Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I hesitate to get into the furore surrounding the antics of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand - for various reasons. The first is that I avoid watching or listening to Ross if at all possible. He can`t sing, can`t dance and he ain`t funny, so I see no point in tuning in to his programmes. As for Mr. Brand, I have never actually seen or heard him perform apart from witnessing his part in the recent anti-Manuel japes, which hardly qualifies me to comment on him either.
However, it seems that between them, these two have upset not only Andrew Sachs, his granddaughter and the rest of his family, but also a hefty chunk of the listening/viewing public, the Prime Minister, countless back bench MPs, almost the entire written press, Friends of the Earth, the Flat Earth Society and no doubt Joe Kinnear, who may now have to revise his own colloquial vocabulary for fear of being left behind in the colourful language stakes.
But I suggest that the `real issue` - if there is such a thing in something so banal - is that, like Ashley Cole at Wembley, Ross and Brand have long been perceived as overpaid, underwhelming, arrogant, laddish poseurs by a large chunk of the population who have now jumped on the opportunity presented to them to voice their disquiet at what the two of them represent. Quite apart from their anger at the Brand/Ross broadcasts, there is a simmering discontent at the hopelessly unrealistic money paid to them by licence fee payers who have no choice but to cough up.
As Ashley Cole discovered, one slip is enough to trigger the pent up frustration of a large slice of the audience and, now that they have been suspended by the BBC, both Ross and Brand may soon discover the consequences of an own goal of their very own making. Meanwhile, people are having their homes repossessed, people are losing their jobs, people are being killed in meaningless conflicts and Saints find themselves firmly in the relegation zone after last night`s draw with Coventry City.
Against this contextual backdrop of more pressing concern, would it really matter if Ross and Brand were `released from their contracts` and never heard ever again? Or Ashley Cole for that matter? Somehow, I doubt it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I have always felt that, like time being the most precious commodity, children are the most precious gift anyone can ever have. And the abuse and mistreatment of children is for me, therefore, the most outrageous and unforgiveable crime anyone can ever commit.
I heard on the news reports yesterday and had it confirmed in today`s newspapers of a case of the most tragic and dreadful death of an innocent 16-months old little girl at the hands of her brutish father. Little Amy Howson stood no chance against months of repeated onslaughts by her father, James, who was jailed yesterday for 22 years for finally ending Amy`s short life of unabated terror by snapping her spine across his knee. It`s almost unimagineable that such things can happen in our so-called `civilised society.`

There are few things in life that bring a lump in my throat and tears to my eyes, but this episode brought both, along with the twin responses of compassion and anger. Compassion for Amy, of course, and anger that her father will one day be free to walk the streets of this country again. I don`t mind confessing that I sometimes wear my heart on my sleeve and that this ghastly tragedy was one of those times. I defy you not to be equally touched and angry too. Sometimes it`s ok to let your feelings show. Especially where children are concerned.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Clocks go back an hour tomorrow night. Conjurs up thoughts of dark days, winter and discontent. There seems to be a lot to be discontented about right now, such as:-
- Economic downturn
- Rising unemployment
- Rising energy prices
- Seve battling with yet another operation today
- Halloween just around the corner
- Bonfire night
- Children in Need
- Saints going from bad to worse
The list could go on. I was told recently that my Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which begins to kick in at this time of year, is no such thing. It has apparently been shown that this `syndrome` doesn`t actually exist but is merely an excuse for people - like me - to be miserable. OK then, I`ll try and turn one or two things into positives. Like the impending nonsense of Halloween. I`ve bought a bag of goodies just in case, but this year when my doorbell rings and I`m confronted by a gang of kids demanding, `trick or treat,` I think I`ll just say, `Can I have the treat, please?`
Saints have today sent their leading goalscorer, Stern John, off on loan to Bristol City until January. That makes three international strikers now on loan from Saints to elsewhere - Marek Saganowski to Aalborg in Denmark and Gregorsz Raziak off somewhere else. All apparently to reduce the wage bill and avoid administration, when all it will achieve is yet more relegation and further disenchantment among the supporters. I`ve given up, because there isn`t a bright side of St. Mary`s to look on any more.
A bit of good news is that Henry, our faithful retriever, is no worse. Yesterday`s visit to ace vet, Dave Cocker, revealed that a bit of the fluid around Henry`s heart has dispersed, which makes him feel better and so he is enjoying a bit of life at the moment. Trouble is, it`s a day-to-day thing and we know he won`t recover and we know he has reached the limit of his medication. As I have written this ramble, the sun has come out. Things might not seem so bad after all? Well, maybe.......

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My next door neighbour is a good golfer. He has to be in order to buy clubs like the one shown above. He has treated himself to a couple of these Benross VeloCT ones - a driver and a 3-wood. And he has let me borrow them for my round of golf this afternoon at Hever Castle.
It`s perfectly obvious that he has never seen me play otherwise he might not have been so generous as to allow me to `run them in` for him. You see, my own golf equipment is a bit like me - old, scuffed around the edges, out of date, but still capable of giving golf balls a jolly good thrashing. I did enquire whether his new clubs were insured. He was non-commital but muttered something about an excess. All of which makes me wonder whether I shouldn`t leave them in the bag and revert to my own woods, which really are made of wood. They have helpful messages on like `This Side Up` and `Hold This End,` which seem to be missing in modern day golf equipment. I wonder why.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yesterday lunchtime, the steel city derby took place between Sheffield Wedndesday and Sheffield United. It was a gruelling encounter, as most derby matches are and ended in a narrow 1-0 win for the Owls of Wednesday. Playing his heart out for the Blades of United, was James Beattie, once of Southampton, once of Blackburn, Everton and England.
After the game, Beattie made the long journey back to Southampton to take part in a charity fashion show at the Botley Park Hotel. The photo, courtesy of the Daily Echo, shows James and his wife, Sarah, on the catwalk, where they were joined, among others, by two other former Saints strutting their stuff, Francis Benali and Matthew Le Tissier.
The show raised thousands of pounds for the charity which helps sick children set up in memory of Sophie Barringer, who tragically lost her brave battle with cancer aged just six. James and Sarah Beattie are patrons of the charity after being touched by Sophie when she was a matchday mascot at St Mary’s Stadium.
After the event, James had to return to Sheffield to prepare for tomorrow night`s game against......Southampton, of course. But setting football to one side, what a pleasure it is to record the efforts of one player who went out of his way on a gruelling day to do his bit for a cause that has touched him, his wife and the local community so deeply. I suspect Beattie`s heart may still reside on the south coast but even so, his effort stands out as a beacon of hope in a profession which does not always endear itself. Pity he`s not still playing for us.


.....Well, they probably are if you`re one of our 658 Members of Parliament. It seems that while the real world concerns itself with the economic downturn, the threat to jobs, homes, savings, pensions and prospects, our MPs have been told they can now look forward to a 24-day Christmas holiday. Of course, they already have their generous salaries, allowances, expenses, subsidised travel, catering and all the rest and now their absence from Westminster from 18 December to 12 January comes on top of a 10-day break in February, a 17-day break at Easter, another 10 days at Whitsun and no less than 82 days for the summer recess.

Sour grapes? Maybe. But I do get a little tired of shelling out a small fortune in tax and not getting very much value for my money. There are exceptions, of course, with some MPs studiously working hard on our behalf, but that is no more than should be expected for the rewards of their office. I may have to include my own local MP in that exception, for an exchange of correspondence I had with him earlier in the year produced the assurance that, during the long summer break, he would be having two weeks holiday with his family but the rest of the time he would be diligently pursuing the interests of his constituents, myself included. So that`s alright then.

Now, there are those who may suggest that the longer MPs are away from Westmister, the better. And there are others - among them some MPs themselves - who believe they should spend more time there than the current holiday schedule allows.

But I wonder if an answer may lie in the notion that there are simply too many of them - do we really need 658? - and that if they are only sitting in Parliament for 150 days in the year, then maybe their self-awarded salaries and other benefits should be scaled down proportionately. Trouble is, they are the ones who decide and whilst some of them may indeed be turkeys, they`re hardly likely to vote for Christmas, especially as they`re not going to be there anyway.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

So, the reports of the marriage split between Guy Richtea and Primadonna appear to be true.
I recall their marriage a few years ago in Skibo Castle, which was yet another in a seemingly endless series of publicity stunts to which we have been subjected for most of the good lady`s 50 years. So I`m not surprised at these latest developments.
What has come as a surprise, however, is that one of Madge`s complaints is that the couple have not had sex for 18 months. If I were Ritchtea, given that his wife can`t sing, she ain`t pretty and is a little too far up herself for her own good, I wouldn`t blame him and would consider it a happy release.
I just feel sorry for the kids - especially the obligatory celebrity adoptee plucked from obscurity in his native Africa only to find himself in a different kind of jungle.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I hope you will forgive me, but I read something today that made me think, "I don`t believe it." Deep in the tranquil backwaters of Hertfordshire, there is an area which includes places like Rickamnsworth, Chorleywood and Sarratt, the latter being featured by guest appearances in John Le Carre`s spy novels. The district council which administers the area and the 86,000 people who dwell therein goes by the name of Three Rivers District Council after the rivers which flow through the area - the Chess, the Gade and the Colne.

The council has as its Chief Executive one Dr. Steven Halls who is paid £116,000 a year despite reducing his working week from five days to four, so he can `improve his work/life balance` and so that he can `indulge in his love of music` and other interests, including his work as a magistrate. Dr. Halls lives as far away as Nottingham, from where he commutes each working day to the Three Rivers offices in Rickmansworth - a round trip of close on 150 miles.

Now, I hesitate to pass any judgement here simply because I have only read the reports and confess to knowing nothing about the good Doctor and even less about Three Rivers and its seemingly peaceful, tranquil, prosperous, not-much-happening way of life. But there are a couple of general principles that may seem not quite right here.

The first is that it must surely be right for the chief executive of any local authority to live at least close enough to his/her area of responsibility so as to be able to respond quickly in times of crisis or disaster. But more to the point, whatever happened to the old fashioned management notion of leading by example? I have long held the view that the head of any organisation should lead it in a way that inspires confidence and commitment in others and I would imagine that would be hard to do unless one was fully and demonstrably committed to the cause oneself.

Dr. Halls` deal was reportedly prompted by fears that, after five years in the job at Three Rivers, he might be tempted to find work closer to his home. Quite unfairly, I just wonder whether those fears are expressed rather more forcibly by the good citizens of Nottingham than the council tax payers of Three Rivers. But then, I don`t believe it, do I?.

After six months of suffering from his dilated cardiomyopathy heart problem, our faithful and much loved retriever, Henry, is now taking the strongest medication available in an attempt to shift the build up of fluid around his heart.
For all that time, he has been on varying degrees of medication which has grown steadily until it has now reached no less than 19 pills each day. That cannot be good for him even though he still manages to get some enjoyment out of life.
Our last visit to ace vet Dave Cocker yesterday saw him prescribe the strongest available dosage to try and help the problem, but it seems that each time the dosage is increased, Henry improves for a while, but then slips back. This time, we are hopeful that the latest dosage might stabilise things for a while longer but, if not, then in all probability, there may be nothing more to be done for Henry. What we won`t allow is for him to suffer in any way, having said which it is, of course, very distressing. We had three golden retrievers before Henry, who has been with us for getting on for 10 years. We lost the others rather suddenly, for various reasons, but Henry`s problems have been draw out over months, which seems to have made it worse for us as well as for him. As I said before, it ain`t easy. And it hurts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yesterday, I complained about the world being cruel to Gordon Brown because, however well he might do, he will always be shadowed by the murky history of New Labour`s unforgiveable past. Well, on reflection, maybe the world isn`t so cruel to him after all.
Now, I can`t think of many sporting heroes who are instantly known the world over by something less than their `proper` name. "JPR," the incomparable Welsh rugby full-back was one, of course. So too is "Seve."
Severiano Ballesteros lies seriously ill with a brain tumour. Now that is cruel. For here is a man of instinctive charm, towering talent and a charisma which endeared him to countless millions who love the game of golf as well as those who have never raised a club in anger. It really doesn`t seem fair that he should now, at the age of just 51 and with a lifetime of achievement behind him, face the prospect of such a daunting battle.
As one whose own golf borders on the hilarious and could not possibly be any further away from the genius of "Seve," I can but humbly and simply wish him well for a full recovery.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Life can be hard at times. Just think of poor old Gordon Brown. He seemed to be having `a good war` with his plan to revive the faltering banking industry finding general approval both at home and abroad. As a result, his poll rating has been on the up.
But, just as he begins to bask in the glory - reflected or otherwise - a couple of wounds from the past seem to be festering once more.
The first is the revelation that, despite what former PM Tony Blair had to say at the time, there now seems to be evidence to suggest that he ordered Ministers to find a way of excluding Formula One motor racing from the ban on tobacco advertising, whilst at the same time denying he had any involvement. Today, even Speaker Martin has raised his eyebrows at the allegations and it seems that an inquiry of sorts may be likely.
And then also today we have the spectacle - there really is no other word for it - of Peter Mandelson, the Dennis Wise of the Labour Party, being sworn in as a member of the House of Lords as Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the County of Durham. Catchy, eh? Oh, yes, and he will continue to be paid by the EU (actually by taxpayers) for another three years despite having given up his job as Trade Commissioner to make up the difference between his salary for that job and the one Gordon gave him last week. He will also receive a relocation allowance to help with the move from one job to another.
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So whilst the outlook for the innocent thousands directly affected by the financial shenanigans of recent times is decidedly grim, the future for Mandelson and the faithful Reinaldo seems brighter than ever. You really couldn`t make it up.
Whichever way Gordon`s financial recovery package works out, it seems that in this cruel world, there will always be sceptres of Labour`s murky past from which there can be no escape, either for him or the rest of us.
This is a picture of one Kris Boyd, who plies his trade as a footballer for Rangers up in Scotland. I don`t know much about him, but I have gleaned that he is 25, has scored 54 goals for Rangers in 82 appearances and seven goals for Scotland in 14 games. He also scored 63 goals for Kilmarnock before moving to Rangers, all of which currently makes him the second highest goalscorer in the history of the Scottish Premier League. By any benchmark, a thoroughly enviable reputation.
So perhaps one can begin to understand his disenchantment with Scotland manager, George Burley, for whom Boyd has said he never wants to play again all the time he manages Scotland. For Burley, you see, has left Boyd on the bench for at least the last two of Scotland`s World Cup qualifiers, whilst the players he has selected have elevated underachievement to an art form, culminating in Chris Iwelumo`s spectacular miss from about 4 inches in Saturday`s goalless draw with Norway.
I`m not gloating - honest, I`m not. I sincerely wish our Caledonian friends best wishes in their footballing endeavours. But I can`t help a kind of inward smirk at the antics of manager Burley, who until a year or so ago was manager of my beloved Saints. Now, at the time of his departure there were rumblings of serious discontent among the St. Mary`s faithful not only at the lack of results but also the lack of any touchline initiative - never mind `passion` - from Burley.
So we could hardly believe our good fortune when Burley was offered the Scotland manager job. We made noises about how sorry we were to see him go, but couldn`t stand in his way when his country came calling and, by the way, can we please have £300,000 compensation for losing his services? Happily and in all innocence, the Scottish FA coughed up.
`Kris who?`
Burley`s judgement was always questionable, whether it be tactics, recruitment or team selection and these shortcomings are now being exposed on the world stage. Which makes Mr. Boyd`s decision not one of disloyalty to his country, but simply one of shrewd judgement. In the meantime, I imagine he will bide his time until Burley seeks pastures new. He may not have long to wait.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

....that is the question. And I`m not too sure about the answer. This evening, the might of English football recorded an expected 5-1 win over `plucky` Kazakhstan at the new Wembley Stadium.
One of my sons won a competition at work and his prize was a ticket for the match. I did wonder whether second prize might have been two tickets, but I`m sure he enjoyed the occasion in the new £750million home of English football. He, like the rest of the footballing nation, was doubtless relieved by the result, which seemed a long time coming, but finally arrived with a late flourish of goals in the second half.
For me, the most intriguing episode of the game was the hostility shown by the home fans towards Ashley Cole, England`s left back. Cole committed a dreadful error in placing a lazy pass straight to a Kazakh forward who in turn placed it in the corner of the net to reduce the score at the time to 2-1 in England`s favour. Each time Cole touched the ball after that,he was greeted by a cacophany of boos, which went on for most of the remainder of the game.
At first I wondered why. Normally, when a player makes a mistake like that, the loyal supporters do their supporting and encourage the player to get over it. Not this time. Maybe because it was Ashley Cole. Now Cole is one of life`s annoyances. He was perhaps at his most annoying when rejecting an Arsenal contract offer of £50,000 a week by declaring it `an insult.` His subsequent transfer to Chelsea was fraught with intrigue - clandestine meetings, claim and counter claim, court proceedings, fines and appeals; and all because of the transfer of a footballer from one club to another.
And then there is his `lifestyle,` which has always had an air of sham superiority about it; he truly believes he is a bit special and adopts a kind of disdainful pose when `out and about` with his trophy wife, the long suffering Cheryl Tweedy Cole, who has, by the way, just popped up on tv as a `mentor` for would-be warblers in the indescribable X-Factor. Last season, Ashley was at the centre of a disgraceful scene turning his back on referree Mike Riley during a fractious encounter with London rivals Tottenham and there have been tales about alleged excesses involving Cole`s night-time activities, which have put yet more strain on the lovely Cheryl but seemingly not troubling her husband that much.
An understated couple

All very annoying. And the footballing public see all this and begin to react against all the excesses displayed by Cole and his ilk. So when he makes the kind of blunder he made this evening, they seize on the chance to express their displeasure not only at the blunder itself, but at what Cole represents. A man who kicks a football around for more money in a week than they make in a few years. A man who regards himself as above the reach of authority on the field of play and above the need to show restraint off it. So they booed him tonight when Cole presented them with a chance to do so. And I`m not sure I can find it in my heart to denounce them.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Yesterday Kent County Council`s quarterly `free magazine` landed on my doormat along with a deluge of junk mail and the odd bill. Today we learn that Kent County Council`s £50million investment in some Icelandic bank is in peril. Two contrasting days in the public face of this giant organisation, which has an annual budget in excess of £2billion.

Now, I should perhaps declare an interest when talking about Kent County Council. I worked there once - getting on for 50 years ago - for about 18 months, 13 of which I was actively seeking employment elsewhere. What disenchanted me about working there was the stifling bureaucracy, the supression of initiative and the remoteness of the Council from those who paid for it and who were supposed to be served by it. It was a rigid, confined, inward looking organisation and I was glad to see the back of it. Pastures new have rarely beckoned so invitingly.

These days, it seems quite the opposite. It is forever coming up with new initiatives, it is adept at finding bandwagons on which to jump and it has seduced itself into believing that everything it does will be welcomed and appreciated by those who pay for it and are supposed to be served by it. Kent County Council has become a dabbler in things that it should leave to others. Its dabbling has impressed those in charge and they in turn are keen to impress the rest of us with the fruits of their dabbling. Hence the need for its `free` magazine, `Around Kent,` which arrives every few months.

Today, we have discovered the enormous amount of council taxpayers` money squirrelled away in investment banks and the potential loss of the £50million to Iceland brings with it the threat that the long suffering taxpayers will either have to fork out yet more in council tax to make up the difference or face the loss of services which the council provides.

So is this the time for the county council to have a think about what it is doing for us? Should it, for example, have a look at what services it is in business to provide - education, highways, social services, that kind of thing - and think again about dabbling in things like its own tv station, the Turner gallery in Margate, the involvement with the 2012 Olympics and maybe, just maybe, self-publicising, quasi-political, backslapping `initiatives` like `Around Kent,` which gets produced and delivered `free` to 600,000 homes in the county at a cost which is anything other than `free.`
A gloomy outlook
The editor of `Around Kent` - one Shelley Whittaker - has said in her opening column that she would `love to know what you think of Around Kent - write in and let me know.` Well, Shelley, I hope you realise just how tempting that may be. For in the times in which we live, we might just be able to manage to do without it. And maybe in the process take a small step along the road towards cutting out the dubious dabbling and recouping a bit of the missing £50million.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Three years ago, Harry Redknapp finally left Southampton Football Club to return to his `spiritual home` along the M27. His departure followed his presiding over the club`s first relegation from the Premiership in 27 years and failure to regain that status even with the parachute payment.
At the time, we were glad to see the back of `Arry but were left perplexed as to who might take his place.
Step forward Dennis Wise, who had played 12 games for Saints by the time Redknapp had left. Also there at the time was Dave (`Arry) Bassett, like Wise once of Wimbledon and who was memorable for calling the gifted Arsenal player Kanu, `Canoe.` With Redknapp having gone, Dennis and Dave were asked to take the roles of joint caretaker managers until the club sorted out what they wanted to do on a permament basis.
Bassett, to his credit, kept his head down, kept a low profile and got on with coaching the players. Dennis, however, saw this as his opportunity and he was prone to standing in the technical area during games dressed in his Armani suit and giving the impression that he knew what management was all about.
After a while, Saints decided to appoint now Scotland manager George Burley, leaving Wise to shuffle off to Coventry City, for whom he played a few games before reviving his managerial prospects at Leeds. Nowadays, of course, Dennis is - of all things - Executive Director (Football) at Newcastle United, a club awash with intrigue, confusion and demoralisation. They also have Joe Kinnear - also once of Wimbledon - as their very own caretaker manager, who has recently complained that he has been `ridiculed for no reason` by the press. And who is wholly mistaken in that belief.
Meanwhile, Wise continues to be the serial scuffler he always was, the eminence grise in the boardroom, displaying the kind of malevolence that has been a hallmark of his career. As the Peter Mandelson of St. James`s Park, Dennis has come a long way since being rejected at St. Mary`s, where Southampton`s fortunes continue to struggle. But it is at least an honourable struggle and for that alone I give thanks for the close shave we had in failing to be seduced by Dennis and the Armani suit. Southampton, you see, don`t `do` Armani.

Monday, October 06, 2008

My boyhood village of Hythe on Southampton Water stands `between the forest and the sea.` The sea is, of course, the Solent and the forest is the New Forest. In the early days of post-war Britain, it would be hard to imagine a more interesting, exciting choice of venue to grow up in with the waves of the Solent lapping at the bottom of our garden and with the forest on our doorstep too.
I spent many happy, formative days exploring its heathland, streams, woods and glades. Our boyhood days in the forest were captured by Bill Scammell in his poem `Green over Blue` -
The second coming
if there was to be one
took the form of wave or leaf
or swimmable New Forest streams,
a fallen log across
that clear and meditative face.

What can be done with a tree
but climb it? And a rusty yew
that won`t turn into Robin`s bow
or bend across a naked knee,
with hazel arrows, hard to fledge,
cut green and perfect from the hedge?

Boyhood days indeed. The Forest has a long, intriguing and unique history, from its establishment by William the Conqueror as his `Nova Foresta`in 1079 through to the present day. It is nationally important for its flora and fauna but it is perhaps the way in which the Forest has been governed over the centuries that is most telling. It has almost wholly been Crown land and even today, 98% of the Forest is still owned by the Crown.

But the rights of the commoners (turbary, pannage, estovers, marl etc.) by which the people of the Forest have maintained their way of life have been guarded by the Court of Verderers from their offices in Lyndhurst, the acknowledged `capital` of the Forest, whilst the Agisters have looked after the welfare and management of the Forest animals.

These days, whilst those traditional forms of `authority` are thankfully still in business, there is also the Forestry Commission, with responsibilites for the good management of the Forest and, of course, the usual suspects of Parish, District and County council. But more recently, yet another form of authority has arrived on the scene - the unelected National Park Authority. And it is this outfit that is the cause of `down in the Forest something stirs.`

All roads led to Wilverley Plain, near Brockenhurst, on Saturday as the Forest staged one of the biggest protests the area has ever seen. An estimated 2,000 protesters staged a demonstration to show their anger at proposals they claim would destroy their way of life.

The massive show of strength was organised by the newly formed pressure group Forest Uprising, which is battling ideas put forward by the New Forest National Park Authority. These ideas, forming part of the Park Authority`s 370-page long Recreation Management Plan, include creating `dog-free` car parks in the Forest, introducing yet more stringent restrictions on equestrian activities and charging motorists to use the Forest roads. All of which is severely miffing the British Horse Society, the New Forest Tourism Board, local MPs, local councils, residents and businesses. Just about enyone, in fact, who lives, works or visits the Forest for whatever reason.

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Now, it may be that the fledgling National Park Authority is trying to `establish` itself; or it may be that it truly believes its proposals to be in the best interests of the Forest. Either way, it is perceived to be more concerned with the geography of its area of operation (shown in green above) than with the people who live and work in it. Over the centuries, the Verderers, the Agisters, the locally elected councils have all had a part to play in the life of the Forest but the new National Park Authority - perhaps because it is unelected - is struggling to find acceptance and credibility among the local people. And after more than 900 years, maybe their voice should be listened to a little more carefully.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

So, Gordon Brown`s reshuffle has seen the return to Cabinet duty of Peter Mandelson - the Joey Barton of politics. Indeed, Mandelson`s track record of dismissals rivals that of the Newcastle midfielder, so on reputation alone, one is forced to wonder about the real motives behind the move.
Either way, it smacks of desperation. It`s astonishing and not a little offensive, as the qualifications for returning to `govern` the rest of us seem to include a history of discredited failure and a penchant for bringing the game into disrepute. To compound the felony, it seems Mandelson will become a peer of the realm - all ermine, leather benches and late night contentment.
Besides Mandelson, there are reported returns to `government` for other has-beens like Nick Brown (always an intriguing name for a politician these days,) Margaret Beckett and Alastair Campbell. Not so much a reshuffle as a turn by the Blair Cabinet Tribute Band.
But then , of course, the whole business of reshuffles and reorganisations is a well trodden path for the desperate. I`m reminded of the wisdom of Caius Petronius, Roman Consul, who in AD 66 said, " We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising: and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress, while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation."
One thing`s for sure. Confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation are guaranteed with the return of the brown nose cowboy. And Captain Desperate may, like the rest of us, live to regret his return....if he`s not already.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Well, Heathrow`s Terminal 5 turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Architecturally, it might be `interesting` and functionally it might work ok but it`s all glass, concrete and steel and seems to lack any `warmth` or any feeling of being welcome.
Some of the flight arrival info boards were just plain wrong, which added to my first time confusion and I was underwhelmed with the car park charges - £6.00 for just over an hour? No thanks. Maybe too it was the atmosphere that clouded my perception, but the arrivals hall seemed largely to be populated by dark suited men holding up cards with people`s names on, whilst at the same time holding plastic cups of coffee (possibly cups of plastic coffee) and with things stuck in their ears which glowed blue lights every now and then. Most surreal. You can tell I`m from the sticks and from another age - thank heaven.
Maybe the departure bit will be more forgiving - I`ll find out on Sunday - and it may be that. like Portsmouth, Terminal 5 is a better place to leave than to arrive.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Off to Heathrow`s new Terminal 5 later today to meet our youngest son (pictured above) and his wife, along with our two grandsons, aged 7 and 5, who live in Hamburg and who will be staying with us for a few days.

It will be my first visit to Terminal 5 so I`m quite looking forward to perhaps a more civilised and welcoming atmosphere than exists in the other Heathrow terminals, although reports of computer glitches fouling up the baggage handling service yesterday are worrying.

Mrs. Snopper and I don`t do flying - the last time was the helicopter from Penzance to Tresco. It`s not that we have a fear of flying....more a fear of crashing. And I do wish they wouldn`t call them `Terminals.`

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It seems that Cherie Blair is threatening to publish a new book of her memoirs. Entitled `Speaking For Myself,` it is due to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public next month.
To coincide with the publication, Cherie has given a recent interview with the American magazine Vanity Fair. In it, she was asked about her husband Tony`s legacy as Prime Minister, in response to which she replied with a rather extravagant comparison to Sir Winston Churchill.
"He (Tony) was fantastic," she chirped. "I`m sure history will judge him very well. I think he`ll be up there with Churchill."
Now this woman is a judge no less, charged with the responsibility to arrive at rational conclusions based on evidence. Standing by your man is ok if you`re Tammy Wynette but I suggest that the legacy of former Prime Ministers is best left for others to determine.
As for me, I find it hard to draw any kind of credible comparison between a Prime Minister who inspired the nation to victory in a war started by others with one who started a war on a false prospectus in yet another vain attempt to cosy up to George Bush of all people.
Never before has so much nonsense been spoken about someone so lacking by someone so mistaken. Just ask Mrs. Kelly.