Tuesday, December 31, 2013


IN RETROSPECT..

Well, here we are at the turn of yet another year and the first thing I would like to do is to wish you and yours, whoever and wherever you may be, a peaceful and very happy 2014.

Now it seems fashionable to look back on the year just gone and record those things that have left impressions on one`s memory and doubtless television, radio and all our old chums in the media are at it.   Trouble is, they tend to concentrate on the big events - political, dramatic, highs and lows across an eclectic range of issues that have grabbed the attention.   I don`t propose to do that.   Instead, I have chosen to look back on 2013 and pick out highlights which may mean nothing to you, dear reader, but which  will live long in the memory stick of my mind.

And the best of 2013 for me was encapsulated in our visits to bite sized chunks of the wonderful south west coast path.   It began in late Spring with a stay at Mulfra, deep in the moorland of West Penwith, from where we enjoyed the walks around the Gurnard`s Head, Zennor, Sennen, Lamorna, Prussia Cove, Godrevy, Portheras Cove and especially the challenge of the stretch of coast path from Land`s End across Nanjizal (pictured right) up to the heights of Gwennap and back again.   

In May we returned once more to be seduced by the Roseland on Cornwall`s south coast and where we renewed our affection for St. Anthony`s Head, Molunan, Froe Creek, Towan beach, Pendower, Nare Head and Portscatho.   June saw us staying in St. Merryn on the north coast  and enjoying the grandeur of the Camel Estuary, The Greenaway, Stepper Point, Porthcothan to Treyarnon and another visit to Porth Joke and Kelsey Head.


In early September it was Hope Cove in south Devon and walks from there to Soar Mill Cove (pictured left), Salcombe (for a cream tea!), Ayrmer Cove, Mothecombe, Wonwell and the Revelstoke Drive around Noss Mayo and The Warren, where we discovered another of the Secret Beaches.  We also managed to find Prawle Point and Start Point, along with Hallsands and Torcross - it surprised even us just how much can be packed in to one week.



Our final getaway was to stay in Trebetherick for a week in October - the home of the late Sir John Betjeman - and we were fortunate to stay in a bungalow overlooking Daymer Bay, the Camel Estuary and Padstow. Unsurprisingly we revisited some of the places we had been to in June but also some we had missed, such as the lovely Lundy Bay, along with walks to St. Enodoc`s church  and along the shoreline to Rock as well as the spectacular ramble from Lellizick to Padstow for a well earned pasty.


So, all in all, a year to remember for us and Mrs. Snopper has already made bookings for us to take in yet more of the south west coast path in 2014.   And so for me - and especially as my dotage beckons - my retrospect is not about world events, politics, triumphs and disasters (sporting or otherwise), but more about the simple pleasures of being where we like to be, doing what we like to do and doing it whilst we still can.   


I hope you will forgive the shameless self-indulgence of this look back on the year but the south west coast path constantly reminds me just what a beautiful world we have - it`s just some of the people in it that are the problem.  So, as the last of the photos I took shows the sun going down on Hope Cove and as 2013 gives way to another New Year, I hope your own New Year is as happy and as memorable as our last one has been. 
    

Sunday, December 29, 2013

WATCH OF THE DAY..

It`s a curious thing about Christmas that television, which used to inform, educate and entertain, seems nowadays to serve up an endless stream of angst-ridden soaps, noise masquerading as comedy, old movies which included the box set of Carry On films and the mysterious notion that we are impressed and enthralled by the witless prattling of `celebrities.`   

It is indeed difficult to find much to lift the spirit once one has slumped down on the sofa.   Nonetheless, I managed to come across two or three gems, the first of which was the final of the Workplace Choir of the Year won by P&O Ferries with a quite inspired performance.   Then, of course, the first half of the Saints 3-0 demolition of troubled Cardiff City brought a warm glow in stark contrast to the late night cricket viewing from Down Under.

But the highlight for me was a delightful programme on the ever admirable BBC Four, which was devoted to telling the story of Ladybird Books.   And what blissful memories it rekindled in one who spent so many contented hours reading them to our three sons when they were much younger than the 50, 48 and 47 they are now.   There was something wonderfully innocent about those books, the way they were written and beautifully illustrated, depicting a peaceful world of happy families, rosy cheeked children and doting parents.  

The Ladybird books were on a par with the equally enchanting Deans Little Poppet Series which included the masterly saga of The Inquisitive Elf - another family favourite. These timeless volumes brought to life the stories of childhood, like the one shown above, and all this mentioning of elves reminds me of the reports from Iceland where a road construction programme has been halted by activists because the highway project might disturb the habitat of elves, especially an elf church which sits on the potential site.  The Icelandic Supreme Court is going to have to decide on the issue in the near future.  I don`t envy them their task.

Predictably enough, the highway authorities are claiming that the project should be allowed to proceed as there is no evidence of the existence of elves;  alternatively, of course, and especially for devotees of Little Poppet and Ladybird books, there is no evidence to suggest that the hidden folk don`t exist.  

It`s OK - I`ll be fine when I grow up.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


DREAM ON, BARNEY..

....but have a happy Christmas all the same.  And may I take this opportunity to wish my reader all the very best for the festive season and a peaceful and happy 2014.


THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH ?

This was the scene this morning on the lane leading to our neighbouring village, although I cannot understand what possesses people to even attempt to drive through conditions like that.   One thing that has impressed me of late is the accuracy of the weather forecasts; they got this one spot on and so we all knew what was coming and should have been prepared for problems like this.   So, well done, the Met. Office.

We`ve had all the predicted high winds with their damaging gusts, the 80cm of rain (I think that`s about three inches in old money) and now the subsequent localised flooding and chaos on the highways and byways of this fair isle.  What`s more, there`s another deluge on its way for the end of the week with yet more storm force winds, travel disruption and all round inconvenience.  Now I feel for the inconvenience suffered by those whose power supplies have been affected and for those whose Yuletide journeys have been disrupted on the roads, the airports and the railway network.

And, of course, all this has led to yet another media bonanza, with extended leading items on every TV news bulletin, local and national radio and pages of newsprint.   All very predictable.   But I have a deep suspicion that the weather conditions we`re having here in the beautiful south are pretty much the norm for this time of the year in more northern parts, where they expect it, they`re used to it, they just get on with it and they don`t make the kind of fuss we`re having down here.   I think it`s called Scotland and I think it`s called Winter.

We seem to be bottom heavy as a nation - the concentration of population in and around the urban sprawl of the capital, the frantic pace of life, of traffic, of everything - and it`s not until you get right away from this almost suffocating quarter in the south east that you realise there is a whole different world out there where the weather and the problems it might bring are just accepted as part of the natural order of things. 

But maybe it`s just me ?

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Well, here we are on the shortest day of the year.  It`s dark, it`s raining and my midwinter SADness is gaining momentum.   And I know that the season of good cheer is just around the corner when we will all be merry and bright but some truly awful things have happened of late and are still happening.  Perhaps too many to list all those that are going on around the world - Syria and the like - but closer to home we have had to endure the horror and savagery involved with the killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby, whose grieving family have been truly impressive in their restraint and dignity.  

There`s no way, of course, that any punishment dished out to his murderers will ever fit the crime, but in the same week that his killers have been found guilty, we also learnt of the unspeakable abuses carried out on the innocent by Ian Watkins, the former Lost Prophet.   He has been sentenced to 35 years in prison but again I`m not at all sure that his punishment and those of his `associates` will ever fit the degree of depravity and heartlessness perpetrated between them.

Now just these two examples here and the unending turmoil in other parts of the world lead me to wonder whether there was ever a time of such sheer brutality and barbarism. I`m sure that over the course of history there probably have been but we`re supposed to be a civilised society and we`re supposed to have learnt from history.   But we don`t appear to be doing that and I know that modern day technology and media output means that we hear and see more of the tragedies of the world than ever before but I`m still left with a feeling almost of despair that, far from becoming more civilised, humankind is becoming more and more cruel, selfish and depressingly distasteful.

Maybe it`s the shortest day.   Maybe because it`s still raining and now pitch dark.  Or maybe it`s just me?

Friday, December 20, 2013


TWO WAY STRETCH..

This palatial edifice is the European Parliament building in Strasbourg.    Once a month, on a Friday afternoon, about 30 trucks leave Brussels to make the 270-mile journey to Strasbourg.   The fleet carries over 4,000 trunks full of office documents for Members of the European Parliament, along with officials and interpreters.   This monthly circus generates over 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, but by EU treaty law the Parliament must sit for four days a month in Strasbourg (except August when the whole thing shuts down anyway), which means that the Parliament buildings, which cost close on £500million to build not that long ago, are  unoccupied for something like 300 days a year.

The costs involved with maintaining this daft arrangement are huge - and all borne by the taxpayer of course.   It`s estimated that the monthly removals cost about £170million a year;  then there is the £12million a year spent on maintaining the buildings, never mind the travel costs for the 766 Members, the staff and assorted entourage.  And there`s an interesting statistic associated with all of that, which is that when the MEPs are sitting in Strasbourg the bill for a three-night stay in the Hilton hotel is £700 each, whereas when the MEPs are not in town, the same hotel bill is reduced by 60% to £300.   

Now, any sensible organisation, faced with this kind of expenditure especially in difficult economic times, would do the obvious thing and simply stop doing it and retreat to the EU `Headquarters` in Brussels.   Trouble is, we`re dealing with the EU here and so France is very likely to veto a move to do just that, claiming that the seat in Strasbourg `represents Franco-German reconciliation after the Second World War.`   The French Ambassador to the EU has declared that, "France will defend Strasbourg very strongly and I urge you not to engage in polemics that will damage Europe`s standing.  That would play into the hands of the Eurosceptics."

Well he`s not wrong, but here`s a suggestion to enable France to insist on maintaining its precious pose as a `founding nation` of the EU......make them pay the costs of maintaining this nonsensical arrangement, because the vast majority of delegates to the EU all think it`s high time this vast expense and inefficiency was brought to a swift end. 

Encore !!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TESTING TIMES..

So, Ronnie Biggs has departed at last, which surprised me as I genuinely thought he had done that some time ago.   No matter - and although I am sorry to learn of anyone`s passing, I`m not sure I`m quite prepared for the outpourings we`re about to have concerning this career chancer.


Already, the BBC teletext service has a 25-page (yes, really, 25 pages) obituary and I imagine plans are being drawn up for a special edition of Question Time to be screened from Rio de Janeiro, where Biggs found his spiritual home.   As well as Chairman Dimbleby and 140 BBC staff being flown out on business class, I guess the panel must surely include `Mad` Frankie Fraser (assuming he`s not dead either,) the inescapable Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and her whining opinions about everything, former Met. Police Commander Reg (Snaffles) Balsam and possibly Saints` Brazillian midfielder Guly do Prado, as he`s out injured anyway.


But the real test will come this evening, when the first of a two-part drama about the Great Train Robbery is due to be shown.   I wonder if it will still be allowed to go ahead, or cancelled out of respect for the memory of this paragon of virtue.  Wouldn`t surprise me.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


NOBLESSE FAILS TO OBLIGE..

Yes, folks, he`s at it again.   Not for the first time, `Lord` Hanningfield has been caught out over his allowances and expenses as a member of the House of Lords.   This time he has been monitored clocking on, staying for a short while in the opulence of their Lordships House, then clocking off again.   These fleeting visits to Parliaments`s Second Chamber therefore entitle him to receive £300 each and every day he turns up.

The £300 is naturally tax free and there are doubtless other perks on hand such as House of Lords catering, drinkies and all the rest of it, all heavily subsidised by, you guessed it, we taxpayers.   But perhaps the biggest joke at our expense is that, as well as the £300 a day allowance, his Lordship is also entitled to claim his travelling expenses to get there in order to clock on and off and trouser the cash.  This nice little earner brought him £5,700 in allowances and a further £471 in `travel costs` in one month alone.

Now of course, "there is no suggestion that any rules have been broken," as a spokesman was quick to point out.  Of course not - perish the thought.   But surely there must be the strongest suggestion that it`s high time the "rules," such as they are, were thoroughly overhauled to prevent this kind of abuse happening.   And while we`re at it, it`s also high time this outdated, anachronistic, farcical pantomime was abolished altogether and replaced with a sensible Second Chamber to properly scrutinise legislation, comprising not of political place men and party donors, but of people of genuine stature who would command the nation`s respect.   

To be fair, there are already some eminently worthy and noble people sitting in the House of Lords, so why do we have to put up with the ignobility of Hanningfield, Taylor, Uddin and the rest of their unworthy ilk who contribute nothing of value and just bring the standing of Parliament into yet more disrepute?

Monday, December 16, 2013


AS OLD AS YOU FEEL ?..


As I`m now well into my 75th year I`ve started to wonder how I`m supposed to feel at my age.   I look around and some people I see appear to be `old` but in fact they might be the same age as me.   On the other hand, there may well be people who look at me and think, "Look at him - he must be well into his `70s."   So in answering the question as to how old I feel, I guess there is quite a lot of room for self delusion, especially when considering one`s physical appearance.

But it`s the mental age that interests me.   The older I get, the more things I find interesting and the more I am keen to find out about and I`m sure that having an enquiring mind is something that helps me feel that my mental age might be lagging behind my physical one.

Anyway, I discovered a way of finding out.  There are loads of websites that provide tests for you to determine what your mental age might be.  And in a desperate attempt to convince myself that I`m not yet off with the fairies, I tried a few with varying results. This one -http://yourmentalage.com/- came up with a mental age of 37 for me!!  Another suggested I was really 41 but a particularly inquisitive American site concluded that I was really 80, possibly because I didn`t understand the American questions about baseball, Fox News, Anna Nicole Smith and stuff.

So - and this is perhaps the most telling conclusion I reached - it doesn`t matter what the test results might be, neither do the perceptions of others, for I have reached the stage in life where I really don`t care about all that;  all I really know is that whatever it is that I`m supposed to feel at 74, I simply don`t.  I`m pretty sure my true mental age is about 12.

Friday, December 13, 2013


WELL, ONE OF THEM ANYWAY..


Quelle surprise!!  The other day I mentioned that I had written to the Cabinet Office about the cost of Government Christmas cards and I enquired whether, if they were funded by us taxpayers, it was about time I had one.   Amongst the trickle of cards that arrived today was one from Dave and Samantha, in a smart envelope with 10 DOWNING STREET emblazoned on the back, thanking me for thinking of them at Christmas time.   A Yuletide wonder if ever there was one but it just shows that if you don`t ask, you don`t get.

So I`m impressed, not only with the card but also with the fact that Dave managed to work it in to his busy schedule, what with flying down to South Africa and back, fending off Prime Minister`s Questions in the Commons and yet still finding time to send a Yuletide greeting to an elderly pensioner at this stressful time of the year.

Mind you, I suspect the truth is that my e-mail the other day landed on a desk in some dark recess of Government, quite possibly in the Department for Dealing with Cranks (DfDwC) whose role in life must be to deal with approaches from the bewildered and the misguided who, like me, lead their lives in blissful innocence.   Trouble is, now that they have my name and address, I might find myself on some crank offenders register.   

So maybe I should just be grateful for small mercies and leave things at that, although I notice I haven`t had an answer to my query about the cost of the Government`s Yuletide largesse.  Ah well, it`s the season of goodwill....so maybe I`ll pursue that line of enquiry once the euphoria of celebrating Santa`s birthday has subsided.

Ding dong merrily on high.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


JINGLE BELLS ?

As you can see from the picture, Prime Minister Dave Cameron is busy writing out his Christmas cards.   I discovered that he sends cards to literally hundreds of people around the world - other Prime Ministers, Heads of State, religious leaders, that kind of thing and I don`t have a problem with any of that.   Of course, cards that he sends privately to friends and family are paid for by him but I suspect the `official` cards along with the postage are paid for by us taxpayers.

If that pattern is repeated across all Government departments then the bill must be pretty big.  So, given that I`ve paid tax for 50 years or so, I`ve written to the Cabinet Office asking how much Dave`s official cards, along with the postage, are costing us and if it`s true that the taxpayers are paying, then can I please have one myself?   I`ve given him my address if he cares to take me up on the offer.

I went to buy some admittedly second class stamps today and 36 stamps cost me £18.00 -  quite probably more than the cards cost - so if Dave does send me one, I`m not sure I can afford to return the compliment, what with being an elderly pensioner struggling to survive on a fixed income in difficult financial times.   Jingle bells?

Monday, December 09, 2013


TAKE HEART...POSSIBLY..

There are, of course, many ways to ensure a good stuffing and defeat by an innings and plenty followed by another crushing defeat, this time by a mere 218 runs, seems to me to be a pretty comprehensive example of the art of serving up a stuffing in sport.   And yes, the cricket commentators, the sports journalists and the man on the Clapham omnibus are all engaged in ceremonial hand-wringing with emotions running raw from anger via humiliation and all the way to downright depression.   It`s all very predictable.

But let`s look at events on the cricket fields Down Under from a more positive point of view, even though in the process I might have to invoke the sports fan`s perennial refuge of straw clutching.  Now, in the Spring of 2003, ten years ago, Mrs. Snopper and I were on holiday in North Devon and one day we were walking up Hangman Hill on the coast near Combe Martin.  Near the top of the climb, we slumped down on a handily placed seat for a breather when along came a fellow pilgrim, who stopped and started chatting, as happens on the south west coast path.

Turned out he was an Arsenal fan and Southampton were due to meet Arsenal that coming Saturday in the FA Cup Final at Cardiff`s Millennium Stadium.  We had a little good humoured banter about the likely result and he told me that, in order to enjoy the winning, you first have to learn to lose.   And so it came to pass that Arsenal beat the Saints by 1-0 with a scruffy goal by Robert Pires. I didn`t enjoy that much, neither did I enjoy Southampton`s  later relegation down as low as the bottom of League One, minus 10 points.

But I have enjoyed the long climb back to a respectable position in the Premier League, more so because we learnt to lose in the dark recesses of those lower reaches and I often wonder how boring it must be to be forever winning, which may not only breed a certain arrogance but also an unseemly feeling of entitled superiority.  No wonder the steeped rows of Manchester United are showing all the signs of disquiet - they`re just not used to losing but maybe, like most of us, they`ll have to learn to accept it and get on with it.

So whilst, after a prolonged period of winning, the cricket Down Under may not be going our way right now, maybe we can take heart in the sure-fire knowledge that winning, when it comes around again on the cycle of life`s rich pageant, will be that much sweeter for having tasted a good old fashioned stuffing.  (I wonder if it ever rains in Perth?)

Saturday, December 07, 2013


No need for a booming headline - the picture above says it all really.   And in company with the vast majority of the rest of the world, I am saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela, as I am saddened by the passing of anyone else.   And of course it`s right that his leaving after 95 memorable years is marked by tributes not only from the great and the good but also from countless millions of `ordinary` people.  

It`s right too that the media - the press, radio, television and the insatiable `social media` - have been fulsome in their coverage devoted to this pivotal event.   But am I alone in thinking that maybe, just maybe, all this media attention has been a little more than absolutely necessary and that, as a result, a little of the dignity of the moment is being compromised?

And so, in a feeble attempt to redress yet another imbalance, and without in any way diminishing my respect for the passing of a great man, these pages will now refrain from adding further to the almost suffocating  coverage.

Thursday, December 05, 2013


 A QUIET CONFESSION..


There has been much - arguably too much - media interest in Tom Daley`s announcement that he is in a relationship with `a guy.`  Shock, horror, whatever next?  But it strikes me as odd that he felt the need to do it at all and particularly to appear on a toe curling YouTube video.   Anyway, to each his own, but it has given fuel to the gossipy, ultra-modern, ribbon-wearing, right on, trendy, twitter and f***book obsessed, sad `celebs` who feel it their duty to show their support, however superficial and self-serving it may be, by citing Mr. Daley as being `brave` and a beacon of hope for the less assertive.

Now as one who was brought up in a world where certain `preferences` were actually illegal, I have not found it easy to adjust to the times that are a-changing, but I have reached the point whereby I genuinely don`t care and would prefer not to hear about the private life that anyone might have.  It just doesn`t matter to me and I`m not interested. And I`m especially not interested in all the media coverage, the YouTube stuff, the pages and pages written by people with nothing more relevant with which to concern themselves.

And so, being of a different persuasion to that of Mr. Daley and his chum, I have no occasion to `come out,` as such, to appear on YouTube or to hope that my own perhaps more `traditional status` will attract any sort of publicity, approval or even admiration.   Although maybe it`s time there were a few charities - even Government-funded ones - devoted to the cause of helping people like me, dishing out ribbons for us to wear to announce pride in our own `status` and arranging annual parades as a kind of `So there` bit of nose-thumbing to the rest of the world.   But then, people wouldn`t want to hear about all that, would they?

Monday, December 02, 2013


AN OFFER THEY`LL PROBABLY REFUSE..

Whilst scouring the social columns of the Sunday newspapers yesterday, I came across an intriguing item. It seems that `celebrities` and especially those who move in royal circles have a particularly advantageous arrangement with a leading motor manufacturer.   Apparently, the quasi-regal Middletons have a deal with Range Rover by which they pay just a small proportion of the normal leasing costs for their £140,000 top-of-the-range vehicles. 

A spokesman explained, "The Middletons` Range Rovers have been leased to them as part of The VIP Scheme, the idea being that you pay a small percentage of the usual fee in return for certain services - which can be as little as being seen driving around in the vehicle.  It does wonders for the brand."

Now, I`m thinking of getting in touch with Nissan up in Sunderland.   As I drive one of their cars and quite apart from all the local driving I do, I also clock up the miles on frequent trips to Cornwall, Devon and Southampton and back. (I`m off to the New Forest again on Wednesday.)  Moreover, it strikes me as odd that the vehicles driven by the Middletons of this world probably have blacked out windows which might negate the point, as people won`t be able to see them driving around.  With me, on the other hand, anyone can see me driving my Nissan so I`ll probably be more visible up and down the A303, the A30, the M3 and the other highways of my life and so be much better for `the brand` anyway.

So I`ll see what Nissan have to say about a similar deal for me.  Worth a try, although I suspect it will be an offer they`ll probably refuse and that I`ll have to go on paying the full going rate.  C`est la vie, n`est pas?