Thursday, July 31, 2014


I was out for an evening stroll with Barney our Retriever and we wandered down the lane to where the village green is and as we got there, we were confronted with a steady convoy of smart cars, even smarter caravans and accompanying white vans leaving the area and heading off towards the sunset.   So, Dibley breathes again, as our unwelcome `travelling visitors` have complied with the Court Order, vacated the area they had been illegally occupying for the past week and taken up travelling.

And now the work of repairing damage and quite literally decontaminating the wooded area and much of the stream is under way, we feel that the area is becoming ours once again. Well, almost.  The clean up operation has only been mildly successful with the local Borough Council claiming they have done what they can, there`s nothing more they can do and we must wait for some rain to do the rest.  "I`m from the Council and I`m here to help you!" comes flooding back to my mind.

Now as any significant rain is not forecast until next week at the earliest it means we are still wary of letting children and dogs loose to enjoy the freedom they should have.  On the plus side, `security measures` are being installed to prevent a recurrence of the illegal entry, especially as the travellers and their scouts and outriders have been spotted not a million miles from here.  

I wouldn`t wish their unwelcome presence on anyone but I really do hope we here have seen the last of them.   I`ve got a load of pegs going cheap but the lucky heather is wilting a bit and anyway it doesn`t work.  I should know, I`m a Saints fan!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Recent events at Southampton have meant that the onset of another Premier League season in just three weeks time is being looked at with something of a jaundiced view. Now as a Saints fan since my Dad first took me to The Dell in 1946 you would think that I had grown used to the ups and downs (literally,) the slings and arrows, the false dawns and the perennial bewilderment that comes with the territory, but the selling of most of last year`s successful team, along with the mysteries of the boardroom, have raised new questions about what seems to be a one-way street of loyalty between the football club and its fans.

My suspicion is that the real culprit here is the Premier League itself. Rather than being a reasonable contest between teams playing football, it has instead become a contest between those with the biggest cheque books.  It has become a contest between financial egos (Abramovich, Sheik Mansour, the Glazers et al) and when Southampton were bought by the late Markus Liebherr there was the fleeting notion that we might sup at the same table.   A whimsical notion indeed, as Southampton is not part of some sprawling conurbation, St. Mary`s Stadium holds a mere 32,000 and our place in the food chain has always seen our talented academy graduates being gobbled up by the wolf gang higher up the ladder (Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bale, Shaw, Lallana and so on.)

So it is with a shrug of inevitability that I face the new season with mixed feelings - last season we had the impertinence to reach our glass ceiling and next season brings once again the prospect of a struggle for survival with a hugely depleted squad, an accidental owner in the late Markus`s daughter quite probably looking to sell the club to the highest bidder and a boardroom headed by an ice hockey coach.   

Part of me wants the Saints to survive and prosper, especially after all these years of sticking by them, but another part of me almost wishes (and I know I should be careful what I wish for) that we could get back to where the hopes and expectations are reduced and where competition is that elusive but reasonable contest between teams playing football.   As for the Premier League ("The best league in the world (tm)") it reminds me more and more of food retailing - it has become the Waitrose of football, catering for an affluent niche customer base, where quality and price may be of less concern than the cache of being seen in there, whereas those like me who remember flat caps and rattles might prefer the unpretentious surroundings of the nearest Aldi.

High up on the Hampshire Downs above the Meon Valley lies the village of Hambledon, once, in the 1760s and 1770s, the home of the most successful village cricket team in the land.  On Broadhalfpenny Down`s fabled pitch, Hambledon took on and beat all comers - even the All England team.   In 1908, when cricket returned to the village after a 116-year absence, a celebratory match was arranged when Hambledon again beat an All England side.   Even then, The Times was lamenting the change in the way cricket was played and organised: "from an occasional pastime, marked by geniality and rapture, into a more or less mechanical trade."

And so today, as the Premier League is gearing up for the next ten predictable months of the Super Sundays, Magic Mondays and Midweek Specials of its more or less mechanical trade, my heart sinks a little, not just for Southampton`s prospects but also for the long ago passing of geniality and rapture.

Oh dear!

Monday, July 28, 2014


We are fortunate to live in a small village in Kent.  The photo on the right shows a bit of the village green. Admittedly the photo taken in winter doesn`t really do it justice but in the height of summer it`s a pleasant spot, with a stream running through it, picnic tables and a nice play area for the children and we local residents don`t mind the occasional visitors, parking nearby and letting them and their children enjoy it.

The occasional visitor is one thing but it`s quite a different matter when about 18 `travellers` uproot a gatepost, remove fencing and drive their 18 vehicles, along with caravans and white vans, onto the green.   This happened towards the end of last week and this is what the same area looks like this evening:-

Now of course the local council has followed the correct procedure and is applying for a court order tomorrow so that our visitors can `move along, please.`  That takes time and we all understand that but it`s all the other issues, apart from the trespass, that have caused so much distress to local residents over the weekend.  Issues such as sanitation, or the lack of it resulting in bushes being used for various bodily functions;  public order issues over such things as foul and abusive language to local people, night time disturbances, the contamination of the little stream running through the park and the rubbish and litter all over the site.

And, of course, once our visitors have departed, it will be the local council who have to clean up the mess and return the area to its original state, erect more fencing and gates, all at the expense of the local council taxpayers.

I`m told that `even` the travellers have human rights, which is an intriguing concept as it implies that they have a right to cause criminal damage, effect forced entry and commit a number of offences, whereas the rights of local residents to live in peace and harmony are shattered by those who seem to be able to run roughshod over the law of the land.  To be fair to them, the `authorities` are doing what they can so my recollection of life`s three great lies might be a little unfair.  They are, of course."I`ll respect you in the morning!,"  "The cheque is in the post!," and "I`m from the Council and I`m here to help you!!"

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Now let me see.   Last season, Southampton finished a creditable eighth in the Premier League.   Since then manager Mauricio Pochettino has gone to Tottenham Hotspur, along with his support staff.   And over the summer quite a number of players have moved or are in the process of moving to other clubs.   Off the top of my head they are:-

Rickie Lambert to Liverpool - £4million
Adam Lallana to Southpool - £27million
Dejan Lovren to Liverhampton - £20million
Luke Shaw to Manchester United - £30million
Calum Chambers to Arsenal - £16million
Morgan Schneiderlin very likely to Arsenal or Tottenham (another £20million?)
Dani Osvaldo possibly to Inter for whatever we can get for him.

And who`s to say there might not be others?  No wonder the club flag is flying at half mast.  But to be fair, we have secured a couple of promising replacements and it is crushingly obvious that we need quite a few more.

I`m beginning to feel a little sorry for new manager Ronald Koeman although it might be claimed that, with all these departures, at least he has the chance to rebuild the team in his own way.   If so, then we supporters will reserve judgement and see what the season brings.   But what really gets to me is the repeated insistence of Les Reed, a club director, that `Southampton are not a selling club!`   Well, Les, not sure that sounds quite right any more.

Never mind, my ticket for the final pre-season masochistic friendly against Bayer Leverkusen arrived this morning.  At least it will be a day out.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Well, it may not be working in cricket too well but the judicial appeal process has come up with a couple of good decisions in the last couple of days.   First there was the appeal by former Lost Prophet Ian Watkins to reduce his 35-year sentence for a string of sex offences against children, one of which was the attempted rape of a baby.   But one of the judges who heard the case said that the punishment handed down was appropriate, saying, "These offences against children were of shocking depravity, which demanded a very lengthy prison sentence."

In another heartening judgement, two convicted killers who argued that a ban on prisoners voting in the Scottish independence referendum infringed their human rights, lost their bid to overturn it in the UK`s highest court.   In yet another outbreak of common sense, the Tory Scottish justice spokesperson, one Margaret Mitchell, welcomed the decision, saying, "Voting is a basic human right and it is completely correct that you forfeit that right when you commit a crime and are sent to prison."  

So, Judges 2 - Appellants 0.  (Although the cynic and minor rebel in me suggests that giving the referendum vote to Scottish prisoners might just help the cause for independence - every little helps and all that.)

But to go by these two decisions at least, it gives hope that the judicial decision review system might be beginning to get it right.   The other interesting decision this week seems to have been the awarding of £680,000 to Sharon Shoesmith, sacked as head of Children`s Services in Haringey Council following the appalling murder of Baby P on her watch.  Now there has been a bit of an outcry about the amount of compensation involved here but it might be worth remembering that the Appeal Court ruled last year that the then Children`s Secretary, Ed Balls, removed Shoesmith from her post in December 2008 and was partly responsible for Haringey`s subsequently unlawful decision to sack her without compensation.

Justice is justice, whatever the circumstances and however much the massive amount of compensation might grate, especially with the Council taxpayers of Haringey, Mrs. Shoesmith had been denied due process which, at least in the eyes of the law, has now been recognised as another `basic human right.`  Just a pity Baby P didn`t enjoy the same privilege.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


So, another series of the BBC Coast programme has just hit our screens - we`re now up to Series 9!   Now all those years ago when it started, it actually seemed to be about the coastline of the British Isles and so it was a good idea, especially for the BBC with the commercial spin-offs of books, DVDs and what have you.   But as time and the series have gone on, the original concept of showing the glories of our coastline has become lost amongst a welter of programmes about Australia, the European coast and programmes more about the indulgences of the `presenters` than what the viewing public might expect from a programme called `Coast.`

I saw bits of last week`s effort and all of last night`s second in the series and I almost despair that the BBC have still not done the justice to our coastline that it deserves.  One of the wonders of this country is, of course, the 690-mile long South West Coast Path leading from Minehead in Somerset around to Poole in Dorset but last night the only concession to this national treasure was a `feature` about the Victorian hunt for ferns around Lynmouth, gushingly `presented` by some daffy woman who was clearly more interested in ferns than Lynmouth.

The picture above shows yet another daffy `presenter` taking a ride on the big dipper at Blackpool to demonstrate the physics of fear - just about as far away from the glories of the coastline as it`s possible to get.   Add to that the perennially effete Mark Horton indulging in the historical aspects of Lundy Island and I`ve given up with Nicholas Crane, who went back to somewhere he`s been to before in this programme obviously because he likes the north west coast of Scotland.

The BBC website for Coast helpfully includes a facility to allow viewers to suggest how the programme might be improved, so I`ve responded by saying that it`s simple really - just ditch all the oblique, manufactured features vaguely connected to the coast and just allow the coastline to speak for itself.   It might turn out to be a travelogue, but I suspect that`s what the viewing audience might prefer rather than this increasingly self-indulgent, over- presented, very annoying and hugely expensive interpretation of our island shore.   And who knows, the BBC might sell more DVDs and books if they got back to the basics of what they`re trying to do.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


It`s reported that estimates of Tony Blair`s wealth are anything between £20million and £100million but at that financial altitude it doesn`t really matter that  much.  There is, of course, something a little odd about someone acquiring that sort of cash, eleven properties around the world, a reported £250,000 for giving a speech, having `An Office` and generally living the good life following a chequered career in politics paid from the public purse.

What`s even more odd is that, as he is a former Prime Minister of the UK, he is entitled to round-the-clock security protection, estimated to cost the UK taxpayer anything between £250,000 and £1million a year depending on who you listen to.   The odd thing, of course, is not so much the round-the-clock security protection, for if anyone needs it, it should be Blair, but the fact that anyone with his sort of wonga should really be paying for his own protection rather than relying on the UK taxpayers, many of whom admittedly might like to get their hands on him.   No wonder he`s laughing all the way to a few banks.

Now maybe, just maybe, I might not mind quite so much if in his capacity as `Middle East Peace Envoy` he was able to earn his money by contributing to some peace in the middle east rather than the carnage we see every day between Israel and Palestine......or even if there was a semblance of `normality` in Iraq.   All in all, friend Blair seems not to represent value for money to the British taxpayer and the longer he goes on the less fit for purpose he becomes.   Nothing new there then.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Well, on Saturday I celebrated my 75th birthday and it was a good day all round, especially as my cheerful expectations remain undimmed.   I feel no different than I did 20 years ago and I know I`m fortunate to be `in good nick` (to quote from at least two birthday cards) but I really don`t want it to end - too much to live for and all that.    So I felt almost as if I were in some kind of protective bubble, keeping  me safe from the `realities` of the weekend for the rest of the world - yet another airplane catastrophe, more chaos than usual in the middle east, problems in most other parts of the world and, as if to confirm the drift into my second childhood, I could even cite the problems with English cricket and the uncertainties facing Saints supporters.

And, of course, now that I have passed another of life`s milestones, I no longer have to pay the BBC compulsory licence fee and promised that, in return, I would be more restrained in my comments concerning the BBC.   Fat chance.   The weekend has seen at least two more examples of the Python-esque world of BBC-land.  

First, we learned that people seeking employment with the BBC are asked to fill in a 31-page on-line questionnaire describing their sexual orientation, their religion, whether their parents went to university, whether their parents received income support and whether they themselves received free school meals.   As well as that, applicants must complete a Declaration of Interests form, giving details of any shareholdings, political membership or activity or any external business interests.   

Then there are 14 pages of terms and conditions to wade through, a six page guide to working time regulations, two pages about BBC values and two further pages of instructions.  BBC managers insist that all this is necessary to ensure the BBC is meeting its `diversity targets.`   It is truly beyond parody.  And at this rate, one day they will discover that white, straight, state-educated, male Caucasians are in the minority.  What will they do then, I wonder?

And it comes as no surprise to learn that the BBC sent no less than 188 staff to Hoylake to cover the Open Golf Championship - 82 more than the 106 competitors who started in the tournament.   I may not have to pay the licence fee any more but I still find that the BBC`s profligacy with other people`s money sometimes reaches such an art form as to qualify for entry into the Turner Prize.

So, a very good weekend for me, not such a good one for the BBC and the Turner Prize might just have found a new entry.

Friday, July 18, 2014


My love for Cornwall`s Roseland Peninsula is well documented in these pages, so for me to return to that subject again smacks of acute self-indulgence.   But I make no apology for that and as I bask in the hottest day of the year so far, my mind goes back to four weeks ago today when we made the long journey home, leaving the Roseland behind, at least until next time.

Now we`ve been to Rosevine, close to Portscatho on the Peninsula, lots of times and each time we leave I can`t wait to get back there.  It`s one of just a handful of places where I feel `right` and comfortable and free and at peace with the world we live in.

So, having handed out a self-indulgence alert and quite probably for my benefit only, I just want to describe one of our favourite Roseland rambles.   It goes like this........... 

Park the car at St. Anthony`s Head (Point 3 on the map) and wander down the hill to meet up with the South West Coast Path.  Follow the path down past the old paraffin store for the lighthouse and cross the bridge (newly rebuilt after the winter storms) and drop down to Molunan beach which is really only safely accessible by a rope alongside the cliff.....but the solitude and the feel of the secret beach is well worth the effort of clambering down.

After climbing back to the coast path, via the rope, follow the path along through the pines on Carricknath Point, where the path turns right and where there`s a handy seat looking out on the enchanting views across Carrick Roads to Falmouth and across to St. Mawes.   The path skirts the shoreline before going uphill and down to an estate track that leads to St. Anthony`s Church. (Point 2)

Now those who know me also know that my conviction concerning religion is limited to a philosophy that if/when I get up there and discover it`s all true after all, then I`ll be the first to apologise for having had any doubts.   However, possibly as a little insurance against that fateful day, I have also held a long fascination with church architecture and at the remote church of St. Anthony`s you come across "the best example in the county of what a parish church was like in the 12th and 13th centuries," according to Pevsner.   

The glory of the church, apart from its setting alongside Place House, is the crossover, which survives from the original 13th century building.   I managed to take this photograph of it by lying flat on my back on the floor and pointing my camera up to the crossover, so it might not quite do it justice and I was nervous of being discovered in a `compromising position.`

After that, a wander down to Place Quay (Point 1) is worth it for the view across to Cellars beach and St. Mawes and then there are choices about the way back to the car.   We have done the shortest way up the lane to the `military road` which leads back to St. Anthony`s Head and although it`s a pleasant wander, it`s still a road, so last month we opted to go back the way we had come.   At my pace, the whole thing took about four hours as there is so much to stop and admire so I was looking forward to visiting the excellent cafe back at the car park, only to discover that it was closed - divine retribution perhaps?

It`s entirely possible that I might bore you with a few more Roseland Rambles but, for me at least, their memories bring some escape from a world of turmoil and uncertainty and that, I guess, is what self-indulgence is all about.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


The gentleman pictured left, puffing his way up a steep French incline, is Brian Robinson, seen taking part in the 1958 Tour de France.  He has been in the news today because, at the age of 83, he was knocked off his bike by a car whilst out for a ride in his native Yorkshire.   He has been kept overnight in hospital suffering from a suspected broken collar bone and cuts and bruises.   Just what you don`t need when you`re 83.

There`s no doubt that Robinson was a trail blazer for British cycling on the Continent and he became the first Briton to finish Le Tour in 1955 and the first to win a stage in 1958. The report of his accident held a resonance for me for a couple of reasons.

As you can see, he was riding a very smart bike - blue frame; 1" wheels; Superhood brakes and even a bottle of water in a nifty holder on the handlebars.  At just about the same time as this picture was taken, I `inherited` £25 from a family heirloom and went to a bike shop in Maidstone and asked the owner to make a bike up for me.   So he did, complete with blue Norman Invader frame, GB Superhood brakes, 1" wheels and even a nifty holder on the handlebars for drinks bottles.   I really felt the part and spent many happy hours touring the highways and byways of deepest Kent.

Now in professional cycling in those days, I doubt if `performance enhancing drugs` had even been invented let alone taken and I`m pretty sure the training regime was as much to do with sheer grit and determination as anything else.   And Brian certainly had those qualities in abundance, but also a clever tactical brain that helped him judge a race, judge the opposition and judge when to make his move, all of which saw him dubbed as `Le Sage` by his growing band of French admirers, especially after that historic first ever stage win by a British cyclist.

I recall not long after that triumph being called upon by my father, who kept a pub at the time, to help out by `conversing` with a party of Frenchmen who had stopped off for some refreshment.   Now my French was very much pidgin, so too was their English, but we managed to pidgin our way through a drinks order and then turned the conversation to the one subject that stood any chance of uniting us - Le Tour and Le Sage.  The entente quickly became distinctly cordiale, thanks to our shared admiration for Brian Robinson`s contribution to one of the many things for which the French demonstrate their passion.

I still recall that incident very clearly and so I was sorry to hear of Brian`s accident and hope he makes a full and speedy recovery from his injuries.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


As I write, Dave Cameron`s big government reshuffle is under way.  It began last evening with the purge of white middle aged men from Dave`s cabinet and there are rumours that at least some of them will be replaced by `women.`   And you have to ask why. 

Is it just because they are women?  Is it because women in the cabinet might appeal more to women voters in the run-up to the next election?   Is it just possible that these women are genuinely talented and, like football transfers, an upgrade on what has gone before?   Or is it anything to do with our old friend diversity, in keeping with the political correctness of modern day living?

If so, then surely some cabinet posts should be handed to ethnic minority MPs, gay, lesbian and transgender ones and disabled ones as well as `women.`   Careful, Dave, or you might find yourself being accused of ignoring the cries of the white, middle aged, male lobby.

Monday, July 14, 2014

......AND WHILE WE`RE AT IT.....

.......I see that the BBC, another of the large publicly funded organisations, saw fit to squander yet another shed load of licence-payers` cash on a specially commissioned, hour long documentary about the career of footballer and TV pundit Alan Hansen.  Hansen has retired from Match of the Day after 22 years of punditry and before that, of course, he was a distinguished central defender for Liverpool in their more glorious days.

Now I have no problem with Mr. Hansen - he was a formidable pivot for Liverpool for many seasons and there are those, especially in the BBC it seems, who have admired his punditry delivered in his growling Caledonian mumble.  Now in both of these careers he has amassed a considerable fortune, and good luck to him, especially as reports indicate that the BBC paid him £50,000 each and every time he did his pundit thing on Match of the Day.

But he was a football pundit for goodness sake. But the BBC `documentary` - full of gushing fawnication - might have been more suited to an obituary of someone arguably more deserving of such attention.   I`ve no idea how much the documentary - mysteriously shown again last night - cost to produce but hour long programmes don`t come cheap.   But of course it`s other people`s that`s all right then.


I suppose that in the murky depths of every large publicly-funded organisation, there lies a `department` whose job it is to dream up ways of squandering the public funds which sustain them.   So in the European Union monolith we find there is an outfit known as the Protocol Service of the European Parliament and not to disappoint, they have come up with the monstrosity, shown above, which is the official sash of the European Parliament.

Now each of the 751 members of the EU Parliament is being urged to wear this extraordinary accessory as. according to on EU official, "MEPs pride themselves on not simply representing their countries but also being representatives of an overriding European interest as defined by the EU Treaty."  Oh dear.   It gets worse.  "Why shouldn`t our MEPs dress up?" he went on.  "This is the world`s first transnational parliament and it`s special."   

Of course, `European citizens` can also buy the golden tasselled sash emblazoned with the European Union flag for a mere £107 and it seems to me to be yet another example of the remoteness and self-centred delusions of grandeur that is now part of the EU way of life.   When the Parliament convened in Strasbourg last week it was opened with a military ceremony conducted by the Franco-German Eurocorps battle group raising the European flag accompanied by the EU official anthem, which, ironically, is Ode to Joy.

Is this really what we signed up for when we joined the Common Market all those years ago?

Friday, July 11, 2014


Well, our travelling visitors have finally travelled on, having left a good deal of havoc behind them.   Not just their physical effect on the local environment which, incidentally, included the ultimate insult of nicking the rope from around the village cricket square for use as a washing line,  but also the feelings that have been aroused among the Dibley locals.  

Those feelings are, as ever, mixed.   There is relief that the invasion has come to an end but also a feeling of frustration at the inability of `the authorities` to take action more quickly and positively to assist the travellers to `move on.`   Now I realise they may be thwarted by rules and regulations which demand proper process when dealing with any form of eviction and of course there is the issue - of which we here have been reminded in recent days - that the travellers `have rights.`

You hear a lot these days about `rights,` but I fail to see why these travellers should be able to just turn up, park themselves where they please, create mayhem whilst they`re here and leave behind a catalogue of `environmental issues` which have to be cleaned up after them, all at the expense of the local taxpayer.   But of course upholding  the rights of local taxpayers not only come at a price but also seem to come second to those of capricious itinerants.

And so, as their big white 63-Reg. BMW, caravan, trailer and white van depart the scene, our travelling friends have a new direction of travel going forward, supposedly to Essex.   And almost as annoying as their sojourn here in deepest Kent has been, are those two seemingly very modern phrases `direction of travel` and `going forward.` 

Especially `going forward,` which seems to have originated, like so many other abuses of the English language, in America, from whence it has gained a strong foothold over here.   It`s almost as if it`s `cool` to use the phrase, when in reality it is simply annoying, inane and totally meaningless.  For example, when F1 in America appointed Steve Sexton as its President, it was announced that, "He will be a tremendous asset to our operation going forward."  As if F1 can go in any other `direction of travel.`   Maybe they should wake up, smell the coffee and move on at the end of the day.   Just like our recent visitors.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


Well, I stayed up after the watershed to watch the end of the World Cup semi-final last night and, like millions of others witnessed the extraordinary result of Brazil being overrun by   Germany 7 - 1.   I suppose it was yet another triumph of organisation and determination over hope and expectation but at times it was more a demonstration of ruthless efficiency.   

This was particularly borne out by the fury expressed by the German players when they conceded Brazil`s solitary `consolation` goal deep into time added on at the end of the game.  It was also clear that at no time was there even the slightest hint that the German team would `ease up` despite the game being done and dusted by half time.

From a purely technical point of view the German performance was admirable and yet I was left feeling a little sorry for Brazil`s players, who seemed to have nothing to offer but their passion and enthusiasm until they too were extinguished by the relentless onslaught. There have been some memorable encounters during this World Cup, evenly matched games full of enterprise with close results, extra time, penalties and all the stuff normally associated with football `at this level.`  

But last night saw ruthless efficiency writ large - it will be instructive to see if an answer to it emerges at next Sunday`s Final - and for the sake of the beautiful game, I hope it does.  After all, unlike other forms of victory, winning a football match should be about much more than that.

Monday, July 07, 2014


It was quite a weekend for sport - the stunning exuberance of the Tour de France winding its way through Yorkshire; the cricket season now at last in full swing; the conclusion of the Wimbledon tennis championship which, I admit, passed me by in a flurry of indifference; the environmentally hostile Formula 1 British Grand Prix; and the seemingly endless football World Cup in Brazil.

But the one thing that really caught my eye this weekend was the report of former England cricket captain and all round good egg, Andrew Strauss, being picked up making a less than complimentary comment about former England batsman, Kevin Petersen.   Now Strauss assumed he was `off-mike` when he proffered his description of KP but, in fact, it was clearly heard in Australia where, being the enlightened country it is, they don`t have advert breaks when the cricket is on.

Now it`s true that Strauss was quick to apologise to Petersen and anyone else offended by his remark but it was noticeable just how equally quickly friends of KP - the likes of Piers Morgan in particular - were demanding Strauss`s sacking from Sky Sports and quite possibly a judge-led Inquiry, questions in the House and an appearance before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Sporting Etiquette.   

It has been equally noticeable, however, that Sky have taken no action against Strauss, his commentating job seems secure and remarkably little criticism has gone his way.   Now I wonder why that should be.   Could it just be that what Strauss had to say  about Petersen fell into the category of fair comment, the definition of which includes the assertion that "the statement in question was based on the speaker`s or writer`s honest and impartial observation or opinion"?   If so, then it sounds about right to me.

Saturday, July 05, 2014


Georgia on my Mind (Ray Charles)
I left my heart in San Francisco (Tony Bennett)
The Streets of London (Ralph McTell)
Penny Lane (The Beatles)
Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
California Dreaming (Mamas and Papas)

.......all songs we`ve heard, all places we`ve heard about and many more besides with their names etched in the lyrics of countless songs.   But some are a bit obscure:-

Stainsby Girls (Chris Rea)
Down to Margate (Chas and Dave)
Coldharbour Lane (Tom Robinson)
Bleecker Street (Simon and Garfunkel)

......and I think I may for many years have known the song and the place that represents the true essence of obscurity in song writing.

Can`t recall why but in my wayward youth I became a great fan of The Kingston Trio and until one of Mrs. Snopper`s occasional `sort outs` I had most of their vinyl albums.  I suppose what attracted me to Dave Guard, Bob Shane and Nick Reynolds was the quality of harmony, the tightness of their guitar and banjo playing and the range and depth of their output.   Sadly, Dave Guard and Nick Reynolds are no longer with us and Bob Shane, now 80, is `in a bad way.`

But their songs live on in my memory and in my YouTube history.  Songs like MTA, The Long Black Rifle, Shady Grove, Lonesome Traveller, New York Girls.....and the haunting South Coast.   And South Coast is where it gets obscure.   It tells the tragic story of Juan Hano de Castro, whose father was a Spanish grandee; and who "won his wife in a card game and to hell with the lords o`er the sea."  And the action takes place around the south coast of California and in particular, the `settlement` of Jolon in Monterey County.

And `it happened in Monterey, a long time ago` (Frank Sinatra) in Jolon`s frontier days, when it was known for its gambling and when winning a wife in a card game was not unknown.   Jolon was established in 1860 to serve the needs of miners on their way to the coastal mines but went into decline with the coming of the Southern Pacific Railroad; the township was bought by William Randolph Hearst in 1920 but he sold it to the US Army in 1940, in whose ownership it remains as part of Fort Hunter Liggett.   Today, the `community` of Jolon consists only of the original General Merchandise Store, now empty (pictured above,) and a small church that is still used by the dwindling Jolon locals.

But its name and its colourful past lives on in the song.  `South coast, the wild coast is lonely. You may win at the game at Jolon.  But the lion still rules the barrancas.  And a man there is always alone.`   Here it is:-

And in a curious yet fitting way, the haunting tragedy of the song seems to mirror the obscurity that Jolon has always possessed.  As such, it could well find its way onto my bucket list of places to visit.......after all, I `do` obscurity very well indeed.

Thursday, July 03, 2014


Once again there are loud protests just down the road at the port of Ramsgate against the live export of animals from the UK to to Europe.   I have no problem with the protests or with the cause as it`s one for which I have a great deal of sympathy.  I cannot understand why it is necessary for animals to be exported live in distressing conditions, simply to meet their maker on the other side of the channel.   There must surely be a better way.

However, if I have a note of criticism about the protesters it is simply that they keep coming up with the same chant.   You know the one:-

"What do we want?"
"Export ban."
"When do we want it?"

It reminds me of the old days of CND and Aldermaston and all the protests of years ago, so it`s time for a new chant, I think.   Here`s one for them:-

"What do we want?"
"A new chant."
"When do we want it?"

Tuesday, July 01, 2014


What a peaceful scene.   In days of yore, this would have been a sight more common than it ever is today and it brings back visions of rural tranquillity, of the simple life, free from the pestilence of bureaucracy, with the freedom of the open road awaiting around the next corner.   

Here in Dibley, we have been visited by the modern day equivalent of those genuine, beguiling yet mysterious travellers of old.   A few weeks ago, a very smart and new large BMW arrived on a bit of our parish open space, along with the ubiquitous white van, an equally smart caravan and the `travelling` family made themselves at home.

Local residents were curious, the parish council swung into action by contacting the police, the local district council and the county council on the reasonable assumption that, since the parish council had no powers to get the newcomers to `move along, please,` those other authorities might use the powers at their respective disposal, either as enforcement agencies or landowners.

About four weeks on, nothing has changed except that our visitors have moved a short distance to an even nicer bit of open space, close to a running stream and a children's play area.   Now I know these things take time and there might well be a myriad of bits of legislation and procedure to follow but in the meantime, concerns about such things as `personal hygiene,` litter issues, environmental damage, continue to mount.

Years ago, in a former life, one of my management edicts was, "For God`s sake do something, even if you just say goodbye."   And it strikes me that in the situation we have here, too many `in authority` are frightened to do anything, possibly for fear of offending some namby-pamby human rights nonsense or being accused of not following proper procedure.

What`s needed is for someone to have the courage to follow my edict and just do something which could result in our visitors saying goodbye.   After all, I thought the whole idea of being a traveller, was to travel?