Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Strange how quickly things and moods can change.   Just two weeks ago we were relishing the glorious vistas of the south west coast path - towering Cornish cliffs, crashing waves, bright, brilliant sunshine.   Today is wet, dull and Halloween.

I suppose I resent the intrusion of Americana into the traditions and customs of this country and it seems to me that Halloween, far from being the All Hallows Day it once was, is now reduced to being yet another imported commercial device, this time to seduce parents into spending loads of dosh on rubbishy costumes and assorted tat so that their little ones don`t feel deprived.

Now in past years I employed a cunning plan to thwart the unwelcome knocks on my door.   In response to the demand of `trick or treat` I would simply ask if I could have the treat please, which seemed to have the desired effect of confusing and disarming my small visitors.   It was merely a delaying tactic, of course, as I invited them to take their pick from the assorted goodies I then offered them. 

This year, being concerned that this tactic may have been rumbled, I suggested I made a big cardboard notice comprising just two words and stuck it on our front door.   The second word was to have been `OFF.`   However, this idea was outlawed, so as I write I am on edge waiting for the dreaded knock on the door and the requirement to be nice.   To be fair, that shouldn`t be too difficult because, you see, I`m all heart really.  Honest.

Monday, October 29, 2012

(An occasional dip into a different world)

......and there`s quite a lot to feel gloomy about, even though there may be one or two brighter spots on the horizon.   For instance, Mr. Slightly`s rampaging Gills are now an unlikely five points clear at the top of League Two, so there`s much dancing in the Gillingham streets right now.

Further west, the ongoing trauma that is Truro City continues.   A last minute reprieve to carry on playing was granted by the Conference after two local businessmen stumped up a £50,000 bond to cover the very considerable travelling expenses of teams visiting Treyew Road in the event of Truro failing to fulfill their fixtures and their results being `expunged.`   Discussions about buying the club, paying off debts and paying the players and staff the money they have been owed for months continue;  support for the club seems to be growing as their last home attendance topped 600.   All very encouraging especially as City are rooted at the foot of Conference South thanks to the 10 point deduction for going into administration.   Hope still springing eternal as the romance lives on.

The learning curve for my beloved Saints continues to be steep, having gathered four points from a possible 27 with seven defeats in nine games.   Inevitably there have been mutterings about manager Nigel Adkins` position but you only have to look at examples such as Everton and even the accursed ManUre to realise that stability might just bring its own reward.   Now for some Saints fans, the current position would appear bleak;  for me though, and for others who have ridden on the roller coaster for over half a century, there might, just might, be comfort in recognising that to be in the relegation zone of the `best league in the world (tm)` is to reside in Saints` spiritual home.   Straws being clutched?  

An interesting development has seen our street`s hard working pacy flanker Scott ("Buzzin` six-pack") Wagstaff go on a month`s loan to Leyton Orient, which has given him the chance to play regularly - something denied him under the increasingly eccentric regime of Charlton manager Chrissy ("The Legend") Powell.  So, for the next few weeks, we`re now O`s fans, which doesn`t seem to be doing them much good.

So it all might sound a bit gloomy but at least my concerns are as nothing to those involved with the higher echelons of the Premier League.   It`s bizarre universe has today given us yet another rich irony with Chelsea of all people making a formal complaint about the allegation that referee Mark Clattenburg yesterday used "inappropriate language" to a couple of Chelsea players.   This is Chelsea, remember?   In truth, you couldn`t make it up......but it is a different world after all.

Friday, October 26, 2012


As controversy reigns over the conflict between the European Court of Human Rights and HM Gov, over the question of votes for prisoners, I suspect Ministers may be lagging behind in their quest for a solution.

Despite the fact that Dave Cameron has said that prisoners will not get to vote all the time he has a say in it, there are fears that to deny old lags the chance to cast their votes might lead to a huge number of claims for compensation, if the UK Government defies the ECHR edict.

There have been mutterings about finding a compromise, aka fudge, involving the prospect of votes being given only to prisoners serving up to two years in the nick, which would be OK for them but not for the longer term rascals detained at Her Majesty`s pleasure.   What`s needed is a solution that will satisfy all prisoners, the ECHR and HM Gov. and it surely lies in the beezer wheeze to give all prisoners the right to vote.....but only at Parish Council elections and, just to add a delicious irony, those for the election of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Some months ago I had a rant about the local problem we`re having with newts - please see   Since May, the intrepid Clerk of our Parish Council has been pursuing the daunting challenge of opening up a piece of land, currently occupied by allegedly `rare` newts, for us to use as part of our local open space.

It seems there is uncertainty on the part of Kent County Council as to the exact location of what has become known as `Newtland,` which is surprising really as it was KCC who organised the land swap to provide Newtland as compensation for an area we lost when they built the by-pass.

It seems a Land Registry search may be needed to establish the exact location and boundaries of Newtland, although the information provided by the recent Newt Hunt, shown on the map above, might prove useful.   Looking at it, it might be that a gang of Palmate newts are the culprits here.   If so, then they are not really very `rare` in the UK and so could be shifted to some other area, especially as Newt Hunt`s map shows plenty of places where newts already live or where they might like to have a new home of their own.

Of course, such a move would have to be carried out with considerable care, sensitivity and concern for the wellbeing of our amphibian friends and I imagine NewtWatch and the European Court of Newty Rights would need to oversee the move.   But it can be done, despite the fact that newts are notoriously slippery customers, adept at evading capture and, as is happening here in Dibley, leading a merry dance to those who would interfere with their rights to a family life.  

But in the end they can slither but they can`t hide and there should be no hiding place  as they continually frustrate the reasonable attempts of the local populace to have access to a piece of land that is rightfully theirs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Stayed last week in a very nice, comfortable bungalow overlooking St. Ives Bay.   Nothing to grumble about except that it didn`t have any broadband connection.   So we spent the week off-line and had to rely on the television and papers for the news.   And it became apparent that unless you are on-line then you can miss out on a lot of stuff.   I lost count of the number of times I was invited to `visit our website for more details` and even the weather presenters were reduced to advising us to `find out more about the flood warnings by going on line.`  Which was a tad unnerving.

But what added to the confusion were the conflicting reports I did hear about Britain`s place in the European Union - a subject close to my heart!   Now before the last General Election I think I recall David Cameron promising in his manifesto that, if elected, he will give the British people a referendum on Britain`s membership of the EU.  Nothing`s happened, of course and so he has now come up with the beezer wheeze that, if he wins the next General Election (yeah, right) he will propose `repatriating` as many as 130 powers back to the UK from Europe;  moreover, he will promise a referendum on whether to accept the return of these powers, whatever they turn out to be.

My confusion arises not only from the absence of the referendum we were promised, but also from the reality of Cameron`s latest wheeze.   If he returns as Prime Minister (yeah, yeah) and gives us the referendum on whether to accept the return of those powers, then a `yes` vote will ensure that we stay in the EU, as it won`t be a straightforward `in or out` vote;   and of course a `no` vote will ensure we stay in the EU anyway.  No wonder I despair, especially as the EU are seeking a budget increase resulting in yet another £10billion of UK taxpayers` cash being swallowed up by the black hole of Brussels.

Cameron`s threatening to veto the EU budget if they don`t agree (yeah, right.)   And so the madness of modern day democracy goes on and on and on.......and I`m not sure it gets any clearer for being back on-line.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


They say you`re never too old to learn new things and that`s certainly true for me.   We had a wonderful week in Cornwall; despite the unpromising weather forecasts, we enjoyed fine sunny weather every day and so our bite sized chunks of the south west coast path were a delight.   As we had promised ourselves, we revisited some old favourites and found some new discoveries, one of which was the sight of the extraordinary structures on Gwennap Head, where I took the photo above.

Now, Gwennap Head is the most southerly spot on the south coast of West Penwith and there`s a Coastal Watch Station perched high up keeping a lookout across the Atlantic.   About a mile off shore, there`s a notorious hidden danger to shipping - the Runnel Stone.  This is a hazardous pinnacle of rock which was visible until it was struck by a steamship in 1923, since when it has been fully submerged.   The two daymarks shown in my picture provide a navigation aid for mariners, who will be safe from the Runnel Stone all the while both marks are visible from sea.   However, if the landward mark becomes obscured by the red seaward mark, then the the Runnel Stone is directly beneath and it may be too late to save the vessel.   As I say, you live and learn.

The only sad note from last week was that, having walked to Land`s End and back to Sennen Cove, we witnessed the launch of the Sennen lifeboat and a circling of search and rescue helicopters looking for the missing lone yachtswoman who had left Mousehole on Saturday evening, bound for Bideford in Devon.   Close by, some flotsam had been washed up on Gwenver beach which was identified as coming from the missing yacht.   For all its stunning beauty, the coastline of Cornwall can be a hazardous place.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Off again tomorrow - it`s getting to be a habit - and this time close to St. Ives in far west Cornwall.   I quite expect the weather for the next week to be just like in the photo of Carbis Bay above, which shows the sea, the sky and the sand which await me.   Well, maybe not, but at least we`re looking forward to revisiting some of our favourite haunts and discovering some new ones in this magical corner of Kernow.

We`ll take a few more bite sized chunks out of the south west coast path and even if the weather is distinctly Autumnal, we`ll be prepared and just get on with it.   The cottage where we`re staying has no broadband connection, so I`m afraid I`ll be absent from these pages for a week or so, but I`ll look forward to boring the pants off you when I get home.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I suppose it`s because I know what it`s like to be involved with a failing football club that I keep a watchful eye on those which are in trouble.   Having spent the best years of my playing career in the lower reaches of the Maidstone and District Saturday League, I can identify with the travails of Stenhousemuir, East Stirlingshire, Forest Green Rovers and all the other perennial strugglers in the self-appointed  `beautiful game.`   There are bright spots on these normally grim horizons - Forest Green Rovers seem to have turned a corner and have made an encouraging start to their season in the Football Conference and my neighbour Mr. Slightly must be over the moon that his beloved Gillingham are standing proudly at the top of League Two.

But way down south, the fortunes of another of those clubs I have followed with a kind of misty eyed romanticism could well have only 24 hours to live.   Truro City, in administration and lying bottom of the Blue Square South having been docked ten points, could be `liquidated` tomorrow unless a buyer is found to take over the club and wipe out - in football terms - its fairly modest debts.   They played last Tuesday and won 2-1 against Bath City in what might well have been their last competitive match but the players and staff agreed to stay on unpaid until tomorrow, when the Winding-up Order might see their hopes dashed along with those of their supporters and those, like me, who have long admired their rise from relative obscurity to, well, relative obscurity.

And it is that obscurity that makes it all the more sad, for whilst clubs such as Portsmouth are still seemingly allowed to `trade` despite no less than three administrations and debts reported to be well over £50million and even Manchester United operate with debts of £700million and more, the likes of Truro City can go to the wall without the `football family` lifting a finger in support.

Now I`m not at all keen on American sport but at least their American football draft system allows the less successful teams to have first pick of rising star college players and it would be refreshing if football on these shores were to have some system whereby the clubs in most trouble, either financial or otherwise, are helped rather than allowing the more rich and successful ones to become richer still and even more successful.   Maybe then, the likes of Truro City could have something of a future.   As it is, it`s too quiet on the  western front and tomorrow it could be quieter still.   I wonder if anyone outside Truro will really care?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Three years ago, Southampton Football Club were set the target by Chairman Nicola Cortese of reaching the Premier League within five years.   Under manager Nigel Adkins they romped their way through League One and the Championship and this season landed in the Premier League two years ahead of schedule.   No wonder their steep learning curve has left them confused. 

Now I haven`t said much about the Saints since the start of this season, partly due to my disenchantment with the Premier League with all its arrogance, its excesses and its rampant commercialism.   And I`ve not been helped by the antics of those  much vaunted representatives of the Premier League such as John Terry, Ashley Cole, Chelsea generally, Manchester United, the impossible Ferguson  and a collection of other assorted malcontents who deem it their duty to bring the game into yet more disrepute.

But I`m a lifelong Saints supporter - I go back to my first game at The Dell as a callow seven year old in awe of the 4-2 win over Derby County back in 1946, so it`s hard to shake off a concern for the club that chose me as one of its supporters.   Now I`ve just watched Saints draw 2-2 with Fulham (`There`s only one F in Fulham`) and so clamber out of the relegation zone having now garnered a mere four points from one win, today`s draw and five defeats.   Part of me should be worried about how the season will end - carry on like this and relegation could become inevitable.   Sack manager Nigel Adkins and not only will relegation become more probable but much of the goodwill I still show towards the club will disappear in a rage of condemnation.

But another part of me shrugs my shoulders, que sera, sera and all that and suggests that being so far ahead of schedule might just be a case of too much too soon and that what`s needed is a little patience, some stability and a good deal of understanding.   Either that or Southampton FC are back where they were all those years ago, occupying their default role of perennial strugglers in football`s grand design.   The Premier League likes to think of itself as the world`s football stage with clubs like the Saints being merely players in a game so far removed from the days of dubbin, Sloan`s liniment and half an orange at half time.   I`m therefore expected to like it but it`s stressful, becoming more than a little distasteful, even a little boring.... and I can do without it.   

Friday, October 05, 2012


I`m sorry but I just can`t resist yet another rant about the parallel universe of the European Union.   First, the almost unbelievable case of six judges in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) taking time and money to decide that a leaking roof in Serbia, which was repaired more than five years ago, had been a breach of the owner`s human rights.  No wonder the ECHR has a backlog of over 160,000 cases on its books and is asking EU member states, including the UK, to hand over yet more cash in addition to the £20million already shelled out to the Council of Europe so as to clear some of the backlog of cases.   

In other news, we in this country now face an even bigger bill of £976million from Brussels because the European Commission has already blown its budget for the year with EU officials having spent far more than they were allocated under last November`s approved budget.   Now last year`s demand by the Commission for a 5% budget increase was refused by member states, arguing that at a time of deep spending cuts in individual countries it would be unacceptable for the EU Commission to have the increase they were seeking.

But, the Eurocrats merely shrugged their shoulders, carried on regardless and went ahead and spent the extra money they had demanded anyway, leading to an £8billion `shortfall` which those same member states are now expected to fill, with the £976million being the UK`s share.   Someone somewhere needs to tell these unelected, unaccountable Eurocrats and the remote self-serving EU elite, all of whom seem to be having a laugh at our expense, that taxpayers like me have had enough of pouring untold billions into the European black hole and being taken for a ride.   Cue David Cameron?   Hmmmm.......but at least a good rant makes me feel better.   Well, a bit.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


I think I`ve mentioned before in these pages that, for me at least, arguably the most precious thing in life is children.   They are a blessing, there to be loved, enjoyed and cherished.   And this week we have had two desperately painful episodes which I`m sure touch the hearts of us all.   The first was the killing of two children by their father, who then took his own life, in a remote village near Andover in Hampshire and it seems to me that, if there are `issues` that lead to that kind of desperation, then by all means end it all for yourself but for heaven`s sake spare the children.

And now we have the heart rending case of little April Jones and although hope must  of course continue to spring eternal, the signs are not encouraging.  It goes without saying that we will all be feeling the pain for the family and friends of a beautiful little girl displaying all the innocence of childhood.  But I think my own considered reaction to this outrage is one of sheer anger.   I`m angry that this kind of thing can ever happen in what is alleged to be a civilised country and I`m angry that there are people who are capable of such grotesque acts against defenceless children.

So, when the perpetrator is finally brought to book, my anger, which will refuse to subside, dictates that I want no reports from psychologists, no weak kneed mitigation or any wish-washy excuses for his behaviour from the goody-two-shoes apologists.   I simply want him locked up and the key thrown away. End of.

Monday, October 01, 2012


I had a late night last night watching the enthralling end of the Ryder Cup.   And it`s strange how certain images stick in your mind.   For example, the look of almost incredulity on Lee Westwood`s face when he was asked to hole a two foot putt by an increasingly desperate  Matt Kuchar.    And in contrast, the grace of Tiger Woods `giving` Francesco Molinari`s putt on the last.   Now I know the Ryder Cup had already been retained by Europe at that point but nonetheless it was a touch of class on Woods` part that  Mr. Kuchar would be well advised to remember.

And while the enduring images might be the euphoria of victory coupled with the despair of defeat, it was touching to witness the memory of Seve Ballesteros, so eloquently and properly recalled by his friend and compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal, the European captain.

In yet more contrast, however, and amidst all the sound and fury of the American `gallery,` I wonder how many of them were even vaguely aware that, on this day of all days, America also suffered its 2,000th loss in the killing fields of Afghanistan, which is surely an even greater loss than the failure to regain a golf trophy?