Saturday, July 31, 2010

That was the curiously ambiguous headline that appeared in newspapers and things like the BBC website following Lord (Help Us) Prescott`s turn at the Chilcot Inquiry the other day. As ever with Prezza, things can be read in different ways. Did it, for example, suggest that there were doubts about Prescott`s intelligence concerning the issue of Iraq? Did it mean he had doubts about the intelligence of Iraq? But it seems the headline was meant to declare that Prescott, as Deputy Prime Minister, himself doubted the veracity and adequacy of the intelligence reports submitted to the Cabinet before the war on Iraq was declared.
If so, then it seems curious and somewhat inept for Prezza not to have expressed those doubts more forcibly than he did at the time, although we must remember that we were subject not to the will of Parliament or the considered and collective view of a united Cabinet but rather to the informality of a sofa government which, in anyone`s language, is no way to run a railroad. Prezza thought that the intelligence reports may have been little more than `tittle-tattle.` And this admittedly Prezza-esque assertion sits uncomfortably alongside a whole string of inadequacies laid before the Inquiry by a succession of witnesses including Army chiefs, the head of the Security Service at the time, the then head of the UN Weapons Inspectorate, leading ex-civil servants and others in high office.
Now I admit I might be biased in my view of this whole affair but, for the sake of the families who have suffered on all sides and for the reputation of the country, I hope those responsible for taking us into a war of dubious value and legality will eventually get their cummupance. Even though my breath is not being held on that score, I do hold out some hope that the Chilcot Inquiry will deliver a dispassionate, accurate and truthful account.
The signs are encouraging. The Inquiry has been conducted more openly than Gordon Brown ever thought it should and the questioning has, by and large, been incisive and relevant. Chilcot says he is still on track to deliver the Inquiry`s final report by Christmas. I hope it turns out to be the report which puts Hutton firmly in its place and provides a memorable Christmas present for those, like me, who felt utterly cheated by the way in which Blair, Bush and their cronies acted in our name. I suspect Mrs. Kelly might feel a little exoneration is due too.

It seems a shame to let my years of experience as a counseller, a confidante, a friend even, go begging when I know that there are so many people out there just crying out for understanding, sympathy and guidance in helping them cope with the stresses of modern day living.

I have recently been able to help a neighbourly friend of mine who has been going through a difficult time lately, juggling the conflicting demands of parenthood, husbandhood and workhood and he has reported back to me that my deep and careful analysis of his problems has turned his life around, so he now has his confidence restored to face the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.

So if you feel wracked with uncertainty, doubt and indecision and need an understanding shoulder on which to unburden yourself, please do so by means of the `comments` section below. Like my Aussie counterparts, I can promise clear and unequivocal reponses to any comments I receive. Honest.
STOP PRESS : If you don`t believe me, a glowing reference has been received from a satisfied client. Just click on `comments` below to see what I mean.

Friday, July 30, 2010

From our Golf Correspondent
Snopper cut a lone figure yesterday as he continued to trudge the fairways of life, having inexplicably been allowed back on to the Princes Course at Hever Castle. Following his extraordinary claim of four under par last time out, this time his round can once more be summed up as `eclectic.`
An indifferent start which saw his first tee shot end up on the adjoining 9th fairway was followed on the par 3 third when he was invited to `play through` a group of four. Never daunted by having an audience, his tee shot sailed over the imposing lake to land on the edge of the green, bringing gasps of astonishment from the admiring foursome. As always with Snopper, however, there is a disaster in every round he plays and this time it came on another lakebound par 3 - the formidable 7th - where he contrived to deposit no less than four balls in the water, scattering goslings and other wildlife in the process.
A word about rules for lost balls. Now, the normal Royal and Ancient rules of golf quite reasonably give penalties for losing balls in water hazards, but Snopper`s equally reasonable interpretation suggests that, having spent the whole winter harvesting balls from the undergrowth of nearby courses, then on the principle that they were lost to begin with, thenhe surely must be allowed to render them lost again without penalty. In the end, he abandoned all hope of completing that hole and, as they say, drew a line in the sand and moved on.
There was a final mini-triumph, however, as for the first time he genuinely and quite imperiously made par on the final hole, thus completing his mission to par every hole on the course. And in doing so, in yet another parallel with Eric Morecambe`s attempt to come to grips with Grieg`s Piano Concerto, Snopper can now claim to have parred each hole on the course.....but not necessarily in the right order.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I had lunch yesterday with a good friend of mine who had recently completed the section of the South West Coast Path from Minehead to Ilfracombe. In all, the path, which is a truly great national treasure, runs for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset round to Poole in Dorset.
I have another good friend who is perhaps more systematically walking sections of the path and over the years I have managed bite sized chunks in Dorset, the county of my birth, but mostly in Devon and Cornwall. So there`s quite a lot of affinity with the path and I look out for books and tv programmes that might recall those special times in those very special places.

And last night BBC2 showed the second in their new `Coast` series, which was billed as covering the south west coast from Swanage in Dorset right along to Land`s End. A tall order, even for the BBC, to do justice to such a long stretch of heritage coast in just under an hour. Now, the first couple of Coast series were very good indeed, concentrating on what the British coastline had to offer and giving brief insights to things along the way. The coastline and the seascapes came first with the admittedly knowledgeable `presenters` just doing the presenting.

Last night`s programme was, however, so disappointing. Very brief glimpses of the World Heritage Site that the Jurassic Coast of Dorset has become, passing snapshots of coastal villages and harbours, whole swathes of Devon and Cornwall overlooked as the hour was spent focussing on the presenters rather than what they were supposed to be presenting. We had Alice Roberts at Gorran Haven telling us nothing about Gorran Haven but all about what makes the sea smell like it does. We had Nicholas Crane doing battle with Portland Race in a small boat. We had Miranda Krestovnikoff diving for white faced dolphins and not finding any. We had Mark Horton spending an inordinate amount of time in Devonport Dockyard. But most cringingly of all we had Neil Oliver `performing` at the Minack Theatre as a rather camp and out of place Prospero.
What started off as an admirable project to bring our magical coastline to a wider audience has turned into a showcase for the overmanned presenting team who are now fixed in the heady glare of tv personality. In short, they have become the story, leaving the real star - the coast itself - for those like my friends and I to discover and give it the time it needs. I just wish the BBC might devote a whole series to the treasurehouse that is the South West Coast Path...and I think I know two or three ordinary punters, myself included, who would be more than happy to show them the way.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A very nice young man turned up this morning and set up my new computer, router and printer, so I`m now able to resume posting on my blog. "Oh, dear," I hear you sigh, but don`t worry, I have a long way to go before I reach any kind of proficiency with this new gear.
It`s all very new to me - a super-dooper, hi-tech, state-of-the-art, touch screen computer; a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse, a wireless printer, even a webcam so I can have eyeball to eyeball chats with people (don`t get excited) and the new Windows 7 operating system. It`s really quite bewildering, especially for a techno-luddite like me. But have faith, dear reader. I am determined to `get there.` Especially as I also bought a new desk which is more in keeping with all this up-to-date stuff and especially as, contrary to the 45 minute claim on the flat pack, it took Mrs. Snopper and me 2 hours 30 minutes of blood, sweat and swearing to put it together following the Swahili instructions to the letter.
It`s good to be back in business though.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Shhhhhh....don`t breathe a word of it but I`m having to post this from Mrs. Snopper`s laptop as she`s out walking Barney for his early morning constitutional. But I think I might just get away with it if I`m quick.
You see my own computer has finally expired. It`s a stiff, bereft of life it rests in peace. It has gone to meet its maker. It is an ex computer. It`s pushing up the daisies. It has gone to the great motherboard in the sky all thanks to a complete bastard of an irretrievable virus. But thank you so much, for it has been creaking and groaning for some time and finally it has given up the ghost and now given me the excuse to get a new one. So a blessing in disguise perhaps.
All of which means that it might be a little while before I can get back on line and continue my rants, for which many apologies. Another blessing in disguise perhaps?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Our Golf Correspondent investigates
Having reported on the Royal and Ancient game for more years than I care to remember, there are still occasions when I find it hard to believe what I`m hearing. You see, reports filtered through to me late yesterday afternoon of an event at Hever Castle Golf Club down in leafy Kent that Snopper had actually completed his round of golf in a score of four under par. I thought this claim needed the kind of forensic investigation that, prima facie, it deserved, for if true we`re talking here about a truly momentous event. So, off I went to catch up with Snopper as he relaxed in a shady nook of the clubhouse with a large ice cold coke after an afternoon in the blazing heat of a glorious summer day.
And then the truth came out. Snopper hadn`t, in fact, played the 18 hole course at all - he had played the shorter but testing 9-holes of the Princes Course. Now, I should mention that yesterday was Snopper`s 71st birthday and so I was disinclined to press him too strongly about his reported four under par return. Nevertheless, as details began to emerge, it became clear that this was, after all, yet another in a seemingly endless string of Snopper-esque fantasies. He showed me his card for his round which showed that, doubtless with a degree of creative accounting and a liberal interpretation of the Rules of Golf, he had completed the 9 hole course in 48 strokes. So where did this four under par nonsense come from, I asked? "Well," explained Snopper, "I played nine holes at 48. Right? Double that for 18 holes and you get 96. Take off half my handicap of 28 from the 48 and you come to 34. Double that for 18 holes and you get 68. QED - that`s four under par. Geddit? "
Words failed me. Dumb I was indeed founded. I enquired gingerly about his handicap of 28, which is of course the maximum allowed for `gentlemen golfers.` "Well, I`ve never really had a handicap," he explained. "I work on the Sammy Davis handicap philosophy - you know the one. He was black, Jewish and only had one eye so he didn`t think he needed any more handicaps. Me, I`m 71 now, with arthritis and bunions - and I`m crap at golf anyway - so I reckon I`m entitled to the 28 handicap, don`t you?"
To end on a positive note. It seems he lost only three balls during his `round.` One of them ended up in a lake and a couple in dense undergrowth. The good news is that in trying to find those two, he actually found four others, so, like Basil Fawlty`s racing selections, for the first time in his life he was up on the deal. He also had an extra club in his bag as his neighbour, the long suffering Hurting Slightly Less of Leybourne, had lent him a 7-iron to sample in advance of a possible club transaction, so it`s quite likely that Snopper broke the rules on the number of clubs allowed.
"Slightly`s clubs could have legs," mused Snopper between gulps of coke, but I`m convinced that even the introduction of a hi-tech, state-of-the-art, whizzo, ocean-going set of clubs will make little difference, except perhaps to heighten still further the fantasia which Snopper`s golf has become.
Oh well, so much for investigative reporting and I wait to see whether he will have the nerve to post this report on his world-wide blog which itself must be a fantasist`s paradise.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

There`s a lot of fuss going on about whether to ban the burka following a Tory MP putting down a private members bill in Parliament, which means it`s doomed to fail anyway. France are doing it so it must be right? Quelle horreur!
Quite honestly, I really don`t mind either way whether it gets banned or not and there are powerful arguments both for and against. What does intrigue me though is the notion that the idea of actually banning the burka is `not very British,` according to the Government Minister in charge of Immigration.
Now being Minister for Immigration, I guess he would say that, wouldn`t he? And he may have a point in a country which professes to uphold tolerance and mutual respect and to defend freedom of speech and expression. However, I can`t escape the feeling that to walk around our green and pleasant land dressed from head to toe in a black shroud with only a tiny slit so the eyes can peek out, thus being shielded from the prying eyes of the authorities and our myriad surveillance cams, is `not very British`either. And taking a picture of yourself on your mobile phone to send it to one of your burka shrouded mates seems just a tad pointless? Oh well, live and let live, I suppose.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Once again, I step gingerly into the make believe world of religion as once again the antics of His representatives on Earth leave me baffled.

The Church of England has just gone through agonies about having women bishops and there is now the prospect that women priests might progress to the higher echelons of its ranks. Quite right too and it might just be a matter of time before a woman is Archbishop of Canterbury. After all, if we can have a woman Prime Minister and a Queen on the throne, why not a woman in charge of the established church?

We now learn that the Catholic church has decreed it to be a `high crime` to appoint women as priests in the catholic faith, putting the `crime` on a par with priestly paedophilia. Now, of course, people are free to believe what they want and to follow whatever `religion` (mine is football) appeals to them. But I`m afraid my deep-seated scepticism about earthly religions is only confirmed when I witness the kind of misguided nonsense that has just come out of Rome. The Vatican`s beef with women appears to be based on the assumption that not one of Christ`s disciples was a woman. Now, assumptions like that can be dangerously misleading because, of course, it might well be that whilst the disciples were going about their discipling business, their other halves were making it possible for them to do so by seeing that their beards were neatly trimmed, their cassocks nicely washed and ironed and that there would be a square meal on the table when they got home after a hard day`s discipling. A real and equal partnership of endeavour.

Before long, we will have His Popeness visiting these shores. I`m told the visit will cost us £12million excluding the cost of security. It`s also suggested that Ann Widdecombe is in line to become the UK`s ambassador to the Vatican. I`m not sure which of the two is the more depressing, but here`s the thing. At the top of this rant, I mentioned `His representatives on Earth.` What if `His` turns out in the end to be `Her?` I guess there will be some egg on faces in most religious quarters but as things stand the result could well be Canterbury 1 - Vatican 0 (after extra time.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

So that`s that then. South Africa 2010 is over and done with and already I`m looking forward to Brazil 2014 for in truth the World Cup just ended has been one of the most disappointing I can recall. I was disappointed by a number of other things that stood out for me. The absence of goal line technology; the drone of the vuvuzelas; the blatant Suarez handball that denied Ghana a place in the semi-finals (time to introduce penalty goals for such clear cheating?); the underperforming Messi, Torres, Kaka and others from whom perhaps too much was expected; the tv overkill and the bandwagon of FIFA hangers-on. But the biggest disappointment must surely have been the Final itself. The result was the right one with the Spanish dancers, their midfield pirouettes and paso dobles, overcoming the stifling crudity of the Dutch cloggers, but the game, like the tournament itself, will perhaps be remembered more for all the wrong reasons.

And so perhaps in an effort to put South Africa 2010 behind me and move on, my picture shows Rio de Janeiro and captures the belief that Brazil in 2014 will be a marked improvement on what we have just lived through. The home of beautiful football, of Pele, Tostao, Garrincha, Socrates, Carlos Alberto and all the sublime coreography that only Brazil can produce, must surely be something to look forward to.

At a different end of the football spectrum, near neighbour Scott Wagstaff `penned` a new contract a few days ago, which will keep him at Charlton for another two years. His new contract seems to have been welcomed by the afficionados on the Charlton Life fans forum ("live, love, laugh and be happy") and all of us in our football mad street wish nothing but the best for Scott as his career unfolds in his highly competitive chosen profession. He has established himself as a `hard working wideman,` a `pacy flanker` and one whose blistering pace can take him beyond the last defender to cut the ball back from the by-line for onrushing strikers to bury the ball beyond the despairing clutches of opposing custodians.

And who can tell where he and we might all be in four years time? The game will have been changed by financial reality, changes to the laws, the development of emerging football nations and another set of dancers and cloggers competing for their own versions of supremacy. As for England, the collective prospects aren`t good - too much vested interest, too much talking, not enough doing, too much money sloshing around in the wrong pockets, too much expectation, not enough change - but maybe, just maybe, a quiet, unassuming, gifted, hard working, pacy flanker might emerge in time to savour the delights of Copacabana and bring yet more pride and joy to a football mad street in a small village in deepest Kent. Football, like life, can sometimes be a nightmare - I should know, I`m a Saints fan - but it is also about dreams, which should never be allowed to die.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Our newly ennobled Baron Prescott of Kingston upon Hull turned up yesterday morning on Andrew Marr`s tv show. In answer to Marr`s questioning about how he felt about it all, Prezza insisted that he `hadn`t felt a prat` whilst accepting the peerage he always said he would refuse.

I think in the interests of correct reporting, I should perhaps repeat what he actually said on tv yesterday about his `so-called ennoblement.` It went like this:-

"I weren`t feeling a prat.. I think I was chewing a wasp at the time. But basically there is that, when you dress up in that ermine. Why do you have to do that? I have to balance that against having a forum."

Quite so. I imagine the Reading Clerk himself feels less of a prat this morning knowing that the gobbledegook he was forced to read out last week now makes perfect sense compared with Baron Prezza`s version of those events. But the people I feel really sorry for are the Hansard reporters, whose job it is to "record the words of Members of the House of Lords and then edit them to remove repetitions and obvious mistakes but without taking away from their intended meaning." They`ll earn their corn when Prezza gets going.

Friday, July 09, 2010


Had it not been for his untimely death some years ago now, I could well have mistaken the events in the House of Lords yesterday for the elevation to the peerage of the great Les Dawson. Instead, we had the newly enobled Baron Prescott of Kingston upon Hull looking and sounding for all the world like the much missed Les.

I`ve gone on before about the absurdity of serial embarrassment Prescott being granted his peerage so I won`t repeat that rant again here. However, yesterday`s induction ceremony produced a kind of unintentional satire that reminded me of Les Dawson at his finest. Trouble was, no-one could see the joke, the funny side of it. The Erminator entered stage left flanked by his supporters, Lords Grocott and Dixon (prsumably of Dock Green) and listened intently as the Reading Clerk announced that he would have "the state, degree, style, dignity and honour of Baron Prescott," would "have, hold and possess a seat in our counsels" for the rest of his life and be entitled to the "pre-eminences, immunities and advantages to the degree of a baron duly and rightly belonging." You really couldn`t make it up.

The Reading Clerk`s language mangling must have made the Baron feel quite at home, especially the knowledge that he now cops for £300 a day of taxpayers money on expenses without having to do or, mercifully, say anything. But I am looking forward to his maiden speech in the House of "flunkery and titles" he said he would never join. He might well take another leaf from the Les Dawson compendium to make a speech in keeping with his visage, his pretence and his boom boom style. Here`s one:-

Duck goes into the chemist's shop.
"A tube of lipsol please.''
"Certainly, that will be fifty pence."
''Put it on my bill, please."

Boom Boom indeed.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Bishop : "I fear you have a bad egg, Mr. Jones."
Curate : "Oh, no, my Lord. I assure you parts of it are excellent."
Last evening I was reminded of this Punch cartoon and the curate`s egg which was Barney`s attempt at the Kennel Club Good Citizen Gold Award (KCGCGA.) Having already passed the Bronze and Silver awards, Barney had been practicing all the routines required for the Gold test and had been studiously revising for it. In company with a few other golden retrievers, he turned up at a secluded venue with his handler and did well in most of the tests - laying down, stopping, sitting quietly without barking, etc. - and hopes were high among an expectant crowd of onlookers.
Then it came to the `heel walking` test, for which Barney was let off the lead with the intention of staying close to his `handler` whilst walking to heel and performing a series of turns. Instead, Barney promptly ran around the orchard, saying `Hello` to everyone and wanting nothing more than to have a good play with his fellow trainees. Typical Barney - a fun dog having a good time.....but not really what the Kennel Club are looking for when their Gold test is under way. So, although his test was `good in parts,` he was correctly declared as being `not ready.` Mind you, he wasn`t the only one, but he might just have to go back to the drawing board and try again.
Not sure we mind too much - it means that we can keep going to the training classes and keep in touch with the friends we and Barney have made along the way. To find a little comfort in yet another hackneyed phrase, it`s an ill wind that blows no good.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


I`m getting a little worried about the German football team. To be fair, they have done very well in the World Cup and have reached the semi-finals where they play Spain tomorrow evening. Of course, their progress thus far included the 4-1 drubbing of England but it is not for that reason that my suspicions are being roused. No, really, because I shed no tears for the dismal failure of our overpaid underachievers.
Rosa Klebb lookalike German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) was seen dancing in the streets of Bloemfontein after that victory and I began to wonder how, apart from the obvious fear that she engenders, the team had managed to do so well. A closer look at the make-up of the team shows that they may not be quite as German as they would have us believe. Mr. Podolski and Mr. Klose, both born in Poland; Mr. Ozil sounds a bit Turkish to me; Mr. Sami Khedira could well be Tunisian and Mr. Boateng has more than a hint of Ghanaian about him.

But I have been especially concerned about Bastian Schweinsteiger. He`s a decent player, bosses the midfield, has a good engine and an eye for a pass but his surname literally translates as Pigclimber. Bastian Pigclimber. Doesn`t quite ring true somehow. Can`t imagine seeing him walking down the street and saying, "Good morning Mr. Pigclimber." He may, after all, have entered the Fatherland on false papers from some remote Teutonic outpost. Just don`t get me started on Per Mertesacker that`s all!

Now, the England football team may be crap. But at least they`re English crap. Aren`t they just?

Sunday, July 04, 2010


Lord`s Cricket Ground - unquestionably the most iconic, spectacular and beautiful cricket ground in the world. You know the slogan, "Should have gone to Specsavers," well, maybe I should have gone to Lord`s yesterday for the last game in the five match 50-overs series between England and Australia. I had the chance. I was telephoned on Friday evening by someone who had a spare sponsor`s ticket and did I fancy a day at the home of cricket?
I thought about it and asked myself whether I really wanted to make the slog of a journey up to London, across on the underground and spend a very long day in the baking sunshine which we are still having and then make the long return journey. So I declined as gracefully as I could, especially as I seriously appreciated the invitation. And then the second thoughts kicked in. Hang on - sponsor`s ticket? Visions of a sumptuous five star, shady, air conditioned box with an endless supply of chilled drinks, spectacular vantage point overlooking the whole ground, cordon bleu catering - all courtesy of the match sponors? Too late, for by the time I had reconsidered, someone else was being offered the ticket.
So this morning, out of a sense of needing to know, I telephoned to see how the day went. It went very well, apart from the result (Australia won, but lost the series 3-2) but a little probing unearthed the fact that there had been no box, so chilled drinkies on tap, no cordon bleu goodies, too much sun, but still a very long and enjoyable day. All of which made me feel just a little better, but even so I can`t escape the notion that, especially at my age, if there is a chance to go to a big occasion at an unforgettable venue, it`s a chance that really should be taken.
This year I have `done` the new Wembley Stadium and the Royal Albert Hall. Lord`s, even without the extra cover that this blistering summer demands, would have made for a memorable hat trick. Oh well!

Friday, July 02, 2010


Maybe I shouldn`t have been surprised to learn that Tony Blair has not only been awarded $100,000 (about £67,000) for `bringing liberty to the world` as the recipient of the annual Liberty Award in the United States but that he has also had the cheek to accept it. Well, I guess he would, wouldn`t he. After all, he has previous.

But I also noticed yesterday a couple of items that might prove significant as the wheels of justice might again have been gently kick started on their long and winding road. The first was the release of documents which pretty much proved that Blair took us to war in Iraq against the legal advice of the then Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith. Reading between the lines, it seems that Goldsmith was himself convinced that joining Bush in going to war in Iraq was illegal without a further UN resolution but that Goldsmith was bullied into some form of words that Blair thought were good enough to enable him to go ahead.

The second was, once again, the representations continually made by a group of leading doctors questioning the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. David Kelly, the weapons inspector, who was found dead in a wood near his Oxfordshire home shortly after being `exposed` as the source of the controversial BBC news report which itself had questioned the grounds for going to war in Iraq. Blair`s poodle Inquiry, led by Lord Hutton, concluded that Dr. Kelly had taken his own life, but the evidence has never been shown to be conclusive, otherwise the medical evidence put forward at the Inquiry would not have been subject to a 70 year ban before publication. Furthermore, there never was a coroners inquest into his death and the death certificate was not completed by a medical practitioner.
The ongoing Chilcot Inquiry might help to clarify the legality of events concerning the Iraq invasion and it might just be encouraging that the new coalition Government are thinking about reopening the case of Dr. Kelly, irrspective of (or even because of) the conclusions reached at the Hutton Inquiry. I just sense that storm clouds might be gathering around our former Prime Minister and his cronies. These distant rumbles will not go away and it might be that the Liberty Award and the medal handed out by America, with its $100,000 price tag, turns out to have as much value as my own Tufty Club Certificate.