Wednesday, July 31, 2013


As elderly pensioners struggling to survive on a fixed income in these difficult economic times, Mrs. Snopper and I have to watch the pennies.  And our latest austerity measure arrived recently courtesy of Sky who wrote to tell us that our subscription would be going up by another pound or two a month as from August.   Straw and camel`s back time.

So I rang up Sky and had a fairly long conversation with a lilting Scottish lassie in their Caledonian stronghold.   I told her that we were finding it difficult to sustain the Sky subscription, along with Orange broadband and BT telephones and so we thrashed out a deal which would seem to save us £30 a month or more.   Now, I can`t face life without Sky Sports, especially with the Ashes coming up in Australia this winter, so I went for their Sports `bundle,` which provides loads of programmes, sporting and otherwise, along with their own telephone service and broadband (the new hub is in the post, I`m told.)

So what`s the downside?   Well, it means I won`t be getting any of the Sky movies any more, but I think I can live with that.   You see, I doubt I have watched a movie on Sky for months, as it seems films these days are produced to appeal to the lowest common denominator, with a preponderance of films depicting violence, some of it quite extreme, endless battles, horror and too much physical and psychological aggression for my delicate tastes.  

My preference has long been for the older stuff;  films with stories, films that touch the heart and inspire the soul and I really don`t want to watch a film to be frightened out of my wits or to recoil at what I`m seeing.  I`ve noticed a tendency, which some people will doubtless complain about, for `old` films to be shown fairly regularly on Channel 4 or BBC 2 and I`m quite happy watching them - maybe a throwback to my days as a projectionist during my National Service in Germany 50 years ago when cinema was more of a craft than all the CGI stuff of today.

Anyway, I`ve made the switch and, although it may be The End of Sky movies for me, at least I can now settle down to watch stuff that I know I will enjoy......and not have to worry about what damaging effects it  may have on my ageing sensitivities.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I confess to having nothing to do with Twitter and only the occasional flirtation with Facebook, thanks to someone opening an account for me some years ago.  Now it may be a generational thing but I harbour some serious doubts about  the value of`social media` anyway.   In general, they seem to pander to the insecurities of people who are anxious to be seen, heard or, in some desperate cri de couer, need to be `included.`  It`s all a bit sad really.

There`s a lot of fuss right now about people being abused on Twitter, notably some lady who campaigned for a woman to appear on the new £10 banknote and she is bemoaning the fact that others may not have agreed with her feminist stance and have taken to dishing out some grief in her direction.   There have been other examples, notably from so-called `celebrities` who seem fine all the time they`re being `followed` but who are quick to take offence when some folk just don`t like them and tell them so.

I`m sure this is just too simple for words but if you don`t like Twitter and all the other `social media` gubbins, just don`t go there. Stay out of it. It`s not compulsory and you have a choice.   As for me, I`m not on Twitter, don`t want to follow anyone in particular and, in any case, would find it difficult to say anything remotely cogent in 140 characters.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

It was with much sadness that I heard that James Alexander Gordon has had to retire from the BBC following the loss of his larynx as a result of throat cancer.  He had read the classified football results since 1974 and, as has already been said, "Saturday teatimes will never be quite the same again."

The news brought memories flooding back to the distant radio days of my youth, when television had not entered the consciousness of my family or, indeed, anyone else in my boyhood `village by the sea` on the shores of Southampton Water.   Not long after the war ended my father had returned home after five years as a prisoner of war and we settled in a cottage in Hythe, where my father worked for BOAC on their flying boat maintenance base.   Not long after we moved in, I contracted a pretty serious kidney disease which saw me spend months in Southampton Children`s Hospital and months more convalescing at home - in all I lost over a year of schooling, which probably explains why I have been doggedly trying to catch up ever since.

Anyway, spending months at home with my mother and our faithful Cossor radio for company made me appreciate just how marvellous it was and I still have fond memories of programmes such as Dick Barton- Special Agent, At the Luscombes, the Charlie Chester Show, In Town Tonight and, inevitably, the weekly ritual concerning the classified football results.

Now my father had his routines, one of which was slavishly to do the football pools every week - Vernons, I think it was - in the straw-grasping hope of winning the jackpot by predicting eight draws (not just score draws) and fulfilling his dreams of avarice.   As part of the ritual, he would tune in to the football results at 5.00pm each Saturday and meticulously write down the results against the fixture list as they appeared in the newspaper.   

I was fascinated by this and wanted more than anything to be able to write down the results myself as they were broadcast.   But that was my father`s prerogative, of course - part of his ritual - and so, as I had all the time at my disposal during my convalescence, each Saturday I used to get some plain paper and carefully copy out the fixture lists from the newspaper, leaving room for me to write in the results for myself as they were announced.

It may have been an exercise in futility but it did introduce me to the BBC announcers who read out the results.   And the retirement of James Alexander Gordon recalled the equally dulcet, if perhaps more clipped, tones of those early pioneers of the art, such as John Hobday, Jimmy Kingsbury and Robin Boyle.  If I have got the technology right, the link below should produce a recording of Sports Report from 30 October 1948, when you might hear presenter Stephen Grenfell introducing Robin Boyle who reads the football results (including an annoying draw for Portsmouth) although I`m sure James Alexander Gordon would never have said "nought."  Just click on the link, turn the sound up and see if it works:-

Thursday, July 25, 2013


With apologies to NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE for nicking their photo, but I was impressed by this image of the Earth and the Moon, taken by the Cassini spacecraft from the outer suburbs of Saturn.   As this photo was taken on my birthday a few days ago, I was sorry to have missed being part of the mass wave and smile in which people here on earth were asked to take part.

The image is a triumph for Carolyn Porco who leads the Cassini camera team at the Space Science Institute at Boulder, Colorado, especially as pictures of our planet from the outer solar system are rare because, at that distance, the Earth is very close to the bright Sun. This image was taken when the Sun had moved behind Saturn from Cassini`s point of view, blocking out most of the sunlight.

But I guess the most striking feature is that the image confirms our insignificance in the imponderable vastness of space and time, consigns even Jose Mourinho, Wayne Rooney, Tony Blair, Russell Brand and the rest of the inflated egos to irrelevance and reaffirms the wisdom of living for the moment.   Well, it only lasts for a brief minute, so keep calm and keep smiling.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I see that the `long list` for this year`s Booker Prize has been released, with the `short list` being revealed in a month or two, presumably once the mysteriously appointed `judges` have had time to flog through all the entries -  at least one of which is 832 pages long.

Now I readily confess to a good deal of ignorance about literature, despite gaining a creditable GCE in the subject back in the days when Dickens, George Eliot, Hardy and other rib-tickling worthies were compulsory reading, so I`m in no position to go on about the Booker Prize entries.   But here goes anyway.

What concerns me, you see, as a literary Luddite, is that I`ve honestly never heard of any of the authors who have been listed - my fault, I guess, but having had a gander about them and all their works, I`m left with the feeling that it`s all a bit `arty,` a bit weird, almost as though they have been selected for their eclectic diversity and their `social inclusiveness` as much as the notion that books are there to be read and enjoyed, rather than to become a challenge to one`s  misplaced urge to find acceptability through conformity.   (Sorry about the long sentence but it is the Booker season.)

So, I guess the Snoppers of this world will have to continue to find solace in their own `libraries.`  Mine has been built up over many years and includes an `interesting,` if very personal, selection of tomes, both fictional and educational - physics, mathematics, cosmology, cricket, football, art, history, the natural world, biography; novels by those such as Robert Goddard and Henning Mankell; the poetry of Betjeman and William Scammell and even today I bought a beautiful book illustrating the `secret beaches` of the south west to join my collection of books celebrating this sceptred isle.

I suppose I`m suggesting that, rather than being seduced by the Booker contenders, I can find all the inspiration I need just across the room.   A couple of examples:-

- The Inquisitive Elf by Eunice Close, published by Dean as part of their Little Poppet Series provides a gripping account of the battle between good and evil fought out in the underworld of fantasy and the consequent redemption found as a result of confronting those twin impostors, triumph and disaster.   Then there is.......

- Taking Le Tiss, the autobiography of Matthew le Tissier (Harper Sport) which illustrates yet again the abandonment of raw talent and invention in favour of toil, sweat and relentless effort, leading as always to negativity and leaving the victim to reflect on the basic unfairness of the judgement of others.

And it is, of course, the judgement of others that will decide the destination of the Booker Prize, rather than the choices that individuals may make for themselves? 

Monday, July 22, 2013


Flags are flying, the bunting is out, there`s dancing in the streets, the bells are ringing, God is in His Heaven and a nation rejoices at a happy event that has captured the hearts of a country.   Well, when was the last time England stuffed the Aussies by 347 runs?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What a summer we`re having.   Quite apart from the gorgeous weather we`re having yet another astonishing summer of sport - Andy Murray, Justin Rose, The Lions, Chris Froome, the England cricket team - there has been so much to admire and celebrate that it is entirely possible that I`ve missed someone out, for which I apologise.

But already the gathering storm of Premier League football threatens to bring this momentous summer crashing about our ears.   I suppose, to be fair, the retirement of palaeolithic manager `Sir` Alex Ferguson from Manchester United has brought a shaft of sunlight into an otherwise gloomy prognosis for the coming season although the return of arch-fantasist Jose Mourinho at Chelsea should remind us not to count our chickens too hastily.

I had a small barrage of e-mails from the club I have followed for 67 of my 74 years inviting me to buy a season ticket at St. Mary`s for the coming season.   I considered their invitation carefully but two factors came to the forefront of my mind.   The first was the cost - to secure the same seat I occupied for years, ever since St. Mary`s took the place of The Dell at Southampton, would set me back £820;  then the travelling costs for my 250 miles round trip, something to eat and drink, a programme, possibly the occasional parking fine, left me wondering seriously about our old friend `value for money.`

The second factor was the simple reality that the Southampton Football Club I knew and grew to love all those years ago has long departed.   There was a time when the club really was part of the community and the community part of the club, owned, managed and quite often played by local people who understood the respective value of club and community.   These days, the club is owned by a Swiss/German family, run by an Italian Chairman, managed by an Argentinian and played, amongst others, by a Pole, a Japanese, a Dutchman, a Uruguayan, a Frenchman, a Croatian, a Kenyan and a Brazilian.

Whilst all this summer sporting success continues (Australia 32-2 as I write) we should remind ourselves that in the last few weeks the England Under 21s, the Under 20s and even the Ladies football teams have all departed from their respective international competitions with more whimpers than bangs and, despite Premier League boss Richard Scudamore`s absurd insistence that it is `utter nonsense` to blame the number of foreign mercenaries playing in the Premier League for England`s international failings, we all know different.  

His product may well be reaching its sell-by date just in time for the England national team to miss out on qualification for the next World Cup and if so, then perhaps the storm gathering on the horizon might blow some good after all.   And before we know it, these long, hazy days of summer with all the joyous memories they bring, will fade into yet another winter of discontent as the grasping avarice of Mr. Scudamore`s beautiful game jars our senses once more.   It could and should be so very different.   If only. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013


There`s a lot of fuss going on right now about MPs salaries with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority suggesting a  rise from £66,000 to £74,000 a year.   By and large, the public reaction has been one of outrage that these freeloading chancers should grab yet more taxpayers` cash for what seems to be a part time job (they`ve just packed up from Parliament until September.)  And some MPs, Ministers and others have baulked at the idea of being paid more, ever sensitive to the feelings of their constituents, many of whom continue to struggle in difficult financial times.

And you might expect me to join the clamorous throng and add my indignation and objection to such a harebrained wheeze.   But wait.   Maybe I`m mellowing a bit.   Maybe I`m getting more philosophical in my advancing dotage.   Or maybe, just maybe, there is an example of genuinely grotesque excess that makes the proposals for MPs salaries seem not only modest but quite possibly reasonable.

And we need look no further than the parallel universe of Premier League football for our example.   It seems that Wayne Rooney is dischuffed about not being the main man at Manchester United any more and may be on his way out of Old Trafford.   He is reported as being on a wage of £250,000 each and every week with his modest income boosted by image rights, sponsorship, appearances and, yes, even a book deal - the notion of Wayne Rooney writing anything other than a formal transfer request is indeed one to stretch the imagination.   

And so all the while grotesque excesses such as Rooney and the rest of the inhabitants of that far off, distant Premier League planet are indulged, I find it hard to complain about a proposal that would see MPs receive in a whole year what Mr. Rooney and his ilk are paid in a matter of hours.   I guess it`s called perspective?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Yes, folks, any time now the thrilling news will break that the Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate Wales, will give birth to a fledgling monarch.   Now of course, as with all happy events, I genuinely hope all goes well for Mum and baby and yet I can`t avoid the notion that the newborn will have a life of pampered privilege, all expenses paid, all in the service of the nation of course.

So maybe the choice of the child`s name might bring just a hint of normality to these proceedings and a name in keeping with these modern times would seem to be a good place to start.   I`m going for Wayne or Tegan, although I think there is a case for children to be able to choose their own names once they reach a certain age, although King Wayne sounds good.   I`ll be 74 on Friday (wonder if that will be the day of national rejoicing?) and, as it`s about time I grew up a bit, maybe I`ll change my name to Hunk or Grit or something equally appropriate.  As the tension mounts over the next few days, I can hardly wait.  Possibly.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


It`s some years now since our old friend "sport at the highest level" ceased to be a game and became a business.   For Corinthian traditionalists like me that was regrettable but probably inevitable.   Now the business that was once a game seems to be developing into a war zone, where winning is everything at whatever cost, where corners are cut, where every advantage is taken and where no opportunity is lost to get the result.

Now us die-hard cricket lovers have just sat through four and a half days of one of the most compelling Test matches seen on these shores for many a year.   It had everything a cricket match could have - brilliant individual performances, a swinging pendulum, uncertainty of outcome,  a gripping finale - but, in keeping with the times, more than its fair share of controversy.   There were errors by officials who, of course, are never allowed to be human enough to make mistakes and there were `incidents` from a number of players.

Now before I jump onto the Stuart Broad bandwagon, it`s only fair to mention the reaction of Shane Watson towards the umpires on his dismissal, the problems with the decision review system and more than one glaring example of what is laughingly known as `gamesmanship.`   But as for Stuart Broad, well, he really should have departed the scene having score 37 runs but he went on to make 65 and it might well be argued in all the amber nectar consolation that those `extra` 28 runs turned out to be the difference between victory and defeat, as Australia lost by a mere 14.

Much has been written, commentated, twittered, facebooked and all the rest of it about Broad`s decision to stand his ground and virtually demand that the umpire decide whether he was caught or not despite it being obvious to everyone that he had been.   Some, like me, would say that Broad should have walked - the `spirit of the game` and all that - whilst others insist that he was `within his rights` to await the umpire`s verdict.   It`s controversial alright and umpires aren`t allowed to make mistakes, are they?

Now when I played the game, even at my pitiful village green level of ability, I always knew as a batsman whether I was out and anyone who has ever held a bat in anger will know it too. And so I always walked, knowing deep down that to do otherwise would not only offend the `spirit of the game,` offend the opposing team, but also offend my conscience.....and I do like to sleep nights.   We have just witnessed a memorable test of cricketing ability;   such a pity that, within it, a defining test of conscience was failed so blatantly.   It will be instructive to discover what, if anything, the match referee made of it all.

Friday, July 12, 2013


To Marwell Zoo near Winchester yesterday on a long held promise to my eldest granddaughter, Sarah (21.) She has now ended her three years at Southampton University and all the while she was there she had wanted to go to Marwell Zoo.   She just loves zoos but we never seemed to get round to doing it.

But yesterday I was at last able to fulfil my promise to her and we had a super day blessed with warm summer sunshine.   Marwell is good value - maybe not the most heavily populated zoo but more than enough to have kept us interested for five hours in relaxed, spacious and agreeable surroundings.

There were, of course, examples of a number of endangered species, like the red panda in the photo I took yesterday and, because Marwell is in the general vicinity of Chris Packham`s roots, my mind wandered back a couple of weeks to when we were away in north Cornwall.   On the stretch of coast path between Porthcothan and Treyarnon we came across an area set aside as a kind of reserve for corn buntings.  This bird is a rare sight, with a population of only about 50 or so pairs located in an area between Trevose Head and Pentire Point.

So we were very fortunate to actually see a corn bunting and I was reminded then that Chris Packham had asked viewers to the recent Springwatch series to let him know of any rare bird sightings people might come across.   I was tempted then - and perhaps even more so now following yesterday`s visit and seeing at first hand the results of nature conservation work - to write to Chris Packham and say, "Dear Chris, saw a corn bunting today, errr..... on a corn bunting reserve.  Does that count?"

Well, I`m keen to do my bit for conservation.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Scott Wagstaff, our street`s footy hero, made his last appearance for Charlton in the final game of last season in a 4-1 win over visiting Bristol City.  Now, Scott had been at Charlton since the age of eight;  he`s 23 now but after all those 15 years his contract wasn`t renewed.   Loyalty, in football at least, seems a one-way commodity.

But, despite being unemployed for the first time, it quickly became apparent that Waggy`s services as a hard working pacy flanker with a good engine and an eye for a pass were much sought after by other clubs and he has now accepted a three-year contract with......Bristol City.   Whilst that might seem singularly coincidental, there`s more.   Charlton, of course, are known amongst other sobriquets as The Robins.  So too are Bristol City.   

He went down to Ashton Gate yesterday, passed his medical and agreed terms and hasn`t been seen back in Snopper Street since.   He`s left home at last, moved on and he will be missed in our footy mad enclave not only for who he is and what he does but also for his open and engaging personality.   Charm is a description seldom used when applied to professional footballers but, `old fashioned` as the term might be, it accurately reflects Scott`s place in our community here.  

As for the football, I suspect one set of Robins` loss will very much be the gain of the other and we all wish him well as he begins a new chapter in his life and his career. 

Monday, July 08, 2013


Despite playing the game very badly a hundred years ago, I`ve never really understood tennis.   In many ways it`s one of sport`s more bizarre inventions.   The gist of it seems to be to hit the ball as hard as you can, until it stops coming back to you - maybe, on balance, squash is even more daft because you just hit a small ball against a wall, thereby guaranteeing that it will keep coming back to you.   Speedway`s another - you pay you money, stand around and get covered in grit.

Anyway, back to tennis.   The whole of the country is going bonkers because recalcitrant Caledonian Andy Murray has finally won the men`s singles at Wimbledon.   Good luck to him - no worries.   It`s not Andy Murray I find difficult, it`s the whole Wimbledon thing.   Now being away in Cornwall I was otherwise engaged so I managed to miss the whole of the first week of Wimbledon on television.   This last week has been pretty busy and yesterday was just too good a summer`s day to spend it indoors watching tennis.  But there was no escape - extended news bulletins (even regional news programmes got cancelled,) special programmes being lined up, pull-put souvenir editions of newspapers, endless analysis and triumphalism that must make even Andy Murray wince.

As for Wimbledon, once again we had all the trappings of the `event` - the strawberries and cream, the Henman Hill or Murray Mount, the grunting, the antics, the BBC`s employment of countless, mostly foreign, `commentators;` and yesterday, of course, an audience with their pre-allocated seats and the Royal Box graced by the presence of those such as Alex Salmond and Ed Milliband - the Chuckle Brothers of British politics, Wayne and Mrs. Rooney, Princess Victoria, Jonathan Ross, Rod Stewart and other assorted so-called `celebrities,` many of whom might not know one end of a tennis racquet from the other but who are clearly keen to boost their fragile egos by needing to be seen.

In a day or two, things might calm down a bit, but I suspect the clamour for Andy Murray to join the knights of the realm alongside Sir Reg, Sir Mick, Sir Tom and the rest of that honoured bunch of poseurs will continue.  All for hitting a ball over a net, but to his credit Andy Murray has expressed doubts as to whether such an `honour` is justified.  Well, Dave Cameron thinks it is but, a la Blair/Ferguson, he is at risk of falling into the trap of misguided populism.  Why, even the Queen sent a message of congratulation to Mr. Murray on his victory, something she declined to do when Southampton manfully succeeded in avoiding relegation from the Premier League, the `best league in the world (tm),` at the end of last season.    And you wonder why I`m glad Wimbledon`s over and done with for another year?

Friday, July 05, 2013


Here in the Garden of England that is Kent, we don`t have a housing problem - that`s just a rumour put about by people with nowhere to live.  

Over 20 years ago now, the `development` of Kings Hill on the former WW2 West Malling Airfield site began.   Since then the 800 acres estate has grown so that it now has 2,600 homes, 200 businesses employing 5,000 people, a supermarket, pub, schools, medical centre, restaurants and assorted leisure facilities.   It`s a big project but despite its size, the layout and the architecture, its convenient location and the generally high quality of life for the residents has made Kings Hill one of the `places to be,` being very high up in the league table of desirability and affluence.

Now, however, a dark shadow is in view giving cause for outrage amongst the majority of residents over a planning application to increase the housing element of Kings Hill by another 1,000 homes on land that was originally set aside for commercial development.  Even more worrisome for the Kings Hill mob is the inclusion of `social housing` within this latest proposal. The Stepford wives of Kings Hill aren`t happy and they and their menfolk turned out in their droves in the community hall to harangue the parish council and register their concerns about yet more housing and the `social housing` that might be included within it.

As one resident at the meeting has been reported as saying, "We bought our house here at an expensive cost and social housing will reduce prices.  The people who live in social housing have no care for their property because they don`t own it."   In other words, we moved into this relatively new area and object to anyone else moving in and we especially don`t want any riff-raff.

Now there are a million reasons why I wouldn`t want to move  to Kings Hill but if I were ever to even think about it then this reported reaction alone would be enough to put me off and move anywhere else but there.  If you`ve seen The Stepford Wives, you`ll get the picture.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


So, Sainsbury`s have seen fit to offer an apology and send a £10 voucher to a lady in Crayford, Kent, who was affronted when a checkout assistant refused to serve her all the time she was on her mobile phone.

It strikes me as being the height of rudeness to be involved with anyone face to face whilst at the same time carrying on with a mobile phone conversation.   I suggest it was the shopper who should have apologised and I hope Sainbury`s are not carrying out any form of disciplinary action against the checkout assistant.   They should live by the spirit of their logo and try something new today.   Like banning mobile phones from the checkouts at their stores.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


I`ve never really `got` Glastonbury and the fact that I`ve never been or even felt the urge to do so probably disqualifies me from making any sort of comment about it.  But, anyway, here goes.   It can`t be just a generational thing as these `festivals` have been around since, when, the early sixties?   I have vague recollections of hearing about Woodstock in those far off days but even then it was peripheral to my other interests.

I suppose I`ve never understood the attraction of spending a small fortune, hanging around for days in conditions reminiscent of a refugee camp to hear a bunch of `performers` hell bent on making as much noise as possible and, this year, headed by a geriatric outfit who seem prime candidates for the attentions of Age Concern.   Sorry, not for me.  Never has been.

So what`s it all about?  I can only hazard a guess that it taps in to some primeval urge to `belong,` to gather together in order to have the badge of honour that says, `I was there` as if it was something to cherish, to be proud of having done, to have got the tee shirt, been there, done that.   It strikes me as a kind of rite of passage, in which case I wondered if I might have missed out on something fundamentally important in my life.

And then I recall the rite of passage that was presented to me when I was invited by Her Majesty to give service to the nation for two years of my life, to experience conditions reminiscent of a refugee camp, to be shouted at, ordered about and suffer the effects of simply being one in a crowd who were also going through the same experience.  I guess, looking back, National Service was a kind of rite of passage for me, going in as a callow youth and coming out a lethal killing machine.   Now, those who go to Glastonbury do so voluntarily.   Mine was forced upon me, which probably accounts for my inability to see anything at all attractive in the badge of honour that Glastonbury and its ilk have become.   And the music`s crap anyway.