Thursday, July 20, 2017


Yes, I think I have finally arrived in Alice in Wonderland.  Out of a feeling of anxiety as a Saints fan or, more likely, sheer curiosity, I find myself looking at the `gossip columns` for news of football transfers before the start of the new season.  

And today I`m left stunned by the report that a certain Neymar, of Barcelona fame, is being linked with a move to Paris Saint Germain. It seems that Mr. Neymar has a buy-out clause in his Barcelona contract that requires any other club to pay a minimum  of £196million for his signature.  In addition Mr. Neymar will receive £45million just for signing on and pick up a weekly wage of £560.000 tax free for five years. And all so that Mr. Neymar can run around a field sticking a pig`s bladder into an onion bag. It`s either a parallel universe or Alice`s Wonderland writ large.

No wonder I harp back to and long for the days of dubbin, Sloan`s liniment, rattles and half an orange and a fag at half time.  I sometimes wonder whether the excesses of the upper echelons of the football world realise that those very excesses are likely to alienate the sensible whilst merely pandering to the bonkers.  And no wonder too that I take comfort in the relative sanity of Southampton, Truro City, Forest Green Rovers and Maidstone United.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

From our Golf Correspondent....

And so eight weeks of intensive tuition has finally come to an end as today Snopper completed his golf lessons under the watchful eye of a teaching professional at a nearby club. (It`s worth noting that both the teaching professional and the club have opted for anonymity, which I will of course honour in this report.)

Now today marked Snopper`s 78th birthday and as a friend remarked over lunch last week, it`s difficult to get your head around the notion of having might have been worth it.   When he embarked on the course of lessons all those weeks ago, the problems encountered by his tutor were simply that Snopper`s grip was wrong, so too his stance and his swing and as time went on it also became apparent that his attitude to the royal and ancient game lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.  Let`s just say that Snopper`s golf was rubbish.

But at the end of today`s proceedings, the professional conceded that Snopper`s driver and iron play had perhaps now reached a stage of adequacy and although a little more practice was needed there was hope that he might be able to live with his limitations concerning chipping and getting out of bunkers.   To be fair, he has had loads of experience trying to get out of bunkers but by and large he took some confidence and satisfaction from the end of term report.

So instead of having more lessons, Snopper is now encouraged to get back out on the course and play.   All well and good, of course, and we will have to see how that goes but even so I think fellow golfers at his home course of Poult Wood should perhaps be forewarned of Snopper`s impending return.   His one disappointment, of course, is that despite the remarkable improvement in his playing prowess and potential, he discovered that it was too late for him to join in at Royal Birkdale tomorrow.  Small mercies indeed. 

Friday, July 14, 2017


This is what you get when you point the camera directly into the sun setting over Penpol Creek;   sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn`t.  I think this one did:-

Monday, July 10, 2017


I see that Sir Vince Cable, recently reinstalled as an MP following his all too brief time away from the Mother of Parliaments and the likely new leader of the Liberal Democrats now that Tim Farron has completed his gap year, says he is "beginning to think that Brexit might never happen."

He goes on to say that "enormous" divisions in both the Labour and Conservative parties and a "deteriorating" economy would make people think again.   "People will realise that we didn`t vote to be poorer and so I think the whole question of continued membership will once again arise," he said.   He went on to suggest that, whilst the LibDem policy of a second referendum on the terms of a Brexit deal didn`t "really cut through in the general election," it could offer voters "a way out when it becomes clear that Brexit is potentially disastrous."

All part of the growing, insidious and relentless `campaign` to brainwash people to think again and reverse the referendum decision to leave the European Union.  My fear is that, in the end, people may be frightened off paying whatever the financial and economic cost may be rather than being inspired by the opportunities and freedoms that leaving the EU will bring.  And comments like those from Vince Cable, the BBC, Sky, parts of the print media, social commentators and so called`celebrities` are all part of the plot.

Anyway, a couple of things following Cable`s comments.  First, maybe the Liberal Democrats should undergo a name change to the Liberal Undemocrats, since they clearly have no respect for the democratic process whereby the majority of voters opted to leave the EU.   But also the obvious solution to the LibDems` policy review must be that, whilst they will doubtless say they do respect the outcome of the referendum, the final outcome of the negotiations should result in the UK staying in the single market and the customs union and remaining subject to the diktats of the European Courts.  Bingo!!

Saturday, July 08, 2017


Yes, folks, today is indeed a very special day. Now for some people, the day might revolve around sporting issues - the British and Irish Lions drawing the series against the New Zealand All Blacks; the third day of the first test match at Lord`s between England and South Africa; the next stage of the Tour de France where Chris Froome is grimly hanging on to le maillot jaune; or even, believe it or not, a plethora of pre-season football matches. Oh, and I almost forgot Wimbledon, which is, of course, utterly forgettable.
Speaking of football, our street`s local hero, Gillingham`s box-to-box midfield dynamo cum pacy flanker and attacking wing-back with a good engine and an eye for a pass, recently married Scott ("Buzzin` Six-Pack") Wagstaff, featured in last night`s away fixture at nearby Faversham Town.  Waggy played 45 minutes, which was highlighted by him providing an incisive pass for the Gills` opening goal but also saw him blaze the ball over the bar when well placed. Still, it`s early days, to be fair and plenty of time to get his mojo working.

Back to today and the choices just keep coming.  For devotees of left wing socialism there is the Durham Miners Gala, where Jeremy Corbyn is sure to rant on about cuts in public services and how awful everything is and, of course, for those of a certain je ne sais quoi there is the London Pride thingy, the start of the Pride season up and down the country.

Now whilst neither of these events holds any attraction for the likes of me - aged, grumpy, set-in-my-ways, not a little bewildered at the changes that have occurred in my getting on for 80 years - it`s good to see that today there is something for everyone of whatever political, race, ethnicity,gender or spectating penchant they may have.   But, me being me, I will look out hopefully for the Stockbrokers and Bankers Gala in Canary Wharf, whilst I try desperately to convince myself that in a distant galaxy, far far away, there is a Straight Pride thingy going on right now.


Friday, July 07, 2017


This is a picture I`ve nicked from the BBC Newswatch web page and just beneath the picture on the web page it says, "Viewers opinions on the coverage of events by BBC News, addressed by the editors and decision makers in charge."  Honest, that`s what it says.

I`ve watched this short, 15 minute programme now and again, which isn`t always easy as it`s shown at obscure times on obscure channels and I`m not sure it`s even listed.  No matter, the `viewers` with opinions write in or text or e-mail or something and some of them even turn up either on home made videos or ones produced by the BBC as an `aid to viewer inclusiveness.`

Now not just recently - but frequently and regularly - opinions have tended to be questionable about the BBC`s news coverage and in particular about the thorny subject of Brexit.  A cross party group of MPs have just published a report that is highly critical of the way in which the BBC are covering the issue of Brexit and they found a strong tendency for the BBC to accentuate the negatives, for example opening reports with phrases such as "despite Brexit".......the economy is doing rather well, etc; and invariably to report negative issues, the latest being the threat to Wimbledon`s strawberries because the Kent fruit growers can`t get hold of enough foreign pickers.  The BBC should, of course, be balanced and impartial.  Fat chance.

Anyway, whatever the issue for criticism of BBC news might be, up pops an `editor` or a `decision maker in charge` to respond the the viewers opinions.   And guess what, they are always right, never wrong and never, ever admit to or apologise for getting it wrong. On the matter of the MPs` report, a BBC spokesman said words to the effect that the BBC is strictly impartial and takes its balanced reporting extremely seriously.   Well, he would wouldn`t he?

A hundred years ago in a former life, like most people I was often guilty of getting things wrong and I always found the best solution was to admit to the mistake, give an honest answer as to how it came about and demonstrate the steps taken to see that it won`t happen again.  How refreshing it would be if the editors and decision makers in charge did the same.  They might discover that it`s far less stressful to be honest and that it`s not a crime to be wrong now and again.   The real crime is usually the cover-up and dealing with viewers opinions in a manner bordering on contempt.   Well, it is the BBC, isn`t it?

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Yes I know it is the so-called `closed season` in domestic football but here we are in early July and games are still going on - Rangers losing to some Luxembourg outfit in the early stages of the Europa League for example.   But it`s the off-field activities, rumours and speculation that seem to grip the starved minds of the football fanatics.

And I guess I`m no different, although being a Southampton fan, I might tend to take a more jaundiced, more bewildered view of what`s going on. A few examples have come to mind in the last week or so.

The first concerns our old friend John (The LegEnd) Terry, late of the parish of Chelsea and now apparently taking up residence in Birmingham.   Now Terry has a history of self parody which sets him apart, perhaps culminating in his extraordinary `performance` at a Champions League Final when, not having played or been on the bench for that game, he still felt it his place to tog himself up in full kit, go up the stairs, collect the cup and brandish it around for all to see.  Goodness knows what Wayne Bridge must have thought. Now Terry has arrived at Birmingham his early announcement that he sees his future as a manager of his beloved Chelsea again demonstrates the limitless nature of his arrogance.

I`ve been watching the transfer speculation and it seems that Chelsea and Manchester United (those well known twin impostors) are determined to recruit just about every player who might or even might not come on to the transfer market.  Today`s idiocy suggests that United are looking to spend £100,000,000 on one Romelu Lukaku whose claim to fame is that he seems adept, given half a chance, of burying the ball in the back of the net.   And Chelsea`s very own enfent terrible, Diego Costa, is demanding no less than £400,000 a week for the privilege of him staying at Stamford Bridge.   It`s all utterly mad and increasingly meaningless.

Turning lastly to matters closer to home, Southampton have dismissed French manager Claude Puel for finishing eighth in the Premier League and narrowly losing the League Cup Final at Wembley, but the truth is more that Puel`s style of play did not find favour with the St. Mary`s faithful, having been brought up on a diet of fast flowing, reckless, desperate relegation battles.

Instead of M.Puel, we now have one Mauricio Pellegrino, a 6`4" former centre back from Argentina, via the Spanish League.  Arguably our most successful of recent seasons was under the management of another former centre back from Argentina, via the Spanish League.  His name was Mauricio too.  I hope the Saints board were not under the illusion that they had managed to entice Mauricio Pochettino back from Tottenham, but in the bonkers world of football, you just never know.

Sunday, July 02, 2017


Living as I do in the good ol` U of K, I suppose I share the national obsession with the weather which can of course, be very unpredictable and ranging from scorchio to brass monkeys and everything in between - if you get my drift.   To quote Tom Jones, it`s not unusual for us to have the four seasons in one day and so, along with our weather obsession, I guess we might also be obsessed with the weather forecasts.

Now some of these are worth watching for their entertainment value - Tomas Schafernaker  (?sp); Alexis Green, the well known Saints babe who presents the weather forecast on BBC South Today;  David Brain who not only does the same on BBC Spotlight South West but also is prone to including videos of well known south west locations;  but by and large, weather forecasts at least on TV tend to be pretty dull affairs, if not a bit complicated for those of us without degrees in atmospheric science or meteorology.  I suppose the most riveting are the forecasts on BBC Radio which include such items as the state of the sea (usually rough or slight); winds (usually light to variable); and visibility (precipitation within sight, etc.)

Now  Porthallow in deepest Cornwall marks the mid point of the 630 mile long south west coast path and, as an aid to travellers and locals alike, has installed a weather stone, designed to make forecasting simple, quick and accurate.   Here it is:-

I took this photo on a recent visit but some of the detail  was obscured by the stone itself. Just to fill in the gaps, the forecast for sunny is `shadow on ground;` the one for snowing is `white on top;` foggy is `can`t see stone;` and when the stone is swinging, it means it`s windy.  So congratulations to the good folk of Porthallow for this splendid initiative which, if it catches on, could save the BBC £millions. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


As usual, the magic of a week away in Cornwall has worked wonders for my essential maintenance and despite being back already in the same old, same old routine/rut of gardening, shopping, car stuff and all the other essentials of modern day living, I find myself looking wistfully back on the days of last week - was it really only last week? 

The photo above is one I took on one of our early morning walkies with Barney our faithful retriever before the summer heat reached scorchio proportions and it shows a look across the creek where the sound of silence was deafening.   I didn`t read a newspaper all week - the nearest shop was a whole world away - but I had access to the red button, so kept abreast of current affairs.

And I saw that Theresa May`s hard time was continuing.  She`s had a rough ride lately - a duff election campaign followed by a duff election result;  the tragedies of Manchester, London Bridge, Grenfell Tower;  the ongoing Brexit wrangles both at home and in Brussels;  the need to stitch a deal together with the DUP - the list goes on.  And as I wandered through the footpaths and around the creeks of that timeless bit of Cornwall, I found myself visualising Theresa`s opening remarks at yet another COBRA meeting.......

"Good moaning.  I`ve been reading that Snopper bloke`s blog and he seems to have found a place where you can spend a fortnight in an afternoon - just the pace of life I could do with right now.  So I said to Philip last night that I`ve had enough of all the ass I`ve got to put up with so I`m buggering off down to Cornwall to live happily ever after.  Over to you Boris, David, Philip..... - `bye."

Well, you could hardly blame her.

Friday, June 16, 2017

...I`m not sure you`re going to like this...

But here goes anyway.   Now, of course, like everyone else I have been appalled by the tragic and horrific events that have taken place at Grenfell Tower in London.  It`s impossible, for those of us not directly involved, to imagine the harrowing experiences of the occupants, their neighbours, families and friends and I have nothing but the most profound sympathy for all those affected.

But the images on television, the accounts on the radio and the reports in the print media have perhaps made it more evident that in this so called United Kingdom, there are at least two quite separate countries - one is called London and the other is called the rest - although I suspect that there are yet more separate countries in the big conurbations up and down the rest of the country.  I feel a bit uncomfortable at this confirmed realisation.

Next, I notice that today`s anniversary of the murder of MP Jo Cox is to be marked by an event over this coming weekend called The Great Get Together.   It must have passed me by in my Dibley-esque Kentish enclave but apparently the event will involve `thousands of street parties and baking competitions` all over the country to `celebrate the life of Jo Cox.`

Now I`m sure I`m missing the point and, once again of course, I have the deepest sympathy for Jo Cox`s family and friends over her tragic and brutal killing.   But - yes, there is always a but with me - whilst I fully understand the need and desire for her family to mark the anniversary I wonder how the friends and families of all those others who have been murdered in what now seems an almost daily occurrence feel.  I suspect they are mourning and `celebrating` the lives of their own loved ones in their own way, perhaps with the private sincerity that befits both them and the occasion.   We seem to be prone to straying into the realms of celebrity mourning?  If so, I`m not sure it`s very appealing.

And lastly, the BBC.  Now being an elderly curmudgeon I don`t have to pay the compulsory licence fee, but if I did I might just be a tad miffed at their obviously biased coverage given not only to the tower block tragedy but also to so many of the other major issues of the day.  It`s time the BBC remembered the words of Johnny Mercer in accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative, latching on to the alternative and most certainly not messing with mister in between.

So there we are - a few things off my chest before I`m afraid I have to close down these pages for a while for what is euphemistically described as `essential maintenance.`

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


With all the fuss and bother surrounding Theresa May and HM Gov. perhaps the biggest worry for our Prime Minister is the prospect that the Queen`s Speech to Parliament might have to be delayed.   I can imagine that that might cause an irreversible rift in relations between Her Majesty and her Prime Minister, especially as it might involve the Queen having to miss the Royal Ascot horse racing thingy.

Well, here`s a simple solution.  Rather than all the pomp and circumstance of the Queen delivering her speech to the assembled Lords and Commons in Westminster, why can`t she deliver it from  Ascot on a video link?  Either from the royal box (I`m pretty sure there must be one) or even as she proceeds in her horse drawn buggy down the Royal Mile?

To every complex problem, there is always a simple solution - if I carry on like this I might yet cop for a gong, which I would be happy to accept in the post.  Simples.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


Took Barney, our golden retriever, for a nice long walkies this morning around our local `award winning` country park.   As I keep saying, it`s a mad, mad, mad, mad world from which I find escapes in things like football, cricket, golf and walking the dog.  Especially walking the dog, which is a real treat - it does me good, keeps me on the move and it`s always a pleasure to be in Barney`s agreeable company.   

Anyway, during our exploration of the `award winning` country park, we came across a few interesting things.  For example, they run a `bird of the month` feature on the notice boards and this month`s `bird of the month` is the sedge warbler.  It`s an interesting bird - it  overwinters in sub-Sahara Africa but obviously prefers the award winning country park during our summers.  I had my suspicions when Barney and I walked past some sedge and we heard a bit of warbling going on.

They also run a photographic competition, which is yet another of the admirable initiatives to encourage and sustain interest in what the park has to offer.  I had seen photos - on Facebook I think - taken there of a poppy-dominated wild flower meadow and this morning we managed to find it.  I took some photos of my own and here`s one:-
(please click on photo for larger image)

So, for someone like me, steeped in the knowledge and charm of the natural world, a visit to the country park is always worthwhile and I can quite see why it is, quite properly and deservedly, `award winning.`

Friday, June 09, 2017


I`m not going to go on about the General Election result - maybe bizarre would best describe the situation in which we find ourselves. But if I`m looking for bizarre, perhaps the best example lies with the seven elected Sinn Fein members of the Westminster Parliament.  Now for years, the likes of Gerry Adams, having been elected to represent the good folk of Northern Ireland, have refused to take their seats in Westminster.

Sinn Fein`s central aim is for a united Ireland.  It opposes Westminster`s jurisdiction in Northern Ireland and its oath to the Queen, so all of their elected MPs abstain from sitting in Parliament.  Now and again, whilst they work for their constituents, they visit Westminster to use its facilities and meet with government ministers but they refuse to sit in any institution they do not see as legitimate.

Now when I was working, I`m pretty sure that if I refused to attend my place of work I wouldn`t be in the job for long and, as a UK taxpayer, I might be a touch annoyed if these Sinn Fein MPs are drawing their MPs salaries and expenses.   The photo above claims that they are `New Voices for a New Era.`   It would be nice to hear from them now and again in the mother of parliaments even if I might not like what they have to say.

Thursday, June 08, 2017


Amongst all the sound and fury of today`s General Election and all the other mayhem in today`s world, there is at least one news item to raise the spirits of us Saints fans.   I refer, of course, to the apology issued by Liverpool after being caught red-handed for allegedly making an illegal approach for the signing of Saints` centre back, Virgil van Dijk.

Now, Liverpool have form on a number of counts over issues such as this.  Back in 2012 they were forced into an embarrassing apology to Fulham for attempting to prise Clint Dempsey away from Craven Cottage.. More recently - in April this year - Liverpool were handed a two year ban from recruiting academy players from other clubs following the alleged `tapping up` of a 12 year old Stoke City player.  So much for the innocence of youth.

But perhaps their most telling offence has been to systematically recruit players from Southampton over the past couple of years.  Now we Saints fans might have accepted the financial need for Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Callum Chambers to end up at Arsenal and even Gareth Bale leaving for Tottenham; but Liverpool prising away Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane and even Rickie Lambert Southampton`s Goal Machine (RLSGM) has been almost too much to bear.

And now Southampton along with their fans have themselves received a grovelling apology from Scouseland over the Virgil van Dijk affair.   It begs questions as to how all those others have slipped away and hints once more at the dark arts of football agents.   Of course, it is entirely possible that van Dijk will leave the beautiful south for richer pastures new but for once Southampton FC have shown some resilience by referring their concerns to the Premier League who have predictably decided to take no action following the Liverpool apology having been accepted.   Even so, one is left to consider whether that apology and subsequent withdrawal of any further interest in van Dijk might just have been to stave off some harsher punishment given their previous history.

But at last the Saints have (for now at least) resisted the prospect of a huge transfer deal, hopefully because they don`t have to sell a prized asset any more, whereas now their options may be to sell only if they wish to.  Be that as it may, I fear we are still in for yet another of these interminable summers of chaos, confusion and bewilderment - all default conditions of being a Saints fan - amid rumours of other players departing along with the manager who took us to a Wembley final and a top ten Premier League finish.   And so once again events at St. Mary`s Stadium seem only to mirror those in the rest of the mad world in which we live.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017


It`s been a while since I caught up with Snopper`s unending battle with the royal and ancient game and when I saw him recently, he showed me this sticker that he had displayed on his fridge.  It struck me that it might be something significant so I enquired as to its relevance in his madcap golfing world.

And so the truth came out.  You see, despite having `played` golf (I use the word advisedly) for about 40 years, it seems that Snopper had only ever had one proper golf lesson in all that time.   No wonder then, that of late he had experienced mounting frustration as his golf shots bore little resemblance to their intended targets.   In short, he had become annoyed with himself that he was not `performing` to the standard, albeit rather basic, that he had set for himself.

So he decided that the one lesson from all those decades ago perhaps needed upgrading and he has embarked on a series of lessons with a teaching professional at a local club. To say that it has been a series of revelations for him is something of an understatement. His very first revelation was to discover that he has been holding the club wrong; the second was that he has been standing wrong and the third and latest is that he has been swinging  the club wrong too.   Apart from that he`s been fine.

It remains to be seen what the rest of the lessons reveal but, at nearly 78, he is at least living proof of the message on the sticker on his fridge, although his contention that he might find himself rising in the rankings might just be a touch too ambitious.

Friday, June 02, 2017


Not surprising that the charity concert to be held at Old Trafford cricket ground this weekend was sold out in 20 minutes.  On a less happier note, it was disappointing to see that thousands of people are claiming free entrance by saying they were there on the night of the terrorist outrage - curious that 25,000 are making that claim when the original concert on 22nd May only housed 14,200 - yet another sign of the times we live in, I fear.

Quite apart from the occasion itself, a stunning line-up has been confirmed including Ariana Grande herself, whose concert was so tragically mired and who has conducted herself with immense dignity and generosity since it happened.  Take That will be appearing along with Robblie Williams, Katie Perry, Coldplay and a few more I`ve never heard of. 

One of Coldplay`s best songs seems entirely appropriate for this occasion - `Fix You,` which includes lines such as .......

`Tears stream
Down your face
When you lose something
You cannot replace.`

`Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones.
And I will try to fix you.`

Back in March, I think it was, a flash mob appeared in the West Quay Shopping Centre in Southampton and gave a spontaneous and heartfelt rendering of this anthem.   Here it is.......

Coldplay might play it on Sunday at Old Trafford... it might just be a little too painful or, on the other hand, an inspired choice?

(Update:   Well, to their credit, Coldplay did deliver `Fix you,` ......although I think the flash mob version was better.  Maybe there`s less to fix in Southampton.....)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Sometimes words aren`t necessary.  Sometimes it`s best just to sit back, relax, listen, admire, enjoy and be thankful.  Still wonderful after all these years.......

Saturday, May 27, 2017


I guess I must be mellowing in my old age.   It was only a couple of days ago that I had something nice to say about Manchester United.  Now I find myself having similar thoughts about the royal family.  Well, the Queen anyway.

Once again over the years I have had the odd poke at the royals - the privileged lifestyle, the excesses, the fact that there are too many of them largely supported by the long suffering taxpayer and all that.  I may have mentioned too that I was once invited to one of the Queen`s Garden Parties but declined gracefully on the basis that I really didn`t want to go.

But I have to say how encouraging and entirely fitting it was that Her Majesty took the time, trouble and effort (no small matter at her age) to travel to Manchester and visit the victims of the terror attack in hospital.   I got the impression that it was something she wanted to do and her visit was a poignant demonstration of the country, at all levels, coming together in the face of such an outrage.  Your Majesty - I salute you.

I must be careful.  If my tendency towards mellowing continues, I might find something nice to say about the European Union....... even if it is `goodbye.`

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Aficionados of these pages will know that, over the years, I have developed an almost pathological dislike of anything and everything to do with Manchester United. (I`ve long thought I need help!)  From the brutal assaults of Roy Keane, through the ranting, thuggish `management` of `Sir` Alex Ferguson, to the modern day when the self-proclaimed `Red Devils` continue to display all the arrogance and assumed entitlement encapsulated by the antics of their current manager, Jose Morinho, who had to dub himself `The Special One` simply because no-one else would.

And yet I found myself wishing and hoping that they might actually win the Europa League against Ajax of Amsterdam in last night`s Stockholm final.  And so they did - by 2-0 - and for just once it seemed entirely fitting for Manchester to have that victory to provide at least something to hang on to given the appalling events suffered by so many just two nights ago.

And yet again it has taken events such as this to provide a context, a perspective and a reminder that the excesses and spurious bubble of the Premier League become almost irrelevant against the backdrop of the reality of the wider world.   But if nothing else, last night`s victory in Stockholm being dedicated by United to the city of Manchester was a fitting demonstration of solidarity with the community they represent. 

And so, for once, I congratulate them on the two accounts of winning the Europa Cup and conducting themselves with the kind of dignity which goes some way to enhance their reputation.  (Maybe I don`t need that help after all?)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Thank goodness for that.  It`s been a long season for us Saints fans - 53 competitive matches played - and we end up eighth in the Premier League, having had some `interesting` times in the EFL Cup (where we were narrowly beaten by Manchester United in the Wembley Final) and the Europa League, where we hit the highs by beating Inter Milan but hit the lows with something of a whimpering exit.

And now that it`s all over, there is speculation about our French manager, Claude Puel.   Now he has been in charge for this season following the defection of Ronald Koeman to Everton, and Claude has struggled to win over the fans, whose expectations have reached unrealistic proportions.  Each of the last six or seven seasons has seen an improvement from the depths of League One to reaching 6th in the Premier League under Koeman.

When Pochettino left us for Tottenham, we finished eighth that season, the same as this term, so on the face of it there should be little for Claude to be worried about.   Trouble is, whilst we don`t concede many goals, we just don`t score enough - in the last five home games the Saints have failed to score at all - first time that`s happened since 1937, when even I wasn`t born.   And it`s this kind of negativity that suggests that Claude might be off to pastures new.  

I`m not sure I agree with the hue and cry, as it`s not Claude who misses gilt edged chances and it`s not Claude who misses three penalties in the last five games.  But he is a decent and humble man and whilst I think he deserves at least another season in charge, I fear that we might be looking at yet another summertime circus at St. Mary`s.

Looking on the bright side, we have finally seen the departure from Stamford Bridge of John (The LegEnd) Terry - whose choreographed substitution after 26 minutes yesterday to coincide with his shirt number must surely lead to a judicial inquiry;  and I doubt Wayne Bridge, Anton Ferdinand and a host of others, me included, will mourn his departure.  

In other news, my local club, Maidstone United, finished creditably half way up the National League in their first season at that level;  our street`s local hero, Gillingham`s very own Scott ("buzzin` six pack") Wagstaff, sadly missed the excitement of the Gills` narrow escape from relegation, thanks to an Achilles tendon mishap;  other teams I follow saw Forest Green Rovers promoted as the smallest village ever to have a team in the Football League; and Truro City, they of the long heroic journeys, just, but only just, maintained their place in the National League South

I`m looking forward to the cricket - I think - even though Hampshire have just been stuffed by Essex in an innings defeat at Chelmsford.  As Claude might say, "Sacre bleu, mais c`est la vie."  Au revoir mes amis.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Maybe it`s just me but you would think that I would have more `important` things on my mind.  But ever since I posted some stuff about the May Day celebrations in Padstow, the music - as it invariably does - has been playing on my mind, to the extent that I just can`t seem to shift it.  

Now I`m not talking about the hauntingly repetitive song that insistently declares that `summer is acome unto day.`  Instead, I`ve become almost obsessed with the Dirge.  You see, throughout the whole event, the Evening Song and the Day Song are accompanied by massed accordions and pulsating drumbeats and all the while, the Obby Oss twists, turns and cavorts to the beckoning of the Teaser.  

But there comes a point - a lull in proceedings - when the Oss falls to the ground, either out of exhaustion or as a determined reference to the dying of winter.  The accordions and the drums fall silent and the Dirge is taken up, unaccompanied, by the assembled throng.  It seems to consist of a stanza full of unconnected lines, random phrases and oblique references to St. George and `Aunt Ursula Birdwood.`   So you can see why the Dirge puzzles and intrigues me.   It goes like this:-

O where is Saint George
O where is he now?
He`s out in his longboat
All on the salt sea O.

Up flies the kite.
Down falls the lark O.
Aunt Ursula Birdhood
She had an old ewe.
And she lies in her own parc O.

And at about 6 minutes into this video, you can hear it as it was sung in Padstow in 2016........

At the end of the Dirge, the Oss leaps up with renewed vigour to signify that summer has indeed acome, the accordions strike up and with the drums beating again the procession through the town resumes. 

Now I`ve done a bit of digging around and it seems possible that the reference to St. George implies a strong connection with the Solar Deity, whose Saints Day is around 1st May.  "He`s out in his longboat....." might well refer to a funeral ship, thus referring to the death and rebirth of St. George through the choreographed fall and rise of the Oss.  It was often the custom in the distant past to place an important body, along with all his or her worldly goods, in a ship; put it to sea and even set it ablaze.

As for Aunt Ursula Birdhood, her appearance in the Dirge might allude to the Saxon Bear-Goddess, Ursel.  The constellation of the Big Dipper, Ursa Major, is often called the Great Bear.  Ursel is another Deity, this time the Moon Goddess, who was canonised and made Saint Ursula by early Christians.

But, these speculations aside, the mystery of the true origins of the Dirge remain and so when I am next in Padstow, in October, I will pay a visit to the local museum so that my inquisitive mind might be satisfied, at least until next May.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Don`t know about you but already, with three weeks to go, I`ve had enough of the General Election campaigning.  There`s the old saying about statistics, of course - you know the one - lies, damned lies and statistics - and the more I hear from our campaigning politicians the more it seems there are lies, damned lies and election campaigns.

We seem to be spoilt for choice this time round between a mixed assortment of party leaders.  The Labour Party is rumoured to be led by Jeremy Corbyn.  Now I would have thought that anyone who was once the alleged paramour of Diane Abbott is automatically barred from holding any responsible position. 

Then there is one Tim Farron, who found himself leader of the Liberal Democrats who are so democratic that they want to reverse the democratic decision of the majority of voters and crawl back on bended knee into the European Union.   Oh, and they want to legalise cannabis.  Of course they do.  Maybe when Tim`s gap year is over he`ll think differently.

The Green Party always intrigue me.  Until last year they had a Leader, Natalie Bennett, who was Australian and barely comprehensible.  She apparently supports polygamy and doing away with the monarchy whilst the current leadership want to legalise prostitution. Sounds par for the green course. The current leadership is held jointly by Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley, presumably because the membership couldn`t decide which one to choose or maybe they were worried about inflicting mental health issues on whichever one was rejected.   Bartley`s claim to fame seems to be that he had an uncle who was married to Deborah Kerr, whereas Lucas unfathomably escaped prosecution for obstructing the highway during the Balcombe anti- fracking demonstrations a couple of years ago.

Which leaves the Conservatives, UKIP and any other even more bonkers parties that may emerge from the woodwork.   The Tories are now led by Theresa May, who seems to be Maggie Thatcher without the handbag (yet) and UKIP are currently led by Paul Nuttall who reminds me more and more of Peter Kay.  Their mission is surely accomplished, job done and our democratically arrived at decision to leave the EU can surely be left in the hands of David Davis, Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and their chums.  Well, it can can`t it?

I`m thinking of starting The Football Party, led by Matthew Le Tissier, when everything will be decided  over 90 minutes plus stoppage time at Wembley.  It might be just as sensible..........

Saturday, May 13, 2017


OK, so Fleetwood Mac didn`t work, so last night I thought I would give Gustav Mahler a go.   His 5th Symphony is reckoned to be his masterpiece and the 4th movement, the Adagietto, is said to have been written as Mahler`s expression of passion and love for his wife, Alma.

Anyway, I`m sure it did the trick for her, as it did for me in ensuring a decent night`s sleep........

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Don`t know why but I`m having a period of sleepless nights. Well, I get off to sleep OK at the usual time and then, half way through the night, age-related bladder issues disturb my slumbers.  I get back in to bed, close my eyes and try to get back to where I was in my interrupted dream.  

Most times I lull myself into unconsciousness with my photographic memory of journeys to favoured destinations, mostly down the A303 towards the Devon or Cornwall coast and normally by the time my mind has travelled  as far as Wincanton I`ve fallen asleep again.

Lately, however, music has taken over and I find myself replaying favourite items of music in my mind.  Now, with soothing classics  like the Adagietto from Mahler`s 5th or the lilting strings of John Barry`s `Out of Africa` I have no problem dropping off.  But you know what it`s like - you get a piece of music in your head and you just can`t shift it.   Right now it`s Fleetwood Mac who are to blame and I keep replaying `Go your own way`and especially Lindsey Buckingham`s epic guitar along with Mick Fleetwood`s driving drums - not the kind of thing to lull me back to sleep.

Anyway, at least this gives me the excuse to play it on here.......Goodnight, all

Sunday, May 07, 2017

A few days ago I had a little fun at the expense of Portsmouth FC by posting a photo of their open top bus parade in honour of the club finishing third in Division Four.   Fast forward and what do I find?  Yes, against all odds and expectations the blue few of Fratton Park (Krap Nottarf) went bonkers yesterday and beat struggling Cheltenham Town 6-1.  That result, coupled with front runners Plymouth and Doncaster both failing to win their games, meant that Portsmouth finished the season as champions of League Two.

Now there is, of course, a very long standing rivalry between Portsmouth and Southampton, which often takes the form of mutually assured abuse and I confess that I have myself perhaps indulged in a little banter towards our friends down the other end of the M27.   However, to give credit where it`s due, I offer congratulations to Pompey and hope they can now enjoy a real open top bus parade to the adulation of their supporters. After all, next season they will be in the company of such football giants as Fleetwood, Bury and Shrewsbury.   Not sure it gets much better than that.

Thursday, May 04, 2017


They say a picture paints a thousand words and this one just about sums up today here in deepest Kent, where we have all the fun of yet another election - this time for the Kent County Council.

Now I have to be careful what I say here not least because at least one good friend is gainfully employed by KCC.   But it always strikes me that any county council is stuck between a rock and a hard place - between the central government and more local councils such as districts and parishes.  The central government and all its doings arouse passionate debate about national and international affairs, whilst district and especially parish councils are concerned with the more local issues that affect out daily lives.

All of which suggests that county councils, whilst perhaps largely and unfairly perceived, are thought of as a bit remote and, of course, like most politicians, theirs share a tendency for us voters to hear from them only at election time.

My personal insider knowledge of Kent County Council is limited to the time when, in a former life over half a century ago, I worked in `administration` at the office of the County Clerk.  I had just finished my national service and was pretty desperate for a job to support both myself and the fragrant, recently betrothed Mrs. Snopper and so I was grateful for the opportunity presented by KCC. 

But the experience left me with a jaundiced view of life in the marbled halls of County Hall.  I would dictate a letter to a comely shorthand typist, get it back, make sure it was OK and then initial the carbon copy, whereupon it was passed on to two other more senior administrators who would themselves initial the carbon copy before the stamped signature of the county clerk himself (one GT Heckels) would be applied.  That stultifying, almost Dickensian regime, coupled with my penchant for minor rebellion, ensured that my tenure at county hall was understandably short lived.

I`m sure things are very different today, with the emphasis on management rather than administration, but I`m still left with a feeling of apathy towards those who seek to spend their time as elected members of that organisation, so is it any wonder that I`ll give today`s election a miss especially as the choices on offer are less than compelling.   It`s the wrong decision, of course, but I confess to being underwhelmed by it all, despite the teachings of Plato........

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

First and foremost, congratulations to Gillingham Football Club for securing their place in League One for next season.  In a nail-biting climax to a difficult season the Gills needed to avoid defeat away at Northampton and hope that their nearest rivals for relegation, Port Vale, failed to win in their game away at Fleetwood.  In the end, each game finished 0-0 and so the Gills survive, leaving Port Vale to plunge into the murky depths of League Two, aka Division Four.

My next door neighbour, the renowned Gills fan, has been remarkably quiet following this great escape - perhaps he is still savouring the moment or possibly still under sedation - but it shows the touch of class which Gills fans have in accepting those twin impostors of triumph and disaster with restraint and moderation.

Sadly, but perhaps predictably, the same cannot be said of Portsmouth, who, despite the rise of Bournemouth and Brighton, still consider themselves to be the Saints` main south coast rivals.  Now, Portsmouth have just secured promotion from that same Division Four back to League One, which is seen by the club and their supporters as a sporting achievement that warrants an open top bus parade through the streets.  This was the scene as Portsmouth once again displayed the kind of class for which they are themselves renowned.........

Maybe, as they will be in the same division next season, they will get some helpful advice from Gillingham as to how to go about this sort of thing........