Thursday, January 31, 2013


Well, here we are again on transfer deadline day and, despite the fact that there`s still time left until the window closes tonight, already there has been ample evidence of the sheer lunacy attaching to the Premier League.   

Queens Park Rangers, dogged residents of last place in the league table, are spending money like there`s no tomorrow.....even if there isn`t.   They have signed Christopher Samba, a big unit of a central defender, from Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia on a four and a half year contract at a reputed £100,000 for each and every week of that period.   They are also after no less than three players from manager Harry Redknapp`s former club, Tottenham Hotspur, and rumour has it that Queens Park Rangers  are trying desperately to sign every player who might be available.

All this in a frantic attempt to get enough points on the board at the end of the season to secure their place in the `best league in the world (tm)` with all the kerching that goes with it.  It`s all a bit odd as it was just a few short weeks ago that Mr. Redknapp solemnly declared that the club wouldn`t be signing anyone.  It was Mr. Redknapp, of course, who was manager of Portsmuff when they too signed enough players on ridiculous contracts resulting in the purchase of the FA Cup a while ago and the subsequent fiscal collapse of the club following his stewardship.

We should not be surprised at all this madness, however, since Mr. Redknapp is on record as confessing that he`s completely disorganised, can`t use a computer, doesn`t know what an e-mail is and has a bank account in Monaco which is administered by his dog, Rosie. Allegedly.  It all just confirms the times in which we live and the madness of the day when, whilst Mr. Samba and his Loftus Road chums can look beyond the dreams of avarice, others are having their benefits reduced, their prospects diminished and their future uncertain.

In short, the world`s gone mad.   Again.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


During a fairly aimless `surf` of the net, I came across this photo which not only shows images of some of yesteryear`s radio stars but which also brought back memories of the golden age of radio, back in the 40s, 50s and 60s.   I recall being shouted at by my Mum for me to come in from playing to listen to Whipit Quick on the Charlie Chester Show during the late 1940s and, as a family, we would gather round the Mullard radio every Saturday evening to listen to `At the Luscombes.`   Later on, when my rebellious streak was in its infancy, I surreptitiously tuned in to Radio Luxembourg, seduced by its unconformity bordering on naughtiness, its `difference` and its advertisements for Ovaltine and Fyffes Bananas.

Later still - and this is the point at which my parents and I finally went our separate cultural ways - I discovered the Goon Show, which left me rolling around the floor in stitches whilst my parents stayed straight faced, uncomprehending, baffled by it all.

But back to the photo.  It must be from an edition of `Educating Archie` and shows, amongst others, Hattie Jacques and Max Bygraves who, if reports following their demise are to be believed, gave confirmation of the Bard`s assertion about the evil that men do living after them.  And up front and centre stage we have Peter Brough and his dummy Archie Andrews, living proof of the absurdity of having a ventriloquist on the radio.  Only the BBC could have thought of that one.

But there is also a youthful looking Eric Sykes and of all those in the photograph, he was certainly the most distinguished.  His achievements, for one so seemingly inoffensive, were considerable with a career as a radio, television and film writer, actor and director spanning more than 50 years.  In 2004, following a petition from MPs of all people, he was awarded the CBE and other awards included the Golden Rose of Montreaux, the Freedom of the City of London, Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Water Rats, the Variety Club of Great Britain and the Writers Guild.   All this despite being stone deaf and a devotee of Oldham Athletic Football Club.

He died last July at the age of 89 and yesterday there was a memorial service for him at St. Martin-in-the-Fields.   Eulogies were delivered by good men and true and the whole event was `generously paid for by the BBC,` despite an ongoing rift between the Beeb and Sykes going back to the 1970s, when the then Head of Comedy wiped all the tapes of Sykes`s most recent work.   Perhaps the BBC`s generosity yesterday was a belated attempt to make up for that error.   Or even to try to atone for the crass absurdity of having a ventriloquist on the radio.  But whatever the BBC`s motive, just for once I will not complain about their generosity with licence-payers` money.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

As  a theoretically conspiratorial footnote to yesterday`s rant about Dave Cameron`s referendum speech, it occurred to me that there are cunning plans afoot by kicking the EU referendum deep into the undergrowth for years to come.  As well as the delays and the uncertainty of it all meaning that a good number of ageing malcontents such as me might well be daisy pushing by the time any vote is held, there is also the business of voting rights for `EU citizens` resident in the UK.
It seems that EU citizens resident in the UK can register to vote in UK elections with the possible exception of Parliamentary elections.   Now, assuming any EU referendum is not classed as a Parliamentary election, then given just the estimated 20 million Bulgarians and Romanians expected to arrive here in the next couple of years to plunder our benefit system, decimate our housing stock, hospitals and schools, they along with their fellow EU migrant chums who are already here, could form a very significant proportion of `Yes` voters if we are ever asked whether we want to remain in the EU.  

After all, turkeys don`t vote for Christmas.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


It was all very predictable, I suppose.   Early in the morning we had Dave`s long awaited speech about Europe, since when we`ve had all the expected responses from `opinion formers,` political analysts, social commentators, the chattering classes, Uncle Tom Cobley and all.   I thought it best to avoid all that in the hope that I might be left in peace to draw my own conclusions about Dave`s vision for our future `relationship` with our friends across the channel.   But I made the mistake of tuning in to BBC`s Newsnight late last night and once again witnessing not only the BBC`s institutional bias towards the EU but also the Labour supporting presenter Kirsty Wark`s now infamous interviewing technique.

Her `guests` - or rather her victims - for last night`s natter about Dave`s speech included the Europe Minister, the Shadow Europe Minister, the ubiquitous UKIP leader Nigel Farage and one time LibDem leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, along with a bit of a sideshow involving the Czech Ambassador.   And once again we saw the Wark interview technique in all its stentorian glory;  asking leading, biased, presumptuous questions, constantly interrupting her victim`s responses, not allowing them to finish a sentence before being harangued about what few words they had managed to utter. More hectoring than interviewing and leaving yours truly in a state of late night bewilderment.   No wonder I didn`t sleep very well.

But, of course, this was just part of the lift off we now have for the years of misinformation, argument, counter-argument, political shenanigans, lies, damned lies and statistics with which we will be bombarded until a referendum about Europe might eventually arrive.   I say might arrive, of course, because it all depends on whether Dave wins the next election, whether our friends in the Fatherland and elsewhere are interested in renegotiating the UK`s terms of continued membership of the EU or, indeed, whether there will be an `r` in the month.

I think I`ll try and ignore it all with the most likely outcome being that, by the time all these hurdles have been jumped, all these hoops have been gone through and the day of a referendum finally arrives, I`ll quite possibly be pushing up the daisies anyway.   I wonder if you can get a postal vote from the great beyond.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


This is a picture of the Southampton football team taken in the late 1940s - around the time my Dad first took me to The Dell to see the Saints beat Derby County 4-2 in the old Football League (South.)   The players had names like Alf, Bill, Ted, George and Charlie and the club was owned by benevolent local businessmen.  You can almost smell the Dubbin and Sloan`s liniment.   Why, there was even a man in a white coat.   The team proudly represented the city and there seemed to be a warm and understanding relationship between the club and its supporters and a mutual respect for each other`s contribution to the well being of the club.   

Nowadays, Southampton football club boasts an Argentinian manager, back room staff and reserve goalkeeper; a Polish goalkeeper; Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese and Japanese defenders, midfielders from Uruguay, France and Brazil and forwards from Holland, Japan and  Zambia (although currently engaged with the African Cup of Nations.)  To be fair, as well as this international array, there is a smattering of up and coming English players emerging from our famed Academy, but the overall trend is clearly towards becoming a multinational enterprise.  

Inevitable, I guess, as it`s not a game any more.  It has become an international results driven business with the glittering prize of belonging to the inflated, bloated Premier League.  And inevitable too since the club and all its debts was bought by a Swiss/German international businessman, sadly now deceased, and placed in the hands of an Italian banker as its Executive Chairman.   It`s like a fiefdom.  The family own the club, the Executive Chairman runs it as he sees fit in his headlong quest for success and the supporters are left, well, to support. 

If only it was that simple. Trouble is, all this internationalisation, all this playing to far eastern financial galleries, all these self-imposed blinkers which blind the traditional soul of the club all lead to bizarre decisions, too numerous to recount here, but which display a lack of style, an absence of class, that had always been a hallmark of the way the club behaved towards its employees and its supporters.  There was a time when I used to enjoy my visits to The Dell and more latterly to St. Mary`s;  I felt welcome and valued as a loyal supporter for over half a century and that feeling of mutual respect between the community and the club was still there.  

Sadly, those days have gone, the club has moved on at the end of the day and there`s nothing I nor any other former shareholder can do about it.  Except to confess that, as well as living quite contentedly without an i-phone, without F***book, Twitter, without a tablet to call my own, I know too that I can live without the Premier League and all its faux idolatry.   And I`m not sure either, whether it`s me or the Executive Chairman that could do with a man in a white coat.   Maybe we both could.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


As you can see from my photo, it`s been snowing all day here in deepest Kent and while I was out giving Barney his walkies this afternoon, somehow memories of winters past came flooding back.  It was, of course, 50 years ago that we had the great freeze of 1963, when the snow that fell on Boxing Day was still with us at the end of March.   Mrs. Snopper and I had been married for 18 months or so and we had moved into a quite nasty old house which we rented in a quite nasty bit of Maidstone.   During all that big freeze, our first son was `expected` but he had the good sense to stay in the warm and not emerge until the very last day of March, whereupon the snow and ice finally disappeared and we lived happily ever after.
But I also remember the big freeze of 1947, when as a boy of seven or eight, my family were still living in Hythe on the western shore of Southampton Water, where my Dad worked on the maintenance unit for BOAC flying boats.   I still have vivid memories of being pitchforked out of the house each day and told to get out there and enjoy the snow and don`t come home until tea time.  (That fairly accurately exemplifies my relationship with my parents.   They didn`t understand me;  they were Japanese.)  I remember playing snowball fights with my school friends up on the deserted golf course but strangely never once feeling the cold.   Our village school was never closed either and I can still recall a daily battle with small bottles of school milk that always had a couple of inches of ice on the top.

Now I don`t know when it was, but my Mother used to tell me about the time when her father, my grandfather, once went on a `works outing` from Swindon GWR Railway Works to the races at Newbury.   The day brought the worst snow seen for years and on the return journey, their charabanc (not sure they had coaches as such) got stuck in the snowdrifts near Aldbourne, high up on the Wiltshire Downs.   As you do, my grandfather and his chums proceeded to walk along the tops of the hedges all the way back to Swindon - a tramp of some 12 miles.

So today, with all its winter charm, is hopefully no more than a fleeting interlude before the thermometer climbs back into positive territory, because the older I get the more I can do without cold, snow and ice and the more I look forward to the return of the sun on my back and a summer to remember, rather than winters of discontent. 

Friday, January 18, 2013


Never mind `what a difference a day makes,` just a couple of hours in a morning can bring  moments of sanity followed by insanity;  winning followed by losing; and those twin imposters - triumph and disaster.

The good news was that the voters of Dibley had the good sense to elect the `sensible candidate` to the casual vacancy on the Parish Council.   So, common sense prevailed, as did democracy and the win represented a triumph for sanity.   The dancing in the streets was, however, short lived, as an hour later came the news that Southampton Football Club (or rather its Italian Chairman Nicola Cortese) had sacked manager Nigel Adkins and his backroom staff.

It`s hard to know what to make of this `incident,` as Nige had taken the Saints from the lower reaches of League One to something approaching mid-table security in the Premier League, all in the space of two and a bit seasons.   He has been replaced by one Mauricio Pochetttino, a former Argentinian international, sacked last November by Spanish club Espanyol whilst they were bottom of the league.

Now in time this decision may turn out to have been inspired but at the moment the insanity of losing Nigel Adkins has all the makings of a disaster and one which rivals the excesses, the arrogance and the madness which are so often the hallmarks of the `best league in the world (TM).`

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Today`s the day the parishioners here in Dibley have been waiting for, as the casual vacancy for a seat on the Parish Council will today be filled.   Days of frantic canvassing and leaflet dropping have come to an end as, in the words of one of the candidates, "it`s now in the hands of the people."   

Now, the people I feel most sorry for in all this are the staff at the village hall polling station.  When I got up this morning, it was still pitch dark, bitingly cold with a severe frost and rumblings of snow on the way.   But the polling station had already been open since 7.00am and will remain so until, 15 hours later, it will finally close at 10.00pm tonight.   After that they will then have to count the ballot papers and eventually one of the three candidates will emerge victorious.  Ah, the candidates.   The good, the bad and the ugly - I know which I prefer. 

Now I know the polling staff get paid for their time but it`s still a long, tiresome, boring day especially as an influx of keen voters is the last thing they will expect, given that there are only about 2,000 registered voters in the parish and even at an optimistic turnout of 10%, that means the polling staff will only have about 200 visitors in the 15 hours.  

So it could all add up to an avoidable crescendo of indifference, which is a bit sad really, especially as it`s costing about £5,000 that the Parish Council doesn`t have.  But the saddest thing of all is that the outcome between the good, the bad and the ugly might well be determined by the ruthless efficiency of a political party machine.   Which really has no place in a Parish Council by-election, where democracy is supposed to be closer to the real people than anywhere else.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


In a weekend of fluctuating fortunes for Snopper Street`s footy fans, one performance stood out.   Whilst there was the euphoria of the Saints picking up three precious points away at Aston Villa and the dejection at Gillingham being beaten at home by promotion rivals Port Vale, it was our local hero Scott Wagstaff who scored the winner in Charlton`s 2-1 home win against Blackpool.

This was a fixture with a few curious twists. Speculation had been rife that former Charlton boss Phil Parkinson might be leaving Bradford to take over at Bloomfield Road.  There had also been talk of our street`s pacy flanker moving oop north to join Parky at Valley Parade, but neither of these rumours became reality.  Also, there`s an elderly gentleman living just round the corner who used to play for Blackpool, but it was Wagstaff`s return to the team after months on the sidelines that gave us most cause for celebration.

This might well have been Scott`s first start in the Championship, I`m not sure, but I do know that he has spent most of the season either honing his bench-warming skills or not being involved in Charlton`s games at all.   It has all been a bit baffling really, especially as, having been at the Valley since the age of nine, he has always given 110% and bleeds the red and white of the Addicks with a passion.   And he just wants to play.  For them.

No matter, he was given his chance on Saturday and took it with both hands (well, feet really) in a performance that demonstrated to manager Chrissy (The Leg End) Powell all his talents as a box-to-box midfield dynamic pacy flanker-cum-striker with a good engine, an eye for a pass and a lethal finish as he powered home the winning goal beyond the despairing clutches of the Seasiders` custodian to send the home fans into delerium.

Scott`s return from being an outcast to being brought back in from the cold has given him, his family and all of us in this soccer mad enclave much pleasure and encouragement.   Next stop Ewood Park, Blackburn?

Saturday, January 12, 2013


A couple of reports in the last few days has given us a hint of the growing panic over the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union.   First we had someone from the Obama administration warning us not to quit Europe as the USA considers the UK to have an important role and a strong influence within the EU.   Then we had someone from Frau Merkel`s outfit warning us that "leaving the EU would be disastrous for the UK economy."

In reporting these dire threats, the Europhile BBC has again singularly failed to produce any `balance` by reporting any counter arguments, of which there are many.   Instead, they quoted Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as saying, "Whatever question you put in any eventual referendum, the underlying question is the same - does Britain want to lead in Europe and continue to we lead or hang back in some kind of subsidiary status?"   He went on to say that British leadership in the EU "was an expression of self-confidence."

As for our Prime Minister, well, if he wins the next election we seem to be heading for some kind of referendum sometime after 2015, not whether we want to leave the EU or stay in, but whether we agree with the results of any `re-negotiation` of our membership, which has already been declared illegal by the same German spokesman who warned us about the consequences for our economy if we even thought about leaving.

Seems to me that there are a lot of people getting their retaliation in first.   We are already being bombarded with scare stories, threats of legal action and eternal damnation, all of which suggests that the politicians are the ones who are panicking.   They seem more bothered for their own reasons than for what the British people might actually want, especially as we have not had a chance to express our view on the EU issue since 1974, when it was simply a Common Market.  

In the final analysis, there might well be good arguments either way about whether we should stay in or come out, but I worry that misinformation will rule the day, especially as they all seem to forget that the most important considerations for British people revolve around sovereignty and self-determination, whereas for the European elite their most important considerations are purely political.   And as for Nick Clegg, well, he`s just asking the wrong questions yet again.

Now there might well be a price to be paid for hanging on to those centuries-old traditions of sovereignty and self-determination, but - and this might just be a generational thing - for me at least it will be a price worth paying.

So, don`t panic, chaps - it`s just another pincer movement from those who don`t like it up `em.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I`ve been intrigued to see reports that the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have been selling the personal details of licence holders to all manner of  individuals and`organizations,`some of which might be classed as `legitimate,` but others perhaps not so.   The instances of personal details being disclosed are quite staggering.   For example, the DVLA has sold the names and addresses of 4.85million drivers to parking enforcement firms alone in the past six years - at a charge of £2.50 for each detail supplied.   

Requests for such information amounted to 9.5million in the past year with the vast majority (7.8million) coming from the police and local authorities, presumably following up cases - assisting them with their enquiries if you like.  It`s a paying business for the DVLA, who rather unbelievably claim that they do not make a profit because they are not allowed to.

Now as far as I know, I have committed no parking or driving offence so I would hope that my personal details held by the DVLA have not had cause to be released to any third party.   However, should the DVLA receive  a request for my details then I would hope that I might be asked to give my permission before they do so.   After all, one`s personal details - name, address, age, etc., - are just that;  personal and they are mine, no-one else`s to do what they like with.  

Those details amount to personal intellectual property and should not be disclosed to anyone else without permission.  So I`m surprised there hasn`t been more fuss made about this kind of intrusion into personal information.   Yes I know there has been the odd squeal of indignation from the occasional MP, but they have been more concerned with the antics of parking and clamping companies than with the safeguarding of personal information.

One last thought - if the DVLA charge £2,50 for each detail disclosed, then surely any fee should be returned to the person whose details have been sold.   Once again, we`ve been sold down the river by yet another dubious practice that simply contributes to bureaucracy getting a bad name.   

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


To Southampton today to take my granddaughter to the University where she had to attend a lecture.   Whilst she was there, I took time once again to revisit my old boyhood village of Hythe on the western shore of Southampton Water.    Now the map extract above is clearly very old, but it does show Hythe when it was a real village with its High Street, its shops, post office, school, hotel and its famous pier from which the ferry plies its way to and from Southampton Town Quay.

And that`s how I remember Hythe when, as a boy over 60 years ago, I attended the village school and enjoyed the freedom of exploring the shoreline and the New Forest.   It was still a village then - my old school friend, the acclaimed and much missed poet William Scammell, calling it his `village by the sea.`   They were times when us boys held the village bobby in awe and with respect, we  knew the boundaries not only of the village but also of behaviour;  it seemed instilled in us and we accepted it as natural - just the way things were - and never imagined for one moment that the  restrictions of our formative years were anything to complain about, even if we were conscious of them to begin with.

But in my repeated visits over more recent years I have witnessed perhaps too many changes in my spiritual home.   For one thing, although Hythe retains the core of its now pedestrianised High Street, it`s a village no more, as expansion into new housing developments skirting the edge of the Forest has turned Hythe into something of a dormitory suburb of Southampton - and it seems to have lost much of its soul in the process.

The High Street itself, once bustling with just enough businesses to sustain themselves, seems in contrast to be in decline, as borne witness by the number of empty shops and the feeling almost of shabbiness that admittedly was not helped by the grey, gloomy January day.    All of which made for a depressing feeling that the decline I witnessed seems somehow in direct proportion to the expansion in size of my village by the sea.   It may be nothing unusual these days, for nothing is forever and, after all, the only constant thing in life is change.

I just wish some of those changes were for the better.

Monday, January 07, 2013


Now I`m pretty sure I`ve seen this before.  Let me think.   Ah yes, it was whilst driving through Portsmouth that I noticed this spelling error on one of that great city`s roads and I don`t know why but I really wasn`t surprised.   For Portsmouth, or Portsmuff as it is known locally, has something of a history when it comes to grammar.

I suppose its most memorable episode was some years ago at the height of the paedophile scandals.   Never quite sure of their ground, nevertheless the good citizens of the enclave of Paulsgrove promptly attacked the home of a mild-mannered paediatrician, presumably on the basis that it sounded about right.

And today we hear that a memorial to the Cockershell Heroes, recently unveiled near Portsmuff seafront, contains unfortunate errors.   The memorial honours the exploits of 10 Royal Marines who paddled canoes for 75 miles up the Gironde River and attacked Nazi ships in Bordeaux in 1942.   Only two of the marines survived with two others dying from hypothermia and the remaining six being captured and executed by the Germans.

The plaque commemorates their "brave and audacious actions" but records that the attack was `canoe-bourne` and that the raid took place in WW11, rather than WWII.   Local Councillor Terry Hall explained that the memorial had been a private initiative by the residents of Cockleshell Gardens, less than a mile from Canoe Lake, where the Marines trained for their mission.   "Unfortunately there are spelling errors," said Hall.  "I have spoken to the residents and they are going to get it corrected."   

Something about the road to Portsmouth being paved with good intentions?

Thursday, January 03, 2013


Had a letter before Christmas from South East Water saying they`re going to install water meters in our street, starting on 7th January.   Now I suppose this is yet another initiative to conserve water supplies which is a bit ironic as we`ve just had the wettest year in England since records began.   And in the seemingly never ending deluge of environmental initiatives, this is just another to go with all the rest such as recycling everything in sight, driving Priuses, having wind farms, wave hubs, solar panels and all kinds of insulation.

So I guess I shouldn`t mind as I`m an eco-warrior, keen to do my bit for saving the planet. But there`s one aspect of the `customer metering programme` that I do find objectionable and it`s the compulsion of it.   No consultation, just telling us what they`re going to do and when.   Now if, like gas and electricity, there was a choice of companies from whom I might get my water supply then it wouldn`t be so bad.   But there aren`t.  South East Water is a take-it-or-leave-it monopoly and so I have no choice.

What makes the whole thing more intriguing is the fact that South East Water only supply the water.   Another monopolistic company, Southern Water, don`t supply it but they are responsible for dealing with the waste water and effluent from my house.   I can`t see, therefore, why they too don`t install meters and charge me depending on how much stuff I flush down their drains.

Anyway, I`m reliably told by a near neighbour that I will `love` the water meter as it will save me so much money.   Her assertion, of course, depends entirely on how often I flush the loo, hose Barney and the car, water the garden in summer, have a bath or shower and  how often Mrs. Snopper turns on the washing machine.   There may be trouble ahead.   "But while there`s moonlight and music and love and romance, let`s flush the toilet and dance."  (Armitage Shanks)

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Well, that`s it then.   The `festive season` is finally over. Christmas and New Year with all its excesses and indifference came and went but there were instances which brought perhaps more than a tinge of sadness to the proceedings.

We learnt of the death of former England cricket captain Tony Greig, perhaps  best remembered for his rallying assertion that the West Indies would be made to`grovel.`  Which is a pity, because there was so much more to him than that.   He captained England in 14 Tests, played 58 times for his adopted country, scoring over 3,500 runs and taking over 140 wickets.   By any yardstick he was an outstanding cricketer and it seems unfair that he has been lost to us at just 66.

The loss of Christopher Martin Jenkins, again far too early, is mourned by cricket lovers, not for his playing but for his interpretation in voice and print of the most beautiful game of all.   CMJ provided the counterpoint to Tony Greig in that he was `old school,` urbane, perhaps even patrician, but deeply in love with the game and all it has to offer.   I was particularly drawn to Mike Selvey`s recounting of an incident in the West Indies when both he and CMJ were on journalistic duty.  

Travelling by car towards Bridgetown for the Test Match, Selvey was driving and noticed his passenger - ever anxious to be in contact with his newspaper back in England - tapping away on a handset and getting more frustrated as the messages he was trying to send never left his hand-held machine.  It was then that Selvey realised that CMJ was tapping away on a tv remote, having picked it up in the hotel, where he had left his mobile phone.   It seemed to sum up CMJ`s attitude to most things modern and it is for his reluctance to leave the past behind and embrace the brave new world as much for his immense contribution to our enjoyment of cricket, that he too will be deeply missed.