Friday, July 29, 2016

PEACE AND QUIET....




OK.  After my recent rants, time to get back to some music and I feel in need of something that brings a sense of much needed peace and quiet.  Now, one of the more intriguing of English composers is Peter Warlock, which wasn`t his real name.  He was born Philip Heseltine in the Savoy Hotel, London, in October 1894 and his education (Stone House, Broadstairs - Eton - Christ Church, Oxford - University College, London) - all reflected his family`s wealth and status.

In many ways his rather short life was tempestuous and controversial - he changed his name to Warlock to reflect his interest in occult practices - and he had spells in Wales, Cornwall (where he was befriended of DH Lawrence,) London, Dublin (to escape the possibility of his exemption from military service in the First World War being `reviewed`) and Eynsford here in Kent where he headed a rather bohemian household.   He died  in December 1930 in Chelsea quite probably the result of suicide and in the last year or so it has been revealed that he was the father of the recently departed art critic, Brian Sewell. During his time at Eynsford, he wrote his own, rather potentous epitaph:-

"Here lies Warlock the composer
Who lived next door to Munn the grocer
He died of drink and copulation
A sad discredit to the nation."

But he did leave us with a body of musical work, the most well known probably being the Capriol Suite.   And it`s the Pavane from that piece that provides at least two minutes  of peace and quiet in an increasingly noisy world.   Here it is.......








Wednesday, July 27, 2016

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BIG SAM ?



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

HEARTWARMING.....


What a lovely picture of a happy family.  Just look at the happiness on the faces of those two little cherubs and the look of pride for their parents.   It really is heartwarming stuff, especially as they face the world and all that life throws at them knowing that they will be forever cocooned in a big bubble of privilege with nothing to worry or care about, thanks to the blind generosity of the Great British taxpayers.

Nothing personal, but I just wish for two things.  First, that we hear less and less about the goings on in their parallel universe and, second, that Theresa May should legislate to stop newspapers condemning us to special supplements of photos of these dear little poppets and the rest of their adoring family.  Maybe then the rest of us can be left in peace to get on with our own lives rather than being subjected to the meaningless antics of the privileged few.  End of rant of the day.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN...

I really thought that 4.2 million years of human existence had reached its nadir last week with large sections of the population roaming around searching for virtual icons on their mobile phones under the delusion that these things might actually exist in their areas of search.

And then my wife, a devotee of `Casualty,` discovers that last night`s episode of this gripping medical drama had been replaced by a `special edition` of Mrs. Brown`s Boys - a coarse, puerile, intelligence-insulting `entertainment` masquerading as comedy.  It`s both deeply unfunny and deeply troubling.

But then I reflect on the appointment of `Big` Sam Allardyce as the England football team manager and it`s clear that there is still a long way to go before the murky depths of human achievement are reached.  For years now any enthusiasm I had for the England football team has been gradually diminished not only by abject performances like the recent debacle in the European Championships but also by the antics of the overpaid poseurs representing the country on the world stage - the likes of Ashley Cole, John Terry, Wayne Rooney, etc. to mention just a few.   

But now they have a rival for my disquiet in the form of the aforementioned `Big` Sam. Now I know it`s an old fashioned notion - almost on a par with the Football Association`s determination to have an English manager - but I really would like our national team manager to represent the country in the eyes of the world with just a touch of dignity, modesty and restraint.  I know such virtues are in short supply with the majority of the players but now we have a manager for whom such qualities are conspicuous by their complete absence.

And so any enthusiasm or optimism I might have been nurturing over the new manager`s appointment have been cruelly dashed by the arrival of the charmless Sam whose claim to fame seems to consist of an ability to save teams from relegation rather than ever winning anything.   Still, he now has the support of his newly appointed assistant manager - none other than the unfathomable Sammy Lee.

So we have `Big` Sam and `Little` Sam in charge of our national destiny and I wonder why I am instantly reminded of the Chuckle Brothers.  Happy days.......

Saturday, July 23, 2016

SUSPICIOUS MINDS....


There was a report yesterday on the local TV news concerning a robbery in the sleepy Kent Town of Hythe.  The report showed CCTV images of a 74 year old man smashing the window of a jeweller`s shop with a hammer, grabbing valuables to the tune of £14,000 and running off down the street.

The shop owner dashed out of his shop, chased the man down the street and felled him with a rugby tackle that would have made James Haskell proud.  Another shop owner, who had witnessed the smash and grab, joined in and held the `alleged` offender down whilst the police were called to the scene.

It was then reported that the 74 year old man had been apprehended on suspicion of theft and promptly released on police bail pending further enquiries.   What puzzles me is how on earth can there be any `suspicion` when the whole incident was captured on at least two high definition CCTV cameras.  What more evidence could there possibly be?  So why is this `alleged offender` being allowed out on bail rather than spending his time in the local Hythe nick?   You can move along now....nothing to see here...

Friday, July 22, 2016

WORTH THE WAIT..


For as long as I can remember I  have been fascinated by Somerset County Cricket Club.  I guess some of that fascination has been born out of a West Country background (born in the neighbouring county of Dorset) but a large part of it has been due to the history of the club.   It has had more downs than ups but in more recent times it has established itself in the first division of the County Championship.

Just before and after WW2, the star of the side was Harold Gimblett.  He had been rejected by the County after a fortnight`s trial but in May of that year he was asked to make up the numbers at a county match at Frome the next day.   Travelling from Bicknoller in West Somerset he missed the early morning bus but hitch hiked to Frome in a lorry.  Then he proceeded to score the fastest century in England that summer (123 in 65 minutes) and his place in the county side was secured.

Gimblett went on to become Somerset`s leading run scorer - over 23,000 at 36, including 235 sixes which, for an opening batsman was extraordinary.  He scored the last of his 50 centuries (167 not out) in 1953 against Northants and then walked away from the game until the vagaries of depression led to his suicide in 1978.

Now earlier this week, at Trent Bridge, Marcus Trescothick the Somerset captain and current record run scorer, reached his 49th century for the county and went on to reach a double hundred.  As with most things Somerset, references are confusing because Trescothick`s century was reported as equalling the tally of Gimblett all those years ago.   

Be that as it may, it has been a long wait for any Somerset player to come close to the record set by Harold Gimblett and when it is finally broken by Marcus Trescothick, as it surely will be, then it could not go to a more admirable cricketer, one who has also had his problems with depression but who has come through to enjoy his place in the history of that endlessly charming West Country club.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ANOTHER NUMBER....

I hope you might forgive a little self indulgence today but it is my birthday......and thank you to all those who have been kind enough to send felicitations.   Now I`ve noticed that as the years go by birthdays become more worrisome;  when you`re young, it`s all about you and presents and treats and stuff like that.  But as the years clock up each birthday becomes a little more significant than the one just gone.

Last year, when I reached 76, I immediately associated it with 76 trombones - The Music Man, that stirring 1957 musical starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.  Well, as a bit of a film buff, I would wouldn`t I?

But this year`s more sobering.  Just looking at the number 77 reminds me of crutches, hence the worrisome aspect of reaching this milestone.   But, hey, it`s just another number.  Right?

Monday, July 18, 2016

EXTRACTION EXTORTION..



My neighbour`s beautiful Golden Retriever has been suffering with toothache for a while - it was only in the last day or so that it was diagnosed - and so arrangements have been made for the problem to be dealt with by a local vet.   Fair enough.  So far so good. Problem is that the cost of extracting the one offending gnasher is approaching the £1,000 mark including `consultations.`

Now like me, my neighbour is struggling to make ends meet on a fixed income in these difficult financial times but, of course, out of love and affection for his beloved pooch he sees no alternative but to shell out the shedload of wonga the vet is demanding.

This episode - and there must be thousands like it up and down the country - calls into question how on earth charges like this can be justified, especially for only one chopper which is almost hanging off anyway.  It`s an outrage, to put it simply and it leads me to suggest that one of Theresa May`s top priorities as our new Prime Minister must surely be to address this situation.

Forget about Turkey, Brexit, Trident and all that jazz, she should be concentrating her efforts on setting up a Regulator to control the demands of opportunist vets.  Something like OFFVET, OFFCHOP, OFFEXTORTIONATEEXTRACTIONS should be set up as a priority to bring much needed comfort not only to the owners but also to the dogs who go around needing urgent dental treatment.  

Of course there are other avenues to explore in the meantime - a JustGiving F***book page; a Petition to Parliament signed by over a million people which would lead to a parliamentary debate; an all night vigil outside the vet`s office; a `Dogs Teeth Matter` campaign or even a sponsored bark.  I`d be happy to support any of these except the all-night vigil.  At 77 tomorrow I need all the beauty sleep I can get.  To be fair.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Well, if today was anything to go by, Summer might have arrived at last.  Might be fleeting though, as the weather men are predicting that it will all be over by Wednesday. Never mind, days like today bring back memories of summers past - 1976 and all that - and the songs and music of summer that lift the spirit as well as the temperature.

And there`s quite a list to choose from ranging from Vivaldi`s Four Seasons to Summer Love.  There are, of course, some timeless tunes - Ella Fitzgerald singing George Gershwin`s Summertime;  Jerry Keller`s `Here comes Summer;` `Summer in the City` from the Lovin` Spoonful and `Summer Breeze` from Seals and Crofts.  Time Out recently produced their list of the 50 Best Songs of Summer and we will all have our own opinions about which are the best.

For me, coming in `only` at No. 5 is Don Henley`s wonderful, `Boys of Summer.`  There have been countless cover versions since the Eagles stalwart first recorded the song in 1984 but I think the best was the upbeat `dancy` version from DJ Sammy and his lady vocalist (later his wife)  Loona.  This video captures the spirit of summer whilst also doing more than justice to Don Henley`s original.   Well, I like it.......and it is summer.......





Friday, July 15, 2016

A PRESSING ENGAGEMENT...

I was beginning to get worried about the number of women who seem to be taking over the world.  We`ve already got German Chancellor Angela Merkel, HM The Queen of course, along with the Queens of the Netherlands and Denmark, Scottish upstart Nicola Sturgeon (a big fish in a small pond if ever there was one) and another one who allegedly runs the International Monetary Fund. 

The Presidents of Brazil, the Marshall Islands, Taiwan, Nepal, Mauritius, Croatia and Malta are all women, possibly to be joined by the next President of the United States.  Finland has a woman Prime Minister and now so do we - Theresa May, who seems to be shaping up as Margaret Thatcher without the handbag.

So I got worried about who is going to do the ironing, until I read a University research programme which revealed that, for the women of the world, ironing is not only an enjoyable experience but also one which is therapeutic, relaxing and satisfying in ways that us menfolk cannot really comprehend.  Panic over then.
IN THE SUMMERTIME...

Well, so far it`s been a rubbish summer here in deepest Kent but we have had the occasional spectacular sunset.  Here`s one which I took from our back garden looking across the North Downs to the sun setting in the western sky.......




Tuesday, July 12, 2016

BACK TO THE FUTURE ?...

I haven`t said much - or, indeed, anything - about the  European Championships held in France over the last month.  For fans of England there has been nothing to cheer and everything to dampen the spirits still further. 

The shambolic `performance` of the overpaid, over-hyped England team was mercifully short lived, thanks to a deserving Iceland team which showed the true meaning of team spirit.  The other disturbing, embarrassing even, episode was the customary hooliganism and rioting which took place between England and Russia `fans` at Marseilles.

The tournament`s more satisfying moments came courtesy of Wales, Iceland and finally Portugal, from whom I can take at least a crumb of vicarious comfort as their Championship winning team included two Southampton players in their back four - Cedric Soares and Saints captain Jose Fonte.   

The response of the England `hierarchy` has been predictable - manager Roy Hodgson has gone and the search is on for a new, preferably English, manager to take the team into the World Cup qualifiers which are coming up shortly.   And that is where the sense of despair grows ever deeper.  It was worrying that, of all people, `arry (F`sure) Redknapp has apparently been `consulted` about the new manager position but  what is even more worrying is that `Big` Sam Allardyce is now a leading contender to take on the role.

I can`t make my mind up whether his appointment, if it happens, will bring back memories of Back to the Future or Jurassic Park.   

Saturday, July 09, 2016

"EVEN IF YOU`RE OLD AND GREY"..




It`s curious how events bring pieces of music to mind;  or maybe it`s the other way around and music sometimes seems appropriate to events.   For me, a recent example has been the aftermath, the backlash even, of the UK`s democratic decision to leave the European Union.   It seems that the younger generations who are largely in favour of remaining part of the EU have, amongst other targets, blamed us of the older generation for the decision to leave.

And so I turn to some sights and sounds of the `older generation` to make my point.   Back in 1988 one of the greatest bands ever were the Travelling Wilburys, pictured above. Left to right there`s Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and George Harrison, the latter two sadly no longer with us.  They produced some memorable songs and music, amongst which was `The End of the Line.`  It included some good lines, such as:-


Well it`s alright even if you`re old and grey
Well it`s alright,  you still got something to say
Well it`s alright, remember to live and let live
Well it`s alright, the best you can do is forgive.


......which seems somehow appropriate for the post Brexit days we live in.   But don`t take my word for it - here are the Wilburys performing their memorable version.  (Oh, and in the video look out for the empty rocking chair with Roy Orbison`s guitar leaning on it and the photo of him when he sings - it was a tribute to him as he died in December 1988, before the album was released).......




THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE...


After weeks of speculation it has now been revealed that our street`s local hero - pacy flanker Scott ("Buzzin` six-pack") Wagstaff, 26, has returned to home territory.   Having seen out his contract at Bristol City, he was keen to find a club which valued his qualities and which would benefit from his regular outings in the occasional goal scoring, deep crossing, pacy flanking department.

And so, despite overtures from a number of other clubs, he has now signed a two year deal with our near neighbours Gillingham.   Apart from his footballing credentials he brings the added bonuses of a quite spectacular beard and, of course, his renowned goal celebration, `The Brick.`   This extraordinary contortion has become something of a trademark celebration and consists of him lying flat on his back whilst waiting for fellow team mates to arrive and lay on top of him.   Here`s an example:-


Now those kind of antics might have gone down a storm in the backwaters of Ashton Gate but I await with interest to see the reaction it brings to the aficionados of Gillingham`s Rainham End which has among their ranks none other than my good friend and neighbour Mr. Slightly, proud owner of a Gillingham season ticket.

So, welcome home Scott and I hope your return to the depths of Kent will be a happy and successful one.  I end by repeating the quote that Scott gave to the waiting media when he arrived at the Priestfield Stadium the other day.  He is alleged to have said, "The Gills are a sleeping giant with great fans, a great stadium and a state of the art training facility so when I heard that they were interested I knew that they were the club for me and I didn`t want to go anywhere else."  Now admittedly he may have strayed marginally from the strict teachings of the Professional Footballers Association Manual of Cliches, but I`m sure the message brought added comfort to the Priestfield faithful.  To be fair.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

AN APOLOGY.....


When the Chilcot Inquiry began in November 2009, I wrote this in my first blog post on the subject:-

"I see that Sir John is seventy years old (a feeling I know only too well) so I cannot see why he, on whom so many hopes are riding, doesn`t do us all a favour and, at the end of his Inquiry, tell it like it really was. After all, what has he got to lose? I think we probably know what the outcome should be - Blair, Campbell, Scarlett, Goldsmith and most of the Cabinet of the day guilty of dragging us into a conflict on a false prospectus so as to keep `in` with Bush and his maniac administration - but I wonder if Chilcot will have the courage to confirm it and, if he does, what the consequences might be for those responsible."

Since then, as the Inquiry has dragged on and on, my suspicions grew that we might be heading for yet another establishment whitewash, as per the Hutton Inquiry that predated Chilcot.  This was based largely on the inordinate delays surrounding such issues as the `Maxwellisation process,` which gave those likely to be criticised in the report the opportunity to respond in advance of the report being published.  

In short, I expected the worst.  But instead, we have had not only a measured, thorough and in many ways the courageous report that I hoped for all of seven years ago; moreover, we had Sir John Chilcot`s impressive presentation of the report to the waiting world which was full of quiet authority, sound reasoning and considered judgement.  

So it seems only fair for me to apologise to Sir John and his distinguished colleagues for ever doubting that they would indeed produce a report which truly would `tell it like it really was.`   So, along with my apology go, I`m sure, the thanks of a grateful nation for an Inquiry that has done much to restore some confidence in `the establishment.`

Watching Sir John deliver the Inquiry`s findings, I was reminded of David Steele, white haired, bespectacled, going out to bat against the rampaging Australians in a Test Match all those years ago.  He took them on, scored his runs for England with a skill and determination that restored pride in English cricket and earned him the headline `The Bank Clerk goes to War.`  We need more David Steeles and more John Chilcots to help us through these troublesome times.
I KNOW THE FEELING.....

This is the hill in Newton Ferrers in Devon, looking across the Yealm estuary towards the `twin village` of Noss Mayo on the other bank of the river.   Pity the tide was out when I took this but the image of the elderly gentleman struggling up the hill just captured a feeling I know only too well.......


Monday, July 04, 2016

THE MONKEY OFF MY BACK.....

About 60 years ago I played in a cricket match that has haunted me every since.   Now they were the days of good old fashioned village cricket - every game was a `friendly` - no sledging, applauding the incoming batsman, no histrionics in the field, and never, ever questioning an umpire`s decision.

We played for the love of the game, for the friendship, the friendly village rivalry and we had the odd triumph and quite a few disasters. One of those was a game between our village team and a team from south London which comprised a team of gentlemen originating from the Caribbean island of Dominica.  They were all real gentlemen and my goodness they could play.  

Most of our annual fixtures against them were hard, close fought games but on one occasion they contrived to dismiss us all out for eight!  I managed one run which might well have been the second highest score but that kind of experience lives with you over the years.   Until now, when today I read an account of a team in Hampshire who were all out for seven!

The New Forest team Ellingham were `playing` United Services in a Hampshire League Division One game at Portsmouth when only three of their batsmen troubled the scorers with one run apiece, the remaining four runs coming from four wides.   I know how they felt but at least the knowledge of a team being dismissed for less than my own team`s eight all those years ago has finally shifted at least one monkey from my back.  And not before time. 


Friday, July 01, 2016

CHILDHOOD DIES ANOTHER DEATH....


In all the brouhaha of the past week, one of the saddest things was the passing, at the age of 95, of Gordon Murray.  He was the creator of one of the most admired and best loved trilogies in the annals of televised entertainment.   I mean, of course, Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley and I look back on those series with a wistful eye, for the memories take me back to those truly wonderful days when our three sons were captivated by the sights and sounds of Gordon Murray`s array of unforgettable characters.

And, truth be told, I too was captivated by the innocence, the charm and the gentleness of it all - Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb and all. - and whilst I may miss those days and those times, I still steadfastly refuse to properly grow up, influenced as I clearly was by those programmes and by the sheer joy of being allowed into a childhood world along with my three young boys, from which I still remain reluctant to depart.

So I mourn the loss of Gordon Murray and the joy he gave to dreamers like me, for whom perhaps the greatest hero of it all was the redoubtable Windy Miller;  to the extent that every Miller I have known since has automatically been known as `Windy,` whether the description has been fitting or not.   So, as a passing tribute to Gordon Murray, here`s Windy Miller in an episode from Camberwick Green which I still believe to be just up the road a bit.......