even I could not quite get through.
Next week, I have another reunion lunch, for which I was asked to pre-order my meal - simple really, just go for the straight forward stuff and you can`t go wrong, so it`s soup, chicken and apple pie (I think.)
Now, you may gather from this that I have simple and traditional tastes when it comes to food; quite right. It`s all good English stuff and I really can`t see the attraction of risking gastric problems by flirting with anything remotely foreign or messed about with.
After all, how many English restaurants do you find in China....or India.....or Thailand? I rest my case.