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.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


POTS AND KETTLES?
It`s reported that Gordon Brown telephoned Hamid Karzai yesterday to congratulate him on his election as President of Afghanistan. Hang on. If I`ve got this right, the first `election` was dogged by widespread fraud to such as extent that a second election would have been held but for the withdrawal of Karzai`s only rival, Abdullah Abdullah. So no second election then but never mind, Karzai has been installed as President nonetheless.
Brown is also reported to have urged Karzai to act swiftly to "establish the legitimacy of his Presidency in the eyes of the Afghan people." Hang on again. If I`ve got this one right as well, didn`t Brown shoehorn himself into the Premiership of this country and deny the voters the chance to "establish the legitimacy" of his Premiership by refusing to hold a General Election?
Yesterday, Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid of the Royal Logistic Corps was killed whilst defusing a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, bringing the total of British personnel lost in that conflict to 224 - even more than in the illegal Iraq campaign. And I`m beginning to wonder how much longer we can go on losing precious lives in a conflict that may have no solution in a country where corruption is rife, despite which we are ploughing £140million a year into a dubious attempt to give a foothold to `democracy` - a concept which may not even be understood let alone welcomed in that troubled land. And I`m intrigued as to how the notion of installing even a faltering `democracy` can have any legitimacy when imposed by unelected `leaders` via an election procedure which of itself has brought democracy into disrepute.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


TESTING TIMES

It`s a sure sign of getting on a bit when your grandaughter passes her driving test. Sarah, who is 17, passed hers at the first attempt on Friday thus putting one over both her Dad and her Grandad, as we both failed our first tests. I don`t know what went wrong for Sarah`s Dad, but I vividly recall my own failure which took place in Maidstone on a Tuesday morning in about 1956.
The trouble with Maidstone in those days was that it didn`t have a by-pass and there were no motorways so that all the traffic between London and the ports like Dover went right through the middle of the town. And Tuesday mornings were when the town`s market was held - a big deal in those days, so maybe not the best time for a driving test. The test centre was pretty much in the middle of the town and I drove out of there rather nervously to join the queue of traffic crawling down the hill. And then we stopped.
For twenty minutes we didn`t move and with the test supposedly lasting about half an hour, I was asked to try and turn round and crawl back to the test centre, where I was told how sorry they were but the traffic conditions did not make it possible for the test to be properly conducted. And would I like to make another appointment for a free retest on any other day than a Tuesday morning, which I did and scraped through the retest despite confessing that I didn`t have a clue about one of the Highway Code questions I was asked. (I have long suspected that they were going to pass me anyway unless I was seriously dreadful as a kind of compensation for the first attempt.)
I`m convinced that the test these days is much more thorough and difficult than it ever was when I had mine. I never had to concern myself with a theory test and the car I learnt to drive - a Hillman Minx - was pretty `basic.` Having passed the test though, I had to wait years before I could own a car of my own and when I eventually did it was a white Ford Popular 100e named Emma, with a side valve engine and lots of eccentric features. I suspect Sarah, who has been saving up for years, might already have her sights set on a car to give her the freedom of the road and a whole new outlook on life. One of life`s rites of passage has been ticked off her list. I just wonder what the next one might be.