Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merchant Bankers

Cockney Rhyming Slang.

Well. We have the British Airways staff going on strike, the N 25 only being partly built, the A 11 imploding south of Thickthorn, the MoD probably closing an airbase and cancelling plans to upgrade the fighter force, interest rates at almost zero and the Daily Mirror fronting a campaign to rubbish the climate change gurus.

Any connections?

Strangely, yes. It's the banks. Or, more precisely, the antics of the government and the merchant bankers over their bail-outs and their bonuses.

I cheerfully confess, with pride, that I neither understand nor particularly care about economics. It's just a pseudo-science. How else can you explain the crazy way money has been acting.

For example, you might reasonably expect that when the government is borrowing record sums of money to fund the bankers greed and The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street's penchant for toxic assets that interest rates would be sky high to attract investors.

They are nil.

Question one on the Economics 101 final exam: explain.

We are assured that no money can be found to fund essential infrastructure projects, yet the pit full of funds to bail out the banks is seemingly bottomless. The sums are colossal and should mean high interest rates. Explain please.

For climate change read bankers bail-out. Who else will benefit from an increase in global infrastructure projects. Yep, it's the bankers.

When British Airways goes bust with a massive hole in their pension fund who gets the goodies? Bankers.

And, when the MoD can't find a few millions to protect the nation who should we thank? No prizes for guessing - the bankers.

Am I just taking cheap shots at everyone's favourite target for being crossed off their Christmas card list and saving a few pennies that way. Not really, the bankers have just about finished off the Royal Mail in their spare time.

Come the revolution, these greedy geeks in pin-stripes will be exchanging their garments for real stripes as they are marched (with their bogus bonuses and bulging bank accounts confiscated to fund real progress for real people) straight into the Gulag.

Can't wait.

Monday, November 30, 2009

South of Thickthorn

Thickthorn Thickies!

Fantastic news! The plans to completely dual the A 11 are well and truly on the drawing board! Actually, they have been on the drawing board for the best part of the last 30 years.

Kindly stop muttering better late than never.

What I have found most enjoyable so far in the process is the splendid graphic produced by the EDP to illustrate what the new road would look like. Choosing the memorial between Thetford and Barton Mills as the focus, the view is truly spectacular as the road snakes relentlessly towards Thetford – disappearing in the distance with all the grace and aplomb of a rattlesnake retreating up a rhinoceroses bottom. Absolutely beautiful.

Thirty years late, but beautiful.

Would that all the news was quite so ascetically pleasing in the A 11 saga.

The EDP also kindly provided a map which shows the course of the new carriageway. Just like in the picture it follows the old carriageway for 9/10 if the way. The only new bit is the Elveden by-pass, for that is what it amounts to.

So, we need about 9 miles of new carriageway. We bypass Elveden allowing this Norfolk Sleepy Hollow to return to its pre-auto mobile-age tranquillity. So, what is required? One bridge (there is one stream to cross near the Barton Mills roundabout). Some new carriageway. Some kind of junction for the few minor roads encountered. That's about it.

The cost? About 127 million pounds. That's about 14 million pounds a mile. Perhaps the carriageway is to be gold and diamond encrusted? Maybe the bridge is to be built to withstand the ravages of nature for the next 2000 years?

Could someone please explain to me why it costs so much?

Perhaps it's because the same numpties who are planning this project are same ones who: firstly, decided that the original Thetford by-pass was to be single carriageway; secondly decided the same for the original Attleborough by-pass; thirdly were most likely in on the original designs for the Titanic!

Question. How much intelligence does it take to realise that if they had built the whole damn thing in one go it would have been finished 30 years and would have cost 10% of what they are trying to charge the poor old taxpayer today!

We should get the bulk of the money from those idiots.

I remember making the point when they finished the Roudham Heath section – which abuts the proposed extension. All the equipment was there and in place. The land is flat and dry. Why not just carry on and built? “Oh, no,” they cried, “we can't do that!” First we have to have a planning enquiry (the result of which everyone already knows); then, we have to carry out extensive tests on the soil for drainage and subsidence; then we need to consult local people.

Or, we could just dust off the plans that have been gaily mouldering in the cupboard for the last 25 years and submit them. But, no, that way we can't jack-up the costs.

It's a damn scandal.

Now, for the really good news. It the Tories win the next election, they may cancel the whole thing! Couldn't help themselves from bailing out the banks to the tune of umpteen billions, but they may need to save a few million by cancelling the A 11 project.

Yeah, right.

Saving the best bit for last, now someone has decided that if the road is dualled the Barton Mills roundabout will become a major bottleneck. What nonsense. There is already a roundabout at the Norwich end and three at Thetford and one at Attleborough. One more isn't going to make any difference!

But, wait, perhaps we can delay the project for another 40 years whilst we assess the roundabout situation!

Get on, just get on with it!

Sometimes you just have to laugh or you would cry.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Enough to make you cry!!

Sometimes it is hard to take football seriously.

Today is one of those sometimes. Thierry Henry is in sore danger of a brouhaha moment which will, no doubt, not endear him to the Paddys! What a farce!

What's really surprising is the number of well-respected commentators jumping on the bandwagon. Wow! They finally realised that football is a silly game populated by real Neanderthals (both on the pitch and in the stands) as opposed to the the Turnip Taliban! I'm genuinely amazed.

First we have that respected commentator Hugh McIlvanney informing us that “Video refs can catch the cheats”. Excuse me, Hugh, where have you been for the last umpteen years? Are you seriously telling your readers that you only just noticed that football is populated by cheaters and that the administrators have done nothing about it since time began? Pull the one with the bells on!

Do you not remember the Maradona “Hand of God”? How long ago was that? Was anything ever done? Wake up!!

Instead of vilifying Henry, who is, after all, only doing what anyone would do if they knew they were not likely to get caught; Hugh might reserve his righteous ire for the game itself. To be fair, he does touch on this, but, as usual, chickens out at the crucial moment.

In a long article, he reserves his opprobrium for the administrators, chiefly Sepp Blatter of FIFA. Come on Hugh! Easy target! Some of this is, surely, down to the Fourth Estate! You guys are not Babes in the Wood!

Facts are that football is a rotten game which is designed to encourage the basest instincts in the human character. Hugh is hinting at this, but he is not willing to condemn sufficiently.

Same day, same paper – we have a stab at it from Dominic Lawson on the Editorial page. His article, “A game of two halves: cheating and whining” reads better than the lily-livered Hugh. He goes though the whole gamut of footballing sins. He is particularly aghast at the Irish howls of derision, when, as he skilfully points out, Ireland's Roy Keane attempted to cheat twice in the same game, only to be foiled because the ref happened to be looking. He quotes Damian Duff – Irish striker - “If it was me or Robbie at the other end, we would have tried it. You just expect the referee or linesman to see it.”

How sad it is that on the day even the match commentators did not see the hand ball until the replay! Dominic's point that no-one has ever seen a referee change his mind is the key. Since the poor old ref made a boo-boo, he will be pilloried. Meanwhile, the idiots who run the game will cry crocodile tears and strike him from their list of possible World Cup referees (and their Christmas card list!!).

Contrasting rugby and cricket with their reliance on technology (Hugh, are you listening!!) only leads Dominic deeper into despair. His conclusion that football attracts a particular type of person, a yob, just about sums it up.

I love his last sentence: “Does anyone know why it is still called “”the beautiful game””? That has to be the biggest joke of all.”


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tenebrae factae sunt

Oh, woe is me!!

From bad to worse. That's the Chiefs season so far, and, perhaps, for the foreseeable future.

Grabbing at some fragile straws (mostly last week's triumph at Washington), I predicted them to beat San Diego at Arrowhead last week. Result: worse than bad.

The loss was hard enough to take. The backwards progression was even more difficult to digest.

Over to coach Todd Haley:

“I’m the head coach of the team and I’m running the offense,” Haley said. “We have to be better than that. We have to be better at protecting. We have to be better at run blocking. We have to be better at catching the ball. We can’t tip the ball to them and we have to be better at quarterback. That’s the bottom line.”

In other words, the Chiefs need to get better at just about everything.

This season is rapidly becoming over even before it got started for the Chiefs. Just look at Coach Haley's comments in detail.

Better at protecting: the Chiefs brought in Matt Cassel in order to provide a solid quarterback around whom we could build an offense. This just isn't working.

Better at run blocking: high hopes were placed on a revamped offensive line who, in concert with All-Pro back Larry Johnson (who is in the news with vaguely disguised dissatisfaction with the coaching staff), could take the pressure of Cassell and provide some kind of ball possession. This has been less than pie in the sky – more like pearls before swine.

Better at catching the ball: Coach Haley seems unable to either provide receivers or design plays which would give Cassell some kind of confidence. They are a fairly nondescript unit – excepting Dwayne Bowe. They just don't look like an NFL receiver corps.

Better at quarterback: it's easy to throw the blame at Cassell, but that's facile. He preformed quite well behind a fine line in New England. Now, he must learn to perform well behind something less than mediocre. The war is, as usual, won in the trenches.

Better at everything: over to you again Coach. The coaches are the factor you have not mentioned.

Fans were expecting a rebuilding kind of season. They were also expecting some kind of progress.

We're still waiting and time is running out. Last week's win at hopeless Washington is looking like the only one this season. Coach Haley better win some soon – or his reign will be short.

Tenebrae factae sunt

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Missing Link?

Human evolutionary theory has suffered a shock recently with the release of details of a possible direct human ancestor dating from 6 million years ago – Ardipithecus ramdius – or Ardi for short.

Finding a specimen that old is surprising enough in itself; yet the real surprise is the revelation that Ardi lived in a well-forested and tropical environment and walked upright.

So, what' so surprising about that?

Previous theories about man's evolution have focussed on the idea that bi-pedal locomotion developed in response to a move to the dryer grasslands and away from the trees. This always seemed unlikely to me. The theory was that in order to see predators from a distance evolution favoured our ancestors who could stand and walk so they could see over the grass and spot the lions before the lions spotted them. Sounds good, until you stop and think about it.

In order for this theory to hold water you would have to have evidence that the environment was changing quite rapidly and that staying close to the trees was not really an option – unless you are a chip or orang-outang. This clearly flies in the face of obvious logic. Why would you choose a very precarious existence out on the plains when you could stay very close to the trees? Tough one that old Ardi may be able to shed light on.

According to the scientists involved in Ardi's discovery, she was up and about a long time before her descendants moved out onto the plains. Why? They speculate that by freeing up her hands she (and more particularly the “he” versions) were more able to gather food and return it to their mates, thereby providing the evolutionary advantage of walking upright a long time before we left the trees for good. Sounds fairly appealing.

But, in common with all theories – it's only a theory, and there are problems.

First, and I confess that I didn't really fully understand this before, the fossil evidence for Ardi and most of the other possible human ancestors you can find on the family tree is really very scanty. So scanty that we have many more fossils of, say, sabre-tooth cats than we have of humans. Therefore the analysis of human fossils remains and the extrapolation of the fossil evidence to form a theory about human evolution is based on very slim fossil evidence, to say the least. In Ardi's case the actual discovery of the fossil bones was made some 8 years ago and the field workers have been busy ever since in trying to firm up the evidence by using a variety of techniques and sources. We are just short of evidence. Very short! Why?

In my view, this is the key question.

Just stop and consider, we are talking about millions of years of human evolution. During that long period we have only a very few skeletal remains upon which to base any theory. Even given that the base populations in Africa were probably quite small, millions of years still adds up to millions of years of potential fossils. That's a lot of potential human carcasses lying about willing and able to form ancestor fossils.

They either are not there or we haven't found them yet. If they aren't there, why not?

Simple. What most of the researchers seem unable or unwilling to deal with is the place early man occupied in the food chain. Ardi and her cousins had very small brains – some only just slightly larger than a chimp. Their lives were short and brutal. They were prey species for all the large to medium predators. Think about the function of the hyenas and vultures on the plains of Africa today. They clean up. They clean up everything. They most certainly would have cleaned up any human remains they found. Result? Some very small, very chewed bone fragments.

After every rain (and these are fairly infrequent!) the scientists return to the valley where Ardi was found and search for newly uncovered bones. They may find some more evidence for Ardi and her kind. We wish them luck. Fortunately, the cause of evolution and, in particular, Darwinian evolution does not depend on their discoveries.

What evidence there is forced the scientists into formulating a new theory to account for the advent of bi-pedalism so early in the evolutionary saga. They came up with sex. Postulating that the males, by freeing up their hands, were able to gather food on the forest floor and near the edge of the savannah and carry it back to the females – thereby providing the earliest equivalent of the ubiquitous box of chocolate on record!! These males were successful in mating and evolution provided the rest.

This pre-supposes that early hominids were very unlike their simian relatives in mating behaviour. Even before the advantages of males co-operating in hunting activities may have “forced” them to be co-operative in mating, our ancestors were (seemingly) avoiding the potential fatal consequences of fighting to secure mates for a more equitable and sociable outcome. This gave us the real advantage over the other branches of the family. We work together and share the females. This behaviour is passed on to our offspring.

Every dog (or indeed proto-human) really does, therefore, have his day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bumper News Day

Truth is really stranger than ficiton!

Firstly, as I expected, the story about cows attacking the farmer (a bit like man bites dog) was not “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. In a later paper we discover that the very experienced farmer confessed he got himself in a poor position and being trampled by the cows was probably his fault. In trying to get the cows through a very small gate something spooked them and they bolted. Unfortunately, he did not have anywhere to go to get out of their way and got stepped on. Cows 1 – Farmer 0.

Meanwhile 15 October proved to be either the slowest news day of the year, or the day when the loonies took over the EDP and chose which articles to publish.

What a selection!

In no particular order: we have the news that train drivers have been instructed to slow down at level crossings following a spate of accidents. They are now down to 20 mph. Aslef (the train drivers union) decided to act in the interests of train drivers and the travelling public. So good to know that the multi-ton train that just hit you is only moving at 20 mph. This is real progress and will be a comfort to relatives of those now killed at level crossings to know that their loved one was mangled at 20 mph instead of 40!

News from a translation company who are seeking Glaswegian interpreters is all good. They have been inundated by applicants. The free-lancers could earn up to £140 a day helping people from places like Japan, who may have learned their English from the BBC and can not now understand anyone from the Gorbals. If the service is a success it could be extended to other UK cities with difficult accents: Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester spring to mind.

Meanwhile, John Stafford from Scarborough – a confirmed arachnophobic – is worried that Halloween may be the death of him. He claims that his doctor told him that even the sight of a creepy-crawlie in a display in a window could trigger a fatal heart attack because his heart “is so badly bruised”. Funny, I thought you got that from being dumped by your girlfriend?

Kerry Callard from Devon is in bit trouble. She posted a YouTube video of her car speeding through puddles and drenching some pupils waiting for a bus. Police said the 29 year-old Kerry had contacted them voluntarily about the puddling and the evidence was now being reviewed. Very public-spirited of you Kerry.

From across the pond: down at Bobby Valentines Sports Gallery Cafe (nifty name, huh!) a woman singing karaoke was attacked by six others who did not like her rendition of A Dios Le Pido – a song made famous by Columbian superstar Juanes. ( a Columbian superstar? Is this not the most appalling oxymoron?) Dudes – it's all happening in Stamford, Connecticut – let's all boogie on down and check it out!!

God is after you in Louisville, Kentucky. Ken Pagano, a US Pastor, hosted a rally entitled, “God and guns” which was designed to promote gun rights and church security. Ken is now, apparently, working part-time at a local gun range and founding the International Security Coalition of Clergy with a New York rabbi. I would really like to pray in this guy's church. No, I mean it, honestly!

Chetania Davis, a 22 year old stripper, attacked her co-worker and exotic dancer ( a 52 year old woman – man they must have some wild strippers in Akron, Ohio!!) with the heel of her stiletto because she was afraid of losing her job – claiming that he club already had too many exotic dancers. Sounds like a sequel to that old standard, My Granny is a Lap-dancer at the Shooting Star Hotel! It annoys me intensely that there is no photo of young Chetania or her 52 year-old victim. I surmise that that any 22 year old stripper feeling threatened by a 52 year-old arch rival is pulchritudinously challenged. I'd love to see a photo to confirm my suspicions.

Let's all get down to London's New Wimbledon Theatre this Xmas for their version of Aladdin – starring Baywatch's Pamela Anderson. Now this is real family entertainment! Wait a minute, she's only doing two weeks and the role is then taken up by Paul O'Grady. Tough act to follow Paul. Good luck.

On the local crime scene: two homes in Dorley Dale (near Carlton Colville) were burgled overnight last Monday. A piggy bank was stolen by extracting it through an open window and found near the crime scene – minus the dosh. Contact Lowestoft Police if you can shed light on this porcine larceny.

Finally, and on a related note: a man far too worse for wear witnessed a burglary in Thetford and then, in a remarkably asinine moment, decided to join in when he saw the perpetrator make his escape. Joshua Richardson, 19, was just walking past a residence in Mingay Road (nope, I'm not making this one up either!) when he saw a burglar climbing out of a window. Joshua, in what could be the worst decision since Mrs Hitler said to Mister Hitler, “Well Alois, are you feeling saucy tonight?”, climbed in the window and took some DVD's and cashpoint cards. Richardson admitted burglary and also confessed to the theft of two carper cleaning machines in July. Just what we need – more clean, tidy and house-proud burglars!

There's more, believe it or not, but I just can't go on. It's just too much.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bovine Mayhem, Raccoon Terror


Strange to see in the paper yesterday two stories about animals attacking humans.

Story one, from the local EDP, concerned a farmer being trampled by his own cattle.

Number two – a woman in Florida was attacked by a marauding band of raccoons.

No, I'm not making this up!

Now, I have heard of cow attacks before. Despite the unlikely nature of such premeditated bovine assaults, it appears they are much more common than you might think. If you think not, try typing “cow attacks” into a Google search.

Herewith I must confess to putting a whole generation of school children at extreme risk by assuring them that cows are harmless, docile creatures and will not harm you. (Bulls are an exception!). I must plead ignorance. I just didn't know that cows were so damn dangerous! They never were when I was young.

At Thorndon in Suffolk, a farmer received “multiple injuries” after he was trampled by his own cattle. Roger Jones had broken ribs, cuts on his face and injured his shoulder after the cattle attacked him on his own land. He was in a stable condition in the hospital. (I had a look in EAU but didn't see Roger – I would have liked to find out some of the details!) Most of the cattle assaults documented on Google concern cows with calves. This makes sense. No matter how domesticated the beast, when the young are threatened (or are seen to be threatened by a brain-less cow) they will defend the calf. Fine. I can understand that. What I would like to know from Roger is what exactly was he doing when he was attacked? If they were his cows, surely they would be used to him and not see him as a threat?

People in England have died after being trampled by cows. Yes, it's true.

Part of my pitch to kids was our divorce from the natural world. Our recent ancestors would have had intimate knowledge of domestic (and wild) animals which we have lost. Ask most kids where a steak comes from and they will say Tesco's. The idea that a cow had to die and be butchered to get a steak is only peripherally known to most kids. They know it, sort of deep down, by they don't really think about it or imagine it as part of their daily lives. Confronted with the reality of slaughter, most kids instantly convert to vegetarianism (fortunately for Tesco this conversion only usually lasts until the next BBQ!).

I just wish the paper had let us in on more of the details.

Same day – same paper – a real human interest story.

Gretchen Whitted, resident of Florida was trying to chase some raccoons from her garden. Five raccoons surrounded her and attacked. She ended up in the hospital with cuts to her neck and leg (presumably she fell down – the idea that a raccoon could, or would, leap a metre or more in the air to bite Gretchen's neck is just too much to take in!) Still, a pack of killer raccoons loose in a Florida garden is pretty worrying!

Again we are sadly lacking in detail. Did, for instance, Gretchen corner the raccoons? Most animals will attack if cornered. What does it mean when she tried to chase them from her garden? With a stick? A broom? Her hands? A twelve gauge shotgun??

I need and want to know!

From the Associated Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Animal control officers hope to trap a pack of raccoons that mauled a 74-year-old Florida woman who tried to chase them from her yard.

The sheriff in Polk County, east of Tampa, says Gretchen Whitted fell when five raccoons surrounded and attacked her Sunday. She was taken to a hospital with extensive cuts from her neck to her legs.

We’re not talking about a lot of little bites here,” Sheriff Grady Judd said. “She was filleted.”

A neighbor called for help after hearing the woman’s cries and seeing her covered in blood.

Whitted was treated for rabies, though officials doubt the animals were infected.

Fire crews flooded nearby drains to drive the animals out, but none appeared. Animal control officers hope to catch them using cat food and sardines as bait.

Filleted! Not just bit, but filleted!!

There's something strange going on here! I'm sure raccoons could give you more than a nasty nip, but the idea that they form a gang, make a plan and then attack someone needs investigating – and now!! There are a lot of raccoons!! They're all over the place!!

My expose regarding harmless animals, given in good faith and with more than a modicum of humour and with tongue firmly in cheek is looking fairly irresponsible and, perhaps, the basis for a very expensive legal action.

I can see the headline now: Girl Trampled – Irresponsible Teacher Blamed!

A young lady was savagely attacked by a herd of cows whilst walking near Stowmarket yesterday. Sally Smith told he Mum she was going for a walk but is now in hospital in Bury with severe concussion after being trampled by up to 15 cows near her home in Lackbrain Crescent.

I was just walking across the field to get home when the cows charged at me and attacked. I wasn't doing anything to annoy then! My English teacher, Mr Kauffman, told me years ago that cows were not dangerous. He lied to me! I'm very upset.” Suffolk Constabulary refused to comment saying the incident is under investigation.

I may need a good lawyer. Not to mention a fence to keep raccoons out of my garden!


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Under Achieve - Over Achieve?

Both impersonating stones.

Contrasting fortunes for the England Cricket Team and the Kansas City Chiefs.

One has, seemingly, been over-achieving whilst the other is moving, or possibly sinking, rapidly in the other direction.

No prizes for guessing which.

England did more than expected in reaching the semi-finals of the ICC One-Day Tournament in South Africa. Still, in the end they were found wanting. First, South Africa exploded – nothing new there then – and India could not win a match. Pakistan flattered to deceive whist England and New Zealand just moseyed through the tournament doing little wrong, albeit not that much right either. So, an independent view must be that England were lucky to make the semis.

Having just been hammered by the Aussies at home 1-6 it is not surprising that the initial reaction to England's new-found capacity to win in the 50-over format was over-optimistic. Actually, they are still not very good at 50 over cricket. Why?

Primarily because they do not have the right bowlers. Wait a minute, I thought that the shorter form of the game was meant to be just a batsman's glory hunt. You are correct.

Therefore to win you must have bowlers who can both take wickets and stop runs flowing. South Africa had none. Neither did Pakistan. Ditto West Indies and Sri Lanka. Result? England flattered to deceive by getting so far with so little. They were fortunate to play on a few circumspect wickets that suited their bowlers. It's that simple – not a new dawn.

Meanwhile the Chiefs are stuck in a morass of losing and losing badly.

What fans were looking for this season was a new beginning. What we have got so far is not a stutter-start – more of a stutter-slide. True the odd NFL scheduling system (how can the AFL West be matched with the NFL East?) has not helped as the Chiefs were mashed by the Giants, Eagles and Ravens and then, in the only game they really had a chance to win in the first four, stumbled like born losers against the woeful Raiders. Ouch! That one hurt!

Coach Haley is bravely trying to put some sort of face on (perhaps it's a Halloween one so he can't be recognized!) but his coaching staff must be wondering what to do. With a team almost last in team defence and not much better on offence there is not much to cheer them up!

Fact is, when you are not a very good team you must have everything go your way in order to compete and have a chance. If not? Not much hope.

This week the Cowboys visit Arrowhead. I did pick them to beat Denver last week and they just failed. Maybe they don't play well on the road. More likely, they will bushwhack the Chiefs and sentence us to a long wait for a win – any win.

Matt Cassell has been a real disappointment. The running game is poor. Receivers are dropping balls at just the wrong time. The defence is still feeling its way into a 3-4 and cannot make a play when they have to. Too many players are under-performing. It's going to be a long season.

At this rate Coach Haley could be a one year phenomenon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fry My Hide

Dogpatch Dudes

The internet cannot find everything. Did you know that?

I do – cause I've been looking on and off for ages trying to find my favourite cartoon from Lil Abner. And, I'm having no luck whatsoever.

Why the fuss? I'll tell you why. It is adding to the complete lexicon of my favourite sayings and will (therefore) feature heavily when I am gone. Follow?

I thought not.

Here's how it goes. Lil Abner was (and perhaps still is for all I know) a syndicated strip cartoon in American papers. Based in the fictional hamlet of Dogpatch, Lil Abner is a classic of down-home, y'all, corn-shuckin, bushwackin, goat-ropin humour.

Check out the home page at: http://www.lil-abner.com/

To quote: In an era well before "political correctness" entered the vocabulary, Dogpatch exceeded every stereotype of Appalachia. The hillbillies in Li'l Abner's town were poorer than poor. The houses were hopelessly ramshackle. Most Dogpatchers were dumber than dumb. The remainder were scoundrels and thieves. Most of the men were too lazy to work, yet Dogpatch women were desperate enough to chase them. One preferred to live with hogs. Those who farmed their "tarnip" crop watched turnip termites descend every year, locust-like, to devour the crop. In the midst of the Great Depression, lowly Dogpatch allowed the most hard-up Americans to laugh at yokels worse off than they were. In Al Capp’s own words Dogpatch was “an average stone-age community” nestled in a bleak valley, between two cheap and uninteresting hills, somewhere. To old friends, the denizens of Dogpatch will be old friends. To strangers, however, they will probably be strangers.

In one classic cartoon one of the residents of Dogpatch found a genie's lamp. Rubbing the lamp, as you would do, duly produced the obliging genie. Three wishes were on offer which as the more sophisticated readers will know is just about standard genie fare.

With the first wish the disbelieving resident tried for a left-handed monkey wrench (or something equally nonsensical) and was amazed to see it appear before his very eyes. The second wish produced something truly worthwhile as the yokel finally got the hang of the genie thing and wished for a large pot of gold. The pot duly appeared.

Being more than slightly incredulous at his immense good fortune, our hero upon spying his new-found riches shouts out, “Well,fry my hide!”

Last pane of the cartoon shows the headline in the Dogpatch Gazette, large and in bold letters:

Gold Found! – Hide Fried!

Therefore, when things either go wrongly about the house, or someone states the bleedin obvious; my re-joiner is always, “Well, fry my hide – gold found and hide fried!”

Obvious, innit!

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Tough Start

NFL begins!

Looking forward to Sunday evening. It's the start of the NFL season and all Chiefs fans are agreed that it can't be as bad as last season. Or could it?

Away at the Baltimore Ravens is not really the game of choice. The Ravens are a truly daunting prospect for the season opener. On the back of an all-conquering defence, Baltimore have had real success both in the regular and post season of late. To that they have added a good offence with second year QB, Joe Flacco, set to build on what was an exceptional rookie year.

In reply, the Chiefs are rebuilding with a new head coach, a new GM, a new defensive system, a new QB and a new-look stadium. Not exactly the ingredients for a huge slice of optimism pie.

Matt Cassell may be the franchise QB we've all been waiting for, but he got smacked around in the pre-season and I predict the coach will not risk him against Baltimore's defence. Certainly he won't start. He may play some. Last year's signal-caller Brodie Croyle will probably get the nod – for all the good it will do him. Tyler Thigpen will play in certain situations and run a bit.

A lot will depend on the rest of the offence. Can they run the ball at all? Not likely. Can they at least keep possession and not fumble or give up interceptions? Not likely.

What about the defence? Can they stop a good Baltimore running game? Possible, but not very likely.

All things point to a long afternoon for the tribe. If they can keep it close and lose by only 10 or less, I suspect the coach will be pleased. So should the fans.

Park and Ride Buses

I'm confused!

Despite the fact that the number of old folks riding the buses for free seems to be exponential and a serious drain on the public purse, I'm only peripherally interested in the finances of the scheme – it's the mysterious disappearance of the buses after hours that really concerns me.

We assume, like so many things in life, that greater minds than ours are involved in the planning and organising of such mundane activities as a bus time-table. Then again, in this age of computer-generated rotas – how difficult can it be?

Take the Sprowston Park and Ride for instance. At peak times a bus leaves the Park and Ride site every 8 minutes. Journey time to the Norwich Bus Station is about 30 minutes. So, how many buses are required to achieve the goal? It must be about 4. At non-peak times the interval goes up to 10 minutes, so you need slightly fewer buses during the day.

Follow me so far?

Now, here comes the intriguing part. When I leave the site at about 18:00 I often see one of the Blue Park and Ride buses leave at the same time – but going in the wrong direction! Instead of turning right into the city, the bus goes left towards Wroxham. It then turns right towards Salhouse. I think I have seen them on the A 47 heading for Yarmouth.

What's going on? Where are they going? Why?

It's been suggested to me that the drivers are taking the buses home so as to get an early start and save on travelling expenses getting to work the next day. I just can't see it. Although it's perfectly possible that the bean-counters who run the bus service don't know this is going on – I doubt that this can be the case.

Why? Where are you going to park a whacking great blue bus? In your driveway?

Perhaps they are going to park somewhere near or in Yarmouth? Again, why?

There can't be more that 5 or 6 buses in total. Often there are three on the site at the same time. Surely when the last bus arrives at night they would just park it on the site with the others. Then, all the buses are there in the morning and ready to go. Why would you want to do anything else?

Aside: some of the controversy about the Park and Ride buses concerns the government's scheme to allow OAP's to ride for free after 09:30. In a recent letter to the editor of the EDP, Gussy Alamein (no I'm not making this up), Marketing and Communications Manager for First East England Buses explains that: . . . the destination on the ticket makes no difference to the revenue received by the bus company. Payments to bus companies are made on the basis of the average fare charged to adult paying passengers multiplied by the number of journeys made by concessionary pass holders.”

Clear? I'm frightened that these people are running the buses. I'm frightened that they are actually running anything. I'm going to find out where the Blue Buses go.

If it kills me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I'd really like to stay out of this one. No, I really would.

When I turn on the TV and see my countrymen at Town Hall meetings almost coming to blows over heath care reform; when the news is full of half-truths, misconceptions and misleading statements about health care; and when the pundits all line up to have a pop at anything that smacks (in their view) of socialism – then I know we're in trouble and I'd dearly love to duck the issues!

How about some facts?



These web pages sum up the Obama healthcare plan. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than what we have already? Yes. Is it a British National Health Service in disguise? Absolutely not.

So, what is the British NHS and how does it work?

First of all it is not exactly what it was designed to be. The origin of the NHS was steeped in ideological tea and poured from a socialistic pot onto the public purse. It has never been either all-inclusive or all-encompassing. Americans might be flummoxed to learn that despite its name the NHS is not really national at all. Scotland and Wales have quite a different NHS than England and Northern Ireland.

They might be puzzled by the fact that there is a substantial, thriving private healthcare system running alongside the NHS. The might be amazed that it isn't really free at all – even disregarding the National Insurance contributions workers and employers pay to fund the system, large parts of the NHS are not free. Except for children, old people and a few others, prescriptions are paid for by the consumer. NHS dental treatment is very patchy. Most people pay for their dental treatment. Visitors from countries who do not have agreements with GB pay for their treatment. Many people have private health insurance which they or their employers fund as part of their pay structure. Many doctors who work for the NHS also have private patients at the same time.

Second, the “national” part is misleading. Folks in England think of the NHS as a local service. We have our local GP's We have four hospitals, James Paget in Yarmouth, Queen Elizabeth in King's Lynn and the Norfolk and Norwich (which includes Cromer Hospital) in Norwich. Serious cases are transferred to specialist hospitals like Addenbrook's (heart) in Cambridge or Great Ormond Street (children) in London. Key point: thereby services are not duplicated! Must be cheaper! So, despite the name, the NHS is for most people a local service.

Thirdly, the NHS is one of the few universally unifying structures in the UK. For 60 years no government or opposition has ever questioned the need for or the underlying rationale behind the NHS. To many people in the UK the NHS is the government. To borrow freely from the Constitution it is the one thing in Britain designed “to promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”. Therefore it enjoys almost universal support. And, even though it is a national service people think of it as local. So, they speak about their GP and their hospitals.

What about the present US health care?

The WHO rates US heath care as 37th in the world – UK comes in at 18. How can this be? Surely as the richest nation on earth the US should enjoy the best healthcare. Maybe it's the money?


Per capita spending: U.S. about £4000 per person UK about £1700
As % of GDP – U.S. about 16% - UK about 9%.

Number of nurses and doctors as a % of the populations?
Nope - Just about the same.

So, despite spending far more money both in real terms and as a percentage of national income, the US lags behind in providing healthcare for its citizens. How can this be?

This is the real question that the numpties who we see on TV screaming nonsense about healthcare are not dealing with. Any reasonable debate must focus on this issue. It is a national disgrace. Where does all the money go? I suspect it goes in the pockets of the doctors and the health insurance lobby – not to mention the drug companies.

The real tragedy is that we have been here before. With the Great Depression in full swing the incumbent President, Herbert Hoover, struggled manfully to attempt to get the economy moving again. Hoover made his name as a crusading humanitarian in WW I – providing relief for starving Belgians. Problem was he was ideologically opposed to the kind of government intervention that was needed and eventually was provided by Roosevelt's New Deal. He just could not come to terms with the kind of government intervention which eventually brought an end to the Great Depression.

In modern times when we see both the US and UK governments spending billions to kick start the economy and bail out the very crooks (sorry bankers) who got us into this mess, it is well to remember that the kind of government intervention/regulation which Roosevelt proposed in the New Deal was violently opposed as Un-American, Communistic and down right criminal by the forefathers of the present idiots who are so upset at the thought of decent health care for all citizens – not just those with money.

This argument will rumble on. Nothing affects people's lives so directly as health care. People who have legitimate concerns about the Obama plan need to have them answered and addressed. People who are just ideologically an philosophically opposed to any form of government health care need to listen the the arguments and stop shouting. You don't win any argument just because you can shout the loudest.
President Obama needs to make his plans clearer. Hesitation is just seen as weakness. This may be the only chance to reform US health care in a generation. It must not fail.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Aviva Cowards

The Norwich Union Insurance Group (now know as Aviva) high-ups have really outdone themselves recently.

Not only have they managed to upset the whole of East Anglia, not to mention their shareholders, with their name-changing antics and the vast sums of dosh employed to advertise what is essentially a non-story; they have now ducked swiftly the obvious choice for their new advertising campaign and decided to take the Michael out of the cor bugger janners!

What cowards when they have perfectly good Norfolk folk to make as butt of their jokes.

The boys in Oggy Land must not be very happy. We already know they're not very bright – at least according to NU.

Now, not a lot of people know this, so pay attention. The Regimental Song of the 1st Battalion, The Devonshire and Dorset Regiment is The Tiddy Oggy Song! Part of which goes lie this:

Oh how happy us will be when we gets back to the West Country.

Where Tiddy Oggies grow on trees, Cor bugger Janner.

You make fast, kiss my a***

Make fast the dingy

You make fast, kiss my a***

Make fast the dingy

For we'll all go back to Oggy Land,

To Oggy Land, to Oggie Land

For we'll all go back to Oggy Land

Where they can't tell beans from

Tissue paper, Tissue paper

Marmalade of Jam

Ain't culture wonderful?

NU have missed a golden opportunity. They should have had a crowd of numpties trooping into Carrow Road singing:

I had a girl, really nice girl, down in Wroxham Way,

She were wholly nice to me back in the old school days,

She would smile all the while, but Daddy didn't know all,

What she used to say to me behind the garden wall.

"Hev you gotta loight boy? Hev you gotta loight?"

Then one day, she went away, I don't see her no more,

Till by chance I see her down along the Mundesley shore,

She was there, twice as fair. Would she now be true?

So when she sees me passing by, she say, "I'm glad that's you!

Hev you gotta loight boy? Hev you gotta loight?"

Molly Windley, she smokes like a chimley,

But she's my little nicotine girl.

Classic. I can see it now.

Why go all the way to Devon when you could take the rip close to home?

Cowardly, damn cowardly, I say.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Apocalypse Now - Apocalypse Again

The recent deaths in Afghanistan of eight young soldiers has brought calls for increased helicopter capability in that sad country.

Country is, perhaps, too strong a word. Hostile territory and the graveyard of invaders for the last 2000 years would be a more accurate description.

An old joke. What's the difference between the Army and the Boy Scouts? Answer – the Boy Scouts have adult leaders.

Ask the Army chiefs for answers and all you get are calls for more mobility and a way of keeping their soldiers out of harm's way – more helicopters.

This is nonsense.

Do they not study the Vietnam conflict at Staff College?

Remember that great tableau in Apocalypse Now where Robert Duvall is leading the Air Cavalry into battle to the strains of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, and searching for a good place to surf?

Not only is this great cinema, it is also a lesson in how not to conduct operations in a hostile environment where it is impossible to distinguish the enemy from the civilian population.

Put your troops into helicopters and you cede the ground to the enemy. You lose the element of surprise. You alienate the civilian population who no longer see you as a person – just a malignant, hovering beast spitting shells at them. You have already lost the war.

Not only that but you immediately increase casualties. Helicopter today are much larger that the Huey. The Chinooks can take up to 40 troops at a time into harm's way. The Taliban can and will shoot them down. Casualties will increase, not decrease.

We are in the hole. Stop digging.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Revenge - and not very sweet!

Jack Straw's decision not to release a dying Ronnie Biggs on parole is a disgrace and shows how far the politicians can be out of step with reality.

When assessing Biggs' suitability for parole he has focussed on the lack of contrition and remorse for the crimes he committed. And, what were those crimes?

He robbed a train of a lot of money. Mostly, the state's money. He escaped from prison and lived the high-life whilst thumbing his nose at the authorities for many years.

For these things he deserves punishment. And punishment he has had. He has served a large part of his original sentence. Whilst voluntarily choosing to return to the UK he has placed himself in the hands of a vengeful and mean-spirited politician who is only worrying about what a small and small-minded section of the public may think.

He is also going against the advice of the parole board.

This is a disgrace.

People who plough into a group of Mum's with prams go to jail – but for a few years. They are more of a danger to society than Ronnie Biggs. He cannot live much longer.

Meanwhile a nation which prides itself on compassion and a sense of fair play is shamed and disgraced by what can only be described as a “Myra Hindley” moment from a Minister of the Crown who should know better and be thoroughly ashamed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

All Sorts of Noises

An enigma wrapped up in an mystery.

From the Chiefs: lots of talk and not a lot of action.

The real news has been the apparent change of emphasis, best illustrated by the treatment of Brian Waters, Larry Johnson and Tony Gonzales.

Chiefs legend Gonzales made no secret he wanted a shot at some sort of play-off glory before he retires. By trading him to Atlanta, the Chiefs were happy to oblige. Actually, what they did was reward him for a Hall of Fame career and, knowing that his best years were behind him, avoided the inevitable and embarrassing slide into mediocrity and a possible media career.

The best wishes of all Chiefs fans go with him.

Waters and Johnson are different matters.

Brian seems to be unhappy, perhaps with his contract – perhaps with the team – perhaps with the new coach and GM. Who knows? In return the management have done exactly the right thing – draft some possible replacements, sign some free agents (without breaking the bank!) and keep their mouth shut.

Time will tell if they can re-invigorate what is a great career and get Waters to let the water flow under the bridge. My prediction: Waters will be a Chief on opening day or he will be traded for a big-time player. Either way – Chiefs win.

Johnson is a problem wrapped up in an enigma folded into a multi-coloured paper fan. What his problem is, who knows? He will be more comfortable and productive in a pro-set offence. He can repeat a 1000 yard rushing season. Will he blend in with the new management and QB? It's anyone's guess.

One thing is for sure – he won't be traded. First, no-one really wants him and second – the Chiefs need his production at RB – even if they have to put up with some antics and his lack of skill and effort in blocking for his QB.

How the Chiefs deal with Brian and Larry will go a long way towards deciding if they can improve on last season's dismal showing.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Football Weather

Crazy Game!

They say the old ones are the best. In pointless truisms, it's hard to beat, “Everyone talks about the weather, but no-one ever does anything about it!”

The reason is, of course, obvious. No-one really can do anything about the weather – unless you consider that weather is a subset of climate and believe the Global-Warming Nutters.

So, the humour in the saying about the weather is in it's pointlessness.

Football is different than the weather.

Everyone talks about how various aspects of the game are either silly, unfair, useless or just plain daft. The difference is something could be done, but never is.

So, we had the Chelsea fans and players incensed at the referee who clearly had a very poor game. He missed some obvious and blatant calls. He was doing his best, no doubt, but his best just wasn't good enough.

Something could be done about this. Some examples: give each manager one challenge per half. Ball's out of play, throw the challenge flag – a bit like the NFL. Video replay clearly shows what happened. Video ref overrules the on-field ref. Result; the correct decision is reached. How about using he linesmen (or referee's assistants as they are now called)? Get them off the touch line and onto the pitch. Whilst looking for offsides, let them also spot obvious fouls, etc. and give them a whistle instead of the gay little flag they are so fond of waving about for the referee to ignore! How about the times the ball crosses the goal line and the officials seem to ignore it? Yes, it happens. You've all seen it on TV. Why can't the fourth official simply call the ref and say, “Excuse me, a goal has just been scored!”

Football is full of these crazy situations that should not be tolerated. Cricket and rugby – both as hide-bound sports as you might wish to find at one stage have both embraced the technology required to improve decision-making wholeheartedly.

Why should football be different?

Answer. Easy. Football is run by numpties. Because it is a world game every little country like Tuvalu and Bhutan have a say. The equivalent would be giving a UN veto to all. Nothing ever changes.

It's time for someone to break ranks and stop crazy things from incensing the fans (who pay the money) and the manager who may be out of a job because a simple decision is missed.

Crazy game.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's the Draft, Stupid

Tomahawks must get it right!!

The Chiefs have drafted themselves into a corner. New GM Scott Pioli has such a reputation for finding gems in the annual auction that the height of the expectations is only dwarfed by his salary.

Fans are thinking and talking openly about “doing a Miami”. Remember that the Dophins, coming off a disastrous season in 07, signed their top draft choice, OT Jake Long and went on to a winning season.

Fans seem to forget that the NFL draft is a real crap shoot. From the top 250 college players taken most will not be on a roster at the end of the season. Pioli is making the right noises when he explains the success of Tom Brady (a sixth round choice by the Patriots) by reminding us that Tom is the hardest worker he has ever seen – except, perhaps, the new QB incumbent of the Chiefs, Matt Cassel – a seventh round Pats choice. What he's saying is that it is mostly hit and miss and raw talent is handy, but the ability to improve and work hard are probably more important.

So, what will be the Chiefs strategy?

Most expect the Chiefs to be stuck with the number three pick. No matter how hard Pioli tries to unload it, it's going to be difficult. High picks cost so much money nobody really wants them, so it is imperative that Pioli gets it right. Many people are expecting him to go for OLB Aaron Curry. Some think that he might go for Virginia OT, Eugene Monroe. Both look like safe picks on paper. After all the off season activity in bolstering the most feeble line-backing corps in Chiefs history, you might expect Monroe to be the choice. I still think it will be Curry.

With no pick in the second round, it's imperative that the top pick is a player who contributes right now and is a potential Pro-bowler.

As the draft unwinds predictions become too far-fetched to predict. Every team has their draft strategy and mostly this involved selecting the top player on their chart who is still available when the clock starts. Every team says they do this, but in reality they don't.

Take the Chiefs QB status for example. Matt Stafford of Georgia is the top QB and top overall player in this crop of potential first rounders. Even if he is still on the board when the Chiefs pick at three they will not take him. There are no guarantees, especially with QB's. The Chiefs need help at LB and OT. The will take the top pick left at one of those positions even if Stafford is still there.

It's only when you get to rounds three and four (Chiefs have no second round pick) that you might go for the top player left on your board, regardless of position. Teams are made in the draft. Or not made. The Lions (predicted to take Stafford) are perennial early pickers. They almost always get it wrong. The temptation to play safe and go for Curry or Monroe first might be too great to resist. If so, the Chiefs are in real headache country. They would still pass on Stafford and go for the next best OT or DE. So much for taking the top-rated player.

The only sure thing is the speculation is nearly over. Now it's money talks and bull**** walks.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Six of the Best

Time to go to bat for the away team.

Every bus/train/pub conversation will inevitably turn to the credit crunch and listening to the “we're doomed” brigade launch into a “bring back Maggie Thatcher chant”can be irksome and tiresome; so, it's time to promulgate the six best things about the UK and see if anyone agrees.

Number One

The Sunday Times – don't forget - despite the profligate number of Red Tops which are not actually newspapers at all, Britain still boasts some quality newspapers and a readership that is second to none – The Sun, The Mail and The Mirror are all in the top 13 selling daily newspapers in the world. Most of the really big sellers, of course, are from China, India and Japan.

The Sunday Times makes my Sunday. Any description of a perfect Sunday starts with reading the paper. The roast beef comes much later.

Number Two

The NHS. President Obama had health care reform as part of his electoral appeal and it worked. Unfortunately, the prospect of him persuading Congress to come up with anything like an NHS is very remote. Why? The vested interests in the United States just will not give up the milch cow that is the present system.

By contrast, Britain's NHS is the envy of the world – or most of it at least. It is far from perfect, but it does work. And it is genuinely free at the point of need.

People in Britain take it for granted and every paper has at least one story of an NHS failure on a daily basis; but it is so much better than any alternative; it would be easier to get the turkeys to vote for more Christmases than it would be to devise a better plan to cover a nation's health care needs than the NHS.

Number Three

The BBC. I never watch ITV – perhaps that's why they are losing money and advertisers faster than a man going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. I would watch ITV if there were any programmes worth watching, but since there aren't and we all pay for the BBC through the license fee anyway – why bother? ITV is full of soaps and naff game shows. I never watch it.

Number Four

Liverpool Street Station. Not the present station, the old one – before they tarted it up and added the glitzy shops and the arcades full of designer sunglasses. It was smoke encrusted. It was dingy. It was dirty. It was uncomfortable. In short, it was everything that represented the best of old England. Now it's gone – sold out to the bean counters and the advertisers. Shame.

Number Five

Stratford-on-Avon. I know it' daft, but I get a thrill visiting Stratford. It's almost all modern stores and houses by the bits that are “preserved” make it worthwhile. If you can't get excited visiting Holy Trinity and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – then you are probably immune to nostalgia and reverence for the Bard. More fool you.

Number Six

Trent Bridge. There must be nothing like a Test Match at Lords – though I have never been and I like the Oval – especially on a really hot day when you can drink a hogshead of beer and sweat it out so fast that you don't get drunk, but Trent Bridge is my “home” ground (that is to say the nearest one to Norwich with good rail communications). It really is a great place to watch cricket. The crowd are rowdy but very good natured and they don't take the cricket too seriously. Sitting in the New Stand and gazing at the old pavilion is a joy. Visiting the Trent Bridge Inn is a glory. And, you can get the train home. Magic.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Animal Farm

Sunday Times Blunders?

Wandering around all day, mostly in a daze, I get these great ideas for a blog.

Then I forget them when I get busy doing something else.

I'm sure I had three this week and then promptly forgot them. Never mind. In these trying times I just wait for the Sunday paper to arrive and something will turn up.

Sure enough – an article about T.S. Eliot and his involvement with George Orwell's Animal Farm.

According to the Sunday Times, T.S. Eliot was once a director of Faber and Faber and wrote a scathing rejection of Orwell's Animal Farm in 1944. The book was later published by Secker and Warburg. All quite interesting in a literary, intelligentsia kind of way. Also, as I recall – quite wrong.

I fancy myself an Orwell scholar. At least in so far as I know a lot more about him and his work that the average Joe on the street. I taught English Literature for 30-odd years and taught Animal Farm for examination on many occasions.

Amongst the pile of relevant work sheets explaining Orwell's photosynthesising form of socialism, bordering on Trotskyism, I had a very useful and entertaining video featuring the cartoonist, Steve Bell, among others discussing Orwell's work in general and Animal Farm in particular.

According to the Times, Eliot wrote to Orwell in 1944 saying that he thought the books “view, which I take to be generally Trotskyite, is not convincing.” And Eliot wrote, “After all your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact there couldn't have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so what was needed (some-one might argue) was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.”

My recollection is different.

I remember quoting the above statement pointedly to children studying Animal Farm. I remember extracting it from the video presentation, because it seemed to me to sum up very nicely the difficulties Orwell encountered with the literary elite and the inherent difficulties in using a fable format to preach about communism. But, according to the Times, the letter is “one of many private papers made available for the first time by his widow Valerie for a BBC documentary.”

One of us is entirely wrong.

I'm going to find the video. I kept them all when I took early retirement. I'm sure I've got it somewhere.

The Times is going to get a very nasty letter – or I will be confirming that I need the newest drug treatment for Alzeheimers quick!!

Clarkson Does Football

Top Gear!

Jeremy Clarkson, when not acting as the peoples' choice for PM, writes for the Sunday Times.

He's now on my team where football is concerned. He says:

“Over the years I have argued that football is a stupid game in which 22 overpaid nancy boys with idiotic hair run around a field attempting to kick an inflated sheep’s pancreas into some netting while an audience of several thousand van drivers beat one another over the head with bottles and chairs.”

Better put, perhaps more witty than I, but without a doubt the most succinct description available for the unwashed masses who inhabit football stadia at weekends and the idiotic game they support. Clarkson rocks.

Point one from Jeremy: “Nor could I understand how someone from Tooting could possibly support, say, Manchester United, a team sponsored by those hateful bastards at AIG and made up of players from Portugal, France, Holland and, in the case of Wayne Rooney, Walt Disney. Where’s the connection? What’s the point?”

So true. The idiots who insist they must have a day off to watch a Man Utd game on TV really are gormless skivers.

And on the day when Jade departed for a politically correct rendezvous with some Indian deity - “And as for those people who can’t cope if their team loses. Give me strength. If you get all teary-eyed just because someone from Latvia, playing in a town you’ve never been to, for an Arab you’ve never met, against some Italians you hate for no reason, has missed a penalty, how are you going to manage when you are diagnosed with cancer?”

I particularly enjoyed his take on some of the more inane antics of the crowd at football matches:

“The other advantage of being there is that on television the microphones are positioned so you can’t hear the chants. I’d heard, of course, about this mass spontaneity over the years, usually when a team is playing Liverpool. “Sign on. Sign on. With a pen in your hand. Cos you’ll ne . . . ver get a job.” Or: “The wheels on your house go round and round. Round and round. Round and round.”
There are others too. Plymouth Argyll refer to any team they play as northern bastards. Then you have the Charlton fans who travelled down the M4 to Reading recently and, having failed to think of any suitable abuse, came up with: “What’s it like to live in Wales?”
The Chelsea fans topped all this last Sunday with a nonstop song, the lyrics of which were: “F*** off, Robinho. F*** off, Robinho. F*** off, Robinho.” I joined in wholeheartedly, even though I wasn’t entirely sure who Mr Robinho was and why I wanted him to eff off so much.”
Jeremy's experience reminded me of the first live football match I ever saw. Charlton Athletic v Colchester Utd a the “old” Valley in the 1970's. It was Easter time and a bumper crowd of about 300 were on the terraces. Terraces where you could comfortably fit the residents of Milton Keynes and have plenty of spare room. Because the crowd was so small you could hear exactly what the players were saying to each other and, more importantly, to the match officials. It only took me five minutes to realise that football is a stupid game played by morons who have all the charm of a spitting camel and the wit of a word that sounds like wit but starts with the letter S.
Experiences after that include two cup matches at Norwich City. First a game against Liverpool. John Barnes was playing. He'd just been heaped with lavish praise in the media for the wonder goal he scored against Brazil in an international match. Norwich fans response? They “invented” a chant that went: “He's black, he's bent, his bum is up for rent, Johnie Barnes, Johnie Barnes.” Barnsie smiled at the crowd.
Next a game versus Tottenham Hotspur with the “fountain”, Paul Gascgoine, in their team. Fan's chant? “You fat bastard!” Gazza smiled.
Last word to Clarkson.
“After the game I was taken to the Chelsea dressing room so that I could admire all the players’ penises – many were very enormous indeed. I talked to Roman Abramovich, who was charming, and Lampard, who, having just run around for 90 minutes, still found the energy to get the entire team to sign my boy’s Chelsea shirt. I don’t do that for kids who come to the Top Gear studio and I’m supposed to be the public-school-educated toff.
So there we are, then. I am now a football fan. I know this because in one afternoon I learnt I’m not a football fan at all. I’m a fan of Chelsea. Chelsea are the only team that can play. Chelsea players have by far the most impressive reproductive organs. Stamford Bridge is my church. The men who play there are my Gods.
In short, I have a team, and that’s what’s always been missing. Because I was born in Doncaster.”

Clarkson for PM.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sports Combine - February 2009

A round up of current issues.

Kansas City Chiefs

With a new coach and GM it's all down to the draft for the Chiefs this season. It is surprising how easy it is to go from 2-14 to 10-6. Hope springs eternal. With a proven, but untried at this level, GM in Scott Pioli and rookie head coach in Todd Haley, the Chiefs enter new territory. An assessment will be made after the draft. Even though it is supposed to be a “thin” year for QB's I expect the Chiefs to take one in the first five rounds; for, without some production and leadership from the QB position KC is going to suffer no matter what else they do. The Chiefs faithful are in for an interesting six months.

England Cricket Tour of the West Indies

You have to be a real optimist to gather much excitement or optimism from the England performances in the WI so far. Strangely marmalised in the First Test, crazily being party to a two over test match at the Viv Richards Stadium, and then missing a golden opportunity to square the series at the ACG does not fill one with a large cup of optimism coffee sweetened with sun-kissed horizons.

It's a mess. A big mess.

The ECB have really got to hold up their hand and admit that they have made some immaculate, spectacular boners in the last few months.

First, Sir Alan Stanford is probably going to jail for fraud. The ECB idiots has only recently pledged (or mortgaged if you prefer) the future of English cricket to this wide boy whose only claim to fame so far has been being photographed groping the English WAGS.

Now Freddie Flintoff has succumbed to yet another injury with the Ashes on the horizon. Yet the ECB have sanctioned releasing the contracted players so they can cash in on the mega-bucks of the IPL.

Nasser Hussein and Mike Atherton (both ex-England captains) consider this madness. The ECB should have had the guts to tell the contracted players they can either forego the wonga of the England contact, or they can go to India and take the risk of losing their guaranteed income.

Perhaps the ECB now stands for Elastically Contracting Balls?

Our only hope: the Aussies seem to be having some uncharacteristically English-like problems of their own.


As the Canaries slip deeper and deeper into Relegation Quagmire (that's on the A11, just south of the Thickthorn Roundabout) and contemplate life in what would be the old Division Three, there is only one positive sign on the horizon. St Delia and Dippy Doncaster may be about to take a big bite from the We've Run Out of Ideas Since Our Last Ditch Plan to Smokescreen the Fans (and save loads of money) With the Brian Gunn Appointment Burger and run up the surrender flag.

The further NCFC fall the louder the clamour for the board to shoulder most of the blame will be. Gunny is a Norwich City legend. Delia ain't. Unless they win two of the next three games, expect the clamour to reach a howl – and a shrill one at that.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Name Theory

Up the Chavs!

My theory of names reflecting that those unfortunates who are saddled at infancy with a moniker which ensures - in a self-fulfilling prophesy kind of way – that they will be blighted in later life has gained credence through the efforts of Alastair McLean, boss of upmarket travel company, Activities Abroad.

In a letter to customers, he delivered a non-PC attack on the residents of, among many other towns, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

He asserts that the following people will not be found on one of his company's holidays: Dazza, Britney, Chardonnay, Shannon (shades of Dewsbury!), Candice and others of that ilk.

Apparently, only Johns, Henrys and Annes will be your companions if you choose his travel company.

He was immediately in hot water with the PC brigade.

It is the curse of the prophet to remain unknown in his own country.

What we need is research. For example, in those areas where the 11 plus exam is still in use for gaining entrance to grammar school it should be possible to test my theory. All we need to do is find out the statistical breakdown of all Christian names of the pupils who take the 11 plus in a given year. Then compare the successful pupils with the percentage of Chav names in the population as a whole.

Ok – it's a start.

I'm convinced I'm right. Name you child Antwan or Chablis and you are sentencing them to a life time in a shell suit. Go on, prove me wrong.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Go Bama

Hail to the Chief

I'm quite proud of myself. I have refrained from commenting on the American Presidential election throughout.

With the election over and imminent arrival of Barack Obama in the White House, I thought it might be a good idea to read both Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.

These are interesting books, and he is an interesting man.

I was hoping to gains some insight into his political theories and find out what makes him tick. I was disappointed. He is often presented as an “outsider” to the black American community, yet there is nothing of this in the books. He writes about visits to Kenya and his extended African family, but his outlook is entirely American black. Unfortunately, he tells us nothing insightful about his unusual background.

He met his father but did not really know him. His mother was an unconventional woman in a number of unconventional relationships. His Indonesian step-father is interesting. But, what he the young Obama learned from him is hard to fathom out. I still don't feel that I know or understand his upbringing, his family or his values. This is disappointing.

I thought The Audacity of Hope would explain his political philosophy. Maybe I expected too much. It is full of “cheer leading”, by which I mean that he exhorts us to do better. Do better in almost everything. Do better, but without telling us how to do it.

The only semi-revealing moment is when he lets slip that the title is taken from a sermon by Rev Jeremiah Wright – long since disowned.

I conclude that Barack Obama is an opportunist and a good one. He has been incredibly lucky in his political career. If his integrity is intact despite working as a community organiser on the south side of Chicago and achieving political office in the State of Illinois, he probably deserves to be President.

It will be interesting to see what he does with the office. For sure, it won't take much to outperform Ol Dubbya!

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