Friday, August 31, 2007

"It's very nice to go trav'ling
But it's oh so nice to come home"
(Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen)

What a gorgeous view. Although I won`t get there tomorrow, you can be very sure that I will at least once in the next week during our stay in Cadgwith. This is Porth Kidney sands, just behind Lelant in the far west of Cornwall, as viewed from the adjacent Carbis Bay. It`s one of those places which is a bit hard to find, but once you have it really is worth it. A seemingly endless beach, where dogs are unusually allowed so Henry will be happy, and one which is never `busy` - there`s just too much room and just a little secrecy about it for that.

So, dear reader, tomorrow we set off on the 350 miles drive along the A20, M26, M25, M3, A303, A30, down alomost to Lelant, then along the coast road to Helston before dropping down onto the Lizard Peninsula and finally arriving at Cadgwith.

The forecast is good, the scenery unsurpassed, the coast path walking always interesting, the local fresh fish, the home-made pasties, the clean sea air. Who could ask for anything more?
(click to enlarge)
Cornwall is a magic land, a place apart and it will be a privilege once again to be part of it for a while. But, as Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen said in their immortal song, it`s oh so nice to come home.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


"Clunton, Clunbury, Clungunton and Clun
are the quietest places under the sun"

So wrote AE Houseman, author of the epic poem `A Shropshire Lad`

And he may have been right - Shropshire is one of those places I have long wanted to visit, but not quite got round to yet. Along with so many other places in this country, Shropshire and the Welsh Marches are there to be explored, along with Northumberland, Cumbria, East Anglia, the Forest of Dean and a whole host more. I`ll get around to seeing them all one day, I`m sure.

For now, though, my holiday destinations seem to be confined to the West Country. For more years than I care to remember there has been a kind of automatic pilot which draws me inevitably to Devon, Dorset and Cornwall. Maybe it`s my Dorset origins, maybe we had so many happy West Country holidays especially when our three sons were very young - all they wanted was somewhere to stay, a beach, sun, surf and something to eat and they seemed happy - and I`m sure that if the kids are happy, then the parents have a chance of being so too.

For the past few years, we have been to different parts of Devon and Cornwall - Woolacombe, Croyde, Newton Ferrers, Mothecombe, Huntshaw, Trelights, Port Isaac, Carbis Bay, Praa Sands....and this time next week we will be here:-
(Click to enlarge)

Cadgwith is an unspoilt fishing village just to the east of Lizard Point - the most southerly point in England. We`ve visited Cadgwith a number of times, sitting on the Todden watching the fishing boats come and go, but we`ve never stayed there, so despite the 350 miles drive, I`m looking forward to spending a fortnight there in an afternoon, for it has that timelessness about it.
I suspect AE Houseman had never been to Cadgwith or his Shropshire villages would have seemed cacophanous in comparison. And if it`s good enough for `Ladies in Lavender,` it`s good enough for me. (

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Rory Delap came back to St. Mary`s yesterday. A few years ago, he became Saints` most expensive ever signing, when he joined from Derby County for £4million. They were the days, of course, when Saints were continuing their 27-year stay in the top flight of English football and so could afford such luxuries.

Rory made 127 appearances for the club, scoring five times from midfield - most memorably, this stunning overhead kick against Tottenham Hotspur and two thumping headers in a 2-2 draw against Arsenal at Highbury.

He was an honest player - not the quickest, not the most talented but he possessed a formidable throw-in and always gave everything he had to the team. Sadly, he was not always able to live up to the price tag which came with him and this led to him being the butt of some hostility and abuse from the `fans` who perhaps expected more. I always thought his treatment to be unfair, for despite the criticisms levelled vociferously in his direction, he not once reacted against the `supporters` either in interviews, the written media or in any other way and never had a bad word to say about the club. He was, and remains, a decent man in my view.

And so it was good to see him back playing again yesterday after a dreadful double fracture of the leg, which he suffered on his debut for Stoke City whilst on loan from Sunderland, who he joined when he left Southampton. To their eternal credit, Stoke stood by him as his long recovery took place and rewarded him with a permanent contract.

Yesterday, his performance was subdued and the crowd reaction towards him was muted, maybe even indifferent. Now, some players leave and we are glad to see them go. Rory Delap is one who was always going to move on but he left behind memories of honesty and decency, which are rare qualities in the frantic world of today`s football. I wish him well.


Right Reverend Host: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr. Jones!"
The Curate: "Oh no, my Lord, I assure you ! Parts of it are excellent!"

This much used saying pretty much sums up Southampton FC`s start to the new season. The first game was a pitiful 4-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace. The second was a surprise 2-1 defeat in the Carling Cup away to Peterborough and the third showed a marked improvement but ultimately another 2-1 defeat away to Norwich City.

And so to yesterday`s events at St. Mary`s Stadium, where the visitors were league leaders Stoke City, who included in their line-up two former Saints players - Rory Delap and Ricardo Fuller, whilst a third, Danny Higginbotham, did not feature as he is expected to join Premier League Sunderland in the next few days.

Saints also had an absentee - Trinidad and Tobago star Kenwyne Jones had submitted a written transfer request and refused to play. Toys and pram come to mind. Following the football convention that dictates that former players must score against their former clubs, it was Fuller who scored first for Stoke. However, Saints were showing more resilience and spirit this time, thanks in no small measure to an improvement in defence, which saw a home debut for Wayne Thomas and the return from suspension of Darren Powell. Thomas takes no prisoners, is built like a well constructed public convenience and already forms a formidable partnership with the combative Powell. The signs were encouraging.

Saints equaliser came from Andrew Surman (pictured above,) born in South Africa but raised since the age of eight months in Southampton. A product of our Academy (Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, etc) Surman has improved hugely in the past couple of seasons - so much so that among the spectators yesterday were Stuart Pearce, the England Under-21 Manager and also Carlos Alberto Parreira, the national coach of South Africa - so there could be a tug of war for Surman`s inevitable international future.

The second half saw Saints take the lead through Gregorz Raziak and go further ahead from Jhon Viafara. Stoke cut the deficit with a late goal from John Parkin, but Saints held on for their first win of the season.

The result was one thing - the performance quite another. There was an energy and determination throughout the team, there was skillful movement and one-touch football and clinical finishing - all of which being a far cry from the stuttering displays in the previous games. Players we thought of as drummers - Kelvin Davies, Jermaine Wright and Rudy Skacel - were transformed into violinists, with Surman conducting the orchestra.
(click to enlarge)

One win does not a season make, of course, but it feels good to chew on a palatable slice of our euphamistic egg, rather than crunching our teeth on the shells of defeat.

Yesterday turned out to be one of those good days. A three hour drive to Southampton, meeting up with good friends, enjoying an excellent performance by Saints FC (more on that story later)....and then on to keep a very special evening appointment.
You see, yesterday was my mother`s birthday. Had she lived, she would have been 95. As it is, she passed away five years ago and her ashes reside in a special place where we used to live.
So, after the football, I drove the few miles down the western shore of Southampton Water, through the waterside villages, to Hythe, where we lived all those years ago and where my mother had her happiest times. At the bottom of what used to be our back garden, there is still a large oak tree which has survived all kinds of changes and `development` around it across half a century. And, in recognition of those happy family days, my mother`s ashes are, quite unofficially and probably illegally, scatterred around the base of that sturdy oak.
So I bought some flowers, had a chat with her and spent some time taking in the peace and stillness of the view across to Netley as the timeless tides of Southampton Water kissed that friendly shore on a beautiful, late summer evening.
And then the long, contemplative drive home after a very special day indeed.

Friday, August 24, 2007

So another Bank Holiday this weekend and the predictions are for no less than 18million cars to be on the roads of the UK.
I fear I have no option but to join in the exodus, as Southampton FC are at home to the Potters of Stoke City....and I really can`t let holiday traffic come between me and my football. Two weeks ago I did the same journey, which took me four hours and I expect much the same tomorrow. In a concerted attempt to get off the motorways, last time I came home all the way from Winchester by using the A31 and A25 - very `leisurely` as it`s impossible to go more than about 50mph all the way....and it `only` took me two and a half hours to get home coming that way.
Kick-off tomorrow is 3.00pm so an early start is called for and perhaps a saunter along the A25 and the A31 will at least guarantee my arrival, whereas the motorways will merely guarantee delay and frustration. Why do I do it? Simple - I just love it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


One of the bonuses of walking through the orchards of deepest Kent at this time of the year is the sheer abundance of fruit on the trees. This is especially so this year, after all the rain we`ve had, which has led to the fruit picking season starting a good three weeks earlier than usual.
When our Golden Retriever, Henry, and I explore the orchards, we first go through a Bramley apple one, then an eating apple one, on to a pear orchard and finally we arrive at a Victoria plum orchard. This year`s crop seems to be the best for many years - so much so that lots of plums have fallen from the trees, lots more are rotting on the branches and it seems the farmer has picked as many as he is going to.
So, rather than see this tempting bounty going to waste, Henry and I decided that we might just take a few home and see what they were like. They are quite the most beautiful plums you are ever likely to taste and I fear I may have eaten perhaps a tad too many of them.
Years ago, of course, I would have been deported to the colonies for taking anything from an orchard, but as we don`t have any colonies any more, I have escaped at least that fate.
However, I seem not to have escaped Victoria`s revenge, which has taught me another of life`s seemingly endless lessons. Serves me right, I guess.....and I hope that normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Years ago, when men were men and `hair stylists` were barbers, I used to go and get my hair cut once every few weeks. The barber shop was half way down a quiet street and was run by a Mr. Furminger, who ran his one man business in the converted front room of his house.
Of course, he was known locally as `Sweeney` - perhaps a little unjustly, although he did have a somewhat limited range of `styles` to offer prospective clients. In truth, once you sat in his barber`s chair, you were never asked how you would like it done - you contented yourself with the knowledge that Sweeney would do it his way or not at all. The consequence of this was that the whole male population of the locality sported precisely the same hair style - at least it was consistent.
The other quirk of Sweeney`s emporium was that, of course, there were no such things as `appointments.` You just turned up, took your place in the queue and waited patiently until it was your turn for the inevitable `styling.`
Today - being the start of the weekend - has brought back memories (and I`m talking about 50 years ago) of the question Sweeney asked each and every one of his customers once he had concluded his folically repetitive routine, "Would you like something for the weekend, Sir?"
I must have missed the furtive transactions which must have taken place with some customers following Sweeney`s question, but I remember the day he first asked me. It was truly a rite of passage. My mind raced through the activities I may have had planned and, in a fit of panic brought on by the notion that, having been asked, perhaps I really should buy something, I plumped for a tub of Brylcreem.

Over the coming few months and years, before I was whisked away to do my National Service, I accumulated quite a large supply of Brylcreem. Despite slapping copious quantities of the stuff on my hair, I never seemed able to use it all up. It wasn`t until much later that the true value of Sweeney`s question dawned on me and I have forever been left wondering what on earth Sweeney must have thought I was doing with all that Brylcreem for all those youthful weekends.
It`s only now, of course, that my imagination can come up with any sort of suggestion.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

(Our Golf Correspondent reports...)

Yesterday I reported that Snopper`s lost ball count had reached double figures. However, video evidence and painstaking overnight scrutiny has revealed that, in fact, `only` nine golf balls were consigned to watery graves or to the assorted foliage surrounding Poult Wood.
I have, of course, offered my sincere apologies to Snopper - seen here totting up his score yesterday - for this reporting error, which he has been gracious enough to accept.

As to the compensation, rather than donating it to charity, Snopper has decided to use the cash to invest in a pocket calculator so as to ensure the accuracy, as opposed to the rough approximation, of his future scores - a useful pointer to his determination to carry on his seemingly endless battle with the Royal and Ancient game .

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

(From our Golf Correspondent)

Despite a threatening weather forecast, yesterday afternoon at the Poult Wood Golf Course turned out to be bright and sunny with a stiff breeze cutting across the more open parts of the course.

After a couple of weeks or so on the sidelines, Snopper returned to the fairways (well, occasionally) in a renewed attempt to build on the progress made in his last outing, when an encouraging card in double figures was returned. The other bright spot on that occasion was the loss of only five balls, another statistic he was looking to better yesterday.

Sadly, things didn`t quite go according to plan. A decent start went awry as Snopper found assorted ponds and nearby woodland as he attempted to round Amen Corner - the formidable 5th, 6th and 7th holes - which has been known to cause mild irritation to other golfers in the past. These setbacks contributed to a front nine score of 64 - one of Snopper`s least prepossessing efforts.

The back nine saw a distinct improvement, however, with a total of 47 being recorded, including one unlikely par on the par 3 14th. This produced a total of 111 for the round, which was the highest score Snopper has recorded since he started playing at Poult Wood some 25 years ago. There were vain attempts to reduce that score by various means, including some creative accounting, Snopper`s insistence on maintaining a handicap of 28 and also a suggestion that he might be awarded a further 10 strokes to take account of his status as an old age pensioner struggling to survive on a fixed income. The R & A have heard it all before, though, and are not prepared to bend their rules for anyone.

The lost ball count has, sadly, risen to 10 for this round - no less than four coming in the space of two holes. Snopper`s attempts to find them are, of course, curtailed by his reluctance to get his feet wet and also a pathological fear of reptillian life that may be loitering in the undergrowth.

The whole experience has left his golfing career at a crossroads - it is going to be difficult for him to come back after this setback, but I think we can look forward to covering his exploits in future on the simple basis that things really cannot get any worse. Can they?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I don`t want to burden you with troubles of my own - I really don`t - but I need to tell someone about this; it might make me feel better if I unburden myself a little. I`m sure you will understand when I tell you.

Two games in to the new season and Southampton FC have slumped to two embarrassing defeats in the space of three days. The first was a 4-1 drubbing at home to Crystal Palace - the biggest defeat at home since our lovely family-friendly shiny new stadium was build about four years ago. This defeat was mainly due to defensive blunders of heroic proportions - apart from that, it was ok. Then on Monday evening - in front of a world-wide tv audience on Sky - Saints lost 2-1 to Peterborough, who are lurking in the fourth tier of English football.

Looking on the bright side, there are 45 more league games to come this season, so plenty of time for manager George Burley to put things right, assuming he gets the funds to do so. Not sure about that though, as it has emerged that the sale of three of our best players from last season was forced upon us in order to avoid going into administration, with all the horrors that implies. Just ask Leeds fans.

However, I have at last discovered the art of philosophical acceptance, so it is with a shrug of the shoulders and a rueful smile that I turn to Doris Day for my salvation:-

There, that`s better, although I strongly suspect I will have to unburden myself quite frequently as the season unfolds. Thank you for listening.


Speaking of the Lake District, I was reminded of the first and only time I have been there.

In the harsh, long winter of 1960, I was enduring my six weeks of `basic training` as a National Serviceman at Catterick Camp in North Yorkshire. The whole experience was memorable and, in some respects at least, useful - I was taught how to turn right and left and walk quite quickly and even to turn around.

After the first four weeks, we were all given 48 hours leave, which meant that those who were able to, could go home to their loved ones. I, however, along with a fellow conscript, lived too far away to be able to get home and back again within the 48 hour period - to make it worthwhile at least.

So, on the Saturday morning, we dressed up in our army uniforms and proceeded to hitch-hike across the Yorkshire Dales - Hawes, Leyburn, Sedburgh - being given sympathetic lifts which our uniforms encouraged - until we reached Ambleside in the Lake District in the late afternoon.

We found a bed and breakfast place to stay the night and then proceeded to hit the town. Trouble was, there was nothing in town to hit apart from the local cinema, which was showing `Carry on Sergeant` - just what we could have done without when trying to banish thoughts of Catterick for 48 hours, but there was nothing else to do (so our naivite dictated!)

We slept well and, refreshed by Mrs. Miggins breakfast, we made our way back to Catterick, where the real comedy of our lives was resumed:-

(click for larger image - it`s worth it!)
`Carry on Sergeant` was shown again on Channel 4 last week - it wasn`t funny when I saw it in Ambleside...and it`s even less funny now.


Sometimes I complain about the BBC - the rubbish programmes, especially in the daytime, the blatant disregard for any sense of value for money, the unavoidable tax of the licence fee, the political correctness* and the obscene salaries paid to mediocrities like Jonathan Ross.

(*On the political correctness thing, there`s a report today concerning domestic goddess Nigella Lawson`s new cookery series. It seems the theme of the series requires Nigella to cook for a dinner party of her guests; no problem, you would think....except that the BBC compliance unit has insisted that one of the guests must be from an ethnic minority background. Yikes!)

However, I digress - the point of this rant is actually to give the BBC enormous credit for some of their recent offerings - `Building Britain,` `Mountain,` `Atom ` and the new series of `Wainwright`s Walks.` Now, this latter series depicts walks in the Lake District as explored and described by legendary fell walker, Alfred Wainwright. The series is beautifully filmed and is presented by Julia Bradbury (pictured above.)

A feisty girl is our Julia - all long legs, hair and teeth - and she strides effortlessly up the fells, across ridges, for mile after mile. She must be very fit and the gods clearly smile on her, as each day seems to be bathed in sunshine even though the Lake District is England`s wettest region.

(Click on photo for larger image)

I think I fell for Julia`s obvious charms....but also for the scenery, exemplified by the above view of Windermere and Ambleside.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I`m never too sure what blogs are supposed to be used for. Wikipedia`s definition says:-

"Blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries."

As you may have noticed, dear reader, mine tends to be used for a number of things - insightful commentaries on things that are going on in the world; rants against stupidity (normally associated with the antics of our politicians;) reminiscences over a long life full of experiences in places I have known and, of course, the fortunes of Southampton Football Club.

However, perhaps the time has come for me to use this blog to perform a vital function, one that is of crucial importance to the `senior citizens` of this world - namely, as nothing more than a reminder of things that may have slipped the memory.

It`s a sad truth that the older I become (three score years and ten are looming on the near horizon) the more I seem to forget things. I come upstairs for something and by the time I`ve reached the top, I`ve forgotten what it was. I can`t remember what amnesia means and quite often I can`t remember what it is I have forgotten.

For some time, something has been niggling away in the back of my mind about the number 26.

I knew I had read or heard about some unique property associated with 26, but I couldn`t recall what it was. I hate things like that, so I searched the internet without any luck (possibly because I wasn`t sure what to search for) and finally, in desperation, I stayed up until the early hours of this morning combing through my extensive and eclectic library until I found it
What is so very special about 26 is this - it is the only number in the whole panoply of numbers from one to infinity and beyond which is sandwiched between a squared number and a cubed number (25 = 5x 5; 27 = 3 x 3 x 3) and it was our old friend Fermat, pictured above - he of the famous last theorem - that not only discovered this fact but also a proof for it, which turned out to be infinitely more difficult than the fact itself. So, 26 is, indeed, a very special number. Fascinating, isn`t it? But I expect you knew that anyway.

So, having recalled it to mind, having `blogged` it, I will know in future where to look should it slip my mind again. Maybe now I can also remind myself of the other things I have forgotten - prime numbers, perfect numbers, Pythagorean triples and other wonders of the elegant world of mathematics. Now, what was it I came upstairs for?

I bet Andrew Wiles doesn`t have these problems - have a look at

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Sunday`s `walkies` evoked echoes of Thomas Hardy and Jude the Obscure with the distant glimpse of London`s Canary Wharf. This morning, Henry and I took an hour to walk around Leybourne Lakes Country Park, about a mile from home, where another more recent drama came to mind. It was a fairly brisk walk on a fresh morning and it blew the cobwebs away from both of us.

The Country Park (pictured above - please click on photo for very large image)) was one of those `planning gains` which are pretty common these days. In return for the granting of permission for housing development on what was a very large derelict area of former gravel workings, the local council agreed to take on the maintenance and upkeep of a sizeable chunk of the area, which had been turned into a country park by the housing developers. And a very good job they made of it too - the park is welcoming, well managed, with good access and varying habitats which form a significant nature reserve.

The most attractive and well-used feature are the lakes themselves, popular for angling, sailing and other water sports and Henry and I enjoyed our walk around the perimeter of the largest of them.

However, as with so much in life, all is not what it seems. Just across the road there is a big - and I mean big - Tesco Supermarket; just down the road there is a large industrial and commercial `complex` and, of course, there is the recently constructed housing development, much of which overlooks the lakes. The houses are certainly different but the setting is unique enough for it to be used as the location for the recent Channel 4 drama `Cape Wrath.`

So I was left with the puzzle as to whether The Lakes housing development was really the Stepford-esque, neat and tidy, idyllic place to live it might appear to be.....or whether it hides the dark, oppressive, threatening raison d`etre so vividly portrayed in Cape Wrath.

Either way, it`s a nice walk and Henry was much taken with the up-market sniffs which abounded in the undergrowth. Oh...and of course, we cleaned up afterwards!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

This is the view from the escarpment of the North Downs looking down across the valley where I live. It`s a lovely view, but not really the sort of place to be walking the dog on what promises to be the hottest day of the year here in deepest Kent. So, this morning, Henry our Golden Retriever and I looked behind us from this spectacular vantage point....and this is what we saw:-

(click to enlarge)

......a shady walk beckoning through the nearby woods of Holly Hill. Henry loved it - new sniffs, a change of scenery and the cool overhang of the trees. Holly Hill is a bit remote - and all the better for it. It was given to the former Malling Rural District Council in, I think, 1943 by the bequest of one Mr. F. Cripps-Day and is now in the charge of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, who have the duty of maintaining it as a public open space.

Fortunately, the Council`s enlightened attitude towards the maintenance of Holly Hill has not extended to tidying it up too much or trying to `formalise` it in any way. It is still in the semi-wild state its location demands, but there have been one or two `enhancements.` Perhaps the most valuable is the provision of a plaque on the top of the hill which gives a potted history of the nearby triangulation beacon but also gives a photographic pointer to the places that can be seen from Holly Hill. These include Canary Wharf, the QE bridge across the Thames at Dartford, Littlebrook Power Station and even Gravesend. The only thing is that you can really only see these wonders during the winter months, when the foliage has gone from the trees.

We enjoyed our ramble this morning - away from the shimmering heat of high summer - and what struck me most was the quiet, which was absolute on this still morning.

(click to enlarge)

The whole experience was reminiscent of my visit to the obscure village of Fawley, high on the downs of Oxfordshire, where Thomas Hardy set his Marygreen and from where Jude would look out across the scene pictured above towards the dreaming spires of Oxford.

All I had this morning was a hazy glimpse of the nightmare spire of Canary Wharf, but I wondered how much its inhabitants would prefer to be with Henry and me on this peerless day.


Friday, August 03, 2007

WHOOPS !!!........

We`re having a regime of `traffic calming measures` installed in the main street through our village. These are being provided so that traffic will be encouraged away from the village centre and on to the recently constructed by-pass.

Strikes me as a little odd that traffic has to be encouraged onto a brand spanking new road which avoids going through the middle of the village, but who am I to question the wisdom of officialdom?

Yesterday morning, a wayward pneumatic drill sliced through the water main, sending a spectacular sheet of water soaring into the sky. The village green became flooded and an air of panic and confusion descended on the traffic calming gang.

At a stroke, our water pressure dropped - there was barely a trickle coming from the taps and we resigned ourselves to the prospect of having a dribble rather than a shower. Now, the inconvenience we may have suffered was minimal and temporary, with the water main being repaired and the supply back to normal in a few hours. But it did bring it home just how awful the effects of the recent floods must have had in Yorkshire, Worcester, Gloucester, Cheltenham and especially Tewkesbury. The water supply to Tewkesbury was restored only yesterday after about two weeks.....and they still can`t drink the tap water even if it has been boiled.

We had a brief `taste` of being without yet another service which we take for granted yesterday and it was disconcerting. Thank goodness it`s summertime, so at least some people were able to make the most of it:-
It is indeed an ill wind that blows no good and, as the summer progresses and the work on the traffic calming continues until October, who`s to say we won`t have a repeat performance? Now, where did I leave my pneumatic drill?