Tuesday, February 28, 2012


A MAN AFTER MY OWN HEART..


Regular visitors to these pages will know that I`m basically a simple soul with simple tastes enjoying the simple things in life.   And one of the most enjoyable things for me is indeed very simple.   It`s just to stand on a Cornish beach looking out to the ocean and the majestic sky, hearing the sound of the waves breaking and with the wind in my face.   I always feel two emotions - one is of peace and tranquility, away from the madness of the world we live in; but at the same time feeling truly alive and part of the elements of nature.   It`s why I`m always reluctant to turn my back on it all and leave.

Now just recently and purely by chance, I came across someone who I suspect feels just the same.   I don`t know him, don`t know who he is, what he does or where he lives but what I do know is that he produces the most inspiring and uplifting short films of those Cornish beaches I love so much.   Nearly every day he goes to a beach, takes a short video, briefly interviews someone on the beach and posts them on a wonderful website.

He must travel miles around Cornwall doing this and he must be up with the lark most days to capture the dawn coming up on beaches he visits.   What has helped keep me going over the long winter has been his visits to many of my favourite beaches - Pendower, Crantock, Talland Bay, Sennen Cove, Loe Beach, Polzeath, Hemmick, Daymer Bay, Porthcurnick and today the quite perfect location of Portloe:-


He is indeed a man after my own heart and if you too are in love with the beaches of Cornwall and, like me, need a regular fix, then have a good look at http://manonabeach.com I hope he doesn`t mind me nicking his masthead, shown above, or giving his website a little nudge.   Like the beaches he visits, manonabeach and his website is there to enjoy.


(I had a bit of bother with the link to manonabeach, but if you just Google manonabeach, you`ll find it easily enough.)

Monday, February 27, 2012


THANK YOU AND GOODNIGHT...

I don`t know about you but I`m getting a bit fed up with all these self-congratulatory award ceremonies.   We`ve had the BAFTAs, the BIFFAs, the EMMYs, the MOBOs and last night we had the OSCARs.   And this morning the television news seems to be dominated by the Oscars and the extravagant `parties` that followed, with the BBC once again showing all the restraint and moderation one has come to expect from an organisation that runs out of ideas as to how to squander other people`s cash.   

Now I`m not sure I have a problem with giving awards to people for outstanding work in all forms of life but there are a couple of objections I have to this latest crop of self-serving bunfights.   One is that they ring a little hollow as their excesses seem very out of place in the harsh economic times in which we live and the other is that, if you`re going to have awards, then make sure they go to the right people.   

There are a whole host of professionals working dilligently behind the scenes to turn these films into box office hits, so why not Oscars for Best Boy of the Year, Key Grip, Dolly Grip, Clapper Loader, Colour Timer, Foley Artist, Boom Operator and all the others  - you only have to sit through the credits at the end of any film to see just how many people it takes before tinsel town`s luvvies can stand up clutching their trophies and gushing all over us.


But I guess it was forever thus - pygmies on the backs of giants and all that - and in the end, like politics, at least these ceremonies have the unintended virtue of giving me something else to grumble about.


Thank you and goodnight.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


STREWTH !!

I`m getting a little worried about Australians.  There are reports today of an Aussie who lost his compensation claim for racial abuse after work colleagues greeted him with `G`day, sport` and other terms of endearment including `Is your girlfriend called Sheila?`   They allegedly also made jokes about kangaroos, barbies and other stereotypical Oz icons.   All of which resulted in him taking Kent County Council to an employment tribunal after these `racial taunts` brought on his depression causing him to quit his job as a community warden in the hotbed of racial tension that is Dymchurch here on the Kent coast.

What worries me is that this episode seems light years away from the archetypal vision we have of the Australian psyche.   Their outwardly aggressive, politically incorrect, stick-it-up-`em but engagingly amusing banter is perhaps best illustrated by their `sledging` of opponents on the cricket field, which seems to encapsulate the outside world`s view of the nuggety Australian male.  

And yet, even here, they don`t always have things their own way, as witnessed by the classic encounter between Glenn McGrath and Zimbabwe`s fast medium bowler, Eddo Brandes.   Brandes was a big lad - a chicken farmer by trade - not really known for his batting and when he came in to bat, McGrath is reputed to have politely enquired, "Why are you so fat?"   To which Brandes replied, "Well, every time I make love to your wife she gives me a couple of doughnuts!"

As for our friend and his employment tribunal, it`s almost sad to report that he lost his discrimination case and his appeal against that decision was dismissed.   Maybe something in the Dymchurch air?  Or maybe after 27 years living in the UK it`s time to head back home to Adelaide?


Thursday, February 23, 2012


BEWARE OF HEALTH AND SAFETY..

The tragic death of Simon Burgess in a model boating lake in Gosport has once more brought home the dangers of following Health and Safety Regulations.   Mr. Burgess was feeding swans when he had an epileptic fit and fell into the boating lake`s three feet of water.  The inquest into his death revealed that emergency crews who had been called and were at the scene were ordered not to rescue him, as they were trained only to `level one,` which meant they were cleared only to go into ankle-deep water, so they waited for a `level two` officer trained to go in chest high.   By which time it was all too late and Mr. Burgess was dead.

Now this is obviously a tragic case and there might be another side to the story but it has all the hallmarks of health and safety occurrences over the years.   Just last year, a young girl on a cross country run collapsed but paramedics refused to move her because the ground was too slippery.   In 2008 a woman fell down a mine shaft in Scotland but was left there for eight hours because, despite a winch being available, it was only to be used to save rescue workers.   And there are too many similar cases where the edicts of health and safety have turned drama into tragedy.

It`s almost as though the strict adherence to health and safety requirements has the potential of itself to endanger the lives of the very people it is supposed to keep safe.   Slavishly following the edicts of health and safety by hidebound myopic jobsworths can seriously damage your health and safety, it seems.   So what`s the answer?  How about seriously amending the legislation so that Health and Safety Regulations might be replaced by the introduction of the Application of Common Sense Regulations?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


PASS THE BAND AID...

When Eric Morecambe was asked, "What`s a Grecian urn?" he memorably replied, "About ten bob a week."   And as a result of the overnight deal between the Greek government and the Eurozone/IMF/ECB leaders, the good folk of Greece will be expected to doff their caps, bow towards Berlin and give thanks to the Gods that Eric Morecambe`s prediction has come true.

It`s really quite staggering.   £110billion to bail out the Greek economy yet again - I find it hard to even imagine a sum so large - and yet we all know in our economic hearts of hearts that this is yet another bit of political sticking plaster to ensure the Greeks can meet their debt repayments by 10 March and thus keep the Eurozone project alive.   At least for now.

I don`t think anyone with any sense of proportion or grasp of reality is in any doubt that this enormous hand out is only going to put off the day, for a few weeks or months at most, before Greece finally withdraws from the Euro and embraces the drachma like a long lost friend.   And in the meantime the Greek people are supposed to put up with yet more crippling austerity measures and having their country run by a bunch of placemen from the EU and elsewhere - another rather ironic blow for the cradle of`democracy.` 


And we all know too that even if they behave themselves and do as they`re told, it will only be after ten years of hunter-gathering before their economy is back to the unsustainable level it was a while ago. So what`s the point?

I just wonder what reaction there would have been in this country had we been subjected to the same jackboot inspired humiliation the Greeks are now supposed to put up with.   I think I know the answer. And it wouldn`t surprise me at all to see the reaction on the streets of Athens becoming yet more divisive, as the disconnect between between the Government and the governed grows ever wider. 


"What`s a Grecian urn?"   "About enough to buy a roll of Elastoplast."

Sunday, February 19, 2012


INCREDIBLY INCREDIBLE..

In the absence of anything else worth watching, by which I mean football, I`ve just sat through an edition of the BBC`s Countryfile programme.   There was a time when I used to enjoy the programme, when it was about the countryside.   But these days it seems to be much more about the `presenters` than about the places and people they visit.  


In that respect, it seems to be going the same way as `Coast,` which started out being about the coastline of Britain, then went farther afield and ended up being simply a vehicle for the inflated egos of the gang of presenters.   Not sure I blame them, as such, for it seems to be that the the longer the exposure to the tv cameras, the more the inevitability of self importance creeps in.


But back to Countryfile.   Its own presenters are headed up by a chap with a whiny, guttural accent that really should have sub titles and a gushing young lady whose enthusiasm, whilst admirable, is likely to get her into difficulty one day.   Julia Bradbury, all teeth and hair, pops up now and again along with the weather man, togged up in `country` clobber with the deluded notion that it`s `in keeping` with the spirit of the programme.   Well, it might be.... but all we need to know is what the weather is going to be like.


One thing that gets to me is the constant and misplaced use of `incredible` to describe anything and everything in the great outdoors.   My dictionary defines `incredible` as coming from the Latin incredibilis - `beyond belief or understanding`- but somehow it gets used to describe things that are plainly believable or understandable;   a murmuration of starlings, an attractive bit of landscape, the skill of a sheepdog.


And it seems quite impossible for these presenters to resist getting involved with things, having a go at just about anything, demonstrating their disparate talents for all things `country.`  This evening, gushing young lady got involved with orienteering, puffing along trying to convince us that she was a dab hand at it, then she was off swimming with seals off the Farne Islands.   Nothing, it seems, is beyond her and her adenoidal colleague`s ability.  


If only they would let us just see the countryside for what it is, let it speak to us in its own language, by all means explain things that might need explanation but spare us the illusion that the `presenters` are more interesting and inspiring than the very credible grandeur of this sceptred isle.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012


PLEASE, SIR, I WANT SOME MORE..


The latest episode in the Scottish independence `debate` causes some alarm.   I think it was on Thursday when Prime Minister David Cameron (sounds a bit Scottish?) travelled up to Edinburgh for a face to face meeting with Scotland`s First Minister Alex Salmond.

It seems there were a number of main areas for discussion - the date for the referendum;  the question to be put on the ballot paper; whether the `devo-max` option should be included on the ballot paper, whether 16 and 17-years olds would be eligible to vote and so on.   Reports suggest that Cameron might grudgingly accept holding the referendum in 2014 on the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn but there was little or no progress on the other issues.

In the meantime, the House of Lords Constitution Committee chaired by Baroness Jay, have come out and clearly said that the `devo-max` option should not be included on the ballot paper as an alternative to full independence, as to do so could lead to a different tax regime in Scotland and thus would affect the rest of the United Kingdom.   Salmond is insisting that the `devo-max` option should  appear which would provide almost complete independence anyway apart from defence and foreign affairs.

In a strange attempt at bargaining, Cameron has indicated that, if there is a clear `no` vote on the referendum, then he might be prepared to offer even more by way of devolved powers to those already held by the Scottish Parliament, once the referendum is out of the way.  I`m left with the feeling that if he gives yet more ground, then even more will be demanded and there will be no end to Alex Salmond`s ambitions.

It`s all becoming very tiresome, to the point whereby if we in the rest of the UK are given the vote in the referendum on Scottish independence that we deserve - such is the enormity of the issues for all citizens of the UK - then I will happily vote in favour, if for no other reason than to rid ourselves of this meddlesome upstart and his great expectations.

Friday, February 17, 2012


FEELING THE PAIN..

Today was yet another in a long line of turbulent days in the recent history of Portsmouth Football Club.   For the second time in two years they were once more up before the beak in the High Court applying to be placed into Administration.  Given their recent financial track record, it was by no means certain that the judge would grant their request this time, so the sympathy card was played which poured out the club`s heart and revealed the extent of at least some of the club`s debts.

The City Council is owed £78,000, West Brom, Bristol City and other clubs are also owed money, the gas and electricity companies were seeking entry into the club`s crumbling Nottarf Krap `stadium` ready to switch off supplies, the costs of transporting the team for tomorrow`s game at Barnsley were in doubt, countless small business are owed, never mind previous allegedly `fit and proper` owners also claiming £millions and being in debt to the Tax Man to the tune of £2million.

But perhaps the most pathetic attempt at securing administration was the claim that the club could not afford the cost of having a scan on Liam Lawrence`s injured calf.   Now Mr.Lawrence is reputed to `earn` £20,000 a week from Portsmouth and I would have thought that if the club are in such dire straits and if he was at all keen to get his `injury` assessed then he would have been happy to pay for his own scan.

But all this pathetic whining seemed to do the trick as administration was granted and so the club`s bank accounts were unfrozen, albeit with the immediate penalty of ten points being deducted, leaving the club with a bit of a fight against relegation for the rest of the season.  


And whilst Mr. Lawrence might be feeling a little pain from his expensive calf, it will be as nothing compared to that felt by the club`s genuine supporters as they face yet another uncertain future.   It`s exactly the kind of comparison that is rapidly turning the football circus into a pantomime.   Only this one stopped being funny a long time ago.


Thursday, February 16, 2012


ALL YOU NEED IS....

Well, Valentine`s Day came and went and as it`s a leap year I confidently expected to be festooned with gifty things from an adoring Mrs. Snopper,


Sadly nothing happened.  But in the spirit of the day, I went out and bought her a new belt and a new bag for Valentine’s Day.  Hoover’s working much better now…..



Monday, February 13, 2012


LOSING MY RELIGION..

I never thought I would say this but after seven decades of enjoyment from football I find myself becoming more and more disillusioned with our so called national sport.   If anything, the events of the last few days have merely served to confirm it.

I think for me at least it goes back to the beginning of the Premier League, back in the early 90s, when what used to be a sport was transformed into little more than a money making business.   Fans suddenly became customers, invited to enjoy the matchday experience and revel in being identified with the brand in a results driven business.   Now, apart from the obvious bleats I had when Southampton suffered the humiliation of  relegations, administration, a succession of inept managers (including the fans favourite `Arry Redknapp) and some dubious chairmen, the standard of play may generally have improved over the years despite, rather than because of, the massive influx of foreign players into the Premier League.

My gripe, you see, is not about the game itself, it`s more about all the things that go on around it and it`s significant that not one of the bleats I trotted out above is anything to do with the game itself.  Most recently, we`ve had off the field nonsense surrounding Suarez, Tevez, Evra, whether to shake hands or not, John Terry, the Capello/Redknapp diversion and today we learn that Rangers are likely to go in administration, along with Portsmouth who  seem to be  frequent visitors to that course of action.

We`ve had the tiresome antics of the usual suspects - Ferguson, Pulis, Wenger et al - who have become caricatures of what football management should really be about - leadership, setting an example, dignity, restraint and, above all, honesty.   And with the staggering amounts of money involved the gap in perception between the `customers` and the businesses becomes ever wider - reminds me a bit of my relationship with energy companies.

Football at the self-styled `highest level` seems almost Hans Christian Andersen in its fairytale bubble or Alice in Wonderland in its removal from reality.   It has become a pantomime, a farce, an unedifying spectacle and I think I may well have had enough of it.   For more years than I care to remember I have, like Albert Camus, held the conviction that the one true religion might well be football.   After all, it was surely no coincidence that Matthew Le Tissier was known as Le God or that the forces of darkness were lurking in Old Trafford.


But now even I am  beginning to doubt whether my religion will be able to stand the prospect of the Saints  rejoining the ranks of the Premier League.  And I never thought I would ever admit to that either.   I must be getting old!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


IS IT JUST ME ?  PART 3..

The other afternoon, I was out with Barney walking through the snow covered orchards and when I got back to the car I turned the radio on just in time to catch the news.   And what I was hearing made me wonder if I had somehow been transported to a different planet.

First there was the report that the two hoteliers from Marazion in Cornwall had lost their appeal against their conviction on a charge of discrimination when, because of their deeply held religious beliefs, they declined to allow a gay couple to share a room.   So it seems that deeply held christian beliefs in a country that has been predominantly christian for 2,000 years come a poor second to `human rights,` the definition of which is becoming as absurd as that for our old friends health and safety.


Then there was another appeal decision which decreed that local councils cannot include prayers on the agenda for their meetings - yet another slap in the face of another centuries old tradition inflicted by yet another vociferous minority.   The daft thing is that it seems perfectly legal for local councils to say their prayers before meetings so long as they don`t formalise it by putting it on their agendas;  and in any event the introduction of the Government`s localism legislation is likely to mean that local councils can make their own minds up about things like this anyway, so the court case really was a lot of fuss about nothing.


As Harry Redknapp might say, "Should never have been brought to court."  And yet it was only a couple of days ago that we learned of yet another extremist Muslim cleric who shouldn`t be in this country anyway and who cannot be deported as he might be tried in his home country and convicted on evidence that might have been obtained through torture.   So we have to live with this threat on our own streets and doubtless fork out a shedload of benefits to maintain his human rights and lifestyle.


Is it me or are there times when the law really is an ass?   Beam me up, Scotty !!



Thursday, February 09, 2012


IS IT JUST ME ? - PART 2..

It`s almost as if the most important things going on in the world today relate to Harry Redknapp`s acquittal  on charges of tax evasion, Fabio Capello`s resignation as England football manager, whether John Terry will ever play for  England again and whether Redknapp or some other manager will succeed Capello and lead the England team into a glorious future.   


And amid all the sound and fury that seems to be catapulting Redknapp into the poisoned chalice of FA headquarters a few things are perhaps being overlooked.   For example, there were doubts about the way he took over from Billy Bonds as West Ham manager, an episode that caused a distant relationship with West Ham legend Trevor Brooking who is now, as Sir Trevor, the FA`s Director of Football Development.   A role reversal with interesting possibilities.   After seven years at West Ham, Redknapp fell out with his Chairman who was uneasy about Redknapp`s personal involvement in the 134 transfers that took place during that period.


In his management of other clubs it seems pretty clear that his stewardship of Bournemouth led them to the brink of financial meltdown;   when he left Portsmouth they were also in dire financial straits, from which they have never recovered; his short time at Southampton led them to relegation and it is only at Tottenham, where money seems to grow on trees, that any real success has begun to materialise.   But even at Tottenham scarcely a day goes by without a report of the club being `interested` in yet another player and the merry-go-round of Redknapp inspired transfers never seems to stop.   Except when he was at Southampton, where despite the prospect of relegation turning into reality, the chairman at the time would have none of it.


Now,  something that emerged from yesterday`s courtroom acquittal was the business of Mr. Redknapp having a contract at Portsmouth by which he pocketed a percentage of the `added value` of players being sold on at a profit and this makes me wonder whether the England job, where no transfer dealings take place, is as attractive to `Arry as his other jobs have been.   


But in the end, it comes down to what the FA expect of the England manager.   Winning games is important, but so too is the way the manager represents not just the Football Association but also the country.   And my Corinthian mind suggests that we might do a little better than someone with a checkered history and modest success who confesses on oath to be the most disorganised person in the world, can`t write, can`t spell, doesn`t know what an e-mail is and can`t work a computer.


Is it just me, or does anyone else hope the Football Association, admirably led by the urbane David Bernstein, will look elsewhere?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


IS IT JUST ME ?


So yesterday was the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens` birth.   And didn`t we know it with endless references on television and radio, services in Westminster Abbey and other places of worship, a succession of worthies standing up, giving readings and reminding us all just how fantastic Dickens was.   All of which might be true, although I suspect that, like one of this country`s other literary giants Thomas Hardy, another side of Dickens will emerge and disappoint when I get around to reading Claire Tomalin`s Dickens biography.

I guess there are two reasons why I`ve never been a great fan of Dickens and his works.   The first, quite unfairly, is that he was born in Portsmouth although to be fair to that troubled city it`s a bit short of claims to fame.   One might be the fact that Nelson`s flagship, Victory, is permanently parked there along with the Mary Rose - it`s all very nautical you see - and another is its football club, which is really a claim to infamy, so you can`t really blame Portsmouth for going on about Dickens being born there even if he left at the age of two.

The second reason is that, when I was at school back in the dark ages, I was forced to read some of Dickens` stuff, along with Victor Hugo, George Eliot and other rib tickling authors.  Now I hate being forced to do anything and maybe it was that enforcement that made me regard Dickens` novels as dull, boring, heavy going and very contrived.   I didn`t like them much and it`s always been a source of surprise to me that, having been fed on that kind of literary diet, I nevertheless managed to pass English Literature exams.

So they may be they are the reasons why I found little to get excited about with yesterday`s gushing memorials and I whilst I realise I might be in a minority of one, I do wonder if it really is just me.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012


A SPOOKY COINCIDENCE..


A  couple of posts ago, I celebrated the fact that 50 years ago on 4th February my National Service came to an end.   Something happened that reminded me of an episode during my ten weeks `basic training` in Catterick Camp.  (Why does the term `basic training` immediately conjur up visions of dogs being put through their paces?)

Anyway, the episode in question was the fact that, after about four weeks of training, we were given a 48 hour leave.   Now, 48 hours wasn`t long enough in those days for me and some others to even attempt to get home and back in time to avoid the dire consequences of arriving late back in Catterick.   So, I along with a fellow `trainee` - one Graham Pollard who hailed from Preston - decided to hitch hike our way across the north Yorkshire moors and see if we could get to the Lake District.   Togged up in our army gear, we didn`t have too much trouble thumbing lifts and we made it as far as Ambleside, where we found Mrs. Miggins Comfy Guest House for the night.

It seemed to Graham and me that the only thing to do in Ambleside on a Saturday evening was to go to the one and only cinema.   The film was `Carry on Sergeant,` the first in the long line of Carry On films.   It wasn`t great and for us trying to escape our National Service for a few hours it wasn`t in the least bit funny. The Guardian`s London film critic, writing on its release in 1959, called it "one of those insular, quite unpretentious skylarks which not infrequently turn out to be goldmines."   He was more easily pleased than we were, especially as our National Service up to that point was anything but an unpretentious skylark.

Next morning we said goodbye to Mrs. Miggins and, fortified by her full English, we began to thumb our way back to Catterick.   Only this time, lifts were few and far between, so Graham rang his Dad in Preston who came and picked us up, treated us to a sumptuous meal in Sedburgh and got us back to camp in time.

And the spooky coincidence?   Well, just a couple of days ago Channel 4 showed....`Carry On Sergeant.`   In the 50 years since I last saw it, it was even less funny than when I saw it in Ambleside, but maybe it was just the memories it brought back that dulled my sense of humour.


Monday, February 06, 2012


ODE TO JOY ?

I think it was last Thursday when the European Parliament backed a report calling for the EU logo to be worn on the shirts of teams and individuals competing in sporting contests across Europe.   This would include the England football team being required to have the EU flag emblazoned on their shirts, as illustrated, as would rugby, cricket and other teams.

The report which contained this hare brained notion was `The European Dimension In Sport,` which having been approved by the EU Parliament will now be considered - and no doubt rubber-stamped - by the EU Commission.   Among other recommendations, the report also suggests that the European flag should be flown at major international sporting events `on the EU territory.`   It adds that sports should `consider the idea of having it displayed on the clothing of athletes from Member States alongside with the national flags,` although it is suggested that it should be voluntary and left to Member States and sports organisations to decide.

Well, I just hope that teams representing this country will not be subjected to this nonsense not only because it`s just plain daft but also, if complied with, it is yet another step along the way towards the European Superstate much coveted by our continental friends.   This dream of theirs is once again illustrated by the report`s language when it refers to `events held on EU territory.`  First I`ve heard of the EU having any `territory` but maybe I shouldn`t be surprised, for such is the blind ambition and out of touch presumption of the Brussels bureaucrats.

 Not sure this is what we signed up to when we joined the Common Market all those years ago but it all makes me wonder just how long it will be before we have the spectacle of Wayne Rooney and his chums goose-stepping their way onto the Wembley pitch to the ironic strains of `Ode to Joy.`  

Saturday, February 04, 2012


GOODBYE TO ALL THAT..

The picture above shows the entrance to Barker Barracks just outside Paderborn in Germany - BFPO 16 it was when I was there.   The forbidding building is just one of a number of barrack blocks where I spent the vast majority of my 731 days of National Service.

But today is a special day for me, as I celebrate the fact that it was 50 years ago today that I finally said goodbye to all that, my conscripted service to crown and country at last at an end.   The funny thing is that, whilst I will never forget the day long journey that took me to Catterick Camp on 4th February 1960, I can`t recall much about the day long journey that took me away from BFPO 16 and returned me back to civilian life on 4th February 1962.   It might have been the remnants of an extended demob party that blurs my memory or the simple euphoria of recapturing my identity after relinquishing it to two years of good order and military discipline.

What I do remember very clearly is the `exit interview` I had the day before with the regiment`s commanding officer - an impressive and imposing colonel, who offered a number of inducements for me to sign on and become a regular soldier rather than a grudging conscript.   For a fleeting second I may have been tempted by prospects of promotion and a life of ordered regularity but then it dawned on me that the fragrant Mrs. Snopper was waiting for me in her idyllic Kentish village, along with the inviting prospect of controlling my own destiny rather than have the army control it for me. 

So I declined gracefully but with genuine gratitude for the experiences I had had - some memorably good, some indescribably awful - the fortitude and resilience I had been forced to develop, the skills I had learnt and the friends I had made and would genuinely regret leaving behind.

What had started out with ten weeks of humiliating misery in the wilds of north Yorkshire had mellowed into being  an almost agreeable routine in the depths of Germany - almost, but not quite.   Did I have any regrets about it all?   Well, I suppose I resented the conscription, especially those first few weeks of verbal abuse, pointless tasks and humiliating oppression but, having shrugged my shoulders and accepted that I had to do it, I found the National Service experience that I left 50 years ago today, was one never to be forgotten.   If it had not been memorable, I wouldn`t have written this on today of all days.

Thursday, February 02, 2012


A MATTER OF CONVENIENCE ?


There`s an old saying that `justice delayed is justice denied` and so questions have rightly been asked following the decision to delay England captain John Terry`s court appearance on a charge of racial abuse against Queens Park Rangers` defender Anton Ferdinand until 9th July - just after the final of this year`s European Championships. The most pertinent question is why the delay?

Now of course there must be a presumption of innocence until proven guilty and although on the one hand the delay may be seen as convenient for Mr. Terry, it has put the Football Association in a difficult position.   It`s all very well Mr. Terry insisting that he will not relinquish the England captaincy, as this might be seen as an admission of guilt, but the FA may feel that retaining him as captain might be so `sensitive` that they feel they should relinquish it for him by suspending him until his trial is over.   Either way, it`s fraught with difficulties and repercussions.

Surely the sensible thing would be to press for an earlier trial date so that the matter can be resolved without further delay.   That way, everyone will know the verdict well in advance of the Championships and either adjustments will have to be made to the England line-up or Mr. Terry can go into the fray with the shadow of uncertainty lifted from his shoulders.   I would have thought that even he, or even especially he,  would want the matter cleared up as soon as possible.

Football is having a bad enough press as it is without the wheels of justice grinding so slowly as to encourage conspiracy theories concerning the convenience or otherwise of this delay.   As things stand, it doesn`t look right and things that don`t look right seldom are.


UPDATE : Last night I included this in the piece above:-
`the FA may feel that retaining him as captain might be so `sensitive` that they feel they should relinquish it for him.....`
Seemed to work a treat !!


Wednesday, February 01, 2012


ASK A SILLY QUESTION..


Prime Minister`s Questions should really be about concentrating on the most urgent, pressing and important issues facing the country - the economy, the Eurozone crisis, relationships with European `partners,` the Falklands question, the threat posed by Iran, the plight of the growing number of unemployed, care for the elderly, the state of the NHS and so on.   Now to be fair, some of these issues were touched on today but it took an intervention from Portsmouth North MP, Penny Mordaunt, to demonstrate once again the Commons` collective penchant for trivialisation.

Her prepared and rehearsed exchange with Prime Minister David Cameron went like this:-

Penny Mordaunt : "If a local supermarket closes down another quickly opens and takes its place.   If Portsmouth Football Club closes down the Pompey fans will not be content with buying their season tickets from Southampton.   Will the Prime Minister add his voice to mine in calling for Her Majesty`s Revenue and Customs to meet with the club so it recoups the taxes it is owed, so that our club survives and that the fans have their chance to become its owner?"
Mr Cameron replied: "I will certainly do that and I think she's absolutely right to raise this issue.   Knowing one or two Pompey fans I can certainly understand the idea that they could go and support Southampton is completely incredible and we must do everything we can to keep this friendly rivalry going."Now you might be forgiven for thinking that this is just a bit of local politicing by the fragrant Ms. Mordaunt, ever keen to show her constituents that she`s on their side.   But here we have a football club who have already been in administration with debts of £20million, a new company formed just two years ago from the ashes of that experience, a succession of highly unfit and clearly improper owners, a club that spent money it didn`t have on players it couldn`t afford and whose parent company went into administration just two months ago.HMRC have been remarkably patient in attempting to recover the £1.6million it is owed in unpaid taxes and so they have issued the club with a Winding Up Petition to be heard in court in three weeks time.   I think it`s time the Penny Mordaunts of this world realised that professional football clubs are not special cases - they are businesses with responsibilities and liabilities to be met just like any other business - and that to clutter up PMQs with plaintive cries to get the Prime Minister involved in lost causes shows a  worrying disregard for the real problems facing her constituents - like the 3,000 job losses in Portsmouth Dockyard.But Cameron`s right about one thing - the notion that Portsmouth fans would ever switch their allegiance to the Saints is not only incredible but laughingly so.   But I wonder who told him that the rivalry is `friendly.`