Saturday, April 30, 2011


50 YEARS ON..

In between grass mowing, gardening, etc.,I just caught a fleeting glance of yesterday`s events and happened to notice the sparkling Pippa Middleton, Kate`s younger sister, all dressed in virginal white and looking very special.... and I wondered.   At first I wondered what my chances might have been had I been 50 years younger and then I remembered that 50 years ago Mrs. Snopper toddled up the aisle of Platt Church, all dressed in virginal white and looking very special.

50 years on, the virginal white might have faded a little but she still looks very special and so all I wish now is that I was 50 years younger and could do it all again.    So I think I`ll leave Pippa Middleton to Prince Harry - they seem to get on rather well, she with her engaging smile and he with his mischievous grin and mop of ginger hair.   I can`t think who he reminds me of.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

POMP, CIRCUMSTANCE AND DELUSIONS OF ADEQUACY..

Well, Friday tomorrow and the big wedding.   Seems to me that with the exception of myself and my mate up the road, the whole nation is going wedding bonkers.   Hordes of media people have arrived from all over the globe, the BBC has allocated over 800 staff to bring the wedding into every home in the land either via television, countless radio stations, even more regional programmes, online, twitter, f***book, semaphore, alldis lamp and any other media outlet you care to name.   So it`s wall to wall coverage.   Never has QVC been more inviting.

Now, we`re told that it won`t cost much, as a large chunk of the expense will be met by the happy couple and their rather well to do families.   However, we taxpayers are having to meet the cost of `security,` which will clearly run into £millions, and no doubt a load of other `incidentals` the details of which are likely to be covered by a super injunction so we`ll never know how much.

But I think my most troublesome beef is the sheer incongruity between all the pomp and pageantry, all the lords-a leaping, the ladies dancing and the golden rings set against the true state in which this country of ours finds itself.   For a long time now we have been something of a spent force.   We are demonstrating all the classic signs of an empire having declined and been lost.   To that extent, we are simply following the pattern of history which tells us that every empire there has ever been enters decline and fall and that we have not been immune to that inevitability.

And yet we kid ourselves that we are still a great power in the world, that we have a role to play on the wider stage, that we have influence over world affairs when the reality is that our economy has been shot to pieces and our military strength is close to breaking point, despite which we still rush headlong into conflicts that these days are either best left alone or better left to others.   We have social decline on a massive scale, a national morality that has seen better days and a here and now, me-me society which brings despair to whole generations.

And yet, somehow, we find the money, the time and the inclination to get excited about a royal wedding, with all its class ridden pretension that is so out of place with our millions of unemployed, our housing crises, our benefits culture and our armed forces dying in a corner of some foreign field that will forever never be England.   If there was any sense of proportion, reason or propriety, then Wills and Kate would be directed to the nearest Registry Office, blessed and wished well but invited to have their moment quietly and humbly with friends and family.

So I`ll give tomorrow`s fol-de-rols a miss, thank you very much and whilst I`m sure the majority will rail against my rantings, I am equally sure that there are quite a lot out there like me and my mate up the road who have better things to do tomorrow than get immersed in this costly and unnecessary distraction. The grass needs mowing, but I just know it`s going to rain.  That`ll teach me!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


CLOUD NINE..

It was as recent as 20 November last year that I was able, for the first time in the history of this blog, to record the fact that each of Snopper Street`s football teams had won their respective matches and thus garnered nine points out of a possible nine.   And now, just like London buses, you wait for ages and then two come along at once.

Yesterday, the Saints continued their automatic promotion push with a 2-0 win against Hartlepool.   Charlton, minus our pacy wideman still suffering a hamstring tweak, ran out 3-1 winners against Rochdale.   And Gillingham produced arguably the most impressive win away at play-off rival contenders Rotherham.   So, we`ve all been dancing the the streets on Cloud Nine.

I`ve been doing a little research and discovered that, until this season, the feat of nine out of nine has been a rare event for our teams.   Indeed, you have to go right back to the days when Gillingham were New Brompton, Charlton were playing in the Lewisham League and the Saints had just got out of short trousers as St. Mary`s Young Mens Association playing at the Antelope Ground in St. Mary`s Road.

They were the days of dubbin, studs with nails sticking out of them, long shorts, moustaches, inside rights, right halves, offside just being on the pitch, rush goalies, magic sponges and half an orange and a fag at half time.   No wonder it has taken so long and with only two or three games to go until the end of the season and everything to play for, I wouldn`t bet against another nine out of nine haul.

Hold very tight, please...ding, ding. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

GO WEST...

Too often these days, football is looked upon as little more than an exercise in commercialism, leaving little room for any `romance` in the beautiful game.   Well, here`s a romantic story.   It concerns the exploits of Truro City FC, who have become the first club in the history of football in England to achieve five promotions in six years.   They have just become champions of the Southern League and next season they will be competing in the Conference South - just two steps away from the Football League.

As if that wasn`t romantic enough, just consider their location - the county town of Cornwall lies 286 miles from London, a round trip of 572 miles.     Possibly their longest round trip this season has been the 950 miles to already relegated Halesowen but each time they have had an away match, the distances and the time involved have been considerable.   Now that Truro City are promoted, they can `look forward` to journeys such as to Dover (668 miles there and back); Bishops Stortford (656 miles); possibly Lowestoft if they get promoted (842 miles) and even Cambridge City if they win the play-offs (a mere 704 miles.)   Their only local derby will be the visit to Weston-super-Mare, `only` a  296 mile return journey, whilst in all Truro will clock over 10,000 miles during next season, putting them third overall nationally, behind Carlisle United and Plymouth Argyle.

Now, having achieved the remarkable feat of five promotions in six seasons, who is to say they won`t make it six out of seven and advance to the Conference National League at the end of next season?   If they do, it looks like their longest return journey could well be to Barrow-in-Furness, a 1624 mile round trip.   And all this with average home `crowds` of just 394.

As a bit of a Kernowphile, I have a soft spot for all things Cornish but I have nothing but admiration for Truro City Football Club for their rise through the football pyramid and the fortitude of their players, management, staff and supporters for the heroic journeys they have made and will yet make as Cornwall`s flagship football club.   Of course, each of their opponents will have to make their own expeditions to the far south west, but if they have any sense they will make a weekend of it - go west and enjoy the romance that the rare combination of football and Cornwall can bring.  Win, lose or draw.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

....and yesterday Snopper Street had it all.   First, an unlikely win for promotion seeking Saints as they became the first team to win at Brighton`s Withdean Stadium for 13 months.   A careless back pass from Radhi Jaidi on the stroke of half time let in Brighton`s Ashley Barnes for a half time lead.   But Saints came storming back late on with goals from David Connoly and Jose Fonte to spark scenes of orgasmic elation among the 900 travelling Saints fans.  

Not much respite for our heroes, however, as they take on Hartlepool at St. Mary`s tomorrow in another must win encounter if they are to keep their automatic promotion hopes alive.   Four games to go;  the tension is mounting but I`ve just managed to secure a ticket for the last game of the season at home to Walsall in two weeks time.   The game could be a 30,000 sell out, judging by the fact that the only seat I could get was in Row KK - hanging on the roof of the Itchen Stand.

Next the loss and sad to report a rare reverse for Gillingham, who have slipped out of the play-off places thanks to a 4-2 hammering by lowly Barnet at Priestfield yesterday.   Maybe things would have been different had my good friend and uber Gills fan Mr. Slightly stayed away, as his sporadic visits to Priestfield Stadium seem often to end in disappointment - he may be running the risk of a banning order.

And finally, the draw.   Mid-table Charlton went to Bristol Rovers yesterday and coasted into a 2-0 lead, only to have two players sent off as well as manager Chrissy (The Legend) Powell for `ungentlemanly conduct` thus enabling the relegation battling Gas to recover for a 2-2 draw.   Charlton were without the services of Snopper Street`s pacy wideman Scott (Buzzin` Six Pack Flanker) Wagstaff, who had `tweaked a hamstring` in training.  No wonder they went to pieces. 


So, a win, a loss and a draw yesterday, but to be fair we`ll draw a line in the sand at the end of the day and move on to tomorrow`s games of two halves when agony, ecstasy and hopefully a few more orgasmic thrills will once more play out as Snopper Street`s very own fat lady begins to clear her deep throat in readiness for a climactic end to a pulsating season.

Friday, April 22, 2011

ONCE YOU`VE GOT IT..
From our Golf Correspondent
Once in a while it`s a pleasure to report some good news regarding Snopper`s golfing career.   Yesterday saw his return after a seven months absence to the peaceful surroundings of Hever Castle.   The sun shone, a gentle breeze blew, the course as ever in pristine condition to welcome the new season and, of course, Snopper was able to reveal his new Cougar golf bag to an expectant audience.  

Now, Hever Castle is a bit posh and the quality of `equipment` on offer in the club shop and on display on the course is of the highest standard.   With this in mind, Snopper`s ploy of buying a £29.99 golf bag from Argos seems to have paid off, for he was right in his assumption that no-one, but no-one else at Hever Castle would also be sporting an Argos Cougar bag.   His next purchase must surely be a new trolley, as the one he has was bought for him by his loving wife over 20 years ago from Woolworths, so it`s hardly surprising that the wheels have developed a tendancy to fall off now and again.  But, one thing at a time.

As to Snopper`s golf, well this is the good news, for he produced a more than encouraging first round on the Princes Course, where he carded 6,6,5,5,5,5,7 and 5.   Now those of you with a keen eye will have spotted that only eight of the nine holes are recorded.   That`s because, having lost three balls on the fearsome, lakebound par 3 sixth, Snopper decided enough was enough, drew a line under it and moved on to the seventh.

Now for anyone else, the scores he did manage may not be quite up to the mark but for Snopper they represent a reasonable start to his 2011 campaign and he left the course quietly pleased with himself.   In a post match interview, he was asked how he had managed to get back in the groove after not picking up a club for seven months and, perhaps predictably, he replied, "Once you`ve got it, you never lose it."

All well and good provided, of course, that Snopper ever had it to begin with. 

TREAD CAREFULLY..

The distressing picture shows Matthew Popov recovering in Medway Hospital after being bitten by an adder in the nearby Riverside Country Park in Rainham.   Fortunately for Matthew, he made a full recovery but it was by any standard a deeply worrying incident for himself and his family.   Just shows what a bite from Britain`s only venemous snake can do.

Now I am well known for my absolute fear of snakes, ever since an incident on the heathland of my native Dorset when I was very young and I am the first to agree that my fear may be irrational.   But when I see pictures and read stories like this, it makes me wonder what we are doing by making adders a protected species in this country.

There are, of course, those who claim that snakes are really beautiful and that they have every right to be left in peace to slither this earth and those who make that claim may have a case.   But for me, if I had my way, I would not only de-protect them but also encourage a nationwide campaign to eradicate them from our shores.   I really don`t care if they become extinct or, for that matter, any other `species` that clearly has it in for us and would come out on top in any man v wild animal encounter.

A couple of years ago, we went to Woolacombe in North Devon for a Spring mini break and we got chatting to a couple on the beach, which is backed by extensive sand dunes.   We were warned not to go into the dunes as there were adders there and at this time of the year their venom is at its most potent.   So we didn`t.   Anyway, it`s a shame to miss out on this lovely Easter weather, but I`ll tread carefully and, just in case, I might just take my spade with me.   The fine might be worth it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

TWO WORDS....

Went to B&Q yesterday to get some stuff.  As ever, there was a long queue for the one checkout that was actually working.   It reminded me of the Karma Sutra method of dealing with queues in Banks - lots of different positions, but only one of them works.

Anyway, when my turn came, the pleasant and helpful lady at the till asked, "Could I interest you in a couple of Royal Wedding gnomes?" pointing to the collection of rather woebegone Kate and Wills lookalike gnomes next to the till.   "I`m afraid you can`t," I replied, but I went on to enquire whether anyone had actually bought any.  "Not yet," came the answer, "but we`ve been set a challenge by the management today to sell as many as we can."   At which point, whilst feeling deeply sympathetic, it took all my powers of determination to resist.   But resist I did.

It seems these gnomes were especially commissioned by B&Q for the Royal Wedding and I found a website which is promoting them.   Among the details, it claims that "Cute and adorable are just two words one can use to describe the rosy cheeked gnomes."  

How about naff and tacky?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


THE BONFIRE OF REALITY..

This weekend saw the long awaited official opening of the new Turner Contemporary Gallery in downtown Margate.   When the project was first announced some years ago, the original intention was to place the gallery a little offshore, but spiralling costs and common sense meant that the project had to be revised, so the gallery now stands on the site where the great JMW Turner apparently once lived.

I know that man does not live by bread alone and that there is a place for culture in any civilised society, but I have often wondered whether Margate is really the right place for the Turner Gallery.   Now, I have nothing against Margate, especially as it needs all the help it can get, but to imagine that its local economy will be transformed by this new `attraction` is bordering on the fanciful.  

Margate and the Thanet area of Kent needs real investment for real jobs, especially since the recent demise of the Pfizer complex at nearby Sandwich - jobs that will help sustain the local economy throughout the year including the long, dark, depressing winters.   The problem with the Turner Gallery clientele is that it is very likely to be seasonal and limited to those  of an artistic bent.   Just how many will make return journeys to this distant outpost of north Kent remains to be seen, but my suspicion is that, once you`ve seen it, you`ve seen it and, to be honest, what else is there in Margate to keep you interested in coming back?

Perhaps it might have helped a little if the official opening ceremony had been conducted by people of substance, someone with presence, an inspirational national figure.   Instead, in a desperate pandering to `local connections,` we had the unprepossessing Tracey Emin and the charmless ivory tickler, Jools Holland, on the basis that Emin was brought up in Margate (maybe that`s her problem) and Holland has a place in Cooling, some 40 miles away from Turner country.  (Incidentally, it seems that Holland is a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Kent.   Just shows you what a bit of ivory tickling and an irascible persona can do for you.)

For all of that, I wish the project well, but I fear the reality is that, despite its subject matter, it is £17million of mainly public money that might have been better spent on bringing real prospects to the good folk of Thanet, rather than bringing transient cultural enlightenment to  an area with bigger priorities.   Anyone who thinks differently is, of course, entitled to do so, but they may be the ones who are still living in Dreamland.

Monday, April 18, 2011


IF ONLY..

Last night, Gareth Bale was named Player of the Year by the Professional Footballers Association.   Here he is pictured receiving the award from PFA Chairman Gordon Taylor.   Now there`s no doubt that Gareth has been one of the outstanding players of the season, especially for his exploits for Tottenham in the Champions League so congratulations and good luck to him.

But I watched him playing against Real Madrid last week and, as the tv cameras dwelt on him, a certain wistfulness could be detected in his face.   I knew instinctively what he was thinking as he and his Spurs team mates battled it out with Jose Morinho`s Spanish outfit.   He was thinking to himself, "If only I had stayed at Southampton where I had been happy for so many years in their Academy, I could have been lining up for the Saints when they play Bristol Rovers on Saturday."

I`m sure similar thoughts cross the minds of other former Saints players as they ply their trade in the higher echelons of the game - Peter Crouch at Tottenham along with Gareth, Arsenal`s Theo Walcott, Stoke City`s Kenwyne Jones, Rory Delap, Danny Higginbotham and Ricardo Fuller, Bolton`s talisman Kevin Davies, the Newcastle contingent of Leon Best, Mike Williamson and Nile Ranger, another three at Blackpool in James Beattie, Brett Ormerod and Stephen Crainey, Wayne Bridge now at West Ham, Chris Baird at Fulham, Kevin Phillips at Birmingham,  Andrew Surman at Norwich....the list goes on.   It makes for a litany of talent that has left St. Mary`s mainly to keep the finances on a level footing.

But the Saints go marching on.   Hanging on to second place behind Brighton in League One, five games to go, bums beginning to squeak a little louder and last night`s PFA awards also included no less than five Saints players in this season`s Team of the Year for League One - Kelvin Davis, Dan Harding, Jose Fonte, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.   But I still look at all those who have left and, like Gareth Bale, often think to myself, "If only."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH..
Our Golf Correspondent reports.....

After an absence of some seven months, it seems the Spring weather and the return of the sun has encouraged Snopper to re-enter the pressure cooker world of the Royal and Ancient game.   At getting on for 72, he might have been forgiven if he had decided to hang up his spikes and call it a day, but there is a deep underlying complulsion that forces the Snoppers of this world to rise to the challenge, however daunting, intimidating and unlikely that challenge may be.

His re-entry might have been a touch sooner.   However, with his clubs having been consigned to the shed over a long, dark, freezing winter, even a cursory inspection of his equipment revealed the need for new investment.   Indeed, towards the end of last season, the condition of his golf bag was beginning to attract a deal of criticism from opponents and the galleries.   So he thought he had better make a start and where better than by replacing the errant bag, whose zips had all become stuck so that Snopper became quite unaware of much of the contents.

After much research and in the absence of any sponsorship, he opted for the Cougar bag, as illustrated.   Now, Snopper must be taking his golf seriously, with a renewed determination to achieve at least a semblence of respectability as he plunders the courses of mid-Kent, for he has invested no less than £29.99 in his new bag - a princely sum for an ageing pensioner struggling to survive on a fixed income in these harsh economic times.

It might be called Cougar, however any resemblance between that elegant, athletic, formidable predator and the shambling figure who will lug the bag around this summer is the ultimate in illusion.  



Wednesday, April 13, 2011


NOT JUST ME THEN...

No, I haven`t received one of these, probably based on the fact that years ago I politely turned down an invitation to a Buck House Garden Party, simply on the basis that I didn`t want to go.   As far as the upcoming Royal Wedding is concerned, I had in mind to declare Snopper Street a Royal Wedding Free Zone.   A no go area.

And then along comes our Dibley-esque Parish Council with a general invitation to a STREET PARTY ON THE GREEN to celebrate the Royal Wedding.   But close inspection of their invitation page in the Parish Magazine reveals that maybe, just maybe, they share my own reservations about having anything to do with the pomp, circumstance and Cinderella-like pageantry that will be going on in London.

Now we are blessed with a very nice village green - large swathes of closely mown grass, a rippling stream flowing through it, a new kiddies playground, community daffs brightening up the scene - no wonder it`s a popular venue.   The STREET PARTY ON THE GREEN will be `a free informal community event from 1.00pm onwards.`   We are exhorted to `Bring the family and friends.`

But here`s the but.   But` please supply your own food and drinks, blankets, gazebos, outdoor games, binbags, glasses, etc.   In the event of bad weather this event will be cancelled.   People are responsible for their own rubbish.   There will be no parking available.   PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY.`  

Hardly encouraging or a ringing endorsement.  Sounds like their heart isn`t really in it and maybe the Parish Council`s attitude to the Royal Wedding is a mirror image of my own.   I would very much prefer to have nothing to do with it and it sounds as if our elected representatives feel the same way.   And who can blame them?  It`s not just me then. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


THE TIDE TURNS AT LAST..

Being `away from it all` last week, one of the things I missed the chance to rant about was the fallout from the Wayne Rooney tv obscenities and `Sir` Alex Ferguson`s response to the criticism of Rooney and his two game suspension imposed by the Football Association, who have finally discovered the value of cojones.

There was, as a matter of course, the predictable outcry from Old Trafford that Rooney was charged and banned and also that others were having the temerity to accuse  Manchester United of arrogance in the way they were `defending their corner.`   Now Rooney, declaring himself `gutted` at the ban, is alleged to have issued a heartfelt apology for his four letter televised outburst but it`s doubtful that Rooney either wrote or even read the statement to which he was attributed.  And I suspect that not only the non-Man. U public but also the sporting press have seen that such a wafer thin attempt to convince us and the FA of contrition  has merely served to harden the attitudes of those who have finally had enough.

I noticed with more than a little relief that a number of newspapers carried articles which condemned not just Rooney but also Ferguson who himself was recently banned for five matches and fined £30,000 for his unseemly rant against referee Martin Atkinson.  It`s been a long time coming, but the serial arrogance of the `institution` that is Manchester United has finally reached the point where any respect or admiration one might have had for their achievements - and they are many - have now been replaced by  a contempt and possibly even a sadness for the way in which they choose to conduct themselves.

And perhaps more significantly, the point has finally been reached whereby the attitude of at least the written press has turned the tide from slavish acquiesence at United`s excesses to guarded but clear disapproval.   As one much respected commentator wrote, "Some of us felt desperately sad when Sir Alex Ferguson demeaned himself so crassly.   Because it showed that the game`s madness has undermined his old judgment, that he is no longer the man he used to be.   And it demonstrated that football`s arrogance is not confined to the pitch."

As for me, in a fit of twisted logic, I hope Manchester United win the Premier League this season for the 19th time and thus provide the impossible Ferguson with the perfect reason to trudge back to the swamp with the rest of the dinosaurs and, at a stroke, provide United with a much improved public profile.   Heaven knows they need it.

Monday, April 11, 2011


BITE SIZED CHUNKS..

The South West Coast Path is one of the glories of the country.   630 miles long from Minehead in Somerset around to Poole in Dorset.   Over the years, we have walked various sections of the path - North Devon, Cornwall and last week we renewed our love affair with some of the South Devon area.   What we won`t achieve is to walk the whole 630 miles, prefering instead to walk selected bite sized chunks which we think we and Barney might be able to manage.

South Devon's coastline is one of spectacular contrasts. Wave-battered sandstone cliffs and rugged headlands that have claimed countless shipwrecks, give way to tranquil wooded estuaries and inland to lush, rolling farmland with patchwork fields  and  we  pretty much walked the section from Wembury along to the Erme estuary, along with bits around Ringmore, Bigbury Bay and Bolt Tail.  Apart from one day, the weather was glorious and, yes, it was possible to see the Eddystone Lighthouse 13 miles out to sea off Wembury Bay.

But back to earth with a bang today - shopping, mowing, car cleaning and getting back to the old routine before we set off again in five weeks time to explore some more of the South Cornwall section around Portscatho and the Roseland.   We`ll do a few more of our bite sized chunks of this spectacular long distance path and perhaps wish we had been able to tackle its whole distance before the twin threats of anno domini and avoirdupois began to set in.

I`ve posted a few of the photos I took on Flickr - click on the thumbnails on the right to see them, along with a few more I`ll post in the next few days.