Friday, February 14, 2014

A day to remember ... apparently

My Petersfield Post column from this week. Enjoy ... or don't. Whatever ...

This Friday is February 14: Valentine’s Day. A day married women still hold in high esteem and a day married men tend to remember less than the birthday of their favourite footballer or the anniversary of their first taste of beer.

For single men, it’s different. They need to demonstrate their affection. It’s not that married men aren’t romantic – many of us aren’t but that’s a personal flaw not a gender issue – it’s just that having, surely, made the ultimate declaration of our love at the altar (or the library nowadays), does it need to be reaffirmed annually on an arbitrary date? I remember the date of my wedding anniversary every year and always shower my wife with a flower, so why should February 14 be different to any other non-anniversary day?

This was actually a genuine question I posed myself – so I decided to research St Valentine to discover just why he was the patron saint of guilt trips. Apparently he dates back to the third century and was canonised thanks to a Roman patrician by the name of Clintonius Cardus, who apparently knew a thing or two about making money.

An orphan, Valentinus – from the Latin Valentino, meaning over-priced clothing – was placed in the care of a married couple, a Mr and Mrs Sday, who were friends of Clintonius and his wife Hallmark. Now, mother and father Sday had a little cottage industry making cute teddies – the cuddly little ones with legs, not short nightdresses – holding hearts bearing messages such as ‘Te Amo’ or ‘I came, I saw, I bought you this’.

Valentinus was a clever lad and discovered helium, and subsequently, after six months of inhaling the stuff and talking like a Roman Joe Pasquale, he had a commercial idea and started inflating sheep’s bladders with the gas. He got a local artist – inbetween his shifts as a public baths pornographer – to paint on messages. These started basically, with legends such as XVIII, XXI and XXX, but they proved hopeless as rural roadside milestones, as many places were much further away than  XVIII miles, so he started selling them as birthday souvenirs through the chain of stalls set up by Hallmark and Clintonius Cardus. On the plus side, he did give us the term ‘country mile’, as in the distance between Rome and Venice was only XVIII ‘country miles’.

But then, sadly, at the age of just 33 he was killed after a giant statue, commissioned by Clintonius Cardus, of a gargoyle rampant carrying a shield with the words ‘world’s best gladiator’ on it, toppled from plinth IV of Trafalgus Forum and landed on his nut. 

Clintonius Cardus, who by now had a chain of stalls on markets across the Roman empire selling what was commonly known as celebratus tat, was devastated, as were mother and father Sday, whose bears featured heavily in Clintonius’ stock.

His coffin, which fittingly bore the legend, ‘world’s deadest corpse’ was borne aloft by card-carrying pall bearers – the cards on this occasion reading ‘We will miss you’ and ‘Good luck in your new home’ – and was covered in wreaths comprising individual chocolate lettering and costing the best part of year’s wage for the average Roman. When they lifted the coffin lid it played happy birthday and everybody wept.

Valentinus was inexplicably a national hero; he was loved by all, and people from across the Empire sent mother and father Sday cards of condolence – all sold by Clintonius and Hallmark.

Clintonius petitioned the Emperor, Augustus Bank-Holiday, to have Valentinus elevated into sainthood and so it was that we have Valentine’s Day on February 14 in modern times. Originally, he was to have been made the patron saint of plumbers – a day to be celebrated every year on January 16, but he didn’t turn up. So that job was given to Maturinus the Pole and Valentine lives on for ever in our memories as Raffles and that horrible piece of work Major Mohn in Colditz.

Feel at liberty to give this document to your kids as part of their research for Valentine’s Day – but make sure to charge them through the nose for it. We must uphold the traditions.

Friday, May 31, 2013

NOT IN MY NAME ... again

I realise that only about 15 people read my weekly column in the Petersfield Post, so I've decided to copy this week's here, despite the fact I haven't used this blog for the best part of two years.

It's not that I think it's Pulitzer prize-winning material - it clearly isn't - it's just that I want it known which side of the argument I'm on.

She Who Must Be Obeyed told me it was too serious. Whatever.

Here goes...

With all due respect to columnists elsewhere on this page, I’m not religious, nor am I a fan of religion. If faith helps people make it through the day, who am I to complain.
Some of my closest friends are religious, however, though I no more know which god they worship than the colour of their underwear. It’s not something you ask in general conversation. But I do not hold the fact they are religious against them any more than I do their politics. The one thing I do know is that religion ranks up there with imperialism when it comes to causing conflict.
Some of my friends may be Muslim for all I know, but if they are, I can sleep easy at night knowing they’re not terrorists. Most Muslims, I’m sure, would have been as appalled by last week’s events in Woolwich as the rest of us. They were undoubtedly ashamed of the horrific acts carried out in the name of their religion. Indeed, the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attack within hours stating: “This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family … this attack on a member of the Armed Forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder.”
Once again they are forced to issue a statement which effectively says “not in our name”. I can empathise with their shame and anger. As a white Englishman I was appalled by the response to the killing by the English Defence League (EDL). How does fighting with the police help that organisation’s investigation into this atrocity? How does attacking mosques achieve anything other than stoking up racial hatred? But they don’t care. That’s exactly what they want.
These are the same sort of people who 40 years ago were looking to recruit violent football supporters into the National Front. Their faces are so screwed up with hatred they can’t see the truth – and nor would they accept it if they could see it. They just want to hate and fight. It’s in their nature.
To assume all Islamic terrorists are indicative of the Muslim faith is like saying the Ku Klux Klan is truly representative of the Christian faith. When the IRA was bombing the hearts out of major cities in the 1970s and 80s, we didn’t go around blaming all Catholics. And where were the reprisals against Christians when the Yorkshire Ripper was convicted of 13 murders in 1981?
A psychopath is a psychopath whatever his or her faith. Psychopaths have an extreme view of society and their place in it regardless of their faith. No, the response to this tragic and horrific incident is racism, pure and simple.
Twitter went into overdrive last week with right-wing fanatics – every bit as bad as any other fanatic – encouraging all sorts of ghastly activity. But the best tweet I saw was sent by a serving member of our armed forces to a member of the EDL. John, whose Twitter name is ‏@lfc2652, sent a tweet which said: “There’s Muslims in the Army/Navy/RAF that do a lot more for this country than you. You gonna try (to) get rid of them as well?"
Well said sir. I’m sure most of these Neanderthals don’t – or can’t – read this column, but if they do I’ll say simply: NOT IN MY NAME.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Like bees round a honey-pot...

During a visit to a homes and garden fair last weekend – it was at the instigation of my beloved I assure you – I learned that a medium-sized hive on display, held as many as 60,000 honey bees.

These industrious creatures swarm around non-stop to create just a small amount of honey. Indeed, in its lifetime the average honey bee makes just 1/12th of a teaspoon of the stuff. That’s an awful lot of effort for very little reward.

And that endeavour is also put into perspective when you consider that not even the mighty Queen bee has achieved the commercial nous required to set up a method of decanting and taking to market.

The concept of a plethora of flair-less industrious automatons came back to me while watching England’s Under-21 side struggling to earn two draws against Spain and Ukraine in the European Championships.

England seem to have a surfeit of midfielders who can run around a lot, earning yellow cards, and playing long balls into the channels, but no Queen bee, to put a foot on the ball, be creative and do something out of the ordinary.

We got back in the game against the Spanish because, unlike the senior senors, their arrogance did not have sufficient cutting edge. Technically and creatively, we were poles apart … and come to think of it the Poles probably have better players.

It’s certainly my belief that all of the hype which surrounds our domestic league can make young players victims of their own publicity.

Jordan Henderson, for example, was a really good player until the papers starting saying he was a really good player. Now, one suspects Kenny Dalglish may have bought a £20m pup.

As somebody on Twitter said yesterday: “The Spanish are amazing – it’s like they’ve had thousands of good coaches teaching their kids how to control a ball from an early age.”

And I bet Spanish honey bottles itself too.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A street party? Not in my name...

It has been said that at the time of national depression the thing guaranteed to lift the spirits of the British is either a war or a royal celebration.

I’m not a big fan of war – it robbed me of a Grandfather I never had the pleasure to meet. And – prepare for a shock – I’m no great fan of the Royal Family either. In fact I’m a staunch republican. There I’ve said it.

This causes great consternation in our household as my wife, my mother and my parents-in-law are big monarchists. That’s not to say they all favour Henry VIII just that they are supporters of the monarchy.

So when the royal wedding comes around – I’m sorry but I will not afford it the capital letters to which the event is not justified – I will be searching for like-minded individuals who wish to avoid all semblance of it. I will probably be propped up in a bar somewhere, teetering on a stool while singing along with the ‘The Red Flag’ as played by some hairy and unkempt folk band.

Unlike, I’m led to believe in the USA, where they are lapping up every mention of the big day. They can’t, apparently, understand the ambivalence many of us this side of the pond display towards our monarchy – because they don’t have their own obviously.

If the US wishes to invade and force a regime change to secure the rights to what’s left of the North Sea oil reserves, I, for one, wouldn’t be throwing any shoes.

Looking at it objectively – and not through the eyes of somebody whose main cause of upset on the day of Diana’s funeral was that most of the pubs were shut – Friday will be a big day for Her Madge.

She, at least, is a traditional monarch, in that she’s of German extraction and appreciates the role she has inherited. Sadly for her, the children she gave life too – with one possible exception – have largely been an embarrassment to her, rather like their father.

Her eldest discusses the merits of modern architecture with flora and lost any remaining credibility he had with his infidelity. The second son mixes with all the wrong people and is possibly more of a drain on the national resource that the rest of the family combined, while the youngest is quite simply a serial failure and buffoon whom you wouldn’t invite to the opening of a crisp packet.

If these people had emerged from a four-bedroomed detached in your local environs we wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Sadly, they’re meant to be national icons and represent us abroad.

The one redeeming feature about her offspring is Princess Anne, but sadly, despite her phenomenal charity work she has a personality as prickly as a porcupine and her public image has suffered accordingly.

While there are those who would wave their Union Flags patriotically if there were a corgi on the throne there are others whose view of the Royal Family – while not as rock bottom as mine – has stuttered and will need some bolstering.

This is why a lot of responsibility sits on the shoulders of 28-year-old William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor. His paternal grandmother possibly sees him as the natural heir to the throne. Even allowing for a mother’s endearing love she wouldn’t want to pass the baton on to Moe, Larry or Curly.

William seems a decent chap. He certainly appears to have his feet on the ground and it’s fair to say his mother may have instilled in him some humility – and even a little contempt at the way other members of the royal entourage misuse their privilege.

I wish him well, not just in his marriage but in his future role as heir expectant. He’s certainly landed on his feet with Miss Middleton, for a start. She’s every little girl’s idea of a how a princess should look: beautiful, with longish hair, a nice smile and a decent figure.

To misquote Caroline Aherne’s Mrs Merton: “Tell me Kate, what first attracted you to the prematurely balding, multi-millionaire future King of England?”

Hopefully her answer might also suggest that in a largely dysfunctional, high-profile family he has emerged as a decent chap and an honourable human being. The signs are good so far.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On the side of the media

As a journalist I heard two items of news this morning which particularly saddened me.

Two award-winning photographers, Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington, were killed while covering the Libyan conflict in Misrata, where the general population is fighting to the death to rid itself of people like Gaddafi, who are rich enough to behave with impunity.

They were covering the human tragedy side of the story and became the story themselves. A very sad situation.

Here in the UK I found myself agreeing with The Sun – and, as you will understand, that is very disconcerting in itself.

Following the issue yesterday of an unprecedented gagging order by Mr Justice Eady, in an attempt to prevent details of a television star’s private life being published, The Sun actually spoke some sense for once.

It said: “Hypocritical showbiz stars, sports idols and high-profile public figures lap up positive publicity. And they often cash in on their popularity and wholesome image with mega salaries and huge fees from companies whose products they endorse. But when they misbehave and things turn sour, they go for the gag in order to protect false impressions - and their massive incomes.”

There is of course a difference between what the public wants to know and what is in the public interest. But as the newspaper points out, many of those high-profile figures rely on their wholesome image and derive a large amount of cash from subsequent endorsements. The kind of sums of cash, in fact, which allow one to take out an injunction.

Does the public not have a right to know when it’s being duped? Or when its idols have feet of clay? And let’s not forget High Court judges themselves have not been exempt from the odd character flaw which could easily lead to blackmail or worse. The circle is tightening.

Kelvin MacKenzie, a columnist in The Sun, told readers today that while he and “most media folk” know the names of the public figures protected by privacy injunctions the public don’t.

He added: “There is currently a dangerous two track-society. There are those that know and I’m one of them. And there are those that are denied knowing and that’s you, dear reader.”

More importantly Kelvin, you’re right that we’re in danger of a two-track society, but moreover, it’s one that allows the rich and powerful to behave with a degree of impunity while the rest of us have to live on a diet of what we’re allowed to be fed.

Tell me again why they’re fighting in Misrata?

Monday, March 07, 2011

A heroic vision: A postscript

The "son I never wanted" has taken issue with me over my last blog entry.

Lee insists I should point out that we never discussed the possibility of a fox with a sub-machine gun.

"That's a ludicrous concept," he chided. "It was a fox with a handgun - and we decided that each weapon would be specially adapted because the animals concerned did not possess opposable thumbs. You should make these things clear."

He was, however, delighted to acknowledge that he was becoming something of a regular in the blog. A sort of Ando to my Hiro, I observed with another Heroes' reference.

He did not approve of that either...

Friday, March 04, 2011

A heroic vision

I’ve had BT Vision for 10 days now – and it has worked more than it hasn’t, which I’m reliably informed is probably as good as it gets with BT Vision.

I have managed, via its on-demand service, to watch the entire series three of Heroes, with which I have become obsessed.

So obsessed in fact that every day when I come into work my young colleague Lee – remember him? The son I never wanted? – asks me where I’m up to. He saw the series when it was broadcast on BBC2 and is, therefore, familiar with the story.

We were having a discussion during lunch the other day about super-powers and I – completely lost in the world of fiction – claimed I felt I had a super-power.

“I realised last night,” I said, in an earnest tone which might well have sent him scurrying for the exit calling for men in white coats, “that my super-power is the ability to eat lots without actually suffering a heart attack.”

“That’s not really a super-power,” countered Lee, shaking his head contemptuously, “it just means you’re a fat bastard with a death wish.”

“But just look at it. It COULD be a super-power…” I insisted optimistically.

“How would it be useful? It’s hardly likely to help you save the world. If anything it’s going to necessitate a whole new wardrobe. You’re no Hero; just a greedy, idle git…”

In print this may seem quite harsh. True, but harsh. In fact the whole conversation was carried out in an atmosphere of jocularity, as are many of our discussions. In the past we have discussed such obscure subjects as the potential outcome of a fight between a badger with a flick-knife and a fox with a sub-machine gun.

We hardly rank alongside the great philosophers, but our stream-of-consciousness conversations have passed many a slow hour on the road to an exhibition or other, or a lunchtime when our planned walk around the nearby heath (yeah right!) has been rained off.

What’s more, this time something really positive came out of the discussion. Having realised that I would not give up until I became acknowledged as a genuine super-hero, my young sidekick suggested a name - having dismissed my attempt of Pieman as too obvious. He came up with 'Calorifo'.

At this point I realised my other super-power was to laugh so much I can almost wet myself…

Monday, February 21, 2011

Times have changed - and me with them

My love for football was engendered by watching some very poor Pompey sides from 1969 onwards.

The fact that I now like to think of myself as a football purist, however, sits a little incongruously with that background.

For most of the 70s, Fratton Park was home to a series of has-beens and ne’er would-bes. All we asked as Pompey fans was that they gave 100 per cent – or 110 per cent if you’re a football pundit – week in, week out. We knew the majority of them weren’t very talented; the redolent ‘tippy-tappy’ football of Barcelona in 2011 was some years off – even if the players had the ability, the pitches would have seen to that; and effort and commitment were the only prerequisites for a Pompey player.

When I compare the players I admire now to those I admired back then – even those from the top level – there is a stark difference between their styles.

Effort and commitment were still the two bywords of Alan Ball’s first spell at Pompey in the mid-late 80s. Yes, his team could play entertaining football, but not in the way Arsenal or Barca do today.

Triangles in those days generally meant the formation of a pointed elbow jabbing into the ribs of an opponent courtesy of Billy Gilbert, Kevin Dillon or skipper Mick Kennedy, a midfielder who saw more suspensions than Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Albert Pierrepoint combined.

I loved Scully; he was my sort of player. Committed to the point of being borderline filthy he could also play a bit as well: in other words, an ideal Alan Ball player. He would never have made a career in the 21st century. The scissor-tackle – first leg takes the ball while the second follows through in a scything motion – was his speciality. The ball ended up in row F while the player writhed in agony on the cinder track – or was it the other way around?

Scully: my hero (Sadly the only image I could find of him on the net...

That tackle is now frowned upon, and, as reluctant as I am to admit it, rightly so. Football has moved on in style and in spirit. I’d much rather see my team now demonstrate their superiority by getting the ball down and knocking it around than winning a 22-man brawl which almost inevitably kicked off whenever one of the aforementioned trio were involved.

As I alluded to previously, Ball’s team could play decent football. It would generally adhere to the following pattern: kick somebody and win ball; pass to somebody else; pass wide to wingers; sprint down the flanks; cross ball to create either a) havoc; b) a goalscoring opportunity; or c) a melee resulting in a 22-man punch-up.

They were great times. We were promoted to the first division – then the country’s top flight – at the end of the 86/87 season, and although we went back down again after just one season, the likes of Kennedy, Dillon, Gilbert, Mick Tait, Noel Blake and Paul Hardyman left their mark on the division and many of its so-called superstars.

They may have been better footballers but our lads could hold their own in any 22-man brawl – you can see there’s a theme here.

This progression of mine from idolising Mick Kennedy to eulogising over Xavi, Iniesta et al, comes, I suppose, from maturity as well as an exposure to high-quality football on TV every night of the week. In the mid-eighties I was still a testosterone-fuelled young man who was happy to see aggression triumph providing my team was the aggressor.

Now I’m a Horlicks-fuelled middle-aged man who wants his nights in on the sofa to be as fulfilling as possible – at least when it comes to football. I demand to be entertained – and with the possible exceptions of El Hadji Duouf, Marc van Bommel, Joey Barton and John Terry – I don’t wish to see people get lumps kicked out of them. Yes, including those wearing the red and white of Southampton – it’s all part of the mellowing process.

This transition has been so gradual that I had not really noticed it until two things happened in the space of 48 hours. First I had a Facebook friend invitation from somebody with whom I would stand on Fratton’s north terrace back in the 80s, when I was a member of the self-titled ‘boater boys’.

We prided ourselves on our ‘witty banter’ – it was all relative – and this particular fella would always keep our feet on the ground with his heartfelt and erudite catchphrase: “Break ’is ****ing leg!” It was symbolic of the times. He would admit he was no Noel Coward.

Like me I imagine he will have moved on and is not quite so free with his invitation to violence in 2011.

The second instance happened when my young colleague, Lee – 20 years my junior and treated as the son I never wanted – commented that all the attributes I praised Kennedy for in conversation, were just the sort of things I despise now in opponents when I fawn over Arsenal and Barcelona’s football.

He has a point. But given Pompey’s current plight I might well be tempted to eschew the ‘tippy-tappy’ stuff in favour of some good old brawn if it brought sufficient points to keep us in the Championship. I’m nothing if not fickle…

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Laugh? I nearly hit a pedestrian...

I had a quirky - yet amusing - experience while driving at the weekend.

I was listening to a Rolling Stones CD in the car while the lady on my sat-nav was directing me. The track was the 1976 classic Fool to Cry. I was happy mouthing along with the lyrics as I was driving only to hear the combined voice talents of Mick Jagger and Mrs Garmin produce an incongruous duet.

I heard: "You know what she says? She says..." "In point four miles exit left..."

The timing was immaculate. As Harry Hill might say: "What are the chances of that happening?"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

One for a wet and boring lunch-hour

If you've got half-an-hour to kill try typing your name into Google (other search engines are available). Unless you're called something like Freemantle Hawkstrangler, you'd be amazed at how you find 'you' described on the net. 

Dave Bowers, for example:
Which just goes to show what many of you had already sussed out: Dave Bowers is bloody common ...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sky caves in on football's mysogynists

It's easy to see why somebody as hairy as Richard Keys should harbour neanderthal views about women in the 21st century - but I'm shocked about the normally liberal and open-minded Andy Gray*.

Maybe they've forgotten, but Margaret Thatcher came to power in this country in 1979 - 32 years ago. Surely that is the ultimate bastion of male dominance overthrown there? Why do men persist with such misogynistic 19th century views?

What reason is there to suggest women can't understand the laws of football as well as a man? I admit that the level of football played by women is not as good as that played by men but that is down as much to physical factors as anything else.

The argument that women have 'never played the game' is specious as many men choose to go into officiating simply because they know they'll never be able to play the game at a decent level. And it's easy to pick them out even in the Premier League.

Regular readers of this blog - those in prison or who have to read Bunky's Musings as part of a community pay-back scheme - will know I spend most of my live-football-watching time at non-league level now. And the best refereeing performance I've seen so far this season was by a woman - and this in front of an assessor who had previously been heard to say there was 'no place for women in football'.

Sian Massey - proved 100 per cent correct

What seems to have been largely overlooked in Linogate - as it has been dubbed on Twitter - is that Sian Massey gor a very tight call absolutely spot on in the Wolves v Liverpool match. I didn't see the Sky coverage but I'm pretty sure that the commentary team's initial reaction - like mine while watching Match of the Day - would have been that it was 'miles offside'.

That it wasn't and that Massey correctly kept her flag down allowing Liverpool to score is all credit to her as an official, in the same way that we should have applauded had it been World Cup Final linesman Phil Sharp.

So let's be realistic about it. Men of a certain generation may not like it but women are here to stay in our national game. Let's face it, they surely can't be any worse than Lee Probert...

*I was being sarcastic...

Royal obsession just a passing fad

I'd just like to point out that the suggestion that writing about Wills and Kate would drive extra traffic to one's blog - see previous post - is erroneous ... or at least it was in the case of this site.

Perhaps the obsession with the Royals is merely a passing fad. Or maybe people simply refuse to read crap even if it's about Wills and Kate.

Personally I've chosen to believe that people can no longer remember the Blankety Blank theme tune.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

William and Kate to help common bloggers

Apparently writing about Prince William and Kate Middleton is a great way of increasing your web traffic currently. Er...

Try this: To the Blankety Blank theme tune - William and Kate, William and Kate, dum dum, William and Kate, William and Kate, dum dum, William and Kate, William and Kate ... William and Kate. WILLIAM AND KATE.

I will report back on the success, or otherwise, tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

We lost - but I'm delighted for Brighton fans

Withdean - I was sat behind the goal at the far end

I ventured to a professional football match on Saturday - I say 'professional' as I assume the players did get paid. There was certainly very little professionalism shown by my team.

I had won tickets to see Pompey take on Brighton & Hove Albion at the Withdean, a stadium I had not visited previously, and, as luck would have it, will probably never need to again.

Suffice to say Pompey - in a first-half display of petulance which would have rivalled a five-year-old who'd had its Christmas presents away for not eating its Brussells - proved incapable of resisting the Seagulls' threat and crashed to a 'giant-killing'.

Well that's how it was widely reported. In truth, there are but six places separating the two teams within the league structure - and that gap is likely to diminish if Pompey's current plight is allowed to continue. Therefore the success was not unexpected - least of all by the Pompey fans I spoke to pre-match.

There are no complaints about the result either; Brighton were far and away the better team. The reason I choose to highlight the fact I was engaged in an experiment to see if frostbite really could be contracted on the south coast of England, is to praise the home fans.

They move to a new £95m stadium next season and good luck to them. The move to Withdean was meant to be temporary. They've been there since 1999. The fact that so many of their supporters have remained loyal while watching football in such an environment should be lauded.

It has all the hallmarks of a non-league ground - which you would think given my passion for grass-roots football would be appreciated by me. The difference being that at non-league level the crowds are smaller so tend to congregate in the one area - that with the best view and, consequently, the best atmosphere. And that is the problem at Withdean.

The view from the West Stand was poor - we were so far back from the pitch that it was hard to determine what was happening at 'our end' let alone up the other end where, after 15 minutes Pompey's Dave Kitson was sent off for ... well, we've no idea.

The home fans stoicism manifests itself in self-deprecation - they mock each stand in turn. What atmosphere the little pockets of vocal fans could muster was lost to the skies as most of the 'stadium' is uncovered. Better men than I would have given up and taken up a different hobby in the last decade rather than be forced to watch their team in such an environment.

And it's not like they've put up with it because the club has been successful - the last 10 or so years have been tortuous for Brighton. Thankfully they now seem to be heading for bigger and better things - and I'm delighted for them. Their younger fans seemed to think they'd turned over a 'big club'. If that's how they feel, great - that's what the FA Cup is all about.

In truth, in a couple of years we Pompey fans may see a game against our south-coast rivals as a chance to turn over a team higher up in the league structure. And if, under Gus Poyet, Brighton succeed in enjoying success in their new stadium I, for one, won't begrudge their fans a moment of it: everything should come to those who wait.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Getting fruity on my 'diet'

My first week of attempted weightloss has largely been based around eating the right things – and much smaller portions.

For example my lunch this week has consisted simply of two satsumas. This has already had an effect and I have had to tighten my belt, literally.

When I passed this information about my “satsuma diet” on to my work colleagues, the young frivolous one commented to anybody within earshot: “When he first heard of this he thought they said ‘Sumo diet’ and thought ‘Great, those blokes must eat loads!’”

If I hadn't been laughing so much I would have thumped him.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New year: same old story

I imagine many thousands of people will, like me, have resolved to lose weight in 2011.

This is not an unusual occurrence for me. As far back as I can remember each new year has seen me resolve to lose weight. And generally I do. Initially. Sometimes I even keep it going until April/May time.

Then the wheels come off – well they would under all this weight.

My wife tells me regularly that I should lose weight for the benefit of my heath and, while I find it a compelling argument, I have to remind her that there are several obstacles to this solution.

Firstly, I was not built for exercise. Not just now that I “have ballooned to the size of a large, round ball” (courtesy Mrs J Bowers), but always. I was reminded of this fact when I bumped into an old schoolmate during the post-Christmas shopping frenzy that seems to engulf as all between December 26 and 31.

I admitted my weight now fluctuated between 20 and 23 stone, to which he replied “To be fair mate, you never were built for stealth." It was the second time in a few months that an unexpected meeting with a former schoolmate had witnessed a similar comment. The previous one went “Well, you never were sylph-like.”

A lesser man might have taken these comments personally but I have a thick skin. A very thick skin apparently and getting thicker year on year since I was a schoolboy.

The second reason for my travails is that I find it hard to give up food. I like food. I don’t have many vices. I don’t smoke; I don’t do drugs; I’m no philanderer; I don’t have a gambling habit; and I don’t clamp cars for a living.

I do like the occasional drink, but more than that I’m a sucker for fresh bread and cheese. And nice desserts. And taramasalata. And curry. And other stuff. OK, I admit I have been known to blaspheme and I own up to coveting my neighbour’s cheeseboard, but everybody should have some fun.

A bad shoulder prevents me from playing golf. I can’t afford to go to watch my favourite football team any more – though some might say that is a blessing in disguise currently. And nor can I afford more than one night out per calendar month with either the lads or my wife. I’m also subjected by said wife to hours of soap operas and sundry TV programmes that even the East German Stasi would have considered inhumane to show prisoners.

On top of that I now have to cut down my daily calorie intake to four figures and spend at least half-an-hour per day on the Wii Fit. As a great believer in the merits of team sports I find that particularly galling as there may be no I in ‘team’ but there are three of the bloody things in Wii Fit.

But perhaps it was the reaction of this wonder of the technological age that put the lid on my bodily expansion. In creating my Wii Me (give me strength) I discovered I couldn’t create a little character with a waistline that was truly representative. And then when it measured my weight I was actually off the scale which finished at ‘obese’.

So to misquote Lewis Carroll – who I believe did not have a weight problem – the time has come, the walrus said, to digest other things. No cheese, no beer, no bread, no fun, just cabbages and things…

■ Weight at January 4, 2011: a lot

A new year's message

Welcome to 2011. This year I will mostly be buying food, books and children's clothes. Cheers George.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bye Sam!

Oh dear. I do hope it was nothing I said...,,10303~2243513,00.html

Hurrah for Coyle's Bolton!

Even Bolton's pre-match stretches prove entertaining to watch

As somebody who has never lived further north than 25 miles from the south coast my interest in Lancashire derbies has never been more than fleeting.

Yet I took more than a passing interest in yesterday's Premier League clash between Bolton Wanderers and Blackeye Rovers, simply because it resulted in Owen Coyle's football beliefs winning out over those of 'Big' Sam Allardyce - I'm sure the prefix was self-generated given the Rovers' boss' high opinion of his talents.

Allardyce, of course, is a former Bolton manager. He took his style of football - which basically consists of half-a-dozen nasty herberts mixed with a few footballers - from the Reebok to Ewood Park. The air is apparently thinner there so the ball flies higher and longer.

Coyle took over from Gary Megson at the Reebok and has brought a more cultivated style to bear on his Bolton squad - despite the presence of Zat Knight. Which is why for somebody who likes to think of himself, somewhat pretentiously, as a 'football purist' it was good to see the 'up-and-under-and-flatten-the-keeper' merchants turned over - particulalry as Wanderers' late winner came from a long ball expertly nodded down by the immensely likeable (despite his Saints' past) Kevin Davies.

Bolton have become quite an entertaining side in the past year if Match of the Day highlights are anything to go by. And to beat Allardyce's bullies while playing with only 10 men is both creditable and, for the neutral, great to see.

A further reason for taking more notice in Bolton's future matches is the pitchside advertisement for The Nipple Shop! Sadly the truth is much more prosaic than we might wish...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Selling out is no laughing matter

When I was a teenager I had a couple of mates who were ‘music snobs’.

They knew a lot about the indie scene and would eulogise about bands of which the rest of us had never heard.

Then, when they’d made it big and we had heard of them my mates would drop them like a copy of the Daily Mail from the hands of a socialist.

“They’ve sold out,” they always said. I always had mixed views on that stance. On the one hand I admired them for liking the music in its raw state before producers got hold of it; while on the other I thought the band members wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it now they were raking in the royalties.

I now know – in a strange way – what my mates were going through. I’ve realised I’ve become a ‘comedy snob’.

Down the years I’ve seen and heard many up-and-coming stand-ups at small clubs and pubs or on obscure radio shows; some were never seen again. Others impressed me so much I would follow them to further smaller venues and delight in their burgeoning reputation.

Yet last night, as three such comedians – Miranda Hart, Marcus Brigstocke and Paul Merton – came together on Have I Got News For You, I felt a tinge of envy that others could now share in the joy they had brought me.

There had been some kudos in knowing that, how ever many years ago it was, if I had said their names to my nearest and dearest they would have shrugged and said “never ‘eard of ‘em”. I suppose there’s an element of one-upmanship involved.

But, with the advantage of maturity – and the knowledge that I could do bugger all about it – the envy passed quickly and I realised that who am I to even subconsciously deny anybody else the joy these people can bring into our lives.

There have been others whose name I noted when they were on the bottom rung of the comedy ladder – but I’m now glad to say they’ve made it big and are delighting millions of people through radio, comedy and DVDs (yes, they’ve ‘sold out!’).

People like Mark Watson, Frank Skinner, Punt & Dennis, Jim Tavare, Patrick Kielty, Milton Jones, John Oliver and Rufus Hound, all had an immediate effect on me when I first heard them. And yes, I’m glad they’ve made it to the top of the tree.

And I hope that the likes of Tony Cowards and Patrick Monahan are soon just as well known. It’ll be great to be able to tell people that I think they’ve ‘sold out’…

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

It's a generation thing...

It took Margaret Thatcher several years to disenfranchise an entire generation - the current coalition has achieved it in just a few months.

First we had students protesting the rise in tuition fees. Today schoolchildren are up in arms about the proposed cuts for funding school sports.

Every week the group railing against the Con-Dems gets younger. What next? Toddlers objecting to the loss of nursery school vouchers?

Or maybe embryos protesting the planned closures of birthing units such as the one at my local hospital in Petersfield?

I'm 47, so it will be some time before the protests go full circle and the Government upsets my generation. But rest assured, once they start putting up car-parking charges at National Trust properties and increasing the tax on Horlicks I shall be out there manning the barricades.

Only up until about 9pm you understand. I can't stay out too late.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Comedy's breath of fresh air

Miranda Hart - such fun!

If you know me well – and I can only assume you must do if you’re prepared to read this tripe – then you will know I love my comedy.

Whether it’s the slapstick antics of Laurel and Hardy, the unforgettable vintage radio half-hours of Hancock, The Goons and Round the Horne, the stand-up of Max Miller or Mark Watson, or the TV comedy from Dad’s Army through to Scrubs, I have a passion for the stuff that makes us laugh.

So last night it was with childish glee that my beloved and I queued up in freezing temperatures outside BBC TV Centre in Wood Lane, to be members of the audience for the Christmas episode of the wonderful Miranda.

Wonderful? Yes, wonderful. It might not be the critics’ favourite but that’s because it’s a throwback to more gentle times. The eponymous Ms Hart is a breath of fresh air in the current comedic climate.

Unpretentious, self-deprecating and a master – or should that be mistress? – of the slapstick turn, she exudes a feel-good factor which evidently rubs off on fellow cast members who appear to enjoy making the show as much as we enjoy watching it.

No bad language, few sexual references, just a rich panoply of embarrassing scenarios, misfortunes and neuroses to which many of us – male or female – can relate.

It is what I call very funny. Such fun…

■ If you’ve yet to discover the joy of Miranda, watch BBC2 8.30pm today. You won’t regret it. Oh, and she's from Petersfield. Hurrah!

■ Check out a recent interview with Miranda Hart here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Football is all about 'intent'

in•ten•tion [in-ten-shuhn]

– noun

1. an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.
2. the end or object intended; purpose.

I’ve checked. You can see I have. I wanted to see if there was any ambiguity. There isn’t.

I wanted to see, for example, if in a court of law there would be any precedent for interpretation. I can’t imagine there is.

So why is football a different case? I watched the highlights of Saturday’s Fulham v Spurs match with incredulity. And not just because when the camera panned on to Harry Redknapp he didn’t twitch as if somebody had just poured a jug of ice down the back of his neck.

No, it was because the outcome of the game was determined not by the skills of the individuals involved but by the laws of the game and how the Football Association – those who butcher the laws – are allowed to interpret them.

In the first half, Spurs full-back Cordeiro Sandro was cautioned by referee Mike Dean after a challenge on Simon Davies. Davies had whipped over a cross as Sandro slid in. The Welshman avoided the challenge and no contact was made. But the intention was there, so Dean – correctly under the current laws – brandished a yellow card.

In the second half Tom Huddlestone fired in a shot from outside the box on which William Gallas, standing in an offside tried to get a touch. He failed. Because he failed the goal was allowed to stand. However, the INTENTION was there. He intended to get a touch and therefore was seeking to gain an advantage.

If intention is good enough to warrant a caution, surely that sets the precedent?

Spurs’ goal counted because Gallas wasn’t good enough to get the touch on the ball he intended. If a better player had been involved the touch would have happened and the goal would have been ruled out. Surely that’s not right? Since when has ability determined intention?

Where does it stop? A hypothetical scenario: Dimitar Berbatov gets hauled down by the last defender and the referee issues a red card. The same thing happens with Wayne Rooney yet the official issues only a yellow card.

The reason, he says, is “because Berbatov’s in form and Rooney isn’t, therefore it’s my view that only the former was a definite goalscoring opportunity…” Don’t mock – we’re not that far away from it.

The bunglers at the FA defend rule changes on the basis that they are looking to make the game more entertaining … presumably more entertaining for us, the fans. Yet all that happens is an increase in controversy and more fans’ frustrations.

Why don’t they stop meddling? If they insist on making the offside law easier to apply let’s take a lesson from rugby.

If a player is standing in an offside position but walking back against the direction of play, 'he is not considered offside if he acknowledges the fact by raising both arms in the air. He can not participate until the next phase of play'. That way he can be seen to be not seeing to gain an advantage and it’s not putting extra pressure on the match officials.

If the FA would like to discuss it further I’m free all next week. It’s about time they had somebody without a blazer at Soho Square…

Friday, September 17, 2010

What's that you say Skip? Bunky's in trouble?

When you’re 47-years-old unique experiences are few and far between.

If you find one it tends to be expensive, borderline illegal, morally dubious or even all three.

That’s where working with youngsters 20 years your junior can help. Yesterday, I was afforded a unique experience by my colleagues. It was not one I would ever have gone out of my way to undertake, nor would I have even considered it.

Succinctly, I was shut in a skip. It’s not exactly on a par with the trauma of Natascha Kampusch but for somebody whose bad ankle wouldn’t take the drop from a yard up, it might have proved emotionally distressing – at least until the next cup of coffee arrived.

In short, I foolishly offered to help my colleague Lee – on whom there is now a fatwa – move a tired old filing cabinet into the skip, which, being of an old manufacture, has the advantage of a drop-down end.

While Lee walked around the outside of the skip holding up his end of the tired old cabinet, this tired old hack walked into the skip with the other end to facilitate a correct positioning of the superfluous jetsam.

No sooner had the young rapscallion dropped his end than he had run around to the back of the skip and raised the ‘drawbridge’ thingy leaving yours truly standing in a skip, and facing the daunting prospect of a leap from a yard up on to fragile ankles and a dodgy Achilles.

As I toiled in vain to work out the highly sophisticated locking system on such a working-class implement, my other young colleague Henry Alliss emerged and took a picture of me in the midst of my suffering.

And, as both guys knew I was currently working my way through a box set of the teenage angst comedy The Inbetweeners, Alliss turned on his heels while quipping “Ha! Skip-w***er!”

I expect better from somebody whose father and grandfather graced the Ryder Cup…

Note the sophisticated locking mechanism on the skip - it wholly defeated me
(pic courtesy of Henry "Is that your printing finished or mine?" Alliss)

I even earned a temporary new nickname: Skippy. What’s more, young Alliss then produced a colour copy of the picture for the office wall, the only redeeming feature being that it gave me the air of a confident Special Forces commander about to leap from a landing craft on to Omaha beach.

Whereas the reality is, unlike those brave souls, I would never have had the courage to even get in a landing craft, let alone jump out of one while under a barrage of fire from an enemy intent on turning me into a colander.

Particularly not on these ankles…

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Running Man's still got talent...

Because my wife is away for a few days and having stumbled across my old VHS copy, I watched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man last night.

Despite the cheesy acting and the incongruity of some of the scenarios, it remains an enjoyable watch 23 years after it was made – and Maria Conchita Alonso is still hot.

And Dickie “Richard” Dawson, who plays vile gameshow host Damon Killian, was a friend of my mother’s when they were growing up together in Gosport in the 1930s.

But something struck me: the film is based in 2017, seven years from now, at a time when a communications company effectively rules the planet.

"Tonight Simon, I'm going to sing I Dreamed a Dream..."

And it centres around a TV show in which members of the public are put on display to be ritually ripped apart – literally in this case – by show regulars, all at the whim of an autocratic, ratings-driven, ego-maniac who wears the waistband of his trousers just a little too high (I may have added the last item for verisimilitude).

Does it sound familiar? Mind you the chirpy dwarf characters didn’t appear until Arnie made Total Recall, three years later.

Monday, September 06, 2010

I'm not funny and I'm not doing myself any favours

I've been really quiet on the blogging front and I'm truly sorry. My head has been turned by another.

We're all tempted at some stage in our lives but I succumbed ... to Twitter. I always used to say to my wife that occasionally I'd get these one-liners come into my head and I had no outlet for them.

Well Twitter has provided that outlet. With only 140 characters a one-liner is exactly that. It has to be pithy. And it has shown me - by the number of re-tweets - that what I think are funny one-liners aren't always funny to anybody else.

This comes as something of a disappointment but not necessarily something of a surprise. It's self-indulgence really - and I suppose I've always been self-indulgent. I thought I was funnier than I am. Making your friends laugh - maybe, it now transpires, out of politeness - in the pub is not actually the same as being able to provide material to Sean Lock or Marcus Brigstocke. Though Michael McIntyre probably would have used it...

Years ago, with a couple of mates - Steve Woodhead and Steve Wemyss (they more than deserve a namecheck) - I launched Frattonise, the Pompey fanzine. And I'm glad to see it has resurfaced on-line recently (e-frattonise) with new contributors. People used to tell us that it was funny. And some of the things they told us were funny came from my pen ... not many looking back, but some.

I went into journalism and won some plaudits for my "humorous" columns and features - I was even nominated for regional feature writer of the year early in my career. But that, it would seem, was the zenith of my comedic flight of fancy. That and being invited to do stand-up at Jongleurs after impressing during an open mic event I was press-ganged into doing by my editor a few years later.

None of the nationals came calling: they preferred the light-hearted banter of Richard Littlejohn or Jan Moir. Sure I penned the odd column for a mate who edits a local newspaper, but it's done because of friendship not 'readies'.

The odd bit of contibution to satirical websites aside, I have now, in my late 40s fallen into Grumpy Old Man mode. Twitter has shown me the error of my ways - I'm not funny any more. I won't achieve my ambitions of writing a comedy script for Radio 4, contributing to the Now Show, or penning that comic novel.

I have ended up, as all failed would-be humorous writers will end up in the 21st century: Tweeting and/or writing a blog. I will file the buff file labelled 'ambitions' in the same box that contains my 40"-waist trousers, my curriculam vitae, all my polo shirts and the audio tape from 1983 which saw me fronting - albeit briefly - a band. The box will be labelled "Do Not Open until my death or my first published novel - whichever is the sooner".

Save for a full head of hair, I am, to all intents and purposes Wally from Scott Adams' superb series of Dilbert cartoons: an office worker existing on large doses of caffeine and cynicism in equal measure.

I will continue to blog (occasionally) and Tweet (pointlessly) but don't expect to laugh. I will simply be chronicling my slow demise into retirement and a wicker coffin at the East Hampshire Sustainability Centre.

*But if you do want to laugh, check me/Wally out here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The World Cup's Webb of lies and intrigue

Midfielder Mark van Bommel responds to criticism of the Dutch style of play

English ref Howard Webb has been lambasted by the Dutch coach, Bert van Marwijk, following Spain’s 1-0 victory in the World Cup final.

Van Marwijk was critical of Webb’s handling of the game which saw a record number of yellow cards issued.

The Dutch boss said: “The Englishman ruined the game. At no stage did he attempt to stop the Spanish players from hitting my players’ studs with their chest, hitting their boots with the backs of their calves, or using their shinpads to rake the soles of my players’ boots.

“It was outrageous to allow a team that passed a ball that quickly to win.”

Webb was not intimidated by the finger-wagging he received afterwards from van Marwijk, saying: “I’m a policeman from Rotherham so being confronted by an angry bloke called Bert is not a unique experience.”

A FIFA spokesman said: “His name’s Bert? We thought he was a Dick!”

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ole! It's Spain for me

I'd like to say this has been the best World Cup in living memory, but obviously I can't.

Not simply because England were inept - it just never seemed to engender the same excitement as previous competitions.

However, tomorrow's final does have the potential to go down as a classic, featuring two teams with a reputation for good football - classic football in the Spanish case.

And it's the Spaniards I want to win because I consider myself - maybe pretentiously - a football purist.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching them play keep-ball against the Germans even though, like many others, I was urging them to show more of a killer instinct in and around the box.

I have nothing against the Dutch per se - indeed in 1974 and 1978, as a kid, I was heartbroken when they failed to win the World Cup. Like many of my generation I was enthralled by the likes of Cruyff, Neeskins, Krol, Rensenbrink and Rep. Superb players allowed a freedom the like of which we may not see again.

And that's the crux. That golden generation failed to win the World Cup - and it would be wrong for this Dutch team to succeed where they failed. They pale in comparison.In the same way that it would have been wrong for John Terry and Wayne Rooney to have been elevated to the stature of Sirs Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst. Unimagineable.

Robben, for all his undoubted ability, is a big girl's blouse, or a cheat if you prefer. Van Bommel and de Jong are quite simply thugs. Both should have received straight red cards at some stage in this tournament, yet both will probably feature tomorrow night.

No, the Spanish are the natural torch-bearers for Cruyff and Rinus Michels' Total Football generation - just look at how offensive are the full-backs.

Nailing colours to the mast: I want Spain to win. Apart from anything else, I've got money on them...

Friday, July 02, 2010

Crosby stills gnashing teeth (Tenuous pun!)

Not that I plan on watching GM:tv in the future - not now I've converted Mrs B to the delights of BBC Breakfast - but I'm delighted to hear my one-man campaign for the removal of the vacuous Emma Crosby has succeeded.

Reports today indicate the airhead has been axed from the show aimed at vacuous airheads. Watching her trying to conduct a serious interview was akin to watching Wayne Rooney discussing the merits of dark matter with Stephen Hawking.

The Chiles/Bleakley partnership might even lure me over to GM:tv, if there are no serious issues to be addressed. But even the delightful Christine looks out of place when dealing with difficult topics. I suppose that's what comes from knocking around with over-paid, overweight footballers*.

*Yes I know I am overweight too, but I don't pretend to be a talented, professional athlete. Or just an athlete. Or talented. Or even professional... 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Why do we demand club success for our national boss?

So if not Fabio Capello, who?

Harry Redknapp? Don’t make me laugh. His wheeler-dealing is hardly appropriate to international football and any Pompey fan will tell you his tactical acumen could be engraved on a pin-head with a pneumatic drill.

Roy Hodgson? Maybe. But why would a sensible man in his 60s take on the England job in preference to rejuvenating the sleeping giant at Anfield.

Jose Mourinho? Probably the ideal choice, but the suits at the Football Association are no more likely to appoint him than they were Brian Clough in the mid-70s. And we all know he was the right man then.

But why does an international manager need to be proven at club level? It seems only UK teams are fixated on that ideal.

I’ve looked at the careers of World Cup-winning managers in my years watching football and club success does not appear to be a priority.

Franz Beckenbauer had no real managerial experience before taking over the German national side in 1984 and six years later won the World Cup.

In the six years after he left the job he managed Olympique Marseille and Bayern Munich, collecting domestic titles along the way. But that was it. He’s had more marriages than club management jobs.

Carlos Bilardo won the World Cup in 1986 – and although he had Maradona in the side, which isn’t a bad position to be in, his club experience was limited to two spells at Estudiantes and brief stints at Deportivo Cali and San Lorenzo. And he didn’t pull up any trees there.

Italy’s Enzo Bearzot spent six years as coach to his country’s under-23 side before moving up and ultimately winning the World Cup in 1982. Before that he’d been manager for one season at Prato – no me neither, Prato having last reached the heights of Serie B in 1964.

César Luis Menotti (Argentina 78)? One league title in four seasons with Newell’s Old Boys and Huracán before being given the job.

Helmut Schön (West Germany 74)? A brief spell as manager of unfancied Wiesbaden, before spending four years as manager of a then-independent Saarland side, before becoming assistant to Sepp Herberger for the West German national team and succeeding him in 1964.

Four largely uneventful years as manager of Botafogo was all Mario Zagalo had on his managerial CV before taking over the Brazilian national side and taking them to glory in 1970 despite the much discussed personality issues within the camp.

Carlos Alberto Parreira had won nothing as a club manager before leading Brazil to glory in 1990. Instead it was his achievement in getting Kuwait into the World Cup finals which raised his stock. Subsequently he has, in total, taken five nations to the World Cup finals. He didn’t even play the game at a particularly high level.

Big Phil Scolari’s club management experience was extensive but much of it was spent outside of the mainstream football nations, in Kuwait and Japan, for example; though he did win titles in Brazil. But we know how successful he was at Chelsea and it is Premiership success that we – and particularly our knee-jerk football media – demand.

Frenchman Aimé Jacquet (1998) had a successful club career and obviously Marcello Lippi (Italy 2006) had an exceptional club career, but they are the exceptions. And we only have to look back a few days to see where Lippi is now.

So the next time somebody calls for David Beckham, Alan Shearer or Stuart Pearce to be given the job don’t automatically dismiss the suggestion out of hand.

Goodbye and good riddance

I was going to blog about England players' World Cup capitulation but I thought they couldn't be arsed, so why should I?

Monday, June 21, 2010

A lazy blogger - and a very sad tale

Just to confirm I'm an incompetent pillock, this is my first blog for nearly three weeks and I'm going to have written less than five per cent of it ... but with good reason.

I have chosen to pass on an email I received from a very good mate which tells - in words and pictures - a very sad tale. And illustrates perfectly, in my humble opinion, where we get things wrong in this country.

Surely some of the many millions of lottery handouts could have been directed to this very worthy cause.

Please pass on the tale to anybody you know. We can't let this pass without comment.

The email below was sent to me by leading photographer, ale critic and cocktail bar raconteur Steve Bailey (

I headed over to Lasham on Sunday where there is the Second World War Aircraft Preservation Society (SWWAPS) ... or should I say was...

They have had to fold due to lack of funding and have sold off nearly all their aircraft. I was met at the perimiter fence by a diminutive old lady who had clearly been involved with SWWAPS for quite some time.

She told me about all the aircraft they used to have on display, how they had at one time hoped to renovate some of them, as well as how and why they were closing. They have already sold off most of their aircraft and only the dismantled remnants of a few remain. A very sad tale indeed.

The woman was standing next to the de Havilland Australia Drover Mk 2, the main fuselage of which lays on its belly beside the crumbling hut that for the time being remains the SWWAPS Headquarters.

She patted it and told me: "There are only a couple of aircraft left, including the flying doctor here."

This DHA-3 Drover Mk.2 became a part of QANTAS (Qantas Empire Airways) in 1952 and never actually served in the Royal Flying Doctors Service flight (registrations VH-EAZ and VH-EAS. After seven years service, it was shipped to the UK and reregistered G-APXX in December 1959, but would never fly again.

The aircraft was put on show in Southend in 1967 painted up in RFDS livery, carrying RFDS registration VH-FDT, that of a sister aircraft. That museum shut down in 1987 and the aircraft was donated to SWWAPS.

Behind the old lady, loaded on to a flat bed truck stood a once great Gloster Meteor (NF.13) now in pieces. She told me this was heading for Poland and was due to be picked up tomorrow.

The Gloster Meteor Mk. I made its first flight on 15th May, 1941. It had a maximum speed of 415 mph (667 km) and had a range of 1,340 miles. It was just over 41 ft long with a wingspan of 43 ft and armed with four 20 mm cannons.

The first 20 Meteors were delivered to the Royal Air Force in June 1944. The Mk. I saw action for the first time on 27th July, 1944 used as a defence against the German V1 Flying Bomb.

Armstrong Whitworth built Gloster Meteor NF.13, a version of the NF.11 designed for use in tropical climate in 1953. This particular aircraft serial WM366 (39 Squadron RAF), was sold to the Israeli Defence Force – Air Force in 1956 and became serial 4X-FNA. It was reclaimed from a desert graveyard before being brought to Lasham.

I'm not sure I should have been, but I was ushered through a barbed wire fence and told I could take a look around and as many photos as I wanted. The poor woman who I would imagine has dedicated many years to the Society seemed close to tears.

There remain a Royal Danish Air Force Hawker Hunter F51 (E-423), A Royal Air Force Gloster Meteor F8 (WH291) the last Meteor to see service with the RAF and the wings of another Royal Air Force F8 (VZ530). lashed to a tree and marked as "sold".

In the woods beside the SWWAPS offices and a little beyond the sold wings of the Meteor are some shell cases. Positioned in the woods and looking like a manifestation of spring, they rise from the ground as if they were meant to be there.

One further shell stands beside the SWWAPS HQ, it looks perfectly natural here among the flowers. I wonder if it will see through the summer.