Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Well maybe it`s because it`s Tuesday and it`s dark and it`s cold and it`s wet but whatever it is, it has put me in the mood for the ironic stark contrasts which caught my eye today.....even if, like the picture above, they were completely unintentional. 

The first came when I was watching the BBC News this lunchtime and amongst all the various news items, two came along one after the other, thanks to whoever it is that decides the running order for news stories.   The first concerned the speculation about who might be the first woman bishop to be appointed in the Church of England.  There are some upcoming vacancies and the bookmakers (this isn`t the irony, honest) are taking bets as to which of four prime candidates will be the first to don the vacant mitre.

This item was immediately followed by one which reported Mario Balotelli`s latest faux pas in that he has been forced to withdraw a post on his Instagram account (whatever that is) which contained alleged racist and anti-Semitic references.   It struck me that there could hardly be a more stark contrast between women bishops and Mario Balotelli coming together in the BBC News.

Somehow it reminded me that much closer to home there is perhaps an example of an even more stark contrast, this time between two adjoining `businesses.`   In the same road where my stylist, Chris of Larkfield, pursues her hairdressing career for discerning gentlemen, there is an example of ironic juxtaposition which it would be impossible to make up.  Here it is:-

I am perfectly certain that clients of the business on the left do not expect immediately to avail themselves of the business on the right, for there can be no question that the one on the left practices anything other than the most rigorous food hygiene regime.  Now those who know my penchant for plain English fayre would know that I am unlikely ever to enter a Chinese takeaway establishment.   Pity the same can`t be said for the business next door.

Monday, December 01, 2014


Maybe because it`s Monday and it`s cold and it`s dark but whatever it is it`s one of those days when you`re not quite sure whether you have woken up in the real world or some parallel universe where everything seems `odd.`  Here is just a small selection of things that are confronting me this grey winter`s morning.......

.....HM Gov. are planning to spend £2 billion to ease the congestion on the A303 around Stonehenge.   It was all of 35 years ago that `improvements` to this notorious bottleneck were mooted and we`re told that today`s proposal will probably take a good ten years before it gets completed - if it gets started at all, of course.

Now I use the A303 quite a lot on our journeys to and from the great south west, so I know all about the Stonehenge problem, but at my age I`m beginning to seriously doubt whether I will live to see the announced improvement.  So from my point of view what`s needed is a quicker fix and there are a couple of options.   The first one, which will cost so much less than £2 billion, is simply to move Stonehenge to another more remote location and the second obvious solution is to build an entirely new Stonehenge at a tourist hotspot which will guarantee a return on the investment.

.......and speaking of returns on investment, how about the Dartford Crossing, where the cost of building it had been recouped in toll charges many years ago with the promise that it would then be free to cross.  Today, the price of the toll charges has risen by 25%, the Highways Agency are scrapping the toll booths and drivers will now have to join DartTag, pay on line or by phone and if you don`t there will be a hefty fine.   All well and good, but what if you are an easily confused elderly pensioner without access to the internet or a phone?  My answer to all this will be like my answer to most things -   I`ll just go the long way round

.......and finally for this miserable Monday morning, I`m getting a little tired of the constant barrage of appeals for cash from so many charities that it`s hard to keep track of them all.  Now I give to charities of my choice and I do so quietly and willingly so I don`t need to be harangued with television adverts, people banging on the door, letters in the post, wristbands, ribbons, telling secrets, rattling tins or `celebrity appeals.`   I just wonder if, like politicians who browbeat us to vote one way, the compassion overload we`re now having might just turn people away from supporting anything.   

Well, it is Monday morning.  Have a nice day!

Sunday, November 30, 2014


I was intrigued by the reports that the A1 near Catterick in North Yorkshire had been closed in both directions following reports of an `explosion` in the area.  Police conducted searches across the area where the noise was reported but found no obvious signs of an explosion.  No-one was injured and any links to terrorism have been ruled out.

Police said that the road was closed for so long leading to mass frustration and traffic congestion for motorists but the measure had been taken `for public safety.`  A police spokesman confirmed that they were `not prepared to take any chances with people`s safety and had to carry out a very thorough and extensive investigation.  A number of possibilities have been looked into but we may never find what the source of the explosion was.`   Now, on the Ministry of Defence website, Catterick Garrison is described as `the army`s largest training establishment,` with 20,000 acres of training land.  So maybe it`s not surprising that the odd explosion is to be heard drifting across the A1 from the training activities on the nearby moors. 

It reminds me of a pilgrimage made a long time ago when I and two other former national service mates made the journey to Catterick Garrison to recapture the scenes of our conscripted basic training over 50 years ago.

Armed with our army discharge papers - just in case, you see - we parked the car and stood outside the heavily guarded fence of Bourlon Barracks, where we had endured our first few weeks of military discipline.   It was an attempt to exorcise those memories, I suppose, but there was something deeply satisfying about being able to observe it from the outside looking in.   Sure enough, as we stood there, trainees were being marched up and down the barrack square, armoured fighting vehicles were parked and, not unnaturally, the whole scene was one of complete military presence.

Whereupon, a very rigid army figure arrived, pointed to the scene behind the fence and in all seriousness asked us, "Do you realise this is a military encampment?"   Well, I never! 

Friday, November 28, 2014


Well over half a century ago I used to enjoy playing all the sports I could get my hands on and it was always a toss-up between football and cricket as to which one I enjoyed the most.  In those days, the dividing line between the end of the cricket season and the start of football was very clear - I would have my last cricket game one Saturday and start the football season the next.

But in either sport I was - how shall I say? - undistinguished but in those days each game seemed, by and large, to be played in a kind of unspoken Corinthian spirit, where offence was rarely given or taken.   And the memories of those rare occasions when I was guilty of sporting offence still trouble me to this day.  And one incident in particular still refuses to go away.

Thanks to various transfer windows, the football teams I played for were reasonable enough and I spent the last few years of my dwindling `career` playing for the formidable Maidstone Dolphins in Division 3B (really Division 7) of the Maidstone and District Unsponsored Saturday League.  One Saturday afternoon on the unhallowed turf of Mangravet Recreation Ground we played a team one of whose players had only one arm.  

As a box-to-box midfield dynamo with a good engine and an eye for a pass, I came up against this player and in a brief fit of competitiveness I accidentally knocked him off the ball and he fell to the ground.  The referee blew for a foul - the first and only time I can recall having committed such an offence - and I immediately apologised not only to my opponent but also to the referee.  I genuinely felt awful about it and the incident affected me for the rest of the game.   It`s not the sort of thing you forget and here I am over 50 years later going on about it.

God only knows how Sean Abbott must feel.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


So, the BBC`s contenders for Sports Personality of the Year have been announced.  No real surprises there with Lewis Hamilton already quoted at 1-4 as the bookies` favourite and other arguably more worthy contenders trailing in his wake.  I`ve no quarrel with the other nominations which seem to represent most sports - (with the notable exceptions of Rugby and Cycling, which we are pretty good at) - and they include a boxer, swimmer, gymnast, golfer, very worthy Paralympians, a lady who does dressage with her horse and another who went downhill very fast on a tea tray.

Now I realise that there are millions of people in thrall with the world of Formula One racing and I also know it`s a world of `to each his own.`   But I have long wondered why motor racing qualifies as a `sport,` when the whole business is an environmentally hostile, deafeningly noisy, boring spectacle run by an organisation of dubious presence, whose champion is decided as much by technical and mechanical competence than by whoever happens to be sitting in the cockpit.

And motor racing has produced Lewis Hamilton. Now some months ago, there was a bit of controversy when Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg accused then Saints player, Adam Lallana, of `being very different now you`ve played for England.`  The accusation may have been flippant and raised some eyebrows but it may have contained an element of truth. It certainly seems to be the case with Hamilton who seems to have morphed into a kind of dream-world of his own following his cockpit sitting exploits.   He seems somehow `unworldly,` in a bubble of his own, not really one of us any more, not quite right. 

Now someone with a real personality is Jo Pavey who, at nearly 43 years of age, won the European 10,000 metres gold medal in Zurich, making her the oldest ever female European champion.  All this after having won the bronze medal in the 5,000 metres at the Commonwealth Games just ten days earlier.   A mother of two, eight months after giving birth to her second child she won the British 10,000m title.  She is one of those almost unsung champions, shunning the spotlight, reserved, modest, engagingly charming with no pretences and certainly no twin diamond ear studs. 


She won`t win the BBC Sports Personality, of course - that wouldn`t be quite right in a world that values brash excess over quiet achievement.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Well, I`ve finished wading my way through Richard Vinen`s 600-page account of National Service.  It`s a serious, entertaining and thought-provoking account of a time which was unique in the social and military history of this country.  It was the first and only time when over two million men born between 1928 and August,1939 (I was born in July 1939) were conscripted to serve during peacetime.   Well, I use the word peacetime advisedly as, during the period, there were serious conflicts in Korea, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and the fiasco of Suez, in each of which national servicemen served, died or were wounded and should perhaps be remembered more than they are.  

Now the contribution of national servicemen to these episodes is acknowledged at some length and rightly so, for the whole raison d`etre of conscription was not to turn the youth of the day into men but rather to ensure that the armed forces had enough manpower to cope not only with conflicts such as those I have mentioned but also the burgeoning threat from the Soviet Union.

Vinen`s book is full of detail about the background, the process and the ending of national service and draws upon a large collection of documents, records and interviews, all of which add to the authenticity of his study.   But it is a study not only of conscription but also of Britain during those times and he concludes that that time is now almost unrecognisable from the perspective of now.   The book is littered with references to all kinds of divisions that existed during the national service years - public school, grammar school;  officer class, non-commissioned officers, `other ranks;` divisions within the army itself - Guards, Cavalry, infantry regiments, Pioneer Corps; between regular soldiers and national service conscripts - but the most telling influence in those times was the preponderance and application of `class` itself.  (I wonder if it has changed all that much.)

Most of Vinen`s `personal` sources are from commissioned national service officers and there is perhaps not enough effort devoted to exploring what national service really meant to the `ordinary` conscript,  plucked from his own domestic environment and pitchforked into a quite alien world where, if he was to survive at all, he had quickly to adopt qualities such as self-reliance, a healthy cynicism and an acceptance of his situation whilst counting the days until his own form of normality could be resumed.

I`ve said before that, for me, the experiences I had left me with mixed feelings;  I would rather not have been called up and yet, having been, I learnt things about life and about myself that I suspect have proved useful, not least the comradeship I discovered from being `all in this together.`  And yes, my cynicism remains untouched, for how else could it be, having proved so hopeless at shooting that my rifle range score was laughably inept so I was posted to a cavalry regiment that had tanks with massive guns;  and when I was demobbed I found myself posted to a reserve regiment that went by the name of Sharpshooters.   Which, of course, aptly demonstrates the eternal contradiction in terms that is military intelligence.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Some months ago now, Prime Minister Dave Cameron said that he expected the long awaited report of the Chilcot Inquiry to be published "before the end of the year." That was in May and now there are only four weeks left of the Parliamentary Year, so the prospect of Cameron`s expectation being fulfilled looks decidedly unlikely.

I think it was in July that letters were sent to the main participants in the Inquiry setting out detailed conclusions and, by law, anyone who faces criticism in a public inquiry must be warned as such and given the opportunity to challenge any negative findings.   Our old friend, Tony Blair, is possibly among those to whom such letters are believed to have been sent.

All of this process leads to yet more delay in the report`s publication and, as well as Parliamentary time running out, some members of the Houses of Parliament are now seriously suggesting that it would not be right for the report to be published before next May`s General Election.  Words like felony and compounded spring to mind.

It`s reported that a spokesman for the Chilcot Inquiry has declined to comment on the current state of affairs;  a spokesman for Tony Blair`s Office has gone on record as saying, "No comment;"  and Jack Straw, another thought to have received a letter from the Inquiry, could not be reached for comment.

It all comes as nothing of a surprise and seems as though too many people have nothing to say about this festering sore, which will only heal once the report is finally published, although I`m beginning to doubt whether that will be in my lifetime.  

Monday, November 17, 2014


God knows I`m the last one to comment on religion, but a couple of things caught my eye this weekend.   The first is that at last it seems the Church of England is going to allow women to become Bishops.  Now I have absolutely no idea why they have not been `allowed` before now but I suspect there might be some deep philosophical reason based on some arcane biblical text...or it might just be because they are just women.  Either way it`s all a bit daft and so for serial doubters like me it`s an encouraging sign that at last the church seem to be dragging themselves into the 21st century.   Good for them.

The other thing that puzzled me was the report that the BBC is revamping its long running programme, "Songs of Praise," which has been televised from churches across the land for decades.  It will drop its traditional format of an Anglican service recorded in a cathedral or parish church and instead will feature a range of churches, locations, congregations and choirs.  The BBC`s head of religion and ethics, Aaquil Ahmed, said, "A different form of Christianity" had emerged in the UK.  Quite so.

Maybe the change of format for this much loved programme should not come as a surprise but what does is the discovery that the BBC`s head of religion is, in fact, a Muslim.  Now it seems Mr. Ahmed has been in post for some time and I have no doubt that he`s a decent man, kind to animals and old people and I mean no disrespect to him personally, but you have to wonder why someone who is not of the faith of the established church in this country is in this job.

On the other hand, like so many other things, it`s all very BBC, of course, so nothing should come as a surprise.  Thank God I don`t pay the compulsory licence fee any more.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Well, it`s Saturday and in football terms all there seems little to look forward to with England playing Slovenia in a Euro Qualifier.  The England captain, Wayne Rooney, complete with stitched on and dyed hair and mumbling his inspirational team talk in his indecipherable Merseyside drawl, makes for a dispiriting figure.   No game for the Saints, who have no less than 17 of their players away on international duty, although to be fair there will be considerable interest in chez Snopper in the exploits of Bristol City, for whom our street`s local hero Scott Wagstaff is rumoured to be starting against Swindon in a top of the table clash at the Wiltshire club`s County Ground - provided the team coach can negotiate the town`s magic roundabout.   

It`s not been a good week for football, especially the nonsense surrounding FIFA`s hilarious attempts to convince the world that their own internal `investigations` have revealed that everything to do with the World Cup bids by Russia and Qatar was fine and dandy, whereas England are heading for the naughty step.   The Chairman of the English Football Association, Greg Dyke, was right in calling FIFA a joke.   And a sick one at that.

And it all makes me wonder whether England should say `enough is enough` and withdraw its membership of that discredited outfit.   Yes I know the implications of such a decision would be `far reaching` and the consequences might well be `damaging` to the game in this country.   But it might be an opportunity to get back to basics, to see football once more for what it is - a game to be played, watched and enjoyed, not a vehicle for corrupt chancers to strip the game of any last vestige of honesty and integrity.

In a way FIFA almost mirrors the European Union.  It`s self-serving, seriously inefficient, immune to significant change and oblivious to the expectations of those who it is supposed to represent.   It`s time to say goodbye to both organisations and if parting is such sweet sorrow then I`m sure we will get over it, do our own thing and know that any `difficulties` that may spring from those decisions will at least be our difficulties which we will undoubtedly be capable of dealing with.  Let`s give it a go.  After all it can`t be any worse than having to put up with the shambles that these two outfits have become.

Friday, November 14, 2014


I see today that MPs are calling for the days on which General Elections are held to be made public holidays so as to increase the number of people who turn up at polling stations.  The Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee said the move could help `restore greater esteem and excitement to the electoral process.`  The Committee is also calling for automatic registration and trials of voting via the internet, `with a view to voters having the choice of voting online at the 2020 General Election.`

Now it`s true, of course, that turnouts ate elections are pretty abysmal, ranging from around 10% for daft elections like those for Police and Crime Commissioners to still only 65% at the last General Election, so maybe something should be done to avoid the situation whereby that 65% meant that 16 million eligible voters failed to cast their ballot last time around.

But I wonder about the beezer wheeze of turning election days into public holidays. General Elections are normally held in May, just as the Spring sunshine, the lighter evenings and the longer days suggest that, rather than use the day to take part in the bureaucratic Victoriana of visiting polling stations, at least 16 million potential voters are more likely to head for the beach.

Now I have a feeling that the answer lies in the antipodes, where Oscar Hammerstein`s assertion that if you become a teacher, by your pupils you`ll be taught, could have its best example.   The right to vote is a freedom fiercely sought by people the world over, but Australians don`t have a choice.  Registering to vote and going to the polls are legal duties in Australia for citizens aged 18 and over and failing to do so can potentially result in a day in court and a fine.

But it seems to have public support and it seems to work - compared with the UK`s 65% voting at the last General Election, no less than 94% of Australian voters cast their votes in the country`s last Federal Election.   There is an ongoing debate in Australia about its voting system but Dr. Peter Chen, who teaches politics and Sydney University, confirms that there is no sign of any serious measures to end compulsory voting.

"Most Australians are quite comfortable with the electoral process," he says, "and would be quite suspicious of efforts to change it.  We trust the electoral system more than we trust our politicians."   Seems to me that, rather than introducing gimmickry such as public holidays, we should instead learn from our friends Down Under. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014


The other evening I recorded some late night viewing on BBC2.  It was Nicholas Roeg`s 1971 masterpiece, Walkabout, with Jenny Agutter and Roeg`s own son, Luc, starring in the tale of two children abandoned by their father to the vagaries of the Australian bush. It`s a classic of its kind, full of breathtaking imagery, exploring the perfect counterpoint between the urban jungle of Sydney and the reality of surviving in the wilderness - although one is left in little doubt as to which of those two environments is the most appealing.

If you get the chance to see it, it`s well worth it for all kinds of reasons, not least being the wonderful score by that most gifted of composers, John Barry, who sadly left us in 2011.   He is perhaps best remembered for scoring the James Bond films and many more besides - notably Dances with Wolves and Out of Africa, for both of which he received an Oscar.

I have been a fan of John Barry and his music for many years and I thought I had heard it all.  But I was captivated by his score for Walkabout which, even back in the late 60s/early 70s when the film was made, gave us a foretaste of those towering melodic string compositions which became Barry`s trademark for his film scores over the next 40 years. I`m not sure that  film music - or indeed music generally - gets any more haunting and emotive than this:-

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I like Ronald Koeman.  I like the cut of his jib.  And one of his more endearing qualities is the way he conducts himself in media interviews, all done with an engaging Dutch accent and a choice of English that speaks volumes for his grasp of the language.  But here`s a curious thing.  Each day I get the on-line version of the Southampton local newspaper, the Southern Daily Echo, and most days there is a report on what Ron has had to say.  I read them, of course, but I find myself doing so with a Dutch accent.   Is it just me?

A hundred years ago in a former life I found myself part of an official delegation to complete the twinning of a town here in Kent with one in Germany.   After being around Frankfurt for about three days, I was out for a walk with the Mayor from the Kent town and we got chatting.   After a while, we both stopped, looked at each other and realised that we had been chatting away in English of course, but with German accents.

Thank goodness I have no plans to visit South Africa, Birmingham, Liverpool or Newcastle - to name but a few - where the accents are quite beyond parody.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Every day I pick up the newspaper, turn to the sports pages and it`s Southampton, The Saints, Koeman, Pelle, Tadic, and all the rest of it.   The pundits on Match of the Day, Goals on Sunday etc. are the same - it`s Saints this, Saints that, aren`t the Saints doing well, can they sustain their wonderful start to the season?.....and so on.  I quite expect the question to be raised in Prime Minister`s Questions on Wednesday.

It`s understandable, I suppose, that Saints fans are enjoying the change from parrot sickness to being over the moon and to be fair to us, it`s not we fans who have been shouting from the rooftops but the assorted sporting media.  We`re not used to it, you see - we know our place in the great scheme of things and it certainly is not lying second in the Premier League with only Chelsea in our sights and looking down on the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and a couple more `big clubs` who spirited away our manager and leading players from last season.

Now there`s a danger that we might slip into smug mode, displaying bragging rights and assuming that after all these years of turmoil the green pastures of safety and survival are finally behind us.   But we should be careful, for I have an uncomfortable feeling.  Not one that is concerned about the results on the pitch but rather one that is concerned about how best to avoid an unattractive smugness.  I almost slipped into it a couple of weeks ago when I was accused of being a `smug git` following the Saints 8-0 demolition of Sunderland.   

So we have to be careful to avoid the onset of the kind of arrogant smugness that pervades places like Old Trafford, Manchester, where years of success have nurtured that feeling of assumed entitlement that is simply not in the nature of us die hard Saints supporters.  Maybe once again it`s time for me to set up another  F***book page , this time devoted to the encouragement of modesty, restraint and quiet acceptance. There could even be a registered charity - Smug Gits Anonymous, it might be called - for surely there is already a captive audience in Manchester, West and North London for whom smug avoidance would be a distinct advantage.

But somehow I suppose any new F***book page I set up will probably suffer the same fate as my last one, DodderWatch, for people interested in that parasitic plant.  At the last count, there were only two `members,`  myself and someone I invited to join.  Now that`s what I call modest and a shining example to smug gits everywhere. 

Friday, November 07, 2014


So, according to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Britain won`t have to pay the whole £1.7billion bill to the EU after all.   Instead, we will only have to pay £850million with no interest charges and the bill will be paid in two instalments later next year. 

Now straight away it all sounds too good a deal to be true......and things that sound too good to be true seldom, if ever, are.   First off, I can`t believe that our `partners` in the EU would have agreed to such a deal, especially those countries like Germany and France who are supposed to be getting hefty payments rather than demands.   Next, even if it is all true after all, we will still be left with a bill of `only` £850million - that`s £850,000,000 and I can think of so many things we could be doing with that kind of cash rather than sending it off to the black hole of Brussels.  As for the timing of the whole thing, isn`t it odd that this `deal` has arrived less than a fortnight before the Rochester and Strood by-election and isn`t it even more odd that the first interest-free`repayment` will not have to be made until next June, just a month after the General Election?

In the next few days there will be claim and counter claim about the validity of this whole business and, like most things EU, it will be virtually impossible to see through the smoke and mirrors and arrive at a definitive conclusion.   Now maybe I have an ingrained suspicious mind - after 75 years of observing politicians it`s hardly surprising - and so my suspicions are aroused by this so-called deal but more worrying perhaps is that as well as feeling suspicious, I have the distinct feeling that I`m being cheated yet again.

Monday, November 03, 2014


The diplomatic badinage flying between London, Berlin and Brussels is reaching new heights with the claim and counter claim concerning the UK and the renegotiation of its membership of the EU. Today we learn that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not prepared to consider any changes to the free movement of EU `citizens` between EU countries, whereas UK Prime Minister Dave Cameron is pressing ahead with the misguided notion that such change is not only achievable and also crucial to Britain`s continued EU membership. 

In response, Frau Sauer, to give Mrs. Merkel her proper name, is shrugging her Teutonic shoulders and allegedly declaring that she would rather see Britain leave the EU than compromise the principle of free movement.   Seems like a  game of bluff and counter bluff as much as claim and counter claim and it remains to be seen who blinks first.

Somehow it reminds me of that memorable scene from Goldfinger, when British hero James Bond is tied to a table with a laser beam heading inexorably towards his nether regions.   The German villain, Auric Goldfinger, played with admirable menace by the late Gert Frobe, looks on dispassionately whilst Bond`s prospects appear to lessen as the laser creeps unerringly on its threatening journey. 

Bond says as coolly as he can, "So, you expect me to talk, Blofeld?"

"No, Mr. Bond.  I expect you to die!!"

Here it is:-

Today`s interpretation might go something like this:-

"So, Mrs. Merkel, you expect me to back down?"

"No, Mr. Cameron.  I expect you to obey!!"

Sunday, November 02, 2014

.....but you`ll only need one

A worrying development has come my way courtesy of the British Red Cross - of all things. One of their volunteers is reported to have been `dismissed` for having the temerity to protest against gay marriage.  The 71-year old was told he was no longer welcome at the charity because his views were incompatible with the British Red Cross values.  The volunteer in question has worked for the charity for 20 years as a senior Red Cross volunteer and he is is appealing against his dismissal, which he calls `unfair and without justification.  What have I done wrong?  I passionately believe in the institution of marriage between a man and a woman as the cornerstone of our society and I don`t believe Parliament was representing the views of people when it changed the definition of marriage.`

The letter sent by the Red Cross informing him of his dismissal accused him of breaching its principles as an organisation which remains neutral on political issues.   The Director of the Christian Institute which co-ordinated opposition to gay marriage and is providing legal advice in this case, said, "This is a shocking case.  His only `crime` seems to be that he was one of millions of ordinary people who opposed Parliament`s change to the definition of marriage.  What will disturb most people is that the Red Cross says it is not his actions but his thoughts and views that were the problem.   Is it now official policy of the Red Cross that any volunteer who holds traditional views on marriage will face the sack?"

For their part, the Red Cross are quoted as saying, "We are committed to and bound by our fundamental principles which do not take sides in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.  We have to consider the compatibility of people`s expressed views in line with the fundamental principles."

Well, it`s good of them not to take sides despite dismissing someone who has given over 20 years of voluntary service by helping people and, as the case is going to appeal, it would not be right to comment directly on it.   However, the worrying aspect is the suggestion that it is not his actions but his thoughts and views that were the problem. 

Now I wonder if you can guess what I`m thinking.   I`ll give you three guesses......but you`ll only need one.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


You`ve got to hand it to the BBC - they have now refined their penchant for absurdity, this time by yet another flagrant abuse of licence payers` cash along with a blatant case of product placement and another example of reporting the blindingly obvious.

But first things first.   Since the clocks went back last weekend, Barney our retriever hasn`t yet adjusted his body clock, so we`re getting up a bit earlier than we have been used to.   One of the consequences is that I get to watch very early Breakfast television on BBC. and the other morning my still slumbering ears were suddenly screeched awake by the stentorian Gracie Fields-esqe Steph (sic) McGovern, who is rumoured to be Breakfast TV`s financial `reporter.`  And this time she was reporting live from Frankfurt of all places in a futile attempt to explain to us early morning viewers why it is that German grocers, Aldi and Lidl, seem to be doing so much better in the UK than the UK`s home grown outlets such as Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons, etc.

So she interviewed a few local Frankfurters and a German `retail analyst` all of whom confirmed what we knew already - it`s all about the price and the quality.   Now just recently I have become something of an aficionado of Aldi`s.  The quality of their `Harvest Moon` brand of cereals is as competitively priced and as good if not better than anyone else`s; the same goes for their oatie biscuits, cashew nuts and all the other essentials of modern day living.  

So I really didn`t need Steph, her camera man, sound man, producer and the rest of the BBC crew spending a fortune on travel and accommodation for a pointless jaunt to Germany to confirm the blindingly obvious.   Although I wondered too whether it was within the spirit of the BBC Charter to allow so much free advertising for these German companies, when they probably don`t need it anyway, such is the impact they are making in the shopping aisles of the UK.  

Steph and her chums could quite easily have stepped out into the grocery stores of Salford and achieved exactly the same result.   But then that wouldn`t have been very `BBC` would it?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Went to Bluewater Shopping Thingy yesterday and, as usual, whilst Mrs. Snopper was busying herself buying essential household supplies I spent a while in Waterstones bookshop.   Now a while ago I did the same and on that occasion I saw three books that caught my fancy but I thought it would go against my natural feelings of guilt if I allowed myself the self indulgence of buying them.

But time had moved on from then and yesterday I went in search of the same books again on the assumption that it is very unlikely that anyone would buy them for me for Christmas and, in any case, I have now reached the `Why Not?` stage of life. So I decided to try to overcome my guilt complex and buy them anyway.  Well, why not?

The three books in question were

- Henning Mankell`s new Wallander `An Event in Autumn;`

- `Touched by Greatness`, a biography of Tom Graveney;

- and a newly published study of National Service by Richard Vinen. 

The first was simply because I enjoy the Wallander novels and their images of life and death in a small town in Sweden.   The second was a genuine desire to find out more about another of my boyhood cricketing heroes and the third was to recapture and investigate those events half a century ago which changed my life forever.

The sad thing was that I couldn`t find the book about Tom Graveney which had been published back in February.  I enquired only to be told that Waterstones only ever had one copy and that had been sold so I guess I`ll have to look elsewhere. (Christmas is coming?) But I did manage to buy the other two, neither of which I have begun to read of course.   But I am looking forward to getting my teeth into the 600-page National Service study as it will not only be an extended trip down memory lane but also, I hope, finally put my experience into a wider context and hopefully justify the 731 days of conscription that I experienced.  

The signs look promising.  The flysheet suggests that "more than two million conscripts - most (like me) paid just over one pound a week - underwent national service.  Britain has a curious blind spot about this aspect of its recent past, generally regarding it as a comic interlude, notable for inspiring the first ever Carry On film.  Yet its impact was huge.  It cut across the lives of an entire generation in a time which now seems impossibly remote" when we pale, nervous young men turned up every two weeks at military camps to embark on life changing experiences which still resonate, even today.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Mr. Happy the Saints fan doesn`t always have happy days:-

But then along comes a picture to lift Mr. Happy`s spirits:-

Barclays Premier League Table

3Man City917
4West Ham916
8Man Utd812
12West Brom910
13Aston Villa810
15Crystal Palace99

.......and so Mr. Happy is happy again.   Isn`t that nice to see?-