Monday, September 30, 2013


SOTTO VOCE..


And so another domestic cricket season comes to an end, more with a whimper than any roar of finality.   It`s always a matter of regret, of course, as the days shorten and the autumn winds and rain almost of themselves guarantee that play is abandoned.  The summer game has brought us another Ashes triumph, some limitless drama in the limited over games and an intriguing county championship.

And now it`s all gone and I sometimes wonder whether it ever really arrived as it has been impossible to get away from the incessant babble of football.  A succession of international competitions, the livestock auction of the transfer window, the maniacal speculation of comings and goings and the incessant assault on our sensitivities by the rampant commercialism of the product and its brand have all conspired almost to drown out those summer days of leather, willow, cricket whites and teacakes.

And so, looking back once more with the cricket season having ended just two days ago but which already seems a lifetime away, the things I already miss are not so much the heady days of Lord`s, Edgbaston, the Oval but the county games, the village greens, a pace to the sporting life now accelerated by the charmless onslaught from Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, yes and now even St. Mary`s where expectation runs too high and will surely be dashed as the grip of winter and reality takes hold.

But then cricket knows its place in the hierarchy of sport and whilst it may be mid-table in terms of world-wide popularity and commercial clout, it retains values to which its more strident competitors can never hope to aspire - an almost whimsical affection from its devotees, a culture at least in its lower reaches that still relies on fairness, respect and honest endeavour and a backdrop of those bountiful summer days, those homely grounds and a love for a game that no other can inspire.

So cricket has left us once more and we can but look forward to its resurrection, however vicarious it may be, in those corners of foreign fields which seem forever  summer as we become lost in our own winter`s dark age.   Cricket may well have played out sotto voce for now, but play on it will and in a voice that will strike a harmonic chord, almost in rebuke and in defiance of those who fail to understand its true value.  Roll on next summer!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

IT JUST GOT BETTER..

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE 2013/14
POSTEAMPLDWDLPTS
1Arsenal650115
2Tottenham641113
3Chelsea632111
4Southampton632111
5Man City631210


.......not only this but also the infernal Manchester United losing again;  Manchester City losing; the self-styled battling minnows of  Por***muff getting a drubbing at York City; the not particularly special one`s Chelsea failing to win; Mr. Slightly`s Gillingham finally winning 3-0 away at Crewe but Bristol City denied their first league win of the season despite a solid performance against Colchester with our street`s footy hero Scott Wagstaff named as man-of-the-match - always preferable to will-o-the-wisp.   No wonder I`m:-


And I know it`s early doors and a marathon not a sprint but after last weekend`s results I didn`t really expect this weekend`s to be even better.... so I`m beginning to get a bit worried about what next weekend might have in store.  It`s what Saints fans do, to be fair and we really aren`t used to this unbridled euphoria going on unchecked.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

NEGATIVE VETTING ?..

The other afternoon I just caught the very beginning of a BBC daytime quiz show called `Perfection,` hosted by the adenoidal and extremely irritating Nick Knowles, one-time announcer of traffic problems on BBC Radio Berkshire.   Anyway, one of the contestants was asked what she would do with the money if she won and she seriously replied that, as she sponsored an orang-utan through some rinky-dink charity, she would dearly love to use the money to fly out to Borneo and visit her sponsored orang utan.   Seriously.  There are some things you just can`t make up, hard as you might try.

Now I believe there is some sort of `vetting` procedure for contestants before they are accepted to take part in the programme and clearly one of the questions they are asked is what would they do with the money if they won any.   And in the BBC, of course, answers like the one above are obviously going to find favour.

So I`ve been wondering what answer I might give and there is, of course, one which is glaringly obvious to guarantee acceptance into the puerile world of Knowles and his Perfection. The pre-acceptance vetting exchange might go like this.

"Now, Snopper, what would you do with any money you might win on the programme?"

"Well, NIck, I`ve always wanted to live in a community which is self-sufficient through sustainable crop rotation without resorting to any chemical soil enhancement and where everything is recycled or re-used so as to minimise waste and its effects on the environment and climate change and I can see myself living in my yurt whilst tending to the needs of my alpacas and llamas.   Errr....what was that question again, please?"

Well, it obviously worked for the woman with a thing about orang-utans, so why not?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

UNCONVINCING..

To Southampton, again, this time for the Capital One Cup 3rd round game between the Saints and Bristol City.   Now it`s always good to go back there and to St. Mary`s Stadium but last night`s visit had the added piquancy of also seeing our street`s local hero, Scott Wagstaff, now plying his profession as a pacy flanker for Bristol City, where he is getting regular football and settling in nicely to the club and the city itself.

As to the game, well, Saints emerged 2-0 winners in what the reports accurately describe as `unconvincing.`   OK, not one of the Saints players on view last night is likely to start Saturday`s Premier League game against Crystal Palace but that is not to detract from a spirited performance from Scott and his chums who, in truth, probably deserved more from the game.  Mercifully, we were spared extra time and penalties and as it was, it was past 1.00am before we arrived back home (my son did the driving and we also had the company of Scott`s dad.)

As you can see from the photo I took after the game ended, it was poorly attended (something like 9,000 including the visiting Robins fans in a stadium that holds 32,000) but the Saints fans trudging for the exits at least had the consolation of a passage to Round 4 of a competition that provides the winner with entry into the Europa League next season. On this showing, Saints have more chance of winning the Eurovision Song Contest.  


Monday, September 23, 2013


WELL, MAYBE JUST A FEW...

My last post showed a picture of the Premier League table as at teatime on Saturday and it conveyed as much as a thousand words ever could about the over-the-moon daze currently experienced by devotees of Southampton FC in the beautiful south.

But things just got better after that, so I hope you`ll forgive me when I add just a few words on some other footy issues from the weekend.   First, our one time arch rivals P***smouth, at present plying their trade as a mid-table tier four outfit, were beaten at home in their crumbling fortress by the might of Fleetwood Town.   And yesterday came the spectacle of Manchester City stuffing the damned United.   I always find it immensely satisfying when Manchester United suffer humiliation, as this is a club whose currency includes arrogance and assumed entitlement.

What is particularly annoying are reports that former manager  `Sir` Alex Ferguson is still chuntering in the background in his capacity as a Director, when we aficionados of reason, restraint and dignity had thought we had seen and heard the last of him and his insufferable rantings.   It`s even more worrying that new manager David Moyes is reported to have invoked Ferguson`s style of management by hair dryer against his players after yesterday`s 4-1 drubbing.   Clearly, the default style of Old Trafford remains intact - why am I not surprised?

And just to round off a thoroughly satisfactory weekend, Blunderland have finally seen sense and sacked their bonkers manager Paulo Di Canio.   Not before time, but one is left wondering how they could have been so daft as to appoint him in the first place.

Over and out.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

WHO NEEDS A THOUSAND WORDS WITH A PICTURE LIKE THIS?

Saturday, September 21, 2013




TWO MINUTES...


As Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill`s `September Song` says,....."Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few and the Autumn weather turns the leaves to flame."   As for me, I haven`t got time for the waiting game, so I`m looking forward to yet another escape to Cornwall next month. But, whilst trying still to shake off the melancholy of leaving Devon behind, I`ve been looking for something to shed some light on how the passing of summer leaves me feeling.

I think I may have found it in a brief two minutes of the most sublime evocation of a fading English summer.   It`s here.  Put it on full screen and turn the sound up:-





.....and if you`ve spent two minutes of your life listening to that then you might share my sense of how I feel about the fading of the light, the chill of evening and the inevitability of spending "these precious days" in wistful contemplation of what has been and might still be yet to come........

Thursday, September 19, 2013

TWO OF A KIND ?..

It`s a curious thing but, having lived in Kent for well over 50 years, I still try to maintain some sort of contact with the places where I grew up (at least physically if not mentally.)   So I still follow the fortunes of Southampton Football Club and each day I get a news feed from the local Southampton newspaper, the Southern Daily Echo.   And it was reading an article today that brought back some poignant memories of a particular incident on my very first day at school.

In a nutshell, the story in the Echo is all about a four year old boy who on his own first day at a Winchester primary school, decided he`d had enough and so after lunch decided to walk home.   Cue parental indignation, school embarrassment, thorough going security review and big article in local paper - all very predictable these days.

My own experience - back in 1944 or 1945 I`m not sure which - was essentially the same but with some added ingredients.  Now for quite some time before I started school, I had repeatedly been told that on that particular day, I would have to go.  I took it to mean just that one day - no-one mentioned anything about going the day after that and the day after that....... 

Anyway, just before the lunch break, I was convinced the teacher mentioned something to the effect that the best behaved child in the class could go home early. Looking back on it, I`m sure that wasn`t what she actually said but I convinced myself that it was.   Moreover, I also convinced myself that as I had behaved impeccably, I had earned the right to go home early.   So I did.  Just after lunch.

I began what was for me at that age a fairly long walk from Fawley school, shown on the right, back to where my mother and I were living during wartime with my aunt and uncle in the next village of Blackfield.   And as I trudged along, a couple of things happened.   It started to rain and also some doubts began to emerge as to whether I really should be doing this.  

So I hung around a bit, killing some time until, in my mind at least, I would arrive home when I was supposed to.   When I got there, far too early and soaked to the skin, my mother gave me one of her accusative stares, in response to which I could only proffer the pathetic statement which I still recall to this day - "I thought it would rain so I walked home."

No parental indignation, no school embarrassment, no thorough going security review and no article in the local paper - things were different back then.   But I`m pretty sure the adventures of the four-year old from Winchester will stick in his memory just as long as mine have    Maybe he and I are two of a kind after all, although I`m not sure I should wish that on him.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


TIME FOR A CHANGE..

`Responsibility` is one of those words that are very easy to define.  Here`s Webster`s Dictionary definition:-

The Definition of Responsibility (Webster’s Dictionary):
Responsible
2 a: able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations: trustworthy b: able to choose for oneself between right and wrong
3: marked by or involving responsibility or accountability
Responsibility
1: the quality or state of being responsible: as a: moral, legal, or mental accountability b: reliability, trustworthiness

Now today we have had the report into the tragic death of four-year old Daniel Pelka in Coventry after months of torture, abuse and neglect by the two people who should have loved and cared for him - his so-called parents who have been sentenced to life imprisonment, serving a minimum of 30 years for their appalling crime.   

The serious case review seems to be comprehensive and detailed in its assessment of the events leading up to Daniel`s death but we`ve been here before and again I`m left with the feeling that none of the various `agencies` involved had the courage to actually do something about it.   As ever in these things, there was involvement by the police who visited the home on at least 27 occasions, social services, doctors, school staff and the city council.   

Now you would think that at least someone in this chain of bureaucracy would have had the gumption to have seen that something was terribly wrong here and take whatever action needed to be taken.   But no.....and you wonder why not.   Seems to me we are living in a so-called society where those in a position to act and fulfil Webster`s definition of responsibility are frightened to do so.   They have become tremulous, nervous, terrified of criticism and in the end do nothing, relying on the usual outcome that no-one will be held personally  liable and that their careers remain unsullied by the default conclusion that `lessons will be learnt to ensure that something like this can never happen again.`

Trouble is, it does keep happening.  Now I know that those responsible for Daniel`s death are behind bars but those who might be held responsible for ensuring that his mistreatment was avoidable seldom seem to actually be held responsible by anyone.  I`m not sure we should accept this any more, especially as children are so very precious and perhaps the time has come to do away with the plethora of `agencies` and simply have one national child protection agency who will be unable to blame `lack of inter-agency communication` and all the other lame duck excuses for doing nothing.   They would be solely responsible for answering for their `conduct and obligations` and `be able to choose for themselves between right and wrong.`

Perhaps then, the Daniel Pelka`s of this world might have at least some hope.


ANOTHER BALANCING ACT..

One of the nonsenses I`ve come back to in my re-entry into the `real world` is the invitation issued to footballers in England and Scotland (why not Wales too?) to support a campaign addressing homophobia in football by wearing rainbow laces in their boots this coming weekend.

These fetching laces have been sent to all 92 clubs in England and 42 in Scotland by gay rights charity Stonewall.   The Right Behind Gay Footballers campaign is focussing on changing attitudes rather than urging players to come out.   Stonewall`s Deputy Chief Executive, Laura Doughty, has declared, "It`s time for football clubs and players to step up and make a visible stand against homophobia in our national game and by wearing rainbow laces players will be sending a message of support to gay players and can begin to drag football into the 21st century."

Now I suspect that Stonewall`s focus on the apparent problem of homophobia in football may stem from the chants by fans of opposing teams of Brighton and Hove Albion and I suppose it is understandable that some Brighton fans may claim offence at such chants as `Does you boyfriend know you`re here?`   But football is a strange environment.  Football fans are passionate people, they go to stadia to support their clubs, but also to experience the tribal culture which is unique to competitive sporting occasions - `Come on, Andy` at Wimbledon;  `Swing low sweet chariot` at Twickers and the particular form of `banter` between rival football supporters.

A couple of things occur to me here.   One is that this particular rainbow laces initiative has simply had the effect of highlighting a perceived problem and therefore perhaps making the issue worse, even if there was an issue to begin with, which I seriously doubt. The second is that, as in all things it`s important to have a balance and so whenever Southampton may be likely to play Brighton again, I will not be offended in the slightest if the Brighton fans shout `Does your girlfriend know you`re here?`   

Sunday, September 15, 2013


A MATTER OF TIME..

Well, Hope Cove did turn out to be as idyllic as I hoped it might.   The glories of the south Devon coast path were revealed to us once more and on our first morning there, I took the photo shown above.   No buildings, no streets, no people, just the sea and the sky and as you stand on the coast path and look out on a morning like that, you realise that there is nothing more to be desired.

We managed the section of path from Bantham along to Salcombe, taking in Thurlestone, Hope Cove itself, on to Soar Mill Cove, Bolt Head and on to Overbecks and on other days we revisited Noss Mayo and The Warren, Ayrmer Cove and Wonwell and for the first time we managed Prawle Point, Hallsands, Start Point and Slapton.   So it was a good week.

My problem is leaving it all behind and coming back to the absurdity of life in the south east of England, the politics, the celebrity culture, the unforgiving traffic and the frenetic pace of life.   I suspect it may just be a matter of time before I finally have enough of the faux `prosperity` of it all and head back to my west country roots.   And when an evening gives you this:-

......from the same coast path vantage point, who could argue against it?  (Click on photos for larger image.)

Thursday, September 05, 2013

MORE BITE SIZES CHUNKS..


Looks idyllic, doesn`t it?   And tomorrow we`ll find out if it really is, as we make the long journey to Hope Cove in south Devon for another week of taking bite sized chunks out of the national treasure that is the South West Coast Path.

Now we have been enjoying the best summer since 2006 with weeks of sunshine and warm, even hot, temperatures.   We just need summer to hang on for another week but it seems not;  the forecast is for Autumn to come gate crashing through with heavy rain and plunging temperatures and bring this boundless summer to a soggy end.   Just our luck.  Thank you, God!!

But we`ll just have to get on with it and if nothing else it should bring a welcome escape from the madness going on in the rest of the world right now.   I`m not sure what sort of world we`ll come back to at the end of our week away but I can pretty much guarantee that it won`t come even close to the timeless beauty and peaceful tranquillity of being `on the path.` 

Back in a week or so.


Tuesday, September 03, 2013


JOHN CLEESE HAS IT ABOUT RIGHT?

"The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved."   Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross."  The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out.   Terrorists have been recategorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance."  The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let`s get the Bastards."   They don`t have any other levels.   This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British Army for the last 300 years.

The French Government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide."   The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender."   The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France`s white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country`s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing."   Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides." 

The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs."   They have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbour" and "Lose."

Belgians on the other hand are all on holiday as usual;  the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy.   These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She`ll be alright, Mate."   Two more escalation levels remain: "Strewth we might need to cancel the barbie this weekend" and "The barbie is cancelled."   So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last escalation level."

......John Cleese - British actor, writer and tall person.


(I wonder if he might feel inclined to change his opinion following events in Parliament, Washington, Paris........?)  


Sunday, September 01, 2013


TAKE A STAND..

Like most people, today`s announcement of the death of Sir David Frost came as a complete shock....and to me as another 74-year old, as Sir David was, it came as yet another stark reminder of the frailty of life.   Now there have already been heartfelt tributes to him and many more will follow and so it isn`t necessary for me to write a long obituary here.   However, there are local connections with Sir David here in deepest Kent, so I may be forgiven for mentioning one in particular.

David Frost was born in Tenterden when Kent was still the Garden of England and moved to Gillingham for much of his school days.   It was then that his love of football and consequently his lifelong support for Gillingham Football Club took hold and already the Gillingham chairman, Paul Scally, has paid tribute to him, recalling his visits to Priestfield Stadium as an `ordinary supporter,` but one who was always welcome.

And so the picture above shows the stadium in all its traditional glory, surrounded on all sides by the urban charms of the Medway town which the club represents.   It`s a proper, old fashioned stadium with its four `stands` - the Gordon Road Stand, the Medway Stand, the Rainham End and at the bottom of the picture the Brian Moore Stand named in memory of another lifelong Gillingham fan and renowned TV commentator who also died too young some years ago.

Now I`ve had the `experience` of sitting on the Brian Moore Stand to which supporters of visiting teams are consigned;  the occasion being when Southampton lost to the Gills in a League One game a few years ago before the Saints` clawed their way out of the darkness.   It teemed with rain all afternoon and we teetered on the rickety seating, exposed to the elements and the incessant deluge and it occurred to me at the time that the `facilities` hardly did justice to the memory of a truly influential `football man` and I suggested that perhaps the club might rename one of their more `fashionable` stands after Brian Moore.  Nothing came of it, however.

So now with Sir David having passed away and with Gillingham`s chairman already expecting a minute`s applause in his memory at the next home game, surely this is the time for the club to rename both the Gordon Road and the Medway Stands, one in honour of Sir David and the other in honour of Brian Moore.  I`m not sure even the most traditional of Gillingham fans will see it as anything other than a fitting tribute to two of the club`s most distinguished supporters.