31 Jan 2011

Transfer deadline day as it happens...

The January transfer window slams shut and litters the floor of football club boardrooms up and down the land with the detritus of contract rejecting defenestration at 11pm tonight in England and an hour later in in Scotland. Here's the gripping news as it happened.....

0730: A bedside alarm goes off somewhere in deepest Hampshire. A twitching Cockernee leaps out of bed. "Great" he tells the missus, who is still snoring, "Gor blimey and luv a duck, if it ain't time for me to be the centre of the football world again. Better ring the office to 'av the cheque book ready." Arf an 'our later. 'ee's already on the dog telling his journo mates who 'ee's rumoured to be buying

0745: Spurs linked with Sergio Aguero, Giuseppe Rossi, Fernando Llorente, Mario Gomez, Placido Domingo, Maria Callas and Phil Neville, the latter as Harry Redknapp recognised the name as being vaguely English, as he needs someone who can understand him on the training ground. Harry has forgotten that Neville is from Manchester and has been playing in Scouseland for 6 years, so little chance of that happening.

0901: Spanish sulk Fernando Torres is the subject of a £3 billion bid from Chelsea plus French sulk Nicolas Anelka, and a majority share in a Russian hair gel factory in exchange.

1007: Kenny Dalglish is thinking of spending £1 billion of his windfall on Andy Carroll from Newcastle, but questions the lad's tonsorial misdemeanours. "I cannae be doing wi' this pony tail. Wass wrong wi' a wee perm?" quoth he. The player will actually only cost his true worth, about £8, the rest of the fee is for retaining the services of a top team of lawyers and to pay for advance damage insurance on every nightclub and bar in Liverpool.

1012: David Moyes has sent someone to the corner shop for a packet of Rich Tea biscuits. "Make sure you give me the change" was his witty parting remark.

1045: Fed up with not being in the news for nigh on 3 hours, Arry Redknapp puts in a bid for the whole of the East End along with all transport links from Tottenham to Stratford so that when Spurs take over the Olympic Stadium the fans can get to the ground on privately owned land unhindered by uncouth East Enders temporarily distracted from murder and general amoral swill. The whole concourse will be patrolled by the best heavies Mossad can offer.

1046: Fernando Torres is spotted at a road junction in Sefton sat behind the wheel of his Aston Martin DBS sobbing his eyes out, wet hankies all over place. Our new man in Scouseland, Dicky Keys, says "This outburst may indicate that Torres is ruing his transfer request but it's difficult to tell as this is not unusual behaviour for the gelled gaylord jessie." Keys has since been sacked.

1173: David Moyes stuns the football world by offering Andy Gray £41.56 to come out of retirement and solve The Toffees striker crisis and at a price that they can afford, Cyril Lord. On the credit card anyway. Asked to comment Gray asked our girl Sophie Tightly "What's the totty like up there now darlin'? It weren't half fit in my day. That secretary lass, boy she had some great tits on her I can tell ye. 'Ere luv, tuck this in for me will ye?" On hearing of these ill-advised remarks, Moyes said he was no longer interested as his stiff moral-fibre packed backbone would not be able to take the strain. "We need a new kettle anyway" he said.

1286: What are we doing in 1286? Has football been invented yet?

1303 Modern era: Ah, that's better. Lunch.

1404: Harry Redknapp "Nobody's listening to me. It's like I don't exist. Diego Forlan, that's who I'm in for now. I SAID - DIEGO FORLAN"

1435: Liverpool's offer for Andy Carroll is increased to £1.5 billion. Concerns reported on BBC's rolling deadline day news site about Carroll's thigh being "ship shape" have led to the second oldest club in the city paying to reopen the King's Dock in a classic case of communication breakdown, or fuckwittedness as it's known.

1501: On hearing that Phil Neville can actually tackle Arry Redkness has become seemingly reluctant to put in bid. "Tacklin'?" says Arry. "We'll av none of that 'ere I can tell you". David Moyes has said thay have received no bids for him, and that as a result he's bought the kettle, but needs to go and buy a plug, which may have to wait until next week.

1513: The Grauniad and The Torygraph are both saying that Liverpool's offer of the moon on a stick and several hand jobs for big lummox Andy Carroll has been accepted. Alan Pardew has been admitted to Newcastle General Hospital with severely hurt sides. Seven insurance brokers and fourteen nightclubs in Newcastle have filed for bankruptcy.

1525: Fernando Torres has distorted the space time continuum and has simultaneously been spotted in Liverpool, London. Madrid and Rushden. Clever ruse that, never thought of the Diamonds connection.

1545: Shares in Tower Pies plc have doubled in value with the news that Andy Reid is hot footing it from Sunderland to play for the Tangerines.

1545 1/2: With rumoured deals all proving, as always, to be no more than a weak fart or three, and blubbing into his pie'n'mash, Airy Redknees wonders why no-one will sell him any players "Don't they know oo I am? It's ain't fair. I know I got 87 players in me squad, but 78 of 'em are injured and may never walk again, and the other 9 are all wingers. Even that Moyes geezer, oo I know is on the bones of is arse, won't sell me that ugly right back of 'is. I know I said I didn't want im as he can actually defend, but I'm gettin desperate now. That Gomes fella, ee knows ow to put yer art in yer mouth..oh, ang on I already got im don't I?"

1555: There are rumoured to be problems with Stephen Ireland's medical at Newcastle Utd when it is revealed he is actually a pigeon...

Bird on the wing

1604: From the BBC - Everton are possibly almost rumoured and thought to be near to tentatively buying or loaning world famous 19-year-old striker Apostolos Demis Roussos Vellios from Iraklis today. The Greek club confirmed on their website late last week that they had reached agreement with Everton and Moyes enigmatically added: "We are hoping we can bring in a young player from Greece." A football player one hopes - you couldn't make it up!

1612: When asked why nothing, zero, zilch, nada seems to happening with Arsenal transfer wise, M. Arsene Wenger said "I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries." Touchy!

1625: In a lull in the exciting roller coaster that is deadline day, Opta have released statistics comparing the two stupidly priced strikers currently hogging the headlines. Fernando Torres can hit a cow's arse 23.86% of the time with a banjo, 2.36% of the time with an autoharp, and never with a zither. Andy Caroll is 100% a twat and will provide much needed comedy value at Anfield. His scoring stats are 12.48% with beer, 7.89% with an out and out threat, 3.25% by way of drugs, and an incredible 0.056% by sheer charm.

1648: AFC Wimbledon have bought MK Dons and will now use Stadium:MK as a car park leased to Ikea, and all their players will be sold to the Taliban.

1651: All the above is lies, damned lies. You are all but mere specks in the petri dish of existence. My head has just exPLO..............Nurse, spoons, jibber, dribble, hatstand....

Part two....it's madder!

28 Jan 2011

A Song For The Trees

This land is our land

This is the transcript of recent emails between our local lapdog Tory MP, and yours truly. The first email from me to the MP was a generic as part of online campaign group 38 Degrees' efforts to stop the privatisation of forests currently run by the Forestry Commission:

Dear Mr xxxxx MP

I don't want our public woodlands to be sold off. I think they our precious places and should be kept in public hands for future generations.

Will you vote against the law which would make it legal to sell off 100% of our woodlands when it comes before Parliament? Will you join the campaign to protect woodlands for future generations, and to make sure that public access and woodland wildlife don't suffer?


please let me know where you stand,
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My MP's reply was almost certainly his stock answer to any query on this isuue:

Dear Mr T,

Thank you for your email regarding forests and the Government's consultation on the matter.

Did you know that the Forestry Commission currently only owns 18% of Britain's forests? That means that 82% is in private hands and is still protected. It seems to me that much of the media coverage is missing this fact. I am happy to support this consultation, and should it be recommended, the opening up of the possibility of this 18% of forests to be treated in the same way as the other 82%.

If action of this nature is to be taken after the consultation, the Government will ensure that safeguards are in place that will continue to guarantee freedom of access for walkers and all those who want to enjoy the forests. We will not compromise the protection of our most valuable and biodiverse forests. The Forestry Commission has and will play an important role in protecting and expanding the trees, woods and forests in England.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me. If I can be of assistance in any further matter please do not hesitate to contact me again.

Yours sincerely,

xxxxxxx xxxxx
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So, I replied with a question I already know the answer to just to see what, if any, his reply would be:

Dear Mr xxxxx

Thank you for your reply. I was surprised to read your statistic that only 18% of our forests are run by The Forestry Commission. One suspects however that a significant proportion of the 82% of forests in private hands are not what the layman would recognise as such, and are merely labelled "forests" for tax or EC grant purposes. What I would like to know, as you have far better access to the relevant records than I, is of The New Forest, The Forest Of Dean, Kielder Forest, and more locally to your constituency Salcey Forest which are privately owned? It is these kind of places the public are most concerned about.

The anti privatisation protest is unusual in that it has participants from all walks of life, from tree hugging environmentalists, to suburbanites to peers of the realm, including a former head of The Forestry Commission, and all points in between. Your party and you would do well to remember this and listen to for once genuine public opinion rather than follow narrow ideology which seems to be a rising trend in this Government.

Yours Sincerely

Roger T
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...and here is the response, which in typical prevaricating fashion, does not answer my question, merely skirts around it...

Dear Mr T,

Thank you for your response.

My understanding is that 69% of the total forest estate is already privatised yet fully open to the public and regulated by Government orders. This means that of the 82% that is currently privately owned forest land 85% of it is fully accessible. The rest will be places used by entities like the Center Parcs corporation – which have been by no means torn down or blocked forests from the public.
You might also be interested to know that the Government plans to give special protection to ancient forests such as the Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest, amongst others. This is over and above the standard protection given to forest land.

I do understand that there is a strength of feeling on this matter amongst some but I do believe that a full appraisal of the facts and the detailed proposal published by the Government should allay any fears.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me. If I can be of assistance in any further matter please do not hesitate to contact me again.

Yours sincerely,

xxxxxxx xxxxx

My highlights - Bringing the likes of Center Parcs into the argument opens a whole new can of worms. Can one wander through their "forest" land unchallenged? I doubt it. His comment that "I do understand that there is a strength of feeling on this matter amongst some" must rank as understatement of the month! 38 Degrees' online petition alone has 282297 signatures as I write, and all kinds of folk are involved in the wider debate. "Some" indeed.

I feel there is little point in continuing the argument, in particular his avoidance of my query, as apart from anything else work is mad at the moment, and the odds are that more pressing enquiry would either be ignored or spun out of kilter. Ah well ,one tries!
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The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a

green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and

deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the

man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.

- William Blake, 1799, The Letters



26 Jan 2011

Monkey Say, Monkey Sacked

Andy Gray is a 55 year old working class bloke, albeit a very well heeled one, who made a few run-of-the-mill unfunny and old as the hills sexist comments typical of a man of his age group and background about the fairer sex that for him were unfortunately recorded and put in the public domain. The fact that Gray holds these attitudes is about as surprising as learning that The Pope is a Catholic, that bears do indeed shit in the woods, or that Marcel Proust has never been on Wayne Rooney's reading list. You may contend that Gray is a dinosaur or an oaf, and what he and his increasingly beleaguered colleague Richard Keys have been recorded saying is certainly crass, insensitive, etc etc, but did he really deserve to get sacked? Jeez, if every man who ever made a sexist comment at work were fired, the remaining workforce would be 100% female. Show me a man who has never made a sexist comment and I'll show you a mute, who has most likely said "Look at the norks on that" or similar in sign language. Hmmm....I wonder what the signing is for "norks"?

Equally, after all equality is what it all boils down to, in a workplace dominated by women (social care, or nursing for example) I'm sure you will find sexism directed at the male minority workforce, and no-one complains. Sexism is I'm afraid, part of (mostly male) human nature and will never be curtailed by crazy politically correct actions such as Gray's sacking. Of all the "isms" sexism is the least to worry about. Racism, homophobia, ageism are all more important. Sure, sack someone for sexual harassment, which should never be tolerated, but sexism? No, a stiff telling off will do surely?

Gray's hitherto annoyingly smug colleague Richard Keys has so far only been temporarily suspended, but isn't it time to move him on anyway? This man has less charisma and more hair than a chimney sweep's brush.


Richard Keys rues his recent behaviour...

It's amazing he's still in his job after all these years. As for Gray, as a pundit he was just average, not great (Hansen) or rubbish (Lawrenson), merely average. One assumes he has arranged his alleged £1.7M contract in a similar way to the football people he passed comment on, which entails Sky paying him off in the event of him being sacked, rather than handing him a P45 and telling him to clear his desk pronto, as would happen to you or I. There is no justice.

So although I don't agree with the manner of his departure, Sky's football coverage may well now get the injection of youth that it sorely needs.
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If the GDP figures for the three months to 31st March 2011 show a decline then we are officially in a double dip recession, following the shock horror surprise that for the three months ended December 31st the economy shrank by 0.5%. Out here in the real world that was no surprise at all as anyone with any contact with small businesses will tell you.

Unlike the first recession this one is solely the fault of Lord Snooty and his Eton chums as folk are scared to spend money in the likelihood they are about to be made redundant sometime this year following the impact of the savage and unnecessary cuts in, well just about everything.

We are all going to die...
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Just caught five minutes of The National Television Awards on ITV. The part I watched had the following nominations for the Comedy Award: Outnumbered, Michael McIntyre, Benidorm & Harry Hill's TV Burp. J Harry Christ on a stick, what a load of shite. What about Roger & Val Just Got In, The Trip, Peep Show? Not a mention. The winner, voted for by "You, the general public" was godawful 70s throwback Benidorm. The "general public" should all be taken out and shot.
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Finally, something quite odd but strangely moving...

22 Jan 2011

Three O'Clock Blues

I threatened to do it, so here it is...

Everyone loves "Blue" Bill Kenwright...

As an example of the fantasy land that English Premier League football lives in take my club Everton. No. please, take it, it'll only cost you about £10.58. Seriously though to say that the oldest club in Liverpool is ascloseasthis to going down the swanee is an understatement, and goes curiously unreported in the press. If Everton Football Club Ltd were a "normal" trading company panic buttons would be hit with some force, but since when has football lived in the real world? I suppose that because there must be at least half the EPL in a similar position makes The Toffees plight un-newsworthy.

This week Everton sold their current best player Steven Pienaar to Spurs for around £2.5M. In the last close season our then best player Mikel Arteta was awarded a new contract at £75K per week, smashing the club's previously rigorously enforced wage structure in the process, and "Peanuts" left because quite rightly, and leaving aside the ridiculous sums being paid, he felt he should be on a financial par with Arteta, as on this season's performances Pienaar has easily our-performed the Spaniard who has been strangely subdued since bloating his bank balance. Although it is thought he was offered an improved contract, it was not on a par with Arteta's and the prospect of a pay rise and Champion's League football at Spurs was too much to resist. I do not blame him and good luck to him, he has served us well since arriving from Borussia Dortmund in 2007.
The only striker we have who has a past proven capability of regularly scoring goals has been loaned out to Championship side Leicester City with an option to buy in May, as rumour has it to get his wages off the books. Another striker will probably be loaned to Celtic for the rest of the season. The only logical explanation for this is again, to get the wage bill down. It certainly makes no sense from a football perspective.

In the last umpteen transfer windows we have made either a negative or very small net spend, with around £6M net spent on players in the year to 31st May 2009, the last year for which accounts are available. Other clubs with a similar debt level to ours manage to continually sign new payers yet we struggle to even obtain loanees as we cannot afford the associated fees. We are now most definitely a selling club, selling a top player every now and then simply to balance the books. For a club that has come very close to breaking the top four glass ceiling on a number of occasions this is mighty disappointing from a fan's perspective. "Who will be going next?" - that's the question on fans' lips now. Actually "balance the books" is an exaggeration, it's more like to make the books look slightly less bleak.

A cursory look at Companies House website shows Everton Football Club Limited currently have listed forty seven (!) Particulars Of A Mortgage Or Charge (basically notifications of assets being secured against loans). How many of these are still outstanding is not known, but it gives some indication as to where the club's income is going, namely loan repayments and financing loan interest. Virtually everything the club own, including future revenue streams from season ticket sales and television money is in hock.

The company is unusually late filing its 31st May 2010 accounts at Companies House, and has until 28th February to do so without incurring a penalty. It could be that the delay is down to the auditors asking for a plan to show how the company intends to remain trading for more than the following twelve months, which is a duty of the appointed number crunchers, and until they are satisfied with the club's answers will not sign the accounts off.

Looking at the 31st May 2009 accounts may give some clue as to the company's plight. On a turnover of almost £80M, 61% (!) of which comes from TV money, £49M was paid out in wages and the accounts show a loss for the year of £7M. The total amount of monies owed was nearly £79M (fig A), coincidentally almost the same as the turnover. The total of fixed assets (mainly the wonderful but seriously dilapidated stadium) plus intangible assets (mainly player's registrations) plus monies owed to the club was nearly £54M (fig B). If you subtract A from B you can see that the club has a balance sheet value of minus £25M. Says it all really.

On the same day as Peanuts went to Spurs, Aston Villa, a club of similar size if slightly inferior history to Everton splashed out £18M on striker Darren Bent, a position Everton would love to fill but are financially unable to. The disparity in the two clubs access to funds could not be more starkly highlighted, Of all the new breed of owners Villa's Randy Lerner is probably the most respected, and why Blue Bill in his much trumpeted (by him) "24/7" hunt for new owners or investors with clout has not found anyone since becoming the second largest shareholder in 1999 and subsequently becoming the largest single shareholder now with just over 25% of the shares remains a mystery; especially when the likes of Blackburn, Sunderland, Villa, Manchester City and numerous others of lesser tradition have had no problem in finding new owners. One suspects Bill's various share acquisitions in Everton over the years since he first became a director in 1984 were at least partly financed by his mega rich friend Sir Philip Green who although never a director or shareholder at Everton seems to be pulling the strings through his connection on the board, Robert Earl a known Kenwright ally. Earl at 31st May 2009 owned just over 23% of the shares and Sir Philip Carter, long time club servant owns just over 2% of the shares, so together with Bill these three make up a majority. This is all speculation but my guess is Green will not let Bill sell until his private loan is repaid, with interest. Ironically, Green, being Jewish is naturally enough a Spurs fan, and I think Earl might be too.

Until Bill is in a position to sell his beloved train set, even if only to someone or business that will only clear the debts à la Liverpool then the best the long suffering fans can hope for is mid table water treading and the worst does not bear contemplation. With David Moyes publicly stating that he has not enjoyed the last four or five transfer windows as they have "been difficult for us" is also a worrying sign, given that Moyes is very loyal to his chairman, and this kind of language from him, a man of Presbyterian understatement, is quite alarming.

To end on a more positive note, the money from Pienaar's sale seems to have been used to secure new contracts for the impressive Seamus Coleman and the not so impressive Victor Anichebe, and the loan signing of defender Eric Dier from Sporting Lisbon, who is eligible for dual Portuguese/British nationality.

The only way is....sideways?

Footnote - today's draw with bottom of the table West Ham shows us to be without a leader on the pitch, and our one attacking outlet down the left has gone. We are an average team with an over cautious manager. We will stay up this season, but things need to change, both on and off the pitch.

16 Jan 2011

Into The Great Wide Open

With the footy season now into its second half, I thought I'd have a look back at my pre-season predictions.

Based on the current league positions:

1. Man City (Prediction1) - OK, they have played three more games than Utd, and in all likelihood probably won't do it, but at the moment - spot on!
2. Man Utd (P3) - an hour or so after I publish this could well be top again. Ho-hum.
3. Arsenal (P4) - There or thereabouts.
4. Chelsea (P2) - What on earth is going on at Stamford Bridge? Nobody knows, least of all the players it seems. May have got over their inexplicable plummet from grace.
5. Spurs (P5) - Say no more.
6. Sunderland (P10) - I'm way off, and it has to be said Steve Bruce's men look a good bet for a Europa League place.
7. Bolton (P19) - Oh dear!
8. Stoke (P13) - I reckon my prediction will not be that far out, he says hopefully!
9. Newcastle (P17) - Gawd blimey...
10. Blackpool (P20) - I really haven't a clue....in the case of Holloway's mob, neither have most others.
11. Blackburn (P14) - See Stoke.
12. Everton (P7) - No effin' comment...but still might make 7th.
13. Liverpool (P6) - No chance of 6th, can't say I'm too dischuffed...:)
14. West Brom (P18) - Could go either way.
15. Fulham (P15) - Wahey!
16. Birmingham (P9) - Harumpff....
17. Aston Villa (P8) - Who woulda thunk it?
18. Wigan (P16) - About there.
19. Wolves (P12) - Wrong again...
20. West Ham (P11) - ...and again...

Based on 10 points for a correct placing, 5 for one place out, 3 for 2 places out and -10 for more than five places adrift, I've got -34!! Bleedin' hopeless...
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Congrats to the Aussies on their not unexpected comeback in the last T20 and the first one dayer, Shane Watson especially for his match winning 161 not out off 150 balls. The BBC website headline writers seem to be having a mathematical synapse overload, this is their match report headline:

Shane Watson century too much for England in Melbourne

First one-day international, Melbourne:

Australia 285-4 (49.1 ovs) beat England 294 (49.4 ovs) by six wickets....Hmmmm...
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Last year we had the misfortune of staying in the charm free concrete jungle that is Telford. Today a friend sent me this from the local rag which should put you off for life...


...apparently local plod and council are not amused!

15 Jan 2011

Turkeys?

Episodes

I am one of only four people in the entire population of the UK & the USA who can lay claim to the statistical anomaly of never having watched an entire episode of enormo-hit sitcom Friends. I watched about three quarters of either the first or second episode of the first season, decided it was full of self absorbed smug self satisfied arseholes who in normal life one would cross the street to avoid, and never watched it again. Not that I've anything against self absorbed smug self satisfied arseholes as I thought Ricky Gervais in The Office was marvellous, it's just that in the twenty minutes or so of Friends I watched not a glimmer of an inward smile could even be detected. Enough reason to not watch it, after all I had a life back then!

The fact that new BBC2 non-comedy Episodes is written by the writers behind Friends initially put me off, but starring as it does Tamsin Greig & Stephen Mangan reprising a partnership first forged in the mad C4 comedy drama Green Wing, which I loved, was enough reason to give it a go. The first  - ahem - episode as scene setter introduces us to a husband and wife writing partnership Sean & Beverly Lincoln (Mangan & Greig) who are transported to LA in order to recreate their hit UK sitcom for American audiences. Matt Le Blanc, who apparently was a star of Friends, playing himself, is briefly introduced in the first scene when his car collides with an oncoming car being driven on the wrong (UK) side of the road by Beverley. It is also apparent that Sean harbours fantasies for one of the American TV company's hot totties. Then we go back "Two years earlier" to the real beginning when they were first approached by the US TV executive at a UK awards show.

Although there were no laugh out loud moments, Episodes shows some promise, but the running gag with the guard at the entrance to the gated Hollywood community Bev & Sean are staying not recognising them, and the electronic voice that lets everyone know "The front door is ajar" each time it's opened are already tiresome. I can see it disappearing up its own anus in a fog of self reference, but I might be wrong.

Episodes will have to go some to even come close to BBC2's last two quiet comedies, Roger & Val Just Got In and the excruciatingly good The Trip.

Is Episodes a turkey? Very possibly, but watch this space.
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Primeval

This load of old guff on ITV, involving time travelling dinosaurs and time travelling ex-wives with a grudge was scrapped in 2009 for being, well, shite, has, for some inexplicable reason been given a reprieve. With the help of, among others, BBC Worldwide, who know a thing or two about exporting TV shows, it has had a load of cash thrown at it, so the special effects now at least merit the first part of the description, and the HQ of the Anomaly Research Centre has been given a complete makeover and now looks like a modern era Star Trek set.
An extra £5.36 has been spent on the script and there's now evolving sub-plots centred around an enigmatic academic looking chap who seems to live in a country pile in the middle of The Lost Gardens Of Heligan, along with another featuring a strange couple from the nineteenth century, the male of whom could well be a Victorian serial killer. Primeval still seems to be a "Monster Of The Week" fest for all that.

A turkey? Most certainly, but entertaining in a mindlessly bonkers fashion.

13 Jan 2011

Moral dualism

Wayne Rooney, Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Kolo Toure, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole, Fernando Torres, Gareth Barry, Wayne Bridge, Dimitar Berbatov, Andre Arshavin, Nicolas Anelka, Ryan Giggs.

According to this somewhat out of date list of the 50 highest paid football players, the blokes above earn a combined £98 million per year for kicking a football about, falling over and whinging a lot, and generally acting the arse. Mr Rooney's earnings in the list have been amended to reflect the alleged £250K per week he now receives since throwing his toys out of the pram a few months back. No doubt Tevez' salary is under reported too after his copycat tantrum recently was settled "amicably". In addition you could probably increase the rest listed by at least 10% to make it more accurate, so we're probably talking over £110 million a year in total. Note this is what these overpaid excuses for sportsmen are paid by their clubs. You could probably double the figures if you add in sponsorship deals.

The figure of £110 million is significant because this is the figure Manchester City Council are looking to save by axing 2000 (!) jobs, as announced today. Doubly ironic is that 9 of the 17 players listed play for the Manchester clubs. Perhaps they should reflect on this when they next drive their ludicrous motors through the city.
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That first T20 game against the beleaguered Aussies was a bit squeaky bum time was it not? As much as we tried we still couldn't quite manage to throw the game away, rescued on the last ball by Warwickshire bowler Chris Woakes, who I freely admit I'd never heard of before this game. The problem is by being a Northants follower (fan is far too strong a term) I've rather lost interest in the county game, as, to be frank, throughout most of my 45 years in the county Northants have been shite. They were once bowled out for 12 by Gloucestershire in 1907, about 58 years before my time in the Rose of the Shires I hasten to add, but prescient nonetheless. Are they the only major county never to have won the County Championship? Probably!

My fondest memory of Northants is during their all too brief period of ascendancy in the late 70s and early 80s, when I got to see their three one day finals at Lords, winning two. Sarfraz Nawaz! Allan Lamb! David Steele! Jim Griffiths the Irthlingborough Paceman! Some other blokes! During one of these beanos at some point after lunch, by which time us lads were somewhat inebriated, my mate Martin found that using his legs to move about was becoming a tad problematic, so he resulted to crawling about on all fours. In this state he found himself staring at a pair of immaculately shined size twelve hobnail boots. Looking up and grinning sheepishly at PC Plod he uttered the immortal words "My, you have got big feet haven't you"! Luckily for him the copper saw the funny side, hoisted Martin up by one ear, and, grinning replied "Yes I have, and if I see you doing that again I will shove one right up yer scrawny pathetic arse". Hysterics ensued.

Digression is the thief of time as my Grandad used to say, or was it procrastination? Anyway, the marvellous bunch of Saffers that wear the three lions at the moment has made me think that I should take more interest in the county game in the coming season. Expect some barely formed sentences on the subject later in the year.
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At least the Aussies haven't lost their sense of humour. This is from the Australian ABC commentary during the fifth test:

Aussie commentator Kerry O'Keefe: What was for lunch today Aggers?


Aggers: I had a nice meat pie for lunch thanks Kerry. And I have to say, you Australians certainly know how to make a good pie.


O'Keefe: We know how to bowl them too! Poor ball from Mitchell Johnson there..

...and...

Aggers: Can you guess who they've arranged to present the Ashes trophy to the victorious England team?


O'Keefe: Nelson Mandela?

Chortle!
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10 Jan 2011

9 Jan 2011

Is it a boat, or two-thirds of a pint?

A schooner is both the above. In Australia you can buy a glass of beer in a schooner, roughly two thirds of a pint. Our wonderful rulers have decided in their infinite wisdom that us befuddled consumers need more "choice" when buying a beer in a pub. We will still be able to buy pints and halves, but will soon be able to buy a schooner.

According to Science Minister David Willetts "We have listened to consumers and businesses. They have called for fixed quantities to be kept but with greater flexibility. That is what this change will deliver." Bollocks I say, and exactly what has science got to do with it? Why would anyone want to buy two thirds of a pint? Pubs need the extra cost of stocking schooner glasses like Alastair Cook needs batting tips from Ricky Ponting. What a dumb idea!
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Phill tells me that as a result of atrophying for three months, he wore himself to a frazzle emptying a filing cabinet during a brief visit to what I believe is called "work", the poor lamb. Mind you I was overcome with dizzying exhaustion the other day after the physically arduous act of filing a Tax Return online....
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Overheard street conversation...
Ugly 50 to 60 something unshaven chav bloke replete with hoody and tracky bottoms and can of Red Bull (see below) to "lady" friend, angrily.."...if I get meself alone in a room wiv 'er, I dunno, I might,...er well y'know I just dunno, but I won't be responsible." I guess not....
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On his blog, Phill has highlighted the "plight" of local(ish) drain on NHS resources Paul Mason http://networkedblogs.com/cLcCR which makes me consider the amount of pointless sustenance there is for sale in every town in our sceptered isle. Here are a few examples:

Red Bull - Why would anyone want to drink something that smells, from a considerable distance away downwind, exactly like freshly heaved child's vomit? The only purpose of this evil whiffing brew seems to be to enable chavs to stay up longer while drinking voddy, thereby guaranteeing more fights in our town centres in the middle of the night. What fuckwit at the Food Standards Agency gave this shite a licence?

Burger chains (all of 'em) - I can proudly testify that the one and only time I have visited a certain chain "restaurant" was to take a long stinky dump in one of their Madrid outlets (in the loo, not the restaurant!), the after effects of enjoying local anchovy tapas the day before. I wish I had known the Spanish for "I'd leave it a while mate, if I were you".
Anyway, I digress. These ultimate expressions of capitalist homogeneity are more than partly responsible for the rapid destruction of Amazonian rain forest to enable the locals to herd cattle to initially feed the insatiable American, and later UK and the rest of the world's appetite for MSG enhanced gloop encased in what is loosely termed a bun. Even the discerning French have got these dreadful things in their cities. A pox on them all.

I doubt tracts of forest the size of Wales are disappearing each year to accommodate battery chicken farms, but those nugget things are vile too. A bucket of dry tasteless pieces of white meat probably farmed in the most horrible way imaginable encased in white hot deep fried congealed dandruff is not my cup of larks' vomit.

If you've had the good sense to turn down the litre of Coca-Cola that's inevitably offered to wash this shite down why not visit a chain coffee shop (sorry Will), yet another expression of bland utilitarianism. I recently visited a Starbucks, or it might have been a Costa Coffee, or Imperialist Fascist Republic or whatever, and asked for "A cup of coffee". The disinterested Eastern European minimum wage slave behind the counter then reeled off a list of progressively bizarre sounding combos of coffee, milk, chocolate, cream, frog spawn and hatstand. "No, I want a cup of coffee" I said in a doubtless bored fashion. B said "Sit down, I'll sort it out". I believe I had an Americano (Will can correct me if I'm wrong), which is a cup of coffee!
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Stevenage, what a team!........

Have a good day. :)

7 Jan 2011

He can bowl to the left and to the right!

Yeehah!!!

The smack of Pommie willow on leather, the mastery of Sir Alastair Cook, the deadly eye of Jimmy Anderson, the no-nonsense approach of Jonathan Trott, the easy dominance of Andrew Strauss, the towering menace of Chris Tremlett, jeez, even Matt Prior looked like a world class batsman against the Aussies. Bloody marvellous, innit? :)))


Some records were smashed into another dimension....

50178459 runs scored by England - the highest total recorded anywhere in any reality by anyone or thing.

Lord Cook of Brisbane scored 7041 of those in one innings at The Gabba, one-handed while texting his wife with t'other.

King Cook of Essex also recorded a relativity busting 703 hours 4 minutes 15 seconds at the crease, miraculously avoiding growing a beard by sheer force of will.

Multitudinous majestic thumpings of the Saggy Greens by an innings in one series - another universe straddling triumph.

Other highlights included....

All 17 England squad members scored centuries at one time or another. So plentiful were the tons that Monty Panesar's 103 not out in a tenth wicket stand with Andy Flowers' mum against the Ricardo "Chunder" Ponderosa Cricket cloob select XI went by unnoticed - until now. Well done Monty.

At a rain drenched Adelaide Andrew Strauss appeared to walk on water. Oz captain Dick "Muncher" Poontang referred the decision but Hawkeye footage was inconclusive, so the miracle stands.

So quick was Jimmy Anderson, that he managed to give birth between the fourth and fifth ball of one over in Melbourne, send the future Aussie-terrorising speedster back home to mum in Blighty and still have the strength of character to grab a wicket with the sixth ball. Or did I make that one up?

The only Australian to win anything at all was Ricky "Hopeless Punt" Ponting, who received the inaugural The Most Fun To Be Had With A Name Award, presented by former Green Bay Packers linebacker Michael Hunt, who nobody had seen for years.

Finally the Sydney Fire Department was stretched to breaking point tonight as all its resources were called upon to extinguish a raging inferno caused by the production line overheating at Sydney Humble Pies Pty. The tearful owner, one Glenn McGrath, was found hunched in a corner pleading with his maker for forgiveness.

This is quite amusing...note the author's name is an anagram of Wanton Swill...
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/cricket/reasons-why-poms-wont-win/story-e6frey50-1225955985591

And just in case you've forgotten the words to the song....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JZnzu3vKPM

One El - Thanks for the links!

Some old but still good jokes...
What’s the difference between Ricky Ponting and a funeral director?
A funeral director doesn’t keep losing the ashes

What do you call an Australian with 100 by his mane?
A bowler

And finally, finally, more history - some classic ripostes to typically witless sledging from Glenn McGrath, who it was soooo good to see handing out awards to England players at the end of the game...

Glenn McGrath (bowling to portly Zimbabwean chicken farmer Eddo Brandes): "Hey Eddo, why are you so f***ing fat?" Eddo Brandes: "Because every time I f*** your wife, she throws me a biscuit"

McGrath to Ramnaresh Sarwan: "So what does Brian Lara's d*ck taste like?" Sarwan: "I don't know. Ask your wife." McGrath (losing it): "If you ever f***ing mention my wife again, I'll f***ing rip your f***ing throat out."

But my favourite wind up has to be....
Malcolm Marshall was bowling to David Boon who had played and missed a couple of times. Marshall : "Now David, Are you going to get out now or am I going to have to bowl around the wicket and kill you?"

Wahey!
 
Seriously though...
It would be great to thrash 'em in the T20 and the one dayers, but I predict the Aussies to at least win the one day series, as our foot will be well and truly off the gas, having won the only contest that really matters, and Jimmy Anderson will be missing for most of the time on a well deserved 10 day paternity leave break (none of your 6 months off for paternity leave or whatever nonsense is currently law - they do things properly these cricketing types!). Similar in reverse to us winning the one dayers 4 years ago off the back of a 5 nil thumping in the Test series.

Still.......bring it on!

3 Jan 2011

Come in David Moyes, your time is up

Everybody admires David Moyes for turning Everton from perennial relegation candidates under a succession of hopeless managers into regular contenders for the Europa League. In last year's close season all the pundits, and Moyes himself were talking of Everton having the best squad in 20 years, and there was talk of us pushing on to challenge for a coveted top 4 place.

Like I said, everybody loves David Moyes. Apart that is from what was a small but is now a growing and vociferous section of home support who see him as being tactically stubborn to the point of exasperation, unimaginative and indecisive where substitutions were concerned, showing favouritism towards certain players who would play no matter how out of form, and having far too cosy a relationship with Blue Bill, who is another story to be told.

I was never of that ilk, until this season that is. It has been obvious to the even most cluelessly loyal fan and neutral alike that Moyes' continued obsession with 4-5-1 had been found out a long time ago. He persists with this formation in order to accommodate Tim Cahill who disappears in a traditional rigid 4-4-2, and fans have been saying why not show a bit of nous, play a 4-4-2 but with Cahill turning it into a 4-4-1-1 when necessary? Surely Cahill despite being an Aussie (wahey!) is intelligent enough to adapt? If you believe Moyes', then, no he ain't. He's now off to the Asia Cup down under for up to six weeks, so Moyes' hand is forced, and one hopes he will change the bloody formation for once.

We also have three strikers who have scored less between them than Widdecombe in her entire lifetime. I don't consider this all the fault of the players. Yakubu was finally showing signs of losing some weight and gaining some form a couple of months back - he actually scored fer chrissakes - so Moyes' drops him, and it now looks like he's on his way. At least that's quite a few pounds off the wage bill and off the bench. Beckford, again, showed some form and gets dropped. The "1" of the 4-5-1 is Moyes' favourite Saha who looks less likely to score than Graham Norton in a brothel, although he was denied a nailed on penalty in our woeful capitulation against Stoke City on Saturday.

Which brings me on to Moyes' favourites. The most glaring of these at the moment is Arteta, who since becoming the club's highest paid player by signing a lucrative contract in the close season has done fuck all, yet gets picked every week. Even Moyes' now realises it might be time for a change as Arteta is beginning to get regularly substituted. Ah, substitutions....always dead on the hour mark, usually Osman for Arteta, Beckford for Saha, no change in formation until the 85th minute when desperation usually means throwing on the other striker. If someone like 'Appy 'Arry had our meagre squad I'm certain he would change the formation and tactics, and not be so bloody predictable with his substitutes.

Which brings us on to Steven Pienaar, probably off to play for 'Appy 'Arry very soon. OK, he's been, along with Leighton Baines, our best player going forward this season, but in the last transfer window we bought a French (I think) winger called Magaye Gueye, described as Moyes' secret weapon. So secret he's practically invisible. With Pienaar going, either this month or at the end of the season, why oh why not give this guy (sic) a run out?

Moyes has run out of ideas, and it's time he went. I never thought I would ever say that, but there it is. Get in a young ambitious manager who plays attacking football, as I and a growing number of Toffees are fed up to the back teeth of the dull one dimensional slow paced bollocks we serve up every week. I thank Moyes' for giving us some respectability and for some great games, but after 9 years his time has come to an end, and I wish him all the best at whatever club he goes to.
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Everybody loves "Blue" Bill Kenwright.......no. I'll do that another time.

1 Jan 2011

Books

I had a typical (for my generation) middle class education at a Grammar School after sailing through the old 11 plus exam, by far the easiest exam I ever took, in fact I could never come to terms with my best mate of the time failing the same exam. As a result of this and his going "down the road" literally and metaphorically to the local Secondary Modern, our friendship died a slow but inescapable death as our social circles diverged completely. Stephen Ward wherefore art thou?

Anyway, I digress. The point of this wibble is not as you might imagine from the above a diatribe against the division caused by selective education, no, for once the title of the piece actually directly relates to the content. My Grammar School education combined with my natural affinity for English & English Lit led to my reading list from the ages of 14 to 17 being heavily influenced by our form master and Lit teacher Geoff Dean. You see he was seemingly very much a product of early 70s UK "red brick" university trendy left wing education, and could so easily have been Malcolm Bradbury's "History Man"*, suede jacket, floppy fringe, pipe'n'all.
His tutelage led my devouring Salinger, Kerouac, Bradbury, Sillitoe, Amis M, Kesey, Hunter Thompson, Burgess, all the usual suspects, even Burroughs. Most of those are still represented on my bookshelves. One author he tried to get us all to read was James Joyce, whose Ulysses I've attempted to read four times, and never got past the first chapter. To say it is impenetrable would make a 50s London peasouper look like the height of clarity. After my fourth and final attempt in 2009, my copy went in the charity bag. Last year an attempt was made on Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, which started off fine but soon descends into a quagmire of repressed sexuality and turns into a stream of consciousness rant on Catholic guilt. I dunno, maybe I'm simply not of the mental capacity to appreciate such self referential bollocks, but that went the way of Oxfam too, 60% unread.

Anybody who says they managed Ulysses at first attempt is either lying or is now a Catholic priest with a predilection for self flagellation.

My next read will be Keith Richards' autobiography Life. You can bet there will be no repression there!

* If any of you out there know where I can find the marvellous BBC TV version of this on DVD, let me know!

Addendum
Since I wrote this yesterday, I found an old picture from 1974 of the whole school, and Mr Dean appears far straighter than I remember, but we were all posing for the school picture, so had to look our best. He's No.27...

Thanks to Geoff Dean for opening my eyes to the world of books!

Here's yours truly. I think this is bravery beyond the call of duty of me to post such a truly awful visage for your entertainment! I'm not going to tell you which one is me, you'll have to guess...the only thing I can offer in defence is that it was 1974 after all!!

Arrrghhh!