Wednesday, May 30, 2012


There`s a gentleman in American politics who goes by the name of Newt.   He should live here in Dibley, as my ongoing saga with the Parish Council about newts goes into extra time.  The story so far.   Some years ago now, we were provided with a by-pass.   I was never quite sure why, as we`re an inconsequential one-horse town in the middle of deepest Kent.   My suspicion was that the by-pass was either a `political` project linked to upcoming elections or that Dibley was so unattractive that passing tourists should be diverted away from it.

Anyway, they needed a chunk of land for the by-pass which was taken  from our local woods and, to be fair, a compensatory chunk of land was set aside as replacement for the bit we lost.   Reasonably enough, the `new` area needed a bit of time to get established, so it was fenced off and left in peace.   And then along came the newts.   At the time, a big road construction project was going on at the other end of the county and, as part of the now inescapable environmental impact study, it was discovered that some newts were residing just where the new road was going to go.

To overcome this problem, said newts were transported from there to our own `new` area.   There were some unsubstantiated rumours that these newts were rather special newts and needed to be protected and nurtured in a peaceful environment.    Now I don`t know for sure, but my suspicion is that these were not whizzo, sooper-dooper, hi-tech, state-of-the-art, ocean going, high-end newts - otherwise NewtAid would have been on their case - but rather they were your ordinary, straightforward, up and down, common or garden newts.

All this was years ago and still the `new` area next to our woods is fenced off but there`s not a newt to be seen.   So I`ve suggested to Dibley Parish Council that it`s daft for us to lose a chunk of our woods and be given a compensatory area only for it to be fenced off for years thus denying public access on the spurious notion that some Beckhamesque newts might still be around.

I`m told that the Parish Council, whilst not being in any way newtphobic, are sympathetic to my cause.   But here`s where the dead hand of bureaucracy comes in yet again.   As the compensatory area is still in the ownership of Kent County Council, the issue has been referred to a joint liaison working group who will take their time to come up with an acceptable solution which might satisfy local malcontents like me as well as the newt lobby.

As things stand, I fear the newts might just have their noses in front, but extra time is here and like the other great issues of the day, such as the future of the Eurozone, the outcome remains uncertain.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Tracey Emin`s been in the news again.   This time she`s making an exhibition of herself in her home town of Margate where, in the Turner Contemporary - the art gallery she opened a year ago - she has an exhibition of `new work.`   She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea is her first exhibition there and has been `conceived especially for the town.`

The Director of the Turner Contemporary, one Victoria Pomery, said that most of the work had been produced by Emin in the last eight months and was completely unseen.   So, now we know.   Most of the stuff on show has been knocked up in quick time and if the example shown above is anything to go by, I`m not surprised and it shows.   Where`s a three year old when you need one?

Of course, the art luvvies will love it, as it is a prime example of a load of complete tat masquerading as something deeply meaningful and will thus doubtless fetch a good price among those with more money than sense.   It`s just the latest in a career that has seen Emin produce endless streams of rubbish by which she has amassed an indecent fortune and a  reputation as a `character,` a `personality,` even a `celebrity.`   And all achieved with a charmless persona which of itself could do well in the Turner Prize, for which Emin was astonishingly nominated some time ago.

And now to add insult to injury we learn that Emin is to carry the Olympic Torch through the streets of her beloved Margate, presumably on the basis that she might be the town`s best known product.   Although, in fairness, there is something artistic, almost touching, in the twin imitations of Emin, with her modest skills, and The Torch, with its trumpeted pointlessness, coming together in what must surely be the last resort on the Kent coast.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


At a hearing in the High Court last Friday, Mr. Justice David Richards dismissed the latest attempt by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to have the so-called 'Football Creditors' rule declared unlawful.   In simple terms, the rule ensures that, if and when football clubs become insolvent and go into administration, then the club`s players are assured of their wages being paid in full and any debts to other clubs being honoured whereas other creditors may get only a small fraction of what they are owed.   These other debts often include tax and VAT liabilities, small local businesses, public authorities and local charities.

There have, of course, been recent examples of clubs becoming insolvent and going into administration and not surprisingly HMRC has been pursuing their legal challenge against the rule which sees the very high salaries of players paid in full whilst only a tiny fraction of the tax owing on those salaries has been paid.   Also unsurprisingly, whilst the Judge said that the rule does not break current insolvency law, he referred to it as having been "subject to a good deal of criticism" and that "the Football League (whose rule it is) should not regard the result of this case as an endorsement of its approach to football creditors."

The result is, however, that the Football League are over the moon, leaving the small creditors as sick as parrots and all the while the players, with their often offensive salaries, continue to find themselves first in the queue when a club becomes insolvent.   The ongoing basket case of Portsmouth FC has highlighted the difference between their highest paid players such as Tal Ben Haim reportedly on £36,000 a week being paid whereas the local florist, the local scouts, the St. John Ambulance and local charities are still  owed money.

But the cavalry might be on the hill in the form of Damian Collins MP who proposes to introduce a  Bill in Parliament to make the Football Creditors rule illegal.  One of the principles behind insolvency should surely be that all creditors are treated equally, so I wish him well.   I suspect we may have a long wait though, what with Parliament not sitting very much and anything to do with the law taking ages to settle.   

Friday, May 25, 2012


As a feeble attempt to feel part of the local community, each time we go to Cornwall I always buy the local newspaper, normally the Cornish Guardian and last week`s edition contained an eye catching article about one of our sporting heroes.

Today, another Test Match begins at Trent Bridge, Nottingham and I`m reminded once more of the unforgettable Ashes series - `Botham`s Ashes` - of 1981.   One of the players who took part in that series was the gentleman shown in the photo above.   Chris Old played in 46 Test Matches for England taking 143 wickets and over 1,000 wickets in his distinguished first class career.   He was affectionately known as `Chilly.`  C. Old = cold = chilly.  Geddit? 

He had the good sense to move to Cornwall when his playing days were over and for some years until the recession bit, he ran the Clipper Fish Restaurant at Praa Sands.   These days at the age of 63, as well as maintaining his cricket coaching for youngsters at Falmouth Cricket Club, he is working for 24 hours a week on the checkout at Sainsbury`s Truro supermarket. 

In an age when England cricketers can earn up to £400,000 a year and countless thousands more from sponsorship, endorsements and what have you, it`s worth remembering that Chris was paid just £1300 for a five months tour of Pakistan back in the early `70s.   But he looks happy and contented enough, as should Sainsbury`s to have such a cricketing legend in their ranks.

Well played, Chilly!


Last evening, after a tediously lengthy `adjournment debate` our Members of Parliament broke up for yet another `holiday.`   This time they will be away from the mother of parliaments for 17 days for their Whitsun break.   When they reappear, on Monday 11 June, they will be there for just over a month as the Summer break begins on 17 July.

The Summer break goes on until 3 September and just a few weeks after that they`ll be off again for their conference season.   Now of course, MPs insist they are not `on holiday` because sitting in the House of Commons is only part of the job and they may be right, but the other part of the job seems to comprise meeting their constituents and attending constituency events.   

Sounds real tough, meeting people, going to events and I wonder what the real workers of this country make of all this - the refuse collectors, the shift workers, the agricultural workers, the steel workers and the rest.   But then we`re all in it together.  Aren`t we?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


It`s funny how things get overtaken by other things.   Some months ago there was quite a fuss about the prospects of convicted felons being given the right to vote whilst detained at Her Majesty`s pleasure.   I guess like many others, my immediate reaction was to object, principally on the grounds that if you are a convicted murderer, rapist, fraudster or any of the other menu of crimes for which you may have been incarcerated, then you really should lose not only your freedom but also most if not all of the rights enjoyed by honest citizens.

But yesterday`s `judgement ` by the unelected jurists who make up the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has meant that the issue about old lags having the vote has been overtaken by the much bigger question as to whether sovereign countries should have their laws and the wishes of the majority of their citizens being overridden by this remote and unaccountable outfit.

I hope that our own Parliament will show the backbone needed not only to defy the EU but also refuse to pay the £150million fine if it does not adopt the Court`s ruling within six months.  If not, it will bring into serious doubt the value of voting at all for a `sovereign parliament` whose powers are being diminished with alarming regularity.

On the now narrowing issue of votes for prisoners, I suspect too that it has been overtaken by the precedent set by John (Captain, Leader, Legend) Terry who, by appearing in his Chelsea kit and collecting the Champions League Cup despite being banned from the game, cocked yet another snoot at the football authorities and brought the game into yet more disrepute.   But what`s good enough for Terry must surely be good enough for our prison population.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I like quiet places, away from it all.  Places that are hard to find and really should remain a bit of a secret.   On one of our many coastal walks in Cornwall last week, we came across a hidden gem.   I took the photo above (click on it for a larger image) on our wander back to the car park at St. Anthony`s Head at the very end of the Roseland Peninsula.   The photo shows the view across the meadow and down to Place, which looks out across to St. Mawes.

The hidden gem was the church of St. Anthony in Roseland set deep in the valley, close to Place House, the sprinkling of cottages and the quay where a ferry plies across to St. Mawes (summer only.)   There may well have been a little chapel founded on this site by Celtic missionaries as long ago as the 7th century but the building we see today is essentially a cruciform church of the 13th century with a rather stumpy tower at the west end of the nave.

I confess to having left Mrs. Snopper to look after Barney outside while I explored the interior of the church.   And what a glory it revealed in the crossing where the church`s  four symmetrical arches come together beneath the tower and the spire.   Here`s a photo I took (click again) laying flat on my back looking up at this beautiful, intricate, delicate but immensely strong feature:-

The church has much to commend it, Nickolaus Pevsner thought it `the best example in Cornwall of what a parish church was like in the 12th or 13th centuries.   But so too does the walk we took from St. Anthony Battery around the coast path past Molunan beach, around the headland at Carricknath Point with its sweeping views across Carrick Roads towards Falmouth, the Meneague and St. Mawes and back along the quiet lane to the haven of the Garden Cafe and our patiently waiting car.  

I guess I should have kept this little secret and kept it to ourselves but I`m reminded of the example that once you`ve found the Lost Gardens of Heligan, they`re not lost any more, so enjoy St. Anthony if you can find it....but please do it quietly.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

After a 300-mile drive back from Cornwall yesterday (more on that story later) I finally settled down late in the evening to catch up on world events.  The news bulletins were all about the G8 meeting in Camp David and, setting aside all the usual unconvincing statements from `world leaders,` were noticeable for a couple of things.

The first was the frankly embarrassing line-up on the gym platform which showed said leaders looking desperately awkward and out of place in `casual` clothing.   It was clear that they haven`t a clue how to do `casual` although the one `leader` who seemed not to have bothered too much was Rosa Klebb lookalike German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who looked much the same as she always does.  

But the second was the appearance of the current President of the EU Commission, Jose Manual Barosso and quite what he was doing there at all remains a mystery.   The last time I looked, he did not `lead` any sovereign country and the EU, as an entity, seemed to have no business being either at the table or the gym platform.   

Then I caught the end of the Chelsea/Bayern Munich Champions League Final.   Amid much badge kissing, chest thumping and assorted nationalistic celebration at Chelsea`s unlikely win was the absurd contention that it was the first time in living memory that an English team had beaten the Germans on penalties.......despite only about a third of the the team last night being English.

It would have been nearly half but for the suspension of Chelsea `Captain, Leader, Legend` John Terry.   Now I thought suspension meant being suspended and that modesty and a display of chagrin might have seen Mr. Terry remain in the background and let his team mates enjoy their success which, after all, came despite Mr. Terry`s enforced absence last night and for 53 minutes of the semi-final when his sly assault on his Barcelona opponent gave rise to the suspension.   

Not a bit of it, for you can`t keep a good upstart out of it and there was Terry having the front to appear in full Chelsea strip, mounting the stairs to the posh seats and jointly being presented with the trophy alongside stand-in captain Frankie Lamps.   Once more I wondered what he was doing there and, after all the controversy that surrounds John Terry, whether Joey Baton might be his love child.  

But perhaps my surprise at Terry`s intervention, for his presence represented much of what John Terry is about, grew a little more when I saw in the phalanx of `dignitaries` in the presentation front row none other than our own, our very own Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.   Now not only did I wonder what he was doing there but I suspect he asked himself the same question.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Apologies for absence for the next week or so, as tomorrow morning we start out on the 320 mile journey from here in deepest Kent to the south west coast of Cornwall.   Once again, we`ll be staying in a cottage just 200 yards up the hill from the beautiful Porthcurnick beach,  shown below, close to the peaceful fishing village of Portscatho on the Roseland Peninsula.

After weeks of rain and gloom, we`re hoping for better weather and the forecast for the south west looks just a bit encouraging.   Not that we care too much, as we and Barney will enjoy walking again on some of the spectacular south west coast path - Dodman Point, Nare Head, St. Anthony`s and some more secret coves and beaches as well as a compulsive return visit to Cadgwith down on The Lizard.


Just in case, we`ll take some books - I`ve just started Robert Goddard`s latest `Fault LIne` - which is set in and around St. Austell;  and I`ll also take Tom Fort`s book about the A303, as I`ll be driving down it tomorrow as part of the journey.   I`ve lost count of the number of times I`ve driven the A303 but it still remains possibly my favourite drive.   After all, it takes us away from the madness of the south east to the promised land beyond the Tamar.

Back in a week or so.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


Too often we hear the phrase, `They don`t make `em like that any more.`  Jack Hyams, pictured, died last week at the age of 92.  In his youth he was offered professional cricket and football terms but his father would not allow him to take a career path in cricket.   Instead he waited until after the Second World War when he played professional football for Bradford Park Avenue and took part in a memorable defeat of Arsenal in the FA Cup.

But it was for his cricket that he will be remembered as a legend in the English amateur game, having played for more than 50 clubs, amassing an estimated 130,000 runs including no less than 176 centuries over seven decades of playing.   "Fast bowlers never worried me," he said, "I played at the Oval when I was 68 against a Clive Lloyd X1 and they were a bit annoyed when I walked out without a helmet.  I tried one on once and didn`t like it one bit."

Now as someone who was at the other end of the queue when they were dishing out cricketing talent, I can but admire people like Jack.   And I imagine there are those who would suggest that if he was that good then why didn`t he play county or test match cricket.   I suspect that, like me, he was simply content to play the beautiful game for the fun of it, for they surely don`t make `em like Jack any more.  

Sunday, May 06, 2012


The Noble Lords look baffled and no wonder.   They seem nervous at the prospect of Baroness Uddin returning to their ranks after her 18 months suspension for cheating the taxpayer out of £125,000 when she fiddled her expenses.   As well as the suspension, she was ordered to repay the amount she pocketed after claiming a small flat in downtown Maidstone as her `main residence` rather than her £124 a week Housing Association family home in London.

I`m puzzled as to where she got the cash from to pay back the £125,000 and I don`t know why but I`m left with the suspicion that as the taxpayer stumped up 125 grand in expenses, it might just be that the same cash is being used to repay it.   It`s yet another remarkable example of justice not really being seen to be done especially as in any other walk of life the kind of mischief perpetrated by the ignoble Baroness would lead to dismissal, prosecution and the withdrawal of any title.

But Baroness Uddin somehow escaped the criminal prosecution that befell other peers of the realm caught with their hands in the till - Lord Taylor and Lord Hanningfield, for example - both of whom served jail sentences - and now that her suspension is due to end in a week or so and now that somehow  she has repaid the money, she will be free to attend the Noble Lords` House once more and pick up her taxpayer funded £300 a day allowance.

Well, that`s alright then.   Isn`t it?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Maybe it`s just me (again!)   But most of the country has just had the elections for local councils and the odd Mayor.   Mercifully, for reasons that escape me, we here in Dibley only have local council elections once every four years and so we have avoided the trials that have blighted the rest of the country in the past few weeks.

Now whilst I confess that in a former life I may have had a bit to do with local elections, there are aspects of these events that continue to puzzle me.  As well as the Victoriana of things like poll cards, red tape, sealing wax, black tin boxes and ungodly hours, I have witnessed the change in people when they are either candidates or supporters.   Whereas under normal circumstances they behave, well, normally, once they get to the count on election nights they seem to morph into something quite, well, abnormal.   

They seem to adopt a pose of superiority, assuming  almost a master and servant relationship with those charged with the task of officially conducting the count for them.   Then there are the rosettes, the party colours and the infernal whooping and hollering when they or their candidate has won and their behaviour tends more towards the football terrace than a bastion of the democratic process as they taunt their rivals and play to whatever gallery may be at hand.

It all makes me wonder about their motives and I find it difficult to escape the notion that, with the odd notable exception, they are in serious need of getting as life.   Anyway, in my bumpkinesque political naivete I had always assumed that local councils were about dustbins, food regulations, looking after streets, education and stuff like that whilst all we have heard about and all the electorate seem to have voted for are things for which only the national government is responsible.   And so we have seen hundreds of councillors voted out of office up and down the country, not for any shortcomings on their part but all to do with the fact that people are fed up with the national government and wanted to show their disapproval.  

Maybe they`re right - I`m not sure I wouldn`t have entered a `protest vote` if I had had the chance - but in a lot of ways I`m glad that Dibley has remained untouched by the deluge of political nonsense recently displayed.   On second thoughts, maybe I should just keep calm, stop ranting to myself and get a life of my own.

Thursday, May 03, 2012


Just about three  months ago, I recorded my reservations about the expected appointment of Harry Redknapp as the next England manager and I hoped that the Football Association would take their time, consider the alternatives and get it right rather than get it soon.   Nothing to do with me, I`m sure, but now that Roy Hodgson has been appointed I cannot hide my agreement with the FA`s decision, for all kinds of reasons not least being Hodgson`s more than impressive cv and his dignified bearing which is at least preferable to the market trader image conjured up by Mr. Redknapp.

Another pleasing aspect is that Hodgson`s appointment in many way represents a triumph of modest decency over a baying, clamorous redtop press.   `Arry, you see, is good press - hardly a day goes by without some tantalising snippet coming out of Redknapp land, whereas Hodgson may be too reserved, too `gentlemanly` to provide the tabloids with anything other than considered, measured responses to their incessant demands.  

Already we`ve had the unseemly front page headline in yesterday`s Sun, which was more concerned with Hodgson`s ever so slight speech impediment than ever it was with his appointment.    It`s almost as if they resent the fact that Redknapp has been overlooked and so they might have to work a little harder for their `stories.`

As for Roy Hodgson`s new role, his priorities are clear if a little daunting as he faces his first test, that of selecting the squad for the upcoming European Championships next month.   I suggest he has a nettle to grasp if he is to bring about the cultural change in the England team that has clearly been needed for perhaps too long.   He can make a statement of intent by omitting the likes of the toxic John Terry and filling his squad with players who want to be there, who are proud to wear the shirt and whose behaviour reflects well on their characters and personalities and restores some long lost respect to their profession and their country.   Just like their new manager.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Now that Spring has laughingly and allegedly sprung, an ice cream van has taken to parking outside my house most afternoons, sending out its chimes to entice the local population.   Now, last week I had to go to the doc for a regular blood test to see if my cholesterol was OK, along with the proper functioning of certain vital organs.   

I had the results today which were that everything is "satisfactory," especially the cholesterol which currently stands at 4.1.   So I might just treat myself to one of Mister Snippy`s jumbo cornets with the advertised free nuts and sprinkles, although I`m wondering if my cholesterol isn`t perhaps a shade too low, in which case I might be able to go for the one sprinkled with clotted cream and a smearing of lard.

After all, if a certain pacy flanker who plies his trade for an un-named League One championship winning team can join the queue to indulge in what Mister Snippy has to offer, then so can I.   But I do wonder what a certain anonymous south-east London football club`s nutritionist would make of their hard working wideman`s dietary peccadilloes.

Well, I won`t tell him if you won`t.