Thursday, December 31, 2009


HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Nearly there. I hope the new year brings peace, good health and happiness to you, your friends and family.
Best wishes,
Snopper.
NO ROOM IN THE DRAWER..
Browsing through today`s published New Year Honours, I see that I have been overlooked again. It`s one of life`s rituals, on a par with reading the obituary column in the local paper each week to see if I`ve passed away.
Anyway, I`m pretty sure I neither deserve nor desire any form of official honour, especially one dished out by this Government, who always seem to have an eye for a headline rather than the recognition of true merit. How else can knighthoods for such luminaries as Mick Jagger, Tom Jones, Bob ("I don`t like Mondays") Geldof, Terry Wogan and the rest be justified? And today, honours have been awarded to none other than Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi of Status Quo. Rossi welcomed this event in fitting terms, " "I'm not sure that we deserve it, but fuck it, I'm so made up it's ridiculous. " Such dignity.
And so, after all, maybe any feeling I may have harboured of being shunned is tempered with relief that I will not be joining their ranks or, indeed, have the problem of going to Buck House to collect the gong. In fact, in a former life, I was once invited to the Queen`s Garden Party but I declined on the reasonable grounds that I really didn`t want to go. Anyway, the drawer in which I have housed my collection of awards over the years is pretty full already with such priceless treasures as my Cycling Proficiency Badge (CPB,) my 50-metre breaststroke certificate, my football medals including runners-up in Division 7 of the Maidstone and District Football League 1963/64, medals for refereeing including being Assistant Referee at the Kent Youth Cup Final (so there!) and my certificate for passing the trade test as a projectionist on Bauer B7 Cinema Projectors (BCP.)
I think I`ll just rest on my own laurels, thank you very much.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

LOST AND FOUND
From our Golf Correspondent
Whilst the golfing headlines are concentrating on the antics of the stars of the game, I thought I should find out what occupies the minds of golfing mediocrities at this festive time of the year. So I caught up with Snopper who has been absent from the courses of Kent these past few weeks.
I found him on Boxing Day as he was about to take his faithful retriever Barney for a wander through the snow covered Kent countryside and he kindly invited me to accompany him as he felt sure I would find his outing `interesting.` We found ourselves a few short miles away from Snopper Towers and parked alongside a well known local golf course. It being Boxing Day, there were large signs indicating `Course Closed` so I was beginning to wonder what we were doing there. It soon became apparent that, as well as giving Barney a good scamper through the undulating course (making sure he kept to the public footpaths of course) Snopper`s real mission was to see if he could find any lost golf balls in order to stock up in advance of his new season.
Now, the trouble with good courses and nice private clubs is that they tend to attract good players who, on the whole, don`t tend to lose too many balls. So it needs a canny eye to judge where, if anywhere, any lost balls might be lying. No good looking near the tees, no good looking just off the fairways, what`s needed is a more intrepid expedition into adjoining woodland and banks of heather, seeking out the kind of places where Snopper`s own balls would likely end up if he were playing the course.
Despite feeling a little furtive, after about half an hour of experienced ball hunting, utilising all the tracking skills that he has obviously acquired through years of malpractice, Snopper found eleven balls which pleased him no end and I can confidently predict that his bounty from this one day alone, will see him through, oh, about four holes when he comes to resume his career in a few weeks time.
He tells me that, in all the years he has wrestled with the royal and ancient game, Snopper has never ever actually bought any golf balls, but has always relied on finding lost ones on various local courses. Some years ago, he had a retriever named Rupert who was carefully trained to sniff out golf balls buried in the undergrowth and return them to his master. As a result, Snopper ended up with about 1500 balls, most of which he has managed to lose again, hence the need for re-stocking.
My `interesting` day made me realise the extremes that exist within today`s golfing fraternity. At one end of the spectrum the most successful golfers are actually given countless golf balls to lose, but they seldom do; whilst at the other end, struggling pensioners like Snopper are reduced to scavenging local golf courses to unearth just a few balls, which they promptly go and lose again. But maybe, just maybe, Snopper`s contribution to this endless recycling of finding and losing brings him a quiet satisfaction and the comfort of knowing that he doesn`t have to worry about tomorrow`s headlines.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

LEMMING DAYS..
The immortal words of Bart Simpson ring in my ears this morning, "Don`t you think it`s about time we remembered the true meaning of Santa`s birthday?"
A couple of days ago - may have been three - we thought we should go to the supermarket and get our stuff for Christmas. We tried one but couldn`t park anywhere. People were driving around, some just stationary, waiting in their cars for a parking space to become available. We gave up, tried another one and eventually got what we thought we needed for the festive season. Note the careful use of the words "we thought we needed" as I`m never sure we really need all the stuff we buy before Christmas as the shops seem to be closed just for the one day. It`s a form of mayhem panic buying, which seems to be repeated the day after Christmas as the sales begin.
I know about sales on Boxing Day. They are to be avoided as the same mayhem breaks out once more. Same parking troubles, same crowds, just different things to buy. Just different things we think we need. And yet we still do it, every year. It`s as if it`s obligatory to join the crowd, follow the herd and collectively, even if euphemistically, jump off the cliff into a sea of despond. Bart Simpson is right to remind us that, however misguided he may seem, there are other things in this yuletide life beyond the self-inflicted scrambles of before and after. It`s the bit in the middle that really matters.
And my good friend Wurzel was right too to remind me of the irony that, however much I may complain about the pre-Christmas shopping and the post-Christmas sales, if I trudge dutifully around them then I become one of the lemmings myself. We really should know better.

Thursday, December 24, 2009



Wherever you are, whoever you are, I just hope that your Christmas is as happy, as peaceful and as good as it can possibly be for you, your friends and your family.
Best wishes,
Snopper.

Monday, December 21, 2009

TODAY`S THE DAY...
There are some dates in the calendar that are ingrained into my being and today is one of them. It`s the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year or we`re about to enter the longest night. I guess it all depends how you look at it.
Now at places like Stonehenge there is always a dedicated gathering to see the sun rise on these almost sacred mornings, although today`s `crowd` was no doubt dwarfed by the one that turns up for the summer solstice and who can blame them, for winter`s icy grip is with us. So I rejoice in the day from the snug comfort of my own home and as I do so, I am keeping a close eye on the clock, for in just over an hour - at 17.47 - the solstice moment occurs exactly when the earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26' and from then on the days will grow longer, the nights shorter and I will look forward to 20 March at 11.43, when the vernal equinox will arrive and summer will once more be in prospect.
I remember 22 September last when, at 21.18, the autumn equinox arrived and it seemed that from that point until now I have been waiting for today, when the world will turn once more. My problem is that I don`t `do` winters, I don`t `do` dark or cold, I guess I`m a summer kind of guy. But in an hour`s time I will know that things will be on the up and maybe my winter gloom will lift, steadily but certainly as the evenings begin to draw out once more.
I sometimes think I should have been a dormouse - they`ve got it worked out. Maybe next time.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

PACY FLANKER TAKES COVER
Today`s matchday programme for Charlton`s home game against Millwall features a full length article about Scott Wagstaff, the Addicks` left sided pacy flanker. Moreover, the programme cover shows an action shot of Scotty in full flow. I think this must be a welcome attempt by the football club to bring Scott and his talents to a wider audience, rather than a desperate attempt to boost programme sales.
But given that he has been with Charlton since the age of eight, it`s high time Scott`s engaging persona and the steady progress he has made with them over the years is at last given the attention it deserves.

Friday, December 18, 2009

CLIMATE CHANGE HITS KENT...
This is the scene here in deepest Kent this morning. The promised overnight snow has produced about eight inches or so and, as always happens when we get a bit of snow, panic sets in, schools are closed, travel is disrupted - it`s almost as if we revel in the inconvenience.
My morning started off with an appointment to see winsome dentist Louise, following one the fillings she put in a few weeks ago escaping whilst I was enjoying a beef sandwich - which quickly turned into a beef and tooth filling sandwich. I set off in good time, having decided to leave the car in the garage and I quite enjoyed the sunny, snowy walk. I got there about five minutes late, only to be told that Louise wasn`t well and so my appointment has been put back no less than three weeks, as the festive season is upon us - apparently. No real problem for me - but it does mean my Christmas diet may have to be revised to exclude things like nuts which might give my choppers a problem, being sans filling and all.
Barney loves the snow - he went out for his morning constitutional with Mrs. Snopper and had a great time romping around with his mates and it was also good to see so many children out sliding down the nearby slopes and enjoying this very seasonal weather. Made me wish I was about twelve again. It`s one thing retaining a mental age of twelve, which I have succeeded in doing, but quite another to think that my body would be up for slope sliding.
And apart from the weather, today`s news is dominated by the discussions in Copenhagen about climate change and global warming. Such sweet irony.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

PACY FLANKER STRIKES AGAIN...
This is Scott Wagstaff, who lives a few doors down the street and it`s fair to say that most of us living in this quiet backwater follow Scott`s progress with a kind of benign avuncular interest, as we`ve watched him grow up and establish himself with Charlton Athletic FC.
Last Saturday, he made another in what now seem to be regular starts for the Addicks as they took on the Hatters of Stockport County at the Cheshire club`s Edgeley Park ground. Charlton`s official website variously describe Scott as a `starlet` and even a `pacy flanker,`which is something I imagine he thought he would never be called.
Now late on Saturday evenings the BBC devote at least an hour to highlight the games played in the Football League that afternoon. The programme follows March of the Day which is, of course, exclusively concerned with the Barclays Premier League. By the time that`s finished, the wee small hours are approaching, so I normally record the Football League show and catch up with it at a more leisurely time. Of course, I watched it to see the highlights of the Saints` game and I enjoyed seeing Rickie Lambert Southampton`s Goal Machine (RLSGM) smashing home a penalty and a 30-yard free kick which, along with Dan Harding`s pile driver, completed the 3-0 win over Tranmere.
But I was also able to catch up on the highlights of the Stockport-Charlton encounter, in which Scott Wagstaff featured heavily in a few `incidents.` The first was when he was put clean through on goal only to forget all he had been taught about striking bovine derrieres with banjos. The second was when he redeemed himself by scoring Charlton`s second goal, which turned out to be the winner, as the home team came back into it late on to make the final score 2-1. Being a pacy flanker, Scott found himself with time and space out on the left to receive a measured pass from a colleague. He then cut inside the full back and curled an incisive strike to nestle the ball in the far corner of the net well beyond the despairing clutches of the opposing custodian.
Now, we have been encouraging Scott to get his celebtaion act together and, as this was his fourth goal of the season, the matter of his goal celebration is becoming more pressing. On Saturday, clearly bereft of any preconceived celebratory antics, he simply seemed to wander up to a random member of the crowd, smile engagingly and back off whilst the going was good, which was a pity really, as it took a bit of the shine off an otherwise impressive afternoon`s work.
Don`t get it wrong, Scotty - the street is still right behind you, but it`s no good being a goalscoring pacy flanker with a good engine and an eye for a pass if you can`t round it off with something better than random crowd wandering. Something to work on possibly ?


Monday, December 14, 2009

Well, I guess it does. Especially if, like me, you are still suffering the effects of piglet `flu and especially at this time of year when the depths of winter take hold, daylight is at a premium and you can`t wait for the shortest day to arrive in a week`s time so we can get on with the festive season, start the new year and see the light once more.
But for all of that, there were a couple of things that raised my spirits this weekend and which made this particular Monday at least bearable. The first was the 1-0 defeat of Manchester United at home by Aston Villa, which left United`s manager,`Sir` Alex Ferguson, ranting away at the match officials for only allowing three minutes of added time, rather than the time it took for United to score and salvage a point.
And then my beloved Saints swept Tranmere Rovers aside with a 3-0 win at St. Mary`s to lift themselves into mid-table security, at least for now. The piglet `flu prevented me from going, but I was much cheered by these two results which, in many ways, represented a thoroughly satisfactory outcome to a weekend that would otherwise have `sucked` at least as much as Monday.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

RECEIPTS, PLEASE
Yes, I know it`s the season of goodwill and all that but there are times when my natural inclination towards generosity turns a bit Scrooge-like and the things that set me off are those when my money - such as it is - is seemingly `disbursed` by those in power. A couple of examples might explain.
First, our old friend the European Union, which swallows up £12,366 of UK taxpayers` cash each and every minute, 24/7 and this net contribution continues without the EU accounts being signed off by auditors for years. Now, at Copenhagen this week, the EU contribution to help Third World countries, particularly in Africa, cope with `climate change` has apparently been agreed at £2.1billion for each of three years as its share of the proposed £7billion a year global fund.
You`ll forgive me I hope if, tempting though it may be, I resist straying into the `debate` about the legitimacy of global warming et al, but I was struck by the largesse displayed by Gordon Brown regarding the UK`s contribution to the EU share of the global fund. A few days ago, Britain`s pledge stood at £800million over three years; by Thursday morning, it was revised to £1.2billion and by the afternoon, Gordon had upped it to £1.5billion, the £500million for each year making Britain`s contribution the largest of all the EU countries.
Now, of course there may well be the need for this kind of help to be doled out by the so-called developed countries and if the need is proven and the money is put to good use, then fair enough. But I have worries when Gordon Brown tells us taxpayers back home that we `should all be proud` that Britain is the biggest contributor to the new global warming fund. I worry because I`m not sure that global warming is `the moral issue of our times.` I worry because I detect once more an obsessive desire on Brown`s part to be seen as being one of the leading figures of the EU but who seems to be buying favour with our money; in any case, what on earth are we doing even thinking of buying the favour of the likes of the poseur Sarkosy and the insufferable Merkel.
But most of all I worry because of the danger yet again that shedloads of EU taxpayers` cash might be on its way to poorer countries, `partricularly in Africa,` with every prospect that a good chunk of it might end up in the numbered Swiss bank accounts of despotic African dictators. For I see little mention of how -or even whether- there will be processes in place to ensure that the contributions we make will represent `value for money,` especially as the EU itself is demonstrably not the most efficient when it comes to matters financial.
I don`t mind paying my money and taking my chance but I do mind when someone else takes my money and plays roulette with it without really understanding the rules of the game or, indeed, whether there are any rules. In short, I think we should be insisting on receipts for services rendered.
BREAKING NEWS : Just after I posted the above rant, a report came through that the UK is withholding any further payments to Kenya following investigations into the suspected fraud of £615,000 which has gone missing and which was intended to pay for classrooms, books and other necessities to bring free primary school education to the country`s poorest regions. We need more of that kind of intervention.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

NO STOPPING HIM NOW...
Barney, ably `handled` by Mrs. Snopper, was successful in passing his Silver Award last evening as part of the Kennel Club`s Good Citizen Dog Scheme. After a nerve-racking delay whilst waiting for the Bronze Award entrants to have their test, Barney and his chums were put through their paces by an expert judge in the forbidding surroundings of Wrotham Village Hall. In some respects, I think the magnitude of the occasion took the edge off some of Barney`s well rehearsed manoevres but he managed to convince the judge that he really was quite a well behaved and obedient pooch.
So, as you can see from the photo, he is well pleased with himself, sporting his fancy rosette and he seems to have adopted something of an air of confidence about him, as if knowing that he has done well to get this far in only 13 months. There`s still a way to go - after a welcome break for the Christmas season, he will then launch into the daunting programme leading up to the formidable Gold Award. After the Gold Award comes the Platinum, then I imagine something like the Dilithium Crystal Award, all of which will keep Barney focussed for some time yet rather than thinking he can relax, take on a few mistresses and let his impeccable image and his endorsements be compromised by temptations that might be put in his way.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

AS EVER WAS...

It`s not been a good week so far. Apart from suffering from what could be a mild form of swine flu - possibly piglet flu - I`ve been seriously confused about a number of the big issues clogging up the news media. There`s a lot going on right now - too much to comment on all of it - but taking just three items of current affairs leads me to the conclusion that it`s becoming more and more difficult to trust what anyone says about just about anything.

The first big issue is our old friend climate change/global warming, currently being discussed by no less than 15,000 delegates to the Copenhagen Conference. Now I simply don`t know whether climate change is happening at all and, if it is, whether mankind is responsible for any or all of it. The science is baffling, the politics are, as usual, not to be trusted (how else can a `fuel escalator` be justified when it does nothing but raise taxes?) passions are raised by the believers, deniers are ridiculed and those in the middle of it all, like me, are really none the wiser. But I have my doubts. I have a feeling in my bones that whatever mankind does or does not do, the planet will look after itself and continue with its own periodic cycle of cooling and warming, as it has done for millennia. I will take some persuading that it is otherwise.

Today`s big issue has been the Chancellor`s Pre-Budget statement to the House of Commons which has confirmed the unholy financial mess we are in. Now, if it was my personal financial mess, I would have done something about it by now or faced the consequences, so why hasn`t HM Gov. grasped the nettle and got on with it? Quite simply because there`s an election on the horizon and so yet another in a seemingly endless line of self-serving political decisions is intended to convince us that there`s nothing to worry about. I don`t trust them to do what`s best for the country or what`s best for me, but I do trust them to do what`s best for their own narrow political interests.

And then there is the ongoing big issue of the Chilcot Inquiry into Iraq, the coverage of which is getting further down the agenda. So far, there have been some useful `contributions` from people like Sir Christopher Mayer, Lord Boyce and Sir Jeremy Greenstock but far too often the opportunity to even ask the searching question has passed the Inquiry members by. The latest example being the appearance of Sir John Scarlett, the former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee who had some guarded comments to make about the difference between the text of the `dodgy dossier` and its foreword by Tony Blair. The Inquiry seemed reluctant to question him about the influence brought to bear on the presentation of the case for war by such luminaries as Alistair Campbell. If they can`t be trusted to ask the right questions, you can be pretty sure we`ll never get the answers we deserve.

And so, with just these few examples, you can see why I find it difficult to trust anything that anyone in any kind of `authority` says any more. I thought I might have been confused this week, but actually it`s all very clear. And, as once more I shrug my weary shoulders, crawl back into my shell and resume my battle with the piglet `flu, I guess nothing really changes and that it truly is as ever was.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

BARNEY`S NEXT TEST
About six months ago, Barney passed his bronze award for being a well behaved dog. We have now been told that next Wednesday he will be having the test for the silver award in the Kennel Club`s Good Doggie Award Scheme (or whatever it`s called.)
We have a copy of the various elements of the test and, to be fair, for most of the past six months Barney and his Retriever chums have been practising most of them. So although there`s no need for him to panic, we have suggested to him that he should be spending some time between now and next Wednesday on revising, honing his skills and preparing himself mentally.
The test involves things such as coming back when called, not being distracted by `outside influences,` not interrupting when people are talking, not snatching food when people are eating biscuits, walking nicely down the road on the lead, getting in and out of the car and, perhaps most appealingly, laying down and not moving much for two minutes. Very much like my basic training for National Service. It`s as much a test for his `handler` as for Barney himself, so Mrs. Snopper, who does the training with him, is also revising for the questions she will be asked on the night about how to be a good dog owner. The tension will be mounting in the next few days as anxieties take hold but I`m sure it will be alright on the night. Won`t it?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

ANCIENT AND MODERN
Most afternoons, Barney and I go for at least an hour`s walkies but this afternoon, we got a bit lost. I try to take him to different places so that he doesn`t get bored with the same walks so today I put him in the boot of the car and drove to Trottiscliffe Church, where I parked and set off on what seemed to be, from the OS map, a fairly gentle circular walk. We left the church and took a footpath up to the Pilgrims Way, the 119-mile ancient trackway from Winchester to Canterbury, which we stayed on for a while before heading down another path signposted `Coldrum Stones.`
Now, the Coldrum Longbarrow (pictured above) is the least-damaged megalithic longbarrow in Kent and takes its name from the now demolished Coldrum Lodge Farm. It is possible the name 'Coldrum' derived from the old Cornish word 'Galdrum' which means 'place of enchantments'. Owned by the National Trust since 1926 in memory of local antiquary Benjamin Harrison, an Ightham historian, this 3,000 year-old burial chamber is the only one in the Medway Valley to remain virtually intact.
For all that though, Barney didn`t seem too`enchanted` by the history so much as by the chance to scamper through the adjacent fields and wallow his way down the muddy path. Keeping an eye on him meant that I missed the `turning` which would have taken us back to the church. Instead, we found ourselves going down the Wealdway - an 80-mile long distance footpath from Gravesend to Eastbourne - and before long I decided that we had better keep going, on the assumption that we were bound to come to a proper road soon. Eventually we did and we soon found a path across muddy fields of winter wheat which took us back to where the car was parked.
It was a long walk but worth it to be out in the air, getting some exercise with man`s best freind for a companion. The route was interesting, not just for the Coldrum Stones but also for the contrast between that ancient construction of 3,000 years ago and the thunderous din of the modern M20 motorway which we could hear for much of the way. I was surprised to see catkins out in early December and, as the sun set on the distant hill, the scene reminded me of Rowland Hilder, the local artist who brought so much of this part of Kent to life in his glorious landscapes. Not sure Barney was too bothered about that either though, for by now his mind was clearly focussed on getting home and getting his tea. Me too.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

NIGHT JOURNEY
365 days in 2009 and for 334 of those days, Saints have not been out of the relegation zone in either of the leagues they have competed in during the year. First it was relegation from the Championship and the for the first 16 games of this season suffering the ten points deduction for going into administration.
So it was with keen anticipation that I made the 240 miles round trip to Southampton yesterday to see Saints take on the Chairboys of Wycombe Wanderers, themselves languishing in the drop zone of League One. A win for Saints, along with other results going their way, would finally haul us out of the danger zone and see us begin the climb to safer waters. As it turned out, Saints managed a narrow 1-0 win against limited opposition, but the margin of victory could and should have been much greater than the single goal scored just before half time by Ricki (Southampton`s goal machine) Lambert, who notched his 15th of the season so far. That result, coupled with Charlton beating Brighton 2-0, with their second slotted home by near neighbour Scott Wagstaff, saw Saints climb to 20th in the league. So there was dancing in the streets of Southampton last night as the 334 days of embarrassment finally came to an end.
My journey down was a long one, caught up in the rush hour traffic on the M25, the A31 at Guildford and Farnham and the M27 from Winchester and it took three hours to make the journey, but I had given myself plenty of time for the 7.45 kick-off. I thought that the journey home might have been easier and for much of the time it was. However, there were a few interruptions to my smooth progress, with overnight roadworks causing delays on the route out of Southampton and again, along with diversions, at various points along the motorways, all of which meant that I didn`t get home until about 1.00am this morning.
Two things struck me about it all though. The first was that for all the inconvenience caused by the roadworks, the guys who carry out that demanding essential maintenance work in the dead of night, in the freezing cold, in the pouring rain and on the most dangerous stretches of road, deserve our admiration and our thanks - my delays and diversions were nothing compared with all they have to contend with.
The second was that people might think I have lost my mind, at 70, driving all that way to see a football match with significance only to followers of the lower reaches of the third tier of English football. But, as a good friend of mine reminded me recently, `You`re a long time dead,` so get on and do what you enjoy doing while you can. And I do. So there.


Monday, November 30, 2009

QUESTION TIME...
I see that the SNP Leader and Scotland`s First Minister, Alex Salmond, has today called for a referendum to be held next year that he said would be a "historic" chance for the Scots to vote for independence from the United Kingdom. Now, given that we English seem to be pretty much governed by the Scots anyway (Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and the rest,) the notion that the Scots might push off and leave us in peace has a certain attraction. Maybe Hadrian got it right when he built his wall and with quite a lot of it still standing, maybe its time has come again.
But I`m not sure I can get too excited about it especially as Salmond doesn`t command a majority in the Scottish Parliament, so his plan might well be doomed before it gets off the ground. Still, I`m a fan of referendums (or is it referenda?) and I bitterly regret that we didn`t have the one we were promised on the infamous Lisbon Treaty (thanks to Scot Gordon Brown.) That said, if the Scots are ever to have their referendum on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom, then logic suggests that the rest of us in the UK should be included in the referendum to see if we might be pleased to see the back of them. Or not.
Trouble is, I`m not sure I want that same logic to be applied if we ever get a referendum about the UK (or what might be left of it) staying in the European Union. I would surely welcome a referendum about that but I`m not sure I want the rest of the EU`s 27 countries voting in it as well, even though they might be glad to see the back of us as well.
It`s an old political truism that, before you ask the question, be sure there`s every chance you`ll get the answer you want. And be careful what you wish for.

Friday, November 27, 2009

THE RIGHT GOODBYE..
In a way it`s none of my business, as I`m not a `constituent` of Ann Widdecombe. But I am a taxpayer paying her wages and her allowances and, as such, entitled to the occasional comment. It seems odd to me that MPs seem, by and large, to have been viewed as a bit special by those who support them and I guess that in some cases that may have been justified.
Now, I have no reason to doubt that Ms Widdecombe might well have been a good constituency MP, helping those constituents of hers that needed her help over the 20 years of her time as MP for Maidstone and the Weald. But I have to confess that, even from the relatively short distance of a neighbouring constituency, the news that she will be standing down at the next election brings a sense of relief. It means that I will no longer have to listen to that stentorian shriek or have to endure her self promoting antics. I see that some time ago, she bought a retirement home at Haytor in the wilds of Devon, having sold her constituency home in the Wealden village of Sutton Valence in preparation for her retirement. I`m sure there are arrangements for her constituents still to get in touch with her locally but the move to Devon might just have given a misleading signal about her continuing commitment to those who voted her in.

Outside her work as an MP, she has developed a career as an author, appeared very often on television and radio in a wide variety of programmes little connected with parliamentary work and she seems quite unable to resist an interview here, a comment there and an opinion more or less everywhere. In short, she has had much to say about much too much.

Whilst being one of 98 MPs voting against the publication of their expenses, the revelations about her own expenses, whilst in the main scandal-free, were `interesting.` One of the costs she expected the rest of us to pay for was mowing the lawns at her Sutton Valence abode. Her explanation was, "When you are spending most of your time in London, you have to pay for someone to cut the grass. Who else was going to cut my grass? The cat? The cat did not even live in my second home." I`m not sure when grass cutting was accepted as being directly related to her work as an MP but even accepting that the grass needed cutting, why did we have to pay for it and not her?
Not too long ago, she was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Maidstone, seemingly in recognition of the job she has been handsomely rewarded for doing these past 20 years. That`s the kind of thing that exemplifies what I mean about MPs being viewed as `a bit special.` But times have changed. Deference no more. Reality bites and, as Ann Widdecombe leaves the stage and heads for the backwaters of Devon, I wish her no harm. But at the risk of recording a comment that is almost treasonable in these parts, I do breathe a genuine sigh of relief that we might finally never hear from her ever again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

THE WRONG GOODBYE

As a Southampton fan for more years than I care to remember, it`s not easy to write about our fiercest south coast rivals, Portsmouth. The rivalry between the two clubs is as intense as any to be found in the parallel universe of professional football. Rangers/Celtic, Liverpool/Everton, Arsenal/Tottenham and any others you might name but the rivalry between the Saints and Pompey is just as strong, if not more so, for it is based not only on geographical proximity but also on cultural and historical differences that run deep. Over the years, the respective clubs have had their own distinct histories of ups and downs, successes and failures, but on the occasions when we have played each other, the atmosphere has always been special, as if you could reach out and touch it. So, against that unforgiving background it isn`t easy for me to write with any sympathy about our neighbours along the M27.

But last evening, Portsmouth Football Club decided to sack their manager, Paul Hart, pictured above. Now Mr. Hart had a long and distinguished career as a player, a commanding central defender who notched up 567 games for teams like Leeds, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday. Until last night, he had an `interesting` second career as a manager of teams including Notts Forest and Barnsley before being handed the poisoned chalice at Fratton Park nine months ago.
And what a challenge that was. Spiralling debts, takeover fiascos, transfer ban, a whole raft of seasoned international players sold to repay debts and so on, not only made Hart`s job almost impossible but also had vibrant echoes of the Saints` own fortunes in recent years before our new billionaire owner came to our rescue a few months ago. Which is one reason for the sympathy I am expressing about Pompey`s plight, because we`ve had problems of our own at Saints and we know how it hurts. I know too that south coast football would not be the same without the rivalry.
But the other reason for my sympathy is simply for Paul Hart himself. For he seema a decent man, an honest, hard working, well meaning, old fashioned football man, with the game in his blood and a quiet dignity which seemed always to sit uneasily with the singular `culture` of Fratton Park. Maybe that was the real reason for his dismissal rather than the `unacceptable results` which, frankly, were little more than could have been expected of a club in complete disarray.
I don`t know who will take the helm at Portsmouth now, but it`s unlikely to be anyone with the same personable qualities as Paul Hart. And it will very probably be someone who more closely resembles the culture of a club long shrouded in mystery, skilled in straw grasping and built in the image of the unprepossessing city that supports it. They may live to regret getting rid of Paul Hart, for he was the acceptable face of Portsmouth FC.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

GO FOR IT, CHILCOT

I hope David Byrne`s prophecy that `We`re on a Road to Nowhere` isn`t about to return to haunt us once more with the opening today of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War. We`ll see how it pans out, but already there are good signs and bad signs.

On the good side, at least and at last we are having an Inquiry, "to consider the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath." And it is being held mostly in public. On the other hand, it`s going to take a long time and cost a fortune and already it has been announced that the final report may not be published until 2011, possibly late 2010 but most assuredly not before the General Election next Spring.

Having said all that, I am quite impressed with at least the statements of intent made by the Inquiry Chairman, Sir John Chilcot, hopefully not to be confused with former Bath and England prop, Gareth, seen above doing his after dinner speaking turn. And yet, maybe Sir John might take a leaf out of Gareth`s book, for he was a fearless opponent, not averse to putting the boot in where it hurts and refusing to yield in the face of those who would challenge him.
I see that Sir John is seventy years old (a feeling I know only too well) so I cannot see why he, on whom so many hopes are riding, doesn`t do us all a favour and, at the end of his Inquiry, tell it like it really was. After all, what has he got to lose? I think we probably know what the outcome should be - Blair, Campbell, Scarlett, Goldsmith and most of the Cabinet of the day guilty of dragging us into a conflict on a false prospectus so as to keep `in` with Bush and his maniac administration - but I wonder if Chilcot will have the courage to confirm it and, if he does, what the consequences might be for those responsible. If not, we may once more be on David Byrne`s road to nowhere, where we have been before with Hutton.
Go for it, Chilcot....you know you want to. Much more here - http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/

Friday, November 20, 2009

TIME FOR THE COMFY CHAIR...
Tomorrow sees Manchester United play Everton at Old Trafford in a Premiership fixture. It will be interesting to see whether `Sir` Alex Ferguson, the United manager, takes his seat in the dugout or in the stand.
Earlier this week, the Football Association dished out Ferguson`s `punishment,` following his rant at referee Alan Wiley in a game against Sunderland way back on 3rd October. The wheels grind slowly. The FA should by now have written to Ferguson to confirm the savagery of the punishement handed down to him. If they have, then Ferguson has 14 days to lodge an appeal, which seems unlikely given the FA verdict.
They have banned Ferguson for four matches, with two of them suspended until next season. If he doesn`t appeal, therefore, he will be banished from the touchline for tomorrow`s game and also the one against Portsmouth in a week or so`s time. If he does appeal, then this saga will continue to run and run with the reputation of both `sides` still in question.
Now, the severity of the touchline ban is such that Ferguson must sit in the stands away from the technical area. Recent FA regulations mean that he will not be able to sit immediately behind the technical area but those same regulations do not prevent him from contacting the dugout by telephone during the game or from visiting the team`s dressing room before the game, at half time and after the game has ended. Okay, he has been fined £20,000, but this is small change to a multi-millionaire on a salary alone running into millions each year - even if he ends up paying it himself. But the whole thing simply highlights the FA`s total inability or unwillingness to take real, firm action against this serial offender and does nothing to enhance the reputations of either party to this affair.
This circus reminds me of another one - Monty Python`s Flying one, in which no-one expects the Inquisition. "Bring on the Comfy Chair! Now -- you will stay in the Comfy Chair until lunch time, with only a cup of coffee at eleven." That`ll teach him!!

GEORGE AND GRACIE RIDE AGAIN

Told you so. Unknown Belgian Herman van Rompuy becomes President of the EU Council, but the surprise was the appointment of Baroness Ashton as the High Representative for Foreign Affairs. She seems uniquely qualified for the role, having been Chair of a provincial NHS Trust, thrust into the House of Lords for being a Labour crony, found herself Leader of the House, then awoke one morning to find herself as Britain`s EU Commissioner and now catapulted into a position as head of a 7,000 strong EU diplomatic outfit and speaking on behalf of 27 countries on the world stage. Risen without trace and without ever having had to face an election. You really couldn`t make it up.

Still, at £320,000 a year she will no doubt be good value in furthering the cause of British interests during what might be a Conservative administration in the UK and being `mentored` by the Franco-German axis who are now the undisputed powerhouse of EU politics. There`s talk that the Germans want the Presidency of the EU Bank, which seems to confirm their unending pursuit for domination. Meanwhile, watch out for Rompuy and his EU wide taxes, his EU flag everywhere, EU anthem and EU football team. Not a happy prospect.

Deja vu is here again, just like George Burns and Gracie Allen. "Say goodnight, Gracie."

Thursday, November 19, 2009



A POIGNANT FOOTNOTE..
A rather spooky footnote to my recent post concerning the sad death of Edward Woodward and the film `Breaker Morant.`
At the very end of the film, Morant, played by Woodward and his compatriot, Lt. Peter Handcock, played by Bryan Brown, are seen sitting in front of the firing squad as they await execution following conviction for murdering Boer prisoners. The footage for that sequence is shot from the rear and , as the moment of execution draws close, the two are shown to reach out for each other`s hand in a final moment of togetherness after all they had happened to the two of them. A touching scene - but one that was not scripted, just improvised quite spontaneously by the two actors, Woodward and Brown. It made for a poignant moment which added much to the drama of those final scenes in the film.
It wasn`t until years later that Woodward discovered, quite by chance, that in the real events that happened to the real Morant and Handcock all those years previously, they too had involuntarily held out their hands to each other and held them close as the firing squad completed their gruesome duty.
Spooky?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN?
"No taxation without representation" began as a slogan for the British colonists in the 13 colonies of the USA in the late 1700s. They believed that the lack of direct representation in the distant British Parliamnent was an illegal denial of their fundamental rights as Englishmen and therefore the laws taxing them as colonists and other laws applying to the colonies were unconstitutional.
I think it might be tomorrow evening that leaders of the 27 nations in the European Union will sit down amid the splendour of the taxpayer funded Brussels HQ and enjoy a lavish taxpayer funded bit of haute cuisine whilst at the same time conspiring among themselves as to who might become the unelected but taxpayer funded President of the EU Council. There have been dark mutterings that the case for Tony Blair to be handed the job has been gathering pace, although I suspect that might simply be because of the lack of an acceptable alternative. Surely there must be an an alternative more acceptable than the grandstanding, self-serving, warmongeringly less than careful with the actualite, discredited former Prime Minister.
One of those alternatives is apparently a guy named Rompuy from Belgium, who wants to see the introduction of a Europe-wide tax on the 500million who make up the Union. It may also be Rompuy - although it is certainly one of the many job seekers putting themselves forward - who wants to ban national flags and symbols and replace them all with the EU flag on anything from car number plates to passports.
Now, I`ve never been asked to vote for a President, but it looks like I`m going to get one. I`ve never agreed to daft tokenism like flags and symbols and I`ve never agreed to so much of my money being swallowed up by the largely unaccountable EU, who on the subject of accountability hasn`t had its own accounts signed off for years. I`ve discovered just how much money is going from this country to the EU and it`s frightening. In net terms alone, during the 90 minutes when Southampton take on Norwich City on Saturday, £1,113,000 will have departed to the EU, never to be seen again. For each of those 90 minutes, £12,366 will have left; £206.11 for each second. And the next second....and the next....and on and on and on it goes.
Now, aspiring President Rompuy wants to tax us even more without even being elected. And people wonder why I wanted a referendum! Britain is becoming more and more a distant colony of Brussels and whilst I accept that my attitudes to most things these days may belong to a different age, little wonder I sometimes feel I`m back in the 1700s! Pass the laudanum!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

MORE THAN JUST AN ACTOR

Edward Woodward, the fine actor, died today aged 79 in hospital near his home close to Padstow in Cornwall. Over a long and distinguished career, he displayed his virtuosity across a range of parts both on film and television. I suppose it is inevitable that he will be best remembered for his role in The Wicker Man - once described as the Citizen Kane of British horror movies. But for me, he will always be admired for his portrayal in the lead role of Breaker Morant.
It`s quite impossible to begin to summarise that film, first shown in 1980 and directed by that very good Australian director, Bruce Beresford, but its strength was that it dramatised real events and real people that were caught up in the Boer War. Three Australian lieutenants are court martialed for executing prisoners as a way of deflecting attention from war crimes committed by their superior officers and two of them, including Woodward`s central character, Lt. Harry `Breaker` Morant, were executed by firing squad. It`s a complex, compelling drama made yet more dramatic by being based on events that actually happened.
But what made it so compelling was Woodward`s portayal of a complex character, to the extent that you were convinced that you were watching the real Morant and not the actor. Morant himself was a superb horseman - hence his nickname - but also a published poet and one of the stand out moments in Woodward`s performance was his recital, whilst awaiting the firing squad, of part of Morant`s poem,`Butchered to make a Dutchman`s holiday`:-

It really ain't the place nor time
To reel off rhyming diction
But yet we'll write a final rhyme
Whilst waiting cru-ci-fixion!

No matter what "end" they decide
Quick-lime or "b'iling ile," sir?
We'll do our best when crucified
To finish off in style, sir!

But we bequeath a parting tip
For sound advice of such men
Who come across in transport ship
To polish off the Dutchmen!

If you encounter any Boers
You really must not loot 'em!
And if you wish to leave these shores,
For pity's sake, DON'T SHOOT 'EM!!

For more on the background to this award winning film, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaker_Morant Thank you, Edward Woodward, for a memorable contribution to cinema history.
SKY BLUES...
No wonder Saints manager, Alan Pardew, looks puzzled. But he shouldn`t really. Almost every time the Saints are shown live on tv, they have `a bad day at the office.` And yesterday was no exception when they suffered their first home defeat since September to a Brighton team rejuvenated by the appointment of Gus Poyet as their new manager.
This weekend, there were no Premiership matches and no Championship matches and so SKY television were obliged to delve into the lower reaches of the third tier of English football to come across a live game to televise. In truth, Brighton deserved their 3-1 win as the `new manager` syndrome took effect. So no complaints about the result from me anyway.
Years ago, when we were flying high in the Premiership - or, more often than not, flying low - a result like yesterday`s would have had a serious effect on my wellbeing, because in those days it seemed that survival in the top flight really mattered. These days, I am able to accept `bad days at the office` like yesterday with a shrug of the shoulders and a whimsical smile because we lost a football match. That`s all. What a treat it is to have small expectations.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE....
I wonder why it is and how it can be that, having lived for seventy years and spent most of my boyhood in the 40s and 50s, until today I had absolutely no idea that such a thing as the `child migration` to the then colonies of the British Empire took place.
Maybe, after all, I had a relatively sheltered upbringing, despite spending my first six years in wartime with the constant threat of bombing along the shores of Southampton Water. But I never had to experience the trauma of being `deported` - for that`s what it was - to some unknown corner of the world not knowing why or what might befall me.
The scale of the child migration policy has quite astonished me. Literally thousands of young children, some as young as three, removed from Britain and Malta, to Australia, Canada, Rhodesia as it then was and New Zealand. And it has been revealed that a large number of them were treated appallingly, suffering both physical and sexual abuse as well as deep seated psychological damage which, even after all these years, is still apparent in the interviews that have been given.
Now it`s just possible, although hardly defensible, that the Government at the time might have thought they were doing the right thing by these unfortunates, most of whom came from deprived backgrounds, orphanages and childrens homes. And it`s true, of course, that looking back from the vantage point of 2009, it`s easy to condemn the policy as inhumane, unthinking and just plain wrong. But I think we are right to condemn and the Governments of the UK and Australia are right to issue the albeit belated apology they are reported as making.
But as I look back down the years to my own childhood in those far off times, I am left to wonder about a few things. Firstly, whilst the apology is undoubtedly right, I wonder if it really will make any real difference to the victims and whether saying sorry really is enough both for them and for the rest of us, who may need a little more to salve our collective consciences. I wonder why I have lived all these years in blissful ignorance that this policy ever took place. But perhaps most of all, whilst my own upbringing might have failed the health and safety test, I wonder how my own life might have turned out had I been less fortunate than I was. As a child of those times, there but for the grace of divine providence I might have been among their number.

Friday, November 13, 2009


BEYOND RANTING
Woke up this morning - dark - raining - switched on the news and wondered, not for the first time, why it is that `news` is invariably bad. Not just bad but mostly annoying, frustrating, leading almost to a feeling of hopelessness that however strongly I might be offended by what I hear, I am powerless to do anything about it. Maybe that feeling comes from living in the New Labour Liberal Elected Dictatorship.
So what`s making me feel so dejected today? Well, there are the MPs at it again. Some of them are, I know, perfectly sensible and honest when it comes to their discharge of the public purse; others - probably the vast majority - seem to be squirming away from doing the decent thing and accepting the `punishments` dished out following their self-inflicted expenses scandals.
Then yesterday we heard about the BBC, their executive salaries and their own expenses scandals. In a strange fit of masochistic candour - or maybe naivite - or maybe sensing they should jump before being pushed - the BBC have published details of salaries and expenses for all of their `top` executives. And it`s quite astonishing how many there are and I really wonder what they all do. And their expenses are `interesting.` For example, Director General, Mark Thompson, claimed repeatedly for parking meters, producing receipts for as little as 70p, even though he has his own driver who picks him up every day when he gets off the train in London after commuting from his Oxford home. Over three months he claimed £3,364.
Another, £1,137.55 claimed by former head of audio and music Jenny Abramsky for a dinner to celebrate Terry Wogan's knighthood in 2005. Now it`s one thing for us licence payers to pay through the nose for Wogan anyway, but quite another for he and Ms Abramsky and their chums to have munched their way through over £1100 worth of `dinner` at our expense. Seems to suggest that the more they `earn,` the more they expect us to pay for their unthinking whims, which hardly amounts to a culture of responsibility among those who really should know better.
And so I think I`ve reached the point whereby the flagrant squandering of public money - mine and yours - by MPs, the BBC and countless unelected, unaccountable quangos - is so great that I just know I am powerless to do anything about it except moan. And on depressing mornings like today, I`m not sure I have the motivation to rant about these things with any conviction. Maybe my exasperation has finally reached a level which is now quite beyond ranting. TAXI !!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WRITE AND WRONG..

I`m not a fan of Gordon Brown. I`ve never been sure about him ever since he refused to legitimise his Premiership by calling a General Election and ever since he reneged on his solemn manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. But there`s one thing I am pretty much convinced about and that is that he did not write his now public letter to grieving mother Jacqui Janes with anything other than the best of intentions.
In fact, for a serving Prime Minister beset with huge problems and under constant scrutiny and stress to take time out to write personally to each of the families of those service personnel killed on duty in Afghanistan is, frankly, something to be applauded. Okay, there were mistakes in the letter, most unfortunately the mis-spelling of Jamie Janes`s name, but I`m sure the mistakes were honestly made without any hint of causing deliberate offence. I suggest his biggest mistake was to carry on the `event` by telephoning Ms. Janes having already issued an apology, thus giving The Sun newspaper the fuel to carry on their personal vendetta against Gordon Brown.
It`s quite impossible for someone like me, who has thankfully not lost a son in armed conflict, to have the remotest idea of the pain and anguish felt by those who are bereaved. But I would like to think that I would rather be left to grieve in what peace I could find, rather than have my tragic circumstances so fully aired in public whilst at the same time being used to further the political stance of a national newspaper. I think too that I might just find it in my heart to forgive any `mistakes` whilst quietly appreciating the effort made by the country`s leader to pass on his undoubtedly genuine sadness.
Gordon Brown does a lot of things wrong but in this case, even I - of all people - am prepared to support his good intentions, warts and all. And I don`t say that very often.

Monday, November 09, 2009


TIME`S UP?
The picture shows `Sir` Alex Ferguson displaying all the restraint and dignity expected of a knight of the realm as he issues a now standard rant at referee Alan Wiley during the 2-2 draw with Sunderland. That game was played as long ago as 3rd October - five weeks ago, which is a lifetime in the unreal world of the Premiership.
It took until 19th October - over two weeks - for the Football Association to charge Ferguson with `improper conduct.` Over a week later, Ferguson admitted his guilt but requested a personal hearing, presumably so he could hector the FA into giving him a nominal slap on the wrist for being a naughty boy - again. Since then, the FA have still not set a date for the hearing into the original offence which by now has dragged on for far too long.
Now the FA Code says that `high profile disciplinary cases` would be dealt with instantly whilst more complex cases would be dealt with within 28 days of the original alleged offence. Ferguson has admitted his guilt, so it can hardly be described as a `complex case.` so it begs the question as to why things are taking quite so long to resolve.
In the meantime, of course, Ferguson has been allowed to remain on the touchline for recent big games against Liverpool and, yesterday, against Chelsea, as well as for recent European matches and, predictably, on each occasion Ferguson has been true to form in uttering yet more offensive rants against match officials. As well as yet another attack on referee Martin Atkinson following yesterday`s defeat against Chelsea, Ferguson was again caught on camera running up and down the touchline and attacking the fourth official in a manner which of itself should bring further charges to bear.
I have two suspicions. One is that the FA are simply incompetent - a strong possibility - especially in th administration of their own codes of practice. The other is that they are simply terrified of Ferguson and his mindless aggresssion towards all things other than Manchester United, a club to whom different rules seem to apply than to the rest of the football world.
Time should be up for this charmless bully and the FA should issue the strongest punishment at their disposal, guilty plea, personal hearing or not, for Ferguson`s continued antics do little for his reputation or that of his club. I recall the feeling of release and liberation when the news broke that Margaret Thatcher had left the building, but that will be as nothing compared to the sigh of relief felt by the thinking football world when Ferguson finally shuffles off to be heard no more.
BREAKING NEWS.....The FA have just announced that they will not be charging Ferguson as a result of his comments made on Sunday. It seems they also overlooked his raging antics towards the fourth official. They will also not take any action regarding Wayne Rooney`s mouthed `twelve men` jibe referring to referee Atkinson. I told you they were either incompetent or terrified. I suspect they may be both.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

SAY IT QUIETLY...
Well, we certainly won`t be dancing in th street this evening. Near neighbour Scott Wagstaff was part of the Charlton Athletic team that lost 1-0 away at Northwich Victoria in the FA Cup this afternoon. Scott came off the bench for the last ten minutes but was unable to produce a game changing cameo performance as, in truth, Northwich thoroughly deserved their win.
Now and again, football - and FA Cup draws in particular - throws up some odd coincidences. A year or so ago, Scott had a couple of months on loan playing for Northwich and when I saw him the other afternoon, he was looking forward to going back there and meeting up with some of his old colleagues. Sadly, it turned out to be a disappointing return and next up for Charlton is another Cup match on Wednesday evening when they take on Southampton at St. Mary`s Stadium in the Johnstones Paint Trophy, of all things.
On Friday evening, the Saints took on Bristol Rovers at their Memorial Ground also in the FA Cup. Despite the Gasheads of Bristol riding high in League One, whilst the Saints remain in the bottom three, we came away with a 3-2 victory to gain a place in the second round, away to Northampton Town. Southampton against Northampton - another coincidence? Not any more, as it will be the third time in as many years that we have been drawn against each other.
The Bristol Rovers game produced another minor coincidence, for it was to Rovers that Saints splashed out £1million to secure the services of their top striker, Rickie Lambert, who notched 29 goals for them last season and has already reached double figures for us this term. Lambert didn`t score against his old club on Friday evening, but it`s surprising how often these things crop up.
Until recently, Northampton were `managed` by former Saints player, Stuart Gray, who also had a short period managing Saints. A former player for Northampton was Damien Matthew. He started as a 7-year old for a boys club I had something to do with all those years ago and he went on to play for Chelsea and Burnley before ending his playing career with the Cobblers of Northampton. Damien is now a coach at....Charlton Athletic and was in charge of their Youth team, which Scott captained to a good run in the FA Youth Cup. Another circle complete.
But finally, it was noticeable how Saints win at Bristol on Friday evening went largely unnoticed, except to the ardent fans. Not on tv, no reports as such on Sky Sports or in the Saturday papers and just the meerest mention on local tv, all of which suits me nicely as our measured progress continues after years of decline. I`m beginning to believe this dawn may not, after all, be a false one but we`ll keep it quiet just in case.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

RANT OF THE DAY....
I was talking with one of my neighbours yesterday morning and he told me that he hadn`t bought a newspaper for years and years. The reason? Because they were always full of bad news. So too is the news on television and radio; it seems impossible to avoid it and the really depressing thing is that the more you listen, look and read, the worse the news seems to get.
Almost as if to prove my neighbour right, as yesterday unfolded, a string a bad news - some of it tragic - grabbed my attention. Too many things to recount them all here but they included, of course, the outrage in Afghanistan when five more British servicemen lost their lives and even more were seriously injured. It again got me thinking that if we are going to stay there despite all my instincts telling me we should just get out and leave, then we surely are entitled to expect our`European allies` to share more of the burden that we have taken on. I don`t hear HM Gov. pressing the case about that as forcefully as it should be pressed and it makes me angry.
And speaking of our `European allies,` we also heard yesterday that the infamous Lisbon Treaty was finally signed and sealed when the Czech Prime Minister, Vaclav Klaus, finally gave in. And whilst brave servicemen and women are fighting a losing battle in Afghanistan, the political elite of Europe will now be more concerned with who might be the President and who might be the High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Mercifully, it looks as if Tony Blair`s star is on the wane and we might end up with some Belgian nonentity as President of the European Council. As long as it ain`t Blair, that`s fine, although I would still have liked to vote for a President rather than have one foisted upon me.
Whilst Blair may not get that job, there are dark rumblings that the High Representative job might go to David Milliband, the UK`s Foreign Secretary. He looks more and more as if he`s doing his gap year, so difficult is it to take him at all seriously, but if our European partners led by Rosa Klebb lookalike Angela Merkel and Sarkosy the Gallic Dwarf want to continue their nonentity quest, then Milliband of the Remove is their man. What really makes me angry though is that I`m paying for all this nonsense through my taxes, I have no say in what`s going on and any notion I ever had about the will of the people being paramount has totally disappeared in the welter of lies, broken promises and self-serving arrogance which characterises the European Project.
There, that`s better.