Thursday, May 30, 2013

They say that dogs are like their owners but I`m never quite sure whether the owners become like their dogs.   In our case it must be the former as Barney, our Golden Retriever, is intelligent, smart, does as he`s told (most of the time,) sticks to a sensible diet, goes walkies every day and scrubs up well albeit with some eccentricities that he has picked up along the way.   

Although I do recall a competition held annually in Mrs. Snopper`s home village when, as the highlight for the Village Fete, judging took place to find the owner who looked most like their dog.  It seemed to be won every year by a grizzled old lady who owned a Pekinese but in this age of political correctness the competition is now a distant memory.   Just as well perhaps.

I think what has given rise to these obscure ramblings is that I have noticed that our house is developing eccentricities of its own.   Maybe it`s an age related thing - the house is now in its mid-thirties and probably developing a mid life crisis, possibly connected with its occupants being an elderly couple struggling to survive on a fixed income in the most difficult of financial times with eccentricities of their own.   We are beginning to creak a bit around the edges, well at least I am - knees not what they were, hearing going downhill, hips complaining, frequent visits to Boots, Specsavers and a clutch of repeat prescriptions.

Either in sympathy or out of a sense of sheer cussedness, the house has developed annoying little things - creaks around its own edges - an eccentric loo flush, an intermittent electric fire, a Sky Box that only records programmes on its own terms, things like that.   And it`s beginning to make me wonder whether the house is getting like its owners. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Many many years ago whilst in the grip of youthful innocence, I was interviewed for a job in local government.  One of the questions I was asked was, "Which newspaper do you read?"   I think I confessed to reading the Guardian as, at the time, it appeared rather chic to do so.   In reality I didn`t really `read` any newspaper very much and then only to catch up on the football news.   My answer, it seemed, was the wrong one.   I didn`t get the job which on reflection should not have surprised me unduly, as the local authority involved was staunchly Labour.

Some years later, my lesson having been learned, I was interviewed for another job with another local authority, this time one which did not appear to have any particular political leanings.   Mind you, in those days it was more common for local councils, especially in rural areas, to at least give the appearance of political neutrality, independence even.   Strange how perceptions change once innocence is lost in the storm of experience.   Anyway, I was asked the same question again and, in a flurry of bet hedging, this time I proclaimed that I read the Telegraph, the Guardian (of course, as it was still rather hip,) the Mail, the Sun and the Daily Mirror.   At least it gave the illusion of being up to date with things and left my interviewing panel either satisfied or perplexed.   You can imagine my astonishment when I was offered the job.  

The whole experience ignited a weird kind of interest in newspapers and even these days I try and watch the TV Paper Review slots that come on late in the evening when `guests` either of the BBC or Sky are invited to discuss the main issues covered by the papers.   And what surprises me perhaps more than the content of the papers is the bizarre choices made for the reviewers.   On any given evening, we are treated to the biased musings of the likes of Jacqui Smith, Bonnie Greer and the inescapable Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, along with assorted failed politicians, opinion formers and self-styled social commentators.

They all have common denominators - an agenda, a tub to thump, an axe to grind. an inability to offer objective, constructive criticism - as exemplified by the aforementioned Ms. Greer, who was quick last evening to condemn the Daily Mail as `the worst paper in the country,` presumably as it claims to speak for middle England which is, of course, a very long distance and a lifetime away from the dark recesses of Chicago, Illinois.

What`s needed to bring any kind of legitimacy to these time-filling late night slots is for the papers to be reviewed by genuinely objective observers, such as those who might proclaim to read the Telegraph, the Guardian (as it`s still `cool`) the Mail, the Sun and the Daily Mirror;  in short, it`s time to review the reviewers.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Ann Widdecombe, one time Member of Parliament for Maidstone and the Weald, former Prisons Minister and failed (dismally) Strictly Come Dancing entrant, has just had her autobiography published.   In it she complains that her expected elevation to the peerage was blocked by David Cameron because of her opposition to fox hunting.

She says that, as a former Minister, she "had a strong probability" of joining the House of Lords when she left the Commons in 2010.   However, she claims that David Cameron was determined to stop it and she says she knew she wouldn`t get the peerage she felt she deserved "because I had received intelligence from an impeccable source that Cameron had set his face against it."

Now in these parts, it almost amounts to treason to utter any form of criticism about Ms. Widdecombe, as she is looked upon locally as a kind of Mother Teresa figure who can do no wrong and who provides an example by which others might live their lives  with admirable humility, restraint and modesty.   So I perhaps run the risk of a late night knock on the door when I proffer the suggestion that her complaint merely confirms the kind of assumed entitlement that comes with `office` and which, in turn, confirms the true character and personality of the complainant.

For she is not only gunning for David Cameron in her new book but also other fellow Conservative MPs and Ministers, notably Michael Howard, once described by Widdecombe as `having something of the night about him.`   Again, however, it`s more likely that her complaints about Michael Howard have been brought to the fore in that he is now Lord Howard (actually Baron Howard of Lympne in the County of Kent) and occupies a seat in the House of Lords along with the £300 per day allowance, denied to La Widdecombe.

Seems to me that whilst David Cameron may not get everything right, he was spot on with this one.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I`ve mentioned Feock in Cornwall before, notably when I congratulated the residents there for transforming a redundant telephone box into a Book Swap Box, where you could take any book from the box provided you put another one in its place.   It said much about the community spirit in that quiet, idyllic Cornish village and they`re in the news again.

This time it concerns their frustration with the number of road signs cluttering up the place and with a tiny population it worked out that there was about one road sign in the village for every two or three residents.  Feock is in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty and it was refreshing to learn of the willingness of the highway authority to reduce the 864 signs by about 200, although many might argue that there will still be too many.   I guess it`s getting the balance right but having driven through Feock and its winding, narrow lanes I`m not sure drivers will still be able to concentrate on the road and take in all the signs at the same time.

Anyway, maybe Feock`s de-cluttering trial run might lead to unnecessary road signs in other areas being culled too.   There are, of course, examples of signs that are just plain daft:-

......and others that might prove useful in an emergency:-

There really are times when you couldn`t make it up.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ah, the 2012/13 football season has (almost) come to an end.  Just the play-off final between Crystal Palace and Watford for promotion to the Premier League and Champions League Final to go, I think.  And what could sum up the absurdity of present day football administration more than that Final being contested between two German teams at, of all places, Wembley Stadium in London.   You would assume there might be enough flexibility at UEFA or FIFA to arrange for the Final to be held in the Fatherland, but when did those authorities ever give any consideration to the travelling fans or even, in this case, the good residents of Wembley and surrounding areas?

Anyway, for us Saints fans, we breathed a collective sigh of relief that relegation has not only been avoided but, indeed, there are positive signs for the future.  Possibly.   Sunday`s draw against Stoke City secured 14th place for the Saints, a situation for which I would have bitten your hand off had you offered it at the start of the season, so to speak, to be fair.

Another sigh of relief has at last been the final departure of Alex Ferguson.   It`s been a long, drawn-out process involving the kind of media coverage normally reserved for demised royalty, but at last he`s gone and, as such, future seasons promise to be much more agreeable. 

Whilst being away last week, I did manage to catch the Europa League Final, which Chelsea managed to win and we were again treated to the serial spectacle of John (`Leader, Legend, Pillock`) Terry once again being kitted up and receiving the trophy despite playing no part in the game due to injury.   He`s done it before, of course, which antics say much about the fragililty of his character and his craving for attention.   It would not surprise me in the slightest to see him donning either a Bayern Munich or Borrussia Dortmund kit and wander up to collect the Champions League trophy at Wembley.

And then it really will be over for the next three months except, of course, for the incessant rumours about transfers, the comings and goings of managers, the endless speculation and the depressing antics of Premier League footballers.   I think I`ll just sit back and enjoy the cricket.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Well, our re-entry back into the mad world of south-east England was as fretful as ever.   We had had yet another good week on Cornwall`s Roseland Peninsula - only one wet day and we used the others to resume our affection for the bits of the south-west coast path between Percuil and Nare Head.

Now I`m sure I`m no different to anyone else but I confess to always having mixed feelings about the re-entry.  OK, the week away was good and, as the song goes, it`s awful nice to go trav`lin but so much nicer to come home.  Well, maybe.  Trouble is, the journey of over 300 miles is becoming a bit of a slog.   We left the sleepy, narrow lane above Porthcurnick Beach, turned on to another even narrower one, then the A3078 meandered its way to join the A390 and so to the A38, across the Tamar Bridge into Devon and on to Exeter.   It was there that we were held up by traffic going to the Devon County Show.  Took us over an hour to get free of it;  why can`t they have these County Shows in November when there`s not so much traffic about?

On to the M5, off at Taunton, then the A383 to join the A303, eulogised by Tom Fort and rightly so as it truly is the Highway to the Sun, that is if you`re heading west.   It has a different feel coming back the other way.   We joined the M3 at Basingstoke, which is where the traffic speeds up, courtesy becomes a thing of the past and the rustic charm of our green and pleasant land becomes a distant memory.  On to the M25 where, straddling the Surrey/Kent border, there are long term road works.   God only knows what they`re doing but there are miles of crawling traffic greeted by notices proclaiming that these hold-ups will continue until Autumn 2014!   At last the M26 and finally back home.

Our tiny corner of the south-east hadn`t changed during our week away - it never does really - but the contrast between what we had left behind 300 miles away and what we were presented with on our re-entry is always stark.  From the sound of waves lapping on the shoreline to the screech of the M20, the high-speed rail link and the threat of Boris Island; from the reality of time governed by tides to the absurdity of people governing time.   It might be nice to be home but I wish someone would slow things down, and turn down the volume.

Friday, May 10, 2013


That could well be Mrs. Snopper and Barney our Golden Retriever down the lane to Porthcurnick beach, for that`s where we will be for the next week staying in a cottage about 50 yards back up the lane.   We`ve been there before, of course, but it`s one of those places where, even after driving 290 miles, we feel at home as soon as we get there.   

And whilst we`re there we`ll be revisiting some of our favourite coast path walks and exploring some new ones.  It`s a lovely, unspoilt part of the south Cornwall coast and we probably won`t have enough time to see all the places we want to see - St. Anthony`s Head, Place, Bohortha, Porthbeor beach, Towan beach, Pendower and Carne, the Nare Head and the Dodman and some a little further afield. 
My problem with the south west coast path is that I always want to see what lies round the next corner or over the next hill so maybe it`s something of a blessing that our days are largely dictated by Barney`s teatime, dogs being creatures of habit it really won`t do for him to miss his tea.

The winsome Emily Wood has forecast a `mixed` week weather-wise - unseasonably low temperatures, strong winds, some cloud cover and occasional showers with the hint of longer periods of rain from time to time; state of the sea rough, winds SSW backing southerly, force 5-6 increasing to gale force 8 at times, visibility moderate, surfing conditions messy with waves 5-6 feet.   Just hope she`s wrong for once.

Back in a week or so - all being well.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


It`s a funny old world.  Today the papers are treating us to page after page about Ferguson`s retirement.  There have even been some deluded calls (by Labour politicians, of course) for him to be elevated to the peerage, where in the House of Lords he could form a double act with Lord Prescott to rival the Chuckle Brothers.  There have been `specials` on television, even on the BBC where for so many years Ferguson refused to be interviewed by them over some kerfuffle involving one of his sons.   Sky are almost treating it like an obituary.  Why, you might almost have had the impression that Ferguson had passed away.

So it was with some curiosity that, probably in keeping with today`s priorities, I noticed that much less attention is being given to the news that Bryan Forbes passed away yesterday at the age of 86 following a long illness.   He was without doubt one of the giant figures in the film industry and was responsible for a host of screenplays and for directing  memorable films including Whistle Down the Wind, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, The Mad Woman of Chaillot, The Wrong Box, King Rat and The Stepford Wives. The picture above is a still shot from that film and not, I have to confirm, a recent image of life in Kings Hill.

Forbes was rightly awarded the CBE many years ago and there are those who would reasonably argue that he was as deserving of a knighthood as Ferguson.   But then Forbes was a West Ham fan.  But for me, I will remember Bryan Forbes for two things in particular.   First he wrote, produced and directed International Velvet which introduced me to the wonders of the Flete Estate and Mothecombe in south Devon, which we sought out having been enchanted by the filming locations and where we have stayed and revisited time and again ever since.

I also remember seeing his cameo performance as the nudist guitar-playing Turk Thrust in `A Shot in the Dark` when he declined to appear in the cast list under his own name, preferring to be listed as Turk Thrust - a decision which, along with his performance in that brief role, seemed somehow to confirm his fun loving, modest yet wholly admirable attitude to life.   He was one of the good guys and I was sorry to learn that he has left us even though in doing so he has left an impressive body of work for us to enjoy. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

This time yesterday I was getting a bit fretful about last evening`s encounter between a resurgent Wigan Athletic and a `nothing to play for` Swansea City, the result of which could have had an effect on the relegation finale of the Premier League.   A Wigan win and a crescendo of bum squeaking would follow from Newcastle to Norwich, Birmingham, Fulham and even the branch line of Southampton, whereas a win for Swansea would allow breathing to become more easy for us Saints fans.   In the event, Swansea won 3-2, cue sighs of relief except in Wigan whose chances of survival now appear slim.

So I went to bed a little happier than might have been the case, only to wake up to the news that, at long last, the glowering presence of `Sir` Alex Ferguson will be no more on the touchlines of the land.   After 26 years and 38 trophies he has decided to step aside as Manchester United manager, take his place on the board and bring all his qualities of diplomacy and restraint to a new role as club `ambassador.`  Not sure you could make it up.

Now, of course, one has to acknowledge his record in producing all those trophies over all those years and in a sense I have no quarrel with what he has achieved.   But it is the manner in which those achievements have been reached which has always irked.   His `philosophy` of management by rant, hair drier and pugnacious aggression has not been one to encourage any feelings of warmth towards Old Trafford.   

And when the sycophantic fawnings over Ferguson have died down, we are simply left with yet another dinosaur shuffling off to the swamp.  I wish him no ill in his overdue retirement but I just know that life will be that much more tolerable now that he has decided to go.

So, in the course of half a day, any lingering concerns about Southampton`s survival have, thanks to Wigan`s defensive ineptitude, largely disappeared and Ferguson finally leaving the field of play have between them conspired to bring relief all round.   What a difference a day makes.


Tomorrow our eldest granddaughter celebrates her 21st birthday and we`re looking forward to seeing her on her big day.   And it reminded me once again of my own 21st birthday which was spent in bizarre circumstances.

During my two years of National Service I had been posted to an armoured regiment - the 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales Own) a cavalry regiment, don`t you know, with a long and proud tradition.   I wasn`t sure they ever got used to the change from riding around on horses to riding around in tanks, armoured personnel carriers, scout cars and the like and I was never quite sure why I had been `selected` to join their ranks.

But then my 21st birthday shed some light on it.   The Shiny Tenth must surely have been the only regiment in the British Army with the masochistic tradition of denying any 21st birthday revels by placing those National Servicemen, whose birthday it was, on guard for the night.   And so I found myself in the middle of Luneburg Heath in the wilderness of north west Germany with the sole responsibility for guarding the regiment`s fighting machinery.  What guaranteed the security of all those tanks and other weapons of grievous bodily harm was the fact that I was expected to protect and guard them by means of a pick axe handle and a whistle.

It was an interesting time - the heightened tension concerning the Berlin airlift, the cold war warming up a few notches - and so my stewardship of the regiment`s stuff was clearly a huge responsibility but I`m pleased to report that, thanks to my trusty pick axe handle and whistle, the threat of any incursions from the eastern bloc hordes came to nothing.  

And so our granddaughter`s own big day tomorrow has jogged my memory of that  night 53 years ago....but I know that tomorrow will be by far the more satisfying. 

Friday, May 03, 2013


It`s been a few days since the `furore` about Reginald D. Hunter entertaining the massed intelligentsia of the Professional Footballers` Association.  In truth, my mind has been distracted by weightier matters such as the County Council elections and the Saints` search for the one point that should guarantee Premier League survival (which search is beginning to match that for the Higgs Boson for it`s elusiveness.)

But back to the PFA and their brush with Mr. Hunter who, it was reported, apparently offended the PFA Awards Ceremony by repeatedly using `racist` remarks as he told his jolly japes to his sensitive audience.   Indeed, the PFA chairman, Northampton Town midfielder Clarke Carlisle, has apologised unreservedly for the "gross error of judgment" in hiring Mr. Hunter for the event.

It is all a crashing irony, of course, as there are a number of PFA members who have themselves been in trouble for similar offences as the one for which Mr. Hunter has been criticised.   Not just the well documented high profile cases such as John Terry or Luis Suarez but also the countless examples, week in, week out, of PFA members using `foul and abusive language` to match officials and anyone else within earshot.

Ever being in search of balance in all things, I suggest that when the Stand Up Comedians` Association have their own Awards Ceremony, they might invite someone like Mr. Terry, Mr. Suarez or even Mr. Rooney to entertain them in their own inimitable style.   Should be a laugh a minute and settle any argument about which of the two organisations can make the biggest "gross error of judgment."

Thursday, May 02, 2013


This image could well represent Mrs. Snopper and me trudging our way to Dibley village hall to cast our votes in the Kent County Council elections.   For today is the day when we get a chance to vote although it`s been a difficult task to come to any real conclusion about who to support.   But thankfully the political party machines have done their work and made the decision easy for us.

The other day I had a visit from someone representing the Conservatives asking whether they could rely on my vote this time.   Now in this part of the world, the Conservative votes tend to be weighed rather than counted, so I was a bit surprised that they were sending outriders onto the streets to canvass voters.   And then we had the outburst from Ken Clarke declaring that UKIP has "fruitcakes, loonies, waifs and strays" in its ranks and among its supporters.   And since then there have been dire Tory warnings along the lines of `Vote UKIP - get Labour.`

And, of course, it didn`t take too long for the penny to drop and confirm that the Conservatives are clearly rattled by the prospect that UKIP might just become something of a more serious alternative to the cosy inevitability that has seen them rule the rural shires for so long.   Panic seems to have set in and they are probably right to be worried.

Their problem is, of course, that the attitudes displayed by the Ken Clarkes of this world, the dire threats and the Sunday morning visits all have the effect of driving undecided voters like me in UKIP`s direction, if only out of a sense of cussedness at being treated so patronisingly.

And if my reaction is typical of an undecided, frustrated generation at the antics of the Coalition Government across a range of issues then maybe I will not be alone in registering a vote against chucking £53million each and every day into the black hole of Brussels just so the European Union can tell us what to do in our own country.   Enough is more than enough and I`m not sure why but I can almost hear the words of Johnny Mathis, "Walk my way and a thousand violins begin to play," as I toddle to the polling station up the road..but then I always was a little misty.