Thursday, March 20, 2014


Well, my impulse purchase of a week`s escape from the madness of the south-east is now just a day or so away and so this is au revoir for now.   We`re off back to Rosevine on Cornwall`s Roseland Peninsula - the signpost above will give a clue as to our whereabouts. You can just see the same coast path sign in the picture below which shows Mrs. Snopper and Barney our Retriever (who still refuses to retrieve) staggering back up the hill to our holiday cottage just 100 yards up from Porthcurnick beach.

The weather forecast isn`t wonderful but it`s one of those places where it won`t matter, as it`s a simple but irresistible pleasure just to be spending some time in such inspiring surroundings.   So, no more rants from me on these pages for a little while and, who knows, it may be entirely possible that you never hear from me ever again?.............

Monday, March 17, 2014


My disenchantment with Manchester United really goes back to 2005 when in the last game of that season, Southampton needed to beat Manchester United at St. Mary`s in order to stave off relegation from the Premier League.   Well, we lost 2-1 and we went down.  I had no complaint about the result - we simply didn`t deserve anything more - but the thing which sealed my contempt for United and all they stand for was the spectacle, at the end of the game, of their captain, Roy Keane, walking round the touchline giving us the thumbs down and waving goodbye.

It summed up Keane, the attitude of their manager, `Sir` Alex Ferguson, the club and all United`s grace and charm and I have never forgotten it, neither will I forgive.  It was cheap, unworthy and totally unnecessary.   And so now, nearly ten years on I notice that the fortunes of both clubs have changed.  As things stand today, Southampton are eighth in the Premier League, just behind United who are seventh.   

But it`s the attitudes again that produce marked contrasts.  Saints fans are over the moon, perfectly happy with most things about their club at the moment - benign, enthusiastic and mercifully generous ownership, inspired management, talented players playing an attractive brand of football.   United fans on the other hand are sick as parrots, unsure of the owners, the management, the players and the future.  

This morning I went to Homebase and on the car radio, BBC Radio Five Live were holding a `discussion` amongst United fans about the present state of their club.   Almost without exception, the clarion calls came in adenoidal Surrey accents for the manager, David Moyes, to be sacked.  Seventh place, you see, is `unacceptable` given their divine right to win everything in sight.

On the last day of this season, Southampton play Manchester United at St. Mary`s and it`s not inconceivable that each team might have to win that game to ensure a place in next season`s Europa League competition.   How sweet it would be if Saints were to win 2-1. If they do, I will refrain from walking around the pitch waving goodbye to the United fans and giving them the thumbs down.  I`ll just enjoy the fact that things have finally come full circle.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Cheltenham Festival is well under way and although I know absolutely nothing about the sport of Kings I have always wondered about the phrase `going nap.`  I`ve never really understood what it meant, although I`ve always assumed it was something to do with doing something five times in a row.  Anyway I found out that it is a pick or recommendation as a good bet to win a contest and originates from the French card game Napoleon.   In that game you have to win all five tricks with the lowest trump played first.

So there we have it.  All very clear, I`m sure.  But I have to confess that I know even less about obscure French card games than I do about the Cheltenham Festival, although I do like the occasional glimpses of Cleeve Hill on the TV.   And I`m not sure how the phrase `to go nap` found its way into horse racing, so I guess it must refer to a jockey, say, having five winning rides in a row or some nag being a good bet to win.   It makes me wonder why it isn`t used more widely, as I can well imagine a number of activities to which the phrase could very appropriately apply.

Anyway, the real point of this ramble is simply to enable me to qualify for `going nap,` as this is the fifth daily post in a row on these pages this week.  How sad is that?  All very exhausting, so if you`ll forgive me I`m off for a nap - give me a shout in five hours or so.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


There was an interesting exchange in the Commons yesterday during Deputy Prime Minister`s Questions, at the end of which Labour`s Deputy, Harriet Harman, accused the Coalition of being "two parties bound together in mutual fear of the electorate."   Nice turn of phrase but it seemed unfortunately timed on a day when Ed Milliband has virtually ruled out a referendum of Britain`s continued membership of the the European Union.

It`s just too boring to recount yet again the number of times we have been promised a referendum by the three main political parties, all of whom seem keen to deny the electorate the chance  despite not having had a say for getting on for half a century.   The cynic in me would suggest that, as ever, the politicians are denying the chance for their own ends rather than the clear wishes of those they purport to represent.

So, no referendum under Labour;  certainly not if the Lib Dems have any say in it;  the Conservatives might hold a referendum in 2017 if they are returned to power in next year`s General Election and if they have succeeded in renegotiating some undisclosed terms of the UK`s relationship with the EU which isn`t going to happen anyway following Angela Merkel`s announcement on her recent visit to London.   The only outfit who are really promising a referendum are UKIP who are unlikely to have much representation, if any, in the corridors of power anyway.

I suggest we just give up, accept that we should carry on paying £millions to the EU each and every day, let them decide most of the laws by which we are governed and not question the appalling waste of taxpayers` money or the unaccountability of their hopeless financial controls; but instead have a referendum about whether we should continue our association with the Eurovision Song Contest.   That`ll teach `em to meddle in the stuff that really matters!   Boom Bang a Bang Bang!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Expensive business, elections.   I heard the other day that the proposed referendum in Brighton about putting the Council Tax up by more than 2% was going to cost over £100,000, so goodness knows what the cost might be for running all the elections across the country - Parish Councils, District Councils, County Councils, General Elections, EU Parliament Elections and so on - but it must run into £millions.

But we may have thought it was a price worth paying to secure a squeaky clean democratic process;  so it`s more than disappointing to discover, thanks to Judge Mawrey`s research, that the present system of postal voting on demand may, in all probability, lead to unscrupulous vote rigging in certain parts of the country.   Then there is the absurdity of having the choice whether to vote or not.  Now that may be a long held matter of personal choice but recent very low turn-outs such as the election of Police Commissioners do call into question the validity of the outcome.

Now North Korea have sorted it out.  In their recent elections to the North Korean Parliament it`s reported that Kim Jong-Un was elected by 100% of the voters with 100% of eligible voters casting their votes.   The fact that he was the only candidate on the ballot paper can`t really disguise his enormous popular appeal, especially as there was at least an element of choice in the proceedings. The ballot papers gave the choice of voting for Kim Jong-Un or voting against, although the requirement to cast a `no` vote in a quite separate polling booth overseen by armed guards may perhaps have influenced some voters in their choice.

Perhaps, on balance, our very expensive and rather flawed system has its advantages after all.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


A curious weekend`s footy for Snopper Street`s ardent fans.  It`s unusual for each of our teams to win their games in the same weekend and normally it would see much dancing in the streets and assertions of being over the moon, but somehow this weekend`s results have been met with muted celebrations.  I wonder why.

Let`s start with Bristol City, for whom our street`s buzzin` footy icon Scott (`Sixpack`) Wagstaff displays his prowess as a hard working pacy wideman.   Now Scotty has been out with an injured shoulder ever since he came to grief in an aerial clash with a Coventry City defender over a month ago.   He finally made it back to the bench in Saturday`s away encounter at Shrewsbury and it was clear that his brooding presence was sufficient threat to his team mates for them to be inspired to a well earned 3-2 win which will help cement their place in the lower reaches of League One mid-table.

As for my Saints, well, they went to Selhurst Park and came away with a 1-0 victory thanks to a first half goal from Jay Rodriguez - an effort which must surely go down as the only goal scored by a striker from 25 yards out from a sedentary position.  Saints are now marooned in ninth place in the Premier League, which is where they are likely to end the season so it`s all becoming a little low key with little to play for except seats on the plane to Brazil.

But surely even my neighbour Mr. Slightly must be happy with Gillingham`s 1-0 win over Crawley, thanks to an 88th minute goal from Charlie Lee which not only further justified his investment in a season ticket but also further cemented the Gills` place in League One mid-table.

At the end of the day, if at the start of the season we would be told that each of our teams would end it in mid-table, then we would have bitten someone`s hand off.  To be fair.

Monday, March 10, 2014


I`m a bit puzzled as to why there is so much interest in the Oscar Pistorius trial going on in South Africa.   Sky News seem obsessed with it and there are daily live streams of the courtroom drama, a phalanx of Sky reporters and special correspondents and even special programmes so you can catch up on events of the day - a bit like a more solemn version of Match of the Day.

Now it would be quite wrong to speculate on the outcome but having seen a summary of the first week of the trial I`m not sure he has a leg to stand on.   But that`s not important right now.   What`s more troublesome is the worldwide exposure once more of the South African accent, which grates on the senses perhaps more than any other. Now I accept that there are accents in this country that can claim to be equally annoying - Birmingham, Newcastle, anywhere in Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland - but on the global stage the South African whine is perhaps challenged only by the twangy accents in America.

Maybe the only way to establish once and for all which country has the most cringeingly awful accent is for the UN to appoint a special commission to study accents of the world and fund a programme of elocution lessons for the inhabitants of the `winning` nation.  I suspect it will be no contest.

Friday, March 07, 2014


As a long standing ex-pat from the beautiful south, one of the regular communications I receive each day is a dispatch from the Southern Daily Echo website, showing me all the news from Southampton, the Waterside and the New Forest area, along with the news from Southampton Football Club.   It`s a much appreciated service and essential reading. Well, for me anyway.

Yesterday some interesting news came my way, courtesy of the Daily Echo, which announced that Hardley School had been placed in special measures.  Now, having had my primary school `education` in the village school at Hythe, at the age of eleven I was, along with my equally tremulous school chums, pitchforked into Hardley School, which was then a good old fashioned bog standard secondary modern school.   

And there I encountered my first regime of fear.  The school itself was a forbidding piece of architecture with grey walls and it even had a quadrangle onto which no-one was allowed to set foot without the most dire of consequences.  I don`t remember learning very much - there were gardening lessons, lots of physical activity, quite appalling school dinners and a cast of teachers for whom the advancement of their pupils never quite seemed to top their agenda.  

But perhaps one of the worst aspects was that we boys from Hythe had to get the school bus home from Hardley and on those journeys too there was a constant atmosphere of threat and intimidation from the older thugs, such as the infamous Bluey Miller, who all seemed to come from Dibden Purlieu.  We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when they all got off and we coasted down the hill to the comfort and safety of our village by the sea.   Trouble was, we had to face it all again the next day and so it was with no regret that after a couple of fraught years at Hardley school, my parents and I moved away from the area.

It`s strange how memories of school days and formative years stay with you but perhaps it was the dispiriting time I had at Hardley that made me greet yesterday`s news of it being placed in special measures with a feeling of vindication that after more than 60 years chickens have come home to roost. And of course it has also enabled me finally come to terms with having been Hardley educated. 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


There`s an unforgettable line in Neil Finn`s song for Crowded House.  "In the paper today, tales of war and of waste.   But you turn right over to the TV page."   And I wonder how many of us would admit to doing just that - ignoring the problems of the world and reaching out to see what entertainment awaits us on the box.   

I confess to being one of them.  But I guess the seriousness of that habit depends on what TV page you turn to.   For me, it`s BBC4 which seems to be the closest thing to Lord Reith`s ideal that the BBC`s first priority should be to inform, educate and entertain.  So you can imagine my surprise and relief that the BBC, facing the choice to cut either BBC3, BBC4 or even both, as they seek to find £100million of savings, have put forward the proposal to scrap BBC3 - `the youth channel` but make it available on-line only.   So it looks as though BBC4 may be reprieved after all.

Or does it?   For this plan needs first to be approved by the BBC Trust - supposedly the guardians of the licence-payers` interests - and then, if approval is given, to put the proposal out to public consultation.  This might take forever and this is where it might get tricky, as the country`s youth kick and scream about losing their channel, whilst BBC4 - the last refuge for those who like to be informed, educated as well as entertained - survives.   What might be needed is a concerted effort on the part of BBC4 viewers to counteract the on-line petitions and all the rest of it that devotees of BBC3 will doubtless encourage.   So, taking Neil Finn`s advice, don`t dream  it`s over just yet.  It ain`t necessarily so.

Although, if BBC3 goes, there`ll be a gap between BBC2 and BBC4, so BBC4 might become BBC3 after all?   Whatever happens, may the Four be with you.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


It`s been a big day here in deepest Kent with the unveiling of the newly appointed Youth Crime Commissioner.  Nineteen year-old Kerry Boyd from Margate will be taking a year off from her studies at Canterbury College to take on the £15,000 salaried role vacated almost a year ago by the unfortunate Paris Brown.

Now Ms. Boyd seems well qualified for the role, all the boxes have apparently been ticked and she will now take her place in the office of Kent`s Police and Crime Commissioner, Ann Barnes.   I really don`t have a problem with Kerry Boyd but I have always had doubts about the goings on in the brave new world of Police Commissioners.   These people were elected by an apathetic public who displayed their ambivalence towards the whole business by registering the lowest turn-outs in UK electoral history.   

And I suspect that apathy has been demonstrated by the fact that the only real interest shown in Mrs. Barnes tenure so far has been over the appointment of the Youth Commissioner.   It was in her `manifesto` of course so maybe we should at least acknowledge that, for once, a manifesto pledge has been honoured.   But I can`t escape the notion that the Youth Commissioner role is little more than tokenism, populism even and it leads to some questions that need answering.

First, why just a Youth Commissioner?  Why not an Elderly Persons Commissioner, a Commissioner for the Disabled or Ethic Minorities or any other group of society that might feel left out if they don`t have a Commissioner of their own?   And let`s not forget that whilst Mrs. Barnes is there to oversee policing in Kent and that she is presumably answerable to the Kent electorate, there is yet another august body in this seemingly endless tangle of bureaucracy - the allegedly independent Police and Crime Panel whose job it is to hold the Commissioner to account. 

You begin to wonder how effective the Panel might be and who might hold the Panel to account - possibly the Home Office, I don`t know, but what`s clear is that there is too much `structure,` too many layers of command, too many cooks.   And all the while, the one thing the good folk of Kent expect is that their streets are patrolled and kept safe by a dedicated, reliable and respected police force on the ground.  

I have my suspicions that the rank and file in the force are overworked, quite probably underpaid and more than likely unappreciated, so instead of tokenism, publicity-seeking and attention-grabbing stunts like Youth Commissioners, perhaps that towering, multi-layered, bureaucratic `structure` should concern itself more with what goes on on the ground rather than forever chasing after pies in the sky?

Sunday, March 02, 2014


Unless I`m mistaken, there are laws to prevent bullying.  I`ve looked it up.  And I`ve discovered that the kind of bullying that can lead to arrest and conviction include:-

......repeated harassment or intimidation (such as name calling, threats and abusive telephone calls, e-mails or text messages.)

So it strikes me as odd that with each passing day, the Scots are threatened with dire consequences if they vote for independence.   They`ve been told there will be no currency union with the remainder of the UK, they will not have automatic membership of the EU, leading businesses are threatening to move south of the border and the Scots face the threat of having no BBC or even automatic entry into the Eurovision Song Contest.

Of course the heat is rising but I wonder if the bullies dishing out these threats and intimidation are in any way mindful of the Scots` reputation for dourness.   This endearing trait could be extended to downright bloody mindedness, leading to many Scots now saying they will vote in favour of independence just to demonstrate their distaste at the manner in which they are being so patronised by the Westminster rabble and the die-hard unionists.   Dodgy tactics never work. Just ask Mauricio Pochettino.........