Monday, June 27, 2011


MUST TRY HARDER..

The great communicators of recent years have been so because of their inherent gift for allowing their subjects very often to speak for themselves.  John Arlott, Bill McLaren, David Attenborough, even, dare I suggest, Martin Tyler - all have the ability to know when to say something and when to just let the images tell their own stories.

I`ve been watching the latest  in the BBC Coast series and if ever a subject needed little more than a few vocal nudges to get us viewers to appreciate what we were seeing, surely the coastline of the south west of England is it.   Now last night`s edition of `Coast` was originally to have been shown a week ago but was postponed because some Formula One Grand Prix ran over time.   So I had another week to wait until I could sit back, relax and enjoy a whole hour showing me the glories of my favourite part of the world.

Well, I got a few glimpses but mainly I got the various `presenters` quite obviously doing things that appealed to them rather than their wider audience.   We had Nicholas Crane indulging himself on a Brixham trawler (rather than telling us much about Brixham.)   We had Miranda Krestovnikoff doing what she always does by doing some underwater diving  which she could have done anywhere.  We had Dick Strawbridge going on about Trevithick`s high pressure steam engine which, whilst laudable and interesting, has little direct connection with `the coast.`  

But worst of all we had the effete Mark Horton getting it hopelessly wrong with his ramble about TE Lawrence (of Arabia) and the British Powerboat Company.   His spurious claim was that this was really a south west coast `story,`based around Plymouth, when in fact it is one close to my heart in that the British Powerboat Company was founded and developed at my boyhood village of Hythe on Southampton Water by Hubert Scott-Paine and did indeed involve TE Lawrence.   Why else would there be a plaque on the wall of Myrtle Cottage in Shore Road at Hythe where TE Lawrence stayed during his time there?   And why else would one of the newer housing developments in Hythe include `Scott-Paine Drive?`   But it did give Horton the chance to swan around in a Sunseeker speed boat and provide the most unconvincing narrative of his annoying career.

When `Coast` started a few years ago, it seemed then to have the best of intentions and, for a while at least, concentrated admirably on its subject.   Sadly, it has gone the way of most of these long running docu-series in that it has become crassly self-indulgent. But as we already know, when the presenters or reporters become the story, the value of the subject on which they are reporting or presenting is diminished.   And the coastline of Devon and Cornwall deserves better.  

Must try harder.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


MIND HOW YOU GO..

According to the weather forecast, we`re about to have a mini-heatwave - about 36 hours of temperatures up to 32C.   I could tell because the BBC have been banging on about ringing NHS Direct who, in turn, give advice about what to do in hot weather. 

The advice given is mainly for children and elderly people. Now, as an elderly person myself, what I normally do is stay out of the sun, keep in the shade, even stay indoors, drink more than usual and just take it easy.   The advice provided by NHS Direct, the BBC , Age Concern, Help the Aged and the Flat Earth Society can perhaps be summed up as `stay out of the sun, keep in the shade, even stay indoors, drink more than usual and just take it easy.`

Somewhere in the dark recesses of government I`m convinced there`s a Ministry of the Bleedin` Obvious.   Or it might even be found at Northampton General Hospital?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Let`s start with the lie. And one of the biggest, most blatant yet obvious in the tortured history of the European Union. The Greek debt crisis is real. Especially for the Greeks. There`s no point going in to the history of it because we`re in the here and now. But our friends in the EU, especially the Franco-German axis, would have us believe that the Greek debt crisis is a financial one when in reality, of course, it is a purely political one. They are absolutely desperate to hang on to their federalist dreams, which means they will do whatever it takes to protect the Euro, the Eurozone and the alleged unity within Europe. Trouble is, it`s the taxpayers who will again be expected to bankroll it.....if there are any banks left to roll.

I heard last night that one of the faceless unelected Brussels mandarins was seriously suggesting that what Europe really needs is full financial integration, much more federalism and stronger leadership. Now where and when have I heard that before?

Now the deceptions - there are a lot of them within the EU but let`s have a look at the business of MEPs expenses. Now it`s true to say that here in the UK the expenses claimed by our Members of Parliament are, bit by bit, being made more transparent. The expenses furore of a year or so ago led to mass embarrassment, some MPs (arguably not enough) being jailed for fiddling expenses, some resignations and a whole bunch deciding not to seek re-election. There are some squeals from MPs about the system they now have to operate under, but at least there`s a system and things are a lot better than they were.

It`s all very different in the EU. An internal audit of MEPs expenses (the Galvin Report) has been cleared for publication after the European Parliament last night gave in to three years of pressure and a ruling by the EU's General Court which finally accepted that institutions can no longer claim `potential political controversy` as a good enough reason to refuse access to such reports.   Covering the period 2004 to 2006 - all of five years ago at best - the report reveals the widespread practice whereby MEPs channelled thousands of euros of staff allowances into family-owned businesses and foreign bank accounts. They were also able to employ relatives on inflated wages, and were not required to produce receipts for their spending on expenses. The audit does not name any names and astonishingly the everyday spending of MEPs is exempt from freedom of information rules.

Now in relation to the £billions involved with the Greek, Irish and Portuguese problems, the whole business of MEPs expenses - at `only` £185million a year for the 736 MEPs- appears small beer. But we are talking £185million of taxpayers money here and we are entitled to know how our money is spent. But a word of caution. We`ve been here so many times before whereby the gargantuan EU machine works ponderously at the best of times and not at all when it suits them. And it wouldn`t surprise me at all if the EU, despite what the Court ruling was, finds some devious mechanism that finally prevents publication of audit reports not just from 2004-2006, but for every year since then. After all, if they haven` been able to sign off their annual accounts for years, what hope is there?

This is deception - grand larceny even - on a massive scale and yet another reason why we should seriously consider whether we really want to remain members of a club that rivals FIFA for political skulduggery, self-interest and for having far too much to hide from those who are paying for it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


SO FAR, SO GOOD..

So far I have managed to avoid the wall-to-wall coverage of Wimbledon.   Three days in and I haven`t watched any of it on television or listened on the radio, but there have been one or two close shaves which I have managed to avoid by judicious channel switching as soon as it comes on.

There are just so many things wrong with the annual rituals of SW 19, not least the fact that tennis is a daft game anyway.   I fail to see the attraction of any game where you hit the ball as hard as you can only for it to keep coming back to you.   That aside, it`s all the stuff that surrounds Wimbledon that grates.   The general atmosphere of privilege, the strawberries and cream, the BBC`s insistence on bussing in plane loads of usually American has-beens to swell the already burgeoning ranks of `commentators and analysts.`   Then there is the hopeless cause of British tennis with the possible exception of annoyingly grumpy Scot Andy Murray, for despite the £millions invested by the Lawn Tennis Association the best we can do is to develop a bunch of losers.  ("Show me a good loser and I`ll show you a loser.")  

It`s all in stark contrast to the magic, the wonder and the relevance of last weekend`s US Open Golf, where balls were hit with enormous power, guile and accuracy.   And not one of them came back.  And not a grunt to be heard in anger.   We`re all different, of course and we all have our individual tastes, but I wonder why it is that I can stay up until 1.00am transfixed by the US Open but can`t turn Wimbledon off quick enough.   Maybe it`s just me?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

EVERY LITTLE HELPS?

I`ve noticed it`s getting increasingly difficult to park in `Superstore` car parks.   There are areas set aside for disabled badge holders, which I don`t have a problem with provided they are genuine.   Then there are areas set aside for `Parent with Child,` which is ok, although as they don`t seem to specify the age of the children I guess I could park there when accompanied by my 48 year old eldest son?

I`ve recently seen areas  reserved for `car valeting` and, of course, for assorted recylce bins for things like plastic bottles, clothes, shoes, glass bottles, etc.   I`m a bit surprised there aren`t areas set aside for ladies driving large four-wheel drives, but even more surprised there aren`t special spaces for the over-70s.
Now there`s an idea!

Monday, June 20, 2011


WILL THIS DO ?

The Archbishop of Canterbury looks skywards for some inspiration about the latest kerfuffle to hit the Church of England.   He seems to be asking whether the document - `Choosing Bishops - the Equality Act` - to be published today will be sufficient to heal yet more rifts in the religious lute.

This publication provides legal guidelines for considering candidates for promotion within the Church and spells out that sexuality must not be a factor in the final decision. It says, " that it is appropriate that clergy who are gay by orientation to enter into civil partnerships, even though the discipline of the church requires them to remain sexually abstinent."  

Not so much a cock-up, more a cop out, so I`m not sure it will find favour at head office. But if any more proof were needed, this latest charade simply confirms the fact that, whilst I may have no problem with Himself (or Herself) up there, I`m afraid there are times when His (or Her) representatives on Earth just leave me baffled.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


STILL GOING STRONG..

I watched bits of the Trooping the Colour last weekend and it brought back memories of 50 years ago when I was knee deep in my 731 days of National Service.   In a week or so`s time, on 30th June, it will be the 50th anniversary of my regiment, the 10th Royal Hussars, being presented with new colours - the Guidon - by HRH the Duke of Gloucester.

The above picture shows the regiment doing its thing by parading the Guidon around the parade ground of Barker Barracks,  BFPO 16 at Paderborn in what was then West Germany.   Yours truly is in the front rank, about sixth or seventh from the left, respendant in blues, white webbing, gleaming boots and brandishing a sword with which we on the No. 1 Guard had to perform various intricate sword drills.   Mine, I fear, were more Captain Jack Sparrow than the rigidly thrusting epee that should have been, but in those days we got away with it as there was no `Elf `n` Safety to worry about and mercifully a ready  supply of Elastoplast.

We had been whipped into shape - almost quite literally - by a group of malevolent drill sergeants drafted in from the Grenadier Guards, who  shouted at us a lot and put us through our paces for months leading up to the BIG DAY.   When it came to it, I think we did ok but I have often wondered whether our performance contributed to the regiment being amalgamated not once, but twice, so nowadays the successors of the Shiny Tenth are simply the Kings Royal Hussars.

And yet, 50 years on, I still look back to those days with a mixture of pride and amusement (I always felt `miltary intelligence` to be the ultimate contradiction in terms) and I still have friends with whom I served at Her Majesty`s pleasure all those years ago.   And almost to the day - on 29th June - I will be attending a lunch with a handful of other former 10th Hussars who are still going strong and who live around this part of south east England.  With a bit of luck, I might not need the sword this time.

Friday, June 17, 2011

CHILD`S PLAY?

As long ago as October, 2010, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, announced the Government’s intention to introduce a pilot scheme for a maximum of 5 pence per litre duty discount on petrol and diesel in the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Northern Isles, and the Isles of Scilly. The Government was taking  this action because of the high costs of transporting and distributing fuel to remote Scottish Islands and the Scilly Isles, the long distances involved and the lack of any alternative transport options in those areas.

       
Now the Budget of a year ago, in June 2010, included this statement:-

“Reflecting the Coalition commitment to investigate measures to help with fuel costs in remote rural areas, the Government is considering the case for introducing a fuel duty discount in remote rural areas. This includes possible pilot schemes in Scotland.”

So, in October, the Government said that it would....

-Consider a design that is consistent with EU rules on State aid;             

-Undertake informal discussions with the European Commission prior to submitting a formal application to the Commission for a fuel duty rebate;
            
-Gain unanimous Member State approval; and

  -Implement in UK legislation.

A year on from the Budget announcement, not a lot appears to have happened apart from fuel prices rising even more sharply thus making life even more difficult not just for us mainlanders but especially for our remote islanders.

But just consider the process involved in getting even this relatively small scale pilot scheme going.   And it`s all bound up with EU buraucracy - a design for the pilot scheme - informal discussions - formal application - get unanimous approval - get UK legislation on the statute book....and then and only then can a pilot scheme be implemented.  Don`t think I`ll see it in my lifetime.

It`s one of those classic scenarios that you couldn`t possibly make up, one which could only happen in the stifling absurdity of the EU and one which again makes me feel that I live in a fantasy world rather than a real one.   In any reasonable sovereign state,  you would be forgiven for believing that a simple, sensible plan to look urgently at a serious issue affecting the lives of remote communities, would be child`s play.  Sadly, the game of EU bureaucracy seems as endless as it is pointless.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

BLESSING IN DISGUISE?

The ongoing saga of `Sir` Alex Ferguson`s tussle with the BBC goes on.   His steadfast refusal to give post match interviews to the BBC means that for last season alone, he notionally racked up £950,000 worth of fines under Premier League rules for refusing to co-operate with an organisation that pays the Premier League £170million a year.  

Of course, the level of actual fines have yet to be announced, despite the fact that they were apparently agreed as long ago as last October and it might be academic anyway as Manchester United will probably pick up the tab rather than Ferguson himself.

Just recently there was a meeting between Ferguson and BBC Director General Mark Thompson to try to hammer out a solution to this long standing impasse.   Perhaps predictably, no agreement was reached with Ferguson refusing to fulfill his contractual obligations and Thompson refusing to apologise to Ferguson for the programme aired some years ago about Ferguson`s son, Jason, who used to be a football agent.

And so it goes on.   But here`s the thing.   What the protagonists in this affair fail to appreciate is that all the while it does go on it means the BBC viewing and listening public don`t have to suffer Ferguson`s unintelligible Caledonian mumblings.   Such a relief.  If ever there was a blessing in disguise this unresolved ongoing saga is surely it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


SPEND AND SAVE..

For me at any rate, nothing is so precious in this world as children...I should know - Mrs. Snopper and I have three sons and four and a half grandchildren (the fifth might arrive some time in December.)   And although we still revel in the company of our three sons, now well into their 40s, the years when they were small children were possibly the happiest I have known.   They were loved and enjoyed, which is what children are meant to be.

So you won`t find me quarreling with Britain`s latest muti-million pound contribution towards providing vaccines and immunisation to protect some of the world`s poorest children from early year killer diseases.   Money well spent, especially when saving 1.7million young lives last year that would otherwise have been lost.

But there are those who bleat the gospel that charity begins at home and that we should stop spending millions of taxpayers money on overseas aid.   Well, of course, there`s overseas aid and there`s overseas aid.   The kind I object to is the shedloads we give each year to countries such as India and Pakistan, the benefits of which are at best dubious and at worst unneccesary, since India at least should be able to afford to look after their own.   And there are others, such as Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, etc., where corrupt dictatorships see to it that any aid we might be giving soon gets lost in a maze of graft, backhanders and syphoning towards doubtful purchases so that little, if any, reaches its indended target.

So here`s a suggestion.   By all means increase the amount we give towards helping the underprivileged children of the world, since it seems to be accountably managed by GAVI, but reduce the aid we give to countries under the heading of `general expenses` - I`m sure there is one - by the same amount.  That way we don`t actually spend any more but we ensure our cash goes to where it can do most good.

One of our most endearing qualities as a nation is a rare talent for having no sense of priority.  For me, arguably the most important priority in my life has been and will continue to be children.   I think I might just have my priorities right?

Sunday, June 12, 2011


TIME FOR A CHANGE?

"Nice to knight you....to knight you - nice."   I can see it now as the Queen dubs Brucie.   And so another celebrity is knighted for being, well, a celebrity and joins the ranks of Sir Reg, Sir Bono, Sir Bob, Sir Tom, Sir Mick and all the other celebrities on whom honours are dubiously bestowed .

The Queen`s Birthday Honours were once again dished out to time serving civil servants, diplomats, those from `the arts` - whatever they are - judges, barons of industry and, in short, all the usual suspects.   More creditably, there were deserving honours for members of the armed forces and `ordinary` folk like the ubiquitous dinner ladies.  

But perhaps the more telling fact was not so much who were included but who were not.   And it was significantly interesting that, from the world of sport, whilst cricketers, the odd cyclist and afficionados of the sport of kings were handed gongs, not one single representative from the world of football was `honoured.`   Unless I missed someone in the small print, I couldn`t find anyone from the gentleman`s game played by hooligans.  And if that`s the case then it seems piquantly fitting that a game which at the highest level has become an industry, wallowing in excess, arrogance and a false sense of its own value, should be omitted from the ritual dance that the honours have become.

Now I would imagine that the serial super-injunction seekers of this fantasy world had already shot themselves in the foot, so to speak, and since most of the Premier League players appear to be foreign they wouldn`t qualify anyway, unless like our friends Bono and Bob they were to receive `honorary honours.`  But I would have thought room could have been found for the likes of Rickie Lambert Southampton`s Goal Machine, Gills stalwart John Nutter or even our street`s buzzin` local hero, Scott Wagstaff, who is surely due some recognition for his services to pacy flanking.  Sounds daft?   Au contraire, for it is simply to suggest that their honesty, integrity and professionalism make them as qualified, if not more so, than many who will toddle off to Buck House for an undeserved investiture. 

Maybe it`s time for an alternative honours system?  Or, even better, don`t have one at all.

Saturday, June 11, 2011



PROFIT AND LOSS..
From our Golf Correspondent

A week ago I reported on Snopper`s latest attempt at carding a reasonable score on Hever Castle`s notoriously challenging Princes Course.   Well, notoriously challenging for Snopper - I`m not so sure about the rest of the golfing fraternity.   Anyway, I had some things to say about his own individual methods of marking his score and I suggested that, having predictably failed yet again to convince the Royal and Ancient to amend their rules in his favour, Snopper would this week resort to his usual tactic of invoking creative accountancy, an extremely generous uncertificated handicap and a liberal interpretation of the Rules of Golf.

And yesterday?   Not a bit of it.   Maybe he was stung by my criticism but he girdled his drooping loins, picked up the cudgel which is what he calls his driver and met the challenge head on.   And what a revelation.   I won`t bore you with a blow by blow account, but the highlights were really twofold.   First, after a gentle introduction on the first two holes, he hit an imperious four wood across a daunting lake on the Par 3 third, which landed about three feet from the pin.   I could almost hear him saying in a Fawlty-esque way, "Thank you, God.  Maybe a birdie at last after all these years of trying.  Just one - please," whereupon he promptly fluffed his putt and had to settle for a creditable par.

The second highlight was the fact that only two balls were lost yesterday - an unprecedented triumph given Snopper`s usual penchant for hitting, hoping and losing.   The first was lost when a tee shot zoomed off to the right, over some oak trees and narrowly missed a sleepily grazing pony in a nearby paddock.   No-one knows what happened to the second one, but lost it most definitely was.

Now, given that Snopper spends much of the winters poking around nearby golf courses to retrieve lost balls that might sustain him during the summer season, it is understandable that he guards these precious objects dearly and so he was disappointed to have lost even the two yesterday.   So, last evening, he went off with his faithful golden retriever, Barney, to a nearby course  hoping to replace the two lost balls.   It`s important to realise that it takes a golfer of Snopper`s ineptitude to know where to look.   He simply scours the rough in areas where he thinks his own ball might land and this knowledge, coupled with Barney`s sophisticated nostrils and his retriever instincts, resulted in no less than 18 balls being retrieved.

So, a good day all round - a decent score, no rule bending, no creative accountancy, a few shots to savour, only two balls lost but 18 found.   Like Basil Fawlty`s betting, Snopper for once in his life was up on the deal.  It won`t last though.

Friday, June 10, 2011

WELL CHOSEN?

Congratulations to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on his 90th birthday.  I didn`t see it all but I saw snippets of his interview on television last night with Fiona Bruce.   I enjoyed his attitude to things and, of course, at that age, you have a lifetime of experience to draw upon and it showed in the honesty of his responses.   Lots to admire there.
But I began to wonder why Fiona had been chosen for the task in preference, say, to Emily Maitlis or Sian Williams, both of whom are perhaps a little ahead of the fragrant Ms. Bruce in the gravitas stakes.   And then I realised that there was something entirely appropriate about being interviewed on your 90th birthday by someone who presents the Antiques Roadshow.  

Anyway, Happy Birthday Phil. 

Thursday, June 09, 2011

HONOUR THY NEIGHBOUR?

Now of course I have every sympathy for those 25 people who have lost their lives in Germany and the one in Sweden as a result of contracting the e-coli bug. Another 2,700 people have been affected across Europe, all of whom either living in Germany or having recently visited there.  I feel for their friends and families and I feel too for the farmers and growers, especially in Spain, who have suffered enormous loss thanks to the erroneous scattergun blame heaped on them by the German Government.
  
Seems to me the German authorities were too quick to apportion the blame elsewhere when all the time the outbreak seems to have originated in their own backyard of Lower Saxony.   Quite reasonably, those Spanish growers, along with others in the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal are looking for compensation and good luck to them.

But the compensation claims are likely to fall on our old friends the EU, who have offered something in the region of £200million from the Common Agricultural Fund which seems woefully inadequate given the amount of losses sustained including the total ban on exports from the EU to Russia.

And there`s the rub for us reluctant EU taxpayers.   I know I`m a Europhobe but I think I`m reasonably entitled to enquire how it can possibly be right that my taxes have to go towards paying compensation for an event for which the Germans are entirely responsible.

As far as I can see, it`s a German problem originating in the Fatherland and so it`s the Germans who should cough up the whole of any compensation due.   There is a suggestion that, despite the legal minefield involved,  the EU might try to reclaim the compensation payout from the German Government, which might provide our teutonic friends with an honourable get out.   Would be nice to see them putting their hands up as well as putting them in their pockets and maybe, just maybe, apologising to the rest of the EU for their precipitate, yet sadly typical, behaviour. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


LOST MARBLES ?..

Sometimes I`m not sure I`m living in the real world.   There are so many examples of madness around, but perhaps the craziest is  the enduring saga of FIFA and its head honcho Sepp Blatter.  

 In just the most recent weeks, we have seen the disgrace of the FIFA presidential `election,` which bore all the hallmarks of some hitherto Marxist state.   We then learned that Blatter and his cronies are going to cop for ringside seats at next year`s London Olympics, five star hotel accommodation, chauffeur driven limosines and any other `luxury` that can be showered on them just because they are who they are.   All of which leaves the `general public` - dreadful phrase anyway but especially when referring to people who, as taxpayers, have coughed up the vast bulk of the £12billion cost of staging the Games - wondering not only why yet another abuse of power but also why they seem unable even to get tickets for the Olympics being held in their own country.

Now we see that as one of President Blatter`s initiatives to `clean up` FIFA, he has invited those twin fountains of all football knowledge Henry Kissinger and Placido Domingo to  sit on the ‘council of wisdom’ at football’s main governing body, which sounds more Monty Python than responsible governance.  Blatter told CNN on a visit to  Azerbaijan: ‘These gentlemen are more or less advisers, they are not the experts but advisers. What they should be also is the kind of council of wisdom.’   Quite so, but why stop there, Sepp?  How about Katherine Jenkins or that bloke who sings the Go Compare ads?  Or Ann Hayden-Jones and her husband Pip?

But of course the craziest issue of all is the prospect of the 2022 World Cup being held in the 40C heat of Qatar.   For once I agreed with the Germans, who called for that decision to be reviewed.   However, now that Blatter is back in the presidential chair for another four years, he has now said that he doesn`t want to initiate an investigation into the Qatar decision.   Looking at the picture above, I`m not surprised.

Now if these are just a taste of the issues surrounding Blatter, FIFA and the beautiful game that I have played, refereed and observed for over half a century, small wonder I`m beginning to wonder whether it`s me or Blatter whose marbles have gone astray.  But last time I looked, most of mine were still where they should be.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


JUST GOES TO SHOW..

The other day, the Golf Correspondent who contributes to these pages wrote an excoriating critique of my latest venture onto the sylvan fairways (or rather the roughs) of Hever Castle Golf Course.   This must have been spotted by an old friend of mine who promptly sent me an e-mail showing photographs of this ocean-going yacht.   It apparently cost $70million and is finished to the ultimate standard of luxury.

And who does it belong to?   Well, none other than Aussie golfing champion Greg (The Great White Shark) Norman.   Just shows you what hitting a small ball with an assortment of sticks into a small hole a long way away can do for you.   My friend suggested that perhaps I should have taken my golf a little more seriously.   Maybe he was right.
IT`S CATCHING ON..

A sense of keen anticipation encouraged me to sit down last evening and watch England`s European Championship qualifier against Switzerland.   As ever when watching England`s millionaire footballers and their £6million a year foreign coach, I defer to the flaw which resides deep within my troubled psyche and secretly hope that they get their just rewards by being humiliated in front of a sell-out crowd and a worldwide tv audience.   Not very patriotic, I know, but at least it`s an honest statement against the excesses at what is perceived to be the pinnacle of the game.

And last evening, I was not really disappointed when Engerland were more than held to a 2-2 draw against their cheese-making, yodelling, chocolatier minnow opponents for in truth the Swiss were the better team and were perhaps unfortunate not to take all three points.   Predictably, the reaction to yet another dismal performance by England has been universal in its condemnation but what was even more telling than the game itself were the post match interviews.

Now, I didn`t manage to catch them all (Barney was hankering for his evening walkies) but I did manage to hear manager Capello muttering darkly about being tired.   I also heard captain John Terry bravely shrugging off the tiredness copout but instead insisting, as he always seems to on these occasions, that `it just wasn`t meant to be.`   In saying so, of course, he is not just substituting one copout for another but also seeking to transfer any blame or responsibility for his team`s woeful performance to some mythical footballing deity somewhere in the firmament.   Someone or something  decides these things and thus leaves poor John and his buddies literally in the lap of the gods.

Trouble is, it`s catching on.   Ashley Young, scorer of England`s equalising second goal, seems to have been on the same FA/PFA post match interview course and has emerged with a first in the use of cliche, blandness and resigned indifference.   "It just wasn`t meant to be," he observed when questioned as to the reasons for England`s failure to win.

And you just knew that if Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Frankie Lamps or any of the other failed participants had been asked the same question, the answer would have been the same.   I guess it was just meant to be.


Friday, June 03, 2011

NEW RULE?
Our Golf Correspondent reports...

Only his second venture on to the golf course this season but already Snopper is the root cause of the latest controversy.

His excursion around Hever Castle`s Princes Course today was, to be fair, respectable at least until the last two holes when the twin effects of anno domini and avoirdupois began to take their toll.   Until then, Snopper`s card contained no less than six 5s on par 4 holes and a 4 on one of the par 3s.   This led him to a post match clubhouse conclusion that, for golfers above the age of 70, all pars should be increased by one so that, for example, a par 4 hole would become a par 5 for the more senior hackers like himself.

After all, he opines, the ladies are given shorter yardages just because they`re ladies, so why can`t aged persons be given an added value par because they`re, well, aged?   It seems Snopper will stop at nothing to reduce the score on his card but I predict that if his latest wheeze fails, as it surely must, then he will simply resort to his tried and tested method of creative accountancy allied to a liberal interpretation of the Royal and Ancient Rules.     We`ll see what next week brings.  Possibly.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE..


One or two of my very good friends are lifelong West Ham fans and so the last thing I wish to do is to introduce any discord between us. But maybe we have some common ground.

Compared with the fortunes of my own club, Southampton, the Hammers have done pretty well in that I can never remember them being reduced to the third tier of English football, a fate from which my beloved Saints have only now just emerged.   But supporting a football club is not only about what happens on the field of play.   It`s also about history, tradition, style and grace, personality and reputation - all those things and more that produce respect for any organisation however big or small.  It`s about how the club represents its supporters in public and in business and both our clubs have had their problems off the pitch, which have transmitted themselves to results on it.

Happily for me at least, the Saints have come through years of mismanagement, boardroom reshuffles and power struggles, financial catastrophes leading to administration and the inevitable decline from the top half of the Premier League to scraping the barrel of League One.   Things are now looking brighter with new ownership, financial stability, crisp direction, good management and all round improvement which has resulted in a return to the Championship.

In many ways, the current travails of West Ham have mirrored those suffered by the Saints until recently.   A succession of ownership changes have seen the installation of porn baron owners David Gold and David Sullivan to present a public face for the Hammers in stark contrast to those anonymous Chairmen who quietly directed affairs in their golden years.   Managerially too, the recent departure of the charmless Avram Grunt and the new appointment of `Big` Sam Allardyce provides yet another stark contrast with the days of Ron Greenwood and John Lyall, a contrast made even more sharp by today`s speculation that Allardyce`s first signing is likely to be El Hadji Diouf, arguably the most obnoxious player ever to cross the white line.  

However, whilst Hammers fans groan at the prospect of Championship football under Allardyce`s lump it long and hope regime, Saints fans like me are simply glad to be back in the same division.   They may look wistfully back to the days of Greenwood, Lyall, Moore, Hurst, Peters, Brooking, Brabrook, Byrne and all the other academicians as I look back to Keegan, Ball, Shilton, Channon, Mills, Watson, Armstrong and the ale house boys.  

Times have changed, the game has moved on and not for the best, for it seems to me that the higher the echelons of the game, the less attractive it becomes - FIFA, oligarchs, overpaid millionaire poseurs, super injunctions, corporate this, corporate that, the people`s beautiful game that is no more.   In the Championship, away from the high octane pressure, the self-inflicted tension and the false idolatry of the Premier League, it might be possible for Hammers fans to just sit back and enjoy the football  for what it is and despite Gold, Sullivan, Allardyce et al, to see that relegation isn`t the end of the world but, as I have discovered, just possibly the start of a new one. 


   

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


PANTOMIME FARCE..

Yesterday Lord Taylor of Warwick was jailed for 12 months after being convicted of  fiddling his  House of Lords expenses and allowances to the tune of £11,000.   However, rumour has it that he might well be released after serving just three months of his sentence.

Now this is a peer of the realm, appointed to the highest office of the land with all the privileges that entails. But having cheated the taxpayer, sullied what little is left of the reputation of the House and generally brought the game into disrepute, we taxpayers might feel entitled to expect that with his kind of record he would not be allowed back to resume his seat once he`s been released.

Not a bit of it.   There seems to be no legal power by which Lord Taylor can be debarred from re-entering the Lords, turning up when he feels like it (the Tory whip having been rightly withdrawn) and trousering the £300 a day allowances and any other expenses to which he may be `entitled` under this daft regime.

Yesterday I went on about the lack of natural justice in football - a world which is peripheral to the things that really matter in life - but the bloated, insular world of the House of Lords seems to be immune not only to any  natural justice for the fiddled taxpayer but also to any sense of propriety, accountability or common decency if they continue to allow the Taylors, Uddins and shortly to be joined Hanningfields of their world to carry on regardless.  

Incidentally, there seems no evidence that `Baroness` Uddin, who brought fiddling to an art form by pocketing over £100,000 through false claims has paid any of it back, as she was ordered to do.   She may have been suspended from the House of Lords until August 2012 but again there will be nothing to stop her going back to claim whatever allowances and expenses she can.  Not sure you could make it up.

In a way, it`s a bit like FIFA - an unelected fiefdom, unfit for purpose - and yet another example of an institution where reform is sorely needed but unlikely to happen.  Turkeys don`t vote for Christmas, of course.....but still the pantomime goes on.  Oh yes it does!