Friday, April 28, 2006

Out on the monthly team night out tonight and out all day tomorrow so this'll be the last chance to update before our season starts.

Sunday sees us travel to Monckton Combe school in Limpley Stoke on the outskirts of Bath to take on Combe Down CC. They look like a strong side, having finished third in Division 2 last year and only just missed out on promotion, while their skipper scored more centuries than anyone else in the entire League last year. But we'll have what is probably our strongest side available too. We don't have anything like the strength in depth of our Championship-winning side of five years ago but we should be able to give a decent account of ourselves. The forecast isn't great but I'm desperate to play, particularly as I'll have to miss the next two games.

I have absolutely no intention of suffering the kind of regular thrashings we were subjected to last year. Bring it on.

Last song on the iPod: The House of Love - Gotta Be That Way

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Do we get the media we deserve? That bastion of values, the Daily Mail, has today been forced to issue a public apology and offer 'substantial' damages to Sharon Stone for a story it 'now accepts was untrue'.

This follows hard on the heels of The Sun apologising to Wayne Rooney for publishing the allegation that he beat his girlfriend in a club, and the News of the World also settling a libel case out of court. What sticks in the throat is the phrase 'we now accept that the story was untrue.'

Which begs the question 'why the hell did you publish it then?' Surely it's a disgraceful act to publish something one knows to be false. Similarly, if one is not sure of the veracity of a story, does one not have a duty to establish it before the publication of potentially hurtful allegations?

The ironic thing is that people will no doubt wring their hands and say how terrible it is that newspapers get away with it so lightly - before going out and buying tomorrow's Mail as well.

In the office, my colleagues and occasional drinking buddies, Bekah and Rachel, have a collection of the weekly celebrity magazines which litter the newsstand. Taking a quick look at the coverlines, Heat leads with 'Stars Who Binge Eat', while the delightful Closer goes with a picture of Z-list regular Kerry Katona and the caption 'Wrecked, Spotty and Rowing'. Quite frankly, who cares? These magazines led the way in saying how fabulous she was when she first shot to what is laughably called fame, and now they take delight in kicking her in the most brutal and public fashion. Most depressingly of all, Heat's ABC is nearly 600,000.

Momus's current pin-up boy, Charles Clarke, gave a speech to the LSE a few days ago, bemoaning the 'pernicious and poisonous' tendencies of the media in the UK, following questioning of his relentless attack on the freedoms of the population of this nation. The ironic thing is that his headline point is absolutely correct - it's just that the example he's using is way, way off the mark.
One chink of sunshine in the darkness of the devastating news of Charles Clarke's troubles is the news of John Prescott's affair with his secretary. It's no fun being Pauline Prescott right now (if it ever was!) but the news that the Deputy PM, when not busy concreting over the southern half of the United Kingdom, is actually quite a fun, emotional guy who can pull a very attractive 43 year old lady gives hope to every single one of us.

It's more bad news for the Government on a real Black Wednesday for them. It's good news for every male who ever had dark nights of the soul wondering about their potential attractiveness (or lack thereof). Good on you, sir!

Last song on the iPod: Don McLean - American Pie

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

So Charles Clarke, who, carrying on the work of his predecesor Mr Blunkett, has presided over the most illiberal, authoritarian Home Office I can remember, may be brought down to earth by the accidental release of over 1000 hardened criminals. And even worse (or better!) - having taken steps to ensure that foreigners are viewed with nothing other than the utmost suspicion by UK authorities, they were foreign criminals!

Oh, stop it Charles - I don't think my aching sides can take any more!!!

Last song on the iPod: Gioacchino Rossini - Largo Al Factotum (The Barber of Seville)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Biarritz 18 Bath 9

Not unexpectedly, Bath's European campaign is over at the semi-final stage, their hopes washed away by the driving rain in the north of Spain. And yet, the frustrating thing is that they weren't actually that far away from winning it. Biarritz's rock-solid defence was outstanding but it was the continuous concession of silly penalties that eventually closed the door. The home side's outstanding scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili kicked five penalties and Bath were unable to respond but were certainly never humiliated.

Frustratingly, the club will not qualify for next season's Heineken Cup as a result of their abysmal form in the league earlier in the season . The turnaround since Brian Ashton's arrival has been phenomenal and I suspect that if he were to stay, really exciting times at the Rec would be just around the corner. But England will come calling and no coach can turn his country down.

The rain has made its way over the Channel and ensured the abandonment of our pre-season friendly today. Winford's ground is waterlogged, meaning that a number of our players will go into the League season proper next week having had no kind of practice whatsoever for about eight months. Grrr.....

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A sport-filled weekend in prospect. This afternoon, Bath travel to San Sebastian to play Biarritz in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup. It's the biggest game for years and the Basque side is packed full with French internationals. Logic suggests that Bath should be on the receiving end of a thorough pasting but I was saying the same before we travelled to Leicester for the QF. You just never know, if they can reproduce the sparkling attacking rugby that destroyed Bristol in the first half last week, there may yet be a trip to the Millennium Stadium in store.

Either way, we'll be heading into Bath to find a place to watch the game. The other semi-final is an even more mouth-watering affair - the small matter of a local dust-up between Leinster and Munster. Between them, the two provinces make up practically the entire national team of Ireland and I suspect that half of Limerick will be upping sticks and heading for Dublin this weekend.

Closer to home tomorrow, it all starts again. The new cricket season commences with a pre-season friendly. Weather permitting, I'll begin my vice-captaincy career with a trip to our Chew Valley neighbours Winford in a game we should win although the main thing is for bowlers to get loose and batsmen to play a few shots after a winter off before the serious stuff starts next weekend. I suppose I should say that the result doesn't really matter but Mr Momus Snr will confirm that I've always been a terrible loser!

Last song on the iPod: Adam Faith - What Do You Want?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A survey of the nation's favourite lyric found that the line 'One life, with each other/Sisters, brothers' from 'One' by U2 is the most popular.

What on earth is that about? 'One' is a good track, but it's never struck me as a lyrical masterpiece. Second placed track was the line everyone knows from The Smiths' 'How Soon Is Now'. I love The Smiths as much as the next tortured soul but wonderful as the song is, it can't be called Steven Patrick Morrissey's finest hour.

There are a number of tracks vying for that particular honour...

'London' - 'You left your tired family grieving/And you think they're sad because you're leaving/But did you see the jealousy in the eyes of the ones who had to stay behind?'

'Ask' - 'Shyness is nice/And shyness can stop you/From doing all the things in life you'd like to........Spending warm summer days indoors/Writing frightening verse to a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg'.

'Cemetery Gates' - 'Keats and Yeats are on your side but you lose/Because Wilde is on mine'

Great stuff.

But even those can't compare with Soft Cell's 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye'. Every line is a dark gem to be savoured and you'll see that opening line 'Standing at the door of the Pink Flamingo, crying in the rain' somewhere else someday soon.

Last song on the iPod: The Primitives - Crash

Friday, April 14, 2006

Well if it wasn't official before, it certainly is now. The government's own scientific adviser, Dr David King confirms that greenhouse gas emissions are set to heat the Earth by a further three degrees if our current rampaging hedonism continues unchecked. That's enough for serious drought to bring famine to 400 million people on this planet.

I know that the UK isn't acting in isolation and that increased energy output in China and India plus the resolute refusal of the US to set a target in cutting emissions means that any efforts on our part may have a miniscule effect. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take the lead. Margaret Beckett and Tony Blair should be all over the news channels immediately after Easter telling us precisely how the UK will do just that. But though industry is responsible for a large percentage of the emissions, ultimately it's down to citizens to change their lifestyle. Every one of us should be looking at ourselves to see how we could do more. And that includes me.

Last song on the iPod: Midge Ure - May Your Good Lord

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sunday's Observer suggests that a number of Whitehall departments have failed to meet their own targets for switching to greener vehicles. The deadline was 31st March for all departments to have at least 10% of their fleet producing low carbon emissions. Hilariously, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office haven't even managed 1%. Whether the cause is indifference, lassitude or sheer ego, it tells you all you need to know about the current commitment to reducing the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

Last song on the iPod: Billy Bragg and Wilco - Hesitating Beauty
A wonderful service was a fitting send-off for Laurie yesterday. There wasn't a spare seat in Eastbourne Crematorium as we paid our respects to the Grand Patriarch of the tightly-knit Hill clan. Practical, frighteningly intelligent and unstintingly patient and wise with those who sought his advice (and there were many who did), he was a truly remarkable man. An eloquent and emotional tribute from his son Peter was the perfect way to sum up what the man known universally as 'Gramps' meant to his family.

Rest in peace Laurie.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I'm such an donkey! Bought a couple of T-shirts online but was too careless to check the sizes and one has turned out to be XS. Too proud to admit my mistake, I'm going to take to the gym even more until the day comes when I can wear it out as a skinny-rib top!

A fun evening last night at the cricket club skittles evening. Half the village appeared to have turned out for the occasion and it was great to see our old neighbours, Rob and Sue, who were particularly kind to us when we first moved to East Harptree. No success at the skittling, but a good night had by all and a renewed determination to enjoy a successful season.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Did you know that, under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, one requires advance permission from the police to make any kind of protest with one kilometre of Parliament?

The same Act now brings the prospect of a 12-month jail sentence for any person who protests at any one of Britain's military bases. The ID card bill, finally allowed through by the House of Lords last week was originally promised to be voluntary. Now it is 'voluntary to be rolled out alongside the renewal of passports', meaning that you will have to have one if you wish to to travel abroad after 2009. On the basis that that group would include most of the UK population, that sounds compulsory to me.

Slowly, the government is ripping the last civil liberties from every one of us and the UK citizen, notionally a free man or woman, at liberty to live as they please, is now seen by the state as a potential enemy, somebody to be mistrusted. The war on terror is a godsend to the Government. Since time immemorial, governments have yearned to take more control of the lives of their electorate and dampen any disquiet but would not dare to for fear of the uproar that would undoubtedly result. Now, the reason that 'it's for your own good' is being used to justify all kinds of surveillance and quashing of differing opinions. Even worse, we seem to be sleepwalking towards this state of legalised servitude.

That 'beacon of Western democracy' that we so wish to export to the supposedly repressed people of the Islamic world is flickering and dying before our very eyes.

Last song on the iPod: Simon and Garfunkel - Homeward Bound

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The World Resources Institute is an environmental think-tank with the aim of 'moving human society to live in ways that protect Earth's environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations.'

Their Earth Trends website suggests that the vast majority of the scientific community is now confirming what many of us have suspected for a while. They reviewed 40 scientific papers in 2005 and released an issue brief called 'Climate Science 2005: Major New Discoveries' which they have summed up thus.

2005 was a year in which the scientific discoveries and new research on climate change confirmed the fears and concerns of the science community. Findings reported in peer-reviewed journals last year point to an unavoidable conclusion: the physical consequences of climate change are no longer theoretical; they are real, they are here, and they can be quantified.

So can we please stop messing around with half-hearted, piecemeal efforts to combat it and start taking this seriously because it's right here, right now?
Oh, and speaking of all things political.....who would have thought that Calliope would make Margaret Thatcher look like a namby-pamby social democrat?!?!
There's a piece on the Guardian's website that should concern all of us who believe in tolerance and respect for others. University professors in the US who have espoused views that are considered 'left-wing' or 'radical' are alleged to have been targeted, not just by organisations who might be considered sympathetic to the US neo-conservative cause, but by their students as well.

There are many examples but just one involved the chair of African-American studies at Yale who questioned the morality of the Iraq war and implied that the interests of Israel were not unrelated. He wouldn't be the first to have done that but a critic wrote the Wall Street Journal comparing him to Adolf Hitler of all people and the professor then found himself named on a website 'exposing' radical academics and the e-mail threats came flooding in.

Who would have thought McCarthyism was still alive and well? If it's true, it would appear that the land of the free is only free if you hold the same views as the authorities....
The obituary of Mrs Momus's grandfather appears in today's Daily Telegraph. Unbounded love and respect to Laurie, a man held in universally high esteem by all who knew him.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

History will simply record the facts thus: Leicester 12 Bath 15

But for those of us fortunate enough to be there, yesterday's Heineken Cup quarter-final was an occasion that will be revelled in and talked about over a pint and round the camp fire for years to come. The conversation will begin something like..'Do you remember when Bath, undoubted underdogs and missing their inspirational skipper, went to their fiercest rivals and, through a mixture of unquenchable spirit, heroic defence and, it must be admitted, a large slice of luck, came away with a famous victory in front of 30,000 Leicester fans?'

Leading by three points but with two men dismissed and still 10 minutes to play, it seemed as though Bath simply could not hold out against the mighty Tigers. But the minutes ticked away and still the tackles kept flying in. The crucial moment came as the match entered its final minute. Leicester and England fly-half Andy Goode had the ball, racing towards the Bath line and had three team-mates outside him, all of whom would have had the simplest of tasks to run in the match-winning try. But in a split-second that will probably stay with him for a long long time, he went for glory himself and was swallowed up by the wall of defenders. From the ensuing melee, the ball came back on the Bath side and was hacked clear. Seconds later, the ball was belted gleefully into touch, the referee signalled the end of the contest and sparked jubilation among the small pocket of blue, black and white-clad supporters around me. I may even have hugged a man I had never met before!

It was a wonderful day out and the Tigers were predictably sporting in the face of a defeat which must have been hard to swallow. Mr Momus Snr hasn't been to a rugby match for many a day but I reckon even he had been converted to the cause by 2.30pm on Saturday.

Bath were totally dominated up front in the second half, normally their strong suit - and the semi-final brings an intimidating trip to San Sebastian to play the mighty Biarritz. But any navel-gazing can wait, we're going to enjoy this one for a few days first!