Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Britain is set to miss its target for cutting carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. In fact, emissions are actually up since 1997. That commitment has been in the Labour manifesto for the last three elections. Failure to hit the target is being blamed on high economic growth, not only here in the UK but in developing nations like China where, according to researchers, more energy is used in the manufacture of goods than is the case in Western nations. But of course, it's much cheaper.

Trust humankind to sacrifice the planet on the altar of the almighty dollar.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mrs Momus and I have begun the preliminary plans for our US road trip in the summer of 2007. It will be the partial fulfilment of a long-held dream and although actual destinations are still sketchy, I do have an outline in mind. What I don't want is a repeat of our honeymoon when we crossed Western Canada. Although we saw a number of wonderful places, we were in a different hotel practically every night. Coupled with the driving distances involved, it turned what should have been the best holiday of our lives into, frankly, something of a slog.

The starting point will be San Francisco. I need to check out northern California to find out what is worth checking out north of SFO. In the absence of a pink camper van, and with only two weeks to do it in, rather than the ideal 12 months, I intend to concentrate on a few destinations but spend lots of quality time there.

Back in the Chew Valley, as opposed to Napa Valley, I attend my first committee meeting as vice-captain on Thursday night. It's a dual role as I am also Press Officer for the club. It's the closest I'll get to being a proper journalist.....

Saturday, March 25, 2006

There's a total solar eclipse due to take place next week, 29th March. Sadly, the UK will only see about 25% obscuration at best. Brazil, Turkey and East Africa are apparently the best places to be. With luck, the weather will be clear and we'll get some decent photos, if nothing else.

Having recently been to Morecambe Bay, I can see how those Chinese immigrants picking cockles would have been terrified as the water came rushing in. It's such a vast, arcing sweep of sand and mud that it's really disorientating. Apparently the tide comes in across those sandbanks quicker than a horse can gallop. They wouldn't have stood a chance.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Incidentally, two days after our return, I would recommend Berlin as a city break destination to anyone. While it's not an attractive city in the same way as Rome or Paris, one never loses the feeling of, to steal a quote from the PM, the hand of history on one's shoulder. Here lie the events that shaped the 20th century.

And it's not all politics and suffering. On our walk from the hotel in the old East to the Brandenburg Gate, we came across no end of churches, cathedrals, opera houses and museums, while bars, restaurants, cafes and clubs thrive. It's a city rebuilding itself and it's brilliant.
The Man In Black dominated the music box today. If the great man is good enough for Andrew Flintoff and the rest of the England team, he's certainly good enough for me!

Last song on the iPod: Johnny Cash - The Ballad of Ira Hayes

Friday, March 17, 2006

According to today's Independent, the Prime Minister says he would 'do it all again' regarding the invasion of Iraq. Surely even the God who he reckons will judge him would blanch at unleashing this cataclysmic hell a second time?

103 British troops dead, 2311 Americans and who knows how many Iraqis? Sunni turned against Shia and the West's standing at an all-time low in the Muslim world and ever more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, which in turn produces a further clampdown on the civil liberties of UK citizens? Please don't 'do it all again'.....

Last song on the iPod: Rilo Kiley - Does He Love You?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

So the Prime Minister has got his Education Bill through the House of Commons. Is he a modern-day Ramsay MacDonald, whose name was reviled throughout Labour clubs up and down the land after splitting his party and forming a national coalition with the Tories? Probably not, there's certainly no prospect of David Cameron getting his hands on any share of power any time soon and it's not the first time that a Government has had a Bill passed with the help of the Opposition.

But it does add to the general feeling that pervades no. 10 at the moment that Mr Blair is just finding the whole thing a bit of a hassle. There are rumours of loans for peerages - a throwback to David Lloyd George - and with Iraq descending further into the pit of despair, things are tough indeed for the PM. I don't hate Mr Blair as some do, although there can be no question that he, and many others, let's not forget, got it badly wrong on Iraq, but it does seem a long time now since that sunny day at the beginning of May 1997 when he and Cherie strode beaming up Downing Street and all seemed right with the world.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Woo-hoo! Big excitement as a BBC film crew were in Shepton today. The incident in question is the forced removal of a bunch of protesters who have tried to stop the demolition of a derelict factory, and the necessary chopping down of a number of trees, to make way for a new Tesco store in the centre of town.

I'm no lover of the evil behemoth Tesco but to those who claim that a more central Tesco will kill the town, I'd point out that Shepton Mallet has been dead for years.......
Much hilarity in the office just now. A spot of mickey-taking at yours truly's expense reached a climax when KB, bless her, got one of my noms de plume wrong and inadvertently called me the 'Gorilla of Love', to the delight of the rest of the team!!

I had no idea she'd seen me naked!
Just got the currency for our weekend trip. Bring it on!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How ironic that, barely a couple of weeks after musings over the whereabouts of General Ratko Mladic, the man behind the misery of the 1990's in the Balkans is dead. Slobodan Milosevic led Serbia on a wave of nationalism into conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo which cost the lives of around 200,000 people.

We'll never know how the war crimes tribunal at the Hague would have judged him but the bloodshed, brutality and hatred that were the result of his desires for a Greater Serbia mean that few will mourn him.
A thoroughly enjoyable weekend, on both the social and sporting front.

Spent the weekend in Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria with Mrs Momus and Christine. Many thanks to Josie and Richard for allowing us the use of their cottage. Spent Saturday doing touristy stuff in Bowness, Windermere and Ambleside, and spent far too much money on gear from White Stuff, which is currently Momus's apparel provider of choice! Serious snowfall overnight on Saturday and we woke up to proper snow, which you see so rarely back down south.

On the sporting front, Bath claimed a crucial 20-18 win over Newcastle to further banish the spectre of relegation which has been hanging over the Rec all season. It was a vital win against fellow strugglers, made all the more impressive by the fact that most of the front five were off in Paris getting their backsides kicked all over the Stade de France.

CCFC claimed an equally impressive win, 2-0 at home against high-flying Sheffield United, who have not been out of the top two all season. I think the play-offs are just out of our reach, but six straight wins at home and an unbeaten record since November at 'Fortress' Ricoh bodes well for next year and suggests that, finally, the club might, just might, be emerging from the darkness.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Flippin' heck, how did that happen?

I've just been offered, and accepted, the post of vice-captain of Harptree Villages CC 1st XI. I wasn't angling for the job but events have moved pretty quickly in the last week and now I can't wait to get on with doing my bit to try to improve the fortunes of the club.

I was never going to turn it down - as befits a political animal, once we get our fingers anywhere near the levers of power, it's the devil's own job to prise them away!

Better get in touch with my personal trainer now though - whoever heard of a vice-captain with love handles??!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Woo-hoo, the digital camera has arrived! Farewell, Mr Chuzzlewit!

It'll make its debut up in the Lakes this weekend. I've no idea what to do with it but it looks mint!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It's a bit late, but I'd like to offer an apology to Mr Joe Calzaghe.

I'm not a massive follower of the not-so-noble art of boxing but I was one of those who thought he was never quite of the highest calibre, a world champion for a long time but had never fought a big name, he beat Chris Eubank but Eubank was on the way down after a couple of beatings at the hands of Steve Collins.

Anyway, in my knackered and slightly hungover state on Sunday, I slumped in front of Tony's TV which just happened to be showing a re-run of Calzaghe's contest the previous evening against Jeff Lacy from the USA, who was unbeaten, a world champion with a different organisation and reputed to be a seriously hard puncher.

As I gradually emerged from my state of half-consciousness, I realised that I was witnessing the finest display of boxing I've ever seen from a British fighter. Dazzling footwork and blistering hand speed soon rendered Mr Lacy something of a wreck and the bell at the end of the fight must have come as a blessed relief to save him from further punishment. Calzaghe's accuracy was phenomenal and he was regularly landing flurries of eight or nine punches right on the button without response.

There's little pleasure to be gained from watching a man getting a serious hiding but seeing a highly trained athlete perform to the very highest standard was a joy. It was a truly magnificent display against a very dangerous opponent.

So I'm very glad to put the record straight and admit that I was totally wrong. Joe Calzaghe, you are top-class.

Last song on the iPod: Nirvana - Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam

Monday, March 06, 2006

A truly memorable weekend ended on a sad note when Calliope confirmed that Brenda had indeed passed away on Sunday evening. Still thinking of ya....

Friday night saw what is now fast becoming the International tradition of a night out on the first Friday after payday. A number of us set up camp in the Lounge at around 5.45pm and didn't move a muscle, except to refill our glasses, until 11.15pm when I insisted on going to get some food. Left Abi, Avi, Bekah and Rach at the door of O'Neill's just before midnight as I was driving home. Would you believe, I only missed out on O'Neill's playing Macarena, although the girls had the good grace to phone me and leave a message on the answerphone with the tune in the background!

Saturday was a wonderful sporting and social occasion at the Powergen Cup semi-finals in Cardiff that not even Bath's agonising one-point defeat against Llanelli Scarlets could spoil. We motored up to Ross-on-Wye to pick up sister-in-law Ali and her chap Tony then onto Cardiff to meet up with Tony's dad Mike and his family and friends to pick up the tickets. Cardiff was awash with colour as supporters of the four semi-finalists descended on the city centre, the green, white and red of Leicester, the blue, black and white of Bath, the black and yellow of Wasps and the, erm, scarlet of Llanelli! Mike's friend Gordon is a season-ticket holder at Leicester Tigers and he'd got the tickets for us, so we found ourselves sat among the Tigers fans and allied ourselves with them against the mutual enemy, Wasps. What a magnificent theatre the Millennium Stadium is!! It wasn't quite full, there were around 51,000 there but you wouldn't need a Wildean imagination to suspect that, when Wales are at home and on song, roared on by a capacity crowd, it would be a wonderful experience. Sadly, Tigers couldn't quite prevail against a Wasps side who were outstanding in defence and scored a scorching breakaway try near the end to seal the win. So it came to the second semi-final and although we couldn't persuade our Welsh friends to join us in supporting Bath, we all enjoyed a enthralling encounter. When Bath scored an excellent try early in the second half to take a 23-10 lead, we allowed ourselves to start planning the route to Twickenham, but the Scarlets fought back wonderfully well to score two tries themselves and clinch a nailbiting 27-26 win. We took some good-natured ribbing from the jubilant Scarlets fans but not even defeat could spoil the day. Back in Ross, we staggered round the corner, still in our colours, for an excellent Indian at Cafe ZamZam, the town's new balti house.

Sunday morning dawned cold but gloriously sunny and we took the opportunity to go walking round Ross along the picturesque River Wye. It's not uncommon to see the local rowers out on the river and yesterday was no different. Ross Rowing Club has a very smart boathouse and a couple of single scullers and an eight were just taking to the water as we wandered past. Stayed for lunch and then headed home, a simply cracking weekend.

Following on from last week's thoughts about continuing my advance into the 21st century, Mrs Momus and I purchased a digital camera online last night to take to the Lakes this weekend. Luddites? Pah.....!

Last song on the iPod: Arctic Monkeys - When The Sun Goes Down

Thursday, March 02, 2006

On a serious note, thoughts are with Calliope as she heads up north to see her mother-in-law for what may well be the last time as Brenda is seriously ill.

Thinking of you, buddy.
Continuing the Dickens theme, today saw the death of the actor Jack Wild, the Artful Dodger in Lionel Bart's musical 'Oliver'. It's one of my favourites and Wild's enduring image will be his arm around the shoulders of Mark Lester singing 'Consider Yourself - one of us!' Rest in peace, sir.

Liking musicals gets me into no end of trouble with Calliope. I forgive her, for she knows not what she does. In the office today, I offered to lend KB my copy of 'Bugsy Malone' on DVD. You'd have thought I'd offered her my syphilis......

Those two, sadly, are a pair of cultural pygmies.......!

Last song on the iPod: Billy Bragg - Like Soldiers Do
This weekend is the first of a string of busy weekends for us and I'm wondering whether I should make the final step to dragging Mrs Momus and myself out of the Dickensian household era which we have inhabited for so long.

We've finally got a DVD player and we've finally got broadband. Now, with a host of trips coming up, I quite fancy waving goodbye to Bob Cratchit once and for all and getting a digital camera. I chatted with my colleague Mr Toad some time ago about this very subject, upon which he is most knowledgeable - and need to pick his brains if we are to make the most of the exciting times ahead.

This Saturday, we visit the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for the double-header of the Powergen Cup semi-finals. Leicester play Wasps at 2.30 and then we'll don the blue, black and white of Bath for their tie against Llanelli Scarlets. It's a shame that the WRU have refused to release Scarlets' Dwayne Peel for the match. His absence helps Bath's cause but it's always more enjoyable to watch the really good players and Peel is probably the best scrum-half in the northern hemisphere right now.

Next weekend, we visit Cumbria with Christine and a digital camera there would come in very handy. After that, we will celebrate our wedding anniversary - seven years, can you believe - with a long weekend in Berlin. I've been waiting a long time to visit the German capital. Definitely need a camera for the Brandenburger Tor, Rathaus and Gedächtniskirche.

After that, we have my good friend and former colleague Tim to visit, with his lovely wife Helen. A weekend's hospitality is the least we owe them, after their thoughtfulness allowed us to visit Boston for a song back in November. Finally, it ends where it started - with rugby. Saturday 1st April will see us travel up to the Midlands to follow Bath in their Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leicester at the Walkers Stadium. Really hoping it's a good, close game as we'll be taking Mr Momus Sr. Not sure the last time my dad went to a sporting event because he's always working Saturdays. I owe him so much that it's the least a dutiful son can do. Stopping over at my folks' house in Rugby - am hoping to persuade my parents that a curry would be an excellent idea!

So - busy times ahead, but happy times. Bring it on.
Sir Menzies Campbell has won the Liberal Democrat leadership contest. If I'm honest, I'm a tiny bit disappointed. With the centre ground looking ever more crowded, I still believe there's a place for a genuinely radical third party in British politics and I'm not sure that the Lib Dems under Campbell will occupy that spot. I felt that Simon Hughes was the most likely to put issues such as transport, energy and the environment at the top of the agenda and engender real debate on these questions. With climate change happening right here, right now, there can surely be no justification for further delay.

Nevertheless, congratulations are due to the winner and if he and his new team can put together a raft of socially liberal ideas that combat inequality in all walks of life and also start to suggest ways in which we can generate a high proportion of energy from clean, renewable sources - then I'll strongly consider voting for them again next time round. My image in the office is that of the token namby-pamby, 'bleeding heart' non-meat-eating liberal lefty, an image I'm happy to play up to, albeit often with tongue in cheek. I did vote Lib Dem last time, although I should point out that that was partly due to a lack of a Green Party candidate in my constituency of Wells. Don't tell Mrs Momus but I'm hoping that by the next election, my constituency will be the Lib Dem stronghold of Bath!