Sunday, June 30, 2013

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN...

......jiggoty jog.   This is a photo I took last week when we were on the national treasure that is the South West Coast Path.   We were on the stretch from Crantock around East Pentire and on to Porth Joke but it could have been anywhere really, as the path along the north Cornwall coast is, in a word, majestic.

We managed our five or six miles every day and managed to do bits from Padstow to Stepper Point and back, Trevone to Mother Ivey`s Bay and back (we leave the car in car parks so have to walk back to it....and we can`t go on a bus as we have Barney our Golden Retriever with us,) Porthcothan to Treyarnon and back, Rock to Polzeath and back....and so on.   Not bad for a couple of creaking septuagenarians and a faithful companion.

I`m left with so many gratifying memories, especially as the weather was very kind to us, and although it`s good to be home again I do miss the sense of freedom and wonder that I get every time I find myself `on the path.`   Oh yes, and mentioning Padstow reminded me that we must surely be the only visitors to that fabled town who only ever went to visit the local Tesco`s and never went near down town Padstein.  Well, I was pretty sure they didn`t do egg and chips anyway.


Friday, June 21, 2013


BACK FOR MORE..

This is a photo I took last year when, once again, we visited Porth Joke on the north Cornwall coast near to Crantock.  It`s one of those places that draws us back time after time and next week, when we`ll be staying up the coast near Padstow, I doubt we will be able to resist a visit to Polly Joke once more.  (Who knows?  At our age, as Chris Rea said,  you never know when the hammer will fall....some folks get lucky they don`t feel it at all.)   So it`s good to do the things we like to do whilst we can still do them. 

As for Padstow, I`ve long suspected that the best time to go there is on May Day, when the rival Blue and Red `Osses cavort through the town to the most beguiling songs and the whole place is alive with the joy that summer is a cummin` in.  Anyway, I guess we`ll be visiting Padstow if for no other reason than to go into Rick Stein`s restaurant and ask if they do egg and chips.   Back in a week or so.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Curious outfit, the BBC.   I suppose my rants about it are largely predicated by the fact that the licence fee is compulsory....and I really don`t do compulsion.   On the one hand, the BBC does produce some wonderful stuff.  BBC 4 is an enlightened, engaging and quirky TV channel that produces documentaries and other programmes that appeal to my admittedly quirky tastes - for example, A303 Highway to the Sun is currently being repeated (yes, I know) but I watched it again in preparation for my journey down its 92-mile length on Saturday.   I`m equally convinced that BBC Radio 4 is out of the same mould as its TV equivalent and those two probably represent value for money for this licence payer themselves.

On the other hand, the BBC does produce some awful dross and in trying to be all things to all men all the time, it simply tries too hard to do too much - all the regional stuff, chasing the ratings, dumbing down - all of which conspire to produce an organisation that has become out of touch with its captive licence-paying audience;  it has become arrogant, aloof in its own bubble and wasteful of other people`s money (another favourite theme of mine.)

And two reports today seem to sum up the BBC`s current attitude towards its stewardship of the licence fee.   First, in the last eight years alone it has spent no less than £28million securing the silence of 539 staff who signed confidentiality clauses when they left for whatever reason.   The BBC`s reaction to this freedom of information revelation?  "Such compromise deals were standard practice," according to a BBC spokesman.   So that`s alright then.

Next, the expenses bill for its `top executives` has shot up by almost 50% in just three months.   The expenses paid out just to this level of employees for the last three months of 2012 (the last quarter for which figures are available) topped £200,000.   £40,000 went on rail fares between London and the new Salford base but the BBC also blamed the increase on moving its payroll operation to India and the number of international conferences were blamed for the increase in air fares. The BBC`s reaction to these revelations?  "Most of the expenses were unavoidable routine costs," a spokesman  chirped.  Nothing to see here - move along please.

Seems to me that until a few years ago the BBC wasn`t broken, so why fix it by upping sticks to Salford, moving basic operations to India and travelling the globe just to keep up with commercial competitors?   Trouble is, next year (unless the Government change their minds) I will reach 75 and not have to pay the licence fee any more anyway. I suppose I will then have no reason to grumble about the BBC, but the game of two halves they are playing might still continue to provide as much spectator sport as anything that appears on the screen.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


FOG ON THE TYNE..

Here we go again!   Just when we think we have settled into what promises to be an engaging season of cricket, along come Newcastle United to remind us of football`s more bizarre behaviour.  Which is a pity, since Newcastle have a long, proud tradition not only as a football club but also as being representative of traditional Geordie values - hard work, loyalty and honesty being amongst them. 

Looking back over the years I have been watching the game, I recall the distant echoes of my youth when Newcastle were a force in the land with those such as Stan Seymour, Joe Harvey, Frank Brennan, the Robledo brothers and `Wor` Jackie Milburn.  More recently the club was blessed with talents such as `Supermac` Malcolm MacDonald (who, incidentally played left back for Tonbridge hereabouts before becoming a lethal goalscorer,) the flawed genius of Gazza and the Southampton trainee Alan Shearer who eventually returned to his home town club to become yet another in a long line of local Geordie heroes.

It just seems that the `culture` of the club, along with that of most others, changed with the birth of the Premier League and when commercialism, avarice and warped priorities took precedence over the traditional values of those blue remembered days of yore.   And it`s got worse as the years have passed.   The Premier League is now stuffed full of foreign owners, foreign players and an assortment of mercenary managers, coaches, interpreters and what-have-yous.   

Except in Newcastle, where the English owner has appointed English managers and coaches, filled the boardroom with his English mates (which at one time even included that serial scuffler Dennis Wise) and, despite a recent Gallic influx, still has the odd local player among its ranks.   Sounds good.   Trouble is the club has turned into a bit of a plaything for its multi-millionaire owner who seems to run the club with management by whim and with a seemingly total disregard for the Geordie fans, who despite it all still hold the club dear to their hearts.

But the latest whim - the appointment of Joe Kinnear as `Director of Football` - seems to have been greeted either with astonishment or with peals of laughter, for it is  indeed truly bizarre.   If anyone is in any doubt, just have a look at http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2008/oct/03/newcastleunited.premierleague which says much about the calibre of those involved with Newcastle United. However, if you are of a sensitive disposition, I must warn you that it includes some extremely `industrial language.`  

The Geordie faithful surely deserve better but all the while their club is `managed` by  a fiefdom which gives rise to extraordinary events such as this, then even their loyal devotion to the cause must be sorely tested.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I think it was Margaret Thatcher who said that `the trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people`s money.`   Well, I can`t include Kent County Councillor Valerie Dagger as being among the ranks of rampant socialists but nevertheless she seems to have a curious attitude towards other people`s money.

Yesterday`s edition of the Kent Messenger (`Black and White and Read all over`) included an item about traffic control measures being introduced into the sleepy village of St. Mary`s Platt - Mrs. Snopper`s home village no less - in order to combat `rat-running` through the narrow village lanes.   All very commendable and a much needed initiative.

However, the report mentioned that "the measures are being financed by the local KCC Member, Cllr. Valerie Dagger, from her member`s budget after persistent complaints from residents about speeding cars."  An interesting turn of phrase this, which might be down to slipshod reporting, which I seriously doubt, or which might accurately record the pompous notion that Mrs. Dagger might have whereby she has money at her disposal that she can disperse at her choosing. 

The truth, of course, is that it is other people`s money.  It will be the council tax payers of Kent who finance the work on the leafy lanes of St. Mary`s Platt but this is yet another example of a growing trend on the part of local politicians acting wholly in the misguided  belief that we will be impressed by these patronising announcements, whereas they might well be advised to steer clear of developing the delusions of adequacy that so often give local bureaucracy a bad name.  Or maybe the KCC Press Office needs a good sort out?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

HAIR TODAY....

A report published by Fudge, the makers of `hair products` suggests that men have to wait until they are 32 before finally settling on a particular hair style having tried at least five different styles before `settling down.`   Women on the other hand try as many as seven styles before they finally arrive at one they like and stick to.

Well, they never included me in their `research,` for had they done so they would have encountered a wholly different approach to hair styling.  You see, I didn`t get off to a very good start, being as bald as a coot until I was three, then producing a shock of blonde locks that lasted until the trauma of starting school when I was five.   Hair-wise, my school days were spent between the rigid conformity and the economic necessity of short back and sides and the onset of adolescence at which point I experimented with assorted `styles` (I use the term loosely) which involved copious amounts of Brylcreem. 

In my mid and late teens, however, I found myself in the grip of the one and only local barber, one Sweeney Furminger by name, who in his smoke filled emporium would ignore any individual preferences and simply produce the same `style` for each and every one of his victim customers.   He had a captive audience - no local competition - and ran his regime with unfailing consistency, which at least meant that the hair `styles` sported by  all the local lads were identical, leaving the local girls to look for other features to admire or otherwise.  I was still a slave to Brylcreem, however, chiefly purchased as a desperate response to Sweeney`s insistent questioning as to whether I would like something for the weekend, Sir.....ah, such sweet innocence.

Things got no better when I was conscripted into Her Majesty`s National Service and on my first day at Catterick Camp in North Yorkshire I, along with the rest of Intake 60/02, were ceremoniously shorn of any pretences to `style` we might have had.   Not much change from Sweeney really, although the military experience was more reminiscent of sheep shearing than haircutting, whilst Brylcreem became something of a banned substance, presumably prejudicial to good order and military discipline.

Throughout a busy and demanding professional life, I only really ever managed to get a haircut when necessity demanded, rather than any planned approach to improving my image, but at least I was able to have my irregular visits to various barbers during working hours, having invoked the principle that, as my hair grew in working hours, it seemed only fair for it to be `seen to` in working hours too.

And it has only been in my retirement that I have discovered the joys and benefits of being `seen to` very regularly by my adopted stylist, Chris of Larkfield, who does what she can with my thinning, greying, reluctant wisps.   They`re not used to all the attention, of course, and at this stage of life any thoughts of changing styles are but delusions.  So I never really had a chance to try out the five styles reported by Fudge and it`s all too late now anyway.   Pity really, I might have been quite stylish given half a chance.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

  A LONG WAIT...


Just recently the British Government issued what amounted to an official apology when Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed `sincere regret` over the treatment of detainees during the Mau Mau uprising against British rule in Kenya in the 1950s.   Moreover, HM Gov. will hand over £14million in compensation and also finance the building of a permanent memorial in Kenya to the victims of torture.  


I`ve no problem with that, as such, although it might be remembered that there were victims on the other side too, especially the white farmers and those Kenyans who supported the British and I hear no apology concerning them.  I doubt we will ever hear one or, if we do, it will only be after yet another very long wait.

Yesterday some details were announced about how the centenary of the 1914-18 Great War will be marked.   `Events` costing £50million will be run over the four year period beginning on 4 August next year and will include candlelit vigils, commemoration services and trips for schoolchildren to visit the western front.   I`ve no real problem with that either, although I would imagine it to be more appropriate and certainly far more telling for events to be held in November 2018 to mark the ending of that terrible conflict.

Now I`m currently reading Duncan Hamilton`s heart rending book `The Footballer Who Could Fly` which is partly about football history but more significantly it`s about his relationship with his father.   In it he recalls the events leading up to the Second World War and the discomfort of the England football team who were ordered by a craven British Government to give the Nazi salute to Hitler and his cronies as the teams lined up in Berlin`s Olympic Stadium before the game.   

He quotes the Manchester Evening Chronicle`s football reporter, Arthur Walmsley, who witnessed the scene and said, "In the stadium the near hysteria of the Germans was almost tangible and unnervingly unhealthy.   Here were all the frightening, ugly undertones of those Nuremberg rallies;  a nation reduced to robots in the insane pursuit of superiority."   And he was just reporting on a football match which, by the way, England won 3-1, possibly as a precursor for events yet to come.

All of which returns me to the business of apologies and it seems to be in fashion these days for Governments to say sorry for events long past as if it makes everything alright, enables them to draw a line in the sand and move on at the end of the day, so to speak.   And it leads me to suggest that the 11th November, 2018 might be a good time for Frau Sauer (aka Angela Merkel) and her chums to finally get around to apologising not just to the Allies but to all mankind for twice inflicting upon us the most apocalyptic terrors the world has ever known.  Gives then time to think about it..... but something just tells me I might be in for yet another long wait.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

BOLTON WANDERERS 1
NEWCASTLE UNITED 0

It seems that even when the football season is over, there is little escape from the avarice of the game.   But this week there`s good news and not so good.  The good news is that, thanks in large part to fans` objections, Bolton Wanderers Football Club have decided not to pursue the deal the club had for Quick Quid to become their shirt sponsors.

Now Quick Quid are but one of a plethora of companies who operate what are known as pay day loans - lending out cash to unfortunate punters who need it but then find they have to repay it at ridiculous rates of interest.   Seems to me they prey on the needy, those in difficult straits and the last thing we need is for their `product` to be emblazoned on the shirts of professional football teams.   So well done Bolton for having the moral courage, possibly at some financial cost, for giving up on what was always a distasteful initiative.  They will now be sponsored by a sustainable energy company and, as Bolton Chairman Phil Gartside said, "We don`t want our commercial relationships coming between us and our community."

Up the road at St. James`s Park (or is it the Sports Direct Arena these days?) Newcastle United have entered into a sponsorship deal with another of these outfits.   This time it`s Wonga, formerly sponsors of Blackpool, I believe.   Now at Newcastle there seems something of a determination to press ahead with the Wonga deal which was announced late last year, even though at least one of their players, Pappis Cisse, has stated his intention not to wear a shirt which advertises money lending, as it would offend his Muslim religion.

Newcastle United are, of course, still in the Premier League which seems to have a rare talent for money grabbing and a commercial approach which seems not only immune to  any areas of sensitivity but also increasingly arrogant in its dealings with the rest of the `football family.`   Bolton Wanderers on the other hand are currently plying their trade in the second tier of English football and it might just be that a football club`s morality is in direct relationship to its place in the football pyramid?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

PATIENT PATIENCE..


I think it was in the uproarious movie, "Airplane" that the following conversation took place between a passenger - the late Leslie Nielsen`s Dr. Rumack - and one of the stewardesses, Elaine Dickinson, played by Julie Hagerty:-

Rumack : You`d better tell the Captain we`ve got to land as soon as possible.   This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
Elaine Dickinson : A hospital?  What is it?
Rumack : It`s a big building with patients, but that`s not important right now.

Well, in the last week or two I`ve paid a couple of visits to Pembury Hospital - a whizzo, sooper-dooper, hi-tech, state-of-the-art big building with patients.   Nothing too serious for me - just an outpatients thingy - but it gave me a mercifully rare insight into how these places operate.

Car parking was easy enough - automated, of course - and you report to reception and are advised to take a seat and when your name comes up on the screen, you`re to proceed to the outpatients reception.  Did that and reported to outpatients reception where I was advised to take a seat and when your name comes up on the screen, go to consulting room 09 where a very nice doctor will see to you.

So I kept watching the screen and felt almost transported to the set of `Airplane,` expecting at any moment to see `Baggage in hall` come up on the screen.   But all went well, the doctor was very nice and gave me a prescription for the hospital pharmacy.   Handed it in and was advised to take a seat and when your number comes up on the screen your prescription will be ready.  

It could have said `Delayed,` but I waited patiently and was eventually released back to the car park where a machine would only accept payment by debit card - another technological challenge to overcome - along with the realisation that all this waiting around had been a cunning plan to trip the time over into the next phase of parking charges.   But the whole experience proved the benefit of patience.   As the logo above says, "Keep calm and have patience."   Especially if you`re a patient.  In a big building.

Monday, June 03, 2013


...another spectator sport?..

Now and again in these rambling pages I have touched on the Member of Parliament for Maidstone and the Weald, one Helen Grant.   Mrs. Grant succeeded the equally underwhelming Ann Widdecombe as the elected representative of the good folk of that part of Kent.   She was one of those chosen as a Conservative parliamentary candidate via the discredited A-list, drawn up so as to ensure more female, gay and ethnic minority candidates in what were supposed to be winnable seats.   I`m sure the aforementioned good folk were over the moon about it.

As a result of the last ministerial reshuffle, Mrs. Grant was appointed to the equalities brief in the Culture Department and with it the unenviable task of getting the government`s gay marriage policies onto the statute book.   Now it`s suggested that the nervous and unconvincing performances put in by Mrs. Grant in the Commons have led to responsibility for this controversial legislation being taken away from her and the baton passed instead to Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport, another Kent MP but whose Faversham constituents were not victims of the A-list.  Seems somehow appropriate for the Minister for Sport to take on the gay marriage challenge.   Oh what fun we have.

Seems to me that sometimes the antics in Parliament, at all levels and on all issues, are becoming as much a spectator sport as any other `entertainment.`  Thank goodness there`s not a B-list.

Sunday, June 02, 2013


ALL TOO BRIEF..

Yesterday was officially and meteoroligically the first day of Summer.   Today in an unfinished stadium in a galaxy far, far away, Ingerland will be playing Brazil.   The game has been arranged as part of the `celebrations` to mark the 150th anniversary of the Football Association.   The chances are that England will get stuffed by the supreme masters of the game and that should be that for yet another seemingly endless season....oh, apart from the Euro Under 21 Tournament and a whole series of other jousts involving our young players.

It would be nice to be able to revert back to the `40s and `50s when there was a clear dividing line between the football and cricket seasons and when heroes like Denis Compton and Arthur Milton would hang up their cricket whites on one day and don the colours of Arsenal the next.   But the advance of commercialism in all its grasping forms has long since eroded those halcyon days and we are now left with a sporting calendar of blurred edges, dictated by television, advertising and an ever widening gulf between the rewards in the respective games.   It`s hard to comprehend that, these days, an experienced Test and County cricketer will be extremely fortunate to earn as much in a whole season as the likes of Rooney, Walcott, Suarez earn in less than a week.

But surely the football is now really over, isn`t it?   And surely we can all be left in peace to enjoy the few fleeting weeks of summer as the only truly beautiful game takes centre stage.   And it`s not just the grand arenas of the game - Lords, The Oval, Edgbaston - that will help us recapture the spirit of sport.   It`s also the county grounds, sparsely populated,  struggling on in their own inimitable way, exuding all the charm, the wistfulness and the romance of years gone by.   And most of all it`s on the village greens, the playing fields of middle England, where the spirit, the respect and, yes, the love of simply playing and enjoying the game will once more be revered.

And if anything captures that spirit, it must surely be the scene depicted by David Inshaw, above, where the game is played on a green and pleasant Dorset hillside and where the twilight descends and another long summer day drifts away into a still and silent night. And we will cherish those days, for they are all too brief and we know, we just know, that the tribal mayhem of yet another football season will come along all too soon to shatter our silence and, like the England team, draw us back  into the dark ages once again.