Wednesday, August 31, 2011


There`s an awful lot of fuss in Essex about the impending eviction of `travellers` from an illegal camp at  Crays Hill near Basildon.   It`s not the only site in the country which has had a visitation from `travellers` and in fact we`ve had a few here in our small village in what`s  laughably called the Garden of England.  It seems to be common occurrence.

But the Essex saga has caught the public imagination for some years now as the struggle between blatant law breaking and human rights is played out and which could lead to a mass eviction from the site after midnight tonight when the latest in a series of court orders banning the `travellers` from the site might well be enforced by a coalition of police and bailiffs.

On the human rights side, why am I not surprised that a succession of well-to-do `celebrities,` the latest being Vanessa Redgrave (pictured), are leading the cries for the `travellers` to be allowed to remain on the illegal site they have illegally occupied for something like ten years?   I quite expect the insufferable Bono and his mate Geldof to start banging the drum too.   They, like Redgrave, seem to relish in their self-appointed role as guardians of the oppressed and yet I somehow doubt they will invite the `travellers` to stay on their respective estates. 

The legal side is very clear - or at least is should be - in that planning consent for the establishment and occupation of this green belt site has not been granted, neither should it be if the planning law of this country is to mean anything at all.

But there are issues involved which fuel confusion - planning law, eviction notices, court orders, housing issues, social and welfare concerns, environmental health problems and even a last minute injunction being sought to secure yet another delay.   I`ve no idea how it might all end but there is one thing above all else that confuses me and it`s this.   I thought the whole idea of being a `traveller` was to travel - the love of the open road and all that.   Not to insist on staying put in some Essex backwater and refusing to `travel on.`  No wonder I`m confused.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Pride of place this weekend goes to the Robins of Charlton Athletic, who went to Gigg Lane, Bury, and overcame the Shakers with a 2-1  win.   This not only maintains their place in the promotion spots in League One but also means they are the only team from the Snopper Street Three to gain all three points.   Our street`s iconic pacy flanker performed a different role yesterday.   Having successfully piloted a new role in a game changing cameo performance in midweek, he started yesterday`s game in the hole just behind the lone striker.   This took full advantage of his good engine as he put in an energetic box to box shift, creating chances but also defending when called upon.   So, the Robins are bobbing along nicely as their impressive start to the season continues.

Sadly, for both Southampton and Gillingham their own good fortunes deserted them with the Gills at the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline away at Rotherham and the Saints going down 3-2 at Sven Goran Eriksson`s big spending Leicester.   There`s no sense of panic either at Priestfield or St. Mary`s but there is the expectation that these defeats will be the catalyst for getting back to winning ways rather than heralding the onset of a slippery slope.  

Both the Saints and the Gills remain in the promotion places in their respective divisions, so our street remains confident that they too will be rejoining Charlton and be bob bob bobbing along again soon.  Possibly.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Last Wednesday, 24th August, using the 48 inch Palomar robotic telescope in southern California- which is designed to observe and uncover astronomical events as they happen- astronomers noticed a new star, dubbed SN 2011fe, in the relatively nearby spiral galaxy M 101, aka the Pinwheel Galaxy, just off the handle of the Plough constellation, otherwise known as the Big Dipper.

Located 21 million light years away, this is the closest Type 1a supernova seen in decades. A Type Ia supernova occurs when a white dwarf draws matter in from a companion star and dumps it on its surface until a runaway nuclear reaction ignites. While many such supernovae are discovered annually they tend to be much farther away at hundreds of millions or billions of light years away.  

Even so, I find it difficult to get my head around the distances involved here.  As light travels at 186,000 miles every second, the distance it travels in one year, never mind 21 million years, produces a number which is too much for these pages to cope with.  The other thing that always astonishes me is that we are, therefore, now seeing the image of an event that occurred 21 million years ago.   So it might be worth a look over the next few evenings as the new star becomes brighter.   You might need binoculars and a clear sky but if you can get away from the light pollution, you might just make it out just after dusk in the north-western sky.  

Just one thing occurs to me - if when the photons of light arrive here on planet Earth after their 21million years journey and they see the chaos that confronts them, they might feel inclined to turn around and head back home again.

Friday, August 26, 2011


It was seven long years ago that `Sir` Alex Ferguson began his boycott of the BBC, after they screened a programme critical of Ferguson`s then football agent son, Jason.   For all that time, Ferguson refused to give interviews to the BBC and in the process incurred fines for breaching Premier League rules requiring managers to give post match interviews.  

Estimates of the amount of fines incurred are confusing but, given that the going rate is supposed to be £1,000 a time, it`s reasonable to expect that Ferguson has run up a bill in the region of £100,000.   It`s also a matter of speculation whether the Premier League will actually levy the fines, whether Ferguson will pay them if they do or whether Manchester United will pay them for him.   All of which is now by the by, as Ferguson and the BBC have, following a period of intense negotiation, reached a rapprochement, put the past behind them and, as they say, moved on at the end of the day. 

Throughout those seven years, United`s post match BBC inteviews were given by Carlos Querios or, more recently, by Mike Phelan and they did so with an almost apologetic nervousness, almost as if they were terrified of saying a word out of place.   But at least they were in the main lucid, understandable and not given to wild reaction.   All of which will now change as we will be subjected once more to Ferguson`s inane Glaswegian mumblings, his siege mentality and his disdain for anyone who dares whisper a word of criticism.   His absence from our tv screens was indeed nice while it lasted.

And, as if to present us with a prelude of what is to come, Ferguson is now once again lambasting the Football Association for, as he so eloquently puts it, treating Manchester United like sh**.   His claim is laughably based on the fact that his club has provided more players for the national team than any other club ever has and yet the FA continue to impose fines and touchline bans on him.   Well, if he will insist on publicly criticising match officials, forever being offensive towards the governing body of the sport and generally bringing the game into disreputre, then he really only has himself to blame if the FA actually do treat him in the way he describes.

I recall being in my office at work when the news came through that Margaret Thatcher had finally resigned and I remember feeling a great sense of relief that an oppressively tiresome burden had been lifted from my shoulders.   I just know I`ll feel the same when the day comes that Ferguson finally disappears into the sunset.   Trouble is, it might just be a long wait.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

From our Golf Correspondent

Yes, two.   I`m afraid my report of the first birdie  has been a long time coming, as exhaustive checks have had to be made to confirm the authenticity of the claim.   But now that Cambridge`s Cavendish Laboratory, the Government`s  Scientific Advisory Council, the Health and Safety Executive and none other than our old friends The Royal and Ancient have all agreed that Snopper did actually achieve a birdie on Hever Castle`s Princes Course ten days ago.  

Yes, it has taken all that time to confirm that Snopper managed to birdie the par 3 third - a notoriously difficult hole which presents the golfer with a daunting lake to cross before encountering a troublesome green.   No problems for Snopper, however, whose tee shot careered into a bank to the left of the lake, looped up in the air and landed, quite miraculously, just two feet from the pin.   Even he couldn`t miss from that range and so he carded what is believed to be only the second birdie in a career spanning over a quarter of a century.

And so to birdie number two, which was achieved only yesterday by Snopper`s neighbour Mr. Slightly, whose prowess is such that no confirmation is ever required and his scores are always accepted without question.   It arrived at the Hempsted Forest course close to Cranbrook and was accompanied by no less than seven pars.   Moreover, Mr. Slightly`s loss of just one ball in his 18-hole round compared well with Snopper`s loss of five balls on his nine holes at Hever Castle, which included the aforementioned birdie.

For Mr. Slightly, his successful afternoon was simply yet another in a litany of golfing achievement for this naturally gifted sportsman who certainly did not deserve the dismissive `He`s just `aving a pose` alleged to have been muttered by a chastened Snopper on hearing the news.

I fear it will be some time before I can report another tale of two birdies from this diverse couple, but I think I know which of the pair will be next to record one.  No prizes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


At around half past three yesterday afternoon at The Oval, Graeme Swann took the last Indian wicket to confirm their expected 4-0 humiliation in the Test Series.   Joyous scenes followed, medals were awarded, men-of-the-match were anointed along with men-of-the-series, speeches were made, commentators reflected and looked forward and the sell-out crowd drifted homeward.

A couple of hours later, it started raining and it was dark here in deepest Kent by just after 8.00pm.   It seemed pointedly strange that the end of the last test match had coincided with  the arrival of a distinctly autumnal feel in the air.   Like a message from above to suggest that summer was coming to an abrupt end with only dark days and long nights on the horizon.

But for us cricket lovers, it has been a summer to remember, to cherish even, like those of 1981, 2005 and 2009.   England are now the undistputed world leaders in test cricket, a position secured by hard work, raw talent being finely tuned, inspirational management and leadership and a relentless pursuit of excellence in all departments of the game.   I can`t think of a weak link in the current squad and that`s not something that has been said for many a year.  

Despite the end of the test series, I`m told I can look forward now to the one day internationals and the 20/20 crash bang wallop games against India over the next three or four weeks.   Well, it might be entertaining, but it ain`t proper cricket.   But I suspect India might be grateful they can wait those few weeks to let the dust settle back home before they attempt a sheepish re-entry. 

So at the end of this test match summer I`m left with total admiration for each and every one of the England squad, who have produced wonderful individual and collective performances.   As for India, they may have problems but at least they left us with the memory of a truly admirable individual amongst their ragged ranks.  

Rahul Dravid - 38 years old - 35 test match centuries - a record 30,090 balls faced in test matches, more than even the revered Sachin.   But more than all of that, a  true gentleman.   An urbane ambassador for his country and for the game, unsurprisingly chosen to face the cameras and the microphones when fortunes were at their most fraught.  Cricket, you see, can charm in so many ways and in Rahul Dravid India have someone who does so, both on and off the field of play.  The summer may have ended, but the memories  will linger on.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I was sorry to learn that Prime Minister David Cameron thought it necessary to cut short his holiday in Cornwall and return to Downing Street.   We`re told that he did so in order to chair a meeting to discuss the present situation in Libya.   Whilst that sounds plausible, I suspect that he was more anxious to be seen taking whatever credit he can for Britain`s part in the toppling of Gadaffi, rather than staying in Cornwall and letting his Deputy Nick Clegg hog the limelight.

But, once a PR man, always a PR man I guess.   I have to be honest and say that if I were in Cameron`s shoes (Heaven forbid) wild horses would never drag me away from Trebetherick simply to have a pose in front of the cameras.   And in any case, I would most definitely think twice about entering No. 10 now that the frightful Tracey Emin has responded to Cameron`s request for one of her `works` to become part of the Government Art Collection.

And here it is, pictured above.   It`s just a neon sign saying `More Passion` and is apparently hanging just outside the Terracotta Room in No.10.   It would, I suspect, be more at home in Al`s Diner or that Transport Cafe on the A2 which alleges that it is frequented by `the rich and famous.`

But what is really alarming is that Emin`s `work` has an estimated value of £250,000, which instantly recalls one of Harry Enfield`s sketches whereby dimwitted airhead young ladies enter his affected bijou shop and quite happily buy bits of rubbish for exhorbitant prices.   But at least I have now discovered that there is a `Government Art Collection,` which I take to mean that it`s ours really as the collection, including Emin`s pretensious mediocrity, has been built up using taxpayers` money.   I`m surprised there wasn`t a consultation period or even a referendum to decide whether we really wanted to be saddled with such tosh.

It all reminds me of Christmas, as for years now I have long suspected that the Christmas cards sent out from the Prime Minister, Government Departments, Quangos, Councils and the rest of the public sector panoply are all paid for by us taxpayers too.   In which case, it`s about time I received one.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

....or maybe not...

Grass needs mowing.   Car needs cleaning.   All kinds of stuff to do.   Yesterday was the same but what happened?   I couldn`t resist turning on the television just to have a quick glance to see how the cricket was going in England`s last match of the test series against India.   And that was that.  

`I`ll just see the end of this over,` I told myself.   Over after over, time after time.   It didn`t happen.   There I sat, captivated once more not only by England`s total domination over the team that until just a few days ago was the number one side in the world, but also enraptured once more by the sheer wonder of cricket.  

It`s a world apart, seemingly immune from the goings on outside the pavilion or beyond the boundary.  At the very highest level, they`re not called test matches for nothing, as ability, determination, character and resiliance are tested to their limits over five days of hard graft.   At the grass roots level where I played, on village greens and assorted sports grounds, there is still much respect for the spirit of the game, for sportsmanship and respectful acknowledgement of the skills of opponents.

In the game currently demanding my attention, India will have to bat all day today and all day tomorrow to save it.   Their main hope is that the English summer weather will intervene to avoid a 4-0 whitewash and make the Indian team and management doubtful of the wisdom of returning home to the sub-continent. 

So I`ll keep watching - I simply can`t resist it.  Even if it does mean that I will have little time to dwell the fortunes of Snopper Street`s footy teams yesterday which saw the Saints win their fourth game on the trot to maintain top spot in the Championship, the Gills storming to a 3-0 win to remain in the promotion places, with only Charlton dropping two points at home against Scunthorpe to deny us the elusive nine points out of nine again.

And even if it means that the grass keeps growing, the car becomes more embarrassing and a host of other things go undone.   For this is the last test match of the summer and it`s not to be missed.  Must go.........

Thursday, August 18, 2011

THE PAIN OF S and M....

Well it might not be anything new to have the combined Franco German axis ganging up on the rest of Europe.   It`s been tried before, of course, usually ending in failure, so this time a new strategy is emerging.   Having failed miserably through other means, it`s now the turn of economics to provide the charmless Sarkosy and Merkel with the chance of Europe wide domination.

Now in one sense, it`s the case that we in the good ol` U of K might be mere bystanders as we are, thanks heavens, not in the ill fated Eurozone.   But anything that goes on there does have an effect on our own economy, so maybe we should take careful note of what this dynamic duo are proposing to help solve the Eurozone crisis.

One of their solutions to the ongoing problem of bailing out basket case economies such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal and the rest is to propose a `transaction tax` on, well, transactions.   These are stock market trades and foreign exchange and would levy a tax of 1% on each transaction.   Doesn`t sound much and if it`s confined to countries in the Eurozone, why should we care?

But here`s the thing.   Gallic dwarf Sarkozy and Rosa Klebb lookalike Merkel have included this plan as part of a deal to set up a new `true European economic government` for the Eurozone and are now going further by demanding that the tax is applied to the whole of the European Union.   At which point, the good ol` U of K gets hammered, especially as London accounts for 70% of the financial services industry in the whole of Europe.   

Now I carry no torches whatsoever for the UK banking/financial services industry which seems to carry on regardless but I do baulk at the prospect of a tax which could amount to £13billion a year going from the UK to Europe to bail out the aforementioned basket cases.   At which point, the S and M plan is shown for what it really is - yet another opportunistic attempt to put another brick in the construction of the European SuperState they not only dream of but also dream of controlling.

I see that `financial experts` are questioning the feasibility of the tax plan which would have to be introduced not just Euro-wide but also worldwide otherwise the banks and dealers would up sticks from London and base themselves elsewhere where the tax did not apply.   But it`s not just a financial issue, it`s more of a political one - just the kind of thing Britain`s veto was designed for.   It`s not only this space that needs to be watched.   It`s also the UK Government`s reaction to this latest disciplinary S and M caper.   Time they were whipped into line.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


No wonder Gillingham FC Chairman Paul Scally (pictured) looks rueful.   And so he should, as last night the Gills were responsible for bringing an end to Snopper Street`s run of nine points out of nine.   To be fair to them, the Gills were only denied a third win on the trot by an injury time equaliser at hard pressed Barnet where the game ended 2-2.

Elsewhere Charlton went to Colchester - always a hard place to go to - and maintained their 100% start to the season with another win which included yet another energetic performance from near neighbour Scott Wagstaff and his buzzin` six pack.   It was he who set up Charlton`s first goal with a sublimely incisive pass for ex-Saint Bradley Wright-Phillips to convert from 12 yards.

My beloved Saints made the long trip to Ipswich and came away with a resounding 5-2 win after yet another performance which manager Nigel Adkins described as `scintillating.`   The Saints extended their record to nine wins out of nine and, but for the Gills late slip-up, Snopper Street`s points total would also have reached nine out of nine for the third time in a row.

As it is, at the end of the day we must be content with the seven out of nine, shrug our shoulders, accept that it just wasn`t meant to be and move on to Saturday.  Both the Saints and Charlton stay on top of their respective league tables....for now at least and to be fair to Mr. Scally and his troops, they remain in the automatic promotion places in League Two, so I can`t bring myself to be too harsh on them.  

So it was nice while it lasted for Snopper Street`s three teams. But for me, for the Saints and for Charlton, as our unprecedented start to the season continues, I`m reminded of the Bangles - can you feel my heart beating?    Do you understand?    Am I only dreaming....or is this feeling an eternal flame?   (Somehow I doubt it.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

And so the chatter from the chattering classes goes on.  I just wonder how much of it is to do with examining the causes and the search for solutions to the riotous events of the past week and how much of it is simply the desire on the part of most `commentators` just to have their voices heard.

A prime example of what I mean was the exchange on BBC 2`s Newsnight programme the other evening when Dr. David Starkey came up against the formidable Emily Maitlis and two of her other `guests` - Owen Jones and Dreda Say Mitchell, both  apparently `authors and broadcasters.`   Starkey was asked what he thought the causes of the problems might be and he began his reply by suggesting that one of them might have its roots in the gangsta youth culture in our inner cities, where (and I paraphrase) `respect` is earned by the white youths invoking actions and attitudes of their black counterparts by, amongst other things, resorting to speaking in a kind of patois more akin to Kingston, Jamaica, than Kingston upon Thames.   To that extent, the white youths have become black.......

Well, you can imagine the outcry from Maitlis and the other guests, since when we have had howls of derision aimed at Starkey by such leading figures in the Twitterati as Piers Morgan and Robert Peston and a whole welter of condemnation heaped on him by those with instant opinions, even if they - like most people given Newsnight`s audience ratings -didn`t actually see the programme.

Having watched the programme myself, however, what struck me was the fact that he was never allowed to complete a sentence, so swift was the outcry from those in the studio with him.   And that`s a pity, because he was beginning to develop a thoughtful, studied analysis in response to the question he was asked.   It may have been controversial and yet it may have contained more than a grain of truth that we were sadly prevented from considering thanks to the instant screeches of derision.  

My suspicion remains that those who are so quick to condemn are either frightened to face up to the truth or simply being unthinkingly politically correct, neither of which helps the debate we need to have in the wake of last week`s events.   And that debate will also not be helped if words are not allowed in edgeways from those whose opinions might just make us think a little more honestly.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Yesterday was a gamble.   It could have been `over the moon` or `sick as a parrot` for Snopper Street`s footy teams.   It ended with the former as Charlton, Gillingham and the Saints all won their matches again.   I`ve checked the records and this is the first time the elusive nine points out of nine has been achieved on consecutive weekends since the days when teams such as Clapton Orient, Glossop and the Royal Engineers provided the opposition.

Southampton managed a 1-0 win away at Barnsley thanks to a deft header from David Connolly and some stout defending in the last few minutes.  Gillingham went up the junction to Crewe and came away with a 2-1 victory to go second in the League Two table and once again our street`s pacy hardworking flanking wideman, Scott Wagstaff, scored in Charlton`s 2-0 win away at Notts County.

So much for the bald facts, but Waggy`s goal deserves a little more description than it has received in today`s papers, who seem infatuated with the Premier League, which kicked off yesterday.   It`s as if it has never gone away as we had the usual fisticuffs from serial scuffler Joey Barton, lame excuses from bewildered Neil Warnock and yet more myopic squeaking from Arsene Wenger.   There are literally pages and pages of newsprint dedicated to the antics of the Premier League and yet the whole reportage of the combined Championship, League One and League Two is confined to just one tightly crammed double page spread.

Anyway, Waggy`s goal was yet another gem to match his screamer from last week.   He ran on to a perceptive pass, rounded the opposing custodian and planted the ball firmly in the back of the Notts County net from an acute angle.   The only thing missing was The Brick but even with that omission, surely his place in the starting line-up must now be assured.   The Saints start to the season has seen club records tumble.   Yesterday saw the club start the season with two wins out of two for the first time in 23 years and the victory at Barnsley extended the record breaking winning streak to eight games on the trot.  

So, with the Gills in second place in League Two only on goal difference, with Charlton heading the League One table and with the Saints top of the Championship, I`m reminded of the words of the legendary Gordon Strachan.   Some distant years ago, Southampton had just beaten Manchester United 1-0 at St. Mary`s to go fourth in the Premier League.   Strachan was asked how he was going to celebrate, to which he replied that he was going home to watch  the league table on teletext all evening.   I imagine the residents of Snopper Street might well have been doing the same.   However, as we know from bitter experience, this week`s moon jumping could easily turn into next week`s parrot sickness.

But it`s nice while it lasts.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Mrs. Snopper has been called up for jury service at the end of this month.   Just a couple of weeks after that, she won`t mind me whispering quietly that she will turn 70.   A close run thing.   In February, 1960, I was called up for  National Service only to discover that the last National Serviceman of all was called up just one month later.   Another close run thing.   We seem to have a habit of just being caught in time.

Now depending on one`s attitude towards civic duties, I have either been lucky or unlucky  never to have been called for jury service and now that I`m well past 70, I can`t be called anyway.   It`s a bit of the legal process I`ve not only failed to understand but actually find a little offensive.    Provided you still have most of your marbles in place beyond 70, I would have thought the legal system would welcome jurors with the benefit of decades of experience in the University of Life, the enhanced powers of perception those years have brought and the unfailing ability to distinguish between opinion and evidence.   But it seems not.   The scrapheap beckons.

But it all makes me wonder whether it is the jury selection system itself that might be infringing the law of the land by displaying such overt discrimination, not to say prejudice, against a section of society who might not only be perhaps best qualified to serve but also have the time and take pride in doing so.

I rest my case.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A year ago today, Markus Liebherr died suddenly.   He was the giant who had rescued Southampton Football Club from the depths of depression.   He had bought the club, paid off the debts and taken us out of administration, all of which cost him a reported £12million.

Yesterday, one of the brightest players to emerge from Saints` Academy, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, finally joined Arsenal for a reported down payment of £12million with possibly more to follow.

It`s such a pity that Markus isn`t here with the rest of us Saints fans as we begin to witness the return on his investment both on the pitch and off it.   I think he would have appreciated the almost spooky coincidence of timing  by which his initial outlay has now been recouped by this one transaction.   But his involvement with the club wasn`t simply financial, for like us humble fans, he also had an emotional attachment that is part of being a Saints supporter.

In a way I`m quite glad that Chambo has gone at last - the constant speculation about his future was not only becoming tiresome but probably disruptive too.   Of course I wish him well at the Emirates.....but oh how much more I wish that Markus was here to enjoy the renaissance that he began.  For more about Markus and why he is missed so much, please see

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


I think if anything the organised opportunistic recreational criminality currrently blighting the streets of our cities is yet another a wake up call for our declining and falling society.   Now, I`m in no position, living as I do in a quiet semi-rural backwater, to begin to speculate on why this is happening.   I`ll leave that to the `opinion formers,` the politicians, the social worker industry and the self-appointed commentators like the bizarre spectacle that is Camilla Batmanghelidjh who, like so many others, has been quick to profer an opinion but seldom a solution.

And in a sense that`s part of the problem.   With the daunting array of `social networks` available, the opportunity not only to organise destructive flash mobs but also to provide instant commentary is there to be taken.  Twitters are tweeting, Faces are booking, e-mailers are e-mailing and the world is full of relentless interaction and communication across a myriad of `platforms.`   So much so that it is left only to the more discerning to discover what is actually being said and to decide whether it amounts to anything of substance.    

I`m doing it now, of course - blogging away - but in the certain knowledge that only a handful of others will bother to read what I am essentially writing for my own consumption.   It`s therapeutic, if a little sad, that I find some kind of `release` in writing  these literary gems, although it does at least have the merit of keeping my opinions largely to myself.

And so what do I make of  our current problems, which seem to have overtaken the financial crises,  already seen the cancellation of some of tonight`s Carling Cup matches  and even threatened tomorrow`s England international against Holland along with the third Test Match at Edgbaston - now that is serious.   Charlton`s game against Reading has been cancelled on the advice of the police, who are clearly concerned that repeats of Waggy and his Brick might spark riots of themselves.

Well, I`m a parent and a Grandfather.   Our sons are all in their forties but it doesn`t matter how old your kids are, you never stop being a parent.   You`re concerned for them, you need to know they`re alright and even now I like to know where they are and what they`re doing.   It`s not being intrusive - just caring and just being a parent.   So I was genuinely surprised to hear a plaintive cry from the acting head of the Met asking parents in London, in the heat of the night`s rioting, to find out where their children were.   Kids as young as ten were involved in the rioting, looting and general lawlessness, so if I despair at the parents, I despair more for the children who are allowed, if not encouraged, to get in on the act.

I worry about our overstretched, demoralised  Police - their ineffectiveness brought on by bureaucratic strangulation, their fear of retribution if they infringe those twin perils that are `human rights` and `health and safety.`   I worry about a lost generation, who seem to have little hope or knowledge beyond how to survive in our deprived, anti-social, drug-fuelled, benefits claiming, multicultural ghettos.   But I worry too about the willingness, the ability, the courage of the nation`s leadership to see where we have arrived, how and why we have got where we are and what might be done to bring us back to any form of social cohesion and sense of community. 

We`ll see....but I have a feeling I`m going to be disappointed once more.   I quite expect a stream of the usual guff about `underlying causes,` `lessons will be learned,` `no simple solutions` and the rest of the repetitive establishment mantra, but by far the most disappointing will be if our political leaders join in the opportunism to make cheap political capital out of a situation that demands better.   Time for some home truths, the courage to tell them and the determination to do something about it.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


Overnight tv video evidence has confirmed that our street`s fleet footed wideman, Scott Wagstaff, did indeed score a breathtakingly sublime 25-yard volley into the top corner to notch Charlton`s second goal in their 3-0 win against Bournemouth yesterday.   But what was equally impressive was his goal celebration which saw the much heralded return of `The Brick.`

This extraordinary contortion was first used by Wagstaff after he scored against Yeovil in a game last season and it consists of standing still, then falling flat on your back and remaining motionless until your teammates converge upon you.   This inventive celebration resulted in Wagstaff making a guest apperance on Talksport`s Hawksbee and Jacobs radio show in order to explain what it was all about.  Here`s a clip of the Yeovil brick:-

Now, a few short years ago, during Waggy`s formative years, my neighbour Mr. Slightly and I offered our services to become his joint agents.   I expect he now regrets snubbing our proposal, which would have ensured a much wider application of The Brick and all it represents.   Even back then we saw it as a marketing commodity with enormous economic potential.   We would have seen to it that Waggy and his brick would have been patented world wide so it could only be used on licence;  we would have arranged nationwide televised bricking competitions and marketed a whole range of products including remote controlled bricking gnomes, board games and BrickFit exercise DVDs.

The potential is still clearly enormous but we doubt that the new contract he has just penned with Charlton makes any mention of bricking rights.   That`ll teach him to snub our advances.   Incidentally, I have often wondered how you `pen` a contract.   Is it possible to conjugate the verb `to pen?`   Knowing Waggy, however, it`s more likely that he used a biro, so he`s probably `biroed` his new brick image rights lacking contract. 

Good goal though.  To be fair.

Saturday, August 06, 2011


Well, despite my midsummer reluctance to make the journey to St. Mary`s today, I still managed to keep abreast of events concerning Snopper Street`s three football teams.   As in previous seasons, those of us residing in the street who eschew supporting Premier League clubs in favour of `our` teams, will once more be looking for the ultimate goal of nine points out of a possible nine .   And, would you Adam and Eve it, it happened today on the first day of the Football League season.

My long suffering neighbour and ardent Gillingham fan Mr. Slightly must have been dumbfounded as the Gills overcame a determined Cheltenham Town side thanks to the only goal of the game scored by Lewis Montrose before a crowd of 5,360.   One up, two to go.

Next, let`s hear it for the only one from the Snopper Street three  to actually attend a match today....and that was because he was playing.   Yes, folks, Charlton`s six-pack on legs, buzzin` pacy flanker Scott Wagstaff, scored the Addicks` second with a screamer that has already been described as an early contender for goal of the season.   Irrefutable evidence should emerge as recorders will be on for the Football League Show on BBC 1 starting at midnight. Charlton`s 16,000 fans must have been over the moon with Waggy`s piledriver and heartened by their team`s 3-0 win against Bournemouth.  Two up, one left.

Ah, the Saints.   Earlier this evening before a St. Mary`s crowd of nearly 26,000 - the highest in the Championship - and before a world-wide television audience, newly promoted Southampton scampered to an impressive 3-1 win against the Damned United.   This victory marked their first home game of a season win since 1988, when West Ham were beaten 4-0 at The Dell.    I may have wished I had gone now, but I enjoyed an evening`s ramble with Barney up on the North Downs, past the neolithic Coldrum Stones and seeing the majestic expanse of the Medway Valley.   It wasn`t St. Mary`s though.

So there we have it - our rare and elusive nine points out of nine.   A memorable start to Snopper Street`s soccer fortunes.  Trouble is, it might be all downhill next week.

Friday, August 05, 2011


I see that Sally Bercow, wife of diminutive Commons Speaker John, has apparently been signed up for the next series of Celebrity Big Brother, along with the usual collection of has-beens, never-weres and attention seeking never will-bes.   These allegedly include the likes of the pneumatic Pamela Anderson, the basketcase that is Kerry Katona and the twin annoyances that are Jedward.

So, Mrs. Bercow won`t be out of place, especially as husband John is a leading contender in that other ongoing pantomime that is Prime Minister`s Questions, where ritual humiliation, staged managed confrontation and a succession of dire performances abound.

Happy viewing!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

At a time when the sports loving public should be revelling in the brilliant performances of our cricketers, the seemingly unending spectre of football is taking up far too much time and space in the sporting media.   It`s still high summer, the cricket season has weeks before it`s over, but already the new football season is upon us.

They have already started up in Scotland and Rangers have already found time to bow out ungracefully by failing to qualify for the Champions League, thanks to a defeat at the hands of Malmo from Sweden.   This weekend sees the start of the Football League with my own club, Southampton, playing the damned Leeds United in a televised encounter at St. Mary`s Stadium.    Quite apart from the fact that the game is being shown live on Sky, I`m not sure I would have gone anyway.  I`m just not ready for it yet.

Football seems to encroach more and more into the cricket season - in fact, football hasn`t seemed to stop at all since the end of the last season;  there`s always some scandal, intrigue, super injunction, managerial merry-go-round, cattle-market transfer speculation to fill the back (and sometimes front) pages, along with hours of television.   There was a time, half a century ago, when there was a clear dividing line between the cricket and football seasons which allowed the likes of Arthur Milton, Chris Balderstone, Dennis Compton and Willie Watson to stop playing county cricket one week and start playing professional football the next.

I confess, despite being a Saints fan for 65 years now - my father having taken me to The Dell when I was seven - almost to a feeling of dread that the industry of football is kicking off once more.   I dread the start of the Premier League with its non-stop coverage, the screaming headlines, the foreign ownership of the game that was invented here, the influx of foreign players to the detriment of our home grown ones and its implication for our domestic and international progress.   I dread the myopic neolithic managers, bereft of any respect for match officials or any semblence of dignity.   But most of all I dread the overpaid players who live in a dreamworld of their own with more money than sense, with no concept of restraint or modesty and where excess and a false sense of their own importance are embraced at the urging of agents, hangers-on and assorted sycophants.   

Now, don`t get me wrong.  I still love the game I played, refereed and supported for most of my life, but it seems to me that the higher the echelons of the game, the less of a game it is and so the less attractive it becomes.  The Premier League is simply a business, a product whose avarice has seen it lose its place in the sporting calendar.   It`s all too much....and all too soon.   And it`s just not cricket!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


I see that Jonathan May-Bowles, aka Jonnie Marbles, has today been sentenced to six weeks in the slammer for throwing a pie made of shaving foam in the general direction of Rupert Murdoch at the recent Commons Committee hearings into alleged phone hacking.  

Mr. May-Bowles/Marbles has apparently lodged an appeal against this sentence,  although he has not been allowed bail and continues to be locked up.   Now, the appeal makes it difficult to comment on this case which therefore remains sub-judice, but here`s a suggestion.

If the appeal judge does not feel inclined to confirm the custardial sentence, perhaps instead he will require Mr. May-Bowles/Marbles to attend a Government sponsored projectile aiming course so as to improve his accuracy in any future pie-throwing escapade.  He needs to work on his technique and, in much the same way as there are speed awareness courses for motorists, I`m sure there`s  an appropriate course somewhere for errant pie throwers.