Saturday, May 30, 2009


LOCAL HERO ONCE AGAIN?...
It`s true to say that, for years, Matthew Le Tissier was almost solely responsible for keeping Southampton Football Club in the top flight. He played 443 games for the Saints, scoring 162 goals and became the first midfielder to score 100 Premier League goals. He was made a Freeman of the city of Southampton, where he is revered not only for his football but also as a supporter of local charites and an all round good egg.
And now it seems possible that MLT - or `Le God` as he is known locally - may well be coming to the club`s rescue once again. For years, the Saints have suffered the slings and arrows of not only outrageous fortune but also outrageous management, most notably under the regimes of duck shooting buffoon Rupert Lowe. Only last week, with the club six weeks into administration, there were insufficient funds to pay the staff and players` wages for May and the Administrator has confessed that the club were within a whisker of going under.
But MLT has given his support to a bid to buy the club by the Pinnacle consortium....and you don`t get MLT`s seal of approval unless he has sufficient confidence that bona fides and all the things that they include are genuine. So after years of anguish and the bottom of the barrel having been reached, there is now a good chance that the club will survive to take its place in the third tier of English football for the first time in 49 years, albeit with a 10 point penalty thanks to going into administration.
But for once, the football has taken second place to the club`s survival and if the final details of the purchase can be settled soon, then a future of whatever sorts will be secured. Oh, and Pinnacle have stumped up the up-front cash to pay the wages, so a little more gloom has been lifted and hope is rising for the club once more being in the hands of honest, decent, genuine people. Just like the incomparable Matthew Le Tissier.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

NO CONTEST....
Last evening`s choice of television was a straight contest between watching Kate Humble and the overpaid, arrogant, mind-numbingly boring, multi-millionaire poseurs of Manchester Bleedin` United. My picture shows the winsome Kate interrupting her cup of badger to take a call on her mobile telling her the result from Rome of Manchester United having been stuffed by Barcelona in the European Cup Final.
She looks quite pleased about it. And so, I confess, do I. Now I have to be careful here because I am sure that within the confines of the Manchester area, there are genuine fans who support their local team and it is for those that I have some sympathy. However, those from Surrey, Devon, Ireland and heaven knows where who also claim to be lifelong, diehard fans of the so-called Red Devils attract little sympathy at all.
I also confess to having an almost pathological dislike of the edifice which Manchester United has become. This stems back some years, but particularly came to the fore when they came to St. Mary`s and beat us 2-1 to consign us to relegation and a continuing spiral of decline. Now, I could accept the defeat and even the relegation, but what I found unnecessarily distateful were the antics of United captain, Roy Keane, who at the final whistle, gave us an exaggerated thumbs down and waved a petulant goodbye. From that moment onwards, I have also grown tired of United`s arrogance and their above-the-law attitude to the rest of the football world. I know. I need help.
Some people say that I should be sorry that an `English` team lost out last night, but if United were not owned by Americans, `managed` by a dour Scot, littered with foreign players, sponsored by a failed American bank and followed by a multi-national collection of vicarious glory hunters, then I might feel differently.
However, to introduce a note of fairness into this particular rant and end on a more approving note, it was a refreshing change to see manager Ferguson accept that they were beaten by the better team and show an uncharacteristic graciousness in defeat. I heard mention on the radio this morning from one of the 267 BBC staff in Rome that `at least United lost well.` As I said before, show me a good loser and I`ll show you a loser.
And as for the lovely Ms. Humble, well she has shown me things I never knew about the natural world which is so far removed from the excesses of the counterfeit world of football. No contest.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

BARNEY AND THE NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY
Tomorrow is going to be a difficult day for Barney and for us. When we got him as a puppy, we signed all the papers prepared by the breeder, amongst which was an agreement that we would not ourselves allow Barney to be used for breeding. In the last few weeks, he has been showing a healthy intetest in the attractions of other retrievers and has also been trying out his technique on various household items.
When ace vet Dave Cocker gave Barney his first check up, he suggested that we should bring him in after about six months to have a `minor operation` which will mean that we will comply with the non-proliferation treaty we signed along with curbing Barney`s current `tendencies.`. So tomorrow`s the day. I have to get him to the Veterinary Centre by no later than 8.00am which means that Barney will have to have his walk very early. But the real problem for him is that, from early this evening, he`s not supposed to have anything to eat in advance of the operation. He simply won`t understand. He`ll probably think he`s being punished for something and he`ll probably think that even more so when he comes round from the operation and discovers what`s happened to him.
I feel a bit mean about the whole thing, but an agreement is an agreement. I`m not too sure Barney would think so though.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT...
.....the scandal over MPs expenses couldn`t get any worse, up pops that self-promoting, bandwagon hopping, opportunistic chancer, Esther Rantzen, who has confirmed that she will stand for election as an MP if current incumbent in Luton South, long distance dry rot eradicating Margaret Moran, decides to stand again. I`m beginning to wonder just what the good folk of Luton South have done to deserve such a choice.
If politics is to be cleaned up in this country, the very last thing we need is a bunch of so-called `celebrities` assuming for one moment that they are any more appealing than the present lot when, especially in Esther`s case, they patently are not. I`m just thankful I don`t live in Luton.

SEEN IT ALL BEFORE...
There was a time - not too long ago - when I might have welcomed Newcastle United`s relegation from the Premier League. After all, they probably deserve to go down, given their recent history, which seems to have included a bizarre owner, a series of duff managers, the signing of a string of overpaid, underperforming players, tactical ineptness and a misguided belief that `we`re too big to go down.`
Now, where have I seen that recipe for disaster before? Why, yes of course - my own club suffered the same fate five seasons ago, when we had a bizarre `owner` in the now thankfully departed Rupert Lowe. We had had a series of duff managers following the departure of Gordon Strachan - Steve Wigley, Paul Sturrock, Harry Redknapp to name but a few. It was `Arry who, in a desperate attempt to avoid relegation and boost his bank balance, signed such memorable players as Olivier Bernard, Nigel Quashie and Dennis Wise with the inevitable result that, after 27 years in the top flight of English football (11 more than Newcastle) we fell through the trap door and have kept on falling until extinction is now a frightening prospect.
So I have some sympathy for the Newcastle fans, who have deserved much better than they have had; and I feel some sympathy for Alan Shearer, who started his career at Southampton, but who faced an impossible task to keep the Magpies up given the tools at his disposal. For their sake, I hope the decline and fall can be reversed because I know from experience just how painful it can be.
I noticed yesterday just how many of Saints` former players are now scattered around the Premier League - players such as half the Stoke team (Delap, Higginbotham, Fuller, Beattie, Davies,) Crouch at Portsmouth, Walcott at Arsenal, Bale at Tottenham, Kenwyne Jones at Sunderland, Bridge at Manchester City - the list goes on and forms a sad litany of past heroes. Newcastle may go the same way, but they may be contractually stuck with at least some of the culprits of their demise. Joey Barton, anyone?

Saturday, May 23, 2009


BARNACLE BARNEY...

After gradually getting Barney more and more used to longer journeys in the car, we finally managed to introduce him to the seaside last week. Here he is (click on the picture for a larger image) checking out the almost deserted beach at Reculver, which is one of the few around here where dogs are allowed all year round. Henry, our much loved last retriever, was never quite sure about the sea and he would only go for a paddle if he felt like it. Barney, however, took to it like the proverbial duck to water and he spent a happy hour exploring, chasing seagulls and seeing if he liked the taste of seaweed (he did!)
It was the first time we had been to Reculver, but I was fascinated by the place. It`s just east of Herne Bay on the north Kent coast and is reached by a long and winding road, at the end of which is the `settlement` of Reculver - an odd mixture of caravan parks, pubs, shops and.....one of the most important and interesting historical sites in this part of the world. For an insight into ours and Barney`s new discovery, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reculver . I`m sure we`ll be back soon.

Friday, May 22, 2009


CHANCES...
I don`t know what it is about Gordon Brown but he seems to have a kind of morbid fear of elections. When he first crept into power as Prime Minister he refused to have an election which would at least have given his premiership some legitimacy. Then he refused to uphold his party`s manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on the European Constitution. And now he`s refusing to hold a General Election so we can wipe the slate clean and start again with a new set of MPs who will be terrified to put a foot wrong.
Now, `three strikes laws` are statutes enacted by state governments in the USA, which require the state courts to hand down a mandatory and extended period of imprisonment to persons who have been convicted of a serious criminal offence on three or more separate occasions. These statutes became very popular in the 1990s. They are formally known among lawyers and legal academics as `habitual offender laws.` A person accused under such laws is referred to in some jurisdictions as a "prior and persistent offender." The name comes, of course, from baseball, where a batter is permitted two strikes at the ball before striking out on the third.
And, of course, in this country the world of show jumping is familiar with the rules of three refusals leading to mandatory retirement from the competition. I wonder how many more chances does chancer Brown need before he does what`s right for the country, rather than what`s right for himself? Don`t worry - the question is entirely rhetorical.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


A CURIOUS JUSTICE...
At first glance, the two gentlemen shown in the picture look like actors from the film, "LA Confidential," with the one on the left clearly playing an arch villain and the other doing a convincing job of playing the corrupt police chief. In fact, they are both peers of the realm - respectively Lord Truscott (Baron Truscott) and another Baron, Lord Taylor of Blackburn. Yesterday, the pair of them were suspended from the House of Lords, the first time such suspensions have happened since Viscount Saville was suspended in 1642 `for siding with King Charles I,` which puts them in good company with our old friend, Speaker Martin, who became the first Speaker of the Commons to be `forced from office` in 300 years. We sure do live in interesting times.
The reason for their Lordships` suspension was that they were found by a Lords committee to be willing to change laws in exchange for cash. Sounds a bit serious to me. Questions about misuse of public office and things like that. Still, they have been found wanting and suspended from their Lordships House for six months. That means they won`t be able to attend the House and thus be unable to claim their attendance and other allowances which can - and no doubt do - amount to £355 a day.
Now, you ask, is that all? How come that an offence which is indeed so offensive doesn`t invoke the full force of the law of the land? Well, it seems that a few months ago, when this sorry affair first came to light, our boys in blue under the leadership of the inestimable Yates of the Yard were indeed brought in to investigate. However, after consulting with the Crown Prosecution Service, the Metropolitan Police decided not to proceed, a decision which was taken "after considering the prospects for obtaining evidence and whether an inquiry constituted the best use of police resources. In addition, there are very clear difficulties in gathering and adducing evidence in these circumstances in the context of parliamentary privilege." Shades of one rule for them and another for the rest of us? If so, then it all adds up to a curious idea of justice and another item for the agenda of the promised review of political life in our cradle of democracy .

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Well, it is, isn`t it? Speaker Martin finally saw the light yesterday and delivered his 33 second statement of farewell. About time too and it may have taken 300 years to get rid of a duff Speaker, but it has been worth the wait. For too long he defended the indefensible and continued to bring the game into disrepute not only by shelling out more and more taxpayers money to try and cover up the expenses abuses but also by treating the few remaining honourable members to a bout of ungentlemanly conduct and unsporting behaviour.
If it was the Football Association sitting in judgment, he would have faced a lifelong ban from the game and a hefty fine. As it is, Martin will shuffle off to the House of Lords with a very generous pension, a daily attendance allowance of £174 and access to the kind of privileges which only elevation to the peerage can bring. It`s the stuff of Alice in Wonderland. In the real world, you couldn`t make it up. But this isn`t the real world. This is a mad, mad, mad, mad one. And it shows.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


WHAT NEXT?
The MP`s expenses fiasco rumbles on along with the soap opera that the future of Speaker Martin has become. I watched Martin`s `statement` yesterday and could not escape the feeling that I was watching 300 years of history being rewritten. The next few days will be revealing and I`m sure the 648 MPs will want it `resolved` before they clear off for yet another week away from the mother of Parliaments. Maybe the fact that Parliament is sitting for only 159 days this year is another abuse that needs looking into.
And in all the talk of General Elections, new Speakers, root and branch reforms and the rest, it`s easy to fall into the trap of believing that a sort out of MPs expenses will be the end of it. It shouldn`t be. There are loads of other `areas of discontent` that need examining, such as the free travel enjoyed by MPs and their families, the free post they enjoy and the free, if not heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, bars and catering that they enjoy at Westminster. And then there is the European Parliament, for whom we are supposed to be voting in a couple of weeks` time. If we thought that the fiddles exposed in the House of Commons are bad enough, just imagine the countless millions squirrelled away by the MEPs. And then there is the House of Lords, whose members are also blessed with expenses and allowances that seem devoid of proper accountability. So I just wonder where it will all end and whether we will ever be rid of the institutionalised abuse of taxpayers` money. I`m not holding my breath.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


A COUNTRY WEEKEND...

After a busy week, Barney is going to have an even busier weekend. He had some more `training classes` on Wednesday evening and again yesterday morning and he is now getting very obedient at things like sitting down when told, laying down and coming back when called - reminds me of my National Service basic training. Anyway, today we`re off on a family visit to see my brother-in-law and his wife and to introduce Barney to the winsome charms of Judy, their two-year old Wheaton Terrier. They live in the depths of the Kent countryside in a rural paradise with walks close by commanding panoramic views over the Weald of Kent, so we`re looking forward to an afternoon`s ramble. It`s probably Barney`s biggest test for travelling in the car, so we`ll see how he copes with it. He`s got to get used to it, though, as we have some much longer journeys planned for later in the year.
And tomorrow, we`re off to a gathering of the golden retriever clans organised by the Southern Golden Retriever Society, of which Barney is now a member. It`s called a `Fun Day` but I have my suspicions about that. Apparently there are going to be 80 to 100 golden retrievers there and I suspect they are really meeting up to plan their strategies and policies for the next few months, as well as having a good time in yet another peaceful corner of the county. You see, I came to the conclusion years ago that you never really `own` a golden retriever - they dictate our way of life and the daily routine; by and large they tend to be in charge of the `relationship` and have a habit of getting their own way. Just like having a wife, really. Coming, dear!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


PARROTS, MOONS AND MAYBE A PINCH OF SALZ...
My next door neighbour is a lifelong Gillingham FC supporter. Not surprising really, as his Dad was as well and we live just a few miles from the Medway Towns, of which Gillingham is one, along with Chatham and Rochester. You can`t see the join between the three and it doesn`t really matter anyway, as the whole conurbation is administered by the all-singing, all-dancing, do-everything, unitary Medway Council.
But they`re dancing in the streets of Medway right now, as a result of their football team (The Gills) reaching the play-off final at Wembley on 23rd May. If they win that game against Shrewsbury, then they will be promoted to the third tier of English football where, of course, my beloved Saints now find themselves. My neighbour will be at Wembley and I wish him and his team every success.
And it will be good to be playing against The Gills next season - I have already offered to take my neighbour down to St. Mary`s Stadium for the game against Saints but, mercifully, he has not yet returned the compliment - I guess he can`t until after the Wembley encounter next week.
In the meantime, Saints remain in administration and despite the efforts of the Administrator, no deal has yet been finalised to take over the affairs of the club and, as time passes, doubts are being raised as to whether any deal will be possible.
I`m clutching at straws here, but the avuncular gentleman in my picture above is Anthony Salz. A season ticket holder at St. Mary`s and a devoted Saints fan, Salz is one of the sharpest legal brains in the country - as senior partner of Freshfields he gained an enviable reputation before retiring in 2006. Currently Deputy Chairman of NM Rothschild, he was Vice-Chairman and Acting Chairman of the BBC Governors, a trustee of the Tate Foundation and of the Eden Project. He knows a lot of people, including Gavin Davies, another former BBC Chairman, a former managing director of Goldman Sachs and apparently another Saints fan. So Salz moves in high circles and ones with ample resources to help my own club in its darkest hours. Nothing is certain, or even probable, but hope remains that the club will survive. Even if it doesn`t, then it won`t be for want of trying on the part of people like Anthony Salz who, in any event, cuts a much finer and more acceptable figure than the recently departed Rupert Lowe.
If The Saints do survive, I will be over the moon. If The Gills fail to get promoted, then my neighbour will be sick as a parrot. Conversely, if the Saints finally fold through lack of investment, it will be me squawking from my perch and if The Gills do make it through, then my neighbour will be the one doing the moonwalk. I hope it works out for both of us, so we can look forward to some high class neighbourly banter next season. And I hope it works out for Anthony Salz too, for I doubt my club could be in better hands.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


TWO CHEERS FOR BLEARS..
So, Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, our leather clad biking Ginger Gerbil, has decided to pay back a wadge of cash to the Inland Revenue equivilent to the Capital Gains Tax she should have paid when she sold a property in Kennington, south London, for a profit of £45,000. I believe the cheque she has written is for something in excess of £13,000, which is fine and something to be commended, even if it is an attempt to save her political skin. If I`ve got this right, though, it was the taxpayer who put up the mortgage for her to buy the place to begin with, which leads to the obvious question as to why Ginger Blears should pocket the balance of about £32,000 and think everything is okay. The `profit` should of course go back to the taxpayer.
There`s a danger that people will start thinking that this MPs expenses stuff is getting boring and diverting Parliament away from the issues affecting the real world. But, of course, in the real world it is people like me who pay our taxes and we are rightly outraged that MPs should take us for granted and abuse our trust in the way some of them have. So I am looking forward to yet more revelations and more MPs trying to regain some semblance of decency by writing out cheques like our Hazel has done. I just hope they won`t think that that makes everything alright, because there`s a long, long way to go yet. I`m reminded of Crowded House and Neil Finn`s lyrics which, being a biker, Hazel would do well to recall - "You`ll never see the end of the road while you`re travellin` with me. Hey now, hey now, don`t dream it`s over......."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009



HOW MUCH MORE?
On my drive home yesterday, as well as listening to Speaker Martin`s statement on Radio 5 Live yesterday, there was yet more bad news to contend with. As if this year hasn`t already had more than its fair share of upsets, the breaking news I heard yesterday was that Katie Price and Peter Andre have `split up` after a few years of alleged wedded bliss.
Coming on top of the credit crunch, the Saints being relegated yet again, the revelations about MPs expenses, more loss of precious life in the futile exercises of Iraq and Afghanistan and all the other doom and gloom, I`m afraid the Katie and Peter news was just too much to bear. I`m really not sure how much more I can take. Life really won`t be the same without these shining examples of restraint and moderation to look up to. But maybe, with a little help, I`ll get over it one day, although I think it will take some time to come to terms with. Possibly.

Monday, May 11, 2009


DELUSIONS OF ADEQUACY
I was in the car this afternoon, driving home, when I heard Speaker Martin`s Statement to the House about the fiasco surrounding the exposure of MPs expenses. Now this has been rumbling on for days now and, in response to the understandable public anger, I had expected Martin to announce immediate and drastic changes to the expenses system so as to take the first step towards rebuilding public confidence in the parliamentary process.
Thus was my innocence exposed once more. For what we got was a mumbled, Ferguson-esque jumble of words from a prepared script which bleated on about maintaining the security of MPs personal details, about the fact that the Police had been called in to hunt down the whistleblower and about the fact that yet another committee of MPs would be meeting this evening to consider what, if anything, might be done. Nothing about immediate steps to stop the cheating of taxpayers` money; no hint of any regret, no leadership from the chair of the House and certainly no truck with any recalcitrant MPs who might want to question the wisdom of Martin`s do-nothing, self-serving, wholly inadequate response.
It seems that this bumbling oaf has still not grasped the fact that the game is up, that he and his fellow creative claimants actually do have to answer for their penchant for stretching the boundaries of their self-designed system beyond reasonable limits and that the taxpayers of this country look to Parliament for examples to be set, rather than for profits to be made at our expense. In all the bluster which comes from the Speaker`s chair, I hear nothing that even begins to put the interests of the voting taxpayers before those of maintaining the cosy club that the Westminster village has become. From where I`m sitting it appears that, in Martin`s case, adequacy truly is a delusion after all.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


NOW WHERE HAVE I HEARD THAT BEFORE?
I`m hesitant about commenting on the furore concerning MPs expenses - the newspapers, radio and tv are going on about it non-stop - but there are one or two aspects of this whole business that make me even more infuriated than I am normanlly about where my taxpayer money is going. OK, so a lot of it may be trivial, some of it may be unsubstantiated, quite a bit appears indefensible (horse manure, kit-kats, bathplugs and porn films) but the things that make me really angry are twofold.
First, our elected representatives simply don`t get it; they either don`t understand the real world beyond the Westminster village - or they understand the reaction of the real world only too well, which is why they have gone to such lengths not only to try to suppress the information but also to call in the police to investigate how details of their expenses claims were obtained by the Telegraph in the first place.
But more tellingly, it is the reaction of the MPs themselves to this media and therefore public exposure of what they have been doing with our money. They blame the system.....but it was a system brought in by Parliament itself. They blame the Fees Office.....but if MPs didn`t submit dodgy claims then the Fees Office wouldn`t have a problem. Because all the Fees Office can do is apply Parliament`s own rules to the claims made and however immoral or unjustified those claims might be, if they fall within the rules, then they have to be paid.
And so we come to the loudest squeal of all coming from the seemingly bottomless trough - the MPs themselves are all adamant that their claims were made within the rules and approved by the Fees Office and so they have done nothing wrong. At which point, the Nuremburg Defence has taken over. "We were just following orders," they claim. I thought I had heard that somewhere before.
Now, I`m the last one to start moralising but I think I am qualified to consider the importance of `responsibility.` It just seems to me that our MPs, especially Cabinet Ministers, might perhaps have questioned the `appropriateness` of some of their claims before expecting us taxpayers to pay them. I would like to think that I - and especially my conscience - would have acted responsibly, reasonably, sensibly, when considering whether to submit a claim or not and therefore guaranteeing that my sleep would not be disturbed. I wonder how many of our MPs manage to sleep at night.
Perhaps the truth is that they just don`t care. Well, they may not, but I`m pretty sure the electors do and I for one am looking forward to the upcoming elections, especially the one for the European Parliament, for if we think the MPs in this country have had a gravy train for too long, I have a feeling we ain`t seen nothing yet.

Friday, May 08, 2009


TAKE THAT...

Relegated to the third tier for the first time in 49 years (I still remember seeing them in the old Third Division South.) Start next season with a 10 points deduction thanks to holding company in administration. Not permitted to sell season tickets for next year and unable to negotiate contracts with players whose contracts have expired even though most of them will want to leave anyway. (Odd isn`t it that the players who brought about our relegation now want to leave because they don`t want to play at the lower level.) Debts of £30million. No matchday income as season has finished. Unable to benefit from `windfall` following Birmingham City`s return to the Premiership. Staff wages being paid thanks to donations from supporters. All very depressing.
But Saints legend Matthew Le Tissier hints at an involvement in a consortium who might buy the club. One of my Hamburg-based grandsons wants a new Saints kit for his 8th birthday, so I`ll be off to the Megastore on Monday to inject some much needed cash into their tills. And in an act of optimistic defiance against a cruel, uncaring world I have put the Saints stickers back on my car. After all, now that the sceptre of Rupert Lowe has finally been removed, Saints are once again for life - not just the Championship. So there.

Thursday, May 07, 2009



GROWING UP...
This picture of Barney shows him proudly wearing his rosette which he was presented with for getting his bronze award in the Kennel Club`s Good Dog Citizen thingy. I suppose it means that Barney can more or less be taken anywhere and be relied upon to behave - a bit like his owner.
Trouble is, his success has gone to his head a bit and he now harbours delusions of adequacy. Last night at the Golden Retriever Training Class, he, along with his other mates who succeeded last week, started out on the trail of the silver award and the new things they were asked to do, they did with apparent ease, tinged perhaps with a touch of arrogance. The only thing Barney was reluctant to do was to climb into the back of the car without me having to lift him up and put him in, but we`re working on it.
Now, whilst his newfound confidence is commendable, it seems to be coinciding with Barney entering the `adolescent` stage of his development. So, he has been invited to join a class of adolescents on Friday, where he will be able to mix with others of his own age. I wonder how much of it is about adolescence and how much about delinquency. We`ll see, although I suspect that a certain `minor operation` he`s due to have soon might just slow him down a bit.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009



PROMISES, PROMISES....
So, the May Bank Holiday is behind us and it`s difficult to pick out anything truly memorable about it. By and large it`s not been a weekend for good news. But there was one item which lifted the spirits if only until reality took over.
The gossip emanating from the Westminster Village was all about the future of Prime Minister Gordon Benett. We had the Krankie-esque figure of `Communities Secretary` Hazel Blears, who at 4`10" conjurs up visions of being savaged by a ginger gerbil, admitting that Gordon didn`t do himself or `the party` any favours by his YouTube performance, only for her to `clarify` her statement later by insisting that it was not a criticism of Gordon. Then up popped Health Secretary, ex-postman Alan Johnson, to give the illusion that he wan`t interested in being Prime Minister but not actually saying so. And then there was our Deputy Prime Minister who likes to be known as The Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman, QC, MP who came on television to declare that she was happy to be a supporting deputy and wasn`t interested in becoming Prime Minister "and that`s the honest truth."
All of which tempts me to go off on a tangent and consider whether anyone in their right mind is the slightest bit interested in what any of these caricatures have to say, when all we really want them to do is shut up and go away. But I won`t go there, because another tangent is a little more appealing. Bear with me, dear reader.
I was talking the other day to a couple of my neighbours and the conversation came around, as it always seems to, to football. One is a Chelsea supporter and the other a fan of Ebbsfleet United in the Conference league. The Chelsea fan has a ticket for the return game against Barcelona, who are arguably the best club team in the world right now. Sensing disappointment for Chelsea, he declared that even if they lost, he wasn`t that bothered.
Ebbsfleet`s problems are different. They are a community club, owned by thousands of subscribers acound the globe and relying on their annual subscriptions of £35 each being renewed to ensure the club`s survival. As things stand, their prospects don`t look bright, but my sanguine neighbour declared that he wasn`t that bothered either.
Now, when I hear diehard fans say they`re not bothered about what happens to their club, I know then that they are very bothered indeed. And when I hear Harriet Harman say she doesn`t want to be Prime Minister, then I also have every reason to be very bothered indeed.

Monday, May 04, 2009


PEACE AT LAST..
This is the small village of Chilthorne Domer, not far from Yeovil in the bountiful county of Somerset. The village goes back at least to the Domesday Book of 1086, when it was known as Cilterne and the Domer bit comes from the original owners of the manor. It has a church which has its origins in the 13th century and a manor house which was built in the 17th century. The manor house has its own well and in the garden there is a six seater "privy" which was built about 1720 and was in regular use until 1939. Not a lot of people know that.
But the village, with its current population of 569 and despite having its own Peer of the Realm, Baroness Susan Miller of Chilthorne Domer, is hardly known beyond the Somerset levels. But it was the home village of one of my wife`s closest and much loved friends - someone who brought that West Country chirpiness to our lives, someone who was always cheerful and willing to do anything for anyone.
Now towards the end of February, I mentioned that I felt that the attention given to the passing of Jade Goody was in stark contrast to the dignified silence in which countless thousands suffered the same fate as she did. Well, our good friend from Chilthorne Domer left us over the weekend after a long and brave battle against cancer. She will leave a big void in our community and we will miss her cheerfulness, her smiles and laughter which shone through her pain, but most of all we will miss her just being around.
No OK Magazine. No Max Clifford. No messages from Gordon Brown. Just a dignified, quiet, peaceful leaving of one of the countless thousands, which says so much more than all the `publicity` in the world ever can.

Friday, May 01, 2009



TALENT OVERLOOKED?

So, Carol Ann Duffy has become the very first woman to be appointed Poet Laureate after no less than 341 years of Poet Laureatness. Congratulations go to her for this honour which, it seems, she was a little uncertain of accepting, but did so `because they hadn`t had a woman,` But whilst I`m pleased for this 53 year-old Scottish mother within a lesbian relationship which has since ended, I`m not quite convinced that she was the most deserving.
That said, I like her style - she will be giving the £5750 a year `salary` to the Poets Society, so that it goes back into the business and she has asked for the 600 bottles of sherry that goes with the job to be handed over up front, in stark contrast to outgoing Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, who has been in the job for ten years and still hasn`t touched a drop.
For all that, I am deeply saddened that Pam ("I wish I`d looked after me teeth") Ayres continues to be overlooked and it`s such a pity that Spike Milligan is no longer with us. His epic poems, such as:-
"There are holes in the sky
Where the rain comes in.
But they`re ever so small,
That`s why rain is thin."

.......or the even more touching
"Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
`I'll draw a sketch of thee,
What kind of pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B?`"
- would surely have made him a strong candidate and I think that, for all her talent, Carol Ann might struggle to emulate work like that. No wonder the picture above shows her about to thump me round the head with one of her tomes.