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?-

Friday, October 24, 2014

Well, at the beginning I suppose.  Let`s start with the latest wheeze to combat the onset of Alzheimer`s.   I see the embattled NHS are going to pay doctors £50 for each patient they diagnose as showing early signs of this distressing disease.  So a conversation might go like this:-

"Good morning, Doctor - how am I?"

"Well, let`s see.   What seems to be the problem?"

"I think I`ve broken my wrist - I had a bit of a fall coming down the stairs and it`s very painful."

"Let me have a look.  Ah, yes, I`m sorry to tell you that you are showing early signs of Alzheimer`s disease.   That`ll be £50 please.  Thank you."   Kerching!!

Almost as bizarre is the latest demand from the European Union for the UK to cough up an extra £1.7billion - that`s £170,000,000,000 - on top of the £8.6billion net we`re already paying annually.   Why?  Because `Brussels accountants` have recalculated the UK contribution and concluded that because our economy is doing rather well we should prop up other countries in the EU who aren`t doing as well as we are - intriguingly both France and Germany will receive `rebates` whilst the UK is expected to pay more.

Now these `Brussels accountants` are presumably the same ones whose `accounts` have not been signed off at audit for each of the past 19 years, so their `calculations` are perhaps open to scrutiny, especially as they claim the upturn in the UK economy is apparently due in part to drug dealing and prostitution.

It`s all honey and nuts to UKIP, of course, but here`s a thought.   Why not just refuse to pay it?  The EU will jump up and down and threaten us with fines and sanctions but it might hasten the date for the long promised referendum on whether we quit the EU or stay in.  Or it all might be a cunning plan whereby Cameron kicks up a fuss, the EU back down and Cameron comes home saying what a good deal he`s got from Brussels and allows him to plough on with his mission impossible to try to secure repatriation of powers from the EU. 

I wonder what the good folk of Rochester and Strood will make of it all.  Maybe this latest bout of EU madness will drive them to seek medical advice.  Oh, hang on - that`s where I started, isn`t it?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


The world is in too much of a hurry.  It`s a world of instant communication, hustle, bustle, me-me, now-now.   And so more than ever there is a need for quiet contemplation, for a bit of peace and comfort, perhaps an escape back to times when time itself was valued as a precious commodity rather than a challenge to be overcome.

Gerald Finzi (1901 - 1956) must surely be one of England`s most underrated composers. Maybe because he died at just 56 and his output was relatively short, he didn`t achieve the fame of English contemporaries such as Holst, Vaughan Williams or Walton but his work is as typically English as any of those.   The death of his first music teacher, Ernest Farrar, in The first World War had a profound effect on Finzi`s formative years, as did the loss of his father and three brothers at that time.

Perhaps another reason for his relative obscurity was that he disliked London and the city life, so he settled in Wiltshire, at Aldbourne, where he was able to devote himself to composing and apple growing at the same time saving a number of rare English apple varieties from extinction.  His profound love of the English countryside is perhaps best captured in the elegiac quality of his Romance in Eb major, written in 1928 when the world was so much more reflective than the one we have today.  So, if like Gerald Finzi you feel the need to escape to the country and lose yourself for eight minutes in the peace and tranquillity that he has left us, here it is:-

Monday, October 20, 2014

Snopper`s soccer snippets

Well, it has been a memorable weekend for us Saints fans but for me one of the most heartening things was the return of The Brick.   My picture shows our street`s local hero Scott (Get In) Wagstaff caught in the early stages of his now trademark goal celebration, the aforementioned Brick.   This extraordinary contortion involves Scotty launching himself backwards and falling flat on his back whilst awaiting the arrival of his team mates to join in the `celebration` of him scoring.   His late goal in an impressive 3-1 win against Coventry City sealed the win and ensured that Bristol City not only remain well clear at the top of League One but also retain their unbeaten run of 13 matches so far this season.  

In other news, Southampton`s 8-0 demolition of Sunderland is being met by the St. Mary`s faithful with a kind of quiet, numbed disbelief, perhaps knowing that their team`s current third place in the Premier League may only be a temporary visit, whilst finding comfort in the knowledge that, with 30 games left in the season, only 24 points are needed to ensure survival.   Such is the mindset of the Southampton fan - well this one anyway.

Elsewhere, the weekend for other clubs I follow was given added piquancy by P***smouth`s 3-0 defeat away at Gigg Lane, Bury; by my nearby club Maidstone United pulling away at the top of the Ryman Premier League; by Forest Green Rovers` win at newly relegated Bristol Rovers in the Conference and by my neighbour`s beloved Gillingham gaining a creditable point away at Rochdale - although there was a tinge of regret that Truro City could not overcome Biggleswade, who play Maidstone in the final qualifying round of the FA Cup.  

But The Brick is welcomed back once more and it`s reappearance crowned a weekend that might best be summed up by this image of Sunderland`s Stadium of LIght having been renamed following their south coast humiliation.   I know, I know - next weekend could be so very different, but I`m enjoying these moments.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


How quickly the hazy days of summer fade into the gloom of autumn and winter.   Was it just two short weeks ago today that I walked the coast path at Thurlestone on a fine, sun-filled, contented afternoon?   And how quickly that contentment can slip into a winter of discontent.   Not just with the weather but also with the prospect of what is in store over the next few months.

First, the commercial nonsense of Halloween - yet another in a growing list of unnecessary and unwanted items seemingly imported from America.  And the kids banging on the door demanding a trick or a treat and disturbing the peace of elderly folk like me - I`m going to get a sign to put on my door inviting them to try their hand next door.

And hard on the heels of that we will have Bonfire Night, supposedly `celebrating` a failed  attempt to blow up Parliament over 400 years ago.   And Barney our retriever cowering in a corner, terrified by the explosive bangs and disturbing the peace of elderly folk like me - I`m thinking of starting a `community initiative` on our village F***book page to ban fireworks on the basis that I would much rather celebrate a successful attempt to blow up Parliament than the bungled fiasco we`re supposed to remember, remember, with gunpowder treason and plot.

And then there`ll be Christmas - the annual excuse for yet another commercial bandwagon.   It`s started already, of course, with aisles in the supermarkets already devoted to what is laughingly described as `seasonal goods.`   It really is time we had a reality check and reminded ourselves of the true meaning of Santa`s birthday.

And then the New Year with more bangs, crashes and wallops to disturb the peace of elderly folk like me - sometimes I wish I could either hibernate or have enough money to flee the country to some magical destination where  no-one has heard or cares about Halloween, the gunpowder plot or even Santa`s birthday.  

And then the wind, the rain, the cold, the snow, flood and tempest but I`m told to be patient and wait all those months for the return of the sun.  But a winter of discontent loometh and a long wait until the son of York makes glorious summer once more and all the clouds that low`r`d upon our house in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Monday, October 13, 2014


I`m reliably informed that the winner of this year`s Man Booker Prize is about to be announced.  The short list seems to follow the pattern of books that are `literary,` deep, meaningful and oh, so very boring. Goodness knows what the long list must have been like.

But at least we have been spared the recent spate of `autobiographies` from luminaries such as Kevin Pietersen and Roy Keane, both of whom have sparked controversy with their `revelations.`  These wholly avoidable tomes are said to have included accounts of instances which reveal the `authors` in their true colours - Pietersen giving feeble self- justification for his many shortcomings and Keane, for example, giving no hint of regret for his appalling assault on Alf Inge Haaland.   And today we hear that, not content with already having decimated half a rain forest in previous sorties into the world of literature, yet another volume is about to hit the streets from `Sir` Alex Ferguson, of whom I really had hoped that we had heard the last.  

Rarely has the publication of new books been so depressing.  Why can`t books be like they used to be?  Books that told real stories in plain language, books with real and believable characters, books with morality at their heart, books that test the range of emotions before providing a happy and satisfying ending.

And so, in an attempt to escape the deep, meaningful, self-publicising and utterly boring newcomers to the country`s book stands, I turn once again to an old friend which has been there for me over so many years, through so much insecurity, turmoil and uncertainty - a friend who has always provided the comfort, the moral compass and the inspiration to face the world knowing that goodness, honesty and decency are still out there.  You just have to know where to find it.  

And I have been lucky to have by my side all these years a rather crumpled, rare copy of The Inquisitive Elf and each time I read it in my hours of need, I wonder how on earth Eunice Close never won the Man Booker Prize.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Sometimes, in the dead of night, a call of nature arouses me from my slumbers.  And then I find it difficult to get back to sleep again.   Why?  Well, I find my head spinning with music, the lyrics of songs and, not for the first time last night the lilting rhythm of the language of Under Milk Wood.

When it was shown on BBC Four back in June, I recorded the BBC Wales production of Dylan Thomas`s masterpiece, which was beautifully done by a distinguished all-Welsh cast.  So I have seen it quite a few times and never fail to be captivated by the quality of acting, interpretation and production with the result that large passages of it are firmly embedded in my head, which come back to me as I try to resume my slumbers - I should try counting sheep, I suppose, but there is so much about the good folk of Llareggub that defies unconsciousness.

But last night, I realised just how much BBC Wales had short changed us when, for production reasons I assume, sections of the original play for voices had had to be cut.  I went through who and what seemed to be missing and, as the starless, bible-black, moonless night wore on, I recalled Captain Cat hearing the naughty forfeiting children tumble and rhyme on the cobbles, with Gwennie calling the boys to kiss her or give her a penny.   And Billy, Johnny Cristo and Dicky answering her calls with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

And Bessie Bighead was missing too, once and only once kissed by long dead Gomer Owen because he was dared.   And no sign of Cherry Owen and Mrs. Cherry Owen, laughing delightedly together as over the bucket he went, sprawling and bawling, and the floor was all flagons and eels.  And no Lord Cut-Glass in his kitchen full of time or PC Attila Rees, dead to the dark and still foghorning; and no Utah Watkins counting the wife faced sheep as they leap the fences on the hill.

So, maybe one day BBC Wales will fill in the gaps and give voice to the missing persons in a follow up version of their original triumph. If not,  I suspect my nocturnal disturbances will continue to be bribed and lullabied to sleep in the silent black, bandaged night by the voices, hopes, dreams and despairs of that lulled and dumbfound town.    

(Like my recent discovery of dodder, it seems the lure of Under Milk Wood just grows on you.)

Thursday, October 09, 2014


It`s been a while since I sat down and watched a `lower league` football match on television but last night I saw the Johnstone`s Paint Trophy Southern Section encounter between Bristol City and Cheltenham Town.   There was a good reason to watch it, as our street`s local hero, Scott Wagstaff, was plying his trade as a pacy flanker in the Bristol City colours.

I wasn`t quite sure what to expect, having become accustomed to a recent diet of Premier League action following the progress of Southampton, currently doing rather well.   Now I promise that my impression of last night`s JPT game is not coloured by Scotty`s inclusion but I  genuinely enjoyed watching an excellent game between two teams who are only 40 miles apart and were clearly committed to this local derby.  

Particular features of the evening at Whaddon Road  were especially pleasing - the spirit in which the game was played by both teams, the endeavour, the not inconsiderable skill and although Bristol City ran out 3-1 winners, great credit was due to both sets of players for providing a very good and enjoyable evening`s football.

But what was such a pleasant change was the complete absence of any histrionics, diving, cheating and all the other `tactics` which are so prevalent especially in the Premier League, where I suppose we have got a bit used to such things  and almost accept them as `part of the game at the highest level.`   It was also refreshing to see the demeanour of the opposing managers and to hear their honest, considered and articulate post match interviews, again conducted in a spirit of mutual respect, all of which was again so far away from the tantrums, the feeble excuses and the stream of egotistical tosh we hear from the `best league in the world (tm)`

It made me long for the days of proper football, played by proper teams with proper managers in proper football grounds where financial and competitive ambitions may be modest but where the true spirit of the game surely resides.   And I suspect I may not be the only one with such dreams, living in hope that the game might somehow shed the lunacy of the Premier League and go back to its true origins and back to reality.  Yes, I know - they may say I`m a dreamer, but I`m not the only one?

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


Hard on the heels of my post about Dodder, I`ve kept my promise and set up a F***book group devoted to the appreciation of this extraordinary plant.  As I suspected, those looking at DodderWatch are so far limited to just me which I take to be a sign that the proportion of the world`s population who are the slightest bit interested in Dodder may well be confined to just one, so maybe I was being a tad optimistic in setting it up as a group.   Never mind, I like it and it has enabled me to expose my own eccentric psyche once more, as well as using F***book responsibly and for the purpose for which I`m sure it was intended.  DodderWatch is here at (Highlight the link, right click, then click on `Go to.....)

Monday, October 06, 2014


One of my new discoveries during last week`s walks along the South West Coast Path was this extraordinary looking plant.  It`s Dodder and being in the sad state I find myself these days, I became quite fascinated by the strange `lifestyle` of Dodder.  This particular lump of Dodder had taken up residence on a gorse bush along the coast path between East Portlemouth and Gammon Head in the south Devon stretch and there were a few other examples along the way.

Now, Dodder is a annual parasitic plant which is found mostly in tropical climes.   However, four species are found in Europe and in late Spring a slender stem emerges from germinating over-wintered seeds.  This slender stem then entwines itself (always anti-clockwise) around the nearest host plant within reaching distance.   Its growth at this stage depends entirely on food reserves contained in its seed - Dodder has no chlorophyll and therefore cannot photosynthesise.  But once established, the lower part of the stem withers and falls away, leaving the Dodder to depend entirely on its unfortunate host, from which it takes sugar and other nutrients through suckers that penetrate the host`s stem and branches.  The host is quickly engulfed in a tangled cloak of incredibly fine threads, giving rise to the kind of colourful appearance shown in my photo.

There`s much more to it than that, of course, but I have begun to develop a weird kind of interest in this extraordinary plant.  And so I`m thinking of setting up a closed F***book group so that like-minded people can share their sightings, their experiences and their interest in the strange yet compelling world of Dodder - I anticipate a limited audience. And you will by now have rightly concluded that such is the extent of my summer-departing, winter-approaching, septuagenarian  sadness that I can now also claim to be getting hopelessly and genuinely doddery.