Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Well, here I am alive and well residing in the heart of the Garden of England ~ not quite at peace with the world, for there are many things which disturb me, but by and large things are ok. So what happens to disturb the tranquility of my mind, apart from Wimbledon, self-serving politicians, my awful golf, celebrity do-gooders and the fortunes of Southampton Football Club?

The answer, I suppose, is quite a lot. But the thing that really gets to me is being taken for granted and having my intelligence insulted. The latest example centres around the weekend`s antics at the EU summit in Brussels, led by Rosa Klebb lookalike German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Here she is, ringing the changes of our lives with a grim determination:~

I can`t quite make my mind up about the EU. Maybe I should care more deeply than I do about its inexorable rise to super-state status, but I do care about two aspects. First, it is an enormously expensive bureaucracy and I get the feeling that the taxes I pay are being taken for granted. I am never at all sure that there is enough accountability or responsibility when dealing with the taxpayers` money which makes it all possible.....and I resent that.
Second, Mrs. Merkel and her cohorts should not go on thinking that we taxpayers are as daft as they may wish to believe we are. The rebranding of the failed EU Constitution as merely an amending treaty really will not do and amounts to an insult to the intelligence of most people. Even though new PM, Gordon Brown, has already denied us a referendum in the UK, there may yet be hope that the promised referendum in the Emerald Isle may put a timely spanner in the works, as the French and the Dutch did so beguilingly a couple of years ago.
Time I went for a therapeutic stroll through the nearby orchards, I think.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Oh, dear. It seems that I will be deprived of the leafy oasis of Gardeners World on BBC2 for four weeks because of...........Wimbledon!

Now I realise that it is official BBC policy to squeeze as much junketing as possible from every social event going, so we can look forward to hour upon hour of uninterrupted tennis, legions of commentators and analysts (with luck, one or two may be English?) highlight programmes, repeats, reports on every news bulletin from yet another BBC `department`....and all the while the gentle, informative, earthy grittiness of Gardeners World will be denied to me.

As to Wimbledon, frankly my dear, I don`t give a damn. It`s just so far up itself what with the social snobbery, the patronising, the endless hitting the ball over the net only for it to keep coming back again, the strawberries and cream, the `ladies` now being paid as much as the men even though they don`t play as much , Henman Hill, the overnight queueing, the interminable grunting....I could go on, but you get my drift. I quite expect some misguided oaf in the crowd to shout out, "Get in the hole!"

Mrs. Rusedski comforts campers

Apparently, the sad news for Britain is that Andy Murray has cried off with a dodgy wrist, Tim Henman may not progress all the way, despite his epic victory over Carlos Moya in Round One and, of course, Greg Rusedski is no more, so we will be denied the uplifting prospect of Mrs. Rusedski dispensing comfort and joy to the overnight campers.

But there is some good news as I write - it`s raining....and the forecast is for more and more as the week goes by. Maybe they`ll restore Gardeners World to it`s rightful place, but my money will be on Wimbledon repeats. Cliff Richard anyone?

Time for some more strawberries and Pimm`s.

(From our Sports Correspondent)
Yet another assault on the fairways and greens of the hallowed Poult Wood Golf Course on Thursday saw Snopper hit an all-time low in his undistinguished golfing career. Staring badly with a nine on the par 4 first, things got no better and resulted in the loss of no less than 12 golf balls during the round, which ended being unscored, such was the paucity of Snopper`s performance.
It is suggested that this loss of 12 balls has created a record for the course, if not in the entire annals of the royal and ancient game - in fact it may border on the illegal but given Snopper`s scant regard for the rules of the game, he is in no position to say whether or not he has in fact created a record that will be difficult to beat.
However, he is heartened by the fact that he still has over 1,000 balls squirrelled away in his loft - the dubious results of training a former Golden Retriever to retrieve lost balls from the undergrowth surrounding a local course - and so will be able to continue his policy of playing value-for-money golf by hitting the ball as many times as possible whilst at the same time displaying a nonchalent attitude to the inevitable ball disappearance as he continues to enchant the galleries of the world.
New balls, please!

Friday, June 22, 2007


Yesterday saw the longest day of the year - the summer solstice - and what better place to be than at Stonehenge to witness the sun coming up and kissing the altar stone as it rises in the eastern sky. I really do not know how many times I have been to Stonehenge but each time we go on holiday, we make a point of stopping there as it`s over 100 miles from home and by the time we get there, we`re ready for a pit stop.
We`ve stopped actually staying in the `official` car park, as they imposed a charge of £2.00, I think - which is a bit much if you just want to use the `facilities,` give the dog a walk and not go anywhere near the ancient monument. So we park along the byeway which is right next door to the main car park. Apart from those brief interludes, we did take our three sons to Stonehenge when they were little - in those days, it was possible to go right up to the stones and we have photos of our boys posing on the stones.
But I agree with the 24,000 who ventured there yesterday morning to mark the summer solstice; I admire their fortitude, their enthusiasm and their allegiance to the forces and powers of nature, whcih they celebrate on 21st June and 21st December each year. Good luck to them.
Despite the cynic in me suggesting that, as the monument is crumbling quite badly and that it`s 6,000 years old and therefore perhaps time we had a new one, I think, given the choice of things to celebrate these days, I might just be with the Druids on this one.

The downside, of course, is that, from here until the winter solstice, the days get shorter and I fear my SAD state will become progressively more severe as the days are chipped away. Why are you not surprised, I wonder?

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I have a confession to make. Knowing that Blair`s tenure of office has only one week to go, I recorded Prime Minister`s Questions yesterday, along with questions to the Deputy Prime Minister which preceeded it. I settled down to watch it late last night and it was just like being in one of those old fashioned vaudeville shows, where each act that came on stage was more hilariously funny than the last. Only this time, it really wasn`t funny `funny` but more funny pathetic.

First, a word about Prescott, the departing Deputy. It has long been a source of quizzical astonishment that an oaf such as Prescott could possibly have risen to the heights of Deputy Prime Minister and yesterday his swansong did not disappoint. He grappled with a reference to Demosthenes, which came out as "Dame Ostheens" and such is his level of unawareness that he seemed genuinely pleased by the barrage of guffaws which followed his pronouncement. Goodbye, John - and very very good riddance, for I, as a taxpayer, have long been angry that I have contributed financially to the excesses of this dimwitted buffoon. Truly, we deserve better, although judging by the six candidates standing to replace him, I`m not at all sure we`ll get it.

And now, ladies and gentleman, the one you`ve all been waiting for; yes, it`s that great comic actor Dodgy Blair......and he didn`t disappoint either with true comic timing and with a nod here and a wink there the scandals of the day, including the early release of 25,000 prisoners and the fact that the kidnap of navy personnel in Iraq was really no-one`s fault, were merely yet more ammunition for the self-deluded.

There were support acts in the form of Baby Dave Cameron and Ming the Merciless, whilst the likes of Beckett, Reid and Straw (a smile, a song and a rant) looked on under the watchful gaze of Gorbals Mick (don`t mess with me, I`ve got a gown on.)

It is bordering on the indefensible that these weekly fols-de-rol have as their warm up act the continuing litany of casualties lost to their families, their friends and the nation as a result of the twin follies of Iraq and Afghanistan. How can such tragedies happen, when Tone assured us that there were WMDs in Iraq and Reid assured us that our peregrination into Taleban territory would be over without a shot being fired?

Don`t worry - it`s a rhetorical question.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Quite a lot of years ago, during a `former life,` I was part of an official delegation to complete the formal twinning arrangements between a small town in this country and one in Germany.
Now the whole idea of having twinning arrangements is interesting; on the face of it, it is a splendid movement based on the innocent and beguiling notion that having formal links with somewhere else in the world will lead to peace, harmony, friendship and understanding. And I guess that, on an innocent level, that may be so, as I suspect it was in my case.
It had taken a while to reach the point where formal arrangements could be finalised - I think there was some delay in confirming the bona fides of any community, wherever it may have been in the world, that was even willing to be twinned with us. However, came the day, we had all arrived at Frankfurt airport and been whisked away to our hosts, where we were to spend the next few days in cementing relationships. This consisted mainly of a formal ceremony in the local schloss (pictured), the exchange of scrolls and gifts, a concert in the local cathedral, much conviviality and sight-seeing visits to local places of interest.
One problem was, naturally enough, the language barrier - some of our hosts spoke good English and one or two of our delegation spoke passable German. As for me, I made use of what remained of the pidgin German I had picked up whilst defending western democracy from the communist threat during my 731 days of National Service, most of which was spent in the wasteland of BFPO 16. Given such limitations, the linguistic highlight was undoubtedly the tactic of speaking English in a very loud voice but with a fetching quasi-teutonic accent, thus giving the impression of fluency whilst simply adding to the overall confusion of the occasion.
The upshot of this was that when, on the last morning, a fellow delegate and I found ourselves alone for a change, we also found that we were holding our conversation still using German accents - shades of `Allo, `Allo. ` "Good moaning" indeed.
To end on a cynical note, I was intrigued by certain aspects of my twinning experience beyond the obvious innocence and good intentions which seemed to prevail. For example, given the huge world-wide choice of places with which to be twinned, why pick on an anonymous small town in Germany when venues such as the whole of the Caribbean may have provided more convivial candidates?
Then there was the historical context for me personally. I have childhood memories of sleeping under stairs to avoid the nightly devastation being visited upon the city, the docks and the villages up and down Southampton Water. Moreover, I was six years old before my father finally returned from incarceration in some relentless Stalag, the effects of which would contribute to his passing away at the ridiculously unfair age of just 62.
But that`s all in the past now, isn`t it? We`ve drawn lines in the sand and moved on. We`re all friends again now, aren`t we? Well, we are, aren`t we? Surely we are. Surely......

Monday, June 11, 2007

During the course of a ramble through the hinterland of the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall last week, I happened across this splendid statue in the village of St. Keverne.
It depicts the two leaders of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497 - Thomas Flamank, a lawyer from Bodmin and Michael Joseph, the blacksmith (An Gof) from St. Keverne. For it was here that the rebellion had its roots and its inspiration and if ever there was a prime example of justifiable Cornish defiance then it was here.
I imagine it was the culmination of a long line of grievances but the imposition of punitive taxes to finance Henry VII`s English war against the Scots was the final straw for the Cornish. Here they were hundreds of miles from the seat of monarchy, even more hundreds of miles from Scotland and neither seemed to have much relevance to them, especially as Cornwall had been granted some immunity from tax increases, given its stannary status.
And so an `army` of 15,000 disgruntled Cornishmen was raised to the cause, led by Flamank as the strategist and An Gof as the commander, passing through Exeter, Bristol, Salisbury and Guildford until the battleground at Blackheath was reached. Against the forces massed by the king, the Cornish army was defeated with the two leaders subsequently hanged at Tyburn.
I cannot begin to give a detailed description of this momentous event in Cornish history, but a few things struck me as really significant on my visit to St. Keverne. First, the statue itself - it`s handsome, accurate and does justice to the memory of Flamank and Joseph. The plaque which describes it tells that the statue was unveiled by the children of St. Keverne in 1997, to commemorate the 500th anniversery of the rebellion. It`s perfectly clear that pride in the event, in being Cornish, in the history and fiece independance of Cornwall is still alive and well. I could almost feel it as I walked, with perhaps a little trepidation, through the village streets.
Indeed it seems to be gaining strength. One of the aspects of the rebellion was that, at the time, Cornish as a language was widely spoken and so it`s doubtful that much of the edicts from London were understood, let alone agreed with. The language is being revived, of course, and it was encouraging to see that - in west Cornwall particularly - the street names and `entry` signs to towns and villages are now in English and Cornish. I also noticed that the name Angove (derived from An Gof - `the smith`) is one of the most common - you know when you`re in deepest Kernow when, at the village of Drift on the A30 on the way to Land`s End, you pass `Lower Drift Garage` (prop. Chris Angove.)
St. Keverne reminded me that, once again, I had invaded the sovereign territory of Kernow and I felt a little sad that we, the English, seem to have lost our sense of pride in ourselves and our own history, for which we seem forever to be apologising . The Cornish have nothing to apologise for to anyone .....and I cannot help but admire the preservation of their traditions, their proud history and their glorious country.

Friday, June 01, 2007

It`s that time of year again when I`m off for a week in Cornwall. Seems ages since my last visit - in September last year - and I`m looking forward to yet another week, this time at Praa Sands on the south coast.
I also look forward to the journey - it`s well over 300 miles from where I live - and it may be because I just love driving. But there`s something within me that automatically points me westward whenever the chance arises. It may be that my roots are deep in the west country and that over the years the only time I have ventured elsewhere for holidays was to Wales, back in 1981, when it rained incessantly. So I`ll be on automatic pilot as I point the car along the M25, the M3, the A303, the A38 and on towards the far west of Cornwall, passing through Kent, Surrey, Hampshire, a little bit of my home county of Dorset, most of Wiltshire, all of Devon and very nearly all of Cornwall.
One place I always like to visit is Sennen Cove (pictured) which is a short but exhilarating walk from Land`s End. A near neighbour of ours moved to Sennen a few years ago and someone else I knew locally dashed down to Sennen most weekends and who can blame them?. There`s something about the place, as there is with so many places in West Penwith - Penzance, Drift, Sancreed, Mousehole, Lamorna, St. Just, Morvah, Zennor, St. Ives. It`s a bit like my visit to the cricket at Canterbury - another world of its own, with its own proud history, tradition, culture, even its own language; another place to explore, breathe in its uniqueness and return again and again - I`ll be there again in September, all being well.
You can keep a daily eye on things at the excellent www.cornwallcam.co.uk - or watch out for me on the webcam at http://www.a1surf.com/surfcheck-praasands.html. (Takes a while to load - be patient.)
I`ll give you a wave.