Thursday, April 29, 2010

I have kept a little diary from 1960 - 50 years ago now - during the time I was called up to do my National Service. It tells me that, about the end of April, I and my fellow inmates had concluded our basic training and our `trade` training. So we would spend the next couple of weeks in what was known as the Regimental Holding Troop (RHT) before having a bit of leave prior to being transferred to our permanent regiments.
I always thought that RHT was a euphamism for Don`t Know What To Do With Them Troop (DKWTDWTT) and my suspicions were confirmed when I was sent to the stores to get something one morning. When I arrived, there was no-one to be seen despite the fact that the door was open, so in I went. Moreover, no-one appeared for the rest of the day and no-one enquired as to my own whereabouts, so I made myself comfortable and spent a restful day in quiet contemplation as to what next might befall me.
What befell me next in my military career was the train from Richmond in Yorkshire to Harwich, an overnight voyage in a flat bottomed troopship to the Hook of Holland and another long train journey across Holland and Germany until I finally linked up with the 10th Royal Hussars (the Shiny Tenth) at their base near Paderborn. I wasn`t sure they quite knew what to do with me either, but I found myself in the Orderly Room which turned out to be anything but orderly. It was `managed` by the Orderly Room Quartermaster Sergeant (ORQMS) who was an interesting and rather engaging character. He was universally known as `Footprints,` for that is really the most you ever saw of him as he left just the merest suggestion of his presence on the floors of the Shiny Tenth`s corridors. He was always in a hurry to be somewhere else and I wondered why.
In his absence, the Orderly Room came under the gaze of Footprints` second-in-command, an avuncular sergeant who had a certain air about him. A mixture of confidence verging on bombast but yet an underlying vulnerability that made it difficult to take him seriously, particularly as he was partial to tuneless humming, reminiscent of the Mongolian throat singers. But most of all, there was perhaps more than `a hint of lavender` about him, which probably explains why Footprints was seldom, if ever, to be seen. Apart from his footprints, of course.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Self-indulgence alert!! Yes, I know, I`m not so much living in the past as reliving my carefree boyhood each time I go back to Hythe and retrace the steps of those times when life was simple, uncomplicated and above all, safe. Last Saturday, I drove down to Southampton for the football and just as I got to the outskirts of the city, the local radio told me that there were severe traffic problems in the city centre. I was also encouraged to give it a miss because the car park charges at Town Quay have doubled from last season. So, a mixture of avoiding the logjams and saving a few bob on car parking encouraged me to head for Hythe.
Knowing the village as I do, I knew where I could park safely and for free, so I made for Atheling Road and parked outside what used to be Michael ("Johnner") Curtis`s bungalow. Johnner emigrated to Canada years ago, but about ten years ago, I was having lunch in John Madgwick`s fish and chip emporium when in walked Johnner. I hadn`t seen him since our schooldays 60 years ago now and he just happened to be back home visiting his Mum in her Atheling Road bungalow. Having parked, I wandered down to the pier and bought my senior citizen`s return ticket for the ferry - much cheaper than the Town Quay car park - to take me across to Town Quay.
Hythe Pier and Hythe Ferry go back a long way - it was shown on Christopher Saxton`s map of 1575 - although the present pier, 700 hundred yards long, was completed in 1880 and it wasn`t until 1922 that the little train which runs along the pier came into service. It might be a delightful ride, albeit perilously close to the edge, but I always prefer to walk the planks for the whole length of the pier. On the way out to the pier head, from where the ferry leaves , you get the blast of wind from the Solent......
"where the wind off the Solent
flattens one side of you like a plank.."
(William Scammell.
`First Sailing`)
......and you see before you the panorama of Southampton Water, from Fawley and Hamble, to Netley, the Weston Shore and finally Southampton Docks, on Saturday blessed by the visit of three huge cruise liners. The ferry itself sailed very close to the Ventura and it was just like looking up at a block of apartments, like a floating Ocean Village.
But for me, in my wistful moments, the return walk back to the shoreline from the pierhead is one to savour. The little train shunts its way past me, carrying those in more of a hurry than me and I see my first school on the rise above the village. To the west of the pier, the shoreline is much as it was all those years ago with the shipyard, the backs of the shops in the High Street and the sea wall where our back garden ended. To the east is Hythe Marina Village, all neat and modern, all boats and sails, on recalimed land where once cattle used to graze the mudbanks of West Street. As I near the end of the pier, the wind abates but I feel revived from its salt and seaborne tang.
I make my way back to Atheling Road, quite expecting Johnner`s Mum to be in her garden as she always was but, sadly, like John Madgwick`s fish and chip emporium and like my own mother, Johnner`s Mum is long gone too. I take my leave and head off on the 120 mile journey home. But on Saturday week I`ll do it all again and, just like writing this, I know I will feel all the better for it.
Self-indulgence alert over! Normal service may be resumed.....whatever normal might be.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

This weekend`s football was, in the immortal words of Paul Merson, like a bag of Revels - an odd mixture with some inconsistencies, some surprises and some unexpected results. There was the good, the bad and the inevitable ugly.
First the good. And what could be more heartwarming than the success achieved by Eddie Howe and his Bournemouth team in overcoming points deductions, administrations, countless changes of ownership, an embargo on signing players and financial crises and yet they find themselves promoted from League Two to League One after a season of admirable and dignified endeavour.
Small wonder that, after their victory away at Burton Albion yesterday, their supporters were singing, "Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we`re going to Saint Mary`s, que sera, sera." For they will indeed be visiting Southampton next season in a long awaited south coast derby which promises to be less fractious than our encounters with Portsmouth, whose self-inflicted meltdown continues.
I was also pleased for my West Ham supporting friends, since the Hammers have secured their place in the top flight for another season, but pleased also for Gianfranco Zola, who seems a genuinely honest, decent man and deserves to be treated as such by the Hammers` pornographic owners. My suspicion is that, sadly, he will not and so another good man will depart the Premier League management scene. Pity - there aren`t many left.
Which brings me on to the bad. But I`m not complaining, for Saints, having beaten Carlisle again yesterday, find themselves in seventh spot - one short of the play-offs and any hope of promotion. What`s bad about it is not so much the fact of falling agonisingly short but more about the fact that the efforts of Alan Pardew and the team to get so close after starting the season with a 10 point deduction, courtesy of the mismanagement of Rupert Lowe, have gone unrewarded. It has been a valliant effort, a hugely enjoyable journey and far from any blame being attached to anyone it has given supporters like me many fond memories, not least the wonderful visit to Wemberly, along with hope and encouragement for next season. So, perhaps not so bad after all.
The ugly, I suppose, might have been a toss up between Portsmouth and Hull City but for me the most depressing aspect of this weekend was the announcement by Alex Ferguson that he has no intention of retiring as manager of Manchester United and so we will be treated to the mumbling inanities of this charmless oaf for a while yet. Ah well, you can`t win them all.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What an extraordinary image. It shows Mr. John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood - Pompey`s self-acclaimed uber fan - holding up cards questioning the fitness and propriety of the club`s former owners who, by some miracle of divine providence, were accepted by the Premier League as `fit ands proper.` Shades of that paragon of virtue Thaksin Shinawatra being given the all clear to own Manchester City. The sweet irony of Mr. Westwood of all people posing such a question is all too obvious, I fear.
During the last few days, the latest version of Portsmouth`s debt has seen it grow to almost £120million, almost double the previous guestimate. Buried in the detailed list of creditors that make up this remarkable debt is the revelation that Portsmouth FC actually owe Southampton FC £35,000. There is much speculation as to the reason for this but it could be the damages incurred by Southampton when Portsmouth came visiting a few seasons ago, on which occasion Mr. Westwood and his chums saw fit to rip up seats, urinate on others and generally cause damage to our nice family-friendly stadium.
Of course, I may be wrong and I may be being unfair to Mr. Westwood and his cronies but the ironies just keep coming. Portsmouth are in deep mire, with a crumbling shambles of a `stadium` (nottarF kraP) and already relegated to any league that will have them. Whatever the reason for the £35,000 debt, it does seem ironic that a so-called Premier League club can owe anything at all to another club in the third tier of English football. But then if they also owe the St. John Ambulance and the local florist money, maybe I shouldn`t be surprised.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In an age when blatant cheating is rife in the world of sport - diving footballers, ball-tampering cricketers, blood capsule chewing rugby players and so on - to the distressing point whereby it is not only expected behaviour but also tolerated, it is truly refreshing to learn of a shining example of sportsmanship and honesty.
Not surprisingly, it happened in the world of golf, where the game`s controversies tend to happen off the course rather than on it. It came in the prestigious Verizon Heritage Classic tournament in South Carolina on Sunday. The American Jim Furyk and Brian Davis of England were in a play-off to decide the tournament winner. Davis`s tee shot ended up on the adjoining beach, where his ball found a decent lie amid the debris. Furyk putted to within six feet of the hole while Davis played out of the hazard to within about 20 feet.
However, Davis called the referee over and said that he thought his club may have brushed against a stray reed on his backswing. Davis asked for a slow-motion replay to clear the matter up. When the verdict came that he had indeed touched the aforementioned reed, it meant a breach of rule 13-4 and a two-stroke penalty for Davis. Rule 13-4 forbids players from moving `loose impediments` in hazards and as the reeds surrounding his ball were not attached to the ground he was not allowed to touch them whilst making his swing.
Now, Davis could have moved on to the green, played his putt and no-one would have been any the wiser. At stake was not only a possible first American title for Davis but also a difference in prize-money of £500,000. Despite the fact that Rule 13-4 is a daft rule when applied to the circumstances Davis found himself in, it is nonetheless still a rule and Davis knew he had to do. He had to be true to himself and he knew he had to honour the rules of golf, however arcane some of them might be. His honesty with himself and with his profession may have seen him pay a heavy price but the value of his actions was quite simply incalculable.
In a week of non-stop electioneering, Brian Davis stands out as an admirable man and reminds us that truth and honesty really are beyond price. It`s just a pity there`s not more of it around.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Icelandic volcanic ash cloud continues to wreak havoc with air travellers with no end in sight as to when flights might be resumed. Even when (if?) they do, it will take time for things to get back to `normal.`
But for me at least the ill wind is bringing some good news and some bad news. The bad news first. My eldest son, his wife and one of our grandaughters flew to Portugal about a week ago for a short break during the Easter school holidays. They`re still there! Mum and Dad have jobs to get back to and grandaughter is due back at school tomorrow morning. Our last contact with them revealed that they had re-booked their return flights with a different operater and held out some hope that they might get home on Tuesday, although that might prove optimistic. (I wonder if they mind the delay too much - after all, there are worse places to be stranded than the Algarve.)
The good news dawned on me this morning. I had an hour`s walk through the Kent orchards with Barney on what is a beautiful Spring day and the sound of silence from the absent aircraft was tangible. It really did seem quieter than usual and had a kind of eerie feeling about it. On our ramble which was away from the noise of traffic, there seemed to be just me, Barney, the occasional rabbit and only the birds in the sky above us. It was almost deafeningly peaceful and perhaps gave a glimpse of how it must have been before the invention of the motor car and aircraft. But for all of that, it will be a relief to have our family home again.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I know, I know. I said I wouldn`t get involved in all this election stuff but every day something happens that encourages me to get something off my chest. Today it`s the reaction of the Brown/Cameron camps to the `performance` of LibDem leader Nick Clegg in the first Leaders` Debate, which has seen the LibDem vote rocket by some 8% overnight.
The Labour and Tory response seem to be, firstly, denial that Clegg took them to the cleaners and won the `debate` hands down; secondly to claim that Clegg might be all style and no substance and therefore, thirdly, when the second of the three televised debates takes place next Thursday, they will `release the forces of hell` on Clegg and subject him to sustained attack personally and on his policies.
Now, I don`t know too much about politics and I confess to being one of many who have been disenchanted - to put it mildly - with the whole business of politics and politicians. But I do know one thing. To invoke the yah-boo schoolyard gang warfare against someone perceived to be a threat will be seen as a sure sign of desperation and will simply have the effect of turning people away from all of that and perhaps, just perhaps, encouraging them to listen more carefully to what might be a more measured, adult, reasoned and acceptable alternative?

Friday, April 16, 2010

I`m left wondering whether the `Leaders` Debate` last night was the moment when politics truly became light entertainment. If so, then it would make a change from the farce we`ve put up with for too long. I`m pretty sure the party leaders were judged more on style and personality rather than anything else, in which case I don`t see why we shouldn`t do away with the General Election and simply have an on-line/phone-in to settle who we want as Prime Minister. It seems to work for Britain`s Got Talent, the X Factor, Over the Rainbow, Dancing on Ice and a host of other `reality` television shows and, in truth, that`s what the Leaders` Debate most certainly was - almost the ultimate reality tv show. The only thing missing was Graham Norton.
So, enough of this pre-election nonsense, all that canvassing, all those party political broadcasts, all those leaflets, polling stations, poll staff, counts, recounts, red tape and sealing wax. Just call this number now..... Of course, calls from a BT landline will be charged at the standard rate, but may be higher at peak times; calls from mobile phone operaters vary but might be charged at a higher rate and all calls will be monitored for training and security purposes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Strange place, Iceland. Weird shape, pretty nippy, loads of snow and stuff. For years, it stayed in the background, doing its Icelandic thing after the infamous Cod Wars of the 1970s.
But in recent years it has developed something of an unfortunate reputation for not doing things terribly well. A couple of examples. A few years ago, Kent County Council, to whom I shell out close on £2,000 a year in Council Tax, felt that Iceland was a safe bet and invested £50million of our money. I guess they thought they knew what they were doing but, come the Bank crashes and all that money has seemingly disappeared in the white hole of Icelandic economic troubles. Despite assurances, there is still no sign of any of our (I nearly said Kent County Council`s) money being returned.
Next, Iceland inflicted Bjork on us. Now it`s just possible that she has a redeeming quality or two, but if so, then they escaped me. Instead, we had a constant stream of ear-grating, teeth-gnashing, head-splitting screeches, masquerading as music, as `art.` No it wasn`t. It was rubbish.
And now we have Iceland`s inability to control their own volcanoes, leaving the whole of north-western Europe grounded, travel chaos reigning, warnings constantly being issued softened only by the prospect of spectacular sunsets and sun rises. The cost to the thousands of would-be air travellers and to the economies of the affected countries is enormous and I doubt the word `compensation` will even cross the minds of those in Reykjavik unless, of course, it occurs to them to pay out from our missing £50million.
As the rest of the world concerns itself with global warming and nuclear proliferation perhaps, after all, the Icelanders have the triple whammy solution for world domination. Dodgy banks, Bjork and erupting volcanoes provide them with a powerful combination - and they throw in Lazy Town for good measure. Oh well, I just hope the sunsets are worth it. Hurdy gurdy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You know what black holes are - collapsed stars that develop gravity of such force that anything and everything that gets too close gets eaten up and reduced to atomic dust.
I`m beginning to think that black holes might also exist here on planet earth. If so, they will be called taxes. Now, of course, taxes, like death, are one of the few certainties of life and I suppose I just pay them, shrug my shoulders and get on with it. But sometimes I feel a deep sense of betrayal at some of the things on which my taxes are squandered by people and institutions that should be more careful and thoughtful about other people` money.
Latest examples that have come to light include something like £30million (it might quite possibly be more) of UK taxpayers` money being given each year to China to help with the education of disadvantaged children in the poorer parts of what is now the most buoyant economy on earth. Then there are the £45million each and ever day from the `Outer Event Horizon` of the UK towards the unaudited accounts of the profligate and all consuming EU.
And today, in what might be described as the `Inner Event Horizon,` I hear that £1million of taxpayers money might be going to pay for the legal costs of the three Labour MPs charged with theft by false accounting, aka fiddling their expenses, and generally bringing the political game into disrepute. They`re taking the fifth, so to speak, by claiming that as they were MPs at the time of the alleged offences, then they are protected by Parliamentary privilege. It`s laughable, of course, but in this black hole of ours where the laws of the rest of the universe don`t seem to apply, it wouldn`t surprise me in the least to see them - like Portsmouth Football Club - get away with it.
I`m just off to the singularity of the garage, where £40 of the £50 I`ll spend at the high speed pumps will doubtless be frittered away on equally good causes. Makes me feel really good.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


This beautiful photo was taken by someone who lives in my boyhood village of Hythe, on the western shore of Southampton Water. It captures exactly the scene I saw when I parked my car on Southampton`s Town Quay yesterday for my visit to see Saints play Charlton Athletic. What looks a bit like a block of flats emerging from the Ocean Terminal is, in fact, P & O`s new cruise liner, Azura. She arrived the other day following completion in an Italian yard and was awaiting her official naming, performed last evening by Dame Darcey Bussell, who cracked open a bottle of champers and doubtless wished God to bless her and all who danced in her.

The smaller craft in the foreground is the Red Jet passenger ferry from the Isle of Wight and, as well as seeing these two craft yesterday, we also saw the arrival of a huge container ship, at least as big as Azura, and also, perhaps anachronistically, a three masted sailing ship, as well as numerous other smaller vessels. It`s always a good place to be, Town Quay, with something always going on and plenty to see and we were blessed with a lovely warm Spring day to add to the enjoyment.

I say `we` because I had a passenger on my journey - a near neighbour who is father to one of Charlton`s players - and although he might have been disappointed with the result (Saints 1 - Charlton 0) I got the feeling that he enjoyed his day out and especially the sights to be seen from Town Quay. Quite often, a visit to Southampton to see the football is not just about three points and yesterday was certainly one of those days. I`m already looking forward to next time.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

So, here we go then. Another election campaign, another set of `promises.` And one which caught my eye yesterday was from Gordon Brown, who promised us a `Democracy Day,` if he ever gets back in office. This from a Prime Minister who refused to call a General Election when he first took over as PM from Blair, as he was afraid he might win it. Brown also, of course, refused to honour Labour`s manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, aka Euro Constitution, choosing instead to slink off like a fox in the night and sign the `Treaty` almost apologetically. But at least he kept in with the EU set who make 75% of our laws anyway and palmed us off with Baroness Ashton being appointed, rather than elected, to the extraordinary position of EU High Representative.
And now Brown is promising a Democracy Day. It could turn out to be the one day when the taxpaying voters are put first but I somehow doubt it. It`s just another in a long line of meaningless pre-election nonsense that commands ridicule rather than serious consideration. That`s the trouble with politics these days - it`s a matter of ridicule and incredulity rather than the serious, trusted institution it may once have been.
Once again, I`m reminded of Mahatma Ghandi who, on being asked what he thought of western civilization, replied that he thought it would be a good idea. If he was still alive today and been asked what he thought of British politics, he would probably give the same answer.
So, Gordon Brown has finally named the day for the General Election we should have had a couple of years ago. Already the three main parties have started the campaign and there will be wall to wall coverage on television, radio, the press and all the other forms of media between now and May 6th. I quite expect canvassers to be knocking on my door asking , in complete ignorance of the notion of a secret ballot, who I will be voting for. I always tell each of them that, of course, they can rely on my vote, which sends them away quickly and happily.
I`m really quite dreading the next four weeks so I`ll be on the lookout for some election-free zones in the media. MTV could do well, along with Magic, O Music, Bliss and other channels that bring music to sooth my savage breast until this farce is over and another load of self-serving, arrogant poseurs come along and presume to govern what`s left of our country.
And yet, for all of that, whilst I may look with disdain at the antics I expect to witness in the next four weeks, it will be as nothing compared with the relief I feel that this rotten parliament is finally over. Such has politics become so discredited and such have we been failed by a bunch of politicians who, as ever, promised much but delivered little apart from illegal wars, financial ruin, surrender to Europe and social chaos. Never has the sun setting over the `mother of parliaments` been so welcome. Goodbye and good riddance. Next, please.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I was sorry to learn of the death of Sir Alec Bedser over the weekend, not only because of his outstanding contribution to the world of cricket but also because he was yet another in the list of my boyhood heroes who are no longer with us. In a way, the announcement of his death at the age of 91 immediately set my mind thinking back to those endless summer days of my youth, when cricket was still a game to be played for the sheer exhuberant enjoyment of it all.
I remember first seeing Alec Bedser on a nine-inch black and white television screen, enhanced by a stick-on magnifying glass, when England were winning the Ashes series of 1953. I had just entered my teens and just entered the world of village cricket. I didn`t know whether I was a bowler or a batsman; I had had no coaching, no-one to show me how it was all done and so I studied the players on the tv screen and from the very occasional visit to the county ground in Southampton. I was impressed by the bowling actions of Ray Lindwall (who apparently modelled his own action on the incomparable Harold Larwood) and particularly by the `gather` of Alec Bedser.
I put these two elements together to develop my right arm unpredictables, which stood me in good stead throughout an undistinguished but exhuberantly enjoyable `career` with Basted CC, playing the outposts of Kent and consistently doing the Basted Double of 100 runs and 10 wickets in a season. A singular achievement indeed.
Now, the world of cricket is today in fulsome praise of Alec Bedser and rightly so and I have no need here to duplicate any of that, for it is there for all to see. But what I do recall is also the passing of Alec`s twin, Eric, just three years ago. The twins were inseperable, growing up together, playing for Surrey, golfing, entering into business and living together all their lives. Neither of them ever married and they shared the same house in Woking that they had always done. They were intensely loyal to each other and rejoiced in each other`s achievements without the slightest hint of envy. In many ways, they both, collectively and individually, epitomised a former age, one where loyalty, honesty, decency and modesty were its sporting hallmarks. I mourn as much as for that bygone age as I do for the passing of those, like Alec Bedser, who were the role models for the eagreness of youth.
Well played.... and thank you.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

In my perpetual innocence, I had always thought that Easter is a time for harmony, peace and reconcilliation as the spiritual world marks one of the most important times in the religious calendar. So it`s a bit disturbing to see the Anglican and Catholic churches falling out.
The Catholic church has been riddled with accusations of abuse by priests, especially in Ireland, although it might be that Ireland is the only case we`ve heard about. Anyway, they haven`t come out of it particularly well with allegations of cover-ups, reluctance to take action against the alleged offenders and now the Pope`s personal preacher coming out with lame duck statements liking the media`s criticisms of the Vatican to the persecution of the Jews in Hitler`s Germany. Meantime, the Archbishop of Canterbury has weighed in with his own condemnation of the Catholic stance, claiming that the Catholic church has "lost all credibility" over the way it has dealt with paedophile priests. It`s all very unedifying.
Now, I have to confess to being a bit of a religious sceptic. I have absolutely no idea whether there is a God or not, neither, of course, has anyone else. But those who follow their chosen religion do so out of a conviction that has so far escaped me. I have no problem with people believing in what they want to believe and I have no wish to offend anyone by my own uncertainties. But I`m just not sure about it all.
I have long held the notion that if, when I finally peg out, I get up there and find it`s all true after all, then I`ll be the first to apologise for having doubted it. For the meantime, however, I cannot escape the one conviction I do have, which is that whilst there may be an Almighty Being up there, I`m afraid His (or Her) representatives down here do not inspire confidence.
These latest antics between Rome and Canterbury remind me of two Premier League teams slagging each other off before a must win six pointer. And so I am also, once again, reminded of the wisdom of French philosopher and one time goalkeeper, Albert Camus, who once said, "All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football."
Now if you`ll excuse me, I think my Easter bunnies need some attention.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Coming back into the `real world` after even a short spell away is never an easy process. And made all the more difficult by some of the things that confront you once re-entry has been completed.
Some of the things that gripped my attention included:-
- the case of the gentleman from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who is a convicted rapist and due to be deported from the UK and returned to whence he came. Until he decided to get married, but not to a bride to be from the UK, but from Germany, which is, of course, one of our friends in the European Union. It seems that, as an EU citizen, the good frau will be free to remain in the UK and so will her Congolese convicted rapist husband once the marriage has taken place. And you wonder about my scepticism of all things EU.
- then there is the case of the pet shop owner recently set up by our boys in blue to sell a goldfish to a 6 foot lad under the age of 16. So, after 4.3million year of human existence, we have developed to the point whereby a 66-year old great grandmother can be threatened with jail, fined £1,000 and put on a curfew for two months with an electronic tag stuck around her ankle as a result of this sting by the Goldfish Squad. Next I expect to see the Government appointing a Goldfish Tsar and setting up Goldfish Watch. Something very fishy about the whole thing;
- and perhaps most bizarre of all, we had the extraordinary spectacle of Tony Blair`s own re-entry from his own alien world to walk amongst us once more. Never mind all the political stuff and the blatant electioneering that went with his re-emergence, what struck me most about it was this. Since mercifully leaving the Prime Minister job, Blair`s main preoccupation has been to make money by setting up companies galore, having directorships and well paid UN appointments and, of course, invading the lecture circuit, although I am mystified by his qualifications to lecture anyone and by the fact that anyone would pay to hear him. So, for this serial multi-millionaire money-grabbing poseur to turn up at Trimdon Labour Club, that bastion of traditional socialism, struck me as the ultimate contradiction and made me hope it won`t be too long before I can escape the `real world` once again.