31 Dec 2010

Down Down

The miserable year that was 2010 draws to a close, and in front of us all lies the Mordor that will be 2011. Sorry to be so depressing but I can't for the life of me see what good can come of next year, when numerous friends and relations and me face the full force of the ideological shitstorm that has been unleashed by our in turns cowardly and evil (and I don't use the word lightly) rulers. Back on the morning of Friday 7th May I thought we had got the right result, a probable coalition of some kind. Labour had long ago run out of ideas and were burying their collective heads deep in the sand over our huge and ever growing budget deficit. The Liberal Democrats would temper the excesses of the Tory Eton led elite. Little did I, or I suspect, most others if they're being honest, know that what would follow would make Thatcher's deliberately divisive rule look like a walk in the park. The yellow bellied LD's are nowhere to be seen while Cameron's jackbooted thugs in suits make cuts that are far too quick and far too deep, for purely ideological purposes. If you weren't worried before listening to the baying Tories in the Mother of Parliaments when the cuts were announced, you damn well should have been afterwards.

They expect the private sector to take up the slack of 800000 newly unemployed, well I work in the private sector and deal with all sorts of trades. I tell you, there are no new jobs being created despite what Osborne & co might tell us. The future is bleak.
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New Year's resolutions are a waste of time. Take the classic of giving up smoking. On January 5th 2011 I will have been an ex-smoker for 14 years. Yes that's January 5th not 1st, because I gave up smoking tobacco & pot when I ran out of gear on that day, not because it was a resolution, but because I thought hell, I don't enjoy this anymore and it's holding me back, making my naturally lazy persona even worse. So I stopped. No nicotine patches, or visits to the doctor, just sheer will power. Giving up any drug is down to an act of selfism, just as taking the drug is in the first instance. You can't give up because your doctor tells you to, or because you owe it to your wife or your kids, you can only stop if YOU want to.

In 2011 I will take up smack just to blot out all the shit. Don't tell B
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This morning at about 3:30am B woke me to tell me that she had just seen two men get out of a neighbour's parked car and wander nonchalantly down the road. I called the neighbour, and the police turned up some ten minutes later (that's quick for Shoesville I can tell you). To cut a long and sleep deprived story short, they had broke into the car, stole the satnav, and the set of car-specific wheel locking nuts, so the neighbour had to ring his garage when they opened to find out that unless he could get the codes for the nuts, a new set would have to be made at not inconsiderable cost. There are some cunts about...
We eventually went back to bed (got about 4 hours sleep all told) but the neighbour was woken again around 6am by a car alarm going off up the road - a different cunt had tried to "have away" another resident's Land Rover. Like I said, there are some cunts about, and most of them took a stroll down our street early this morning.
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God this is so depressing I almost did not publish it, and it won't get shared on Facebook, by me anyway. Happy New Year. We're all going to die.
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30 Dec 2010

Psychotic Sheep Chew The Face Off A Shop Assistant While Grinning Manically

Consumerism is a drug, and I don't know about you, but I do not understand what drives folk to behave like a swarm of wasps in a jam factory when presented with piles of tack that they don't really need. It's 70% off so whatever it is it must be worth having. I want one.
I need some new footwear and B needs some stuff too, so the baying hordes of Shoesville will be have to be braved soon. I'm glad I don't have to visit Oxford Street in "The Smoke" at this time of year, just look at this lot in London http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8430812.stm . You can hear almost orgasmic squeals of ecstasy in the background as the first horde of manic glassy eyed fuckwits make a break for it so they can buy all the stuff that they never realised they needed in the first place. After hours of hectic materialist mainlining a feeling of frustrated emptiness and a gnawing dissatisfaction will descend, followed by a smack in the face from the credit card company.
Mind you, as we no longer make anything in this country, the economy now depends on the sheep instinct of mall dwelling X-Factor suckers. We're all dooooomed, I say, dooooomed...
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We've retained the Ashes! Woohoo! Now to win the series. Can't wait for the SCG on New Year's Day. We are so far ahead of this unusually inept bunch of Aussies that there are only two of their players you would even consider swapping for two of ours, namely Haddin for Prior, and Hussey for Collingwood. How often could you have said that in the last 30 years? Punter remains an oaf.

Still on sprot, I see that L****poo* lost at home to previously bottom of the table Wolves. That was quite amusing. :))
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The other day I awoke with the aftermath of a herd of bison stampeding through my noggin, the result of a fun booze fuelled last quiz night of the year, only to find that my email account had been hacked into by some insidious tossers from China. Bloody inconvenient, and with a headache too. So if any of you received an email purportedly from me extolling the virtues of some dodgy looking website or other, it wasn't from me, honest! Passwords have now been changed, so it should only be a temporary problem.

26 Dec 2010

In The Year 2010...

....a little known tryout by Mr Zager and Mr Evans for their 1969 smasheroo, or...

A Review Of The Year Gone By

Life
Like most people I know, the draconian and unnecessary slash and burn policies of our pampered elite is leaving me with a diminishing personal economy, which shows no prospect of improving in the year ahead. Indeed 2011 from this side of January 1st looks a frightening prospect, but equally could see new opportunities open up. It will be a scary ride.

Love & thanks to B for putting up with yours truly for another year. Thanks as ever go to Phill and "the missus" for being the great mates, and mentions in dispatches to One El for providing many a fun Tuesday night with his unsurpassed quizmeistery! Thanks too to the rest of Team Squonk for coming up with the answers. There are others who have been good friends, but as they will not read this, not being of the computer inclination, I'll thank them in person.

Politics
What can I say? Voting Liberal Democrat in May proved to be the most disappointing political act I've ever carried out. The cowardice and treachery of Clegg, and, more pertinently, Cable will not be forgotten in a long time. One can only hope that the Daily Telegraph's blundering Austin Powers' like attempts at subterfuge will force this once respected party to grow a pair and stand up to the Eton Rifles in the coming year.

Internationally expect a ramping up of Western (read USA & UK) propaganda aimed at "Ack, Me Dinner Jacket" in I-ran. A thoroughly unconvincing file of "proof" will be produced, full of "evidence" of Iran's nuclear weapons program. The majority of the gullible sheep that populate the USA & the UK will swallow it like it was from Lily The Pink - slightly unpleasant, but of course for our own good. Over here our woeful leaders will be readying the poodle perm in response. More innocent lives will be lost in the pursuit of black gold and the continued world dominance of the capitalist military-industrial complex, which, as anyone with any intelligence worked out before the first Gulf War, has always been the real agenda here. I've been given both Blair's and Mandelson's autobiographies for Xmas, the former I'll read for the self-justification and spin, the latter for the (partial) truth and yet more spin. Fun fun fun! Anyone who believed back then, and, more incredulously now, that before the second Gulf fiasco that Iraq had WMD's needs a CAT scan to see if a brain resides in their collective head.

If this dastardly coalition lasts long enough, expect more marches and riots. I'll be there for the anti renewal of Trident bash, having been on many a CND march in my yoof. I'm older now, so I'll probably be at the back.

Boy, that was grim....now let's get down to what really matters...
Music
New stuff I liked, some of which you might have heard of.......Amplifier - The Octopus, The Pineapple Thief - Someone Here Is Missing & Someone Here Is Live, Hybrid - Disappear Here, Emily Barker - Despite The Snow, Arcade Fire - The Suburbs, Ulrich Schnauss, Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer (this year's Duffy, likely to be played to death then largely ignored, but thanks anyway Phill), The Trashmen - Surfin' Bird (Stoopid! Unfortunately the XF shite got the Xmas #1, with Surfin' Bird at #3. Amazingly John Cage got to #21, about 50 places higher than I thought it would. Either nobody buys singles these days, or there's a lot of Situationists out there!), Porcupine Tree - The Incident (a 2009 album, but played to death early on in 2010), Frogg Café - Bateless Edge (my album of the year - if you live outside New York State you likely won't have heard of it, but it's an album of jazzy prog brilliance!), Mercury Rev - The Peel Sessions (another '09 album played to death this year), Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can.

Old stuff rediscovered down the back of the sofa.......Deep Purple - Burn, Funkadelic - Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow & Maggot Brain, Joni Mitchell - Mingus, Hawkwind - In Search Of Space, Neu! - 75, Dr Feelgood - Down By The Jetty.

Sport

Football - The 2010 Fuckwit & Jobbernol-Goosecaps Awards
My team, perennial underachievers Everton, along with Blackpool are hereby jointly awarded The 2010 Confounding Expectations Award, but for opposite reasons. Ho-hum.

The Jumpers For Goalposts Award for silly entertainment value goes to Tottenham Hotspur, who continue to rewrite the Chumps League rulebook, playing a 1-1-8 formation, flying in the face of all logic. Marvellous.

The Bernie Eccleston Award for overbearing self interest goes to FIFA, who as we all know are a bunch of CAUCs. Also recipients of the Norman Lamont Award for ludicrous decision of the year, by awarding Qatar the World Cup in 2022, which makes their giving the 2018 tourneé to Russia seem the height of good sense!


It's not often one sides with the Aussies, but...

(Pic courtesy of http://www.binstock.com.au/monumental-masons-advice/)

David Cameron, William Windsor and Sir David of Beckham jointly receive the Sycophant-Varlet Award for oleaginous obsequiousness in the face of impossible odds.

The Benito Mussolini Scoffing Braggart Award is retained for fifth successive year by the whey faced poltroon that is Rafael Benitez. The award was originally held in perpetuity by José Mourinho, but Sgnr B has given it a whole new dimension.

Cricket
I'm writing this on Boxing Day, having stayed up late listening to us skittling the Aussies out for a paltry 98 in the first innings of the fourth and hopefully decisive Test. Some of the shots they played were with all the conviction of a Liberal Democrat in the voting lobby. We are 157 without loss in reply. Yee and indeed, hah!

The Brian Johnson Bats & Willies Awards
The Up & Down Like The Assyrian Empire Award for continued inconsistency goes to Kevin Pietersen, who is either brilliant or shite, depending how long he spent in front of the mirror before walking to the crease.

The Sir Geoffrey Boycott Award for being a curmudgeonly old git goes to....Sir Geoffrey Boycott, a man who would find fault in our performances even if we won every match by an innings and umpteen runs.

The Delusions of Adequacy Award goes to Wallace & Gromit bit part player, gormless Aussie captain Ricky Ponting, who has never been known to use a word that might get you looking for a dictionary. Actually, I almost feel sorry for Punter....NO, NO....STOP THAT NOW!!

Rugby
What I know about Rugby is contained herein....Northampton Saints look quite good this season, and the "ball" ain't a ball at all, but I'm not really entitled to comment.

TV
On 1st January 2010 David Tennant was replaced by Matt Smith as Dr Who, obstensibly a kids TV show which maintains a fascination for a large number of adults, although I find myself less and less interested in it. The Christmas special held my attention for, ooh, all of 20 minutes, after which I read a book. These comments will go against the grain of almost all my friends, but hey, if we all liked the same things life would be pretty dull. Miss Gillen is rather enticing one has to admit, but she wasn't in the special enough to make the show hold my gaze.

Coronation Street continues to be the only soap I have any time for, and unlike the slimepit of chavviness that is Eastenders, still has its moral compass intact. Watch out for that tram!

Big Brother finally spluttered to a long overdue end. Did anyone notice or care?

A highlight was the barking mad but very watchable Luther starring the charismatic Idris Elba. Wallander (the Swedish versions) was and is fab. The beauty of this programme is the minutiae of its character development, where the slow pace allows the director to zoom in on the smallest facet. Brilliant! In a similar vein character wise was the understated but very effective Roger & Val Just Got In, on the surface a comedy, but really nothing of the sort.
Sprawling but marvellous nonsense drama Lost came to a rather clever end (couldn't really have been anything else..) which polarised opinion amongst fans. I rather liked it. Also ending in 2010 in a weirdly similar fashion was the fab Ashes To Ashes, whose iconic Gene Hunt will be missed. Dexter continues to be the best USA drama and just gets better and better, Fringe is mad and getting madder, The Walking Dead (or The Walking Egg as it has become known in our corner of Shoesville) starring Andrew Lincoln with a terrible Southern accent, promised a lot but didn't deliver, as did The Event (or The Quiz Broadcast or Remain Indoors), both of which I've given up on.
Comedy of the year was Rob Brydon & Steve Coogan's The Trip, which if you haven't seen it is a must to hunt down on i-Player. Again, subtle character observation was the key, but this time with enough sight gags and larking about to fill it out properly "..........I'm trapped in a box..........."
Also rather good was Alan Davies in Chef. I still watch The Big Bang Theory (thanks Neil) which has some great oneliners, and Kaley Cuoco is simply gorgeous. As far as I'm aware nobody I know watches it, but they probably should. Peep Show continues to be awesome in a cringeworthy stylee - some of you know this, those that don't should find out. Super Hans, who has his own Facebook fan page, gets some great lines:
Jez) "But Hans, people like lager"
Hans) "People like Coldpay and voting for the nazis, people can't be trusted"

or "I'd probably be very angry with you right now, if I weren't so incredibly high."

or ""We're gonna have a party that goes beyond fun, and gets really really nasty."

or "don't piss on my strawberries Mark!"

Super Hans for Minister of Culture!!

Strictly Come Dancing started off by annoying me intensely, but once I let go of the inner grumpy old git, it was rather fun. Who would have thought that the still lovely Felicity Kendall is older than Tory hag Widdecombe? Pamela Stevenson should have won, but she wasn't young enough.

The only other "reality" show I watch is The Apprentice, which always has at least one candidate who is a complete fuckwit, such as "“I’m Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’ – I’ve got a certain type of charisma.” He's also came up with:

"I'm alive: there are so many people that aren't alive or have died, unfortunately. I'm alive; that's a gift, frankly. I wake up early every morning once I've had the sleep I need. I go out and make money."

“I’m not a one-trick pony, I’m not a 10-trick pony, I’m a whole field of ponies – and they’re literally all running towards this job.”

...all without a trace of irony! Priceless!

Films
I don't watch films as a rule, I've still got a sealed copy of The Lord Of The Rings boxset from whenever it came out! B bought me the Godfather Trilogy this Xmas, and I will actually watch that, as it is one of the few cinematic epics that I'd watch more than once. Well, I &  II anyway.

Grub & Drink
2011 sees the departure of Paul & Krystyna from 2010 Pub Of Choice, The Queen Adelaide in Kingsthorpe. We wish them good luck in their new venture. Let's hope high standards are maintained by the new owner who is a current regular, so one assumes he knows what makes the place tick. Thanks also to Billy, Harriet, Kelly & Dave for being affable in the face of us grumpy old men!

Pooja Restaurant in Wellingborough - a strange but mostly wonderful experience throughout 2010, and no doubt we'll be back as it is the only place we'll be able to afford to eat out at!

Thai Nam Tip, Marefair, Northampton had one visit in 2010, and if money was no object I'd go at least once a month. Divine.

Sundry Bollocks
Acronym of the year CAUC, closely followed by CJT (sorry Colin!). NATSO still rides strong.
Try this http://www.umop.com/acronym/acronym.php to generate your own. Their definitions of CAUC & CJT are not what those in the know would recognise, as they manage to do it with out any Anglo Saxon! Still funny though - try typing CRASS in there for example.

As is trad in our house on Xmas Day, B & I have a lie-in and open our prezzies in bed. One of B's was a pair of micro-waveable foot warmers, which included the handy warning on the packaging "Do not ingest contents" - ok, we'll try not to! Did Frank Zappa ever write a tune called Don't Eat Your Slippers? If not, I think Dweezil should! Christmas Day was probably the coldest I can remember. The temperature on the decking when I got up at a leisurely 10:30 was -6C. Boy, it must have been cold on Xmas Eve. Even partying Geordies must have been wearing long sleeved t-shirts that night.


Finally, apropos of nowt at all...

An exchange between John Wilkes and the Earl of Sandwich (both English Parliamentarians of the 18th century):

–The Earl: “Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die at the gallows or of the pox.”

–Wilkes: “That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your women.”

Wahey! Imagine Cameron & Millibrand saying similar...no neither can I.



All you lot out there in 'pooter land, have as good a 2011 as can be managed, see you at the barricades.

22 Dec 2010

Interglacial Spell

Three inches of the white stuff and the world grinds to a halt...well it does in Wimpville UK! Walking to work this morn, in a balmy 0C I may add, so no scarf or hat needed, I see from walls, fences, car roofs, etc that we had between 2 and 3 inches of snow last night, and judging by the lack of traffic that was enough to keep most people at home, the poor mites. Gawd knows how they cope in Russia or Scandinavia!

On the stroll to my office I witness a fine example of illogical impatience from a driver turning right into the main thoroughfare. To his right there is one car approaching with nothing behind it for some distance. So, instead of waiting for it to pass, he cuts across it, and skids and slides up the road, with the car slowly approaching behind him on the main drag almost running into him because he could nor brake fast enough owing to the slippery conditions. If this angsty twat had waited a mere 10 seconds, he could have pulled out slowly and no doubt be let into the slow flow of thinly scattered traffic on the far side of the road. What exactly he gained from acting the tosser only he can tell.
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Online weather site weather.co.uk informs us all on its calendar and with no trace of irony that on the Winter Solstice December 21st "Winter Starts". Seeing this a week or so ago was rather amusing given the ongoing sub zero temperatures we were, and largely still are suffering. Last night's snow in the Midlands of the UK may have actually lent some credence to the website's claim. Here in Shoesville we very rarely get more than 3 inches of the white stuff no matter how badly surrounding localities suffer. It is all to do with nestling in a very wide shallow river valley. However, in Milton Keynes and surrounding areas, not half an hour away, they have seen over 6 inches and they have been snowed in for days. Last night the Midlands to the west of us suffered a similar deluge. So. if you hate snow, come and live in Northants! Mind you it is effin' cold, with Xmas night temperatures predicted to plummet to minus 8 at best!
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I loathe those antiseptic soulless cattle sheds commonly known as airports, and even when there are no delays I am driven to distraction by the endless waiting around necessitated by kowtowing to paranoid petty so-called "security" measures that a 10 year old could circumvent is he or she so wanted. I cannot imagine why anyone in their right mind would chose to fly at this time of the year, but the sight of hundreds of sleep deprived bodies wrapped in bacofoil like Christmas turkeys waiting to be roasted on the floor of Heathrow departure lounges the other night beggars belief. If I had been mad enough to pre-book an Xmas flight I think I would not have bothered turning up. Surely it would be far better to wait in the comfort of your own home than freeze your extremities off on an airport floor for 72 plus hours?
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Now for some (almost) good news, completely unrelated to the weather. Firstly the Liberal Democrats finally seem to be acting like a grown up political party instead of playing a bit part as the Tory party fag. Ironically all courtesy of a cack-handed piece of subterfuge by The Daily Telegraph of all papers. By posing as two constituents, what sounded like two giggling schoolgirls got Business Secretary Vince Cable to admit that he was "declaring war" on Rupert Murdoch. This had the effect of removing his responsibility to decide on Murdoch's proposed takeover of BSkyB thereby almost guaranteeing it will be rubber stamped by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Cable's replacement in the decision making process.
This has had the knock on effect of making the LD's actually stand up for themselves in the face of yah-booing from their toff allies and name calling from the gravitas-free Millibrand. Too little too late methinks.

The second piece of good news is the imminent downfall of uber-clown Rafa Benitez at Inter Milan. In a piece of breathtaking arrogance. El Camerero Gordo has made a "back me or sack me" speech to his club President, a man who oversaw a team that won, well, everything last season, with the predictable result that he will be shown the door post-haste. Another multi million Euro payoff for a manager who makes Graeme Souness look like Bob Paisley. Perhaps unsurprisingly there are quite a few dunderhead Kopites leaping to Rafa's defence on various web comments pages in the face of undeniable and copious evidence for the prosecution. Well, they do say that love is blind! Unlikely it may be, but in the words of Kevin Keegan, I would love it, really love it to see Benitez back at Anfield where his comedy value can be truly appreciated!
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My eyesight is deteriorating with age, and as a result of spending a working life (well the last 15 years or so) spent staring at a computer monitor. Every three years or so I have to have new glasses, which can be quite expensive. Spectacles that are not bought for a specific purpose, ie, safety specs for builders, and have an element of personal use are not tax deductible in the UK, so, even though it could be argued that the deterioration of my eyesight over the years is directly linked to my job, because I need the specs for every day use I cannot claim them against tax. An old friend works for the tax office, and she tells me that not only do they pay for her eye tests, but also some of the actual optical prescription. One hopes it is declared as a taxable benefit, otherwise it's a case of one rule for them, and another for us poor sods!

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19 Dec 2010

Crushed Under The Boot Of Colonial Oppression (Not)

Like attempting to swat a persistently annoying wasp, just when you thought you'd got the blighter, it comes back with all its mates to sting you repeatedly in the ass. Even worse, one of its mates you had previously not considered as it seemed unable to detect a lone jam sandwich on a picnic table.

OK, over-elaborate metaphors aside, England's sorry display in Perth brought all the bad memories of recent Ashes tours down under flooding back. Even Mitchell Johnson looked good against the woeful capitulation of our middle order in both innings. On this evidence the Aussies need only bowl good line and length at the MCG and the SCG and they win the series 3-1.

I'm a glass half full kind of bloke, so looking on the bright side, there is only one WACA, where we never win anyway, and the wickets at the next two Tests, particularly the upcoming Boxing Day bash at the MCG, will be much greener and far more like Adelaide. Also despite this drubbing, England's confidence will not be too badly dented, as unlike recent Antipodean adventures we did not lose the whole shebang at the WACA, and we know we are capable of beating the Baggy Greens on flatter wickets. The Aussies also have five of their frontline batsmen in woeful form, and long may it continue.

We are still the better team so let's not panic as there is an awful lot of cricket still to go in this fascinating series. Here's to finally swatting the irritating Aussie stingers at the MCG and thereby retaining The Ashes for another four years!

18 Dec 2010

The best Thai eaterie in town!

My birthday meal out this year was eaten in the friendly atmosphere of The Thai Nam Tip, Marefair, Northampton. Translating as "Food of the Angels", a fittingly apt name given the delightful food on offer, we've been there a handful of times before and it has been my favourite restaurant for a few years now. It is a small venue, probably catering for no more than 20 covers, and the atmosphere is fittingly intimate. Unlike some Thai restaurants we've frequented in the past, there is no fear of an order being lost in translation, as the front of house is a personable English gent and his Thai wife runs the kitchen, both fulfilling their roles with some style I might add.

Starters include the delicious Thai fishcakes, and their spring rolls are lovely and crispy, with simply the best sweet chili dip I've ever had. Being a creature of habit, once I find a dish I really like in any restaurant I normally stick with it, this night being no different. I simply adore their yellow curry, which can be had in a number of guises. The sauce, while tantalisingly spicy is not too hot, and the flavours are divine. Mine was the chicken variety, which comes with potatoes and carrots. Next up the heat scale is the green curry, and then the red curry. The sauces in all these are marvellously tasty. I can also recommend the chili chicken, but be warned - it is very hot! You can of course ask for it to be toned down, but I like to enter into the spirit of the cuisine I eat.

Our dining companions were vegetarian, and there is a large selection available for those of the non-carnivorous persuasion.

Go on, treat yourself...

19 Marefair, Northampton, NN1 1SR, Tel 01604 628888

15 Dec 2010

Doctor Doctor, Gimme The News...

At 2:30 am UK time on Thursday morning the third Ashes Test gets underway at the WACA in Perth, Western Australia. England go into the game full of confidence and will be looking to win here for the first time since 1978, thereby retaining the little urn in the process. The only cloud hovering over our lads in an otherwise azure sky was the enforced absence of Stuart Broad, and who of Tim Bresnan, Chris Tremlett, or Ajmal Shahzad should replace him, a question now answered by the sensible selection of Surrey's Tremlett with his better first class average. He may not be the batsman (I refuse to use the modern term "batter", being an old fuddy-duddy) that Bresnan is, but let's face it we're not exactly short in that department at the moment. At a lofty 6' 7" Tremlett is better placed than the Yorkie to take advantage of the hard bouncy track on offer at the WACA. Shahzad is only really there for emergencies, so no surprise he wasn't selected.

The only other slight imponderable is how Jimmy Anderson has been affected by the flight back home to witness the birth of his new baby daughter, and then heading straight back down under, a round trip of 20000 miles in under a week. Full of the joys of new parenthood and raring to go, I hope jet lag does not catch up with him later on in the game.

The Aussies go into this Test having been humbled by England last time out, and it's all change in their bowling department again, with Mitchell Johnson looking set for a recall. Selector Greg Chappell is now claiming that they always intended dropping Johnson for the second Test as part of a rotation policy to cope with the heavy schedule. Yeah, right!

If you believe some of the Aussie newspapers there could be up to five changes all told to the team righteously thrashed last week. It's good to see, but let's not get too carried away, as England have never come to terms in the modern era with the variable westerly wind that blows in Perth, known locally as the Fremantle Doctor. Former Baggy Green opener Justin Langer, who since his retirement has come across as a thoroughly decent bloke, unlike his unlovable glowering persona when playing, makes some pertinent points when explaining how to play in Perth  http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tomfordyce/2010/12/how_to_win_at_the_waca.html and one can only hope that the England players take note.

Obviously we would be happy with a draw, but this is one Australian pitch where that is the least likely outcome. Get up early Thursday morning, put the radio on and hope we've not been blown away the by the good Doctor.

BRING IT ON!!!!

14 Dec 2010

No Jumpers For Goalposts Here, Matey!

In the last decade it has been depressing to watch the slow destruction of any moral credibility in the sport I love, and events in the last couple of weeks have crystallised this sad turn of events.

First off we get the mysterious dismissal of Ray Wilkins at Chelsea. As information is not forthcoming from the Chelski Politburo and Wilkins has settled his case through the LMA we will never know what actually transpired, so let's move on to the ludicrous sacking of Chris Hughton by Mike "Lard" Ashley at Newcastle Utd, a club with a long history of shambolic boardroom leadership. Enough words have been written on this and I won't repeat them here. but replacing Hughton with a manager who arguably has a worse record in Alan Pardew is something so ridiculous, the only other club capable of such a laughable decision would be Manchester City....

...who, not to be outdone are the next focus of attention. Chief Executive Garry Cook may argue, with some justification, that the Carlos Tevez ruckus is not his doing, although Cook it is now rumoured, is the specific "management" referred to in Tevez' obviously ghost written statement of discontent. Kia Joorabchian, Tevez' Machiavellian agent of course insists the whole thing is at his client's instigation, but the key players in this fallout Cook, Tevez & Joorabchian are so entangled with each other, in a financial sense I may add, that no-one outside of Eastland's inner circle can really claim to know the whole story. The way I see it is that in order to comply with UEFA's soon come finance rules, City's huge agent payments have to be and are in the process of being drastically reduced, and KJ, being accustomed to a life of huge commission payments has realised that the big money to be made now resides in Spain courtesy of their favourable tax regime where overseas footballers are concerned. He's already moved Mascherano over there, now it's Tevez' turn, where the poor lamb will be less homesick. It is interesting to note how both these players seem to have a big money move every two years or so so is it not?

City intend to fight this one, and I believe they will not cave in quite as easily as their Manchester neighbours did in the Rooney affair. Expect more mind boggling figures to be bandied about in claims and counterclaims...

Lastly we have the daft sacking of "Big" Sam Allardyce by Blackburn Rovers' new Indian owners, who seem to think that Sam is not the man to take the Rovers "brand", whatever they think that might be, into a position of dominance in the nascent Indian football market. Allardyce made the mistake of referring to Blackburn as "a small town club", and although he is completely right this no doubt rubbed up the new owners the wrong way as it does not fit in with their groundless delusions of grandeur.

It is somewhat ironic that Big Sam, a man not known for doubting his own abilities. indeed some might say suffering at the hands of his own self referential blue sky thinking, and who after being shown the door by Lard of Newcastle (surprise surprise) reckoned he should be managing Real Madrid or Barcelona, should be sacked by a group of owners of a similar psychological bent.

What the latter two scenarios have in common is a greed and money obsession, but the Newcastle affair is still a mystery. Ashley would not be the first St James Park high up to be on the receiving end of the by now almost copyrighted Geordie chant of "You don't know what you're doing".

It's almost as if there's a competition between Premier League clubs to see who can provide the most idiotic dismissal of the season. How about Fergie getting the boot for running up excessive bar tabs, or Wenger for smelling of garlic? It's getting to a point where I would like to give up following top flight football, but I know that's never going to happen. Tempted as I may be to rekindle practical support (as opposed to the sofa variety) for the good old Cobblers, I know that's never going to happen either, unless I win Euro Millions and buy the club!

Finally the well loved head of FIFA Sepp Blatter has been letting loose with the verbal diarrhea again, this time suggesting that any gay football fans heading for Qatar in 2022 refrain from having sex, rather than protest at the Dark Ages most of the Middle East is stuck in. What with the 45 degree heat, the repressive nature of the place and the fact that beer will be hard to come by or probably ultra expensive, the 2022 World Cup will be a true joy to attend.
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Who needs football anyway when the third Ashes test is nearly upon us...bring it on!

10 Dec 2010

Bend Me Shape Me (3)

Well, it's now just over three weeks since my operation to correct the Dupuytren's Contracture in my right index finger. After the second visit to the Hand Therapy department of my local hospital when the stitches were removed, I was given exercises to re-mobilise the operated finger. Strangely, after the cast came off my little finger was stiffer than the ring finger, but the exercises soon righted that small problem. I have to wear a thermoplastic moulded splint in bed overnight, and finger splints at intervals during the day to encourage the index finger to straighten out further, as it has been held in a bent position for so long the ligaments memorise the crooked position as normal, and require re-training.

Some before & after pictures...

Before...

After...

Before...

After...

Before

After...
Exercise will hopefully straighten it out even more.

Here's the finger splint...






..and the thermoplastic moulded splint for night wear...


Mmmmm...sexy!

..and finally the minimal scarring, which will reduce in time..

8 Dec 2010

Another Brick In The Wall Part II

"We don't need no education"? Well we may well if we are a Lib Dem MP preparing to vote on the raising of the ceiling for university tuition fees from £3290 to a wallet screwing £9000 per year. A major part of the Lib Dem manifesto pre-election was to ensure the scrapping of tuition fees altogether, as famously promoted by Lord Snooty's valet and all the other front line fence-straddlers.

Back when Cameron was a student and smashing up restaurants as part of Cambridge Uni's notorious Bullingdon Club, there were no such thing as tuition or any other kind of fee payable by students, in fact they were given non-refundable grants to attend. The population of over 18s who made it to university level education then was proportionally an awful lot smaller, as universities were still places that largely took the brightest 1% of the populace, and not simply a repository for 50% of the same age group as a means of keeping them off jobless statistics as they are today. With the smaller population, the lofty notions of free higher education for all were affordable without impacting on other government department budgets.

This brings us to the nonsensical influence of devolution. If, as is looking likely, despite the whimpering protestations from the Lib Dem and even a few Tory back benchers, and the demonstrations by the students themselves (never thought they had it in them),  the Bill to increase the fee ceiling gets through Parliament on Thursday, a rather farcical scenario will develop. Gwyneth from Cardiff, who starts at say, Bristol University next September will pay no more than the original £3290 ceiling, and any extra charged by Bristol will be funded by the Welsh Parliament. Rose from Bristol will pay the full £9000 (assuming Bristol charges top whack), and even if she goes to Cardiff University or anywhere else in the UK will still pay the full amount her Uni charges. For Bonnie from Edinburgh, it's even better. She will not pay a bean in tuition fees as the Scottish Parliament will pay it all for her, regardless of where in the UK she goes to study.

The Scots & Welsh Parliaments will have to find savings from elsewhere in their budgets to pay for this, but it begs a simple question. As there do not appear to have been any noticeable protests from over Hadrian's Wall or Offa's Dyke that as a result of subsidising the further education of their young, their transport, or social services, or any other budget is about to suffer swingeing cuts, does this mean that the UK Parliament's (read England's) grants to the both countries is too much? And why do Scots & Welsh MPs get to vote on what in this instance only really affects English students and their families....ah, that'll be the still unresolved West Lothian question.

One can easily imagine the resentment that will grow from English students towards their Scots & Welsh counterparts in English universities. Although devolution is a good thing, in this example a fairer system needs to be constructed.

Of course the whole thing is a bit of a red herring anyway. Who lends the English, and to a lesser extent, the Welsh students the money to pay the tuition fees? Government run loan companies that's who. With the repayment of these loans being put back until salaries reach a certain level (£21000 is being discussed), it does not take Stephen Hawking to work out that the repayments will take many years, and in a significant minority of cases there will be no repayment at all. The actual saving to our economy will be zero initially and minimal for quite a few years hence. Surely a fairer way of repayment is a graduate tax? At least that way every graduate will pay some of it back.

None of this would have happened if A-levels had not been progressively (a favourite Lib Dem word, that) dumbed down over the years, producing an unsustainable number of higher education students studying for worthless degrees that most employers have no interest in. The amount of resumés I receive as a prospective employer in the late summer each year, where although Johnny may well have a degree in Business Studies, he struggles to spell correctly or to construct a logical sentence is simply staggering! Note to any students reading this - if an employer gets past the first paragraph of your resumé you are in with a chance, so at least put the thing through spellchecker before you print it off.

For us dupes who voted for the Lib Dems as opposed to protest voting for them against Labour, this is the first serious example of them back-tracking on their election pledges, as evidenced by the long overdue politicisation of university students and the subsequent demonstrations. The next serious mass protest will be when Trident comes round for renewal, and Clegg & Co try to persuade us it is a good idea, thereby selling their principals down the river. Again.
However, the way things are going it may well be brushed under the carpet for the duration of this Parliament, but if not expect some marching in Whitehall.

4 Dec 2010

Grease

Now the dust is settling, let's muse briefly on the farcical FIFA hosted World Cup bidding results ceremony in Zurich last week. Listening as I type to Andy Anson, the head of our bid team, on the BBC 5Live phone-in show 606, there are some strange facts coming out. As you probably know, England's bid received two votes, one of which was from our own Geoff Thompson. According to Anson, our bid team spent £2 million alone on the technical report book, and our technical bid was widely regarded as the best, but only 2 of the 22 voting committee members requested to look at it prior to the vote! Also, our commercial report showed that we would make 20% more profit for FIFA than any other bid, but some committee members made it clear that it was of no interest to them.

It is obvious to anyone who follows international football that FIFA has its own agenda and that England stood no chance this time, or have ever stood a chance in the past. The question is how do you force reform on what essentially is a private club? As long as those at the top of FIFA continue to receive largesse from all quarters, they will never change. There's a lot of talk in England about "forcing reform". I wonder if, after the even more ludicrous awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, ranked 113th by FIFA, and a country with a population smaller than Wales, and smaller in size than Connecticut, and Tasmania, is there now the same clamour for change from Australia and the USA? A breakaway from FIFA led by England and Australia and the USA might be a good idea, but would any other country come along for the ride, particularly the smaller confederations who rely on FIFA for funding?
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It's still early days, but Alastair Cook is shaping up as our Man Of The Series in The Ashes down under. After the second day of the second Test, Cook has so far scored 438 runs in two innings and three sessions, has only been out once, and was last out 371 runs or more than 1000 minutes ago. I admit I did not even consider him to be one of our key men in my earlier piece before the first Test, but will gladly admit to my staggering omission! My only worry is his stamina. In the will sapping heat of Australia there must come a time when his body will need a break from a relentless sun.

The psychological battle is so far swinging our way, and long may it continue. Roll on Day 2.
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3 Dec 2010

Shark Fishing In The Himalayas, by David Bentley

The over gelled Tottingham player has, as far as anyone can tell, never written a travel guide on the delights of snaring snaggle toothed aquatic fauna at over 20000 feet, but I think he should try. After all, he'll only get a game for his team if they are really desperate, so he should have plenty of time on his hands.

That was apropos of nothing, but this is what went down today.

Phill, his missus, and B and moi took a day trip to the lovely market town of Stamford today. When we left Shoesville at around 9:20 am it was minus 3. By the time we had traversed the spine of Northamptonshire to it's far north eastern corner, and alighting mere yards over the border into the Lincolnshire town the temperature had dropped to minus 6. For us thin skinned residents of our temperate isle that is bloody cold. God knows how residents of Toronto or Moscow cope.

A frozen hedge...this is ice, not snow..

Stamford is in a fairly unusual geographic location, being only just inside the Lincolnshire boundary. From a high vantage point within the town you would be able to see Lincolnshire, and within a couple of miles Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, and Rutland.

Have I mentioned it was bloody cold? Mrs P and B went a-browsing and a-shopping while Phill and me descended into our usual bizarre parallel universe. Metaphorical farts were lit. We mused upon a strange church that sort of morphed into a town house. It was as if the builder had got to the point where the spire was supposed to be and thought "....sod that, it's too dangerous. I know I'll stick a house on the end". We found a rather groovy market stall selling home made curries, and I bought two humongous onion bhajis, each about twice the size of a tennis ball! The curry to go with them will be made tomorrow.

A different, and complete church
It was still bloody cold, and warm food was needed to re-stoke the boilers, so after obtaining some highly precise directions from a kind chap in a nice warm shop, off we four trudged through the Arctic blasts that had already be-shivered the polar bears that now live on the Fens, and an exact 8 minutes later as predicted by our guide, we arrived at The Jolly Brewer http://home.btconnect.com/jollybrewer/
Featuring in the CAMRA Guide, and indeed winning several awards for its ale, the first thing we noticed was the enormous furnace of a fire burning in the hearth - marvellous. Then among a good range of ales was my fave Oakham JHB. We ordered food, and not long after three generous portions of home made grub arrived, Mrs P opting to have just a bowl of chips. I had a beef & bacon burger, with a mountain of chips and a good sized salad. All homemade, the food is highly recommended. Another pint of JHB later Phill & moi went back to the car while the girls paid one last shop visit.

As we were sat in the car thawing out, we saw a kingfisher hovering above the river! Neither Phill nor I had ever seen one before. Despite our befuddled attempts to capture it on our mobile phones (with hindsight - why didn't we simply video it? Doh!) it was too darned quick for us. Cursing ensued.

Did I say it was a wee bit chilly? It was now about 1:45 pm, and the thermometer in Phill's car still read minus 6. While thawing out we noticed an imaginary sign (we're back in that other place again) in the park across the small river from where we were parked that forbade the construction of snowmen (Byelaw 702.17b) as Stamford was simply too posh. Any snowmen found by the park attendant would be taken away for DNA analysis and the perpetrators hunted down and and beaten with cudgels.

Did you know that Mason Williams, the guy who had the well known hit Classical Gas, issued an unsuccessful follow-up called Practical Twats? Neither did I.

Thank you and goodnight.

30 Nov 2010

Thanks a lot BBC

While I wait for the computer repair man to call, I just have to get this off my chest.

Did any of you watch the ultra sensationalist Panorama on BBC1 last night? The program as you will be aware, unless you live in a cave, rehashed some old bribery allegations aimed at FIFA and three members of its voting committee who in two days time will decide the location of the 2018 World Cup, for which England is (or was) a prominent bidder.

Rather than give the usual arguments against the program, I simply point you in the direction of David Bond's blog, which was written yesterday evening a few hours before the program went out:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/davidbond/2010/11/what_do_panaroma_allegations_m.html

I've got down to reply number 100, and I have never seen so many moderated replies - free speech for BBC journalists, but not for those who disagree - and all of the rest are against not so much the program, but its sensationalist timing. The first post wholly in support of the BBC doesn't arrive until no.131. At the time of writing there are 375 replies, and David Bond, perhaps unsurprisingly, has yet to respond to the avalanche of criticism aimed at his employers.

The most succinct reply is this, reply no.71 for WRIGHT_ALASTAIR:

'Is it helpful for an England bid already struggling? Probably not.'

What do you mean 'probably' - of course it's going to harm the bid, the BBC has just made serious allegations against the people who we need to support us for the bid!

Saying that it is in the publics' interest to reveal these allegations is insulting our intelligence - if you gave anybody living in England the choice of us hosting the World Cup or the BBC revealing some allegations against FIFA that may or may not be proved, 99% of us would choose the World Cup.

We have just come out of a recession and spirits are hardly at an all time high among the population. The World Cup would do so much to boost the morale of the country now, leading up to 2018 and 2018 itself.

So to say that it is in the publics' interest is rubbish, especially as the BBC has chosen to air these allegations three days before the vote.

Why three days before the vote? Because it will make the maximum impact and that is exactly what the BBC wants. If they really cared about the 'public interest' then they should have aired Panorama after the vote. Simple.

I thought the BBC had a bit more decency and integrity than to ruin something which the vast majority of the population would have been really looking forward to. I know many others feel the same as me and I hope their is a suitable backlash against the BBC.

'Will it lose England the bid?' Yes.

...and there's the fact it will lose the economy billions despite FIFA's tax concession demands.

I normally support the BBC, an organisation which comes in for a lot of unjustified criticism, especially when a right wing government is in power, but I cannot remember ever being so pissed off at our national broadcaster. "Public interest" my arse.

You may argue that the vote was already lost, but we can never know. One thing for sure, it certainly is now.

To end on a note of levity, any program that puts up David Mellor as a proponent of moral superiority cannot be taken seriously.

Outraged Licence Payer, Shoesville, UK

29 Nov 2010

48 Crash

I bet you don't back up all the essential gubbins that you have accumulated over the years on your dear old computer hard drive, either at all, or in enough depth, do you? I'd put money on it, as I discovered today that I certainly failed to properly back up some of my work files, after my office computer refused to boot up this morning, as it could not read the hard disk. It's currently with a man who (hopefully) knows, and I'm hoping he can retrieve the un-backed up data, or I will have an awful lot of back tracking to do.

You may have read a recent entry where I speculated on going a week without post-1980 technology as a charity event. Some kind of karma must be at work here, as it might happen earlier than expected!
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Cricket - I loved it and then rapidly lost interest, now it's enthralling again. Up and down like the Assyrian Empire...;)
Football is still mostly forgettable though. In a season where Liverpool are rubbish, my team contrive to be worse. I blame the FSW.
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Jeez it's cold. Yesterday, the temperature on the decking was -5C at 9am, and it never got above 0C all day, and they reckon it's going to get colder. The energy companies, led by British Gas, see fit to indulge in the worst kind of cynical profiteering by putting up their prices to coincide with the coldest early winter for 17 years. Apparently the average net profit per BG customer has increased from £65 to £90 as a result! Pity the the poor and the old, one wonders how they will cope. Someone please tell me what exactly is the point of Ofgem? The toothless quango has launched an enquiry into industry price fixing, but don't expect the results until next spring. That'll be too late for the poor unfortunates who in the meantime die of hypothermia because they can't afford to keep themselves warm.
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28 Nov 2010

Do It Yourself

Did you hear about the elderly German gent who bricked himself into his own cellar by mistake, only realising he was on the wrong side of the new wall when he had finished the job? He then camped out in the cellar for days, and eventually got out by deliberately demolishing his neighbour's wall rather than his own. The police were waiting for him. His neighbours had been in dispute with the old boy over DIY noise, and thought this was the latest and most excessive example, and so plod were called. The police described the man as "pretty stupid" which ranks as understatement of the year! You couldn't make it up.
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The French like to claim that when it comes to looking after their families and community they leave us trailing in their wake, as in France they say that there is still such a thing as society, unlike here where we are all totally self obsessed. A news report recently that in Paris a 69 year old woman was rescued after being trapped in her windowless bathroom for 20 days (!) rather puts paid to French superiority in matters communal.

Surviving on warm tap water, she tried to alert her neighbours to her plight by banging on the pipes at night. So concerned were her neighbours that they even got up a petition to stop what they thought was late night DIY. Only after a few of the more aware realised they had not seen the woman for some time did they raise the alarm, and the woman was rescued by firefighters. If there was a French word for The Gallic Shrug, I'd use it now...
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Other people in the past have done this or similar, but I had the idea that at some point I would like to go a week without using any technology or services that have come into popular usage after 1980, as a fun way of raising money for charity. Can you imagine living for a week with three TV channels, and not being able to watch after midnight, no mobile phone, no computer, no dvd, even no VHS video (assuming anyone has any left to watch anyway), no microwave? Actually, that last one does not bother me in the slightest. To do this I would have to take a week off work too, as I simply could not do my job without a computer, so it will have to wait until next summer, when at least I can get out and about and go for walks. I plan to raise at least £5.50 for the MacMillan Cancer charity.

I mention this now, because unbeknownst to moi (must shake the French thing) I have, partly at least, been usurped by sundry American celebs, many of whom I am proud to say I have never heard of.

On Tuesday, which is World Aids Day, celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Usher (?), Serena Williams et al (damn) will be signing off from all social media for Alicia Keys' Aids charity Digital Life Sacrifice and will remain signed off until they raise over $1 million. Rather dwarfs my intended efforts! Good luck to them anyway.

Apparently Lady Gaga has nearly 24 million fans on Facebook. I'll bet a penny to a pinch of salt she doesn't read all the status updates.
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And finally....the stitches are to be removed from my now much less wonky finger on Wednesday next week, after which I will regale you with all the gory details.
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26 Nov 2010

Huge Big Massive

No. not an overweight rap crew, but pertinent to this nonsense.

There's an article on the BBC website entitled "Why do tall buildings have such silly names?" such as The Shard (the new London Bridge Tower soon to be constructed - will be the tallest building in the UK), The Gherkin, The Razor, The Filing Cabinet, The Cucumber, etc. Well obviously because they couldn't call them things like The Tremendous Tumescence Tower, Do One Tower, Phallus Pinnacle, Conquering Cock....hmm, I'd quite like to work in a building called Conquering Cock! :)




 .............................................................................................

In an almost certainly futile attempt to bolster England's chances ahead of the FIFA vote to see who gets to host the 2018 World Cup (Spain & Portugal), five former England internationals are to fly to Zurich ahead of Thursday's vote - Sir Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole and John Barnes. Barnes is barrel scraping enough, but Andy Cole!!? I suggest most of the delegates will shake his hand followed by their heads as they wonder who was that man, and why did he need three attempts to grasp the right hand...
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"Hello, I'm Queen"



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Finally....such a shame....

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-11844613

24 Nov 2010

Dreadlock Holiday

Hands off, it's ours!

I don't like cricket, I love it, so naturally the start of the 2010/11 Ashes Series down under being nearly upon us I'm a-buzzin' like a mozzie down yer daks*. The first test starts midnight tonight UK time, and as usual the inaugural test will be played at the famous Gabba stadium in Brisbane, a hostile tropical hothouse of a place on Australia's north eastern coast. Checking it out on Google Maps, it's actual address is The Gabba, 411 Vulture Street, Woolloongabba QLD 4102, Australia. Great street names these convict descendants come up with don't you think? Situated at the southern end of the ground on Stanley Street is the rather off putting BellaDonna Bridal shop - My bet is it's run by a divorcee!

We have come out with no wins and only one draw at The Gabba since 1986, and indeed have only won three test matches on Australian soil since Mike Gatting's England team with Botham, Gower, Emburey, DeFreitas, etc came back with the urn after a 2-1 series win in 1986/87. That team were no doubt spurred on by the famous last words written by an Oz cricket journalist "There are only three things wrong with this team. They can't bat, they can't bowl and they can't field". Another classic like that this time round would go down a treat!

Our warm up games have gone really well, a highlight being Ian Bell's 192 against Australia A, and for once we do not have any injury worries going into the game. Meantime, Australia's first team squad members while playing for their districts have returned a series of lacklustre performances and are suffering numerous minor injury problems, so things are looking good. On the other hand, you only have to go back four years, when arriving down under having won the previous home series where both sides contributed to a thrilling summer in 2005, the over confident and some would say complacent England team, albeit depleted by a few key injuries, were roundly thrashed 5-0. Incidentally, this is the only time that the risible prediciton of choice of a certain Glenn McGrath came true. This man appears to be a "kangaroo loose in the top paddock" as he's yet again gone for 5-0 for the third series in succession!

The key men in our team are Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen. The former goes into the series with his ears ringing from plaudits landed on him by all and sundry, including Shane Warne no less. The Aussies will no doubt attempt to go after him in an effort to get him taken off, and how he handles that pressure will be crucial. As for KP, one hopes he rediscovers his mojo, and quick!

For the Baggy Greens, we can rely on Ricky Ponting to hit at least one match saving (or winning) innings. Coming towards the end of his career this Ashes series gives him the chance to avoid becoming the first Australian captain since P S McDonnell in the late 1880s to lose three little urns on the trot. Thrice skittled by Jimmy Anderson would be nice! Mike "Mr Cricket" Hussey has had a very indifferent time in front of the stumps of late, even more so than KP, but we know what he is capable of. Mitchell Johnson is fast turning into McGrath MkII, both with consistency and with the verbals. Needs shutting up.

The betting has been guarded from the off, but with their hugely impressive home record, Australia are slight favourites for the series going into this first game, but to suggest we are more than capable of winning an Ashes series down under is no longer the wildly optimistic shout it may have been a few years ago.

Bring it on!

PS - For any Americans reading this - cricket is.......far too complicated to explain here!

*Oz slang courtesy of http://www.koalanet.com.au/australian-slang.html One's wife is commonly referred to as "Cook" heheh ;)

22 Nov 2010

Merry Xmas Everybody!

This has already been published on my music blog, but fits here too, so here it is if you missed it....

...or not if you loathe reality shows, especially the lowest bland denominator X Factor. This showbiz behemoth has dominated Xmas music sales for what seems like forever with it's soulless tat. That strange beast the General Public, who watch this show in their millions and then buy the trash it churns out can't be all wrong can they? YES THEY CAN. I've just watched the Robert Plant Electric Prom that was broadcast on BBC4 last week. Now over 60 and exuding a calm authority coupled with an ongoing enthusiasm for searching out new ways to present some classic old countryfied material, with the odd Led Zeppelin classic thrown in for good measure, this guy has something that X Factor contestants will never have unless they have already "paid their dues" or if they go on to forge an extremely unlikely 40 odd year career in music - soul. Call it mojo, feeling, spirituality, it's something a game show contestant whose only experience in music is squawking along to the latest R&B (new meaning - to me The Stones are R&B, not Rhianna (sic) and her ilk) hit in front of the bathroom mirror before being plucked from deserved obscurity by the dreadful Mr Cowell and his cohorts will never have. It's also something that seems entirely absent in Cowell's persona, which is just as well, for how could he live with this shite otherwise?

I may come across as a snob, if so, tough. Most people who claim to like music have zero idea of what actually constitutes the artform in the first place. Right I'll stop ranting now. This year there are a number of campaigns for alternative Xmas no.1's to whatever tosh is churned out by X Factor, and these are some top picks:


Wagner Carrilho - song to be decided

A Facebook campaign is underway to get a Brazilian former PE teacher with a horrendous mullet, who is a contestant on this year's XF, but awful in a tuneless and leery Working Man's Club way, to win the damned thing, thereby getting him a contract and Xmas record release on Cowell's label. This would undoubtedly annoy Cowell no end, as it would usurp his plan to get this year's pretty boy/girl combo to the top slot, so it has to be approved! Wagner has allegedly said "the show stinks like a set up", so he's not as daft as his haircut might suggest.


John Cage - 4'33''

http://www.facebook.com/cageagainstthemachine

The Situationists and indeed my fave - the idea of having over four minutes of silence at No.1 for Xmas is full of delicious irony, and not just as a poke in the eye for XF. The Facebook campaign goes under the name Cage Against The Machine, no doubt in honour of the successful ruse from last year when Cowell was suitably humbled by being told "F*ck You I won't Do What You Tell Me". Marvellous!


The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fairytale-of-New-York-Christmas-Number-One-Mission/156649164374870?v=wall

In honour of the tenth anniversary of MacColl's untimely and sad demise. A pretty straight campaign this one, but you can't argue with one of the best Xmas No.1s ever (or No.2 depending on which chart you believe) making a return.


The Trashmen - Surfin' Bird

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Get-The-trashmen-surfing-bird-to-christmas-number-1/155704341135932

The original 60s garage rock'n'roll classic, brought to prominence via the cartoon Family Guy. My first contact with this song was The Ramones' version from 1978, but this is better. Definitely the feelgood choice.


The Macc Ladds - Sweaty Betty

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Macc-Lads-to-Be-Xmas-No-1/155203041183142

Has no chance, but is very funny in an unreconstructed fashion - the lyrics have to be seen to be believed! Not for the faint hearted.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNG7fgwrWBQ


Also ran....

The Wombles - A Wombling Merry Christmas Why?

Not a Facebook campaign, but in the running...

The Yeo Valley milk advert rap

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOHAUvbuV4o

According to right wing leave-your-brain-at-the-door rag, The Daily Mail, this in with a chance. Again, why? Bloody awful, but if it keeps Cowell's mits off the No.1 spot, all the better...


Bah, Humbug

21 Nov 2010

Islands In The Stream

By chance I happened across the wonderfully monickered Piss Pot Island near Romney, West Virginia, USA while mucking about on Google Maps.

One can only surmise it's the island in the Potomac River, not the field where Google Maps have helpfully placed the name tag! Unfortunately I can't find a pic of it, but if you find it on Google Maps you have to say it is bit piss pot is it not?

This prompted me to search out other quaintly named pieces of land surrounded by water. I tried to avoid the obvious double entendres, but the first two were unmissable....

West, East, and Middle Intercourse Island (Australia) - all positions covered!

Shag Islands (all over the planet)

Brisk Island, Dunk Island (both Australia)

Plane Crash Island, Punk Rock (Arizona, USA)

Island Number 25 - far better than Island Number 28,58,61,62,64,66,68,69 or the dreadful Island Number 71 (all in Arkansas, USA)

Samish Island (no distinguishing features), Lummi Island (unfortunately there's no Stapme Island to go with it) Baby Island & Lady Island (Washington, USA)

Mustapha Island........after all I've already got the mansion and the Veyron................(W Virginia, USA)

Whippoorwill Island....ahem... (US Virgin Islands)

Ono Island (Alabama, USA)

Drunk Uncle Islets, Castro Rocks - he's too old, surely? (California, USA)
Spanish Harbor Keys - hope there's a spare set in the hanging flowerpot over the porch.... (Florida, USA)

Isle of Wight (off S Carolina, USA - no, really!)

If after visiting that lot, you'll no doubt have come over a trifle esurient, so why not visit the Bastard Restaurant, Malmo, Sweden? Probably doesn't cater for vegetarians though.....



Fork finds back of bacon...
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Saw a billboard advert today for a personal alarm:


Talk about reinforcing paranoia for profit, and what sort of message does it send out anyway? Why not say "Purse, phone, tazer", or for the blokes "Wallet, phone, retractable baseball bat". Lovely times we live in.

A bit further along the road....



Just wait until you see the show with Dead DJs...supporting The Zombies no doubt...
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Yesterday saw some highly entertaining games in the English Premier League, headed by the football rollercoaster that is Tottenham Hotspur. After ending the first half away to their recently more successful rivals Arsenal 2-0 down (and it could easily have been far worse), Spurs came back in the second half to win 3-2! Being a typical "Spud", Phill reckoned they would lose 3-0, didn't even bother listening to the game and went shopping instead. Wuss. Mind you, it has to be said that being a Spurs fan, especially this season, cannot be good for the blood pressure. Bloody entertaining though!

We also had an atypically thrilling Bolton Wanderers game, the 5-1 tonking of the highly unpredictable Newcastle Utd, Chelsea lost again, this time at Birmingham City, Stoke won 3-0 at West Bromwich Albion. A really good Match of The Day beckons. I forgot to record it - f*ck. Owing to the draconian restrictions placed on the BBC's showing of highlights by main contract holders Sky, the program is only repeated once, early on the following Sunday morning, which I didn't bother with, thinking it was recorded. And it's not available on catch up. Once again, bugger!

In the football news today, Manchester City defender Kolo Toure reckons the club should cut the wages of his team mates until they start working harder. Given that City players earn ludicrous amounts of dosh funded by oil billionaire Sheikh Mansour, and are the highest paid team in the world, that statement is pretty insensitive given what the rest of us have to put up with. If he's being genuine, why make the statement publicly? Given that possibly the highest paid footballer in England on a reported £200000 a week is Kolo's brother and teammate Yaya, Kolo's motivation is somewhat suspect!

Still on matters footy, Bolton forward Kevin Davies shows the world the intelligence level of yer average footballer. In a Tweet to friends, Kev was asking how to properly cook Pop Tarts, as he managed to keep burning them in his toaster! One fellow Twit advised him to lower the heat setting on his toaster, to which our hero replied, "who has a heat settings on a toaster!!?? My toaster just has a timer?!” Gawd help us! You'd think on his wages he could afford a toaster with a heat control. More likely, he's just not worked out what all those control knobs were for. Another Twit (if that's not what they're called, they should be) reckoned “Besides, have pop tarts any real place in the digestive tract of a top athlete? Have some broccoli instead.” A Spurs fan offered to buy Kev a new toaster if he promised to stop scoring against The Lillywhites! Wahey!....:0)
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I've always been fascinated by semantics, so skip this last bit if wordyrappinghood induces coma!

Great news that Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, but the way she carries for how long this time? You can only admire her integrity. Have you noticed how her country is now referred to again as Burma in news bulletins. In recent times it has been referred to as Myanmar, but has now reverted to the old version, which is a colloquial form of Myanmar in the Burmese language. This change is probably because Myanmar is the name preferred by the unpopular military dictatorship who decided in 1989 to change the English translations of the names of many Burmese towns and cities, and indeed the country itself.

This is similar to the renaming of some of their cities by the Indian government in the mid 1990s from the Anglicised versions to what are nearer approximations of the native pronunciations - Bombay to Mumbai, Madras to Chennai, Calcutta to Kolkata (not so radical that one). Strangely New Delhi (as opposed to Delhi, known locally as Dilli) remains unchanged to the world at large, presumably because it was constructed by the British Raj in the 1920s as a new capital, and remained as such after independence.
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20 Nov 2010

Hitchhike

Where would we be if Darwin had not invented the opposable thumb? Following my recent hand op, my right hand consists of a usable thumb with the other digits bandaged together, or, a thumb and a maw. Amazingly by utilising Darwin's handy (heheh) invention, I can still button shirts, pick up things, and hitch lifts. It's no wonder that before Darwin set sail on HMS Beagle in 1831, there was nothing but a black void peopled by ignorant cave dwellers who dropped stuff all over the place. After 1831 as every fule noes, came the Industrial Revolution, and life as we know it today. Lucky for us that Darwin discovered the opposable thumb under a rock during his famous visit to the Galapagos Islands, brought it home in a petri dish, and the rest as they say, is history.


This has been a short piece in the Creationist style. ;)

19 Nov 2010

Organise!

This is my follow up post on the David Bond blog. I fully expect it to get "modded" by the neo-Stalinist blog watchers at the BBC, an organisation that I normally have a lot of time for.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/davidbond/2010/11/fifa_act_tough_-_but_what_does.html#comments

Re my original post #16 - I note no-one from the BBC has been on here to justify the date of intended screening of the Panorama programme. I have no problem with the actual program, simply the stupid timing of its intended broadcast. Would it really make any difference to the so-called "public interest" if it was broadcast a fortnight later?

I see that there is now a Facebook petition to get the BBC to change the broadcast date. Anyone who has any interest in seeing the best sports tournament in the world held on these shores (and I'm not talking Olympics here!) should seek it out.

18 Nov 2010

Agitate!

This is an entry of mine on a BBC blog today about FIFA supposedly acting tough on corruption:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/davidbond/2010/11/fifa_act_tough_-_but_what_does.html#comments

I would say that the most damaging event for England's bid is yet to come. Forget the alleged Iberian/Qatar collusion. A week (or less) before the all important FIFA vote, the BBC Panorama program still plans to broadcast it's ill-timed program on alleged corruption at FIFA. This could well put paid to any remaining chance we have of hosting the World Cup in 2018.

The BBC will say the program is in the public interest. That it may well be, but why not wait until after the vote, how is "public interest" served by potentially putting the kibosh on our much awaited and overlong chance to be hosts?

I'm 50, so I can only dimly remember 1966, and I would like to see it here again before I get too old!

As a licence payer, I am sure I am not alone in asking the BBC to delay the program until after the vote. If you do not and we lose the vote, you will not be popular, to say the least. Think on BBC.

Yes, FIFA may well be one of the most closed and self-serving world organisations I can think of, but why does our press and media only seem to go after them when we are in the running to host the World Cup?

I found a Facebook petition page which I've already sent some of you an invitation to, but the more people spread the word, the better:

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Petition-to-stop-Panorama-BBC-wrecking-Englands-2018-World-cup-bid/125216384205713

It may well make little difference, but it's better than sitting on your arse moaning....

Bend Me shape ME (20

You may wonder at the strange nature of the heading - it's because I am typing this one handed, as part one of straightening out my wonky hands is over, and I intend to leave in all typos caused by being mono-manu for effect.

I was worried the night before my appointment that the operation may have to be cancelled because a bite given me by Molly, The World's Loudest Small Ginger Cat © which resulted in a sore red swelling to my left hand had obviously become infected. Luckily the consultant was not concerned as it was my right hand they were operating on. Penecillin was prescribed. The nurse also told me that the most infectious bite one can get from a common non-venomous animal was not from a cat as I thought, but from another human! I Would add here that Molly's bite was fully deserved as I tried for just a bit too long to remove a clump of matted fur from her during a grooming session. I  should know better after 14 years!

Apart from the seemingly interminable three and a half hour wait to be discharged, the whole thing went wonderfully well. The operation, under a local anaesthetic, was supervised by a consultant and his chief nurse and they distracted me from the cutting and splicing being done to my right hand by the surgeon and his assistant by talking about music and beer! The nurse, who I hAd met before and discovered back then that she had a liking for real ale, turned out to be a bit of a rock music fan too so we chatted about all things music, including Lemmy's incongruous appearance in beer ads, which the consultant found on his mobile for me.

MUSIC of my choice from her iPhone was played during the op, and it was quite surreal listening to Communication Breakdown while discussing the benefits of beer brewed in Oakham, all the while being lied flat on my back and vaguely feeling some tugging and manipulation of my right maw. As well as the local anaesthetic, a tourniquet is put round the arm to stem the flow of claret while the op is in progress. The op took half an hour, and when they removed the tourniquet there followed the most intense bout of paresthesia 9really getting into this medical malarkey now!) I've ever had - that's pins and needles to us laypeople. It felk like my hand would explode when touched, but it was also quite pleasurable after a strange fashion.


Club hand!
They gave me some strong painkillers to take, which as yet I've not touched. I figure I can put up with an intense ache without horse tranquilisers (co-codamol).

The cast stays on for about a week. I can already feel the improvement in the mobility of my right ring finger, even restricted as it is in the cast. I'm looking forward to seeing the results of the NHS handiwork.

Not too many typosa (sic) considering.....

16 Nov 2010

"Difficulty sleeping? Try Dr Vettel's Formula One"

Being a fan of F1 I have to say that the final race of the season in the hi-tech high-monied setting of the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi was one of the most anti-climatic and sleep inducing ends to a Grand Prix season I can ever remember. For once, rather than watch the first and last 10 minutes of the race, I was determined to watch the lot in the vain hope that Alonso, Webber & Vettel all crashed out leaving the Swiss driver Lewis Hamilton to win. I actually nodded off about two thirds of the way in, so dull had it all become.

A procession from start to finish, the only small bit of excitement in the whole two hours being the Schumacher (why did he bother coming out of retirement?) Liuzzi crash on the first lap, where as a result of pit stops during the time the safety car was out, the vastly overrated Fernando Alonso (are all sportsmen called Fernando unlikeable?) found himself stuck behind a Renault for the rest of the race, and hardly ever threatened to pass, thereby waving goodbye to what would have been his third title. For the non fan, imagine the scene - M25 3pm absolutlely chocker, a Renault Espace is hogging the middle lane and stuck behind it is a Ferrari Testarossa (they knew how to name cars, these Italians!) or whatever the modern equivalent is, and despite gaps appearing in the third lane, in nearly two hours, it cannot get past -unlikely don't you think?

The Beeb, having paid big money for the UK TV rights, and as is the wont of all sports broadcasters, bigged up the race so much you'd think that Fangio, Senna & Graham Hill had come back from the dead and were battling it out with Stirling Moss and Nigel Mansell for the crown.

Although this season just finished at least produced a scenario where one of four drivers could have won the driver's title at the last race, and in the 9 months or so there were a few moments of genuine excitement, as ever the actuality was far exceeded by the hype. People rightly bemoan the stupid amounts of money paid to a few elite footballers, but compared to the automatons who "drive" (I use the word advisedly) their largely computer controlled tin boxes on wheels, Rooney et al are so poor they have to "lick street clean w'tongue" before being allowed to kick a ball.

One of the Beeb's articles on their F1 page laughingly reads "Could F1 2011 be even better?" Probably not, but, glutton for punishment that I am, I'll morgan (heheh) likely watch it anyway.
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14 Nov 2010

An authentic taste of India

My best friends are two of those visitors from planet veggie, and, as they will freely admit, fussy with it. I do have some sympathy, as why should they suffer the inevitable vegetable lasagne or mushroom stroganoff, while B & I have a veritable smorgasbord of deelites to chose from in comparison whenever we all visit eateries that supposedly also cater for the vegetarian?

So, whenever B & I and Phill & his "missus" go out as foursome to a restaurant we invariably end up at Pooja, an authentic Hindi vegetarian restaurant in Wellingborough. Run with an easy going charm by your host Majood (apologies for probable incorrect spelling), Pooja, meaning "worship", was originally and still does derive it's main income from a catering business, serving a substantial local Indian population, and supplying numerous curry houses in the area. The restaurant was started when the owners decided to recreate the home cooking that they missed over here, knowing a large Hindi community lived on their doorstep.

Upon arrival be prepared to be underwhelmed by the location - seemingly a room stuck on the end of the catering business as an afterthought, next to a car wash! The service is friendly, but can be a bit haphazard, and the larger your party, the more hit and miss it becomes. Don't be put off though, because the food is well worth any occasional gripes with the service. The restaurant is usually full of mainly Indian families and can get rather noisy, but that just lends to the atmosphere. You'll need to book at weekends.

Me and Phill usually share one starter, and our partners usually share another. Ours is the simply scrummy Chili Paneer (should be obvious) mopped up with Mogo Chips (wonderful chips made from cassava root). My main course now varies between three staples - in no particular order of preference, firstly we have Kadai Bengun Aloo, which actually does not appear on the online menu below, but I know it as "No.74" from the restaurant menu. It is essentially a potato & aubergine curry - exquisite! Those of you more familiar with the ubiquitous Anglicised curry houses that abound in our towns will probably be unfamiliar with at least some of the dishes. The cryptic descriptions do not give much away either. My favourite is "Indian cheese with mixed gravy" (Paneer Kadai). This is a derivative of "No.74" where the cheese replaces the potato. Their conception of "gravy" is not at all similar to ours!
My second "staple" is the less filling but still very tasty Rava Onion Masala Dhosa (onions and potatoes and spices in an Indian pancake). The Dhosa pancake in the South Indian section of the menu is a house speciality and needs to be tried. Thirdly comes Hakka Noodles from the China Gate fusion section of the menu. For once the description "Noodles with vegetables in sauce" is fairly accurate, but does not really do it justice.
We never have room for desserts, but Pooja is well known for its seemingly infinite variety of Indian sweets, which you can buy over the counter to take away.

This is the menu, also available on a takeaway basis. The prices maybe a bit out of date (Majood should be told!), but if you add 30p to everything, you're about there, and it sure is value for money:

http://www.poojacaterers.co.uk/menu.htm

If you love Indian food, try the real thing, not the Anglicised version, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the taste explosion that awaits your tongue. Pooja does not rely on making everything taste largely the same as is the case with the usual High Street curry house, nor does it assume that the English only think a curry is "real" if it's so chili hot it blows your tongue clean out of your head. It doesn't have to you see, because the majority of its clientele are Indian. The emphasis is on flavour, not chili heat, although of course some dishes are hotter than others.
All in all a thoroughly wonderful tastebud experience, well worth a visit even for us carnivores!