Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chips on Yarmouth Market

I like Gt. Yarmouth. Not many people do, but I do. What I particularly find attractive is – even though Yarmouth is quite large – whenever I go to Yarmouth I seem to run into someone I know, even though I have not lived there for 25 years. It's really more like a small village rather than a town.

One of the great traditions of sea-side towns, and Yarmouth is no exception – is buying and eating chips on the market. In Yarmouth, it's almost a religion. Go to Yarmouth. Shop. Get chips from a chip stall on the market. Eat chips. Go home. It's got to be done.

Chip stalls on the market are like little gold mines. There must be more than 10 of them and they all charge exactly the same price for chips. I'm sure real Yarmouthians could tell you which chip stall has their favourite chips and why, but I have always found them to be much of all the same. Same quality. Same taste. Same price.

That's actually quite odd – if you think about it. Wouldn't you think that there would be some competition among the chip stall holders to gain more market share by dropping their price? Not on your nellie – a Yarmouth market chip stall is a license to print money! There is no competition. The price is fixed – maybe not formally – but fixed just as surely as eggs is eggs. Whether they actually have a cartel meeting to fix the price I don't know. What I do know is that it is impossible to open a chip stall on the market to compete with the established traders. The chip stall pitches are passed from generation to generation and are never up for tender. There are no available new licenses for chip stalls.

I first became aware of this anomaly in the 1970's when the potato crop failed. Exactly why it failed escapes me but fail it did. Consequently, potatoes were in short supply. Chips on the market went from about 15p a packet to 40p almost overnight. Not surprisingly, all the chips stalls put up the price at the same time. People grumbled in the queues. But, still they paid.

Of course, it was not Ireland in the 1840's – next year the crop was back to normal. What happened to the chip price? Nothing. It remained the same. I innocently asked if they were going to drop the price now that the potato shortage was over. Not for the first time in my life I was viewed as some kind of dangerous nutter, or, possibly, a native of a small planet in vicinity of Betelgeuse. Just blank stares. I'm sure the stall-holders would have brought back burning at the stake for anyone guilty of this heresy if they could have. These folks would have been great fans of the Inquisition.

I have no idea what price the chips are today. I no longer go to Yarmouth to get my hair cut. But, that's another story.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Can't quite leave the World Cup – not just yet. I keep tying to, but Sepp Blatter won't let me.

Not content with his outburst regarding the officials running onto the pitch and pointing out errors made by the referee, he now thinks maybe more referees on the pitch may be a good idea. At least that's what the EDP reported on 6 July. The headline seems to imply that Sepp is throwing his not inconsequential weight behind this idea. The article does not actually say this – but, why let the facts get in the way of a good story.

According to the article, experiments with dual referees have taken place in Malaysia (that hotbed of footballing expertise and home to the world's most fanatical fans?) and Brazil (perhaps on the beach?) with “encouraging results”. Unfortunately, there were unsatisfactory reactions in Norway and Italy. Intriguing.

Has anyone noticed? These experiments have either been held very recently or attracted nil publicity or reaction from the press. Certainly, I have never heard of them. Has anyone?

I'm intrigued. Could it be that FIFA is actually thinking about the absurdity of the game as it stands? I'm not convinced. We already have a referee, two assistants and fourth and fifth officials. Having two referees doesn't seem to be much of an improvement to me. Unless players are deterred from sharp practices and the game is, as a consequence, opened up providing more scoring opportunities and goals, providing another referee is probably pointless. It is the dearth of goals in the world cup that makes every decision by the officials a critical one. And, as an entertainment, football suffers because the point of the game, to score goals, is so seldom a feature.

For example, in the World Cup so far goals have been in short supply. In the group games there were an average of 2.41 goals per game. The round of 16 produced 15 goals at 1.85 per game. Quarter finals and semi finals produced only 1.5 goals per game – despite the extra time played in many of these games. England – Portugal played for 120 minutes and produced exactly nil. Result: the completely unsatisfactory penalty shoot-out.

It seems so obvious to say, games should be decided by goals scored. Most of the gamesmanship we see in games is a direct result of the scarcity of goals. Lack of entertainment is caused by no goals. Unless Sepp and FIFA are going to do something to try and get more goals into the game, nothing much is going to change. Players will try every trick in the book to get opponents sent off – simply to get enough room on the pitch to score a goal. It's all so sad.

Get goals back into the game and most of the problems will disappear. If they are honest, supporters will admit that what they really want to see are goals. If the authorities don't provide them with goals, they would be quite justified in voting with their feet.