Sunday, June 24, 2007

First attempt at captaincy of the season resulted in a comprehensive hammering and I'm wryly reminding myself of the old adage that captaincy in 90% luck and 10% skill but you shouldn't try it if you don't have that 10%.....

But deep down, I know that there was nothing I could have done that would have materially affected the outcome of the game and I have nothing to reproach myself for. We're just not good enough right now.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Raining again.

I'm supposed to be playing cricket this afternoon but an abandonment might not be a bad idea as, once again, we are nowhere near full strength. The club is in a trough, with our best players leaving or continually unavailable. As vice-captain, I'm partly responsible but any attempt to get your best players to play more is doomed to fail if the team is continually losing in their absence.

We were pre-season favourites in some quarters but are now staring at a relegation battle. Next weekend's annual tour can't come soon enough - we are in desperate need of some team bonding and togetherness that we can take out onto the field with us for the second half of the season. Cricket and beer in (sunny?) Weymouth might just do the trick.
The idea that people from outside the Government, 'high-profile public figures', would join the cabinet under Gordon Brown got me thinking. First thought was that it feels slightly undemocratic - Lord Ashdown is not a sitting MP and therefore has not been elected by the people - what right would he have to take his place in the Cabinet and form public policy?

On reflection though, I've decided that the idea is actually a pretty good one. We need to get away from tribalism and factionalism in politics, and the trend of Government ministers meekly toeing the party line regardless of conscience. If people outside of the Government can bring a fresh pair of eyes, good ideas and their independence to bear on policy, it's got to be a good thing.

Hey, it's the closest we'll get to Proportional Representation any time soon.

Last song on the iPod: Lloyd Cole & the Commotions - Lost Weekend

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Facebook is the craze that's sweeping the nation and even I cannot remain unmoved forever. To my eternal shame, I created my own Facebook profile a couple of weeks ago and am delighted to have more than 20 people claiming to be my friends!

To be honest, it's nothing more than a good way to waste some time but hey, it gives you the opportunity to throw metaphorical sheep at your friends and what could be more fun than that??

Last song on the iPod: The Beach Boys - Surfin' USA
A knighthood in the Queen's birthday honours list for Ian Botham, England's most famous cricketer. It's as much for his charity work as for his heroic efforts for England in the late 1970s and early 1980s but anyone of a certain age remembers the summer of 1981 and the series against Australia which will forever be known as 'Botham's Ashes'.

Despite the fact that his unbeaten 149 at Headingley is invariably seen as his finest hour, he himself admitted that it was a glorious fluke. In truth, he was a better bowler than a batsman but his unshakeable self-belief and his insistence that he could do anything on and off the field turned him into one of the most exciting cricketers of all time. His knighthood is well-deserved.

Monday, June 04, 2007

'By Tre, Pol and Pen shall ye know the Cornishmen', so the saying goes. A fab week in Cornwall with particular highlights the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth and the Tate St. Ives. Not to mention the picturesque setting of St. Mawes on the Roseland Peninsula, a place of which I never tire.

All this after an eventful trip to the Nordic countries where a fool and his luggage were soon parted. Fortunately it appeared in Stockholm, unquestionably my favourite Nordic city, in time for a cracking night out where I finished up drinking and dancing till 3am with my new Swedish friends. Happy days!

Last song on the iPod: Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nobody can have anything but great sympathy for the parents of Madeleine McCann, what has happened to them is truly dreadful - but the blanket coverage, and the dissecting of the life of the British man being regarded as a suspect is starting to grate just a little.

It's a classic case of what the US media calls MWWS - Missing White Woman Syndrome. If the missing child were a boy, or black, or Asian, or anything other than white, female, young and cute - the coverage would have dropped off ages ago and the TV stations and newspapers would have found something else to pore over. As it is, every single news station in the UK seems to have sent dozens of people over there to interview locals and local officials alike.

As for Robert Murat, he may, or may not, be involved in her disappearance but the whole media circus seems to have decided that, guilty or innocent, every detail of his life must be dragged up. Yesterday morning, there was a camera crew outside the house in Norfolk where his ex-wife lives, complete with obligatory interview with 'concerned' (for which read 'delighted to be on telly') neighbour saying how 'shocked' they were at the news. The point being that there wasn't any news. At the time, Robert Murat hadn't even been arrested, let alone charged or convicted. But the old adage of 'innocent until proven guilty' doesn't apply any more in this age of 24 hour news.

All of this doesn't take away from the fact that her parents must be torturing themselves silly and one can only hope that Madeleine McCann is soon returned to them safe and well.

Last song on the iPod: Siouxsie and the Banshees - Dear Prudence

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The UK and France have both gone to the polls over the last couple of days. The outcome of both was relatively predictable in terms of how the opinion polls had read it, with a kicking for Labour in England and Scotland and a win for the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in France, consigning the Socialists under Ségolène Royal to a third straight defeat.

What's more difficult to predict is what this might mean going forward. In the UK, despite gains for David Cameron's Conservatives, I still don't believe that there is any great enthusiasm for a return to Tory government. Not yet. I have no doubt that many people are heartily sick of Labour, as is to be expected in the middle of a third term. That doesn't mean that the Tories are home and dry. In 1992, the Tories were hideously unpopular but the voters were still not ready to embrace Neil Kinnock, resulting in a wafer-thin majority for John Major, and a government that was dead on its feet a matter of months into the new administration.

The only thing that seems definite from the UK results is that the electorate is disappointed and disillusioned and that they don't trust any party to be able to deliver the kind of vision they want to follow. That suggests two things - firstly that political engagement between the electorate and those who purport to represent them is becoming more and more difficult to achieve, and secondly that the voters haven't really made it clear what kind of vision they want, if indeed they know themselves. Those two scenarios are inextricably linked and point to even lower voter turnout in the future.

On the contrary, France's election saw a record 85% turnout with Nicolas Sarkozy emerging triumphant. It's the third win in a row for the right-wing party but this one feels different. Sarkozy is immensely unpopular in many quarters for some of his views and his description of rioters last year as 'scum' certainly ruffled a number of feathers. But although he is nominally from the same stock as Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy seems certain to be considerably more active in terms of changing French culture. He talks tough on crime and immigration, he embraces America and he has promised a 'rupture' with old-style France.

Can he get his reforms through in the face of union opposition? Is he France's Margaret Thatcher, thirty years later? Who knows - it might not be pretty but it will certainly be interesting across the Channel in the next few years......

Last song on the iPod: Billy Bragg - Sexuality

Thursday, May 03, 2007

This may (or may not for those who know me!) sound weird but my thoughts were occupied the other day by what constitutes the perfect lonely hearts ad. There's something utterly fascinating about people trying to appeal to others in just a couple of very short sentences and I've often wondered how I would write one about myself if the much-put-upon Mrs Momus ever saw the light and decided to put me off.

So after a bit of web-based searching, I came across a book entitled 'They Call Me Naughty Lola' which contains a collection of some of the quirkiest and funniest lonely hearts ads from the London Review of Books. These are simply wonderful and if they don't make you fall in love at first sight, they'll certainly pique your interest enough to delve a little deeper. Some of my favourites read like this;

'They call me naughty Lola. Run-of-the-mill beardy physicist (M, 46).'

'List your ten favourite albums... I just want to know if there's anything worth keeping when we finally break up. Practical, forward thinking man, 35.'

'I like my women the way I like my kebab. Found by surprise after a drunken night out and covered in too much tahini. Before long I'll have discarded you on the pavement of life, but until then you're the perfect complement to a perfect evening. Man, 32, rarely produces winning metaphors.'

'My ideal woman is a man. Sorry, mother.'

'I've divorced better men than you. And worn more expensive shoes than these. So don't think placing this ad is the biggest comedown I've ever had to make. Sensitive F, 34.'

And my personal favourite....

'Romance is dead. So is my mother. Man, 42, inherited wealth.'

Now don't tell me there are no potential partners there....!
Crikey, it's like moving into a new home.

I haven't lost the urge to pontificate and spout a lot of nonsense to anybody unfortunate enough to stumble on this place. But I have been away for ages. However, I do really like the new editing options on the Blogger site and I've taken the opportunity to update the look and feel of the place, add a few photos - which it's much easier to do these days - and generally give the place a bit of a spring clean.

It was a bit musty in here after being deserted for so long and a lick of paint will do wonders for the joint. Welcome back.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Check out my new favourite band, The Decemberists, (

Hailing from Portland, Oregon - they're featured in this month's issue of the UK's finest magazine, The Word, and play a kind of quirky, experimental pop-indie-folk melange with a good helping of melancholy, blood and gore, with songs on their latest album 'The Crane Wife' covering subjects from Japanese folk tales (the title track) to Northern Ireland in the 1970s and the US Civil War.

And they're really rather good.

Last song on the iPod (well, it had to be after that!): The Decemberists - Yankee Bayonet
According to today's Guardian, an 'overwhelming majority' of people in Britain are willing to sacrifice their civil liberties in order to help 'the fight against terrorism.'

This is deeply depressing, I can't believe that I'm the only one who thinks that September 11 2001 and its after-effects have been an absolute godsend to governments around the world. Traditionally, we and other nations would surely have fought tooth and nail to prevent legislation such as that introducing ID cards, 90 days detention without trial for suspected 'terrorists', anti-demonstration laws and phone tapping. Governments down the years have dreamed of introducing this kind of surveillance of its citizens but have never dared for fear of the outcry. Now they only have to mention the 't' word and it seems we are cowed into meek acceptance.

Mr Blair must think Christmas has come early.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

If all goes tonight as it has done previously, Australia will complete a comprehensive win over England some time in the early hours in the UK.

As well as confirming the first 5-0 whitewash that England have suffered in the Ashes since 1921, the occasion will mark the last time that we see Shane Keith Warne involved in a competitive international cricket match.

So many words have been written about Warne that I'm not going to go on and on but the thing I love about him is that he has always entertained. I've read columns recently castigating him for over-zealous appealing and sledging of opponents but it's all part of his sense of theatre.

It's easy to forget in this world of vast salaries that one of the core characteristics of sport, as well as the elements of competition, talent and spirit, is that it should be entertainment for spectators. Nobody captures that drama like Warne - whether it's the Ball of the Century that drifted, dipped and spun its way into history, or yesterday's observation that Paul Collingwood should give back his MBE...!

The nub of his appeal for me is that he is the antithesis of the modern professional sportsman. In a land populated by charisma-less clones with fitness coaches, dieticians and personality bypasses, Warne is unfit and overweight, surviving on a diet of pizza and toasted sandwiches. He smokes and drinks and when not involved in cricket, he relaxes by sending flirty or alternatively, obscene text messages to attractive ladies who are not his wife! And despite all that, his well of cricketing genius runs so deep that he is still the leading Test match wicket-taker of all time and arguably the greatest bowler who ever drew breath. What's not to love about that?!?

Sport lovers everywhere should feast their eyes on his last performance tonight for we shall not see his like again and we will weep when he is gone.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2007 is here at last. New Year resolutions are varied, from visiting the west coast of the USA to submitting ten chapters and a synopsis of the book that may (or may not) change my employment prospects.

I don't believe it's hypocritical to want to visit the US, despite previous criticism of the behaviour of their political leaders. It's a truly fascinating country, and the American citizens I know are invariably very personable, knowledgeable and friendly. I still love the UK despite the increasingly bewildering madness of our own political masters. Incidentally, does anybody else get the feeling that there is a sea change waiting to happen in British politics? Where the Prime Minister once appeared steadfast, he now looks increasingly like some kind of unbalanced religious fanatic. First Mate Prescott is finished, and the remainder of the Cabinet appear caught between defending increasingly bizarre policy and jockeying for position under Mr Brown. One almost feels sorry for Gordon - will he finally get the reward he has craved for so long, only to be bundled out unceremoniously just a couple of years later, drowning in a sea of recrimination?

So, a Happy New Year to all, may it bring you peace and joy. Especially if you live in Baghdad, Basra, Najaf.......