Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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This was the scene today, as fire swept through the premises of Hythe Marine Services in St. John`s Street, Hythe. The building on the right, which along with the house on the left escaped the blaze, is the Maples Hotel, where I have stayed overnight in the past following an evening game at St. Mary`s Stadium.

However, there are a couple of reasons why the tragedy has a particular resonance for me. First, of course, it is a tragic loss to the owners of the boatyard and although no lives have been lost, the premises will obviously be unusable for months to come - it is to be hoped that things will eventually get back to normal for the owners and employees working in the boatyard.

Next, the yard was undertaking an extensive refit of the "Medusa" - thanks to a £1million lottery grant. The Medusa is one of only 58 vessels in the Core Collection of UK Historic Ships and has only been seen in public at maritime events with her movements limited mainly to the Solent. The restoration will extend her life by 60 years and allow her to travel further, visiting new audiences at the London Boat Show, around the Isle of Wight, Weymouth, Poole, Chatham, Portsmouth and even docking at foreign ports.
A joint navigational leader for Omaha beach on D-Day, the Medusa marked the route through minefields for the invasion force. Notably, she accepted the surrender of German forces in 1945 at ljmuiden (Holland) and was the first allied ship to navigate the North Sea Canal to Amsterdam. Post war she became a survey vessel and was the last of this class in naval service. In 1968 she was saved from the naval scrap yard by private owners and since passed to the Medusa Trust.

"Medusa" - click to enlarge
The good news is that the Medusa has been saved from today`s inferno and although her engines and other mechanical gear have perished in the workshop which was engulfed by the flames it seems that the restoration of this noble vessel will be able to continue.

Oh...and by the way, the site of the cottage where I spent most of my boyhood is about 100 yards to the right of the Maples Hotel. I could stand at the bottom of our garden and look along to see the activity in the boatyard. The cottage is long gone and now another landmark of my youth is consigned to memory.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mrs. Snopper awakes from a blissful sleep to discover that the clocks have been put back by an hour....and wonders why she didn`t wake up an hour earlier.

Soon she will have the twice yearly ritual of going round the house making sure all the other timers are properly adjusted to the winter timetable. This is no easy feat - we have possibly 15 or so `devices` which require adjusting, from ordinary clocks to things like timers on microwaves, ovens, etc.
But as she is the technician in the house, I know that they will all be running properly to time by about this time tomorrow, leaving me only to look after the clock in the car. Now, I have struggled in the past to understand not only the instructions in the car`s manual but also the physical act of changing the clock in the car....so I have hitherto declined to make the adjustment and left the car clock alone.

This approach has had the distinct advantage of saving me an awful lot of trouble and confusion whilst at the same time leaving me with the full and certain knowledge that, for the next five months of the year, the clock in the car will be an hour fast. I know that - no-one else needs to know what the time is in my car - so what difference will it make if I don`t bother to change it?

Thankfully, the computer seems to have changed itself.....but then it always did know more than I did anyway. It just remains for me to look forward to that cheerful last Sunday in March, when the clocks get changed again (well, some of them) and we can `leap forward in Spring` once more. Dormice don`t have these problems - they`ve got it sussed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I have nothing personally against any particular Scottish person - in fact, some of my fondest memories are of notable Scots over the years. Perhaps the most notable was Chic Murray -("My parents didn`t understand me - they were Japanese!") and I have reason to be grateful to Gordon Strachan for giving Southampton FC some of the best years of their lives.

But I have noticed that the Scots seem to be taking over our lives down here in England. We have a Scottish Prime Minister, a Scottish Chancellor of the Exchequer, a Scottish Armed Forces Minister, a Scottish International Development Minister and countless others in various governmental posts up and down Whitehall. Perhaps the most striking of this tartan army is the Speaker of the House of Commons - one Michael Martin who supposedly presides over events in the mother of Parliaments.

No wonder Speaker Martin looks pleased with himself

Now, Scotland - like Wales and Northern Ireland - has its own devolved Parliament whereas we in England have no such luxury. And what expensive luxuries they are. The buildings, the elected representatives, their staff and support structures cost an absolute fortune and now in Scotland where the powers of the Scottish Parliament are greatest they introduce measures which benefit only their own constituents including, among other things, free student fees, free care for the elderly and, most recently, free prescriptions for everyone north of the border.

Don`t get me wrong - I don`t mind them doing all of that - good luck to them - but I get miffed when down here in England we are not only denied such facilities for ourselves but also we are paying for their privileges in Scotland through the block grant approved by the Scottish dominated UK government.

I promise I have not drifted into the politics of envy......just the politics of resentment and it`s about time someone in government did something about it. Oh, hang on a minute, they`re all Scottish, aren`t they?

Monday, October 22, 2007


Of course, I may have missed it, but I saw very little yesterday to mark an event which took place 300 years ago to the day, but one which gave rise to a real sea change in maritime history. In fact, the only reference I caught was on the local regional news for the south-west of England. What was it then?

It was a shipwreck off the Isles of Scilly at about 8.00pm on 22nd October, 1707. Not just any old shipwreck, but the loss of five ships and over 2,000 lives, including Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel (pictured) when his fleet returning home from an abortive attack on Toulon fell victim to a combination of two deadly factors.

The first was the weather, which can be lethal in the western approaches as it was that fateful evening. The second was the problem of navigation at the time. Now, north-south navigation was no problem, using the stars, but east-west navigation (longitude) was very hit and miss and Shovel and his comrades were far off course when they foundered on the deadly rocks off the Scillies. This massive loss of life and ships, which included the flagship `Association` gave rise to the Longitude Act, by which a prize was offerred for the invention of a reliable instrument to provide accurate longitudinal bearings at sea in all weathers.

After years of painstaking work, the prize was won (after a lengthy stewards inquiry) by John Harrison - another story in itself. There is little doubt that the incentive to resolve the longitude problem came directly from the events of 300 years ago yesterday and led on to securing Britain`s maritime supremacy for years to come.

Harrison`s H4

As to Shovel himself, it is said that he was alive, at least barely, when he reached the Scilly shore but was murdered by a woman for the sake of his priceless emerald ring. The murder came to light many years later when the woman, on her deathbed, confessed his murder to a clergyman and produced the stolen ring which was returned to Shovel's heirs.
Now, I have always enjoyed reading the novels of Robert Goddard and it was quite by chance that I saw his latest book on the shelves of a local shop about three weeks ago. Strange to say that `Name to a Face` uses the tale of Shovel`s ring, its history since the events all those years ago and spins a fascinating yarn around the effects it had on the lives of those involved. The fiction is fascinating....but the truth is stranger still.

Such a shame that the anniversary of the events of 1707 seem to have been passed over, for they were the catalyst for a turning point in maritime history which should not be forgotten.


So, a week of high hopes and expectation came to a grinding halt . A week ago, we thought we might qualify for the finals of the European Football Championships, win the Rugby World Cup and see Lewis Hamilton win the F1 Drivers Championship at the first attempt.

In chez Snopper, the failure of our footballers has been received with mixed feelings, the close run thing that is Lewis Hamilton with indifference but the gallant defeat of our rugby team has produced feelings of disappointment but also of pride in the team, the management but perhaps most of all in the dignity with which the defeat was accepted. Truly, the rugby world is a million miles away from the avarice of `soccer` and the political incorrectness of Formula One.

But it hasn`t been all bad. Southampton FC came through a harrowing game against Cardiff City, live before a world-wide Sky audience yesterday with a narrow 1-0 victory, all this despite having no less than five centre backs out with various injuries. And just this afternoon comes news of a possible takeover of the club by a mystery investor who is willing to pump large sums of money into improving our fortunes.

Mystery does indeed surround the identity of this potential saviour - Ray Ranson and his consortium have been suggested - but my sources close to the white heat of the Southampton boardroom suggest that the investor is, in fact, female. My money is on JK Rowling.
(JK Rowling exudes satisfaction at prospect of elevation to Sainthood)

Well, "Harry Potter and the Stadium of Dreams" does have a ring to it. So, after a few days of disappointing results for our national `heroes,` once again Saints FC make it possible to give a shrug to the world, breathe `Oh, well` once more and look forward to a future full of mystery and bewilderment.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Our Travel Correspondent reports

For someone who doesn`t `do` international travel, Snopper came mighty close to it on Wednesday evening when he was seen at the arrival area in Gatwick`s South Terminal.

When approached by the waiting media as to the reason for his presence, it was quickly established that he and Mrs. Snopper were there to meet Hamburg based family members who were visiting for a few days. Asked what he thought of his terminal arrival experience, Snopper was quick to confess some bemusement at the demeanour of passengers as they emerged into the arrival meeting area.

"They don`t half look miserable," he said. "Just look at the state of them - trudging along, pulling their rolling luggage pieces behind them, making that awful kind of scraping noise as they go, half of them on mobile phones as they trudge along, some dressed in shorts and t-shirts, so it`s obviously a fashion wasteland....and then there are these people waiting for some of them holding up cards with names on. It`s just a sad shambles."

Snopper was equally unimpressed by the exhorbitant car parking charges (£3.90 for 45 minutes stretched even Snopper`s resources) but it seems the whole experience has made him even more determined to avoid having a passport, thus - in turn - leaving the question as to whether to leave his fingerprints to medical science once again on the back boiler.

It remains to be seen if the return visit for the return flight this weekend will lessen the tension, but travellers can expect some delays as the ant-rant squad again provide increased security during Snopper`s visit. Well, the travelling public do need to be protected from such negative outbursts, don`t they?

Thursday, October 18, 2007


So, the BBC have to find savings of £2billion due to the fact that the licence fee increase was not as high as they would have liked. Not sure that`s quite right. I suggest the BBC should find savings of £2billion anyway, as it is obvious that they are overstaffed, overmanaged and out of touch with reality - a condition which affects organisations who can (until now, at least) simply levy the money they need on a hitherto compliant public.

There are countless examples of where the BBC can save shed loads of our cash - it`s ours, of course, because we have no alternative but to pay the licence fee whether we watch or listen to the BBC anyway. One example came to light this morning - Radio 5 Live are sending Nicky Campbell (pictured) off to Paris for the weekend so he can `present` his radio show direct from there in the build up to the Rugby World Cup Final.
Irrespective of the army of BBC staff, presenters, technicians, etc. who have already been there for the duration of this tournament, maybe a good place to start on the efficiency savings would be to cancel Campbell`s jolly. Perhaps Campbell wouldn`t look so pleased with himself.....and don`t get me started on Jonathan Woss, Wogan, Norton and all the rest.......

We are being threatened with reduced services, poorer technical quality and more repeats, all of which sounds a bit spiteful, a bit spiteful, a bit spiteful... Why should the viewing and listening public be made to put up with these measures, when there are many, many opportunities for the Corporation to achieve the financial constraints placed upon them by good, prudent, realistic, proper firm management.

They must take us all for mugs. Oh, hang on a minute - that`s something else that might be for the chop? Every little helps, they say.


So, England`s overpaid, millionaire, posing footballers fail yet again. A 2-1 defeat in Moscow last night reduced England`s chances of qualifying for the finals of the European Championships to a thread and we now wait to see if Russia can beat Israel away to secure our fate.

The blame game (at which we must lead the world) is now in full flow, but the reputation of England manager Steve McClaren is not helped by his insistence that the referee was at fault for the penalty award, the artificial pitch didn`t help, key players were missing through injury and there was an `r` in the month.

Sorry, Steve - won`t do. The players lost it - they weren`t good enough on the night - the tactics once we went a goal behind were of the `no change, it`ll be alright` type and, credit where it`s due, Russia looked like they cared just a bit more than we did.

So, on to Tel Aviv and I`m left with the dilemma as to whether to be patriotic and start supporting Israel or, just as tempting, hope Russia pull it off and consign this failed bunch of players and management to history so we can start again.

Never mind, Steve - keep smiling. It`s not your fault, is it?.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


You know the old saying - that soccer is a gentlemen`s game played by hooligans, whilst rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen.

There`s a lot of truth in it, from the attitude of each game towards players` injuries to the contrasting respect shown towards opponents.

But the greatest difference is in the players` behaviour towards referees, linesmen, touch judges and other layers of `authority` within the respective games.

As a former soccer referee, I can claim first hand experience of the verbal abuse, the questioning of decisions and the intimidation involved. Okay, the stuff I refereed wasn`t of a high standard (neither was my refereeing, I guess) but it seems that the higher the standard of football, then the higher the level of disrespect shown by players towards match officials. You only have to watch the Premier League on television to be left in no doubt about the constant harrying, arguing, dissent and bad language used by players in what is perhaps misguidedly called `the beautiful game.`

Now, of course it goes on in cricket with the sledging of opponents but at least in that game there is a total acceptance of the decisions made - right or wrong - by umpires and a general level of respect shown towards them.

I have never played rugby - never had the opportunity, I suppose - but I have been an ardent watcher of the game since the days of going to Blackheath just to see Ken Jones of Newport, and I also go back as far as G.McG K Kendall-Carpenter, Dickie Jeeps, the great Welsh teams with JPR, Gerald Davies, Bob Norster, Phil Bennett and the England teams over the years. Why, I even remember seeing that great former employee of Southampton FC, Sir Clive Woodward, partnering Paul Dodge as centre three=quarters.

And throughout all that time, the one thing that has impressed me more than any other is the attitude of the players towards the match officials. No arguing - an immediate concession of 10 metres if you do - only the captain allowed to speak to the referee, the players calling the referee `Sir` and a total acceptance of all decisions. Of course, rugby is not without it`s bad moments - it`s the ultimate contact sport and heaven knows what goes on in the secret conclave of the scrums, especially when the Pontypool front row were around - but by and large the aggression is controlled and policed by the match officials and accepted as such.

The hooligans game has a lot to teach the one played by its namesakes and it`s high time the soccer authorities took notice. Oh, hang on - the Football Association are going to experiment with the `only the captain speaking to the referee` rule.....but only in grass roots amateur parks matches next year. They should be introducing the hooligan game rules at all levels straight away. Pity they still have so much to learn from the gentlemen.
(click to enlarge)

Sunday, October 14, 2007


The picture on the right is Sir Ian Botham, proudly displaying the badge of honour he received from the Queen at Buckingham Palace last week, when he formally became a knight of the realm. And seldom has the honour been more deserved, not just for Botham`s career as England`s finest all round cricketer of the last century but also for his unstinting efforts in raising millions of pounds for the leukaemia charity that he has supported for years.

So, congratulations all round for Sir Ian has truly arisen and been recognised as an awesome talent and an unforgettable personality, which continues to shine through his cricket commentaries and his seemingly endless (in both senses of the words) charity walks.

One`s mind inevitably goes back to that compelling Test series against Australia in 1981, when Botham was the main reason for England`s victory. But there were other heroes too. Maybe their contributions were not so riotously memorable as Botham`s, but they were still vital components in regaining the Ashes. Bob Willis, Chris Tavare, David Gower, Graham Dilley, the captaincy of Mike Brearley.....and then there was Chris Old.

Chris was brought into the team for the third Test at Headingley - his home ground - where it was thought his accuracy and ability to swing the ball late would be a telling factor. And so it proved to be, taking the wicket of Alan Border for a duck and going on to make an equally telling contribution of 29 with the bat when he kept Botham company as Sir Ian powered through the 80s, 90s and on to a memorable hundred.

Chris then kept his place for the fourth Test at Edgbaston, again making useful runs late in the order and taking four vital wickets, including Border again, this time for just two runs. Chris was selected for each of the last two Tests in that six-match series, but had to withdraw on each occasion due to injury. Nonetheless, he had made his contribution towards regaining the Ashes. In all, he played in 46 Tests and 32 one-day Internationals, took 143 Test wickets, scored 845 runs, was one of Wisden`s Five Cricketers of the Year in 1979 and scored the third fastest century of all time - the last 50 coming in just nine minutes. A decent record for a decent man.
But here`s the thing. As Sir Ian Botham continues, quite rightly, to enjoy the acclaim his achievements have merited, what has become of Chris Old? Well, after he retired from cricket, he had a difficult few years but found seclusion and business success in the far west of Cornwall, where, with his wife Letitia, he runs his `Clipper Restaurant` in the peaceful surroundings of Praa Sands and keeps his hand in the game of cricket by coaching in Falmouth.

(click to enlarge)
Praa Sands is a long way from the theatres of Headingley and Edgbaston and far from the madding crowds, but if you are ever that way and you take in the peace and beauty of the surroundings, it might just beg the question as to which of our two heroes is the more contented. See http://www.chrisold.co.uk/ to see what I mean.

The early winter blues have faded away on a day of peerless sunshine. The early morning mist has gone, leaving us to bask in temperatures in the `60s fahrenheit (I`m still using old money, I`m afraid.)
Took Henry for a ramble through the Kentish orchards this morning with the mist slowly rising and a deer being seen browsing the orchards. Managed to scrump a few golden delicious apples, which are very sweet and taste even better as a result of a little light stealing. I think the golden delicious are used to help pollinate the bramleys. I read somewhere that it takes quite a number of `strains` of apple trees to successfully produce bramleys, which I think then go off to Mr. Kipling`s Pie Factory, where they make those exceedingly good apple pies.
It may be mid-October, but if the weather stays like this, maybe the winter won`t seem so long. As I`ve said before, if this is a little global warming then it suits me fine. Have a nice day.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Here in the Garden of England, we are perhaps unprepared to suddenly becoming the focus of national - perhaps even international - scandal. But in the last couple of days, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
There`s probably no need for me to repeat all the unsavoury details here, but just to emphasise the fact that at least 90 people have died over the past couple of years as a result of contracting the `superbug` c. difficile whilst they were patients in Maidstone hospital. The number of patients who caught the bug but survived runs into hundreds.
The standards of hygeine in the hospital have been revealed as nothing short of deplorable - akin to those you might find in some backward third-world country. On second thoughts, that may be disrespectful to any backward third-world country that might be reading this and I mean no offence, but the UK is supposed to be a sophisticated, civilised, caring place....until, it seems, you get ill and get whisked away to hospital.
A couple of things really concern me as a resident living in the `catchment area` (how disarming is that description?) of Maidstone hospital. Now, I must proceed with caution, as there is likely to be a Police investigation as to whether criminal negligance might have accounted for the 90 victims. But it cannot be right for Government targets and financial management to take any sort of precedence over patient safety. As someone put it yesterday, "They`re supposed to be a hospital, not an accountancy firm."
And now we see that the Chief Executive, having no doubt been shown an advance copy of the damning report which revealed this tragic state of affairs, left a week ago by our old friend `mutual consent` and allegedly walked away with a large six-figure settlement. Smacks of a double whammy here - bad enough to be responsible for the seemingly avoidable deaths of 90 people, but the felony is compounded if the reports of the payout are correct.

This is no way to run a railroad and there is rightly a local and national clamour not just for more heads to roll, but also for the equitable safeguarding of taxpayers` money to be restored and - most pressing of all - for the hospital management to get their priorities right.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


What a miserable day! Dull, cloudy, dark and teeming with rain. And with it brings this equally miserable feeling that my Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may be making an early entrance into what looks like being a long winter.

At this time of the year - and especially on days like this - I get filled with the gloomy prospect that there is yet another winter to endure. I love the summers and even if this last summer was disappointing, at least there was daylight well into the evenings. We put the clocks back in a week or two, which means it will be dark by late afternoon - a gloomy prospect indeed.

Maybe I should see someone about it, but I`ve checked SAD out and it seems the only reliable help is to purchase one of those light box things which throw out 10,000 lux and you sit with it on for an hour a day. Hmmm....that could just be more sad than having SAD.

Two things might help me; one is that I`m in good company, for I`ve discovered that Sir Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Gustav Mahler and Natalie Imbruglia (to name but a few) all suffered from SAD too.

The other is the nagging thought in the back of my mind that, rather than actually having SAD, I might - just might - simply be a miserable old sod after all, which in turn could explain my penchant for indulging in volatile rants on these pages. Well, they make me feel better. So there.

Monday, October 08, 2007


With England beating Australia in the Rugby World Cup, our cricketers taking a 2-1 lead in the series against Sri Lanka and Southampton FC winning against West Brom, the last thing I needed to spoil the weekend was for Gordon Brown to call an Autumn General Election.

Can you imagine it? Weeks of political posturing, opinion polls coming out of our ears, nonentity would-be MPs making promises they have no hope of delivering, babies being kissed, non-stop coverage on tv, bookies offering odd odds and all the rest of the stuff that goes on during the hustings. Give me strength!

I guess, from that short litany of election- inspired events, that the most depressing of all would have been the tv coverage. Having lived through Peter Snow and his infernal swingometer I shudder at the thought of the hi-tech gizmos that would have been imposed upon us. And worst of all, the pundits. Those who find it impossible to keep their opinions to themselves. Remember Bob McKenzie and his mates?

Then there is the problem of who to vote for. The candidates - well, on or two of them - come round your house, asking whether you will vote for them in what is supposed to be a secret ballot. I tell each of them that they can rely on my vote and they go away happy and leave me in peace. And once the election is over, you never hear from them again. However, there is someone who caught my eye and who might just represent the rest of the self-serving chancers who inhabit the Westminster village:-

So, Gordon, a hearty sigh of relief that I won`t have to put up with election fever over the next few weeks. Just one snag, Gord - your decision can in no way be described (as you try to do) as being in the best interests of the country; just the best interests of the Labour Party and, most of all, yourself. And so you have shown yourself to be no different after all to your predecessor, but I shouldn`t be surprised - 10 years of spin, deceit and mendacity must be hard to shake off. Maybe, on second thoughts, I might have quite liked an election after all.

(click to enlarge - please!)

Sunday, October 07, 2007


"News has just reached us that Natasha Kaplinsky has read her last news bulletin for the BBC before leaving to join Channel Five, where she will do the same job with less hours but for an awful lot more money."

This - or words to that effect - was a recent item of news on the BBC, who could only muster £175,000 of licence-payers` money a year for poor Natasha, whereas Five are reported to be paying her £300,000.

Now, I have no quarrel with Ms. Kaplinsky, who seems a pleasant enough young lady, but I cannot understand why people like her are paid such huge sums just to read out stuff from an autocue that someone else has written for them anyway.

The age of the celebrity newsreader has been with us for some time now and it astonishes me just how much fame - as well as fortune - they achieve, given the limited impact they have on our lives. Why, one of them, Trevor MacDonald, has even become a knight of the realm! And you can be sure that if a big `story` breaks anywhere in the world, one of the celebrity newsreaders will be sent out there despite the BBC boasting that they have resident reporters stationed all over the globe.
And it seems these days we have to have `sportscasters` to bring us the sports news during news bulletins. Is this because sports news isn`t `proper` news and so can`t be read by the newsreaders? Maybe it`s because the prospect of Natasha bringing us news of, say, the Rugby World Cup might mean that neither the presenter nor the subject matter would be taken as seriously as it should be.

Oh, for the days of Sylvia Peters....or Robert Dougall....Richard Baker....Kenneth Kendall....yes, and Bert Ford doing the weather. Rantus finitus.


At the end of September I was beginning to question my ability to maintain my commitment to the time, expense and sheer physical and emotional effort involved with watching my beloved Saints. This followed a crushing last-minute defeat at the hands of Barnsley.

This reverse was followed by an unlikely but most welcome victory away to Sheffield United who have just come down from the Premiership following their relegation last season.

Things were looking up...or so we thought. Last Tuesday evening, Saints went away brim full of renewed confidence to Preston, who had scored only one goal at their Deepdale ground all season. Saints lost 5-1!!

Now, at the end of my rant following the Barnsley debacle, I suggested that when West Bromwich Albion came visiting I might not be able to resist the temptation to go along. Resisting temptation has never been a strongpoint of mine so yesterday I made the journey for what was likely to be another drubbing, since West Brom were the leading scorers in the league and Saints had conceded more goals than anyone else. On the walk to the stadium yesterday, I mentioned that the crowd had a kind of resigned trudge about them, as if they were expecting the worst. The `march of the masochists` seemed to sum up the mood.

What followed was a real football match - end to end stuff, all out attack by both teams and Saints ended up winning 3-2 before a crowd of almost 22,000. Having taken an early 2-0 lead, Saints almost managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by being pegged back to 2-2 before Stern John gave us the winner. Astonishing. There is a kind of consistent inconsistency about Saints this season - dull it isn`t - but yesterday has now had the effect of making me question my ability NOT to maintain my commitment to the cause.

Martin Luther King`s `infinite hope` is alive and well.....at least for now and I still have a dream.

Friday, October 05, 2007


So is this an Indian Summer? As summer draws to a close people often talk wistfully of the prospect of an Indian Summer. But what do they really mean? Summer in India can be unbearably hot with temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius.

The origins of an `Indian Summer` are uncertain, but it may relate to the Indians of North America, rather than those of the Asian subcontinent. Alistair Cooke, in one of his renowned ‘Letters from America’ suggests that: "During the autumn period, these summer spells of quiet, anticyclonic weather are associated with mainly clear skies and long nights. This leads to plenty of nocturnal cooling and radiation fog forms extensively. The Indians used these periods of poor visibility in the fog to attack white settlers, and there lay the connection."
Whatever the truth may be, I have no doubt that in the next few days someone with a very low carbon footprint will pop up and claim that our current Indian Summer is yet another example of global warming. If the lovely weather we`re having now is what global warming brings, then that`s fine by me. Bring it on! In the meantime, I`ll watch out for dawn raids from across the border in Sussex.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


We`ve got a new neighbour.
Over the last weekend, the family next door brought home their Golden Retriever puppy, named Abby.
She will join an already hefty population of Retrievers in our village. Apart from our own Henry, there is Max, Merlin, Polly, Scrumpy, Elsa, Shane and Wilson - the last two being named after characters in `Shane` the cowboy film.
Henry is well over 8 years old now and has mercifully lived longer than any of our previous three goldies. Holly died from a brain tumour at 7, Botham was also 7 when he was run over by a learner driver whilst he was chasing a squirrel (Botham was doing the chasing, not the learner driver, who was absolved of any blame) and Rupert, also 7, died from pancreatic cancer.
So we hope Henry stays the course - he`s had his problems with a pericardial effusion and arthritis but seems well enough and receives excellent care from Dave Cocker, the vet.
I`m sure Abby will have an enjoyable time with all the others of her breed hereabouts and one thing`s for sure, next door will never be short of a dog-sitter when they might need one.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Thanks to the promptings of one or two friends, I have had the dubious privilege of having not one, but two accounts on Facebook.

Have a look at what it says above - "a social utility that connects you with the people around you." So, these friends of mine signed me up and off I went, delving into the `must have` world that everyone has been raving about.

And what did I find? I found it was inhabited by the same friends I knew anyway and an awful lot of people I had never heard of or met in my life. It got me thinking that if I wanted to connect `with the people around me,` I could use any of the following:-
Private message on internet forum
snail mail
mobile phone
alldis lamp
morse code...and so on....

.....and, who knows, I might even be able to actually meet them and have a real face-to-face conversation. The beauty of each of the above alternatives was that I was able to limit the communication between selected friends and acquaintances without a whole load of complete strangers getting in on the act. I value my privacy. And I really, really don`t need perfect strangers taking it upon themselves to send me `virtual` gifts. Honestly!

So thanks, but no thanks. Quite apart from the fact that there may be cases where Facebook can be a useful form of communication (although I can`t think of any) and despite the fact that it might just be a bit of fun (and I have no quarrel with that either) my experience has left me with the notion that Facebook might just be the last refuge for the terminally desperate. I`m not quite ready to join them just yet......but at least I`ve tried it.

Monday, October 01, 2007


So, yet another hike in the fuel duty came into force today. In the last couple of weeks I have renewed the annual road tax (£165,) renewed the car insurance (£390) and now I face paying almost £1 per litre - well over £5 per gallon - for the petrol. In fact, I heard lunchtime that in rural areas of the south-west, the price has already gone above £1 per litre, bringing particular dismay to people living in rural areas.

I`m not too surprised at the speed with which the price rise has been implemented. A few years ago, coming home from a holiday in north Devon, I needed to get some petrol as I knew we had to cross Exmoor and I didn`t know when I might find the next garage. So I had no choice but to pay the £1.13p I was charged at the only garage in Lynmouth...and I`ve never been back there.

Now, the Government say that today`s rise in fuel duty was signalled in the Budget some months ago; that there will be similar hikes next year and the year after that and so on....all because of the need to limit the use of road transport so as to reduce carbon emissions, tackle global warming and save the planet. So that`s alright then.

Sorry, Gordon, I don`t believe it. I`m sure it`s yet another in HM Gov`s clamour to raise more revenue. I wouldn`t mind so much if they were honest about it, but let`s be clear - we are already taxed higher than any other country in western Europe (at least France did away with the road tax licence when they put up their fuel duty); if you`re well off, another 2.3p (inc. VAT) on the price of a litre of petrol won`t make any difference to you and the fact that at least 70p - possibly more, I don`t have the figures - of the cost of each litre goes to the Government is nothing short of outrageous.

But the main point is that from now until the same time next week, another coal-fired power station will have been commissioned in China. I`m sure they will stop and think about the efforts we`re making here before they build any more - not!

There are times when my optimism glass is half full and times when it`s not. Right now, faced with the ever increasing cost of my essential motoring, I feel I`m running on empty.