Thursday, September 25, 2014


INTO THE SUNSET..

Like the hero in the old style Westerns, I`ll be saddling up tomorrow, heading through the badlands and pitching up at this spot where the sun sinks slowly in the west at the end of another sumptuous day.   Well, that`s the theory.  The reality is a little more prosaic - a long drive along the M25, the M3, the A303 including the now predictable chaos around Stonehenge, the A358, the M5, the A38 and thence to a series of ever narrowing lanes until finally arriving at Bigbury-on-Sea, deep in the South Hams of Devon.

It`s an area we know well, having stayed there many times and another one that seems to draw us back to enjoy the quiet of the south Devon coast, the south west coast path and a final adventure before winter is upon us again.  Back in a week or so.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014


 MONEY TO BURN...

So, India have successfully seen its Mars Orbital Mission, launched in late 2013, now entered into orbit around the red planet.  It`s a remarkable technical achievement and those in the Indian Space Programme are rightly being congratulated on joining a select band of nations who have achieved the same goal.

The cost of the mission is put at $74 million - a small part of the £1 billion spent each year on the space programme by India.   And it`s this expenditure that is giving rise to criticism that a country with about a third of the world`s poorest people, surviving on just $2 a day, might perhaps not quite have its priorities right.

As an interesting footnote, in 2012 Britain gave India £280 million in `foreign aid.` As a result of questions at that time and given India`s commitment to its space programme, the UK Government decided to phase out future aid to India and it will cease altogether in 2015.   

I would just be interested to know which bit of the space programme has been financed by the UK`s generous contributions over the years and I suspect a good number of the world`s poorest people might be interested as well.  But I guess on $2 a day, they may never know.......

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Well, we now seem to heading for yet more conflict in the Middle East with the good ol` US of A having started their concerted air attacks in Syria against IS strongholds, backed by a coalition of Middle East countries.   The British Coalition Government meanwhile is considering its position and will doubtless consult its focus groups and stakeholder partners whilst setting up a set of Conventions and Inquiries to determine whether any action might be considered, probably not taking effect until after the General Election in May next year provided that all-party agreement can be reached.  

In that context it was singularly unhelpful for former Prime Minister Tony Blair to openly state that, in his opinion and given the wisdom of his experience,  all military means especially including ground forces should be used against the IS forces if the West is to retain any degree of credibility and control in that part of the world.  Well thanks, Tone, but we`ve tried that before and the last thing we need is a discredited egotist, posing of all things as the Middle East Peace Envoy, coming out with stuff like that.  A call to arms to be ignored, I feel.

And on Friday of this week another battle will commence in the rarefied surroundings of the Gleneagles Golf Thingy up in Scotland when once again the good ol` US of A will battle it out with Europe for possession of the Ryder Cup.   Now today I see that yet another belligerent retired Caledonian is being asked to give a rousing motivational speech to the Europe Team before they tee off.  Yes, folks, none other than that model of restrained persuasiveness (Sir) Alex Ferguson, late of Old Trafford and the Football Association`s Disciplinary Committee.

In all seriousness, Ferguson will give Team Europe a rousing talk this evening either in his inimitable incoherent mumble or his trademark hair-drying rant and it would hardly surprise me if any errant European golfer stepping out of line ends up with a mashie niblick around his ears.   A call to arms to be feared, I suspect.

Now the above two instances are at the extreme ends of confrontation - one potentially lethal, the other almost certainly irrelevant.  It just seems a pity that both are coloured by the unfathomable calls to arms from two gentlemen who surely by now must have learnt the wisdom of keeping counsel rather than causing disquiet whenever they open their mouths.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I`m sorry but I just can`t resist it. I know I`ve been saddened by the cricket season drawing to a close and I`ve complained about the attention given to football but I now confess to a smugness which doesn`t come around too often.

This weekend`s football has thrown up results which gladden the hearts of those of us who follow clubs outside the so-called and self-styled `Premier League elite.`

After a Summer of Discontent when Southampton lost their chief executive, their manager, back-room staff and several key players, we feared the worst, with the word `meltdown` never far from our thoughts. But yesterday`s 1-0 win away at Swansea saw the Saints climb to second - yes, second only to Chelsea - in the Premier League table.  We seem to have our club back again - benevolent ownership and management, inspiring new team manager and staff, excellent new players all taking the place of and looking like an improvement on the regime that went before.

And what of those who departed in the Summer for rich pastures new?  Well, former manager Mauricio Pochettino saw his Tottenham team lose at home today to lowly West Brom;  Liverpool, having poached three of our players, were soundly beaten by West Ham and - possibly most satisfying of all - Manchester United, for whom Luke Shaw, who cost them £27million from the Saints but can only find a place on the bench, were exposed by a determined Leicester City side and beaten 5-3;  Leicester being managed by former Saints manager Nigel Pearson.

So please forgive the smugness - it might not last too long - but I think the Saints fans` new chant which echoed around Swansea`s Liberty Stadium yesterday summed it up rather well - "LET`S ALL HAVE A MELTDOWN!!"  It is, as they say, an ill wind and all that.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

FRYING PANS AND FIRES...

Well, democracy has had its say and I have no complaints about that, especially as my main motivation for backing the `Yes` campaign in the Scottish Referendum was to satisfy my admittedly juvenile approach towards any form of `establishment.` As I like a bit of mayhem here and there it would have been satisfying to see Westminster get a bit of a kicking but referendums are clearly a game of two halves so, as it just wasn`t meant to be, we can all now wake up, smell the coffee and move on at the end of the day, to be fair.

Well, that might have been the plan but as things stand, it looks as if I may still get my mischievous wish for a bit of mayhem.   The three stooges who signed `The Vow` have really opened a can of worms - The West Lothian Question will now finally have to be answered; constitutional reform is now high on the agenda;  yet more, now vowed, devolved powers promised for Scotland; clamour for equal treatment with Scotland from within the rest of the United Kingdom from regions, cities and shires; all against the background of a looming General Election next May and acute nervousness within and between the `traditional` Westminster parties who must surely see the futility of once again putting party interests before the interests of those who they purportedly represent and who are so clearly expecting much needed change.

So the fun starts here and the party conference season, beginning next week, will be both entertaining and instructive if for no other reason than the future governance of the UK can surely never be the same again.   And throughout it all, I will find it impossible not to view it all unfold with my naive and innocent  attitude to all things political and I might yet still see at least some of the mayhem, panic and bewilderment that I might have witnessed had the Scots voted for independence.

You see, as I have well and truly entered my dotage and become accustomed to my second childhood, at my age I might just feel infantile enough to just sit back and witness the gathering and inevitable sea change that events north of the border have now unleashed.   I`m really quite looking forward to it.  Bring it on!

Friday, September 19, 2014

A FLICKERING FLAME...


Amongst all the incessant publicity and reporting of events in the world of football - and especially our old friend the Premier League - it has all but gone unnoticed that another cricket season is drawing to a close.   This year, the glorious anachronism that is county championship cricket has been eclipsed not only by the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the madness of the transfer window and the restrained and modest antics of  managers and players alike, but also by the Test matches against Sri Lanka and India as well as the biff bash 20-20 competition and all the other distractions from the true home of the game.  

I guess county cricket must be used to it by now, but it always seems a pity that a season of hard slog, which still has much to offer before it finally ends, is almost totally ignored.   Yorkshire won their first championship in many a year;  the county I follow - Hampshire -  are still locked in a promotion battle from Division 2 and struggled to hold out yesterday against Kent, who amassed the grand total of 507 in their first innings at the Rose Bowl.   Promotion for Hampshire is tantalisingly close but if they fail to take the points they need in the last game against Glamorgan next week, then the spoils will go to Essex.

So there`s still much to play for and in the meantime a quite outstanding performance on Thursday by Durham bowler Chris Rushworth has warranted scant coverage in the sports pages.   In a record breaking day, Rushworth took 15 wickets for Durham - nine in the first innings and six in the second - in their crushing victory over hapless Northants; an achievement that in another age would rank alongside those of Laker, Barnes, Verity and other heroes of those golden days long ago.

The dying embers of another season are upon us and, like the passing of summer, it is always a moment for regret.  Especially so as achievements such as Rushworth`s are buried away in small corners of newsprint and denied the attention they deserve, which merely confirms that the once bright flame of cricket in its truest form is indeed flickering away towards an uncertain future.

In this frantic, demanding world of instant success and gratification it seems that there is little place for the comforting assurance offered by the county grounds of England and where performances like Chris Rushworth`s go largely unrecognised beyond the boundary.

Thursday, September 18, 2014



I have long had a penchant for minor rebellion.   I think I always have to be honest and it may go back 70 years to my very first day at Fawley Primary School, when I really didn`t want to go and I had had enough by lunchtime so I walked out and went home.   Even at that early age I objected to the compulsion of it all and I certainly couldn`t come to terms with the `authority` that it involved.   It was the same throughout my unremarkable school life and I couldn`t really wait to leave.

Then I came across National Service or rather it came across me and once again there was the compulsion and the authority.   And all my life I, like millions of others, have been `governed` by authority and so I have built up a natural resentment towards it - I am compelled to pay exorbitant taxes, see most of them squandered on flights of fancy, politically motivated `initiatives,` self-serving elected representatives at all levels and black holes such as the European Union and foreign aid.

But I normally hold my counsel.  Until now, so here we go.   Here we are on referendum day in Scotland and although I have been genuinely appalled by yesterday`s theatrics by the growling Gordon Brown, at least the campaigning is finally over and the outcome is awaited.   I make no secret of my preference for the outcome to be that Scotland votes to go independent.  Here`s why. 

I am seriously fed up with the Scots having something like £1400 more spent per head of population per annum than those of us in England.   I`m fed up with the Scots having free university education, free travel, free elderly care and a whole lot more besides, which I suspect I am paying for but which is denied to us in England. I`m fed up with the Scots having their own parliament when we in England have to rely on Westminster and the nonsense whereby Scottish MPs can vote on matters that affect only we in England.  I`m fed up with the `vow` that the already discredited Barnett Formula will be allowed to continue in the event of a `No` vote.   Gordon Brown`s impassioned rant, appropriately introduced by the alleged comedian Eddie Izzard, urged Scots to vote `No` so as to `Keep the UK pensions, keep the UK pound, Keep the UK passport, keep the UK welfare state.` (His theory seems to be that by voting `No` the Scots will be better off....but what does all of that do for us south of the border?)

So a part of me favours the Scots going it alone just for the hell of it since it will chime with my rebellious nature but also it will finally rid us of this curmudgeonly nation  and leave what remains of the United Kingdom in a far more optimistic frame of mind, free from the burdens that lie north of the border.  But if the `Yes` vote fails to win the day and the Scots stay as part of the UK after all, then given the extraordinary amount of largesse they already enjoy and the additional powers and resources promised by Westminster`s feckless politicians, the time for minor rebellion will arrive unless the balance between Scotland and the rest of the UK is addressed and soon.   It will be a justifiable cause, to which I will very happily subscribe.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

AWAY FROM IT ALL..

Well, as if the last few days of Scottish Referendum pandemonium haven`t been bad enough, the next few days and weeks promise to be even more annoying. Today is one of those days when it might be best to avoid television, radio, social media and all the other sounding trumpets that assault our senses and find somewhere just to get away from it all.  Away from politics, away from conflicts, away from pointless anxieties.

I`ve been looking around and since I can`t resume my escape to the south west coast path for another week or so, once more I find Dylan Thomas providing the answer with my anti-hero, Nogood Boyo, to whom I find myself drawn and with whom I seem more and more to identify. He really did have life sorted out:-

"Fishermen grumble to their nets.  Nogood Boyo goes out in the dinghy Zanzibar, ships the oars, drifts slowly in the dab-filled bay and, lying on his back in the unbaled water, among crabs` legs and tangled lines, looks up at the spring sky and mutters contentedly to himself, `I don`t know who`s up there....and I don`t care.`"

Sunday, September 14, 2014

SHORT MEMORIES..


Yesterday was a good day to be a Saints fan.  Not just the thumping 4-0 win over Newcastle United but also the conclusion of ex-Saints left back Francis Benali`s epic run for the Cancer Relief charity.   Over the past 21 days, Franny has run 1,000 miles - averaging 46 miles a day - and in the process has visited every Premier League stadium, from Newcastle to Swansea and all points in between, culminating in his arrival at St. Mary`s, where he was lauded by the near 30,000 attendees.

The photo above shows Newcastle`s current manager, Alan Pardew, when, in happier times as Southampton manager, he welcomed the signing of Rickie Lambert in a £1million swoop from Bristol Rovers who themselves have fallen on hard times following their relegation to the Football Conference.   Lambert was not the only astute signing made by Pardew - others included Jose Fonte, now Saints captain, Dean Hammond, Lee Barnard, Dan Harding and others who formed the team that began to see the Saints rise from the obscurity of League One back to the Premier League.

It was as recently as 2010 that I made the trip to Wembley to see Saints win their first silverware since 1976 by beating Carlisle 4-1 in the final of the Johnstone`s Paint Trophy. Pardew quite rightly took much of the credit for the club`s success and so it came as a surprise when, just a few short months later, he was dismissed among rumours of low staff morale and conflicts with the club chairman.   In December of that year he was appointed manager of Newcastle United.

Sadly for him, recent results have seen Newcastle tumble to the bottom of the league and yesterday Pardew cut a lonely figure as he sat in the `dugout` watching his team capitulate to yet another embarrassing defeat.   Some 2,500 Newcastle fans had made the long journey to Southampton and they were quick to renew their siren calls for Pardew`s dismissal. Banners were waved, insults bellowed and calls for his departure echoed around St. Mary`s.   Now it`s the way of football I suppose but it was perhaps less than fitting for the Saints fans to join in the derision aimed at Pardew and starting the witless chant of `You`re getting sacked in the morning.`

Now I hold no particular candle for Alan Pardew - he`s a multi-millionaire football man who seems to have done very well out of the beautiful game and to that extent perhaps sympathy might be a misguided notion.   But I did find it disappointing that the Saints faithful seemed to have short memories for the contribution that he made to the club`s resurgence quite literally from the jaws of annihilation.   He may well be sacked one morning before long, but it seemed unbecoming  for the Saints fans to wish it on someone who deserved their thanks rather than their mockery.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Intuition is a wonderful thing.  There are times when you just know that something ain`t right.  You`re not quite sure what it is and it`s difficult to put your finger on it but you sense there`s something in the air that is disturbing.

Now I had hoped to make these rambles a Scottish referendum-free zone, but it`s not easy to escape all the sound and the fury going on north of the border.   And with the referendum vote less than a week away, the temperature is rising.   It`s reaching the stage where it`s getting impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff, since logical argument has been displaced by rant, claim, counter claim, personal insults and unremitting brouhaha. 

So what is it that`s making me uneasy?   I think it might be just that - the welter of coverage so that, if I had the misfortune to be Scottish and wishing to cast my vote on the basis of reliable information, I would not be at all sure that I could trust anything that I was hearing, reading or seeing.   I might be driven to the reasonable conclusion that the protagonists of the `No` vote were mainly English politicians more concerned with their own futures than the future of Scotland, never mind the Union. 

I might have grounds to suspect that the BBC`s relentless output is as much to do with its upcoming charter renewal than its remit to provide unbiased, neutral and factual reporting.  I might even suspect that the BBC`s coverage has been `influenced` by those who will sit in judgement of their licence renewal.   And I might suspect that most, if not all, of the threats made by big business of dire consequences if the Scots dare to vote `Yes` might turn out to be bluster to avoid any `inconveniences` that might come their way.  

And in a moment of extreme fantasy, I might even suspect that a dubious ballot result could be on the cards.   As I say, it might be that my intuition is misguided - it won`t be the first time - but there is most definitely something in the Scottish air that is unpalatable, almost sinister and it`s no way to run a referendum campaign on something so potentially momentous.

But what could trouble me yet more is the concern that the shenanigans we are witnessing now might well be a dress rehearsal for the referendum we`ve been promised for 2017 on membership of the EU......if Cameron gets re-elected, if he successfully renegotiates our terms of membership and if pigs might fly after all.   Things in Scotland are bad enough, but I shudder at the prospect of a `charm offensive` being waged by the likes of Juncker, Merkel and the rest of the EU elite.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A CANTERBURY TALE..

Some months ago I bought a new car.  Prior to that I went back to the dealership from where I had bought my previous two cars, only to be told that they had changed dealership and were no longer selling the make of car to which I had grown accustomed.   I was directed to another dealer, this time a large nation-wide company on the other side of town.

They seemed generally disinterested, despite the fact that I was in the market to buy a new, top of the range model.  They took my contact details promising to get in touch, but a few weeks went by and I heard nothing from them.  I came to the conclusion that large nation-wide companies were probably like that and therefore what I needed was a smaller, preferably family run concern who might provide a more personal service. 

I trawled the county and found a smaller, family run dealership an hour`s drive away in Canterbury.  So I went down there, had a chat with them, had a test drive and bought the car I had been looking for.  I was impressed with the quality of service, the attention to detail and the personal interest shown in what was, after all, a significant transaction.  So far, so good.

Now I have been very pleased with the new car but it`s the little things isn`t it?   Like the fact that one of the screws holding the rear number plate inexplicably sheared off and, more recently, the cable which releases the `flap` securing the fuel cap broke, which meant that I had to use BluTack to keep the number plate in place and to keep the fuel `flap` closed.   So today I went back to family-friendly dealer who apologised for the inconvenience and fixed the problems with a refreshing cheerfulness.

Trouble is, I don`t see much of Canterbury - bastion of Christianity, Cathedral city, UNESCO World Heritage Site, originally Cantwareburh (stronghold of the Kent people,) home of Kent County Cricket Club, birthplace of famous people such as Christopher Marlowe (there`s a theatre named for him,) Orlando Bloom, Fiona Phillips no less and David Gower went to school there.  Canterbury also has the inevitable trading estate, populated by all the usual suspects - Currys/PC World, Marks and Spencer, KFC and more car dealerships than you can shake a stick at, including my family friendly one.

Maybe next time, I`ll explore what the city has to offer beyond the confines of its ubiquitous trading estate.   I`m sure a certain Mr. Chaucer would approve.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


It was very distressing to hear about the fate of the 50-year old gentleman who was killed by a great white shark in Byron Bay, New South Wales and it must have been horrifying for his now widow who was on the beach at the time and watched the tragedy unfold.

What intrigued me was the interview given afterwards by some uniformed Aussie Police-like lady who mentioned that great white sharks are apparently a protected species.  So, rather than shoot this mindless killer dead in the water, the authorities are having to try to `relocate` it somewhere away from human activity and `manage` the activities of that particular species.

It`s extraordinary.  In this country we have enough trouble with things like adders being a protected species but can there really be any merit in protecting great white sharks whose main claim to fame is precisely the kind of malevolence displayed by this most recent example?  

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And on the subject of protected species, the pound sterling looks as if it could do with some protection from the effects of uncertainty over the outcome of the Scottish referendum.  The panic has now seen the value of the pound come under pressure which is surprising given the firm refusal to allow Scotland to continue using the pound if the Scots vote to go it alone.   In which case, the Scots will have to invent a currency of their own, which could be The Jimmy, with 100 sous-esque Seeyous making up one Jimmy?   

Sunday, September 07, 2014

DON`T PANIC - OH, OK THEN...


First things first.  Cornwall was, as ever, wonderful. Glorious weather, inspiring coast path walks and a good journey home.   But each time I go there I feel a sense of escape from an increasingly mad world, so maybe it`s no wonder that I ask myself what it is that I have come home to.

Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Ebola, migrants amassing in Calais in the misguided belief that England is the land of milk and honey, the EU threatening life as we know it by banning powerful irons, kettles, vacuum cleaners and anything else remotely `powerful` ......and the spectacle of the referendum for Scottish Independence looming on the horizon.  And it`s this last item that seems to be the one that is causing panic among the Westminster elite, following the publication of a YouGov poll that gives a slight lead to the `Yes` campaign for independence.

It`s panic alright.  You know it when you see and hear it and the Westminster parties are upping their efforts to persuade the Scots to vote to stay as part of the UK.  And among the latest set of tactics is the promise of yet more power being devolved to the Scottish Parliament if the good folk of Scotland vote `No.`  (I thought devo-max was off the agenda and anyway why can`t we in England have the same degree of devolved power as the Scots?)

But what is truly frightening is the promise of panic visits to Scotland in the last days before the 18th September vote by Dave Cameron, Ed Milliband and even the oafish Lord Prescott, of whom I hoped we had heard the last.   Seems to me that this prospect, together with the endless threats, scaremongering, bullying and doubtful promises, is the one most likely to guarantee a majority of Scots voting to leave the UK. 

And what strikes me as increasingly astonishing is that some 500,000 EU nationals who are resident in Scotland are entitled to vote, whereas we in the rest of the UK are not allowed to, even though it could mean the break up of the United Kingdom.  A mad world in a panic and I`m just sorry I have to wait another three weeks before I can escape all the madness and head down the A303 again.