Wednesday, December 31, 2008


So, 2008 drifts off into the sunset, like a ship leaving on the evening tide. I guess it must be a function of getting older - to look back rather than to look forward - but I have to confess to viewing 2009 with more than a hint of trepidation. Next July, I reach the dreaded three score years and ten and I`m a bit morbid about that. You see, despite all my grumpiness, which sometimes may verge on the brink of intolerance, about the world around me, I really would like life to go on forever.
It won`t, of course, so I had better make the most of the years I have left. Chin up. Look on the bright side. Always someone worse off than you. Those who trot out the platitudes might be right. After all, 2008 was - how shall I say? - `mixed.` We lost Henry after his long illness, which meant the cancellation of two holidays as he wasn`t well enough to make the journey. Weatherwise, I`m not sure we had a summer....but we sure are having a winter. The wider world continued to disappoint - wars, famine, poverty, credit crunch, greed - all the usual suspects which will keep me posting in the year ahead.
But I enjoyed the Olympics, especially Rebecca Adlington and the wonderful Ellie. I enjoyed, as always, the cricket season. I mourned the loss of Paul Newman and Sydney Pollack. I railed against the excesses of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, the EU, Premiership football and politicians. I enjoyed my dreadful golf, which continues to reinforce my innate stoicism. And I have valued still, the company of good friends and the pride I have in my family.
So, in this my last post of 2008, I wish you well for the year to come. And hope that, after all is said and done, the world is as kind to you as it has been to me. I may be nearing seventy but, as it says at the top, `Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.` That`s right....isn`t it? Please tell me it is.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fed up with the fortunes of Southampton FC going from bad to worse, the fightback has begun with the birth of no less than 14 babies in the City`s Maternity Hospital on Christmas Day. That`s a full team along with three substitutes.
The surge is clearly a reaction to the last gasp escape from relegation nine months-ish ago; and it represents a determination to equip the City and its football club with sufficient assets to mount a determined bid to reclaim the Premiership status for the Saints in about 20 years time. I doubt I will be around to witness it, but it`s something for my children and grandchildren to dream about.
Our picture shows baby Gavin Houldsworth, weighing in at 6lb 11oz, in the arms of proud Mum, Sharon and Gavin is already kitted out with his baby Saints outfit, no doubt already bearing his squad number on the back.
Today was a day of good news and bad news for long suffering Saints fans. A crowd of 20,000 saw the team draw 1-1 with promotion hopefuls Reading, which represented the good news, as we didn`t lose. The bad news is that this result has dumped us next to bottom of the league and, with the worst goal difference in the league as well, Saints are now odds-on candidates for relegation. So, grow up fast, Gavin and get that left foot working. The hopes of a city rest on your young shoulders. No pressure then, Gav.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Boxing Day, everyone. Hope you all enjoyed Christmas Day yesterday and are none the worse for it. Here in Snopperland, we had a very quiet day, the highlight being Mrs. Snopper`s most excellent Christmas dinner, the remnants of which we also enjoyed today. We heard from our three sons in various parts of the world but our small village seemed overcome by a sense of lethargy. Nothing moved. No-one about.
Today, we have taken Barney for a ride in the car, to try and get him used to travelling. It seems to be working. We visited a couple of Garden Centres in the hope of buying one or two vital necessities, but they were both closed. Can`t blame them really, after all even shop staff have to visit the sales.
So today is Boxing Day and it seems to be passing in the same blaze of indifference as yesterday. But it got me wondering about the true meaning of Boxing Day and, after painstaking research, I think I have discovered the definitive authority on all things concerning Boxing Day. This was put together by the pupils and staff at Woodlands Junior School, here in Kent:-
So, well done to them and thanks for bringing some meaning to an otherwise dull and quite forgettable day. And yet, maybe because of, rather than despite all the lethargy, indifference and comotose peacefulness of days like this, I`m left to wonder whether we would not all be better off if every day might be the same.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

At 11.00am this morning, just two days after the shortest day and one day before Christmas Eve, the Annual General Meeting of Southampton Leisure Holdings plc took place at St Mary`s Stadium. Now, I have been a shareholder in said company for some years and a while ago, I received all the stuff giving notice of the AGM and inviting me to attend. I was sorely tempted to take up the offer, but today is one of the busiest of the year on the roads and, as I live 120 miles from Southampton, along with the `pressures` of the festive season, I didn`t really think I could get to the meeting in time, never mind get home again afterwards.

Pity really, as early reports suggest that it was a lively affair with 99% of the assembled gathering vociferous in their condemnation of Chairman Rupert Lowe`s stewardship of the company which owns the football club. Quite right too. For it is Lowe who, through mismanagement, appalling decision making and an arrogance that he is never wrong, however high the evidence stacked against him to the contrary, has brought the football club I have supported for over 60 years to the brink of annihilation. We currently sit just one place above the relegation zone to the third level of English football but, even more worryingly, we also sit perilously close to administration, such is the state of the club`s finances. Nothing to do with the credit crunch. Everything to do with Chairman Lowe.


It`s one thing to support a football team for years on end, through triumphs and disasters, through ups and downs and through all that time to `keep the faith,` for it is my team, my club. On this day five years ago, Southampton were in fourth position in the Premier League, competing with the best, winning more games than we were losing and going on that season to reach the FA Cup Final, when we were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Arsenal. Since then it has been a spiral of decline both on and off the field of play.

And the dark shadow that has loomed over St. Mary`s Stadium - and loometh still - has been Rupert Lowe; responsible for not consolodating our position when he should, responsible for some staggeringly awful managerial appointments (Steve Wigley, Jan Poortvliet anyone?) responsible for frittering away the millions received for such diamonds as Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and a host of others and now refusing to see that his tenure has failed us once again by doing the honourable thing and resigning. He won`t, of course. Too much arrogance for that.

So, whilst supporting my club for all this time has been one thing, it is quite another to be reduced not only to despairing at the state of my club but actually ceasing to really care very much any more. Enough has been more than enough for some time and all I can do is hope that the events of this morning`s fiery AGM (which included one malcontent throwing 30 `pieces of silver` at Chairman Lowe) might just be the catalyst to bring about an enforced change, whether Lowe likes it or not.


As it`s Christmas, I won`t wish Rupert any ill as a person. I just want him to go. Quickly, quietly and finally, so that the dark shadow might at last be lifted.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

4.3 million years of human development. Men on the moon. Secrets of the atom and the universe revealed (even though the jury`s out as to whether there are things smaller than quarks or whether we`re just part of an infinite number of universes.) For all the 4.3 million years, we still have a lot to learn.
So when you look around the world today, you begin to wonder about the state of human development after all these years. Zimbabwe. Darfur. Iraq. Afghanistan. Baby P. Rhys Jones. Credit crunch. Woolworths. Wayne Rooney. The list goes on.
And while this mayhem is all around us, we`re invited to tune in this evening to the final final (possibly) of Strictly Come Dancing, which seems to be a populist candidate for the apex of human achievement. Well, they can`t even get the voting right (reminds me of the EU and Ireland.) As a bystander to the nonsense of today`s world, I will give my apologies for declining the invitation to tune in so I can concentrate on more pressing matters. And I don`t necessarily mean this afternoon`s six-pointer when Saints take on Nottingham Forest at St. Mary`s.
We do indeed have a lot to learn, so no wonder I am overcome by a feeling of despair. The one bright spot on this gloomy horizon is the fact that tonight is the longest night of the year and tomorrow the shortest day. A corner will have been turned, but it may be the only one?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It`s reported today that the BBC has been fined £95,000 for running unfair competitions on two radio stations. Industry regulator Ofcom imposed the penalty for "serious" breaches of its code in shows broadcast on Radio 2 and BBC London.
The BBC invited listeners to take part in phone-in competitions in pre-recorded programmes that were broadcast "as live" when it knew they stood no chance of winning.
The regulator fined the corporation £70,000 over editions of the Dermot O`Leary Radio 2 show broadcast between June and December 2006. And it ordered it to pay £25,000 for breaches in Tony Blackburn's BBC London programme between December 2005 and December 2006.

The BBC must also broadcast a statement of Ofcom's findings on both the stations.
Ofcom said: "The BBC invited listeners to enter these competitions at the time of the broadcasts, in the full knowledge that the audience stood no chance of either entering or winning. However, it was noted that these competitions were not run for profit. Ofcom also recognises the extensive steps the BBC has taken to ensure future compliance in this area."
So, the Beeb has once again incurred the wrath of Ofcom, who have again done little more than slap wrists even after two or three years of considering the offences.
I`m intrigued, however, as to how the licence-payer stands in all these fines being handed out. If I`ve got it right, the BBC is financed by the licence-payer, so it follows that, if the BBC has to cough up fines, then it`s the licence-payer who ends up paying them? Seems very unfair. I suggest the BBC sends the bill to Jonathan Ross.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Well, seven-weeks old Barney (above) took up residence with us here this afternoon. He`s spent quite a time exploring some of his new surroundings and has already sampled violas, pieris and the occasional herb - I`m going to have to move all the pots from the patio so they`re out of harm`s reach. I`m not sure whether Barney is in more danger eating the plants or the plants are in more danger from being eaten.
He`s had a bit to eat and a couple of sleeps but I feel a bit sorry for him, as since he was born he has had the company of at least a dozen brothers, sisters and in-laws in the two litters at the breeders and now he only has Mrs. Snopper and myself for company. He`ll feel a bit lost for a few days, so plenty of tlc will be in order.
Tomorrow`s excitement will be taking Barney to see ace vet Dave Cocker for a check-up and his first injection. We feel part of the furniture at the Newnham Court vets, as Henry went there every week for seven months before he left us exactly a month ago today and it will be good to introduce Barney to the caring environment at Newnham Court. I think they`re looking forward to meeting him - maybe they won`t charge too much :-(

Monday, December 15, 2008


I confess that I missed seeing the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show last evening, but I did stay awake long enough to learn that this year the award went to Olympic cycling triple gold medalist, Chris Hoy. I think I`m right in saying that Lewis Hamilton came second and Rebecca Adlington third. Maybe the runners-up should have been in reverse order, but there`s no doubt that Chris Hoy`s achievement was such that, in any other year, the winsome Rebecca should have won it hands down.
The good news just went on though. For example, relegating Hamilton to second seemed appropriate for someone who scooted off to his Swiss tax haven as soon as the money rolled in, thus reducing his `personality` appeal. It was also refreshing to see that even with a choice of ten sports men and women to choose from, not one of them was either a footballer or a cricketer - our two, so called `national games.`
I have no problem with cricketers, apart from their ability to lose quite a lot, but I was encouraged by the rejection of footballers, whose lifestyles, riches and arrogance have all conspired to alienate them and, sadly, the game itself from the discerning among its hithero afficionados, myself included.
I really do not wish to introduce a note of cynicism into my approval of Chris Hoy`s award, but I did notice a report yesterday that the whole of the cycling fraternity was being actively encouraged to vote for Mr. Hoy, thus enhancing his chances of success. Shades of Zara Phillips? And I hesitate also to draw a distinction between sports achievement and sports `personality,` which is what the award is called. But it does raise questions, as some of the candidates are distinctly lacking in any kind of engaging personality - the mumbling, grumpy Andy Murray springs to mind.
But enough of that, for there is no doubt that Chris Hoy deserved the award and since he also has the bonuses of a pleasant disposition and the ability to speak very well in public, there are no complaints from me. At least not this year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Over the next day or two, a summit of EU leaders is taking place in Brussels. Reports suggest that there are two and a bit topics for discussion - the financial crisis and climate change being the two and.....the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty allegedly being the bit, although it isn`t hard to imagine that the last item on the agenda is arguably the most important in the minds of those delegates seemingly determined to plunge us into a European State, never mind what `the people` may think.
Back in the summer, Ireland voted `No` to the Lisbon Treaty. At least they had a vote and conducted it according to the rules, but ever since there have been dark mutterings in the EU leadership as to how and when the Irish can be bushwhacked into voting again and, this time, coming up with the `right` answer.
Now, there are those who approve of the Lisbon Treaty and those who, like the majority of the Irish, oppose it and each point of view is legitimate. For me though, the issue isn`t so much what the Treaty/Constitution contains (although I confess to a preference to be `governed` by my own country) but more the denigrtation of the democratic process that has been a constant feature of this long-running saga.
To begin with, they wanted a new Constitution, which was rejected in referenda by the French and the Dutch. Next move - repackage the Constitution but this time call it a Treaty, but containing basically the same provisions as the original rejected document. The Irish voted against it, so under the EU rules, the Treaty/Constitution should have fallen. Meanwhile, here in the UK, we were promised a referendum of our own in Labour`s pre-election manifesto last time round. In comes Gordon Brown (unelected either by the Labour Party, never mind the rest of us) and decides not to have the promised referendum after all, presumably on the same principle that he decided against having a general election to legitimise his Premiership, which was that he knew he would lose it.
And so it goes on. There are reports today that `the Irish are prepared to hold another referendum.` No, they`re not - it`s the Irish politicians led by the unfortunate Brian Cowen who are. Poor Brian has been browbeaten something rotten over the last few months by the EU leadership and no doubt dire threats have been made should he not go along with agreeing to another referendum, quite irrespective of the decision his own voters took last summer.
Putting the issues within the Treaty/Constitution to one side, I just hope that, when the Irish come to vote again, they give it another thumbs down, for the whole business goes against the fundamental principle of democracy. And that principle is so much more important than the words of any contrived, compromised EU document. It may be an inconvenient truth for the EU, for Cowen, Sarkosy, Merkel, Brown and the rest of them, but the people of at least three EU member countries have already said `No.` And it is their voices which really matter.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This is how the House of Commons looks when the Members of Parliament are not `sitting.` Which is quite a common experience. The Leader of the House, Harriet Harman, recently announced that MPs will have no less than 24 days off over the Christmas period. Moreover, other reductions in the `sitting time` for MPs now means that they will only be present in the Commons on 150 days next year - the lowest since records began.
I have mixed feelings about this. Firstly, as a taxpayer paying their salaries, expenses and burgeoning allowances, I`m not sure that 150 days out of 365 represents good value for my money. On the other hand, given their antics when they are in the House, perhaps the less they are there, the better. Maybe I should be grateful for small mercies.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Went to visit our new puppy today. We`ve had loads of suggestions for a name for him, but we`ve settled for `Barney,` which has connotations with where we live and also his (very fancy) pedigree name. In the couple of weeks since we first saw him, he`s gained a lot of weight and is doing so well that we will be able to bring him home a bit earlier than we first thought. So, on Wednesday week, Barney will take up residence with us, which we are looking forward to. Quite what Barney makes of it, only time will tell, but one thing`s for sure - he will be a very welcome addition to the golden retriever population of our village.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Well over 18 months ago now, we spent a week on holiday at Praa Sands in Cornwall. And very nice it was too. After a few days, however, my watch packed up and I felt a bit lost without it. I had had it for quite a while and I guess the battery just gave up, but I couldn`t complain about the good service I had had from it.

A day or so later, we found ourselves in the village of Mullion, well known for its cove and dramatic coastline. It was a boiling hot summer day and we were ready for an ice cream. So I parked in the village car park, alongside which was a kind of general store which promised to sell just about everything. It had an Ice Cream sign outside, so in I went, only to be told that their freezer had conked out, so there were no ice creams available.
But what they did sell was watches, so I bought one - for £6.00, including nice bracelet. It`s still going now after all that time and is keeping perfect time as well. Now, a few days ago, we were in the Bluewater Shopping Thingy on a mercy dash for Mrs. Snopper to buy some stuff she wanted. Off she went, leaving me to wander around the bookshops until the appointed time for us to meet up again. On my wanderings, I happened to stop outside a posh jewellers shop, which displayed a formidable array of equally posh watches. I can`t remember the names, but Lewis Hamilton`s face was much in evidence and the `standard` price seemed to be over £2,000 and climbing. I saw one, for instance, which was priced at £23,000 and it occurred to me that, for all that outlay, the time being shown was precisely the same as that shown by my £6.00 Mullion special.

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Maybe I`m missing something, but I truly cannot see the point of spending £23,000 on a watch to tell the same time as one which cost £6.00 and is still going strong. And what`s more, Mullion was a much more agreeable shopping `experience` than Bluewater will ever be. Even with a broken freezer.

Friday, December 05, 2008

So, Roy ("Keano") Keane has resigned as Manager of Sunderland FC, allegedly by txt msg, citing the fact that he had `taken the club as far as he could.`
Now, there are a number of things to complain about so far as Keano is concerned, but there are two episodes for which I will never forgive him. The first was the unprovoked and quite deliberate assault he bestowed on Manchester City`s Norwegian defender Alf Inge Haaland, which not only brought an untimely end to Haaland`s career but also displayed, as the picture (left) shows, Keano`s true colours as a mindless bully. Rather than showing any semblence of regret or concern for Haaland`s condition, `Keano` is shown leaning over his victim, shouting verbal abuse to accompany the physical.
The second was when Southampton played Manchester United in the last game of the 2004/5 season, which United won, consigning Saints to relegation from the first tier of English football after an unbroken stay of 27 years. At the end of the game, as the players trudged off the pitch, `Keano` took it upon himself to make a point of waving goodbye and giving an exaggerated `thumbs down` to the distraught Saints fans. A small-minded gesture from a small-minded man.
And now he has run away from Sunderland, the club which gave him his first ever chance of `management.` And so I wave him a virtual goodbye and extend a virtual thumbs down for yet another public display of flawed character to go with all the other tantrums he has displayed over the years. In his day, Keane was a driven, battling, midfield scuffler - useful qualities to possess in the captain of any team - but, as was once said of Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, he may have been a very successful general, but also a very unsuccessful man.
What goes around has indeed come around for `Keano` - and maybe we have finally seen the back of him.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

There are a couple of things in life that terrify me. One is snakes, the other is dentistry. Both morbid fears stem from very nasty experiences in my early years. So, I don`t go anywhere where there might be snakes and I keep away from dentists as much as possible.
However, time has caught up with my choppers and the time has come to finally sort them out. A couple of weeks ago, I managed to `source` a very nice lady dentist named Louise and the preliminary skirmish I had with her confirmed what I had long suspected. I need some serious treatment. Starting tomorrow and spread over the next few weeks, I will have to endure an extraction, a filling, some root canal stuff and then some impressions for some new sooper-dooper, high-tech, state-of-the-art, ocean going choppers which I`m assured will transform my persona. And it sure does need transforming.
Can`t say I`m looking forward to it, but it has to be done. Just hope it`s over and done with by Christmas, so I can tuck in. In any case, I only have myself to blame for not facing up to my demons before now. So wish me luck. I`m convinced of two things though; I`m sure the tooth fairy doesn`t really exist....does she? And it serves me right for being nasty about `Sir` Alex Ferguson the other day.
But as I write, news has come in that Seve Ballesteros is undergoing a fourth operation to drain fluid from his brain tumour. Which leaves my problem as little more than a minor inconvenience.