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.

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

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.

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.

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...

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. :))

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

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.

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...
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.


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.

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!!

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.

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!

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.

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!

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?

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!

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!


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.


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.

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...






Exercise will hopefully straighten it out even more.

Here's the finger splint...

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


..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


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?

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.

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.