30 Oct 2010

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

I have a love-hate relationship with 24 hour news channels. BBC News is probably my second most watched channel after BBC 1, and I enjoy nothing more than waking up to the delightful Sian Williams of a weekday morning. Not literally I wistfully add!

Unfortunately since the advent of 24/7 coverage all news stations feel the need to fill every last second with mind numbing repetitive soundbites, and this was never better illustrated than by the reporting yesterday of the so-called suspicious packages found on cargo planes at Newark & Philadelphia airports in the USA and at East Midlands airport over here.

In the forty minutes or so after 5 o'clock I had BBC News on no more information was gleaned than could have been reported in five minutes at 5 o'clock, ie, the package at East Midlands was not a bomb but was "potentially sinister" (a dozen Halloween clown's costumes perhaps?) and that they had no idea what was found over the pond apart from the usual "white powder."

"We do not know any more than we did 10 minutes ago"..."We do not know any more than we did 20 minutes ago"..."We do not know any more than we did 30 minutes ago"..."We do not know any more than we did 40 minutes ago"...

The packages came from Yemen so of course they must be highly suspect. Doubtless "aQ" and his mates are behind it....

You may detect a smidgeon of cynicism here, and you would be right. Coincidentally earlier this week, Martin Broughton, Chairman of British Airways, laid into the British Airports Authority and the European airport authorities for, as he put it, "kowtowing" to the Americans over their demands for ludicrous paranoid and excessive security checks on us poor long-suffering passengers at those god awful cattle sheds they call airports. Demands incidentally, that are not enforced within the United States' own borders! Two days later there is a big security alert re the "suspicious packages", all highly convenient for governments as it keeps us scared, just how they like it, and where BAA may have loosened security measures they will probably now no longer consider it.

Today it now transpires that two packages containing explosives (or did they?) were intercepted (or were they?) in Dubai causing the alert to be sent out to other cargo planes bound for the US. The parcels "bore "aQ" hallmarks" according to Dubai police. In my opinion the term "aQ" is applied whenever anything suspect is found or an act of terrorism is carried out, creating the impression that this is a well organised and connected worldwide organisation intent on the downfall of the West. Personally, I consider that yes, there are small organised cells, but I strongly doubt that "aQ" if it actually exists at all has the wherewithal to globally co-ordinate all these small scale operations. If you repeat something enough times it becomes self-fulfilling, and in this case that applies to both the Middle East and the West.

The paranoia created allows first world governments to continue the cycle of fear to the extent where in this country legislation is soon to be passed allowing security services to snoop on all our emails and URL connections with impunity, as most of the public will either not know about it or will be too cowed to protest.

That turned into a bit of rant!

Another update (16:00 Saturday) - the device at East Midlands airport did contain explosives (so we're told) and "could have brought down an aircraft". The perpetrators apparently would not have known where or when the device would have exploded. That sounds like an operation planned by a highly organised and efficient world wide terror organisation, don't you think?

Bend Me Shape Me

Old people often like to meet up to discuss their medical ailments and compare operation scars, and it seems I must be of that ilk as I am about to share with you what I trust will be a straightforward medical procedure I am about to undergo. Mind you I can't be as old as my mate Phill, you should see the stuff he shares with the world!

In two and a half weeks time I am booked in to the Day Surgery Unit of my local hospital to have my right ring finger unbent. I suffer from a rather lovely condition called Dupuytren's disease, which runs in families. My uncle had a similar op a few years back.
The condition entails that over the course of time fibrous tissue forms under the skin of the hand causing a finger or fingers to curl up. You may recall Thatcher had an op for her "claw" some years back. The thought that I share a condition with our ex-dictator does not fill me with happiness I must say.
Although not painful it can become inconvenient - you catch your bendy finger on things, you drop change you are given, etc. I first saw my doc about this around five or six years ago, and I was told not to bother going on the waiting list, as it was not an essential or urgent operation and I could be waiting for years. Earlier this year, after the condition had slowly worsened over time, I revisited the surgery and saw a different doctor, and lo and behold I get a slot only three months later. I get the impression the first doctor was fobbing me off as he considered my potential op a waste of NHS time when far more needy cases awaited treatment. This is of course conjecture, but if true I suppose he had a point, but then again I always found this particular practitioner a supercilious so and so.

Anyway, I digress. I have this problem in both hands, and it is far worse, although weirdly, less immediately obvious, in my left hand than my right. Due to the nature of my work, and the fact that our heaviest workload is from December to the end of January, and being left handed, I opted for the right hand being seen to first, with an expected recovery time of a fortnight. The left hand will have to wait until February next year, as the recovery time will be longer and it is my writing hand.

Warning for the squeamish - I fully intend to post "before & after" photos, but I will warn you in advance! Oh, and expect my hit and miss syntax and spelling to deteriorate as I give you updates soon after the op via one handed typing...

Wish me luck.....

PS - Any tips on dressing one handed gratefully accepted..


No, not the late fifties tv Western series........

How would tv companies fill their airtime without the good old cop drama? Along with numerous medi-soaps a good proportion of primetime UK drama viewing on tv is filled with various coppers who have ranged from the good (DI Jack Frost in a Touch Of Frost), the bad (DCI Gene Hunt in Life On Mars), the cerebral (DCI Endeavour Morse in Morse) the mad (Det Supt Peter Boyd in Waking The Dead) to the preposterously barking (DCI John Luther in Luther).

What all these characters have in common is their deviation from "doing it by the book", which marks them all out as the cop drama staple "The Maverick". The current crop of cop dramas includes....

In which the great David Morrissey is beset by demons from a past case when a paedophile killer goaded our hero into shooting him in the head at point blank range, only for Thorne to later find out that the victim's son witnessed the killing, an event that set the boy on his own course of nefarious activity.
Thorne is of course an unconventional copper who does things purely on instinct, who unsurprisingly has a traditional by-the-book boss who shows all the detecting instinct of a naked blind man in Burtons. Thorne has an ally in medical examiner Phil Hendricks played in typically edgy fashion by Aiden Gillen, who when off duty likes to paaarty big time. Thorne's love interest is the gorgeous Natascha McElhone, who plays Anne Coburn, a hospital neurologist who swans around her workplace with her long blonde hair swaying in her wake. I wish my doctor loooked like that! It's all quite par for the course really, but it's well written and Morrissey & Gillen make a good team.

Update - the first episode of the second storyline ("Scardeycat") was on last night (Sunday 31/10) and we learned that Thorne had just lost his mother, who we are told by the highly strung Irishman Phil Hendricks, "was a militant Republican" and an all round good ol' gal. One suspects that at some point something dodgy and Irish terrorist related will come back to bite Thorne on the ankle.
A rather fine precedent is being set here in that unlike a lot of cop dramas, Thorne's character is being slowly revealed to us, rather than the usual BANG! - "Here I am fully formed and as maverick as I'm gonna get". I like this way of unpeeling our hero's character, I think this series could be a winner.

PS - On parting from Thorne at the beginning of last night's episode, Hendricks, who is rightly pissed off with his mate (won't say why, you'll just have to watch it) says "Sorry for your loss" - whether he meant Thorne's mum or their friendship is open to question...all will be revealed.

Not well written, at all. One gets the impression it's scripted by a team of ADD sufferers on a tea break. At one point Phil Davis, who must be thinking he deserves better than this, utters the line "Don't try and be the best detective in the world, just be the best detective you can be". I laughed. No-one in the real world says things like that unless they happen to be pretentious twats. Davis must have winced when he first read that in the script, but I suppose he has bills to pay like everyone else.

As the title suggests this is set in the East End district of the same name. There have been two series so far (I refuse to use that awful Americanism "seasons"), the first followed a serial killer intent on recreating the Jack The Ripper murders, and the second was based on the Kray twins. The three main characters are DI Joseph Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones), Det Sgt Ray Miles (Phil Davis) and Edward Buchan, an amateur criminologist (Steve Pemberton).

In the first series we learn that Chandler is a fast tracked "posh" copper posted by his superior to solve the murder of a woman in Whitechapel as a precursor to being promoted. It turns out that this murder is part of a series of killings replaying The Ripper murders. Chandler's the "anti-maverick" of the show who does things by the book to the point of reading manuals before going after people. This twist on the usual anti-establishment cop is about the only half-inspired thing about the show. He's also bedevilled by a bad case of OCD and likes to rub ointment into his temples (don't ask), and is initially detested by Miles, a man with a cynical streak so wide you could drive a bus along it, but a "good copper" with it, and played brilliantly by Davis, who in turn despises the busybody interjections of Buchan, who of course has just written a book on The Ripper.
Given that London in the 21st century is far better lit than the faux Victorian dimness projected, and that the police now have all the mod cons of criminal catching technology at their disposal, it's a wonder that the Nu-Ripper was not caught after the first episode, but, hey, we're not going to let that get in the way of a good story are we?
Following some frankly unbelievable leaps of imagination, our hero is nearly killed by the baddie, let's him get away at the last moment, but all is saved when Nu-Ripper conveniently tops himself. All quite daft but enjoyable.

Right, if we thought the first series was contrived, just wait for second! Chandler, having cocked up The Nu-Ripper case has missed his promotion and so is posted permanently to Whitechapel nick. Ray Miles has moved on from detesting his boss to becoming predictably fatherly and protective of him.
This time round, it's the Kray twins, so instead of a recreation of Victorian gloominess, we get 60s East End London with all the trimmings. It really is Life On Mars without the time travel.
The premise here is that back in the late 70s, Ronnie Kray was supposedly receiving visits from a wannabe gangster's moll who somehow persuaded him to give her a sample of his man-phat so she could go home and get the out the turkey baster. Nine months later, yep, you've guessed it, she has twins. Woohoo. And guess what, little Jonnhy Kray grows up to have a good business brain, while little Jimmy Kray turns out to be a psychotic sadistic sociopath with a liking for young boys.
Before our brave team have twigged they have Kray copycats on their patch all is normal in Whitechapel Police Station. Within five minutes of having discovered the Kray connection, all the other coppers in the station are suddenly averting their gaze whenever Chandler & Co look their way, and within ten minutes it is discovered that the Krays Jnr have half of London in their pockets right up to a peer of the realm. The transformation is so quick and so ludicrous, the series from that point became a case of "it's so bad it's good" hilarity. Oh, and Buchan has handily made a film all about the villainous twins, which Chandler uses as a reference point, and the team use Buchan's house as a base when the Nu-Krays are on their tail, because they "carnt trust no-one, guv".
There's another scene where Chandler & Miles arrange a meeting with Johnny (the brains) in a local pub, thinking that they have finally managed to separate the twin tea leaves. When they turn up the street and the pub are completely deserted. They go in and wait. A car pulls up outside and out get Johhny & Jimmy (the nutjob) who both stand in the middle of the still deserted road and spend five minutes raking the pub with sub-machine gun fire! This is a busy area of the East End in 2010 and there's nobody around, nobody reacts? I laughed a lot!
It turns out that the young boy Jimmy currently favours turns out not to be a boy at all, which leads Chandler to wonder what else is fake about these two, who incidentally look like more like Ron Mael than either of their supposed father or uncle. So he challenges Psycho Jimmy to a boxing match. Well, you would wouldn't you? His cunning plan is punch the completely barking Jimmy so hard he draws blood thereby obtaining a sample for later DNA analysis that of course proves that these two are not who they claim to be. With some more high speed contrivance, the underworld and everyone else living in fear of the Nu-Krays suddenly lose all allegiance once they discover the truth, and, our team later march through Whitechapel nick arresting all the bent coppers, who meekly give up without so much as a whimper between them. I could detail other contrived nonsense, but you probably get the picture. 

Unbelievable tosh, unintentionally hilarious!

Just started last week (Monday 18th Universal Channel) is a cop series whose hero has an undiagnosed split personality disorder. It saves on actors, as he could do the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine by himself, and maybe throw in Narcissistic Cop and Shy Cop and any other kind he fancied! That sounds like it could be awful, so I must watch it...

29 Oct 2010


Tomorrow (or on Sunday depending on how time obssessed you are) we all put the clocks back an hour to GMT. This is a singularly depressing day for most as it means winter and long nights are officially upon us. This time of year all the usual arguments surface - should we not put the clocks back? This did happen for three years between 1968 and 1971, although I cannot remember and doubtless took no interest in the debate at the time, and I have no recollection of what effect it had on me as a school child walking to school. In fact one of the arguments against the experiment, particularly from the north of Britain, was that school kids put themselves in more danger walking to school in the dark. However, I cannot find any statistics from the experiment that bear this out.

The experiment proved deeply unpopular in Scotland, yet there are now counter arguments that Britain, Scotland included, should adopt Single/Double Summer Time or SDST. This entails retaining British Summer Time in the winter months, and advancing the clocks an hour in March, resulting in time two hours ahead of GMT, or to put it simply, having the same time frame of most of Europe. It is argued that the resulting extra hours of daylight would allow kids to get more exercise thereby staving off the onward march of childhood obesity. Sounds fine in theory, but how do you prise kids away from their Wii or Playstation to go out and run about for an hour?

Of course, SDST also results in mornings oop north remaining dark until 9am and later, and the hoary old child safety argument rearing its head again. This is cited by the Scottish Government as a reason for not implementing the plan. Surely a simple way round this would be to start the school day later? There are so many legal obligations on employers nowadays to allow flexitime etc, that I can't see it being a problem for working parents.

There is also the added benefit of reduced accidents as evening rush hour in the dark is more dangerous than morning rush hour under street lighting, as was proved in the '68-'71 experiment.

Another argument in favour is that a big reduction in carbon emissions would result after adopting SDST, and flowing from this is the reduced amount of energy consumed in peak hours. Leaving the clocks at BST in the winter would save 500,000 tonnes of CO2 or to put it another way would be the equivalent of taking 200,000 cars off the road. A no-brainer surely?

Eugenie Harvey, director of the Lighter Later 10:10 campaign, which aims to get businesses, government and individuals to help cut the UK's carbon emissions by 10%, said: "In the UK we love our long summer days. Lighter evenings make us happier, healthier and safe." Indeedy.

Why not adopt SDST and let Scotland have a referendum on it - if they want to stay as we are, then let them.

Oddly should SDST ever be adapted in Britain, then there will be countries in West Africa on the same lines of longitude as us, but by still using GMT would be an hour behind us. Incidentally in Africa GMT is known as Zulu Time. I always thought Zulus were in South Africa, which is 2 hours ahead of GMT - I'm confused now!

From a personal point of view, much as I hate getting up in the dark to go to work, and retaining BST would only make that aspect worse, the extra hour's daylight at the end of the day would more than compensate. Also, I really like the idea of twilight at 11 o'clock at night in the middle of June.

Bring it on!

19 Oct 2010

New wave of optimism leads to delusional speculation

It was confirmed today that Wayne Rooney wants away from Old Trafford! Who woulda thunk it?

I reckon Wazza had a masterplan. Improbable I know but bear with me. He decided 5 years ago to move to Man Utd thereby rescuing the only football club he really loves from near bankruptcy. After earning enough money and winning enough trophies with Man Utd to both stuff his bank account to the gills and satisfy his ambition for silverware, he decides to tell Old Beetroot Face "I've had enough. I want to go home". In January 2011 SAF receives bids from Real Madrid and Chelsea (won't sell to Citeh on principle) but Wazza says "No thanks la. I'll see out my contract". So SAF loans him to Everton in January for the rest of the season, where he's happy to play within the club's wage structure as he doesn't need the money. Having narrowly scraped into 4th spot and Champs League qualification due in no small part to Wazza's scintillating displays, in August we come to an arrangement with Man Utd whereby we keep him and give them Jack Rodwell and no money changes hands. In 2010/11 we narrowly finish ahead of Spurs on goal difference, due to Wazza's 27 league goals, and land the Premier League title for the first time.
It's amazing what beating the Shite can do for your imagination!

PS - I also believe in The Man In The Moon, Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, and that the 1969 moon landing was filmed in a car park in Finedon. Got to go now as Kylie wants me to join her in the jacuzzi...

17 Oct 2010

Strange Days

Firstly, RIP Malcolm Allison, a coach who was decades ahead of his time. What would England give for someone of his vision right now?

"Ever get the feeling you've been conned"

Phew! Having just suffered through 94 minutes of the Mersey derby, which I have to say we won quite easily against the poorest Liverpool team in my lifetime, although that doesn't make watching it any less nerve wracking, a cursory glance at the Premier League table shows the closest start to a season for years. It's just a shame my team are not involved at the business end despite pundits and fans alike predicting they would be before the start of the season. You never know, an unlikely but not impossible win at Spurs next weekend will put us right back up there - you can but dream.

Before today's game against Blackpool, Man City are one of four teams on 14 points, five adrift of leaders Chelsea. The way it's shaping up it looks like an early tussle for top spot will develop between Chelsea and Man City, as the Sky Blues look like the only team capable of being consistent enough to catch the West Londoners. I can see both these clubs pulling away from the rest. Money doesn't talk, it screams.
Of the other three on 14 points, Arsenal have already displayed their customary flakiness on more than one occasion and I can't see them improving on last year's third position. Man Utd without an in form Rooney show flashes of their normal pizzazz, but also show prolonged bouts of ordinariness. All their big name players, Rooney apart, are getting very long in the tooth and they appear to be a team in decline, and with a Damoclean Liverpool financial meltdown scenario hanging over them into the bargain. Then we come to Spurs, who on current evidence are the only one of the "other three" in the ascendancy. Many thought (me included) that they would find the league hard going after the midweek Champions League games, but so far this has not been borne out on the field. I only hope it changes next Saturday!
Expect the battle for 3rd down to 7th to be very close, with Aston Villa and hopefully Everton joining in the tussle.

I fear for the Cobblers in League 2 after Saturday's farcical result. At home, 3-0 up and cruising at half time against the then and still bottom Hereford, they somehow contrived to lose the game 4-3! Bloody hell, that's shockingly bad. Northampton Town now stand one point above the relegation places. Next season may well see three Northants teams in the Blue Square Bet Premier (or whatever it will be called next time).

Quote of the day - the Sky commentator at today's Mersey derby:
"Sammy Lee, from a long line of Liverpool in-breds"
That expalins why his eyes are so close together....

Is it just me, or is Steven Gerrard PIG UGLY?
Au revoir................

12 Oct 2010


Being 50 I think I am entitled to spread out a bit in my middle age, but the eminently sensible Dr Rosemary Leonard GP, long time resident medical expert on BBC Breakfast this morning confirmed what I've always suspected though never fully acknowledged to myself. I am overweight. I may well be 6' 2" in my socks and scrawny with it but in the middle there lurks a stomach. I've always hidden behind the old method of measuring obesity, the good old BMI or Body Mass Index, which is basically a weight divided by height calculation. As I'm not an athlete, body builder, pregnant woman, elderly (yet), or under 5" tall I always figured it's ok for me. Just checked it again and my BMI is within the "healthy weight range". Woohoo!
The redoubtable Dr Rosemary dashed this delusion this morning when she imparted her wisdom to the nation. Apparently one has to measure one's waist at belly button level, and, no matter what your height, if it is over 37 inches (your waist, not your height!) you are overweight, and, in her words "it certainly shouldn't be over 40 inches" which implies this is the obesity cut off limit, which thankfully I do not reach - just!
I think I'll cut out more biscuits and crisps and walk faster to work - I know, that ain't going to make much of a difference, but I'm NOT going to give up beer. No way Jose! Perhaps I may join the Ramblers Association or take up cycling....hmmm....

When I was a nipper I walked the mile or so to school and back every day from about age 8. If any parents read this can they please explain to me why it is the usual practice for Thomas and Sara to be driven to school no matter how short the distance? Walking to work every day, which takes me past a school, I encounter many parents and kids on the dreaded school run. There is one particular example that I cannot fathom, and I'll bet she is not the only parent who does this.

I walk past the house of a rather, no, very large woman who by the look of her drives absolutely everywhere. She drives her 10 year old to junior school, which is no more than 10 minutes walk (ok 20 minutes at school kids dawdle pace) from her front door and said walk would not involve the crossing of any major roads. Does she want her kid to end up as fat as her? In fact it would do mum good to walk her kid to school, but mum has probably lost the use of her legs due to inactivity. It's no wonder you hear all these stories about overweight kiddies being sent to boot camps to exercise the fat off.

It's not just parents who drive their kids to school either. There's another woman who lives less than 100 yards from the school gates, which are out of sight of her house as the school is round a corner. She walks her two kids, the oldest of which must be in his last year, all the way to the school gates! If I was the little lad I'd die of embarrassment. Again there's no major roads to cross, and anyway the oldest is old enough to take the responsibility. I can only put it down to rampant paranoia, a self-perpetuating disease amongst modern parents if you ask me.

Make mine a double cheeseburger with extra fries and a gallon of Coca Cola please....

The contrast between Eastenders and Corry was highlighted again last night with the death of Billie Jackson (a boy, despite the ridiculous spelling). Both soaps currently have (or had) characters who have recently joined the Army. B and I wondered which would be the first to come home injured or in a box.

Gary in Corry who has a disabled girlfriend will inevitably come home crippled in some way after heroics in Afghanistan, only to find redemption through the support of his girlfriend. A morally uplifting tale. I could be wrong with this scenario, but I doubt it.

Billie on the other hand died after a binge drinking session at his own birthday party. Knowing the slimepit that is Eastenders, we should have seen it coming. No heroics for Billie, he just chokes on his own vomit, a fittingly Eastenders demise.

7 Oct 2010

Bedbugs And Ballyhoo

The latest export from the good ol' US of A about to hit these shores is an infestation of testosterone fuelled pesticide resistant bedbugs.

"Hi, I'm Dave and I want your blood"

These lovely critters are currently feasting their way through the epidermis of millions of Americans and it's only a matter of time before visitors to these shores bring the charming little buggers with them. They even had to seal off the basement of the Empire State building due to an infestation! Yuck.

This ranks alongside other previously welcome exports from the former colony such as the atom bomb, gun crime, McDonalds, rap music, Dubya, Starbucks, KFC, napalm, Reagan, the world banking crisis, Burger King, Hicks & Gillet (my favourite!), Jerry Springer, crack cocaine, I could go on.......
Mind you we did give them the X-Factor, so I suppose we have no grounds for complaint. ;)

1 Oct 2010

Shine On

Every football fan whose team is not involved in the Champions League knows how utterly and mind numbingly dull most of the football tends to be in the group stages. Teams like Man Utd, Chelsea, even "total football" Arsenal play out boring home wins, and even more stultifying away draws.

This season, from stage left, we welcome 'Appy 'Arry's Tottenham Hotspur, who have obviously not read the script. Two games in and we've seen a pulsating 2-2 draw away at Werder Bremen and this week saw an incident packed if somewhat flattering 4-1 home win over FC Twente. Prior to that Spurs made their entrance in the qualifying round by coming back from 3-0 down to only lose 3-2 away at Young Boys, and this game set the template for the footy feasts to follow.

The annoying thing is that as Phill told me ITV are only showing one Spurs game in the group stages, preferring to stick with the same old same old Utd/Chelsea/Arsenal dull conglomerate. Even Liverpool in the junior version of Euro club competition are getting more terrestial TV coverage than the men from North London (or possibly East London after 2012 - can you imagine Spurs fans having to brave the East End for home games?!). If this had been Everton and not Spurs in this situation I would be accused of Bluenose sour grapes I'm sure, but you can't pin that on me this time! The Spurs game ITV are showing is the away game at cup holders Inter Milan, which even with Spurs involved is likely to be a cautious low scoring affair, especially given Inter's plank of a manager not wanting to tarnish The Special One's team's European reputation.

I can remember when the European Cup under the old knockout format used to be essential viewing. Wednesday's group game featuring Valencia v Man Utd was one of the most tedious 20 minutes (all I could stand before it got turned off) of TV football I've endured. ITV should have taken a risk on Spurs as they are always entertaining, and in this season's CL are the only UK team capable of keeping neutrals awake for more than 20 minutes!

Talking with Phill we reckon a far more interesting format would be a World Club Cup using a straight unseeded knockout format from the off, not that the vested interests of the European elite would have any truck with it. Just a thought.