Sunday, April 29, 2012

IF CARLSBERG DID PITCH INVASIONS... would probably look like this.   These were the ecstatic scenes at St, Mary`s yesterday following Southampton`s 4-0 win over Coventry City, thus confirming the Saints` return to the Premier League after a seven year absence.

Late on Friday evening, I had a phone call from a mystery benefactor who wanted to know if he would see me at St. Mary`s on Saturday.   I explained that all my attempts to get a ticket for the game had failed, whereupon he offered me one, which of course I accepted with grateful thanks.   And so yesterday morning I had an early start to get down to Southampton in time to meet up with this stalwart of my Codger Crew and take my seat among the biggest ever crowd in Southampton`s 127 year history of 32,363 for the 12.30 kick-off.   Actually, it was less like a crowd, more a tribal gathering.

The convincing win, the confirmation of promotion and all the resulting jubilation were even sweeter as they came at the end of those seven years in the wilderness, with relegations, administration, dire straits and all.   And so now the big league awaits and with it the return of anxieties and concerns about the ability of the club to survive alongside the mega-millions, the mega-mercenaries and the mega-egos that inhabit the Barclay's Premier League.  And yet......

And yet, it`s worth reflecting on the fact that Saints` manager Nigel Adkins, one time manager of Bangor City, one time goalkeeper for Wigan and one time physio before managing Scunthorpe, has now achieved two promotions for Saints in successive seasons with his unique mixture of infectious enthusiasm and restrained determination.   Last weekend, Reading won the Championship title under the equally restrained Brian McDermott and two of last year`s teams promoted to the Premier League - Norwich City and Swansea City - have flourished under the quietly determined Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers.

So we may be seeing the beginnings of a shift in Premier League management style, from one of gum-chewing, barking, ranting, obscenity-driven megalomania to one which is calmer, more studiously controlled but nonetheless equally determined.  I can but hope and I know which I prefer.

Friday, April 27, 2012


It`s not turning out to be a good month.   Three weeks ago, we went to the funeral of a good, close friend who lived just up the road and who was the same age as me.   He had been through too much suffering with serious illness and although he seemed to be on the road to recovery, the stresses and strains of the months of treatment and medication became too much for him to overcome.   He is sadly missed.

And today, another untimely passing of someone I had known since his school days.   He spent most of his adult life in the service of the local community, unfailingly guiding the affairs of the local council with his sharp mind, his determination and his willingness to help so many people.   Like our other friend, he also suffered the restrictions and inconveniences of long term illness but his community spirit never faltered and it was fitting that he was awarded the OBE in recognition of his lifetime of service to our community.

Given his local standing, the tributes to him will be many and they will be heartfelt, genuine and sincere.   He too will be sadly missed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


As the sporting world already knows, it was in the 37th minute of last night`s Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona, that Chelsea captain John Terry decided to plant his knee in the back of Barcelona`s Alexis Sanchez.   As a result, Terry was rightly sent off and his team then had to play for the remaining 50 minutes without JT - CAPTAIN  LEADER  LEGEND, as emblazoned on Chelsea`s home ground of Stamford Bridge.   

Somehow, thanks to a combination of Barcelona profligacy including missed penalty, post hit, goal disallowed for offside but also some heroic defending and gritty determination, Chelsea won through to the final where they will meet either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.   So, congratulations to Chelsea on their remarkable achievement but now they face the final without the services of four of their regular players including, of course, the dismissed captain, leader and legend.

Now, Mr. Terry has form, going as far back as September 2001, when he and three team mates were fined two weeks wages by Chelsea for an incident with American tourists at Heathrow airport bar in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York.   Two months later he was fined for parking his Bentley in a disabled parking bay.  In 2009 there was the investigation into allegations that Terry had taken money for a private tour of Chelsea`s training ground, subsequently dismissed by the club.

Then there was the super-injunction, subsequently lifted, concerning Terry`s affair with the then girlfriend of his former Chelsea and England team mate, Wayne Bridge, the upshot of which saw Terry being dropped from the England captaincy for a year.   More recently there have been the allegations of racial abuse directed towards Anton Ferdinand in a game against Queens Park Rangers late last year, which will come to trial in July, in advance of which Terry has entered a plea of not guilty.

Now it`s one thing to have a distinguished playing career with nearly 400 games for Chelsea and over 70 for England but my admittedly outdated Corinthian values suggest that the role of club captain and most certainly captain of the national team demand a certain degree of responsibility and an example to be set for others.   Perhaps Terry`s petulantly sly assault on Senor Sanchez last evening might finally encourage his club and country to look elsewhere for their inspiration and for the Stamford Bridge stadium director to come up with a new banner.   Maybe something like `JT - BULLY - THUG  -PILLOCK -` might fit the bill. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


A well worn phrase if ever there was one....but where did it come from?   Well, it seems to have its roots in horse-racing around the end of the 19th century.   Back then, if a race was very close and the horses were neck and neck crossing the finish line it was difficult to tell which had crossed the line first.   No cameras, no action replays, so a wire was used which was hung across the track above the finishing line allowing people to see which horse had won the race.

And it looks as if we have a close finish to the Championship season.  Following West Ham`s 2-1 win at Leicester last night, it all comes down to the last games of the season on Saturday to decide whether West Ham or Southampton will join Reading in automatic promotion to the Premier League.   As things stand, the Saints are two points ahead of West Ham and have a three goal advantage in goal difference.   The Saints are at home to relegated Coventry City, West Ham are at home to Hull City.   A win for the Saints or even a draw provided West Ham don`t win by four clear goals, will see them through.   And yet....

And yet, it`s a funny old game.   Anything can happen, it`s a game of two halves, the fat lady is warming up and it`s going down to the wire.   Whichever team finishes in third place will be consigned to the lottery of the play-offs - somewhere else where anything can happen and where another strand of wire will be on show, so Saturday`s games will determine either the glittering prize or another round of bum squeaking uncertainty.

But is the prize as glittering as it appears?   Seven years ago, the Saints ended their 27-year run in the top flight of English football and now we are so close to returning there.   I should be over the moon, of course, but I suspect some parrot sickness may descend if we again have to struggle to survive, again have to contend with the impossible Ferguson, the myopic Wenger, the incessant Sky coverage (earlier in the week I signed an on-line petition urging Sky not to televise Saturday`s game.....only to discover that the BBC are televising it instead thus encouraging my heroes to have another bout of stage fright,) and all the other paraphernalia and razzmatazz that goes with the Premier League product.  Us fans will once again become customers enjoying the match-day experience in a results driven business.

A day or two ago, a sagely Saints fan mentioned that the ideal conclusion to the season would be for Saints to win the Championship, but be allowed to stay there.  I`m not sure I disagree.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


The situation in Bahrain is undeniably serious.   And the problem we have as outsiders is to understand what really lies behind the turmoil.   On one level it might appear simply as a downtrodden population demonstrating their desire for democracy against an oppressive ruling elite, in tune with the rest of the `Arab Spring.`    Or is there more to it than that?  Could it be that, in reality, it is a seemingly internal conflict between the Shiite majority against the minority Sunni government, or even a vicarious struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, played out on neutral territory?   

Whatever the truth, it`s a disturbing situation made even more disturbing by the arrival of Bernie Ecclestone and his travelling circus.   And I think we all know that his insistence that the Bahrain Grand Prix goes ahead tomorrow is down to the contracts he has made with sponsors, television companies, advertisers and the like.  And for the Bahrain ruling royal family, it might just provide a statement that all is well with their world and that there are no safety issues that should concern the travelling circus or their supporters - after all, even Yates of the Yard has said it`s OK.

And so the question as to whether the Grand Prix should go ahead has, with one or two exceptions, only been in the minds of those not directly involved with Formula One.   And there have been fairly widespread calls for it to be cancelled, for all kinds of reasons including political opportunism.   As for me, I agree it should be cancelled, not for any high minded reason but simply because of my conviction that Formula One is the noisiest, smelliest, most environmentally hostile, tedious procession of advertisements it`s possible to imagine.

I don`t know why, but I`m left with the feeling that Bahrain and Bernie Ecclestone   might just deserve  each other.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Yesterday there were yet more fanfares as it marked 100 days until the Olympic Games begin in London.   And for the occasion, we had the announcement of the `Olympic Slogan` - "Inspire a Generation" - very inspiring!   We also had the unveiling of the floral Olympic Rings at Kew Gardens, which I`m sure look very nice but can only really be seen from a plane on an approach path to Heathrow.

Now I don`t know about you, but I`m getting a bit fed up with the Olympics already even at the distance of 99 days now from when it all kicks off.   I`m not so much fed up with the Olympic Games - a wonderful tradition going back to ancient Greece - but more with all the stuff that goes on around it.   The elusive `legacy,` the pretentious `art` events, the daft logo, the razzmatazz, the hullabaloo, the privileges of the usual suspects, the nonsensical notion that as the Games will be held in London then the rest of the UK will benefit, the tacky `merchandise`....and so on.

As to the success of our competitors at the myriad events, well of course I wish them well, although I suspect that, like being a Saints fan, it`s always the hope that kills you.   But even if you strip away all the frills, fancies and irrelevancies that surround the competition itself, the original concept of the Olympic Games went out of the window years ago.   What started off as a contest for running, jumping, throwing things and the odd bit of pugilism has now become a grotesque parade of just about every `sport` you can imagine, the vast majority of which would never have crossed the minds of the ancient Greeks.

We`ll have the make believe football competition, the pseudo-tennis competition, beach volleyball, taekwondo, BMX bike riding, handball and some even more obscure pastimes.  I suppose, like the Premier League, it`s all about exposure, television audiences, marketing opportunities, advertising - in short, it`s all about the money, especially as it`s costing us UK taxpayers some £11billion.   And as it now seems the fashion for each Olympics to outdo the one that`s just been held, I can see no end to this mad commercial pursuit, masquerading as the Olympic ideal.

The truth, of course, is that the only way to reverse this crazy spiral is for the original Olympic ideal to be resurrected, to go back to a competition which is restricted to running, jumping, throwing things and the odd bit of pugilism and where better to have it than Olympia where it all began all those centuries ago?   After all, whilst  the Greeks are impossibly in debt, the rest of the world should remember it`s indebtedness to them and get back to the basics of what Olympic competition should really be about.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Well, a couple of things really.

The first is the Abu Qatada business.   I just wonder how much it has cost the taxpayers of this country to keep this turbulent cleric and his family for all the years he has been here sponging off the state for all kinds of benefits and legal fees as he has used every legal loophole to avoid deportation back to his native Jordan where he is wanted on terrorist charges going back as far as the millennium `celebrations.`

I was hoping that Home Secretary Theresa May would have stood up in parliament today and told us that, as she spoke, Qatada was on a plane back to Jordan.   Instead - and I do understand the legalities involved here - we have the prospect of yet further delays as yet another appeal procedure opens up before him.   More frustration, more months or even years of delay, vastly more expense.   Now I understand too about Qatada`s `human rights` but do you know what?  I really don`t care about them or him and I think it`s high time he was shunted out of this country.  

But no, we seem determined to go down the laudably moral route of sticking diligently to the law not only of this country but also the European Court of Human Rights.  Instead, maybe just for once we should actually do something - stick him on a plane and live with the legal consequences - utilising the old hackneyed management phrase, "For God`s sake do something...even if you just say `goodbye.`".   

On the more serious issue of Afghanistan, I read with dismay the reports that the Taliban are stoking up the heat of battle again with their concentrated targeting of western embassies, government offices and military bases in and around Kabul, leaving Afghan President Karzai to complain - yes, complain - that western intelligence, especially NATO,  isn`t doing enough to stop this kind of thing happening.

In much the same way as Abu Quatada`s stay in this country must surely be unsustainable, the  mission in Afghanistan, despite the  US military assurances, will eventually prove  unsustainable in the long run.  The UK has so far lost 408 military personnel in this conflict and I can but imagine the feelings of their families and friends as they must surely wonder why their loved ones have been taken from them in what seems a fruitless adventure accompanied by no thanks whatsoever from the head of the country for which they gave their lives.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Snopper Street is pleased to announce that it`s silverware time for our fleet footed wideman Scott Wagstaff who was part of the Charlton team that clinched promotion from League One to the Championship, following their narrow 1-0 win over Carlisle United yesterday.

A fitting reward, not just for the excellent season Charlton have enjoyed but also for returning triumphant from the 700 mile round trip to the northern outpost in Cumbria.   So, Scott and his chums can look forward to a Football League medal, although whether it will be a winners or runners-up medal has yet to be mathematically decided, although it`s almost certain to be the former.

Now Scott shouldn`t run away with the idea that he`s the only one in the street to have been a footy medal winner.  Oh, no.   First, I have my suspicions that my svelte neighbour, Mr. Slightly, is no mean athlete and in his time he surely must have gathered some silverware.   And then there`s me, of course.   I can boast a clutch of medals, for example a runners-up medal in the Maidstone and District Football League Division 3B (really Division 7) in about 1963.   

I also boast another runners-up medal from about 1958, whilst playing as a midfield dynamo with a good engine and an eye for a pass for Platt reserves in the Sevenoaks and District, err, Reserve Division.   These triumphs, along with a few I picked up for refereeing whilst coincidentally acting as Referees Secretary to another local league, make for a litany of success.

And so, whilst acknowledging that Scotty`s medal might just have been a touch more demanding to win, nevertheless I extend hearty congratulations to him and his team mates and hope there will be many more to come.  As he now adds to the the Snopper Street collection, surely no other street (at least here in Dibley) can boast such a haul of silverware from such an array of talent.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012


It`s been an odd 24 hours in the life of a Saints fan.  Last night, Saints were  beaten by in-form Reading 3-1 at St. Mary`s which put the Royals at the top of the table for the first time this season thus demoting the Saints back to second.  It`s the case that the Saints haven`t been out of the two automatic promotion places all season.   And yet.....

And yet today their nearest rivals for that second automatic spot, West Ham, inexplicably beat Brighton 6-0 to reduce Saints` goal difference over West Ham to just three goals.   With three games to go, how come a team that has dominated the Championship for so long now find themselves under pressure to secure that second automatic place?

Well, I put it down to stage fright.   The Saints have been on television quite a lot this season - both BBC but mostly Sky and each time the result has been found wanting.   Just recently, a 3-0 away defeat at Blackpool was, frankly, embarrassing.   This was followed by a barnstorming game against Portsmouth which ended in a disappointing 2-2 draw.   Last night`s defeat to Reading was also televised and it really does seem that the glare of the television cameras affects the team`s performance.   Trouble is, one of the remaining three games - away at Middlesbrough - will also be televised and we probably need to win all three to be sure of automatic promotion.

So, another fraught couple of weeks lie ahead, but all we can do is "live in the here and now, put yesterday`s result to bed, control the controllables and move on to London Road, Peterborough on Tuesday evening."   Well, that was manager Nigel Adkins` positive message last evening.  

Easy for him to say.  But all the time, I remind myself that the default condition of being a Saints fan is one of constant anxiety mixed with an expectation that fate will intervene to ensure that the worst will happen, leaving us all in a state of almost permanent bewilderment.   In two weeks time, we`ll know the outcome of it all but if all the world truly is a stage and all the men and women merely players, then I hope at least the Saints players will get over their debilitating stage fright.

NURSE!  Pas the Sal Volatile!!

Friday, April 13, 2012


I don`t think I`ll be accused of perverting the course of justice by writing this because, in one of the most horrendous cases I`ve ever heard, the accused had already pleaded guilty before today`s hearing in Truro Crown Court.   33-year old Shane Jenkin of Hayle in Cornwall admitted grievous bodily harm with intent and he will be sentenced sometime next month.

The scale of the assault he carried out on mother of two, Tina Nash, is scarcely believable, but as well as gouging out both of her eyes, leaving her permanently blinded, Jenkin also broke her jaw and her nose, inflicted a gruesome beating and then leaving her for 12 hours before any help arrived.   These days, we`re in danger of getting used to violence on the streets and in the home but this case simply beggars belief that anyone could be capable of such barbaric behaviour.

Now, we have to wait a few weeks before Jenkin is sentenced and I hope this will not be a case where any semblance of mitigation is even contemplated. I imagine there will be `reports` about Jenkin for the judge to consider but there can surely be no excuse for his actions, such as those that we hear about all too often - deprived upbringing, difficult childhood, social inadequacies and all the usual claptrap that gets trotted out.

This time it`s clear that Jenkin is not the victim of any mitigating circumstances whatsoever, there can be no excuses and his admission of guilt cannot be edged in any  way by namby pamby apologists for his indefensible actions.   If ever there was a case to lock someone up and throw away the keys, this is it. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


This photograph shows the imposing facade of Malcolm`s Hair Studio in nearby Larkfield.   It`s conveniently located between the AutoCraft Garage and Morrison`s supermarket.   And it`s where ace crimper, Chris of Larkfield, plies her trade as my personal stylist.   For years it has been a relaxing venue for letting Chris loose on what`s left of my folically challenged head.

But things are changing, thanks to our friends in the European Union who seem quite unable to resist interfering in all corners of our everyday lives.   They have just issued E-fact 34 - Risk Assessment for Hairdressers - Case Study Branch Codes for Skilled Trades, aka The Dresden Agreement, after the city where it was signed.   These new Directives have been drawn up by the twin forces of the Python-esque EU Coiffeure and UNI Europa Hair and Beauty, which represent employers and workers in that line of business across the EU.

Under the Directive, the crimpers of this world will be banned from wearing high heels, jewellery and watches, they will be required to wear `suitable clothes` and face a limit on the number of `clients` they can see to each day.   And they will be told to have regular `social dialogue to encourage mental well being in the workplace.`   Chris tells me she will also have to wear rubber gloves whilst she is my cutting hair, which sounds a tad dangerous to me.

If these d(r)aft proposals are agreed by the European Commission they will then be submitted to the European Council to become an EU-wide Directive, binding on all 27 states, including the People`s Republic of Larkfield.  Here in the UK, the Department for Work and Pensions confess to being confused by the odd wording of just some of the plans.  For example, the agreement concludes: "To contribute to a healthy and balanced mental environment, the employer shall ensure a careful preparation of work....and work organisation aiming at optimising resource management and preventing emotional collapse."   DWP Officials in Whitehall admit to being `not entirely clear what this means` but suspect it is likely to be used to restrict working times.

A couple of things occur to me about all this.   The first is to ask you to imagine a meeting all those years ago between the `founding fathers` of the EU - those such as Konrad Adenauer of Germany, Jean Monet of France, Alcide De Gasperi of Italy and the rest of that magnificent seven.  As they are thrashing out the meaty bits of the Treaty of Rome, it occurs to them that here is their opportunity to ensure that the hairdressers of Europe will one day be united by a common bond which means they can crimp away unshackled by high heels, jewellery or watches whilst joyfully donning their rubber gloves and engaging in meaningful social dialogue with their captive audience.   Truly, we have much to thank them for.

And finally, as the terror rages in Syria, the conflict in Afghanistan continues to claim young lives and the uncertainties of the Arab Spring remain unresolved, about all of which we have heard not a peep from Baroness Ashton, the £328,000 a year EU High Representative for  Foreign Affairs and Security Policy or her 7,000 strong army of EU bureaucrats.  Maybe that`s just as well;  for it says everything about the EU`s priorities that they are more concerned that Chris of Larkfield and I can have some `social dialogue` than how the real issues of the world might be tackled.

And you wonder why I remain profoundly skeptical about the EU and all its works........especially as I`ll miss the stilettos!

Monday, April 09, 2012

.......I guess it serves me right.   In my last post I reasserted my uncertainty about the existence of an omnipotent being (OB.)   I almost went as far as to suggest that, given all the trouble and strife in this world, it would not surprise me to learn that this world is, in fact, the OB`s draft - the dummy run - the prototype - to sort out all the gremlins in advance of the production model arriving.

But for all of that, it may be spookily significant that nothing but bad news has come my way since my last post.   To begin with, we`ve had a hosepipe ban here in deepest Kent for a week or so due to the drought conditions we`ve experienced for the last few months.   Today it`s bucketing down with rain.   Over the weekend the cricket season started - the harbinger of summer, the sound of leather on willow, country parsons dozing on the boundary and an air of calm which only the truly beautiful game can bring to banish the mayhem of football.   And rain has stopped play.

As for football, things haven`t gone too well there either.   First our street`s hard working pacy flanker Scott ("Buzzin` six pack") Wagstaff, pictured, was sent off in Charlton`s game at Oldham on Saturday for committing the dismissable offence of slipping over on the dodgy Boundary Park pitch.  In the accidental process of falling over he inadvertently tripped up one  of the opposition players, which was treated as violent conduct by card happy referee Trevor Kettle, who this season has officiated in 19 games, shown eight red cards and an astonishing 86 yellows.  Wagstaff, it seems, was just another notch on Kettle`s holster so maybe he should just shrug his shoulders, sit out his one match ban and move on at the end of the day.  To be fair.

My beloved Saints are wobbling as they approach the finishing line in their questionable quest for promotion to the Premier League.   31,737 were at St. Mary`s to see them held to a 2-2 draw against arch rivals Portsmouth, whilst their closest challengers for promotion - Reading and West Ham - both won.   My bum is squeaking a bit as I await the outcome of today`s game at Crystal Palace.

And then there is Manchester United.   A combination of appalling refereeing decisions and gross ineptitude on the part of Manchester City seems to have handed the Premier League title to United once more.   I really don`t know why the title isn`t just handed to Manchester United at the start of each season so we don`t have to go through all this playing games nonsense.   

Some time ago, hidden in the dark recesses of this blog, I once confessed that, invoking the philosophy of Albert Camus,  the one true religion might well be football, that it was no coincidence that Matthew Le Tissier was know as Le God and that the forces of evil were to be found permanently lurking in Old Trafford, Manchester.   I`m not sure I`ve changed my mind but recent events may just confirm  my suspicion that we are living in a prototype world, where things aren`t quite right and where someone named Bubba can win the US Masters.   The OB has his (or her) work cut out sorting out this lot.

Friday, April 06, 2012


Yesterday was Maundy Thursday, another in a long line of quaint English days and it`s the day when the reigning monarch dishes out money - "alms" -  to `deserving senior citizens.`   The coins are distributed in red and white purses, shown above.   The white purse contains currency in the amount of one penny for each year of the Sovereign`s age - this year 86!  The red purse contains regular currency and is given in place of food and clothing.

Now, I`ve been a `senior citizen` for quite a few years now so I was intrigued to find out how the senior citizens are chosen to receive the royal `Maundy Money` and it seems that the whole thing is actually a religious service in the Church of England, held on Maundy Thursday, the day before today - Good Friday.   Years ago, quite reasonably, recipients used to be chosen for their poverty and as such were entitled to receive the Maundy money for life.   These days, predictably enough, new recipients are chosen each year for their service to their churches and their communities, on the recommendation of clergymen of various Christian denominations.

All of which clearly explains how I am continually overlooked, since my religious philosophies do not sit comfortably with the established church.   It`s really quite simple.   Like everyone else, I have no absolute certainty of an omnipotent being but if I eventually get up there and find it`s all true after all, then I`ll be the first to apologise.  And although I may have no problem with the ultimate disclosure of the omnipotent being`s existence, I`m afraid I do have a problem with his (or her) representatives on earth.

And so I guess I will continue to be foiled in matters of the Maundy handout, especially as I struggle with the contradiction of sending `Happy Easter` cards to people when I thought the whole Easter business was about a crucifixion.   How happy is that?

Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


This is a photo I took a few years ago on one of our regular visits to Cadgwith on the Lizard peninsula of Cornwall.   It`s the classic Cadgwith view, looking down from the Todden - the small promontory that separates  Cadgwith`s two tiny beaches - to the fishing beach, onto which the small fleet of inshore boats is drawn up.

I honestly can`t remember the first time we went there - it`s just too long ago - but I do remember how enchanted we were with the tiny cove, the handful of cottages, the one pub, the one shop, the peace and away-from-it-all quiet simplicity and the ease by which we could park the car and wander down a sheltered footpath to the heart of the village.  In our eyes, all those years ago, we had found paradise.   And so we`ve been back again and again and all being well we`ll be there yet again in a few weeks time when we return once more to Cornwall.

Now, over the past few weeks, a series has been on television all about the plight of the inshore fishermen of Cadgwith, their battle with the elements, the vagaries of inshore fishing and the EU quota system which demands that more fish are thrown back in the sea, quite dead, thanks to the crazy EU Common Fisheries Policy.   It`s just possible that, as the television series went out at the same time as the endless soap operas or the equally endless football matches, then maybe its audience has been confined to the more discerning.

But it has been a gripping and informative series, presented by a personable and knowledgeable marine biologist, beautifully filmed and edited and with a serious conclusion that hopefully will not go unnoticed in the halls of Brussels.   There`s a book coming out accompanying the series which deserves to be shown again on BBC One rather than buried away on BBC Two.

Trouble is, all this exposure of Cadgwith, its fishermen and its charms is likely, as with most television and film productions, to result in an increase in the visitors to the location.   It`s true, of course, that like the number of people who can use a  swimming pool is limited by the number of changing lockers or the audience at a theatre is limited by the number of seats, then the number of people who can visit Cadgwith is limited to the size of its car park.   And Cadgwith`s is not very big.   And there`s nowhere else to park.

So we might have a problem making what has become a pilgrimage for us when we go there next month.   I hope not, or our paradise might be finally lost in the welter of attention it might now receive. 

Monday, April 02, 2012


The photo above shows a selection of Chelsea players wearing the now obligatory message-bearing tee shirts, limbering up before their game at Villa Park on Saturday.  Of itself it represents a sympathetic statement of Chelsea`s best wishes to Aston Villa captain, Stillyan Petrov, as he begins his battle with leukemia.   And who could argue with that?

Meanwhile, at Celtic Park, where Petrov played with distinction for a number of years, there were messages from the crowd, a minute`s applause and other forms of good wishes to Petrov as he begins the long road to a hopeful full recovery.   Even FIFA Prersident Sepp Blatter has tweeted his personal good wishes and I`m sure that similar outpourings of goodwill were on show at other grounds around the country.

A couple of weeks ago, we had the unnerving collapse of Bolton midfielder, Fabrice Muamba in a game against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.   Given the circumstances, the game was abandoned and replayed last week and all those responsible at White Hart Lane were rightly commended for the manner in which they dealt with a genuine emergency.  We again saw the obligatory tee shirts and an outpouring of emotional hoping and praying for Muamba`s full recovery which, thankfully, appears to be going well.

But what has struck me about these and other similar incidents is that we are, as a nation, suffering from the creeping malaise which divides those like me who cling ever hopefully to the traditional British virtues of restraint, reserve and resilience;   from those who react to such incidents with sentiment and self indulgence, for whom no tragedy is so small that they cannot resist making it all about them, rather than the victim of the circumstances.

Now of course I hope that Fabrice Muamba, Stillyan Petrov  and their friends and families can come through these troubled times for them and secure a full recovery from these dreadful events.   But there are countless thousands out there who are in the same situation and I see no tee shirts and hear no minute`s applause for them. I should know - I`ve got a funeral of a good friend to endure on Thursday.  

But those countless thousands should know that they too have the best wishes of those of a quieter and more restrained disposition, whilst the more self-indulgent merely await the next opportunity to be part of the drama.


As someone with a pathological fear of snakes, I have long been intrigued by the life of Brusher Mills, pictured above outside his New Forest `home.`   Born in 1840 at Emery Down, near Lyndhurst - the `capital` of the New Forest - Harry `Brusher` Mills came to prominence in his `40s when he moved into an old charcoal burner`s hut on the outskirts of Brockenhurst and it was there that he took up the unusual work of snake catching for a living.

He worked as a snake catcher for about 18 years, during which time he set about ridding local properties of snakes.   No-one knows how many he caught or whether and how often he was bitten but conservative estimates put the total at around 30,000 grass snakes and 4,000 adders - the country`s only poisonous snake.   He is said to have sent some to London Zoo as food for the birds of prey and the cannibalistic hamadryads and was reportedly paid one shilling by a local landowner for each adder he caught.

He also supplemented his income by being paid to sweep the wicket between innings at Balmer Lawn cricket ground and this may account for his nickname of `Brusher.`

But the story has a poignant ending.   There used to be a New Forest tradition of `Squatters Rights,` under which anyone who occupied a home in the Forest for 30 years then became the owner of the land on which the dwelling stood.  Brusher Mills lived in his hut in the Forest for one day short of 30 years and it is truly pathetic to think that just a few hours before the 30 years were complete, he came home to find his hut had been burned to the ground. It broke his heart and he died soon afterwards at the age of 65. 

But he is remembered -revered almost - by a descriptive headstone on his grave in Brockenhurst churchyard, a detail of which is shown above.  He is further remembered by the former Railway Inn in Brockenhurst being renamed The Snakecatcher in his memory.