Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Went to the dentist this morning for a regular check up only to discover that my very nice lady dentist, Louise, was leaving the practice today for pastures new.

It was only a couple if years ago that I discovered the fragrant Louise and her angelic approach to dentistry, especially for the more mature gentleman. Over a period of some weeks, she transformed me from a cowering fearful wreck with problem choppers into a smiling relaxed Clooney-esque figure, proud to smile at the world in full expectation that young ladies might well come up to me clutching my thighs and demanding to have my babies as they are transfixed by my gleaming gnashers. Well, that hasn`t quite happened yet, but I`m sure it`s just a matter of time. Possibly.

Anyway, after a long and painful history of dental mistreatment by a succession of dubious practitioners, I finally found Louise, my dentistry angel, only to learn that she is leaving and taking her drill with her. Typical. Just typical. Anyway, as a result of a whispered negotiation this morning in a dark recess away from the glare of her arc light, I was able to find out where she was heading to start again. Not all that far away, so I`ll slip quietly out of the clutches of the present practice and after a decent period of dust settling, visit Louise in her new practice and live happily ever after. The moral is clear. It`s never too late to find an angel and when you do, don`t ever let her go.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fabio Capello was got at by the suits in the FA before his `press conference` yesterday. Here`s what he wanted to say:-
"I would like to apologise unreservedly to the country and especially to the travelling fans who spent their hard earned cash supporting my collection of overpaid poseurs. They weren`t tired - they were just crap. The players that is, not the fans. Honest."
"I wish now I had taken the advice freely given by the knowledgeable and perceptive Southampton fans and included Saints custodian Kelvin Davis and Ricky Lambert Southampton`s Goal Machine in my World Cup squad. Davis would not have made the kind of blunder made by Greeno and RLSGM would have buried the half chances that came our way."
"So I take full responsibility for the cock up I`ve made of it all and I`m - how you say? - yes, buggering off back to Roma with a shedfull of wonga. Arrivederci....."

Monday, June 28, 2010

A National Football Stadium costing £750million. A National Football Manager costing £6million a year. Most - if not all - the Engerland players getting (I nearly said `earning`) over £100,000 a week; Luxury travel; five star accommodation, countless expert, experienced backroom staff; state of the art training facilities; every whim pandered to. The classic case of knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing.
And the reality has finally emerged. All that money, all that excess, all that attention to detail has provided the illusion of adequacy whereas the reality is that all those excesses have merely produced the mediocrity we witnessed yesterday. I guess it`s been coming. The signs haven`t been good ever since the John Terry/Wayne Bridge kerfuffle some months ago. That episode quite clearly produced divisions within the camp - a rift in the lute - and which have been compounded by poor team selections, rigid tactics and baffling substitutions, not to mention a continuing undercurrent bordering on revolt.
I don`t think anyone in their right mind ever expected England to win the World Cup but we were entitled to expect our `golden generation` to go down fighting, showing pride, passion and desire. What we got was disharmony, disinterest and the sense that they didn`t really want to be there, preferring instead to spend some time with their assorted WAGs in their Dubai apartments, talking to their agents as yet another shedload of unearned cash plonked into their Swiss bank accounts.
So what happens now? Capello might go, maybe he should, but the suits at the Football Association will still be there to preside over their own form of inertia which will inevitably lead to yet more unispiring and unconvincing crack papering. Unless, of course, the paying public start to vote with their feet and have no more to do with a regime, both on and off the field of play, that no longer merely provides disappointment but now provides national embarrassment. Like the EU and their 272 grams of eggs, the joke has gone too far and enough really is enough.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fog in the Channel - Europe cut off. Our friends in the European Union Food Policy Squad have a long and chequered history of harebrained decisions affecting our daily lives. Most people recall the EU directive requiring bananas to be `free from abnormal curvature or malformation.` Then in 1988, the EU ruled that cucumbers must bend only by 10mm per 10cm in a directive supposedly to help packaging and transport.
Another directive - in 1979 - ruled that carrots should be classified as fruit because the Portuguese apparently made jam out of them and in 2003 it was only a public backlash that prevented a Euro-wide ban on smokey bacon crisps. And so the madness goes on, for today we learn of an EU proposal that will ban eggs, oranges and bread rolls being sold by quantity. So no more `half a dozen eggs, please.` Instead, they will be sold by weight (in grams of course.)
Most sane people, like the British Retail Consortium, the Food Standards Agency, the editor of The Grocer magazine and the director of the Bakers Federation are opposed to this move, not just because it is plain daft but also because of the additional costs which will be incurred by the industry in changing packaging, labelling and the need to weigh each box of eggs or oranges or rolls before they are put on sale - and you can be sure the extra costs will be passed on the the egg, orange and roll-loving customers.
All those years ago when the EU was formed, I think we expected EU countries would come together to tackle the big issues like defence, trade and so on. As the EU state has grown out of all proportion and grown so far away from the reality of those of us who pay for it, it constantly proves incapable of solving those big issues (mainly for fear of upsetting French farmers) and so it seeks to demonstrate some `purpose` by introducing daft rules like this one. It`s gone beyond a yolk.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Here in deepest Kent, we`re getting used to unadulterated profligacy with taxpayers` money. We have recently had the extraordinary case of Kent County Council`s former Director of Regeneration and Transport (whatever that means) being paid the staggering sum of £365,000, having voluntarily resigned his £100,000 plus post after about a year.
He was appointed from West Yorkshire - somewhere oop north - and instead of moving his family down here, he chose to leave his wife and four daughters back oop north, whilst he worked in Maidstone during the week and commuted back to Yorkshire at weekends. Not surprisingly, these arrangements soon upset his `work/life balance,` so he resigned and is now Chief Executive of Derby City Council which is still quite a way down south from Yorkshire. It seems the £365,000 was paid due to employment law and it also seems that he was entitled to the payment.
With even more publicity, we learn that Rose Gibb, who resigned as Chief Executive of the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust just days before the damning report which condemned the Trust for presiding over the scandalous regime which lead to over a hundred patients dying from hospital infections such as c. difficile. Ms. Gibb felt she was entitled to a payout of £250,000 but this was originally stopped by the then Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, leading to a three year court battle which yesterday culminated in the payout being judged lawful by High Court judges. Again it seems that Ms. Gibb was also legally entitled to the £250,000 payout despite the fact that she also had voluntarily resigned her post.
Now, legal entitlement is one thing. Employment law is another. And call me old fashioned, but I was under the impression that people who resigned voluntarily were only entitled to any payment for a period of notice which they may or may not be required to work. I was also under the impression that `important` people holding positions of responsibility at the top of organisations might themselves show a degree of self restraint and personal responsibility to themselves, their employers and the taxpayers who pay their salaries. Clearly, I was wrong.
The time has come to make `MORAL VALUES FOR DUMMIES` required reading, along with its sequel, `THE DUMMIES GUIDE TO REVISING EMPLOYMENT LAW.`

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Had a visit to Waterstone`s book shop in the Bluewater Shopping Thingy this morning. I had been very fortunate to be remembered on Fathers` Day last Sunday by each of our three sons, one of whom kindly gave me a book which he had already given me last Christmas. But it`s the thought that counts and if nothing else, I`m pleased to see he has inherited the forgetfulness gene, which runs in the far as I can recall.
Waterstone`s were very obliging and I managed to haggle an exchange of goods which benefited both sides of the transaction. On my way out, I noticed that a large crowd had gathered the other side of the `mall.` There seemed to be a hum of excitement in the air so, being a curious soul, I joined the back of the queue and politely enquired what was going on. The young lady in front told me that the queue, stretching out of the shop and around the mall a couple of times, was for the new Apple i Phone which had apprently hit the shops today. Not being au fait with what on earth an i Phone might be, I thanked her for her help and hightailed it.
As I did so, it reminded me of the long history and tradition of queueing in this country - sometimes for worthy causes, others born out of necessity, some for sheer indulgence and others, like today`s, so as to keep up with modern day living. But most of all it reminded me of the last time I saw a crowd outside a shop in Bluewater. On that occasion, the `crowd` of about seven misguided unfortunates were forming an orderly gathering outside Waterstone`s, waiting for the chance of a lifetime to buy a copy of Michael Barrymore`s autobiography, signed by the author himself while you waited. It surely constitued the saddest queue I had ever seen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

High summer here in deepest Kent. The weather is glorious, the orchards are showing all the signs of a bumper crop and so any fears I might have had about a winter shortage of Mr. Kipling`s exceedingly good Bramley apple pies are diminishing.
We`ve waited a long time for a taste of proper summer and now that it`s here, what do we find? Yes, of course, more things to keep us indoors and glued to the television than I have ever known before. This week (and next) we have wall to wall Wimbledon on BBC2, a choice of World Cup football matches on BBC 1 or ITV, the five match 50-overs cricket series between England and Australia on Sky, along with international Rugby and all this competeing with the `normal` programmes on other channels. This afternoon we have the big one, as England`s maligned footballers play their crunch, make-or-break, defining game against Slovenia. Spoilt for choice indeed and the effects of yesterday`s budget don`t really get a look in.
And yet, for all that choice, it seems such a pity to be staying indoors on glorious afternoons and blissful evenings like we`re having and it might just be that the most satisfying thing will be to wander through the Kent countryside with Barney this afternoon and take him along to his Gold Award last chance training session with Mrs. Snopper in the cool of this evening.
It seems to me at least that, after all, the high pressure world of international sport cannot really compete with the stress-free simple pleasures of just being alive and well on a day and at a place like this. No choice at all. No contest. (I wonder what the score is.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

I often think there should be a Day of National Irony. Heaven knows, we have enough to be ironic about and, as a nation, we`re quite good at it. So, at the risk of perpetuating the trauma by commenting once more on the `performance` of the England football team at the World Cup, they have at least made a telling contribution to the national gift for world class irony.

It`s reported today that the England players, among them Michael Dawson pictured above, visited an orphanage in South Africa this morning.
"It's so good to put a smile on the faces of people constantly struggling and facing the impossible" said Jamal Umboto aged 6.
And in a way which is perhaps even more ironic and certainly more representative of the national sense of priority, we are in danger of paying scant regard to the fact that today we suffered our 300th loss in the Afghanistan conflict, whilst most eyes are focussed on the World Cup, Wimbledon and tomorrow`s emergency budget. Perhaps, after all, rather than a Day of National Irony, we should be having a Day of National Priority.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Even this young Saints fan seems to have all the cares in the world on this fine summer morning and who can blame him?
Last night we had the spectacle of England`s footballers becoming something of a national embarrassment with their abject failure to overcome Algeria. Maybe, after all the hype, the expectation, the punditry and the analysis, a couple of truths are emerging. The most obvious one is that the Premier League - the self-styled `best league in the world` - has produced the illusion that some of England`s footballers are `world class,` when the reality seems to be that for the majority of the time they are simply surrounded by foreign world class players in their club teams and thus made to look useful. When they are left to fend for themselves on the world stage, their frailties emerge for all to see.
Speaking of frailties, the annual ritual which is the Wimbledon tennis thingy begins on Monday and this year not one single Englishman will be competing at the All England Club. That despite £millions being pumped in to the development of the sport each year on the back of the strawberries and cream Wimbledon profits. Later today, England`s rugby team take on Australia again in what might well be a vain attempt to overcome the defeat they suffered last week.* Now there`s the cricket to look forward to. For any redemption from a summer of failure, I hope that our Test team, half of whom seem to have been born in South Africa anyway, can restore a little pride, however vicarious that might be.
Even though the sun may be shining on our sceptred isle, it seems there ain`t no cure for the summertime sporting blues.
* STOP PRESS : England`s rugby team have just beaten Australia in a close game in Sydney by 21 points to 20 - the first time England have won in the southern hemisphere since winning the World Cup on the same ground in 2003, so that has lightened the mood a bit. In fact, the difference in attitude, commitment, desire and ability shown by the rugby team could not be in sharper contrast to the `performance` shown last night by our footballers. As with all the disciplines of both games, once again rugby union has again shown that it has so much to offer to the round ball game. It won`t happen though, all the time the Premier League is more concerned with `product` than it is with producing. At least the sun`s still shining, which might cheer our little Saints fan up a bit.

Friday, June 18, 2010

At about 4.45pm yesterday afternoon, I took Barney out in the car and as we passed the village green I glanced across to where the travellers seemed to be well entrenched. An hour or so later, after Barney and I had had our walk, we drove home but this time there were no travellers to be seen. No caravans, no trucks, no chicken, dogs, no nothing. Just the empty deserted area where they had been for the last week.
How could this have happened so quickly? Was it down to the influence of people like our Parish Chairman, who may have fast tracked the bureaucratic processes to secure their early removal? Was it the persuasive charms of our Community Police lady who was known to be sympathetic to their plight and simply encouraged them to seek pastures new? Could it have been that they sussed out the village and concluded that there was a limited number of drives needing tarmac and a limited call for pegs and lucky heather? Maybe they heard the news that Portsmouth FC had their CVA proposals accepted by the creditors yesterday and they wanted to get back there to join in the celebrations?
Who knows, but the fact is that our traveller visitors have moved on. Small wonder, therefore, that, as pictured above, the local populace is back on the village green celebrating in the unique, traditional, pastoral way that is so much a part of rural life in Merrie England.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Sad to report that last night`s dress rehearsal for Barney`s Gold Award test didn`t go too well. He and his fellow Golden Retriever hopefuls are put through their paces on a nice big open field. The trouble with that is there are too many distractions and temptations affecting their concentration.

Barney`s biggest temptation is that he `performs` alongside a very comely young lady Retriever named Summer and at every opportunity the two of them resort to cavorting in amourous playful bouts, rather than sticking to the coreography required for the test. As both Barney and Summer are blissfully unaware of the fact that Barney has been `seen to,` their romantic ambitions must surely represent the ultimate triumph of hope over expectation. So, in acknowledgement of their current shortcomings and the certainty that they will be found to be `not ready,` the test has been put off for a couple of weeks and will now take place at a neutral venue where the temptation to run off and have a good scamper may be reduced.

The real frustration is that Barney, Summer and the rest of their aspirant chums can all actually do all of the manoeuvres needed to pass the test, they just don`t necessarily do them all at the right time and in the right order. I sat next to the winsome Rachel last evening, watching from a respectful distance as our respective canine charges were attempting to control their urges and it occurred to me that the whole thing was reminiscent of Morecambe and Wise trying to convince the world that they could come to terms with Grieg`s piano concerto. If you have ten minutes to spare and like me enjoy pure comedy with no swearing, have a look at You`ll see what I mean.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Well, it is if you`re a Saints fan. But things are happening quietly on the south coast, away from the vuvuzela deafening World Cup. For one thing, the pitch at St. Mary`s, which won the Pitch of the Year in League One last season, is being relaid. For another, Saints have just signed Brentford left back Ryan Dickson for a fee yet to be determined. Excited? You ain`t seen nothin` yet, for the real excitement was the recent unveiling of next season`s new kit.
Saints have returned to their roots with the new kit being based on the first ever kit worn by St. Mary's Young Men's Association, which went on to become Southampton Football Club. For next season - the club's 125th anniversary - they will be playing in a white shirt with a diagonal red sash from the right shoulder. The shirt will not have a sponsor across the chest, which is slightly surprising as I`m sure Ace Sashes would have been only too pleased to do so. Too much excitement? Well, maybe today`s announcement that Saints will be at home to newly promoted near neighbours AFC Bournemouth in early August in the first round of the Carling Cup will bring excitement to a fever pitch as the close season drags on and on and on.....
Meanwhile, events in South Africa have already highlighted the managerial blunders made by England in their 1-1 draw with the USA last week. Robert Green`s horrendous fumble would surely not have happened had Saints custodian, Kelvin Davies, been in goal and there`s no doubt that Emile Heskey`s glaring miss would have been buried by Rickie Lambert Southampton`s Goal Machine. When will they ever learn?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not much progress to report really. Firstly, an attempt was made early this morning to find out what the Parish Council might be doing about the arrival of new neighbours on our nice village green, especially as the number of visitors seems to have increased overnight. Sadly, that attempt was thwarted by the Parish Council office being closed, so one can only assume that the recently appointed Parish Clerk has run away.
There is mixed news on the early morning cock crowing front. At around 4.00am when Mrs. Snopper let Barney out (I was `strategically` asleep at the time) there was apparently no crowing to be heard. I imagined that the directly affected Parish Chairman had successfully applied for a cock gagging order from the local magistrates, but people who live right next to the site confirmed that crowing did, in fact, take place.
I`m beginning to suspect that our visitors might, after all, be refugees from Portsmouth, where there are no open spaces left that have not already been occupied by the caravans of the local population.
More on that story as we get it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tricky business, commenting on `travellers,` ever since, in 2007, a candidate in a local council election in south Wales, started a petition which read: 'Petition against any proposed itinerant travellers site within Llansamlet and the Swansea Vale area of the City and County of Swansea.'
The Commission for Racial Equality, which receives £19million funding from the Government every year, claimed the use of the term 'itinerant travellers' in his campaign material breached section 31 of the Race Relations Act. It said the two words described the ethnic origin of the group and could lead to discrimination. Instead, the CRE felt that the petition should have drawn attention to the caravans themselves, rather than the people in them.
So, a touchy subject and one which obliges me to be circumspect in my comments, for I can do without our boys in blue knocking on my door and asking me to move along. But it is a subject which has literally come close to home this morning when Mrs. Snopper, out taking Barney for his early morning walk, spied a convoy of trucks hauling caravans driving on to the public open space just down the road.
Now there is good news and bad news about all this. I am forced to conclude that the good news is that the travellers have found an idyllic spot on which to set up camp, for the area in question is flat, open grassland which is regularly and nicely maintained. It is close to local shops and amenities and a nice clean stream flows through it, providing a wholesome supply of fresh water with overhanging trees providing shade from the summer sun. So, as well as for the travellers themselves, the site is also ideal for their collection of chicken, dogs and other animals, all of which is important in maintaining an acceptably inclusive and integrating environment for them.
The bad news for the travellers, on the other hand, is that the site is right next to where the Chairman of the Parish Council lives. In fact, our newfound neighbours moved from another site in the village which was right next to where the sister of the Leader of the District Council lives, so they are either being a little provocative, which I cannot bring myself to believe, or they are blissfully unaware of the strategic significance of their chosen locations within our small community.
All of which leads me to suspect that the powers that be, having been swiftly alerted to the situation, will now be going through the procedures to encourage the travellers to move along once more. But I think those procedures can take at least two weeks to reach their conclusion, which gives us local residents ample time to discuss the price of heather, pegs, tarmaccing of drives and other services and enjoy the 4.00am cock crowing and dog barking that will remind us how fortunate we are to live so close to nature.
Oh, and my illustrated traffic sign at the top? I thought I would include it as a clear example of how the highway authorities really should not be approaching this kind of problem. Honest.

Friday, June 11, 2010

`ERE WE GO`...
As you can see, Mrs. Snopper is getting a bit excited about the World Cup kicking off today in South Africa. All around there are houses with England banners and cars going round with flags on. I`ve just been to Tesco`s and they have a vast range of tacky `merchandise,` which we are supposed to buy to signify our support for England.
Now, on the one hand I harbour vague hopes that the England team does well - maybe reaching the quarter-finals and going out on penalties, which seems to be their default fate in this and other competitions. On the other hand, there still lurks deep within my troubled psyche the notion that, given the excesses and the appalling examples set by players like John Terry and Ashley Cole in particular, an early exit followed by the derision of a disappointed nation might just be the cummuppance they deserve. For English football at the highest level has become little more than a `product,` a `brand` so far removed from the reality of everyday life that the Premier League in particular has now become a caricature of itself. And the sad truth is that it is blissfully unaware of the absurdity it has become.
So I`ll give a mumble of encouragement and as I see which of my vague hopes comes true, I might just wish that all the flags and banners and facepainting and misguided `patriotism` might perhaps have been more appropriately displayed on St. George`s Day?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A bit of a shock for Barney last evening. He had missed the last two training sessions having been away in Cornwall for a week and me being `otherwise engaged` with the Royal Albert Hall last week. So last evening we managed to get back to the training regime only to find that Barney was a bit rusty and also to discover that the test for the Kennel Club Good Citizen Gold Award (KCGCGA) will be held in just two weeks time.
It`s safe to say that a little panic has set in and although we are fairly confident that the examiner will declare Barney as `not ready,` we have to give him every chance and give it our best shot and so the next two weeks will be filled with the daily training routines set out in the KCGCGA leaflet. Mind you, given Barney`s inability even to master the art of climbing onto a woodland bench to sit next to yours truly, as captured above during a recent exercise in Platt Woods, I suspect his Gold Award test will go down in the annals of the KCGCGA scheme as one of its more heroic failures.
Not that it matters one jot. All that matters is that we have a faithful, well behaved companion and that Barney enjoys his life. Which he does - almost too much at times. I guess, in the end, if his `master` (I use the word advisedly) finds it difficult to take anything too seriously, then we shouldn`t be surprised that we have a fun dog on our hands.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Well, some might. It`s reported today that Christine Bleakley is being offered £2million to stay with the BBC for the next two years, thereby sparking off a bidding war with ITV, who also want the services of Ms. Bleakley to team up again with the implausible Adrian Chiles. Allegedly.
Now, Ms. Bleakley may be a perfectly pleasant young lady, but her rise to so-called `stardom` seems to be based mainly on her extraordinary teeth and her current dalliance with Frankie Lamps, the Chelsea and England midfielder. What I can`t understand is why an annoyingly squeaky voiced talent-challenged Irish tv `presenter` can possibly be worth at least £2million over two years. If the deal with the BBC is sealed then, once again, it will be the licence-payers who fork out the cash for yet another misguided decision by the BBC bigwigs, who even in these apparently austere times seem to possess a strange idea of value for money. And also it seems, a bizarre grasp of `talent,` for they have in mind getting Ms. Bleakley to be `the face of the corporation`s 2012 Olympics coverage.` I sense trouble.
No offence, but we seem to have too many ear-grating annoying Irish presenters on BBC radio and tv these days; it`s reached the stage whereby we could do with sub-titles on Radio 5 Live. I`m all for regional accents, but some of them, like Northern Irish, Brummie, Scouse and Geordie might be better off being confined to the regions where they can at least be faintly understood. Rant over. For today.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Late this afternoon, I had a surprise phone call. A very good friend of mine and, like me, an ardent Saints fan (he actually had a trial for the Saints in his youth) rang me from the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland. Not too surprising you might think, until you hear that he hails from the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England.....and the reason for his phone call.
For some years now, he and his partner have been regularly making their almost 600 mile pilgrimage from their home island all the way up to Mull simply because they fell in love with the place. I`ve never been to Scotland, let alone the remote western isles, but I have heard enough about Mull and seen enough photos to know that it is one of the most beautiful, natural, special places in all the British Isles. If I could face the daunting journey, maybe one day I`ll find out for myself.
So, why call me this afternoon if not to gloat about him being there again? Well, it was to let me know that he and his partner had just been married in that very special place for them. I had known for some time that this might happen and I could not be more happy for them, for they are special people themselves and deserve their happiness and contentment.
They took the precaution of taking two friends from the Isle of Wight with them, to act as witnesses being fearful, I imagine, about the sparseness of the population of that remote island. So there were just the four of them, along with the registrar and I can imagine that the small group and the magic of their favourite place produced a more meaningful occasion than ever would have been possible anywhere else. My cynical heart has melted a bit today.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

As a devoted Liverpool fan, the young man in the picture has much to be unhappy about. I thought perhaps he may be grieving at the departure of manager Rafa Benitez, for whom these pages have much regard ever since he had a right go at `Mr. Ferguson.` Then again, he may be miserable at the £351million debt the football club has acquired under the stewardship of its American owners. He may be reflecting on the disappointing season the club has just had or, indeed, the prospect of losing players such as Gerrard and Torres.
But no. None of those things, for he has just heard the announcement from the Ivory Coast camp that Sven Goran Eriksson has finally `come out` and declared himself to be a lifelong Liverpool fan and how much he would like to step in to Benitez`s shoes and manage the club.
Well, it is the silly season. And in terms of the management-go-round, it gets even sillier. A couple of weeks ago, Gillingham and their manager Mark Stimson parted company after the club`s relegation back to League Two. A few weeks earlier, Ian Hendon was shown the door at Barnet football club following a skirmish with relegation. Gillingham persuaded Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler to leave the Crabble ground and return once more to Priestfield for another crack at getting Gillingham back on track. Meanwhile Mark Stimson was soon back in management, this time taking over at Barnet following Ian Hendon`s tenure at Underhill.
And to complete this mad circle, guess who Dover have appointed to manage them following Hessenthaler`s departure? Yes, you`ve guessed it - Ian Hendon. But all three clubs can at least count themselves fortunate - they could, after all, have had Sven Goran Eriksson declaring lifelong support for each of them. Just like Notts County.
I have a feeling the silly season will get a whole lot sillier before the real season begins again.

Friday, June 04, 2010

This photo was taken just a week ago today. The church of St. Tallanus sits on a hill above Talland Bay in Cornwall and Mrs. Snopper took this picture as we were sitting on a bench in the chuchyard. It`s not just the view that is so special but also the church itself.
Now, friends that know me also know that my religious `beliefs` are a bit limited and I work on the basis that if and when I ever get there and discover that there is a Heaven after all, then I will be the first to apologise for any doubts I may have had. But that philosophy doesn`t stop me being interested in church architecture or church history and the visit to the church at Talland Bay did not disappoint.
Talland Bay is even these days a small, isolated place so the church was never built to serve a large community, but to maintain a holy site where the Christian faith had been established in Celtic times some 1500 years ago, hence its isolated location. The present altar stands on a ley line on the site of the original Celtic altar, built by the `Saint` or Holy Person who established faith in Jesus Christ here so very long ago.
The church has many outstanding features, quite apart from its glorious location. For example, the tower stands in an unusual, detached position linked to the main body of the church by a long covered porch but the great possession of the church is its collection of carved bench ends, among the finest in Cornwall. They date from about 1490 and show a quality of craftsmanship such that on the central bench end on one side of the south aisle has been written, "...the style and excellence of the carving reveal a craftsman of skill and artistic talent..."
So you see, it is possible for even a cynic like me to be captivated by the location and features of an exquisite church and the week that has passed since I was there has, once more, shown the extremes that life`s rich pageant has to offer. The contrast from the peace, tranquility and reflection of St. Tallanus and his hill to the vibrancy, "the skill and artistic talent" of Mark Knopfler and the glories of the Royal Albert Hall has made for a memorable week. And although I`m still not sure which of its two highlights has been the most memorable, I suspect I know which will be the most enduring.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I`m pretty sure it was the Spring of 1978 when I went on a journey with the local Primary School my sons attended. I had been asked to go on the week long school visit to either Swanage or the Isle of Wight and `take charge` of about a dozen 11-year olds so they could experience being away from home for the first time and explore the wider world beyond our village. I took my car which was a lumbering Morris 2200 with even a hint of lavender in its paintwork and I had about five of the children in the car throughout the journey home to relieve congestion on the even more lumbering school minibus.
On the way home, the girls in the back got a bit noisy, as they do, so I turned on the radio and that was the first time I heard Dire Straits` Sultans of Swing - 32 years ago now. I remember it began as we drove up the A31 near Ringwood and kept going until we reached the other side of the New Forest heathland at Stony Cross about 12 minutes later. I was hooked and so it seemed were the girls in the back, whose relentless cackling gave way to what passed as some kind of juvenlie appreciation for Mark Knopfler and the rest of the then Dire Straits lineup.
Last night I went to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time in my life, to see Mark Knopfler and his current band and heard again all the old favourites - Sultans of Swing, Romeo and Juliet, Brothers in Arms and the incomparable Telegraph Road - as well as some of the newer stuff. My eldest son was kind enough to drive me up there and act as my carer for the evening and we both enjoyed a spectacular concert by the sainted Mark and the master musicians on stage with him. We went courtesy of my middle son, who is Production Manager for the Get Lucky world tour, which is almost half-way through having toured the USA and Canada, doing some gigs here in the UK before heading off to Europe at the end of the week.
It occurred to me that yet another circle of life seemed to have been completed, which began with me ferrying children around to the sound of Dire Straits 32 years ago until now, when in the wide eyed innocence of my own second childhood, between them, two of my own sons ferried me around and presented me with the new experience of the Albert Hall and a reunion with the Sultans of Swing. Mark Knopfler is 60 now and like the Royal Albert Hall, has matured deliciously over the years. I just hope I`m doing the same, even though I never could `play the honky tonk like anything.`