Thursday, March 31, 2011


If ever there is a `typical English village scene,` it might be this one.   Of course, everyone has their own personal favourite - Kersey in Suffolk, Bibury in Gloucestershire, Lacock in Wiltshire - there are lots to choose from.   But mine might be the one in the photograph above.   It lies almost buried deep in the South Hams of Devon.   It has two pubs, a school, a lovely church with spectacular rood screens, a red telephone box, a village shop and post office, a postcard full of thatched cottages and deep sided lanes that are full of the wild flower extravaganza that only the Devon hedgerows can produce.

And just down the road is the sea.   Not just any old sea, but an estuary that has defied `development` for over 100 years, thanks to the benign ownership of the family who own this magical chunk of south Devon.   The `estate` has featured in countless films and television programmes over the years - `A Horseman Riding By,` `Sense and Sensibility,` `Jonathan Creek,` `International Velvet` and many more, so in a way it`s a bit like visiting a film set, but one which is chosen for its essential Englishness and timeless quality .

Not far away are the twin creekside villages of Noss Mayo and Newton Ferrers, the glories of Salcombe and a wonderful stretch of the South West Coast Path with views as far as the Eddystone lighthouse 13 miles out to sea.   We`ve been there many times before, but we feel almost compelled to go back once more.   And so we`re off there on Saturday for a week visiting old haunts, exploring new ones and hoping that the weather is kind to us. If it`s not, there`s not much we can do about that, but it will be good to be away from it all and to immerse ourselves in a corner of England, where the pace of life is so agreeable that it is quite possible to spend a week there in an afternoon.   

See you in a week or so.  Or an afternoon?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


OK, so the England cricket team `only` made it through to the quarter finals of the World Cup in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, but that in itself was something of an achievement.   They had been on the road in Australia and the sub continent since last November and it was pretty clear that the five months of  cricket at the highest level had taken its toll in mind and body.

Of course, their supreme achievement was the thumpingly convincing Ashes win on Australian home soil when, once again, the 5-day Test Match series against the old enemy represented the very pinnacle of what the game has to offer.   And if the succeeding One Day series ended on a low note and the performance at the World Cup was a series too far, then so what?   For the Ashes series is and always will be the most competitive, compelling series anywhere in world cricket.

But what has struck me over the last couple of days has been the contrast between the  celebrations that followed the 2005 Ashes, the 2009 series and this one.   2005 was arguably the most memorable of all Ashes series won by England which led to very New Labour vicarious triumphalism which included an open top bus parade, a rally in Trafalgar Square and CBE`s for all the players.   Having perhaps learned lessons, the 2009 England victory was marked by more circumspect but heartfelt acknowledgement by a grateful public.

But the most recent Ashes victory in Australia - one of the most crushing defeats ever suffered by our antipodean friends - has in the last day or so, seen Andrew Strauss and other members of the winning squad shuffle through the arrivals at Heathrow Airport to a defening silence.   It`s almost as if they had lost the Ashes, rather than reclaimed them and it seems their re-entry into the country has almost gone unnoticed after those five months of heroic effort.

I just hope Andrew Strauss and his teammates realise how much their triumphs have enlightened our miserable winter, how much it has been appreciated by cricket lovers and how little we care about `only` reaching the World Cup quarter finals.  

Welcome home lads, thank you and well done.

Monday, March 28, 2011


My favourite destination in the UK has long been Cornwall, but each time I go there I am acutely aware of intruding into a different world.   Of course, for the casual visitor in high summer, there is nothing better than to experience the dramatic and ever changing coastline, the varied landscape, the vast beaches and huge skies.

But there is a different side to all of this.   The winters can be long and when the grockels have gone home for another year, Cornwall and the Cornish can retreat into themselves once more.   There are also contrasts between the prosperous and the struggling and, seasonal tourism aside, Cornwall is one of the most economically deprived areas of the country.

So it needs all the economic and financial help it can get to sustain jobs for its own people.    Now, there are examples all over Cornwall of attempts continually being made, especially in these harsh financial times,  to create and sustain employment and one of those has recently centred around the regeneration scheme for Falmouth Docks (pictured above), a major source of employment in one of Cornwall`s largest towns.   The plans for the £160million scheme include dredging the Fal and Helford estuaries so that the depth of the port can be increased to accommodate larger ships using Falmouth Docks.   In the process, an additional 800 much needed jobs would be created for the struggling town.

But, the scheme has now been blocked by the European Union because a rare form of algae has been found growing on the rocks just off Falmouth Docks and this algae cannot be disturbed because the site is listed as a `Special Area of Conservation.`   The regeneration plans have been objected to by the Marine Management Organisation because of the EU Directive.

Well, I`m sorry but I suggest that the needs of the Cornish to create and sustain employment in one of the country`s most deprived areas should really take precedence over some dimwitted blobs of sludge.   They may be rare but I doubt they have the intelligence to worry too much about being shifted to some other marine venue where they can live happily ever after.

Never mind that the Cornish economy is itself on the rocks, as long as the unaccountable bureaucrats of the EU can have their politically correct, do-goody, myopic way so that the algae can stay on their own  rocks, then everything`s alright then.  Isn`t it?

Saturday, March 26, 2011


One of the books in my modest library is `Silence of the Heart` by David Frith.   It was published over ten years ago and it chronicled the tragic stories behind cricket`s alarming suicide rate.   It is a compelling account of over 100 cricketers who had taken their own lives, including some of the game`s most accomplished players such as Andrew Stoddart, Arthur Shrewsbury, Harold Gimblett, David Bairstow, Jack Iverson, Sidney Barnes and so on.

Now, just how many of those hundred or so cricketers suffered from a depression so severe that it drove them over the edge is uncertain but it`s a fair guess that the proportion is pretty high.   Years ago, in the final days of Gimblett - Bairstow even -  maybe the understanding of mental illness wasn`t what it is today, but thankfully these days the problems of players such as Marcus Trescothick, Mark Lathwell and now Michael Yardy are not only better understood but also accepted with a sympathy, understanding and level of support hithero unknown.

And then along comes Geoffrey Boycott.   He was, of course, an opening batsman for England in 108 Test Matches, scoring over 8,000 runs at an average of nearly 48.   He was also something less than a team player - playing more for himself and his record - as witnessed by the number of teammates he ran out whilst scrambling for his own ground.   As the archetypal blunt, hard nosed Yorkshireman, you wouldn`t really expect him to have much sympathy with the likes of Michael Yardy, who has just returned from the World Cup suffering from what seems to be cricket`s own version of depression.

`Not depressed, just not good enough,` announced Boycott whilst giving his verdict on Yardy`s departure from the scene.   `It was always going to be too much for him at this level.   He was always going to be a liability,` he went on...and on...and on.  

In these more enlightened times, we are entitled to expect more from a `pundit,` however good his own international record might have  been, for that record does not give him or anyone else the right to comment, even less to criticise, someone who is clearly in need of understanding and support.   It really won`t do.   Not good enough.   And it`s time for Boycott and his neanderthal sensitivities to be given out.   Run out, in fact.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

...and a blessing in disguise?

Life is full of twists and turns and football is no exception.   The image you see below is Plymouth Argyle`s mascot - dressed up to vaguely resemble a Pilgrim Father, as the football club are known as `The Pilgrims.`  I can only imagine that there are a couple of sound reasons for this nom-de-plume;  the first being Plymouth`s relatively remote location in the south west which means that most of their away matches represent something of a pilgrimage. 

The second is a little more speculative.  It is widely assumed that Plymouth was the point of departure when the Pilgrim Fathers left on the Mayflower to seek a new life in the New World.   However, the truth is that the Pilgrim Fathers left Southampton (where Mayflower Park marks their real point of departure) and only called in to Plymouth after some problems were discovered with the ship.   No matter, for Plymouth need all the help they can get. 
Now, Plymouth Argyle are having a bad time - relegated from the Championship last season, now in administration, frantically seeking a rich, new investor, already deducted ten points for going into administration resulting in them being bottom of League One and desperately struggling to avoid yet another relegation.   So they don`t want me being critical of their misfortune.... and I won`t be.

But there is a curious situation concerning the game they were due to play this coming Saturday against - you`ve guessed it - the Saints of Southampton.   However, that game has been postponed because, under FIFA rules, if a club has three players or more called up for international duty, then the club is entitled to ask for the postponement.   In this case, Plymouth `s three `international` players, called up for service to represent their respective countries this weekend are - 

Onismor Bhasera, called up by Zimbabwe but now out injured, possibly for the rest of the season;
Rory Fallon, called up for New Zealand`s game against China, but now suffering a groin injury which led to Plymouth manager and ex-Saint, Peter Reid, `pulling him out;` and
Joe Mason, drafted in to the Republic of Ireland under 21s squad, but now out with an ankle injury.

So, a game which on Saturday would have brought Argyle some much needed matchday revenue and keep the momentum of Saints promotion push going, won`t go ahead despite the fact that all three of Argyle`s international players won`t now be on international duty.   Not sure you could make it up.

And there`s another twist too.   My squeaky bum evening on Tuesday ended with Saints and Charlton drawing 1-1 at The Valley - a `nice,` peacekeeping kind of result for the divided loyalties in Snopper Street.   Saints were ahead until a late strike by another former Saint - Bradley Wright-Phillips - secured the point for Charlton.   It always happens, of course, that former strikers score against their former clubs.

One problem for Saints is that both of their very own pacy flankers, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, had to be helped off the pitch with worrying injuries, the extent of which are yet unconfirmed  but which would have kept them out of the game at Plymouth on Saturday, had it gone ahead.   They now have ten days to recover before Saints` next game  and so, whilst the shambles surrounding the postponement might be a blessing in disguise after all, the week has demonstrated yet again that football, like life, is full of twists and turns.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


In many ways, the vernal equinox, which we had a couple of days ago, marks my favourite time of the year, for Spring has now officially arrived and the long, cold, drawn out winter we have had, is finally behind us.   This week has been beautiful, days full of sunshine and temperatures above the seasonal norm and Barney and I have made the most of our afternoon walkies.  

Yesterday, we paid a visit to one of the orchards, like the one pictured, and all we could hear was the birdsong and the almost comforting drone of a distant tractor mowing the rows between the fruit trees.   Those fruit varieties that are worth persevering with - eating apples mainly - are nearly there with the budburst, when the orchards become a blaze of Spring blossom.   For others, especially the nearby Bramley, cherry and pear orchards which are either being ploughed up or just being neglected, they will come into blossom too but as they haven`t been pruned at all, then even if the trees survive, the yield will be reduced in both quantity and quality.

But it is a wonderful feeling to wander the Kentish orchards with a faithful companion, to see nature doing its seasonal thing and to feel the warmth of the sun once more.  Spring is here and Barney is waiting for this afternoon`s adventure, so if you`ll forgive me, I had better get on with it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

.......and a squeaky bum day..

It`s going to be one of those days, I just know it.  Last night, the goal machine of Peterborough United went to upwardly mobile MK Dons in a game between teams lying in 3rd and 5th place respectively in the nPower League One.   The home side fashioned a narrow 1-0 victory to deny Peterborough the chance of going second in the table and thus finding themselves in one of the two automatic promotion places. 

And this evening, the Saints travel to Charlton in a game that should have been played on Boxing Day, but was called off as there was a bit of ice on the touchline and referee Andy `Urso was concerned for the safety of one of his linesman.  I know, you couldn`t make it up and Mr. d`Urso is in charge of tonight`s game too - that`s if it goes ahead.   If Saints should win, they will themselves go second in the table, so there`s a lot riding on the outcome.  It should be straightforward - Saints have won their last four matches, Charlton have lost their last seven but football, like life, is never as easy as it should be.

Charlton will be `fighting for their lives` to avoid dropping further down the table, so they`ll be `up for it.`  Saints might feel the burden of expectation laying heavily on their shoulders;  they might just try too hard with the inevitable result that they disappoint themselves as well as the 1300 travelling Saints fans.

But there`s more.   Whilst I am a lifelong Saints fan(atic) I also have a feeling of loyalty and support for near neighbour and Charlton hard working wideman Scott Wagstaff and his family and so my loyalties might well be divided this evening.   Of course, I want Scott to do well for himself, his team and his family, but the chance the Saints have to go second in the league with games in hand is also an appealing prospect.   OK, it`s not the end of the world either way;  it`s not Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan or anything else that`s desperately important.....but I just know my bum will be squeaking until 9.50pm, when the outcome is finally known.

I really must do something about getting a life!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


At a time when there are real troubles in the world, it seems flippant to resort to a sporting note.   But on the other hand, perhaps anything that lifts the gloom might be welcome.

Earlier in the week, as all the catastrophes of Libya, Japan and elsewhere were unfolding, the Football Association apparently discovered a little of their version of courage.   For far too long, they have allowed the Manchester United manager, `Sir` Alex Ferguson, to get away lightly with fines and touchline bans when his serial infringement of their rules should have led to more stringent measures.   But this week, the FA doled out a five game touchline ban and a £30,000 fine for the comments Ferguson made about referree Martin Atkinson`s handling of a recent game.

Now, at face value these measures might indeed appear stringent, but we all know that appearances can be deceptive.   So, yesterday, Ferguson was not allowed on the touchline for Manchester United`s game against Bolton.   Instead, he was confined to a comfy chair a little further back in the stand from the `technical area` alongside the pitch.   We know it was comfy, as it even had a telephone built into it, so Ferguson was able to watch the progress of his team from a better viewpoint than being down at pitch level and able to pick up the chairphone and bark his instructions to his hapless assistants in the dugout.

Far from being a punishment, this seemed a nice, cosy arrangement;  one which seemed to work to United`s favour as Ferguson`s barked instructions involved bringing on Dimitar Berbatov late in the game, whereupon he scored the winning goal.   As to the £30,000, I wonder whether Fertguson will actually pay it himself or whether, like his fines being racked up for failing to comply with contractual obligations by providing post match interviews, the final sum won`t be met by the club.   We shall never know.

Nice try, Football Association, but it`s high time they dished out punishments which really have teeth and which fit the crimes and misdemeanours surrounding the game.   In Ferguson`s case, maybe deportation to the colonies would be a good idea.   If we had any left.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Yes, folks, today is the Big One - Red Nose Day, when we are supposed to sit through hours of excruciatingly tiresome `fun` on BBC 1 as a succession of celebs do things out of character all in the name of charidee.

Now, you can accuse me of being a curmudgeonly grump, but the truth is that I have given freely of my time, my resources and what little expertise I have in the cause of a local charity that has been close to my heart for years.   In short, I think I can sleep nights knowing I have made something of a contribution towards the wellbeing of my fellow man.

So what I don`t need is to have these `celebs` harranguing me to give money when I am already going about my charitable business quietly and quite voluntarily.

But whilst all the fol-de-rols for Red Nose Day are going on, today has seen yet another pivotal event in a week that has been full of them.   Britain apparently took a leading role in getting the UN resolution agreed so that the international community can take `whatever action necessary` in response to Gaddafi`s  treatment of his own people.   Despite being skint, scrapping our one and only aircraft carrier, dismantling our Harrier squadrons and making armed forces personnel redundant, we are seemingly able and willing to be taking a leading military role as part of the international force to enforce the Libyan no-fly zone.

Now I know that every Prime Minister is supposed to have a good war, but it strikes me as the most delicious irony that Britain should rattle it`s diminishing sabre on Red Nose Day.  I wonder which of the two events will turn out to be the real Big One.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An object lesson

It`s quite staggering how many different forms of communication are around these days - Facebook, Twitter, e-mails, snail mail, telephones, even this blog with its facility to comment and so on and so on.  I`ve left out speaking to each other as that is a bit of methodology that seems less and less popular.   But by and large, the thing that all these methods have in common is that they are `immediate` - almost instant forms of communication.   My fear is that instant forms of communication might encourage instant responses - not always the best ones.

Now, 150 years ago or so, things were different.   None of the modern day methods were yet invented apart from speaking to each other face to face and the snail mail.   So, if for example you wanted to ask a question of someone in Australia, you would write a letter which would go by sea and take weeks, if not months to get there.   The recipient would read it, consider a measured reply, write the response and wait for the next mail ship to return your inquiry from whence it came.

It might have taken months but it did have its merits.   The first was that correspondence was carefully composed - care was taken to get it just right.  No room for knee jerking.  And in a way, therefore, the time taken to correspond at any distance governed the pace of life.   You couldn`t hurry if you wanted to and whilst today`s methods might be quick, I suspect the pre-electronic age was more agreeable.   Things were got right rather than got soon.

The other day, I passed our village hall, where the Parish Clerk does her stuff and where the Parish Council meets regularly.   As well as the Parish Council itself, there seem also to be a number of Committees looking after different bits of the Parish Council`s responsibilities.   I noticed an agenda for a meeting of the Parish Communications Committee, which seems responsible for producing the Parish Newsletter, which comes out every so often.

Their agenda invited the committee members to consider drafts of what might go in to the next newsletter, sort out printing and distribution, all of which  takes time, of course.   Previous editions which arrived on my doormat contained information about events and things going on in the Parish at least two months ago and, looking at the agenda, I can see that the next edition will be the culmination of much care, consideration and discussion and I look forward to it arriving through my letter box at some indeterminate date in the future.

I`m not knocking it - honest.   What I eventually get through my door might well be history from way back when but it will at least  be accurate.   I suspect, you see, that the Parish Council have got it right in their Dibley-esque way by hanging on grimly to a pace of life that suits them.   And who is to say they are wrong?

Monday, March 14, 2011


I guess it`s now.

For some time now, there has been a kind of grudgingly mutual respect amongst the footy followers of Snopper Street, but there has also been a kind of benign feeling of `supportive competitiveness` involving my own devotion to Southampton, Mr. Slightly`s marriage to Gillingham and also involving Charlton FC, for whom our street`s industrious wideman, Scott Wagstaff, plies his trade as their buzzin` pacy flanker.

It`s all been good knockabout stuff and, of course, our longstanding quest has been to have a weekend when all three teams win their matches and garner nine points out of nine.  I honestly can`t recall when, if ever, it last happened, but hope has sprung eternal up to now.  A few weeks ago, it seemed possible, but the sudden dramatic collapse of Charlton`s form has seen them lose their last six games and so make their chances of reaching even the play-offs now seem a distant dream.

In the meantime, both high riding Southampton and the  Gills recorded impressive 3-1 wins on Saturday, but Charlton were undone by a late goal by lowly Brentford to extend their winless run under new(ish) manager, Chrissy (The Legend?) Powell.   Now normally, Mr. Slightly and I would be inwardly smirking to ourselves, but in truth I can`t bring myself to feel anything other than sympathy for Scotty, his sixpack, his battling chums on the pitch, his supportive family and the rest of the Charlton fans.   Indeed, having had our teams in similarly dire straits, we may just confine ourselves to accepting that, once more, our elusive nine out of nine quest has been thwarted.

As for me, I wish Gillingham well in their own push for promotion, I hope the Saints manage to secure theirs too, but I think most of all I hope Scotty and his mates can come through this slough of despond and regroup ready for next season, when it is still entirely possible that all three teams will again be in the same division.

At which point, you can be assured that bragging rights will be resumed.  With a vengeance!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


The whole world is, of course, shocked by the appalling devastation suffered by the people of Japan following the earhtquake and the tsunami and all one can do from this distance is to sympathise and hope  for some kind of recovery.

In a way, it brought to mind the comments I posted on Friday, when I suggested that Professor Brian Cox`s programme concerning the vastness of space and time put our own world into perspective.   And by and large the news media across the globe has been rightly concentrating on the events in Japan with rolling television news, page after page in newspapers and informed, analytical commentary on radio, with even events such as the Libya crisis taking second place.

And yet, on that fateful morning when the earthquake happened and the tsunami wreaked its devastating havoc, just a few short clicks away on the remote I chanced across a cricket match being played in Kandy between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe as part of the 2011 Cricket World Cup.   It seemed a telling and poignant contrast with the events in Japan set against a game being played half a world away in distance but a whole parallel universe away in terms of awareness and priority.   A reverse swing if ever there was one.

Now, Brian Cox`s perpective was concerned with the place of Planet Earth in time and space but events in Japan - like those recently in Christchurch, Queensland, Western Australia and not forgetting Haiti - brought the place of mankind against the forces of nature into sharp focus once again.   And once again, it emphasised the transient and fragile nature of our own existence on the thin, vulnerable shell of this tiny blue dot in the middle of nowhere.

So I don`t know whether to be disappointed that the cricket match was still being played or whether to remain sanguine that cricket simply demonstrated that it truly is a world of its own, with its own timescales, its own insularity, its own sense of priority but, therefore, its place in providing a haven of refuge from the realities of a savage, unpredictable, sometimes devastatingly cruel world.  

I noticed that a respectful silence to mark the carnage in Japan was impeccably observed last evening before Real Madrid`s game with Hercules - and I hope cricket will at least raise its eyes above its own horizon and do the same before the next game in the World Cup series.   It wouldn`t come amiss.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Well, I guess the picture tells the story.   It shows a forlorn group of Charlton fans worrying about their team`s loss of form, as they have now suffered five defeats on the bounce under new manager Chrissy "The Legend" Powell.   One of the reasons I haven`t gone on about Snopper Street`s footy lately is because of the plight our local pacy flanker and his chums now find themselves in.   A few weeks ago, they were riding high in second place in League One.   Now they have slipped right out of contention for automatic promotion and sit a daunting 10 points outside even the play-off spots.

In the meantime, both my beloved Saints and Mr. Slightly`s inspired Gills press on with a series of decent results that bode well for the end of season fol-de-rols of the play-offs.   But I won`t go on about that as I am not one of life`s gloaters.....unless, of course, Manchester United hit a sudden decline or Portsmuff implode, when gloating will become irresistible.

On what might at first glance seem an altogether distant subject from the fortunes of our football teams, I have started to watch the new BBC series `Wonders of the Universe.` presented by Brian Cox, he once of D-ream, `Things can only get Better,` an annoyingly youthful countenance despite being in his `40s, but for all that an impressive knowledge not just of particle physics but also its place in the great scheme of things.

Now, one or two things that he has made clearer already in his first programme are, firstly, the incalculable vastness of the universe and, therefore, the insignificance of the tiny blue dot on which we live.   And secondly, the vastness of the arrow of time from the beginning of it all to the end - if there ever is one.   The numbers are just silly, but they do accentuate the smallness of our planet and the blink of an eye during which we, as human beings, are here.

Set against all of that, I have already stopped being over concerned about tomorrow`s events  when the Saints visit Dean Court in Bournemouth for a `must win six pointer.` It really doesn`t seem to matter quite so much when viewed within the context of time and space and I would suggest the Charlton fans might indeed look on the bright side and just shrug their shoulders at the fortunes of their transient team and their transient selves. It really is not worth worrying about. 

 Live for the moment or it will be gone, never to return.  To be fair.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


 I noticed that yesterday was International Womens Day.   Could hardly miss it really.  When I turned on Sky News early in the morning, I noticed that all the presenters were female which probably accounted for the fact that  the Paper Review  was concerned with recipes for fairy cakes, make-up tips and stuff like that.  Fair enough.

Seems to me however that, by having an International Women`s Day, with all its trumpeting, championing of the cause and assertive self- promotion (eg. multi-millionairess warbler Annie Lennox giving it large for the sisters) might actually be self-defeating, as it implies the acceptance of an `inferiority` which really isn`t there.

Now, in  much the same way as I wondered whether there might be a Straight Pride Day in Brighton, for example, I also wondered if this clamour for equality might see us   have an International Men`s Day.   And then someone advised me that there is - on 19th November.

Oh dear.  Gives us a chance to reassert our masculine inferiority I suppose.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

You`re Having a Laugh

I think that any disenchantment I may have with with football right now stems from the antics of the Premier League, where excess abounds in all respects. Despite the commercial success of `the product,` I see Premier League clubs largely in the hands of an assortment of foreign owners - anything from oligarchs, porn barons to chicken farmers -  `managed` by an assortment of foreign managers of questionable personality and with teams stuffed full of foreign mercenaries.

The wall-to-wall coverage it gets in the newspapers, tv, etc. all gives the illusion that it is worth watching if not actually supporting, whereas in reality the development of the `product` has all been about commercial excess and so has merely produced a caricature of what football and football clubs should be about. The Premier League is now beyond parody - an Alice-in-Wonderland fantasy world with its own cast of characters, its repertoire of scamps, malcontents, plots, sub-plots, dramas and melodramas and has seemingly become a law unto itself both on and off the pitch.

So, whilst I remain wedded to the cause of Southampton FC,  you might understand my uncertainty, reluctance even, about Saints getting promoted back there. We will never be a Manchester United,  an Arsenal, a Chelsea or any of  the others steeped in avarice and self-delusion.  We`re simply not big enough to compete from our limited provincial base.   But for all that, I do want Saints to succeed and that is where individuals like me must  define their own version of `success.`

 Accuse me of lacking ambition if you must, but my own personal ambition for Saints is for the club to be financially secure, managerially stable, playing attractive football, winning some, losing others, but having a reputation as a friendly club, representing the city and the community of Saints in a manner which brings credit and respect.   I don`t ask for much.

Right now, even though Saints are still well placed to challenge for promotion to the Championship and although the effort, time and expense I put in may be for too little reward on too many occasions, I still enjoy my visits `back home,` seeing good friends, revisiting old haunts and hoping for a good result. At the end of the day, to be fair, que sera, sera.....and having been chosen by the Saints to be one of their supporters, I`m not sure there`s a hell of a lot I can do about it anyway.   Maybe I`m simply content to carry on enjoying my days out while I still can.

But I can do without the Premier League, thank you very much.   And I`m pretty sure it can do without me.

Monday, March 07, 2011


Hugely enjoyable family business has kept me away from these pages for a few days but now that there is a lull in proceedings, I have a chance to rant once more.   Just a glance through the weekend`s `news` produces enough for me to rant about and although it won`t do any good, at least I will feel better for it.   After all, a rant a day helps me rest, work and play.   So here goes.

First, our old friends the EU, whose details reveal that £2.9million of taxpayers` money will be squandered this year on health care for the 736 members and their families - an increase of 36% over last year.  Brussels lets them claim for items such as free breast surgery, anti-ageing products and slimming treatment from a private health scheme, as well as Viagra for husbands and sons of female Members, visits to Health Spas and a host of `alternative therapies.` The claim is that, as the MEPs work away from home, they can`t take advantage of the medical facilities in their home countries.  You and I couldn`t make it up....but they have.

Next the newly enobled Lord Prescott of Somewhere-or-Other has hit the headlines for two reasons.  He has claimed over £10,000 in `expenses` for attending the House of Lords on just 13 occasions.   No wonder he has taken up the invitation to earn a few bob from the BBC by reading the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4,  supposedly all in the name of Comic Relief.   I think we should find out when this will happen, as there could well be room for maritime misinterpretation of his forecasts.  "State of the slight, see.  Windy in Dogger or German Bight - somewhere that way, backing north-east where Tony comes from....."   You get my drift.   Here`s a suggestion - why doesn`t he do the shipping forecast for free and hand over his `expenses` to Comic Relief?

And I can`t leave this without being bemused at the promised antics of former MP Ann Widdecombe who, fresh from her nationwide embarrassment on Strictly Come Prancing, has now been signed up for a stint in the Sleeping Beauty Pantomime at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford.   Maybe there was, after all, an eighth dwarf who has only now emerged or, more likely, Dopey Rides Again.

Ah, that`s better.  Every little rant helps.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


I know that from time to time I am critical of the BBC and very often for good reason with their tendancy to squander other people`s money, pursue daft policies like transferring perfectly good operations to Salford, Edinburgh and, it seems, anywhere but London.   But I have to confess my admiration for BBC 4, which produces  some of the most interesting, if not quirky documentaries I`ve ever seen.

One of their latest series has been  "The Beauty of Books."  It was what it said on the tin, but the last episode was concerned with the changing design  of book covers and took as an example the design of George Orwell`s `1984.`   Now, my illustration shows Orwell`s `Down and Out in Paris and London` and the reason is that, watching the programme about `1984` and George Orwell, aka Eric Blair, reminded me that there is a real life Orwellian connection just up the road from where I live.

The King Hill `hostel` was built back in the 1920s on the site of the Victorian West Malling workhouse  and features as one of the Spikes in George Orwell`s book, `Down and Out in Paris and London.` Orwell lived for several years in poverty, sometimes homeless, sometimes doing itinerant work, as he recalled in the book.   In his day the Spike was the place where gentlemen of the road would come to sleep at night - an experience well known to Orwell during those difficult years for him.

Having served its time firstly as a workhouse and  later as the `hostel,` in the 1970s the site was then used for homeless families waiting to be housed in council accommodation. Some families were there because they had been evicted from their homes, usually because they had defaulted on the rent. They were  housed at King Hill  until the arrears had been paid before being rehoused in more permanent accommodation.   When the site was finally cleared, it was then used for a small, rather exclusive `development` of four large houses and, in memory of its undistinguished past but also in memory of one of its more distinguished `residents,` was named Orwell Spike.  

Just literally across the road from there, is the huge expanse of Kings Hill, an ultra-modern development for business, retail and particularly housing, all on the site of what used to be West Malling Airfield.   It`s a sign of the times that King Hill, given all its associations with workhouse and `hostel,` became Kings Hill - a subtle, small but significant name change signifying the advance from a deprived past to a prosperous present.   In fact, the Kings Hill development, with its Stepford-esque neatness, broad avenues and thriving community, was listed in the 2004 Wealth of the Nation report  as having the highest average income and the highest proportion of households earning greater than £100,000 per annum in the country.

I wonder what George Orwell would make of it all.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Yes, the Alice in Wonderland madcap world of the European Union is at it again, proving once more that it`s not just hares that go mad in March.

In the last few days we`ve learned that in addition to the 1,400 `communications officers` already employed by Brussels, the EU is now paying £8.5million on `consultants` to improve the image of the EU to the people of Europe.

Now they are meddling in things like insurance premiums and pensions, all in the name of human rights and equality.  It has also emerged that the new diplomatic corps headed by Baroness Ashton will spend £32.8m on bullet-proof limousines for some of its officials, 46 of whom will enjoy postings in the paradise island of Barbados and even the tiny Pacific island of Vanuatu, which has a population of just 230,000, will have six EU diplomats.  The cost covers the purchase and maintenance of the 150 vehicles for four years with 30 cars being sent to missions in each of five regions around the world, including capitals where there is little or no terrorist threat.

Next, the EU are claiming that the multi-award winning film, The King`s Speech, is actually a European film, part funded by the EU.   The King’s Speech is not a “European” film, and certainly does not owe its success in any way to unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats sitting in Brussels, with a penchant for spending taxpayers’ money on printing ridiculous propaganda. The film did not, of course, receive a single Euro from Brussels in production funds. It is an entirely British-made and funded film, receiving funds from the Aegis Film Fund, a consortium of private investors, and from the UK Film Council.

In regard to more weighty matters, it is truly a comfort to learn today that the EU is going to have a meeting on 11th March - just 10 days away - to begin discussing its response to the situation in Libya and other parts of the Middle East where revolution is in the air.  Of course, it may be all too late by 11th March and only serves to illustrate once again the remoteness from reality, the self-serving insularity and the institutionalised ineptitude that the EU has become.

Time we had a revolution of our own which would save us all a huge amount of money and restore our democratic heritage by saying good riddance to the EU and all who sail in her.   Off with their heads!