Sunday, July 31, 2011

GRAND GESTURES..

The controversy surrounding Ian Bell`s run out in the current Test between England and India at Trent Bridge is likely to dominate tomorrow`s back pages, rather than Bell`s excellent innings of 159 in what is proving to be one of the great test matches.

Full credit goes to Indian captain MS Dhoni for withdrawing his appeal and so reinstating Bell after he was properly given `run out` on the stroke of tea, having assumed the ball had either gone for four or that the umpires had called tea.   The laws of the game were properly applied by the match officials and Dhoni`s decision to withdraw his appeal was clearly intended to uphold the spirit of the game.   A grand gesture on his part which will have done much to maintain relations between the two teams, their officials and supporters, not to say between the two countries who share an abiding passion for the game.

When the controversy arose today, my mind went  as far back as 1948.   That year the visiting Australians were playing Essex at Southend and scored a  record 721 runs in the six hours play on the first day.   Bill Brown scored 153, Bradman 187, Sam Loxton 120 and Saggers was 104 not out.  Amidst all the carnage, Keith Miller strode to the crease, promptly lifted his bat from the first straight ball he received and exited stage left for a creditable duck.   To him, you see, clobbering the Essex bowling all round Southend was not what cricket was about.   It offended his idea of the spirit of the game and he wanted nothing to do with it.

And so, amidst all the controversy of Ian Bell`s `dismissal` and subsequent reinstatement today, I thought it would have been a gesture as grand as Dhoni`s had Bell lifted his bat to the first straight ball he received and exited stage left with his reputation enhanced at least among us romantics of the game and with the spirit of cricket confirmed by both sides.  Ah well, I should know by now that it`s not 1948 any more.
THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS ?

It seems the BBC have been faced with a difficult choice.   Due to their ongoing need to cutback on expenditure, they have had to decide whether to relinquish part of their exclusive coverage of F1 Motor Racing in favour of keeping their exclusive coverage of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.   So, they have come to an arrangement whereby Sky will be showing half of the F1 races which might well lead to them taking the whole F1 package from the BBC.

Now I have never seen the attraction in motor racing, with the environmentally hostile, ear splitting, processional predictability of it all which clearly appeals to those who consider Top Gear the highlight of their week`s viewing.  And as for tennis, there is even less attraction in watching so boring a game, played by a succession of grunting, screeching women and the occasional grumpy Scottish hopeful amid the pretensious surroundings of the condescending All England Club.

If the BBC had a difficult choice, mine is perfectly simple.   I won`t be watching either of them.    

Friday, July 29, 2011


PUBLIC RIGHTS AND WRONGS..

Just come back from what was going to be a nice long circular walk with Barney.   I`d studied the OS Map and spotted a good looking footpath route from the church at Trottiscliffe (pron. Trosley) across a field where it linked up to the Wealdway, the long distance path from Gravesend to Hastings,  up to the prehistoric Coldrum Stones and back along another path to the church.   Sounds good?  I thought so.

Now I`m quite fond of the village of Trottiscliffe (pron. Trosley) and it has quite a bit going for it, including the church which has been there since 1100.   Then there`s the White House which was the home of the artist Graham Sutherland from 1945 until his death in 1980.   There are two very good pubs, loads of interesting - and protected - buildings, a village pond and the whole thing is set amid the rolling Kent countryside in the lee of the North Downs (see photo above.)

Anyway, Barney and I set off and soon came across a signposted footpath leading into the first corn field, only to find the route of the path virtually impassable with waist high thistles.   So we struggled  around the headland of the field looking out for the point at which the path was supposed to link up with the Wealdway.   We never found it - there were no clear waymarks - so we made our own way back to the road, up a hill and then along a short path from the road back to where we had left the car at the church.

Now I know it`s high summer and because the corn isn`t as high as an elephant`s eye, there seems little excuse for the public rights of way to be so neglected, especially when we are all exhorted to get more exercise and enjoy the countryside on our doorsteps.   The truth is that the condition of the public footpaths we encountered this evening are a disgrace.  

I`m inclined to have a moan at Trottiscliffe (pron. Trosley) Parish Council who will probably refer me to the local Borough Council, who will probably tell me that it`s a problem for Kent County Council, who will probably tell me that as a result of savage cutbacks in Government Grant, they simply don`t have the resources to discharge their statutrory responsibilites for low priorities such as me and Barney having a nice walkies on a summer`s evening.  Doesn`t make it right though. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


FAREWELL MY LOVELY..

A few short days ago, across the urban sprawl of London, people were waking up to the news of Amy Winehouse`s passing.   As someone who was never particularly enthralled either by her or her music, nevertheless it is tragic that anyone should pass away at the ridiculously early age of 27 for whatever reason and I feel for her family and friends.

But in what may have been a poignant commentary on the times in which we live, I can imagine the reaction of those to whom Amy Winehouse`s lifestyle had its attractions.   In assorted venues across London, people on hearling the sad news seemed compelled to dash to the nearest off-licence, purchase assorted bottles of alcoholic drinks, packets of cigarettes and a few glasses and go down to where the tributes to Amy were being left on a pavement close to her home.

Whilst there is much that has been said about the sadly departed Ms. Winehouse, the `tributes` left to her memory say so much more about those who followed her exploits and for whom she seemed to be a role model.   It`s all very sad, of course - in more ways than one.

Monday, July 25, 2011


I CAN DO THAT...
From Our Golf Correspondent
Everyone seemed very happy for Darren Clarke when he won The Open at Sandwich a week or so ago.   None more so than the ever optimistic Snopper who was overheard to suggest that he saw a marked similarity between the newly crowned champion golfer and himself.  `Well, he and I have the same thinning shock of grey hair, we seem to share the same fashion icon status, the same athletic approach to the game and we`re both blessed with a supreme talent,` he studiously observed.

So, the morning after The Open ended, there was Snopper once more taking on the Princes Course at Hever Castle, convinced in his own mind that, as he and Clarkie were so alike, all he had to do was go out there and play the course the way he had seen Darren Clarke play Royal St. George`s the day before.

Which is, of course, when brutal harsh reality came face to face with dreamworld fantasy.   Snopper`s round comprised a seemingly endless number of 6s, a couple of 7s, the odd 5 and just one solitary par four.   Whilst being disappointed with his score, he nevertheless took some comfort in the fact that `only` two golf balls were lost on the day and he even  maintains that one of them wasn`t actually lost but simply `not found.`   Only Snopper could be capable of such delusory comparison, despite his assertion that Darren Clarke might make similar claims.

He now looks forward to hearing of the exploits of his more accomplished neighbour who was last seen heading towards Hempsted Forest Golf Club near Cranbrook amid the sylvan tranquility of even deeper Kent.   His neighbour, you see, is a naturally gifted sportsman, accomplished across a range of different disciplines with golf amongst them and so it will be interesting to hear the respective tales of their recent clashes with the Royal and Ancient game.   I suspect I know whose account will be the more accurate.

Friday, July 22, 2011

50 years ago tomorrow, Mrs. Snopper and I boarded a long haul flight.  We had booked our seats quite a long time in advance, done a bit of organising and arrived at the terminal with time to spare.   There were a lot of friends, family and well wishers to see us off and, after the usual formalities, we felt ourselves revving up the runway, gathering speed and finally taking off.   Trouble was it was an unknown destination, and neither of us really had any idea where we might end up.

It has indeed been a long haul but one which has literally flown by and although we may have experienced a little turbulance along the way, as happens on long journeys, by and large it has been a smooth flight and we found that, as we travelled on, so we felt more and more relaxed and secure.   We`re still on the journey, possibly circling around, high above it all, waiting to be called down from the waiting stack to that final unknown destination.

You never know how long haul flights might end, but we both hope for a smooth descent and a quiet, almost unknowing touchdown.   I`m not at all sure what the arrivals lounge will be like as we reach our destination although I hope it will be a while yet before I have to find out.

We were married 50 years ago tomorrow on a flight of fancy.....and we`re still enjoying the journey.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


HOWZAT THEN ?

It`s reported today that England cricket captain Andrew Strauss is `shocked` that ex-England spinner Monty Panesar has been giving long practice sessions to his mate Sachin Tendulkar in advance of the opening Test against India that begins at Lord`s today.   It can be argued that, as possibly the best player ever to hold a bat, Tendulkar needs no help from anyone but the fact is he hasn`t been playing much lately and needed to get a bit used to English conditions (damp, dreary, unpredictable) in his quest to record his 100th international century at the home of cricket.

Andrew Strauss`s unawareness of Panesar`s involvement and his subsequent `shock` at finding out seems to be a bit rich coming from someone who just a few days ago `guested` for Somerset in their game aginst India so he could have a look at the Indian bowling attack at first hand.   Strauss took full advantage, scoring a hundred against what looks a bit of a powder puff attack, so he needs to temper his shock at Panesar`s net session with Tendulkar by having a look at his own actions.

Never mind, as an Englishman in love with the game, I will look forward to the upcoming test series against an Indian team comprising wholly of Indians against an English team which includes at least four South African born players, including Strauss himself, and a highly talented and personable Irishman.

Pity there`s not a Decision Revew System for qualification?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

THE CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN..

Roll up, roll up!!   This afternoon we will have the most alluring three ringed circus ever assembled as the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee along with that for Culture, Media and Sport  presents not only the Metropolitan Police, not only News International but also mainly themselves as star performers to entertain an entranced public in the ongoing saga surrounding the phone hacking scandal.

These events will once again feature Keith Vaz, the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, once of Hinduja Brothers fame, renowned for his burgeoning MPs expenses and himself suspended more than once from the Commons for being `unhelpful` to inquiries being conducted at the time into the conduct of MPs by the much missed Elizabeth Filkin.   And heaping delicious irony onto delicious irony,  the former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards was yesterday appointed  to recommend changes to links between the media and the police, including how to `extend transparency.`

But to spare just a brief moment for other news, thousands are still starving in Africa, western economies are on the brink of meltdown and lives continue to be lost in Afghanistan.  Now you might think that one, if not all, of these and other issues would present a good enough reason for Parliament to be recalled tomorrow but no, it will be the issue of phone hacking and all its consituent parts that will give rise to that rare event.   So our elected representatives will be denied at least a day of their summer recess which, with the possible exception of a week in September, will see Parliament vacant for about the next three months.

Never mind running the country, this doesn`t strike me as any way to run a railroad.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

DIAL `M` FOR....

Recent events have confirmed once more that life  these days seems to revolve around little more than a set of  insular villages with their own parish boundaries and which seem to be quite happy until their own little worlds are disturbed by one of the others.  

We`ve had the Westminster village with politicians falling over themselves to get in on the outrages perpetrated by News International.   Somehow their self righteous indignation rings a little hollow, as they have themselves been in shameful awe of the Murdoch Empire for so long that one is entitled to enquire why such indignation was not heard sooner.   The cynic in me cannot escape the notion that our elected representatives could not resist the chance to get some revenge on the press for revealing the outrages of MPs expenses.   But there they are in their little Westminster village, largely impervious to what goes on outside and clearly blissfully unaware of what the rest of us, especially those of us outside the bubble of London, really think of them and their posturing.

And of course we`ve had the media village coming to the fore.   Not only with the spectacle of News International being savagely but joyously kicked where it hurts but we have also witnessed the rest of the media village - rival newspapers, radio, television, web forums and even sad  bloggers like me - giving it their two pennyworth.   We can`t resist it.   We all have opinions and we all have to have our say.   But communication, whilst supposedly being a two-way thing, is also a village with its own share of elders and idiots.   Trouble is, it`s sometimes difficult to know one from the other.

Now in what might seem a tenuous link, I`ve also witnessed the reent activity surrounding the Barclays Premier League where, despite it still being the closed season, a lot seems to be going on.   Now this truly is  a village where the idiots vastly outnumber the elders, for where else in this new age of austerity would you find players being signed for £45million, £35million and wages of £250,000 a week?  

So, to get in touch with any of these villages, just Dial `M` for Murdoch, Dial `M` for Media or Dial `M` for Madness.   Calls from a BT landline will cost 10p per minute, calls from a mobile will vary but could cost considerably more.   On the other hand calls to the Samaritans are free.

Friday, July 15, 2011


A VERY SENIOR MOMENT..

They do say that when you get older, two things happen.   The first is that you lose your memory....I can`t remember what the second one is.   As if to prove the point, I experienced a very senior moment during my recent stay in Cornwall.  

I drove down to St. Minver - 283 miles - leaving home here in deepest Kent at around 8.30 on the Friday morning.  Got there 3.00-ish, unpacked, settled in and then Mrs. Snopper and I took Barney, our retriever, for a nice long walk.   Come late evening and I discovered that I hadn`t brought my morning medication which combats blood pressure and other scourges of modern day living.

So, eschewing unpromising alternative courses of action, I left St. Minver at about 10.45 that night and headed back home.   As I drove up the A39 towards Camelford, there was still some light fading in the western sky out to sea.   I did the 283 miles in good time and got home at about 3.00am - just as some daylight was beginning to appear in the eastern sky over deepest Kent.   Found the missing pills, left at 3.15 and, including a half-hour doze in a deserted layby near Honiton, finally arrived back at St. Minver at about 8.30 Saturday morning.  Problem solved. 

So, an interesting mercy dash of 849 miles, which, according to the signpost in the picture above, is only 25 miles short of Lands End to John o` Groats.   But do you know what?   I enjoyed every minute of it - the self-imposed challenge, the driving, seeing the most glorious dawn sky rising over Stonehenge and knowing that I could now enjoy the rest of my week without worrying about keeling over for lack of medication.   What began as a very senior moment ended up as a very memorable adventure.   But I`m pretty sure that Mrs. Snopper, abandoned overnight as she was with Barney in a remote Cornish hideaway, will make sure I don`t have to do it ever again.   Now what was that second thing I couldn`t remember? 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE..

Went to Port Isaac last week, just on a whim really.  Because it was there.  Not too many years ago, Port Isaac was the quintessential Cornish fishing village, all narrow streets and alleyways such as Squeezy Belly Alley, cottages tumbling down the hillside towards  the harbour known locally as The Platt.   It was always busy with visitors, of course, but they used to come to enjoy its beauty, its genuineness, its integrity as a working community engaged in the  fishing industry off the hazardous North Cornwall coast.

What struck me last week was the transformation from all of that to little more than a filming location for the successful Doc Martin tv series, with all of the commercialisation and superficiality that that implies.   `Ooh look - there`s Doc Martin`s house.`   `Ooh look, there`s Portwenn school.`  `Ooh look, that`s where Bert Large has his restaurant.`   And so on and so on.   Visitors seemed more interested in the Doc Martin business (for that is what it has become) than they were in trying to discover the timeless qualities that Port Isaac used to have.

The old world of traditional Cornwall has collided with the world of today`s celebrity culture, perhaps exemplified by the photo I took (above) of a notice outside a Port Isaac shop.  And when worlds collide, things shatter and nothing is ever the same again.  Now on one level Port Isaac seems to be benefitting from its new found fame and fortune  having left its traditional past largely behind and who can blame them for that?   I guess it`s called progress but it does seem a high price to pay to go the way of Polperro, Mousehole, Boscastle and all the other fishing villages which have become `attractions` rather than the communities they once were.

I doubt I`ll be going back.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

HOME AGAIN...

I started this blog getting on for five years ago now and one of my first posts was in praise of Sir John Betjeman, his poetry, his love for the north coast of Cornwall, his home in Trebetherick and his resting place in St. Enodoc churchyard.

Last week we stayed nearby in St. Minver churchtown with its church dedicated to St. Menefreda, supposedly one of the 24 children of the Welsh King Brechan.   The church is the mother church for chapels at Porthilly and St. Enodoc itself and this photo I took (click on it for a larger image) shows St. Enodoc with its twisted spire, surrounded by its tamarisk trees, in the middle of a golf course and within sight of the glorious Camel estuary.   Never mind Betjeman, I quite fancy it myself as a final resting place, for what could be better than to be between a golf course and the sea.   But not just yet!

Little has changed since we were last in the area.   Maybe a few `developments` at Polzeath, whose attractiveness seems to decline in direct  proportion to its rise in popularity.   But  we like to get away from  all that on the coast path along the Greenaway to Daymer Bay and on to Rock and Porthilly.   Or from New Polzeath up to Pentire Head, along to Lundy Bay and on to Portquin.   Bite sized chunks, savouring the atlantic air, the cleansing breeze and always something around the next corner.

It`s an area we have visited before, that we know and love and enjoy to the point where it`s almost like going home.   To somewhere familiar, where it wraps itself around you and makes you feel that you belong.   But now I`m  home again here in deepest Kent, slowly readjusting to the old routine but knowing that in a couple of months time we`ll be back in Cornwall doing it all again.   I can hardly wait.  

Then roller into roller curled
And thundered down the rocky bay,
And we were in a water world
Of rain and blizzard, sea and spray,
And one against the other hurled
We struggled round to Greenaway.
Blessed be St Enodoc, blessed be the wave,
Blessed be the springy turf, we pray, pray to thee,
Ask for our children all happy days you gave
To Ralph, Vasey, Alistair, Biddy, John and me.
 (Sir John Betjeman - Trebetherick)