Friday, February 27, 2015


KARMA AT ITS FINEST...

In recent years, my beloved Saints have had a few employees who have caused a bit of trouble either by behaving like a twonk, as in the case of Dani Osvaldo, or expressing a desire to leave the club for a bigger stage.  Kenwyne Jones went on strike and refused to play for Southampton in order to facilitate a move to Stoke, of all places.   

Most players who have `moved on` have done so with good grace and an understanding on the part of the club and the supporters that it was in everyone`s interests for them to leave - Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ricky Lambert among them.  Last year saw the departure of Luke Shaw to Manchester United, Calum Chambers to Arsenal, both departures being met with a collective shrug of the shoulders.  Adam Lallana`s move to Liverpool was tinged not only with regret but also with a feeling of desertion by a player who just a few weeks earlier had vowed his intention to remain.


But the case of Dejan Lovren stands out because he announced his determination to leave by declaring that his "head was already at Anfield" and sure enough his £20 million move to Liverpool was concluded shortly afterwards.  His time there so far has been mixed, not just through the occasional injury but he seemed to be out of favour when it came to team selection.   


Last night in Turkey, however, he played in Liverpool`s Europa League encounter with Besiktas.  The game went to extra time and then penalties, the first nine of which, including those from Lambert and Lallana, were unerringly dispatched beyond the despairing clutches of the Besiktas custodian.  So the whole game and Liverpool`s continued interest in European competition all hinged on the final penalty.  It was taken by Lovren, who smashed the ball over the crossbar and away into the Turkish night.


Sometimes, all you have to do is sit back and watch as karma produces its finest and most satisfying outcome.


Thursday, February 26, 2015



MOVE ALONG PLEASE....

Poor Ann.   It never rains but it pours.  Of course, some people are born to misfortune, others have misfortune thrust upon them but it seems in the case of the unfortunate Mrs. Barnes that she may well be the victim of her own misfortune.

The `incidents` revolving around her time as Kent`s Police and Crime Commissioner are well documented - the bungled appointment of one Paris Brown as the first Youth Commissioner, followed by some unseemly allegations involving Ms. Brown`s successor in the post;  a Channel Four documentary that highlighted Mrs. Barnes`s ineptitude; criticisms over her Ann Force One self-publicising official mode of transport; and just recently a skirmish with the Crown Prosecution Service about allegations of driving around Dartford without insurance.  Fortunately for her, the CPS have come to the conclusion that there is `insufficient evidence` and that it `would not be in the public interest` to pursue that line of inquiry any further.   

Now I have no doubt that in other parts of the country there are Police and Crime Commissioners doing a splendid job in carrying out the original intention of the role which included responsibilities to:-

* secure an efficient and effective police for their area;
* appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force and if necessary
  dismiss them;
* set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
* set the force budget and determine the precept;

Now, given the doubts surrounding the concept of these Commissioners, now that we have them anyway, surely the taxpayers of Kent are entitled to expect that the role will be discharged with the degree of competence that justifies the £85,000 salary.   We hear a lot these days about police `performance` and I have no doubt that the bobbies on the beat are under enormous pressure due to budget cuts, bureaucratic procedures and staff reductions and I have every sympathy with them.   

But in Kent at least, it seems that the perception of police performance is unfairly influenced by the antics of the Police and Crime Commissioner.   Maybe she is just unlucky but the example she sets cannot fill those within her charge or those who pay for the privilege with the degree of confidence that the post demands.   There will be an election for the role in a year or so.  As far as the present incumbent is concerned, as there is `insufficient evidence` and that it is probably `not in the public interest` for her to continue in office beyond the next election,  it really is a case of `move along, please - nothing to see here.`  

Monday, February 23, 2015

BEYOND PARODY..

Over two months to go before the General Election and already the build up to it is becoming tiresome.  Now I`ve long thought that events in the Westminster Village are almost indistinguishable from the soap operas we see on television. The essential difference, of course, is that Westminster is supposed to be serious but in many way it mirrors events in Albert Square, Coronation Street or Emmerdale.

In Westminster there are plots and counter plots, intrigue, crimes and misdemeanours and a cast of characters that might come straight out of Llaregub - the fishers, the farmers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cocklewomen and the tidy wives. 

And the Pantomime villain, the court jester and the serial buffoon. And like Bobby Ewing coming back from the dead and right on cue we now have the return of John, aka Lord, Prescott, one time Deputy Prime Minister, ship`s steward and erstwhile Police and Crime Commissioner, who will act in an unpaid capacity as adviser to Labour Leader Ed Milliband on climate change.  The unpaid bit is interesting, as being Lord Prescott all he has to do is nip next door into the House of Lords, sign the book and pick up his £300 a day attendance allowance.

Now things don`t look good for Ed Milliband at the moment, so in a move that is beyond parody they dust Prescott off and bring him back out of the shadows once more to punch below his weight and confound us with his mangled syntax. What is revealing about this is the notion that bringing this boorish oaf back into mainstream politics will enthuse disillusioned Labour voters on the basis that Prescott is one of the old school grass roots dinosaurs - one of their own - and awfully keen on climate change which is, of course, one of their prime electoral concerns.  Well, it is, isn`t it?    There`s more than a hint of desperation about it.

I confess that I don`t watch soap operas - and I have genuinely never seen an episode of Coronation Street in all the years it`s been going - but there`s no need to really when there`s Westminster to keep us guessing as to what might happen next in the latest unscripted story line.  I`ll be looking out for developments in the Straw/Rifkind `cash for access` allegations, which will be every bit as entertaining as the intrigue surrounding Lucy Beale`s demise.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


ENDANGERED SPECIES..

There seems to be an increasing number of advertisements on television asking us to donate £3 a month to protect endangered species.  The one that caught my eye recently was pulling at the heartstrings and concerned the plight of polar bears which apparently are now `endangered.`  I don`t know whether the appeal was serious or an attempt to claim the prize as irony of the year because whilst polar bears might look soft and cuddly when they are young, they grow into marauding carnivores and given the opportunity they will happily bite your head off and have you for lunch.

So, no, I`m afraid I`m not sending £3 a month to protect a species that, even if it forsakes its carnivorous ways will still not have the mental capacity to understand that we are being protective of it.  They strike me as an ungrateful lot, on a par with some recipients of our overseas aid budget.

Instead, I`m on the lookout for a much more worthwhile cause to support and if any outfit needs it right now it`s the England cricket team who are in desperate need of a charitable respite, a safe haven, a forgiving sanctuary where they can escape  from their antipodean travails.   I`m not sure that £3 a month will do much good but it`s the thought that counts.  I`ll look out for the advert.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


They say that a week is a long time in politics.  They should have tried two weeks as a National Serviceman.   I kept a diary during my first few months doing Her Majesty`s pleasure in the chilled wilderness of Catterick in North Yorkshire and I still have that diary to this day.   As this is the season for me to reminisce about those times all those years ago, I had a look at the diary today, especially on this Thursday when I was exactly two weeks into my enforced conscription.   

And it was an auspicious day because the Troop of 04/60 were no longer the newest recruits in those austere and forbidding barracks, home of the training regiment, the 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, who Mrs. Snopper, with unfailing insight, always referred to as Dragon Guards.   Anyway, we looked out of our barrack room window and saw the latest consignment of conscripts clambering out of the 3-ton Bedford truck, bearing their suitcases in one hand and their fears and bewilderment in the other.  "Get some in," we cried in the kind of unison that was hewn from two weeks of collective togetherness.

I had learned a lot in those two weeks.  Useful skills such as turning left and right, stopping and starting, marching slowly and quickly and responding to a name which was constantly prefixed as `spewy` and ``orrible.`  My surname also acquired an appendix in the form of a number which was not only quoted in response to questions but which also had to be stamped on each and every item of clothing and equipment which had been thrown at me two weeks` previously in the Quartermasters Stores.  Good idea, but one of the numbers was missing from the collection of stamps, so every item was a number short, thus immediately calling into doubt the  veracity of one`s military identity.

But back to my diary which, when I looked at it this afternoon, was singularly absent of any entries for those first few days apart from recurring one-liners, `Bulling.` This was probably because there was simply no time - an 0630 reveille began a day of constant movement between barrack square, gymnasium, `dining hall` and lecture room. 

So much so that, when evening came, we spent the whole of our `free time` constantly polishing and bulling assorted items of equipment ready to be inspected by corporals, sergeants and the odd officer.   Boots, webbing, brasses - all the usual stuff that go to make a soldier look the part - and, intriguingly, gaiters.   I never understood gaiters - I still don`t and they, along with some other strange items of military equipment, remain a mystery to this day.  

And so, as we gazed triumphantly at the newly arrived conscripts, I comforted myself with the knowledge that as they began their own journey into the unknown, at least I only had another 717 days to do.


A MATTER OF CONVENIENCE ?..

It`s that time of year when the various local authorities and agencies are beginning to announce their Council Tax plans for the coming financial year.   The good news is that our local Parish Council has decided not to increase its precept at all this coming year but the less good news is that both the County Council and the local District Council are each raising their share of the Council Tax by 1.99%.   (Goodness knows what the Police and other `agencies` might do but it all adds up.)

Now 1.99% is something of a magic figure.   If the councils want to go just that bit further and make it 2% then they would have to call a referendum to see what us Council Taxpayers think about that.   So they have dodged that issue - some might call it a cop out - by sticking to the highest increase possible without the need for a referendum.  The downside of a referendum is that the councils would have to bear the costs of organising it which in turn would mean that the Council tax payers end up paying anyway. 

So I`m not too sure whether I`m in favour of the 1.99% tactic or whether I wouldn`t prefer a referendum anyway.  But one thing I do know is that I feel almost cheated by this financial and political sleight of hand; it smacks of a matter of convenience; all a bit sneaky.  Whatever it may be, I`m left with a feeling of being denied the opportunity to have a direct say about the council proposals.  In the absence of a referendum it`s reminiscent of the calls for a referendum on Britain`s membership of the EU, where we haven`t had a vote since 1974.

Once again I am reminded of the three great fibs of life - the cheque is in the post; I`ll respect you in the morning; and I`m from the council and I`m here to help you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


IT`S THE BISHOP !!..

Watch out.  The House of Bishops are issuing a letter to urge parishioners to vote at the General Election and are calling for a debate on issues such as nuclear defence and the economy.   The Bishops are expected to back the concept of a living wage and urge political parties to refrain from turning groups such as immigrants and those on benefits into scapegoats.   They are also expected to say that the case for the Trident nuclear deterrent needs to be re-examined and that more EU integration is needed.

Now, of course, the Bishops are not claiming to tell people how to vote but rather why people should bother to vote at all.   The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr. Alan Wilson, said that their letter was aimed at addressing the feeling of "cynicism and disenchantment with professional politicians" and to help voters "take a fresh look at things."

Sounds a bit plausible, but if their main aim in issuing the letter is simply to encourage people to think before they vote, then why not just say that, given that they should  say anything at all that might brand them with accusations of political interference?   As it is, the`shopping list` of issues they have quite openly referred to will surely make voters think that the Bishops have a political agenda all of their own.  Pity the law does not permit them to put up their own candidates

Such is my own cynicism and disenchantment that the only worry I have in making any sort of comment about Bishops and their ilk, is that I might find myself waking up in a future life as a Manchester United fan, which must surely be the ultimate in eternal damnation.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015


A SURPRISING BALANCE..

Earlier in the week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Extremely Reverend Justin Welby, caused some eyebrows to be raised when he expressed a "profound feeling of regret and deep sorrow" in his speech in Germany on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the allied bombings of Dresden.  He went on to describe how the allies "brought death and destruction on a scale and with a ferocity it is impossible to imagine."

Now I guess that my reaction was similar to that of many others in feeling a sense of outrage at these remarks and it exposed once more the problem that the Omnipotent Being has with his or her representatives here on Earth.  My mind instantly recalled the horrors of the Holocaust, the London Blitz, the destruction of Coventry and my own boyhood memories of hearing the bombing of Southampton every night as I slept fitfully beneath the stairs of our New Forest hovel.  None of these events seemed to have drawn reciprocal feelings of `regret and deep sorrow` from our friends in the Fatherland.

And so it came as an unexpected but welcome surprise to see that the Archbishop`s words had little immediate impact in Germany, where they were overshadowed by an address from the German President, Joachim Gauck, in which he laid the blame for the atrocities of the war clearly with Germany and he rejected any attempt to compare it with any Allied responsibility.  "We know who started the murderous war, we know it," he said. "And that`s why we will never forget the victims of German warfare.  We do not forget, even as we remember here today the German victims."

President Gauck was speaking at the same memorial service which the Archbishop also addressed and it was clear that he had come under no pressure from the German side to express `regret or seep sorrow.`  "A country that is responsible for a monstrosity like the Holocaust cannot expect to go unpunished and emerge undamaged from a war that it has provoked," said President Gauck.

So, rather than employing my usual penchant for hasty conclusions, maybe, just maybe, even after all these years, there are still lessons to be learnt. 


Thursday, February 12, 2015


MODERN TIMES..

It seems impossible to get away from Stephen Fry these days.  It`s not surprising, given his multi-talented career as an actor, author, comedian and presenter.  He seems to be forever on our television screens in one guise or another and I have no doubt that he has many admirers who appreciate the contribution he has made to the culture and entertainment of the nation.   

Now I suppose my problem is that I was brought up in a very different era, one which as I look back to from the vantage point of 75 years, seems so very different in so many ways. I am part of a generation that struggles to come to terms with so much of modern day Britain, but we do our best to keep up.   We try to get used to the ever changing and increasing pace of life, the advance of technology, the social, political and other issues of the day - for us, the times they are a-changing like never before. And whilst it is impossible for me to deny that things ain`t what they used to be, perhaps at least some of those changes could have come about without quite so many  trumpets being blazed and tubs being thumped.

But back to Mr. Fry.   It has been impossible to escape the onslaught of publicity concerning the recent marriage between 57-year old Mr. Fry and his 27 year old partner, Elliott Spencer.   Now in years gone by it may have been socially acceptable for some  reservations to be expressed about arrangements such as this but it seems that these days - especially for rustics like me living away from the parallel universe of the nation`s capital - expressing such reservations might infringe some modern day legislation or at least invite opprobrium to rain down and land me in all sorts of grief that I could do without. 

I don`t know either Mr. Fry or Mr. Spencer so this is not about them personally and I am in no position to offer any comment on their matrimonial arrangement.  It`s none of my business and in fairness to Mr. Fry, he himself had wished that the marriage could have taken place quietly and without any media fuss or intrusion.   But I too also wish it could all have happened quietly, thus sparing my septuagenarian sensitivities from any reservations about the social changes that have brought Mr. Fry and his husband into my consciousness.  In these modern times it seems that any such reservations are those that dare not speak their name, which is as regrettable as when that phrase was first coined.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TO BOLDLY GO...

To Sevenoaks today for an appointment with my favourite dentist, the ever gentle and understanding Louise.  Nothing too serious - just a check up and a bit of repair work - but I noticed driving into Sevenoaks that it is twinned with Pontoise in France and also Rheinbach in Germany.

Even closer to home, a few of the nearby villages are also twinned with places in foreign parts.   The metropolis of Ditton is twinned with somewhere called Rang-du-Fliers in the Nord Pas de Calais, whereas the People`s Republic of Snodland is twinned with Moyeuvre grande, a town of similar size in the Lorraine region of France.  I`m pretty sure I know which town has the best part of the deal.   

And, of course, throughout the land there are numerous other examples of towns and villages having twinned with those in other countries.  Some of them are `interesting,` such as Wincanton in Somerset being twinned with somewhere that doesn`t actually exist  - Ankh-Morpork, an entirely fictional place featured in Terry Pratchett`s Discworld novels.   And, in all seriousness, Dull in Scotland is twinned with somewhere called Boring in America.

Now I have some experience of the dark arts of the twinning world, having once - and only once - been press-ganged into being part of an official twinning arrangement with a small town in Germany.  But seeing the signs on the way in to Sevenoaks made me realise that here in my home parish we are not twinned with anywhere else, so I`m going to start a campaign for the Parish Council to organise something.

But let`s not just twin with any old where - no more small towns in Germany or France, but somewhere where there would be mutual benefits from the exchange visits.   Places like St. John`s, Antigua; Carvoeira in Portugal or Sandy Lane, Barbados.   If we`re going to do it, let`s do it properly and extend the hand of friendship and rewarding cultural exchanges to places like that, who are currently in blissful ignorance of the treasures and pleasures to be had in our small but bounteous corner of this green and pleasant land.

Well, anything`s got to be better than Stoke Poges or Penge. 

Saturday, February 07, 2015


PARDON ? .....

Thoroughly enjoyed the rugby last evening.  An enthralling start to the Six Nations with England defying the odds to beat Wales in Cardiff.   The BBC`s coverage was, as usual, well over the top and I genuinely lost count of the number of `reporters,` interviewers and pundits they employed for the event.

It seems that in their endless scramble after ratings, the BBC are these days employing `characters,` to add to the ever increasing ranks of pundits and commentators.  Trouble is, they pick some right turkeys to do it.  Robbie Savage is a prime example, all bling and look at me, chirping up with mindless comments because he thinks he should say something, however crass it turns out to be.   And I heard in the week that the bad boy of English cricket, Kevin Petersen, has been booked to join the Test Match Special team for the forthcoming Cricket World Cup.  Goodness knows what his maligned former team mates will make of that, but never mind, after all he is a `character.`. 

But back to last evening`s rugby.   The match commentary itself was, as ever, skilfully anchored by former Welsh international captain, Eddie Butler.  Alongside him was former England hooker Brian Moore, who now seems to be a permanent fixture as co-commentator.   Now I have a lot of time for Moore`s playing and journalistic career - 64 caps for England, short-listed for Sports Journalist of the Year, columnist for the Daily Telegraph and all that - but as a voice behind a microphone he is almost literally unintelligible.   

He never seems to finish a sentence, leaving us  to wonder what he`s trying and failing to say.   And when he does manage to say something that is supposed to enlighten our appreciation of the technical side of a very technical game, he loses us and himself in an endless babble of disjointed mutterings that leave none of us any the wiser.

A memorable game but a forgettable commentary.  

Friday, February 06, 2015

AN ACCIDENT OF TIMING ?...

Just last week we `marked` the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill`s passing and this week two separate `events` have prompted me to recall one of his many true and memorable quotations.   

A year or so ago a good friend was kind enough to lend me a copy of Hilary Mantel`s `Wolf Hall.`   I didn`t get on with it too well as, although the narrative was interesting from a historical perspective, the style in which it was written - almost the English of the time - left me struggling.   It`s the same with `Gone Girl,` which I have also just struggled through because, again, whilst the story line was intriguing, the style, the annoying Americana, the irritating plethora of obscenity, took away much of any enjoyment from what might otherwise have been an acclaimed novel.

There seems to be a trend these days for writers and especially so-called `comedians` to use gratuitous obscene or blasphemous language under the misguided belief that it`s either clever or funny.  It`s neither, of course - merely the last resort of those devoid of sensitivity, talent or both.   `Mrs. Brown`s Boys` again springs to mind immediately and, whilst I`m no prude - how could I be having lived through the `culture` of the 10th Royal Hussars? - I do find it all rather tiresome.  Maybe I`m just getting old.......

Anyway, back to Sir Winston and the events that reminded me of his wisdom.  I`ve now watched the first three episodes of the BBC`s adaptation of `Wolf Hall` and it has much to commend it, not least being its ability to bring light to the darkness of Dame Hilary`s anguished prose. The last episode included reference to a beheading and the gruesome spectacle of the burning of William Tyndale - for the unpardonable sin of translating the Bible into English.

And with what seems to be an unfortunate accident of timing, in the same week we have learned of similar atrocities carried out by ISIS - the beheading of the Japanese journalist and the burning of the Jordanian pilot.  Now it would be comforting to believe that, despite the passing of 500 years being but the blink of an eye in the infinity of time and history, we as a species had by now grown away from such outrages against our fellow men.   As things stand, however, all we seem to have is the knowledge that Sir Winston was right all along.

When will we ever learn?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


THE RELUCTANT GUARDSMAN..

Each year on this day of all days, I dredge up a memory from the 731 days of my National Service, which began and ended on 4th February.   It`s 55 years ago that I arrived at Catterick Camp in the depths of a North Yorkshire winter and 53 years ago today that I took my leave of the 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales Own) - the Shiny Tenth - and turned my back on Barker Barracks, Paderborn, BFPO 16 for the last time.  I did so with a tinge of regret at leaving good friends behind, some of whom I am still in touch with even now.

And recently one of those `old` friends got in touch to remind me of his reluctance at being placed on guard duty.  Well, you can hardly blame him, for unless you were selected by the Orderly Officer (and, yes, there were some disorderly ones too) as Stick Man and thus relieved of guard duty thanks to the smartness of your kit, you spent the rest of the night patrolling the tank park in two-hour shifts, armed with a whistle and a pick axe handle (no axe - just the handle) to ensure the security of western democracy in the face of the Soviet threat.  A  daunting task indeed.

And his recollection brought to mind an incident when I was detailed to be on guard duty myself one night.   Now it seems to me that life is indeed about Kipling`s twin imposters of triumph and disaster; life is a series of little victories and setbacks.  Some you win, some you lose and the Shiny Tenth`s very Regimental Sergeant Major`s insistence that I went on guard duty, gave rise to a serious conflict of interest.

My basic pay as a National Serviceman was something like 15/9d a week when I started in Catterick and this `rose` to about 26/- a week when I arrived in BFPO 16.  I felt the need to increase my income, which I did by conning my way into the job as projectionist in the Army base`s AKC Globe Cinema.   I convinced the cinema manager that of course I was well versed in the mysteries of cinemascope, stereophonic sound, lighting calls, sound cards, reel changes and the rest of the smoke and mirrors that ensure an enjoyable evening at the pictures.  And after a few false starts, audience refunds and trial and error, my fellow compatriot, Dave Millman and I became quite good at it.   I still have my certificate of competence to prove it.

At the time of the threat of me doing guard duty, Dave was away on leave and I was manfully running the cinema shows by myself, so when I learned that I had been put on guard duty, I contacted the cinema manager to let him know that I would not be available to run the films that evening.   There then followed some high level discussions between the manager and the extremely Regimental Sergeant Major and I found myself hauled before the Adjutant to be told that I had to do the guard duty and what did I think about that?


Time to pull at the heartstrings, I thought, so I explained that of course I had to accept the order to do the guard duty but felt sorry for the 200 or so of the military audience and their families who would be deprived of their evening`s entertainment and I wondered how this might affect morale.  Further discussions ensued and I was then informed that I should work that evening in the cinema but that I would have to do guard duty at some point in the future.   (I took this as one of life`s little victories.)

Some weeks later, I was sent on exercises to Soltau on Luneburg Heath, leaving Dave to run the cinema, although by that time we had recruited an assistant - Gordon Watson from the Pay Office -  so Dave wasn`t entirely on his own.  Shortly after setting up our `camp` on Luneburg Heath, the awfully Regimental Sergeant Major placed me on guard duty.   I had no chance of being selected as Stick Man and so, armed with my trusty pick axe handle and whistle, I spent most of the night patrolling the serried ranks of tanks and military equipment, hoping that the Russians would not choose this moment to launch an offensive.   Especially as it was my 21st birthday.

Now I could have taken this as one of life`s little setbacks but I suspect it was the frightfully Regimental Sergeant Major`s way of wreaking his revenge on this conscripted upstart by making me spend my 21st birthday so memorably. In the final analysis, I settled for Snopper 1 - RSM 1, after extra time.   And I still don`t know how the 53 years have gone by so quickly.

Sunday, February 01, 2015


A DIFFERENT ANXIETY..

In almost seventy years of following the fortunes and misfortunes of Southampton Football Club I, like most Saints fans of any lineage, have developed a kind of fatalistic attitude towards things.   Que sera, sera writ large.   Indeed, it has been established through medical research over a long period that the default state of mind for being a Saints fan is one of almost perpetual anxiety.

This state of mind has resulted from years of watching the team struggle for survival, enduring great escapes from the constant threat of relegation and when relegation eventually happened, it happened not once, but twice, leaving the club on the brink of liquidation (such a graphic term) and finding them rooted to the bottom of League One, minus ten points for going into administration.

At that point, all anxieties seemed to fade away - things could not get any worse and so we made our pilgrimages to St. Mary`s Stadium simply for the pleasure of being there with no expectations beyond a convivial afternoon with good friends, keeping what little faith we could muster.

What`s different these days is that the anxieties associated with the prospect of dismal failure have been replaced by the anxieties associated with the prospect of unexpected success. After yesterday`s home defeat by Swansea, some Saints fans, normally of sound mind and body, are now anxiously concerning themselves with the prospect of failing to finish the season in a top four Champions League place in the Premier League.   I think the great Sir Roger Bannister summed it up perfectly when he said that "the essence of sport is that while you`re doing it, nothing else matters, but after you stop, there is a place, generally not very important, where you would put it."

Just as my anxieties vanished when I realised that things could get no worse for my beloved Saints, I refuse to allow my anxieties to return now that things can hardly be any better.