Monday, July 30, 2012

A CURE FOR ALL ILLS ?..

There was an almost unnoticed ritual played out during the opening of the London Olympics the other evening.   It was when, amidst all the glorious pandemonium, `representatives` of the officials, the coaches and the athletes all took the Olympic Oath.  On behalf of all the athletes at the Games, British Taekwondo competitor Sarah Stevenson solemnly took the oath, which goes like this:-

"In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams."

All good stuff.  And so it was with just a hint of irony that the first gold medal of London 2012 went not to local hero Mark Cavendish in the road race but to a cyclist who had previously been found guilty of taking drugs.   This morning, there are whispers of incredulity about the extraordinary performance of a 16-year old Chinese swimmer.   Now both of these examples are, I`m sure, entirely without foundation, but it`s only Day Three and already the sceptre of performance enhancing drugs is beginning to stir in the background.

Here`s a suggestion.   If any competitor is found to have taken drugs, in flagrant disregard of the Olympic Oath, then rather than disqualifying that competitor, just ban the whole of that country`s competitors from taking part in the rest the Games.  That`ll teach `em. (I wonder if there`s an Olympic competition for spotting pigs flying?)


Saturday, July 28, 2012

AT LAST..

Being something of a curmudgeonly old cynic, I was quite prepared to be disappointed with the opening ceremony for the London Olympics.   I wasn`t sure I wanted to watch it, suspecting there might be something more rewarding on another tv channel somewhere.

But from the moment it started until the very end, I was captivated.   Not just the scale of the thing but the bravery, the invention, the sheer courage to even attempt some of the sequences.   Now, there`s no point in going into detail here - it`s been done to death elsewhere - but I think there are just a couple of things worth saying.

The first is that I enjoyed it for its Britishness - quirky, self-deprecating, with a mixture of pride, humour and self-assurance - and if there are corners of the world that didn`t get it, were a bit baffled by it all, then too bad.   For it was an occasion for us and, my, didn`t we enjoy it?   Of course there have been some quasi-intellectual grumbles about what was included and what wasnt and some daft Tory MP has even gone so far as to complain that it was too `leftie.`   He misses the point - this was not a political extravaganza, but a celebration of what we were, what we are and what we might become.  OK, we might have been spared the sadness of seeing Muhammad Ali and the ritual inclusion of David Beckham but, that apart, It made me feel that, at last, we might just have stopped apologising to the world, for such was the confidence on show last evening.


The lighting of the cauldron was quite simply a work of genius and should have been the final act in a memorable evening, for it just doesn`t get any better than that.  Pity it wasn`t, as Sir Paul seems these days to be perilously close to no longer doing justice to his own towering talent and perhaps no longer matching occasions such as this. 


But I loved it.  So there!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

JOURNEYS..

To Kensal Green Cemetery in north London yesterday to attend a very special occasion.  150 years ago yesterday, John McDouall Stuart and his Companions finally completed the first overland crossing from South Australia to the north of the continent, returning safely after no less than five attempts.   In doing so, they blazed the  trail for the overland telegraph - linking Australia to the rest of the world - and also the route of the Stuart Highway.   So there were quite properly events to mark this remarkable achievement not only at Stuart`s grave in London but also in Adelaide and at Point Stuart in the Northern Territory.

After his death in 1866 at the age of just 50, Stuart was buried here in Kensal Green and there are also memorials to him in his home village of Dysart in Scotland, in South Australia and other locations throughout the route of his various expeditions.   The memorial in Kensal Green is, as shown in my picture, an impressive tribute to an impressive man and along time hero of mine, but during World War 2, the needle was destroyed and it has taken much time, effort and expense from a number of individuals and organizations to restore the grave to its original condition.  
 
(Inscription on Stuart`s memorial - click on picture for larger image)

Yesterday`s ceremony was therefore also to mark the restoration at a significant and timely anniversary and it was pleasingly appropriate that Stuart`s needle is once more pointing skyward, pointing up to Heaven.   I was privileged to be there in the company of not only admirers, like myself, of Stuart and his achievements but also to meet direct descendants of Stuart and some of his companions, the Australian High Commissioner and other dignitaries.  

It was a particular pleasure to finally meet the sister of my Adelaide correspondent, both of whom are direct descendants of F.G. Waterhouse, one of Stuart`s Companions;  her journey of 13,000 miles making my own `reservations` about London, the heat of summer and the Olympics mayhem seem trivial.   When I think of her journey and those heroic journeys of the man we were there to honour, I think it`s time I stopped grumbling about South Eastern trains and the London Underground. 


For much, much more on John McDouall Stuart, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McDouall_Stuart


(Footnote : Kensal Green is no ordinary cemetery.  It covers 72 acres, has over 65,000 burials and includes those such as Brunel, Wilkie Collins, Harold Pinter, Trollope, Sir Terrence Rattigan and those cremated here include Freddie Mercury and Ingrid Bergman.  Stuart is in good company.   For more please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensal_Green_Cemetery.)


Tuesday, July 24, 2012


....AND THEY WONDER WHY..


So, Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has announced that he `would consider` selection for the England national team once again.   Having asked not to be considered for selection for the recent European Championships, Carrick `has not ruled out` a return to the England set-up.

"I`ve had no contact from Roy Hodgson (the England manager) so it would be wrong of me at this stage to make a decision either way," said Carrick, "but I would consider it, definitely."   Now it strikes me that the business of selection for the national team lies exclusively in the hands of Roy Hodgson, rather than for players to `consider` whether they would like to be part of the England squad.

But Carrick`s statement holds no surprises, for it encapsulates much of the arrogance displayed by Manchester United, their impossible manager and many of their players, Carrick included.   And they wonder why they are held in deep contempt and why those, like me, are turning their backs on the Premier League and all the excess and arrogance that it represents.


Sunday, July 22, 2012


NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH..


I suspect I may be in trouble with my neighbour, Mr. Slightly, the well known Gillingham devotee.   You see, my own club, Southampton, have just inflicted something of a double whammy on the Gills, which could well lead a degree of neighbourly strife.  

The story goes like this...... but first let me rewind a few years to the medieval days when the Saints were themselves floundering in the lower reaches of the football pyramid and when George Burley was manager.   Try as we might we couldn`t shake off the inevitability of failure to return to the Premier League and a rapid decline towards Administration and relegation.   Out of the blue, those who ran Scottish football at the time were in search of a manager for the Scotland national team and they set their sights on George.   We Saints fans could hardly believe our good fortune that not only were we saying goodbye to Mr. Burley but also that the Scottish Football Association were paying a hefty chunk of compensation for taking him off our hands.

Now in similar vein, Saints have managed yet another management coup in signing one goalkeeper and loaning out another.   The signing is Gillingham`s Argentinian custodian Paulo Gazzaniga and in return Saints have loaned Tommy Forecast to Gillingham for the season.   We are pleased to get Gazza but equally pleased to provide Forecast with another opportunity away from the red and white heat of St. Mary`s.   


Forecast came to Southampton on a four-year contract at an attractive salary as part of the deal that saw Gareth Bale move from St. Mary`s to Tottenham.   During his time at Spurs, he failed to make a first team appearance and, in truth, has failed to make a first team appearance for Southampton during the past three years.   He has been out on loan at Grimsby, Eastbourne Borough, Bromley and Thurrock and has amassed a total of 22 appearances between his visits to those clubs.   


He made his full professional début for Grimsby in a 4-0 defeat against Crewe Alexandra, a performance which prompted the Crewe Chronicle to describe his début as "one of the most shockingly inept displays the Football League has ever seen" and thereafter saddling Forecast with the soubriquet `Tommy Fourpast.`   His loan spell at Grimsby was thus cut short and he spent most of his time at the other clubs warming their respective benches.


So you can see why I have a tinge of guilt towards my good friend next door and the rest of the Gillingham faithful, for it`s one thing to snaffle their highly promising and talented goalkeeper but quite another for them to be lumbered with Mr. Fourpast in return.    Pity we couldn`t have unloaded him on to Portsmouth.


Friday, July 20, 2012


TOUR DE FORCE..

Barring a calamity of biblical proportions, Bradley Wiggins is set fair to become the first Briton to win the Tour de France when the gruelling three-weeks, 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) event reaches its climax along the Champs-Elysées in Paris on Sunday.

Now in recent times, Britain has been gaining something of a reputation  in the world of cycling - Sir Chris Hoy, Chris Boardman, Victoria Pendleton, Mark Cavendish and others have won medals - and going back in time, there have been notable performers in Le Tour such as Brian Robinson (Le Sage) becoming the first Briton to win a Tour stage back in the 1950s and Tommy Simpson, who died of exhaustion on the slopes of Mont Ventoux during the 13th stage of the 1967 Tour.

The post mortem on Simpson found that he had taken a combination of drugs which proved fatal when combined with the heat and the hard climb of the Ventoux and it would be foolish to ignore Le Tour`s unfortunate history of drug abuse.   Nevertheless the event does seem to represent the ultimate test of endeavour in the sporting calendar.

So, for us Brits, Sunday could well be a day to celebrate a remarkable achievement by a remarkable man if, as expected, Wiggins is crowned the winner without any help from Boots or Lloyds Pharmacy.   But it will not just be the winning that will be celebrated.   It will also be a triumph of sportsmanship as we recall the events a few days ago when, following mass punctures brought about by random tack scattering, Wiggins deliberately held up the Peloton so that those riders who had been victims of the tack attack could rejoin the race.

It`s not surprising that such gestures of sporting integrity are remembered - Paulo de Canio refusing to score in the open goal as the opposition goalkeeper lay injured on the ground;  Keith Miller in 1948 raising his bat from the first straight ball he received so as to dissociate himself from the meaningless carnage of the Australian cricketers scoring 721 in a day against Essex - and as well as winning Le Tour, Wiggins should go down in the history of sport as one of the true sportsmen.

It`s often said that Britain is really only any good at sports that involve sitting down - rowing, horse riding, sailing, that kind of thing - and whilst cycling may be one of those sports, surely Wiggins` triumph will represent the ultimate sporting achievement in a quite outstanding sporting year. 

Arise, Sir Bradley!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I`VE TRIED, MY GOD I`VE TRIED..

Roll up, roll up!!   The day after tomorrow the Coca~Cola, Bank of Scotland, Samsung Olympic Torch relay scuttles through this part of Kent and we are being encouraged to turn out and see it.   Well, I`ve tried, my God I`ve tried, but I just can`t get any enthusiasm for it.   I just can`t see the attraction of turning out to stand at the roadside to catch a fleeting glimpse of a bit of flame on a fancy stick.

Maybe it would be a little more attractive if the bit of flame was actually the one sparked off by the Vestal Virgins back in Greece a few weeks ago.  But it`s not.   It keeps going out and has had to be replaced by a stunt flame - a body double - ignited not by rubbing two boy scouts together but, I imagine, by some attendant getting out his Ronson.  

Today the torch has wended its way through bits of Sussex and quite a bit of Kent  including a nine mile stretch in a tunnel, going aboard a boat and finally docking in Dover for the night.   Its passage has been the main item of local radio and television news with a succession of gushing presenters becoming positively orgasmic.   My strong suspicion is that an edict has come down from on high for the media to whip up enthusiasm for this bizarre spectacle, resulting in masses of people displaying extraordinary excitement whilst leaving the more discerning of us to see through the façade of commercially driven faux significance.

It gets worse.   Tomorrow, the relay goes through Margate and guess who is among the torch bearers?   Yes, you`ve got it, none other than the seemingly inescapable Tracey Emin, `artist` extradordinaire (have you seen some of her extraordinary efforts?) and the only vaguely famous person ever to emerge from Margate.   

I think they got it right back in 1948, when the relay was simply that - a proper relay of runners from local athletic clubs passing the baton between them all the way from Dover to London non-stop, through the night, along the most direct route with no ballyhoo, no commercial sponsorship, no whipped up false enthusiasm, just doing the job with a quiet dignity that is the antithesis of the spectacle we`re seeing this time.   So no, I won`t bother and try as I might I have failed dismally to get remotely interested in it at all. 


Tuesday, July 17, 2012


THE PUBLIC INTEREST ?..

The above illustration is a copy of page 73 of the 93 pages of `evidence` given in private to the Chilcot Inquiry by Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of the foreign intelligence service.   These pages have been released to the public but not before some enthusiastic `redacting,` formerly known as censorship.

Now this might be something of an extreme example, but it doesn`t help the cause of the new age of alleged open transparency that the long awaited report of the Chilcot Inquiry will not now appear until well into next year, because `officials` are refusing to allow private messages between Blair and Bush to be published.  (Note the reference to unelected `officials.`)

To be fair to the Iraq Inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot, it is he who is complaining that his ability to publish the report is being undermined by the refusal of Whitehall officials.   Sir John wants to be able to release intelligence papers, private letters between former President George W Bush and former Prime Minister Tony Blair and to show details of deliberations in Cabinet and the degree to which ministers were kept in the dark about the case for going to war.

The Cabinet Office officials, led by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, have argued that publication of the private letters would compromise candour between future leaders, whilst former Cabinet Secretary Lord O`Donnell told the Chilcot Inquiry that the release of   Blair`s notes would damage relations with the USA and `would not be in the public interest.`

And so the wait goes on and the longer it does the more the suspicions grow that too many people have too much to hide.  And worryingly it seems that it is the officials rather than elected representatives who are not only blocking progress but also deciding what constitutes `the public interest.`  So I`m drawn to two conclusions.

The first is that if publication of likely embarrassing correspondence might damage relations with the US, then so what?   The second is that there are times when it might well be right to publish and be damned, although it is becoming increasingly clear that it won`t be Sir John Chilcot and his chums who are damned but those who seek to hide the truth, delay the publication of the report and hide behind lame duck excuses.

When the report is finally published, I hope `the public` will find it of `interest` for it is us humble taxpayers who foot the huge bills for the Iraq War, the seemingly unending Inquiry and, of course, the `officials` who seem bent on telling us what`s good for us and what`s not.   Welcome to the alleged new age of open transparency!


Monday, July 16, 2012


SPARE ME THE DETAILS..

Eighteen months ago, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John was born via a surrogate and was conceived using a donor egg.   His parents, multi-millionaire warbler Sir Elton John (aka Reg Dwight) and his civil partner David Furnish, are concerned that Zachary should have `a brother or sister to go to school with him and so he can have someone to play with.`   So, having made no secret that they want to have another child, the happy couple may start trying to father a sibling for Zachary this summer.

The logistics have been discussed with Mr. Furnish adding that `We could go back to the same egg donor so biologically there would be a connection` between Zachary and brother or sister and he confirmed that both he and Sir Elton `would probably again both donate sperm to fertilise the egg so we don`t know which of us is the father.`

Now of course I wish them all the happiness in the world, for there is nothing in this world more precious than children, but I do wish I could be spared the details of this very modern, very private arrangement.   After all, there was a time when `arrangements` such as these would not only have been difficult to comprehend but also, if they were, then it would all have been pursued with a little more discretion?


Saturday, July 14, 2012

TIME TO GET TOUGH..

The John Terry case has once more brought the parallel universe of professional football into disrepute, highlighting as it did the neanderthal goings-on between players `at the highest level.`

Now, when I refereed football matches way back in the days of Dubbin and Sloan`s Liniment, there used to be a law of the game that allowed for players using `foul and abusive language` to a match officials to be booked if not dismissed.   I have no idea whether such a law still exists but judging from the serial abuse dished out to referees by players, I have my doubts whether it does.


If that law has gone by the wayside it might be time for football once more to take a leaf from the laws of Rugby Union and get tough by using a sin bin.   Trouble is, football being what it is, a naughty step would probably be more appropriate.

Friday, July 13, 2012


FIXATION...

Just a short while ago, the Premier League concluded a deal with Sky that will see them rake in over £3billion in the next three years.   Today we learn that Barclays have concluded a deal with the Premier League that will see a further £120million paid to the self-styled `best league in the world` for the continuation of Barclays` sponsorship.


The report states that "It is another sign of the popularity of PL football after last month`s 70% increase in the value of its domestic tv rights.   In addition to giving Barclays global title sponsorship of the league, it also provides exclusive worldwide marketing rights for the bank, plus extensive advertising rights, tickets and hospitality."   Not much talk of football in all that.   Barclays are, of course, in the news for its role in the Libor interest rate fixing scandal and have been fined $435million for making false reports of its borrowing costs from 2005 to 2009.   


Now a couple of things occur to me.   The first is that the Premier League are supposed to have a `fit and proper persons` test for people running football clubs and I do wonder whether Barclays really are fit and proper to be the flagship sponsors of the Premier League?   On the other hand, maybe they just deserve each other.   Anyway, secondly, as they are seemingly so adept at fixing things, maybe Barclays can fix it to ensure Southampton`s survival for one season at least?

Thursday, July 12, 2012


THE ULTIMATE TRIBUTE..

To Tonbridge today for the Memorial Service in the Parish Church for a good friend.   Mark Worrall OBE and I first met when, as a 14-year old schoolboy he would get off the bus after school and come into my office and talk about cricket.   Now I don`t propose to write a long piece here about Mark`s life and his considerable achievements, for that has been done elsewhere.   Sufficient here just to say that he was tragically taken from us just a few short weeks ago at the early age of just 58 after a long battle with MS and to record the fact that Mark was arguably the most successful leader of any local authority in the country - certainly the Audit Commission thought so.

But this brief note is about Mark, what he was rather than what he did, for he was a genuinely human being, full of compassion, full of understanding, full of determination to help people.   One of the joys of his life was cricket and I know that anyone who has ever played and loved the game, especially on the village greens of Kent, gives to the game and takes from it, qualities that serve well when the stumps are drawn and `real` life resumes.   

Tributes were rightly paid to Mark today by the great and the good of our community and beyond but for me, the ultimate tribute came just after he left us when, in the next edition of the local newspaper, someone who knew Mark was quoted as saying, "There are no words to describe how indescribable Mark was."   I`m not sure there`s any need to add to that.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012



It`s the little things..

I bought a new car last November and it`s OK.   It goes well, it`s comfortable, has loads of bells and whistles (most of which I don`t need or understand) and there`s plenty of room for Barney in the boot.   Now, it seems to me that with modern cars, big ends don`t `go` any more, crankshafts stay in one piece and suspension doesn`t fall apart.    But it`s the little things that plague my driving life.

For example, we`re driving down the M26 off on holiday and the radio aerial inexplicably just falls off.   There`s no way I can stop and begin a search for it on a fast moving motorway so I have to buy a new one.   Before we last went off to Cornwall, I did the usual thing of giving it a clean, checked the oil, tyre pressure and the screen wash.   As I topped it up, the screen wash promptly came straight out of the bottom.   Obviously a leak in the washer bottle; the garage had a look at it and told me that it must have been `impact damage` as the fog light had been pushed back a bit and there was a slight problem with  a  wheel arch.

The conclusion is that whilst the car had been parked somewhere, someone had given it a nudge and caused these problems and driven off, although to be fair there is no visible bodywork damage.   It`s going to cost £600 to sort it all out so I`m going through the expected drama with the insurance company and one bright day I might get the car fixed.

Now I confess to the odd `glancing blow` with assorted obstacles such as walls, gateposts and neighbours` cars (note the plural,) as a result of which there is the odd blemish here and there, but nothing major and nothing that the careful application of a bit of touch-in paint hasn`t put right.   But they`re all little things, little annoying things, things that I could do without.   I did wonder about Friday afternoons in Sunderland and whether I might have copped for one but that might be unfair on the car manufacturers.

Over the past 50+ years of driving I`ve had my share of real problem cars, eccentric ones, but most of the cars I have owned have been fine - no scrapes, nothing falling off, no anonymous nudging, no neighbourly issues - so maybe I`m just going through a problem phase with this one.   If things don`t improve though, I might be tempted to give it a good thrashing, send it on its way and try something different. It`s only the little things....but the clock is ticking.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER..

At the start of the `summer` I was looking forward to a memorable sporting period with the European Football Championships, the summer game of cricket, Wimbledon, the Olympics and all the other events that go to make for a good time.   But it seems to be going all wrong.

I suppose it started with the European football which the Spanish won at a canter and it got me wondering why we can`t play football like that - after all, we invented the game - and then I thought of Terry, Rooney, Cole and the rest of England`s finest.....and I stopped wondering.

Along came Wimbledon and I hoped rather innocently that this annual shindig might at last throw off just a little of its traditional fixation with privilege and entitlement and allow just a little more egalitarian light to shine through its marbled halls, its ivy clad walls and its shiny new roof.   No chance.   Once again we were treated to the unedifying spectacle of thousands of `ordinary punters` queuing overnight for the chance to spend £40 just to sit on a mud-caked windswept hill and watch the action on a big screen, leaving the rich, the famous, the infamous, the pampered and the celebrity chancers to somehow manage to get the best seats for the best games.   All of which made me rather pleased that Murray disappointed them all.   Like Murray himself, Wimbledon needs to man up.

In a couple of weeks, we`ll have the Olympics.   I should be excited about that but what ruins it before it even begins are things like the Torch relay with its smattering of `celebrities` and sponsorship`s `guest torch bearers`;   the chaos to be inflicted on travel arrangements (I`m hoping to get to London on 25th July for an important event quite unconnected with the Olympics and already the task is daunting me);   the dead hand once more of corporate sponsorship by such paragons of healthy lifestyles as Coca~Cola and MacDonald's - to the point where you will not be allowed to take any food or drink into the Olympic venues but have to purchase stuff produced by those multi-national companies;   and once again the privileges dished out to the chosen few (as laughingly exemplified by the crassly expensive decision to remove speed bumps and reinstate them after their limousines have made their way to and from the appointed venues.)

You see, it`s not always the sports themselves that are depressing, far from it, it`s more often all the stuff that goes on around them that brings on the summer doldrums; and one of the real tragedies for me is that the one true summer joy of watching cricket is pushed into the background.   It tries hard to compete but is reduced to a bit part player in this summer of excess.   


As for me personally, it makes me wonder whether, following Southampton`s promotion to the Premier League - the self-acclaimed `best league in the world` - I`m not at all sure I can face becoming merely a `customer` having a match day experience in a results-driven commercially competitive business, rather than just a supporter.  


What began as a summer of rich promise is turning into one of disillusion as the whole sporting world seems to be just a commercial jungle, a sponsorship ridden razzmatazz where sporting integrity and traditional loyalties come a poor second to chasing the dollar......and I`m not sure I want any part of that.   I guess I should have known better.  

Sunday, July 08, 2012


SHOW ME....

So, British hopeful Andy Murray has failed in his quest to become the first British Men`s Singles Champion at Wimbledon in 76 years.    And it says much about our attitude to those fabled twin imposters that the nation is paying so much more attention to failure than it does to the triumph of Jonathan Marray becoming the first British player, along with his Danish partner Frederik Nielsen, to win the Men`s Doubles at Wimbledon in, errr, 76 years.

I`m not sure about tennis.   I used to play it, along with squash and table tennis, but after a series of crushing defeats I failed to see the virtue in playing any game that, no matter how hard you hit the ball, it kept coming straight back again.   And when it comes to watching Wimbledon on television, it strikes me as being yet another vehicle for the BBC to squander £millions on a huge cast of reporters and commentators, a lot of whom are American has beens and most of whom we can do without.   So, like the snooker, I tend just to watch the last remnants of the final, since everything else that has gone before has been rendered irrelevant.

Anyway, Andy Murray can go back to being Scottish again now and, as the old saying goes, "Show me a good loser and I`ll show you a loser."  

Saturday, July 07, 2012


WEIGH TO GO..

Well, my man finished a creditable third in the Dibley by-election on Thursday.   He beat the Labour candidate into fourth place and also finished ahead of the Terry/Lescott axis with the Groan Party coming last with a pretty miserable 29 votes.   So much for global warming/save the planet/scrap plastic bags and other heart-warming policies from our environmentally concerned brethren.

Inevitably, the contest was won by the desperately enthusiastic young Conservative candidate with the very liberal and democratic lady coming second.   Of course, it has to be remembered that this area of deepest Kent is something of a Tory heartland, full of affluent `communities` like the Stepford-esque Kings Hill, a string of picturesque villages stuffed full with yeoman stock and miles of rolling countryside awash with eastern European migrants picking the fruit from the mellifluous orchards and the picturesque  polytunnels.

So, no surprise really, since in these parts Tory ballot papers tend to be weighed rather than counted.   I imagine the local weighbridge is now back in full working order.

Better luck next time?


Thursday, July 05, 2012


CHOICES, CHOICES..

Woke up this morning to discover it`s Election Day here in Dibley.   There`s a by-election caused by the genuinely untimely death of the Leader of the local Borough Council who did a great job in leading the Council to the paths of righteousness.   He will be sadly missed.

Now, in the last few days my letter box has been groaning under the weight of the `election literature` stuffed into it by the competing political parties.   The Conservative candidate is young, keen and desperately enthusiastic;  the Liberal Democrat seems to be both liberal and democratic;  can`t recall seeing anything from the Labour camp; there`s the inevitable Green Party candidate who must be peeved at yet another forest being razed to the ground in the cause of election propaganda; someone from the English Defence League, which I take to be either John Terry or Joleon Lescott;   and the UKIP man who seems to have entered into the fray out of a sense of cussedness.

To be fair, they have all been focussing on local issues but we all know that the good folk of Dibley will see today as a chance to register their opinion about the national and international issues facing the country.   In politician speak, a chance `to give a clear message as to what the grass roots are thinking,` which is why national party funds have been forked out to finance the deluge of paper I`m having to get rid of.

Now I`m as concerned as anyone else about the financial crisis, the banking crisis, the middle east crisis, the eurozone crisis and any other crisis that might spring to mind.   But what bothers me as a spinster of this parish is the appalling state of the local footpaths, the almost non-existent `maintenance` of our grassed areas, verges and open spaces and other little things which affect the quality of life and determine whether there is any `pride in the community.`

When I went up the road to the village shop, I passed the village hall, which is being used as the Polling Station today.   It`s festooned with notices saying `POLLING STATION,` there are reserved car parking spaces just for voters, there`s a gang of `tellers` who pounce on you and demand to know your election number and inside a phalanx of staff dishing out ballot papers whilst surrounded by red tape, sealing wax, election `stationery` and a big black box.   All very Victorian, all very intensely official.  All very intimidating.

So, I`ll wander up there not knowing who to vote for, as it`s all a bit much of a muchness, but given the choices on offer, I might just match the cussedness of the UKIP man.  It might make me feel better that I have given `a clear message as to what the grass roots are thinking.`   Not that they`ll take any notice.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012


INQUIRIES, INQUIRIES..

Here we go again.  Looks like we`re going to get some kind of Inquiry into the alleged misdeeds of the banking industry and although Cameron has said it will be a joint Commons/Lords Inquiry calling witnesses under oath, there are growing calls for a full blown judge-led Public Inquiry.   Seems possible, especially now that the Chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, Andrew Tyrie, has raised fears that anything less will be overshadowed by political bias.   

In the meantime, the Leveson Inquiry into the relationship between politicians and the media is still going on with Elvis Costello still in full flight.   Well, it`s a professional career.   Chilcot and his chums are still deep in consultation as we await the publication of their report following their Public Inquiry into events leading up to the Iraq war.

Over the years, there have been loads of Inquiries covering such diverse subjects as the Dunblane shootings, children`s heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary, the death of Victoria Climbie, the overspend on the Scottish Parliament building, the death of Dr. David Kelly, the E.coli infection in South Wales, mass murderer Harold Shipman, the Paddington Rail crash and the explosion at the ICL plastics factory in Glasgow.  Now, some of these have been whitewashes, some have dealt soberly with serious issues of public concern and others have been little more than political conveniences.   

But they`re all expensive, time consuming - the Saville Inquiry for example - and have a tendency to gather a mass of evidence that very often leads to little or no real action or change. So maybe it`s time we had a Public Inquiry into the establishment and effectiveness of Public Inquiries?   I rest my case.

Sunday, July 01, 2012


HEARD IT ALL BEFORE ?

I seem to recall that at each of the last couple of general elections, both of the leading parties promised faithfully that we would have a referendum on Britain`s place in the European Union.   Politics and politicians being what they are, the pledges contained in the party manifestos were ignored and so we still wait for the chance to voice our opinions on this crucial issue for the sovereignty of the nation and our ability to control our own affairs.

But.....David Cameron is now appearing to hold out the prospect of a referendum......or is he?   He says he `is prepared to consider a referendum on the UK`s relationship with the EU but only when the time is right.`   He says he wants `a real choice` for voters but that an immediate in/out referendum `was not what most wanted.`   How does he know what `most` want if they haven`t been asked?  And look at the words carefully - `prepared to consider;`  `when the time is right` ...and so on.


We`ve heard it all before, of course and there`s no reason to think it will be any different this time, especially as any referendum that might eventually be held won`t be before the next general election scheduled for 2015, which might be too late for a lot of my rather senior generation anyway.  In the meantime, we will continue to hand over enormous sums of our money to the EU and watch as their unaccountable meddling, their gross inefficiency, their crazy policies for things like fisheries and common agriculture, their financial mismanagement and their arrogant pursuit of the superstate, continue unchecked. 


It`s simple really.   Do we want to remain members of the European Union?  Yes or no?   I think you can guess my answer, but it`s now reaching the stage whereby the answer itself is becoming less important than the chance to answer the question in the first place.