Sunday, March 30, 2008

From Paulo di Canio, our Gastronomic correspondent
This year`s annual family lunch saw Snopper being entertained by understanding relatives at the Wealden Hall Restaurant in the sleepy backwater of downtown Larkfield. This establishment, pictured above in a quiet moment, occupies a former 15th century coaching house and has achieved an enviable reputation for its Italian cuisine. Now, as I have reported previously, Snopper doesn`t `do` Italian, French, Indian, Chinese, Thai or anything else remotely foreign. Until now, that is.
During the week, it seems that the restaurant`s menu is intrinsically Italian in its make-up. However, either in a spirit of pandering to the narrow confines of their guests` Anglo Saxon tastes or because they had been pre-warned of Snopper`s arrival, today`s menu also contained a selection of traditional Sunday roasts.
In a surprise reciprocal move, however, Snopper swept caution to the wind and downed a bowl of minestrone soup. This was quickly followed by a hearty helping of roast beef, yorkshire pud and sensible vegetables, so balance was once more restored. If it had been a tennis match, the score would probably stand at deuce, although the determined consumption of the Italianate minestrone might well lead to Snopper`s advantage..

Friday, March 28, 2008

There comes a time when it`s useful to step back and have a careful assessment of the important things in life. One such time came for me late last Saturday night, after I had driven home from Southampton following an afternoon of marked contrasts concerning my `patronage` of my lifelong football club. First, there was the unveling of the superb statue of Ted Bates.....then the football started. It was, frankly, dreadful - both Saints and Coventry scared of losing - no skill - no quality - long, hopeful balls up to ineffective strikers; it was like watching the kind of football I used to play....and no-one in their right mind would ever, ever have paid to see me play.

Today`s defeat at Cardiff leaves Saints one place above the drop zone, facing a daunting last five games with a vastly inferior goal difference and collecting more and more injuries (Jason Euell being today`s casualty.)

But it`s really other things that have come to the fore in my strategic assessment. Considerations such as the distasteful re-introduction of Bradley Wright-Phillips back into the team, despite his (allegedly, even though there is CCTV evidence) appalling behaviour in a Southsea nightclub a while ago (see `EPISODE TWO - COMPOUNDING THE FELONY` which I posted on 9th March.) And then there are the boardroom antics which see a disparate bunch of egocentric attention seekers vying with each other for the privilege (as they see it) of controlling the financial and operational policies of the club and the plc. It`s all very debilitating - for the staff, the fans and, I suspect, the manager and the players, with the inevitable knock-on effect on the field of play.
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And so I look at the invitation I have received to renew my season ticket. Now, I have always felt that the season ticket demonstrates a degree of commitment not just to the club but also to myself - to the extent that, having laid out the investment I will therefore be determined to see the season through; something like an insurance policy. But that is to become hidebound by the investment and, given the fact that the football has become the excuse - as opposed to the reason - for me to have my days out with good friends in old haunts, I`ve decided the time has come to continue my support of the club on my terms rather than theirs.

So, no season ticket for me for next season. Instead, I will `cherry pick` the games I go to see when I want to, rather than feeling obliged to go just because I have a season ticket, even though I may not always feel like it. And, given the probability of relegation to League One (really Division 3) I may even get to Yeovil, Swindon and Cheltenham after all. My support for the club as a spectator and a shareholder will, of course, remain....but with a more flexible, selective and enjoyable approach than I have endured in recent times and I suspect that, as a result, the pilgrimages I do make will be that much richer.


I`ve now come to the end of Claire Tomalin`s excellent biography of Thomas Hardy. It was indeed a triumph of research, interpretation and literary narrative. When I posted my `first impressions` - see `Eyes Wide Open` below - I suspected that my view of Hardy`s work might well be changed by finding out more about the man himself. And so it proved to be, for I was left disappointed at what I had discovered which had the effect of somewhat detracting from the value of his novels in particular. So, I will now try to avoid biographies of my heroes, as I don`t really want my illusions to be shattered any more than the are already. I have now been handed Claire Tomalin`s biography of Samuel Pepys to read, but since I come to it knowing absolutely nothing about the man, thankfully I have no preconceptions to degrade.
It`s reported today that the BBC are to send no less than 437 of their staff to Beijing to cover the upcoming Olympic Games. This marks an improvement over the contingent which was sent to Athens for the last Games, when only 400 BBC staff attended. Could it be that the BBC are aiming to have one BBC staff member for each GB athlete taking part? There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel for licence-payers to the extent that, this time, BBC staff will be flying economy class to Beijing. So that`s alright, then.
I was wrong. Sorry about that - I`ll go and sit on the naughty step. You see, my rant below (THE PIPER CALLS THE TUNE?) contained an inaccuracy, for which I apologise. I stated that there were 10 executives at Kent County Council in receipt of salaries over £100,000 a year. According to today`s report in the `Kent Messenger` there are, in fact, no less than 16. The Deputy Leader of the Council is making a hamfisted attempt to justify the decision not to disclose the identities of the executives in question. He might take a leaf out of Southampton City Council`s book, where they have six `council bosses` earning a six figure salary. Not only are they named, but their photographs also appear in today`s edition of their local paper, the Daily Echo - see
An object lesson in freedom of information - and not an assault in sight. Well, not yet anyway.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


These were the anguished faces of residents in Kent yesterday when the Council Tax bills hit the doormats. My own bill is £2034 for the year, comprising payments to Kent County Council, the local Borough and Parish Councils, the Kent Fire Authority and the Police. Kent County Council make up £1450 of the total, so it`s obvious that questions should be asked about where the money is going.

What we do know is that there are at least 10 `executives` being paid over £100,000 a year by Kent and that the Chief Executive is the highest paid Council official in the country with a staggering £230,000 a year. However, he refuses to say who the other executives are who are in receipt of a six figure salary (despite the fact that it`s hardly difficult to work out) citing the prospect that they may be `open to abuse` if their identities are revealed. Indeed, the Chief Executive himself claims that he `was almost abused` last year in a restaurant. It`s the kind of headline that the Isle of Wight County Press specialises in - "PEDESTRIAN ALMOST HIT BY CYCLIST" was one of their recent gems.

But there is a counter argument, of course, that suggests that it is the council taxpayers of Kent who are being abused by not being allowed to know how their cash is being squandered.

And so to the national scene, where the abuse of the taxpayer is so much worse. Some time ago, the Government very properly - and not before time - passed the Freedom of Information Act, designed, as it says on the tin, to allow taxpayers to find out how their taxes are spent by public bodies, including Parliament itself. For the last three years, attempts to discover the way in which MPs use their taxpayer funded`allowances`have been thwarted by repeated legal action instigated by the MPs themselves. Today we learn that the Speaker has once again appealed against a recent ruling to disclose the spending by 14 MPs from their allowances.

And who pays for the legal action, estimated at over £100,000 involved in this appeal? Why, the very same taxpayers who are supposed to be getting the information which the Speaker and his cronies seem determined to deny. Once again, in the parallel universe of officialdom, it is a scenario which defies not just belief, but also natural justice.

It used to be said that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Well, in some official quarters, the piper seems to play what he wants, whoever might be paying him.

In the meantime, I`m about to embark on an exhange of correspondence with those who demand I pay them £2,034 in the next year to question whether there aren`t areas where savings can be made. I confidently expect evasion, refusal, reluctance and for my intelligence to be insulted yet again. But then we don`t call the tune any more, do we?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Among a weekend of depressing stories, one heartening bit of news came with the announcement that Marcus Trescothick has decided to bring the curtain down on his international cricket career. Strange turn of phrase that. Sometimes, sporting heroes leave the stage after a playing career of much achievement and so their leaving is registered with feelings of regret. Others leave and you can`t wait to see the back of them. I mention no names on that score - they know who they are.
But it`s rare that someone leaves having achieved so much and at an age when so much could still be achieved, that the decision to stop now is met with such universal approval, understanding, thanks and good wishes. Such is the case with Tres, who had been England`s most accomplished and watchable opening batsman over 76 test matches and 123 one-day internationals.
His stress related illness has debarred him from taking part in overseas tours in recent years and his withdrawal at Heathrow en route to the UAE for a pre-season tour with Somerset was clearly the catalyst for his announcement. I think he`s got his priorities dead right - it`s a huge honour to represent your country, of course, but sometimes home and family are more important to the individual....and it`s an individual choice he has made and one which we should gladly respect.
His decision paves the way for him to continue to enjoy his cricket with his home county of Somerset and to have more time at home, where he clearly needs to be. I hope he will be happy continuing to play the game at which he excels and, whilst we may not see him grace the international scene any more, I suspect we will see a more relaxed and even more entertaining and productive Marcus Trescothick on the provincial playing fields of England.
Thanks, Tres, for a wonderful international career and congratulations on a good decision made for yourself and your family. Tres bien

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Well, the picture says it all. The highlight of today was, indeed, the unveiling of the new statue to honour the memory of the late Ted Bates, MBE, who had spent 66 years of his life serving Southampton Football Club. And what a huge improvement the new statue is over the original Krankie-esque effort featured in my earlier rant. So well done to Saints Chairman, Leon Crouch, for once again putting his hand in his pocket and helping to fund the new statue and well done also to the working group of fans who were behind the project. I feel some dignity has been restored - at least off the pitch.

Events on the field of play today are best passed over - a drab 0-0 draw against fellow strugglers Coventry City, left me wondering whether I was watching a game that was either frantically aimless or aimlessly frantic. I sensed that even Nige is getting frustrated with the inability of his charges to pass the ball to one another and I fear that today`s `performance` has only heightened the real prospect of relegation. It just won`t do.
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So, to finish off, here`s another photo of the new Ted Bates statue, the only slightly worrying aspect being the presence of Sean out of EastEnders to the left of the photo.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A year ago almost to the day, this `statue` was unveiled outside the main entrance to St. Mary`s Stadium, amidst a blaze of expectancy. It was produced at a reported cost of £112,000, half of which came from Southampton Football Club and the other half from the supporters.
It was supposed to be a faithful representation of Ted Bates, who had served the club for well over 60 years as player, manager, director and club president. However, the general consensus of opinion was that it didn`t even remotely resemble Ted Bates but that it was, in fact, a faithful representation of Jimmy Krankie. As such it did little to perpetuate the memory of Mr. Bates, who had devoted his life to the club.
Faced with an immediate backlash, the `statue` was quickly removed, since when another has been in the process of a different sculptor. The new one will be unveiled before Saturday`s game against Coventry City and it is hoped that, a year on, the new statue will do justice to a good man, to his family and to those who remember him with fondness and gratitude.
Now, it`s one thing to suffer the embarrassment of being a Saints fan with the antics in the boardroom and on the field of play, but quite another matter when what remains of the club`s dignity is compromised as it was a year ago. So, here`s hoping......

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I was never forced to read Thomas Hardy. At school, I can recall being force-fed on Dickens and George Eliot, but never Hardy. It wasn`t until much later in life that I began to read his novels. It`s possible that their appeal at the time was heightened by the fact that I too am a son of Dorset but haven`t lived in the county since my earliest days, so I might sub-consciously have seen myself as at least a virtual returning native, immersing myself in the places and times that fill his pages.

Thanks to the kindness of a good friend, I`m reading Claire Tomalin`s biography of Hardy and finding it compelling, not just for the narrative but also for the insights and the eye-opening influences which shaped the novels, their `story lines,` their moralities, their prejudices and, of course, the characters themselves.

Now, I`ve recalled here in an earlier post the time I took my youngest son, in advance of sitting his `A` levels, to Fawley on the Oxfordshire downs so that he could experience the true location of Jude`s Marygreen. And I guess that Hardy`s`Wessex` is in my blood, having been born within a stone`s throw of Wellbridge Manor, where Tess spent her first night with Angel Clare and having lived my first days on Portland. So Hardy`s work has always rekindled a feeling of belonging to the places, if not the times, described so vividly in his novels.

And so it came as a surprise - a disappointment even - to glean from Claire`s book that my perception of Hardy as an accurate observer of Wessex, its people and its ways, might have to be replaced by the reality of Hardy`s own experiences having been his inspiration. Claire suggests quite powerfully that the tales, the characters and the places are all drawn from within Hardy`s own life rather than from any sympathetically observed interpretation he might have placed on how life might have been for those people in those places in that far off time. My eyes are being forced open as I read on and whilst I welcome that, there is also the sense that the more I discover of Hardy the man, the more it may detract from my affection for his work, which could be dangerous for me as well as unfair to him.
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Claire Tomalin has also written perhaps the definitive biography of Jane Austen - another of my all-time favourites perhaps for similar reasons to those of my affection for Hardy, for I also have an affinity with places like Steventon, Chawton, Bath and Southampton and I`m not sure I want to see myself questioning Jane`s reputation or her legacy. So maybe I won`t buy it?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oh, dear. Nige isn`t happy. "We were awful. No excuses. If we play like that again, we`ll get relegated," was his verdict following the 5-0 drubbing at Hull on Saturday.

He had the players in for extra training yesterday morning, apparently, but my informant tells me that he was mindful of leaving them in Hull to make their own way back to Southampton. Not sure I could ever bring myself to abandon anyone in Hull. Well, John Prescott maybe....and the lovely Pauline....and the Housemartins. Oh, and the Beautiful South.
On a positive note, however, this was Nigel`s first defeat in six games, so there`s hope for a strong reaction in the build up to the nine-pointer against Chris Coleman`s Coventry City on Saturday. Isn`t there?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ah, how easily the names trip off the tongue - Hartlepool, Swindon, Yeovil, Huddersfield, Cheltenham, Crewe - and how familiar they are likely to become. You see, the football clubs of these provincial towns are neither going to be promoted nor relegated from Coca-Cola League One at the end of this season. And, given the dire straits that my beloved Saints now find themselves in after yesterday`s 5-0 hammering by Hull City, it is highly probable that we will be seeing these teams visit St. Mary`s Stadium next season.

I suppose I should mind more than I do. After all, the fall from the Premiership and an FA Cup Final appearance just five years ago has been spectacular. But, invoking a kind of warped sense of self-preservation, I`ve accepted that we are where we are, so que sera, sera.

Interesting places perhaps to go to next season then. Swindon was the home of my maternal grandparents and my dearly departed mother. The last time I went there was for a funeral....and the time before that was another funeral. Swindon has always had a funereal quality about it. Well, it did provide us with Billie Piper, Justin Hayward, Gilbert O`Sullivan and Diana Dors.

And then there`s Cheltenham, where my youngest son lived for some years whilst teaching at a language school there. I always enjoyed going to Cheltenham - very `nice` with its Regency architecture, its racecourse and the bithplace of Gustav Holst.

But perhaps Crewe might provide the most uplifting cultural experience, for it was here that, in the Thomas the Tank Engine episode, "The Flying Kipper," Henry the Green Engine had major repairs carried out such as changing firebox sizes and different boiler shapes.
Maybe relegation won`t be quite so bad after all.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"It`s a small world....but I wouldn`t want to paint it." So said the legendary Chic Murray.

And how right he was about things that happen to convince you that the world is, indeed, a small place. Just a couple of examples.

I`ve mentioned before that I spent most of my boyhood - my formative years - in what was then the small village of Hythe on the western shore of Southampton Water. I`ve lived in another small-ish village in deepest Kent - 130 miles away from Hythe - for over 20 years. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that our local postman (Ray) also comes from Hythe. I guess we both have walked down paths of life that have seen us both start out and arrive at the same place. Extraordinary.

Years ago, we went on holiday to Poole in Dorset. One day, we decided to take the boat journey across to Brownsea Island. It`s a remote, quiet, beautiful place, made even more so by the absence of people, except those who make the boat journey to get there. We decided to head off the beaten track and found ourselves alone on the south beach - or so we thought. Then I heard voices behind us. And there was a colleague from work - all of 200 miles away - and his wife.....and so there were four of us marooned in each others` company on this quiet shore on a remote island, miles from home. Extraordinary indeed.

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Brownsea Island

But there`s more. Among my e-mails in the last couple of days was one from a guy allegedly researching one of the now demolished pubs I spent some time in during my late teens and another from a chap who was a relief operator of the AKC cinemas in Germany. He was after some information about the cinema I worked in whilst doing my National Service in the green hell of BFPO 16. Why should it be that I hear from people about places I knew nearly 50 years ago? I hope they`re not `spamming` me or my faith in the small world might be destroyed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Arguably, the highlight of Tuesday evening`s game between Saints and Leicester City was not Stern John`s winning goal, but the antics of new manager Nigel Pearson. He`s got loads of passion and commitment, which is most refreshing and it reached its climax after one particularly lax moment of concentration as the chance for a quick throw-in went begging.

Nigel`s reaction was to hurl his bottle of Lucozade Sport to the ground which resulted in an impressive splash as the bottle made its way towards the touchline. He really does look the part and behaves like it too. Constant encouragement, barking instructions and, at the end of the game which saw his first win as Saints` manager, shaking hands with the players, applauding the supporters and putting an encouraging arm around the shoulders of young Simon Gillett - a promising product of our academy who had only come on from the bench with just two minutes of added time left to play.
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Well done, Nige - we like it. But go easy on the Lucozade - after all, we`re trying to stave off administration.


"One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name."

So said Sir Walter Scott - and he was quite right. So, a crowded day must be worth much more. Take Tuesday, for example.

9.00am - a two-mile ramble through the Kentish orchards with Henry, which woke us both up. The pruning of the apple trees seems almost done - a few weeks earlier this year. Buds are well advanced and despite the high winds (which is nothing more than March doing what it should) there are unmistakeable signs of Spring being just around the corner.

1.00pm - hit the M26, M25, M3, A340 and find myself by 3.15 in the remote, silent country churchyard where my grandparents are buried, along with the ashes of my father and two of my aunts. A family grave. A place of pilgrimage. I leave flowers, tidy up the plot, take in the contemplative scene of 700 years of quietude.....and shatter the illusion of timelessness by attempting a couple of mobile phone calls. I should have known better.

Mid afternoon - time on my side. I`m due at Southampton Town Quay at 6.30, so I take the chance to spurn getting back on the treadmill of the M3 and the M27 and instead I head off across country - I`ve decided to go the pretty way.

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Watership Down

So it`s across to Kingsclere, turn left up past Toby Balding`s racing stables (home of Claire, I believe) and climb the hill to Watership Down, immortalised by Douglas Adams. And Mike Batt?
"Bright eyes,burning like fire.
Bright eyes,how can you close and fail?
How can the light that burned so brightly
Suddenly burn so pale?
Bright eyes"

Reminds me of the churchyard I left an hour ago.
But on we go, across the old straight track to Whitchurch with its Silk Mill and my first glimpse of the waters of the River Test, which will also make their way to Southampton Water this evening. A short stretch of the A34 until the sign for Stockbridge encourages me to leave the traffic once more and then the long, arrow-straight switchback A30, past Leckford Hutt to the outskirts of Stockbridge. Pick up the Romsey road and meander down the valley of the Test through Kings Somborne and Brook and into the confusion which is Romsey.
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River Test

A little way outside Romsey, I make the M271, the short motorway down into Millbrook and the suburbs of Southampton....but my peaceful progress through the Hampshire countryside has meant I`ve missed the long term roadworks on the M27 as they turn three lanes into four.

5.30pm. Town Quay. An hour before I meet friends from the Isle of Wight Ferry. I buy the Daily Echo and have my packed `lunch` - albeit a bit late. The sea is quite rough in the cool March gale, but the safe haven of Southampton Water means the ferries keep running - just as well as my season ticket is aboard the Red Osprey (I hope.)

6.30pm. We meet up and walk the familiar route from Town Quay to St. Mary`s Stadium, putting the world to rights as we go. It`s good to talk after the hours of being in the saddle.

7.45pm. Saints kick-off against the foxes of Leicester City...and despite a poor performance in a poor game, claim three vital points in a 1-0 win, thanks to Stern John (he of the grumpy disposition) scoring with a late volley which evaded the despairing clutches of the Leicester custodian.
10.20pm. Have walked back to Town Quay on a bit of a high - it`s been 13 games since Saints` last win - and am relieved to see my car still there. Head back through the city but this time make for the motorways - it`s late at night, not much traffic. Listen to Classic FM, which soothes my passage and arrive home at 12.20am yesterday morning.

Henry - the bookend of my day - welcomes me home, wags his tail, seems pleased to see me, as I am pleased to be home once more.

It was a long day`s journey into night but without any of Eugene O`Neill`s melancholy. Instead, whilst it may not have been everyone`s idea of excitement, it was, for me at least, one crowded day of glorious life and worth an age without a name.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Following on from the disgrace at Bristol Rovers a couple of weeks ago, now comes another episode to deepen the despair at current affairs concerning my football club.
Despite improvements in recent performances under the regime of our new manager, Nigel Pearson, it is deeply sad to report that the reputation of Southampton FC has been tarnished by revelations in the tabloid Sunday press concerning the out of hours antics of two of our players.
If the allegations are true, it seems that Bradley Wright- Phillips and Nathan Dyer have been caught on CCTV cameras in the staff room of a Southsea night club at some ungodly hour, apparently involved in the theft of cash, mobile phones and other items belonging to the girls who work there.
Now these two are receiving (I nearly said `earning`) thousand of pounds a week as professional footballers, so they don`t need the money. The girls, however, are earning just above the minimum wage - just under £6 an hour, so they certainly do need the money.

The club has already taken `strong disciplinary action` against them for breaking club rules concerning social hours and are awaiting the outcome of police investigations concerning the alleged thefts before considering any further action. A sensible position to take.

I find the whole business deeply offensive - to the `victims`, of course, but also to the good name of the club and, by association, those like me who are lifelong supporters. It`s difficult to pass judgment in advance of the police enquiries being concluded, but the CCTV pictures seem to be damningly conclusive. If, therefore, these two are found guilty of being involved in the offences which have clearly been committed, then they have no place at Southampton FC. and whatever their contractual situations vis-a-vis the club may be or their `book value` as assets of the plc, they should be shown the door.

And if that results in relegation, then so be it, for I would rather continue to support an honourable club in the lower reaches of the game than one which puts greater store on money and status than on reputation.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Just seen a bit of the Cruft`s Dog Show on tv and I think it must be one of the most curious events I`ve witnessed. Now, I`m a dog lover - I`ve mentioned Henry, our Golden Retriever, enough times in these pages. He`s nearly nine years old now and for all those years he`s been an important member of the family. Not just as a companion, a friend, but also because it means we get regular daily exercise taking him for his walks, we`ve met many friends in our travels.....and we would not dream of going on holiday anywhere we couldn`t take Henry with us. He`s part of our lives and we`re part of his.

But I`ve looked at Cruft`s over the years and come to the conclusion that it`s little more than a canine spectacle by which dog owners can show the rest of the world just how wonderful their dogs are. To want to show dogs off and - even more sad - to compete with other owners is simply to reduce their canine charges to little more than possessions, which is not what dog lovers are supposed to do.

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(Who`s showing who?)
There`s something of a `covenant` which says that you take on a dog - for life, not just for Christmas - you give it a good, loving home, feed it, look after it properly and, in return, you get years of devoted loyalty, fun and friendship. I just know that Henry would not be interested in or even begin to enjoy anything to do with dog shows - he much prefers a stress-free life exploring the world and sticking to his comfortable routine, in which regard he is a mirror image of his owner.

I look at the dogs at Crufts and wonder whether they would not prefer to be somewhere else, doing what they`re supposed to be doing. But that, I fear, would deny their owners their few minutes of fame, as they try to achieve recognition through the vicarious means of competing with others of a like mind, all of whose canine possessions don`t know what day at is, don`t know where they are or what it`s all about. And probably don`t care too much either.

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"Come on, Henry - time for walkies."

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Now and again, things happen that make me wonder what it`s all about. As predictable as it was, I was nevertheless angry that the majority of our elected representatives saw fit to deny the people, as promised, the chance to have their say on the now discredited Lisbon Treaty.
It`s just the kind of thing that, had it not already happened, would bring politics into disrepute and it got me wondering what `political` decisions taken in recent years I might wish had not been taken. So, if you will make allowances for the fact that I have a mental age of about twelve, here are three very juvenile candidates:-
1. The abandonment of the pledge given in each political party manifesto to `allow` a referendum on the Lisbon `Treaty` (aka Euro Constitution);
2. The decision to go to to war in Iraq on a false and illegal premise; and
3. Alex Ferguson being made a knight of the realm.
Each of the above represent political miscalculations of enormous proportions and I fear we will suffer the consequences for far too long. In fact, I doubt we will ever be able to come to terms with any of them. And it`s really difficult to know which of these appalling bungles was the most catastrophic.
Well, I did say it was juvenile and self-indulgent.....a bit like the majority of our elected representatives.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Well, Nige Listen really. Last night, Saints pulled off a remarkable comeback to claim a point in a 2-2 draw at Molineaux, home of Wolverhampton Wanderers. After going a goal behind, Saints were awarded yet another penalty, again converted by Gregory Vignal. Sadly, Vignal was later sent off for some misdemeanour, the details of which remain obscure but which have given rise to an appeal against his dismissal lodged today with the Football Association. So, two minutes to go, down to ten men, Saints fell behind to bring the score to 2-1 to Wolves. And all this after earlier in the game losing midfield playmaker Inigo Idiakez and goalkeeper Kelvin Davies to injuries meaning that respective substitutes Jason Euell and Michael Poke came on to fill the gaps.
Now, until the arrival of Nige, those circumstances would have seen a collective shrug of the shoulders and an acceptance of defeat. But not last night - four minutes into `injury time,` Euell met a Mario Licka corner with a rasping header to bring the scores level. Wolves fans are sick as parrots, Saints fans over the moon, as things like that have never happened since the glory days of Gordon Strachan`s management.
After the game, this time Nigel was able to give his post match interview and, when asked whether he thought there had been any chance of Saints getting anything from the game after Wolves went ahead with two minutes to go, his answer was, "Do you want me to tell the truth....or do you want me to make something up?"
The more I see and hear of him, the more I like the cut of his jib. Next stop - Blackpool.

There used to be a saying, "Fog in the Channel - Continent cut off." Well, the modern day equivilent must be "Industrial action in Calais - Kent in turmoil."

Yes, folks - thanks to our Gallic brethren once again taking industrial action in Calais, the port of Dover has ground to a halt. In consequence, the ferries aren`t working between the two ports and hundreds if not thousands of articulated lorries are unable to make their journeys back to the continent. So, Operation Stack - the Kent Police codename for turning the M20 Motorway into a lorry park - has again swung into action.

Operation Stack has two Phases, but both see the closure of the coast bound M20 to all traffic apart from the waiting lorries - the majority of which are foreign ones. Phase One sees the closure of the section between Hythe and Cheriton, just outside Folkestone, with the old A20 road forming the alternative route for non-lorry traffic.

Phase Two sees the closure of the whole length of the M20 between Maidstone and Ashford, again with the old A20 providing the diversion. The upshot of all this is that, sometimes for days on end, the coastbound M20 throughout large chunks of the county is closed to `ordinary` traffic. The other consequence being that those villages spread along the old A20 (Hollingbourne, Harrietsham, Chilham and the like) are pretty much logjammed with all the diverted traffic. And all because of some malcontented French `workers` take it upon themselves to go on strike - which is an all too frequent event.

I don`t know what the answer is, but local authorities are considering various schemes to provide an alternative lorry park to using the M20. But I do know that any solution is going to cost the local and possibly national taxpayer a considerable amount, along with some planning difficulties for rural communities.

So it`s a double whammy, merci beaucoup. The inconvenience of denying the use of the Queen`s highway and the prospect of paying through the nose to sort out a problem which is none of our making. Here`s a thought - the Kent Police codename of Operation Stack is disarmingly descriptive, of course, but I`m tempted to suggest they rename it Operation Merde. I`m sure we will be kept fully in formed (sic.) (Click on photos for larger images.)

Monday, March 03, 2008


Well, a week may be a long time in politics but for the footballers of Southampton FC, the last two weeks must have seemed like a lifetime. Our new manager Nigel Pearson (pictured) has clearly got hold of them, told them their fortunes and left them in no doubt as to what`s expected of them and who`s in charge. Just the kind of leadership we`ve been needing for so long.

Saturday`s 1-1 draw against the promotion chasing tractor boys of Ipswich saw a totally different team to the one which struggled to attain mediocrity under the caledonain tutelage of the recently departed George Burley. There was total commitment, non-stop effort, no little skill and huge encouragement from a 23,000 crowd who liked what they saw.

As for our Nige, well, we saw a track-suited figure alone in the technical area for the whole 90 minutes - cajolling, encouraging, giving clear unequivocal instructions, showing a passionate will to win, kicking buckets over,jumping up and down and using the kind of language that footballers understand, however uncertain that may be in the case of our midfield quartet which comprises a Colombian, a Moroccan, a Spaniard and a Czech. There can be little doubt that Nigel is already endearing himself to the approving onlookers.
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Just one problem - by the end of the game, our Nige had shouted himself hoarse and couldn`t do the post match interviews as he had lost his voice. Excellent stuff, Nige - keep this up and we`ll avoid relegation after all - perhaps. Anyway, have these on me - I think you`re going to need them.