31 July, 2013

The Beeb

Is it my imagination or is the BBC Sports department grossly overstaffed?

'And now it's time for Sport. Here's Roger Spode'

'Thanks Derek. And there's some exciting cricket. Here's John Snoad'

'Thanks, Roger. England are to play Australia in the third Test at Old Trafford. Here's Brian Toad'

'Thanks John, and we go over to Jason Wode at the ground. How's the atmosphere Jason?

'Thanks Brian, here's Bill Hoad who's been talking to some of the crowd....'

29 July, 2013

EU threat

The EU, without any consultation with member states, has declared it wants to operate spy drones, surveillance satellites and aircraft, under the control of mad-or-useless Baroness Ashton.

Britain can of course have no part of this, but it is still of concern that there is an undemocratic state on our borders willing to pose this sort of threat. Will we be paying through our taxes for the EU's bureaucrats to spy on us?

We clearly need to try to put a stop to this blatant usurping of power from member states. Ashton can no more be trusted with a drone than any other unelected self-aggrandising leader, such as Kim Jong-un.

28 July, 2013


Following the riots in French cities against the ban on the burqa, there is a strong political movement to go further and ban the headscarf.

Some people won't be amused.

JJ Cale

I was saddened to hear of the death of JJ Cale, a prolific songwriter and collaborator with just about everyone who matters. He was 74 and still had a lot to give

26 July, 2013


Mick Jagger is 70 today and this blog sends its best wishes.

A interesting fact about Jagger is that he once wrote his autobiography but it was deemed too boring and he had to give the advance back.

The Commentator

After a short hiatus the Commentator is back. There's an article from me about Italian austerity and lots of other interesting pieces. Read it. It's free.

The barbecue

Central Italy, July. It had been 35C during the afternoon and by early evening it was just beginning to cool down. There wasn't a breath of wind. I had some lamb steaks marinading in herbs and at such times everything just tells you 'barbecue'.

Perhapas it's that little bit of the caveman in every male - because it's a man thing, isn't it?. It's only a very little bit of caveman in me, and usually well-hidden, but there I was with the raw meat (I hadn't actually killed the lamb, but, you know, I might have done). There's the fire you have laid yourself, the flames dying down to a satisfactory white heat, the fact that you attend to it standing up, looking competent. Yes, there's definitely something about it.

But now, today, I am emerging from the non-barbecue closet. I am coming out. I can't do it.

We usually only have one barbecue a year because it takes me 11 months to forget the personal humiliation of the exercise, but there comes a time, usually in July, when last year's events have been excised from my conscious mind and I'm up and at it. Like a caveman.

Finding the barbecue proved to be an early, confidence building success. It was underneath the strimmer. I brought it out and began the assembly procedure, as complex as the launch preparation for space travel. The pan or holder is round, it fits on to a tripod and the grill fits with a spigot into a hole in the bottom of the pan. But why only three legs? Every time I set it up it fell over on to the side with no leg. My partner, a mere girlie, what View from the Boundary would describe as 'someone of the female persuasion' fixed it. She's an engineer. It was probably something about the angle of incidence or reflection, or something.

Now the top, or business end. It wouldn't come out. The spigot on the grill thingy simply would not come out of the hole in the pan. Whilst for cooking this was how you wanted it, I knew I wasn't going to be able to get the charcoal in, which is, of course, a sine qua non. I pulled and twisted, twisted and pulled. I put it on the ground and, placing my foot on the pan, pulled with all my strength. No joy. I paused for breath. This was getting personal but I knew that the solution lay with brain rather than brawn. Did I tell you I went to Oxford? Holding the handles to the grilly bit, I wedged the circular pan under a stone table and jumped upwards. Some disturbance to the table and an unexpected pain in my right shoulder but no result. Then, perhaps injudiciously I gave the thing a hearty buffet against the trailer to the tractor (I am nothing of not rustic).

I should have told you that underneath the pan there is a sort of metal bar with a knob, for the technical, which regulates how far down the spigot can go and thus the height of the grill off the charcoal. I bent this, or rather the trailer did. So it was that when the girlie engineer, tired of the worsening invective, came to remove the grill and its spigot from the pan (probably something about Newton's third law) and I got the charcoal in, the grill would only descend to several inches off the charcoal. Tant pis. Charcoal, firelighters, matches and the caveman was ready to go.

Evening was descending by now and with it a slight breeze, so I can scarcely be blamed for not being able to light the firelighters. But I persisted and after the better part of a box of long matches I had a merry little blaze going. Of white, petroly things.

Obviously there are two types of charcoal: the regular sort and another which they have made non-inflammable. This was what I was using. So, more firelighters, more of a different type of charcoal, another box of matches and we were off. After the firelighters had expended I could see there was some action here, with the occasional spark illuminating the by now darkened sky. We just had to wait for it to be ready to cook. At least we wouldn't be disturbing the neighbours who would have gone to bed long ago.

I had been nibbling bits of bread to mop up the wine I had been pouring down, and we sat down, tipsy, at what seemed like the following day. And, do you know?, the food wasn't bad.

But I had lost my appetite.

23 July, 2013

Linguistic Correctness

I am indebted to the artist Robert Tilleard for pointing out that it is Brooks's Club of St. James's, not Brooks' Club of St. James'.

Checking with Fowler's Modern English Usage (1926 Edition) I find that leaving the extra 's' off was the early form, but it is only these days (or at least in 1926) done in Poetry and in reverential style. I distinctly remember being taught to leave it off, but then my old Headmaster, Walsham Temple Crewe Maynard, dated from pre-1926.

Incidentally, the spell-checker on the blog allows Brooks' but not Brooks's. But Fowler rules.

I like a bit of pedantry and have accordingly changed the blog title.

What's in a name?

Paul Harrison of Sky News: 'The Duke and Duchess will have had lists of girls' names and boys' names, so they'll have dispensed with the girls' names quite quickly.'

Phew! So it's not going to be called Mildred, then.

What about Eric? We haven't had a King Eric, even though it's an old and distinguished name.

No, Timothy. That's better. It means God fearing which keeps you on the straight and narrow, I can tell you.

Sorry, getting over-babied already. Let's get it over with.


Only one item in the news today. Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The Daily Mail, predictably, virtually gives up the entire paper to it whilst the Guardian, perhaps equally predictably, has a Republican button to avoid all discussion of the matter.

I am still trying to find out why Catherine, married to a Prince and now the mother of one, is not a princess.

22 July, 2013

Trouble in the banlieue

The outskirts of Paris and several other French cities are in ferment after some heavy handed police
action against women wearing burqas.

In truth, as this blog pointed out at the time, this is an idiot law. The relationship between individual and state is of course different in France, it must surely jolt some long-relaxed French synapse that the state is now telling you what you can and can't wear.

People feel strongly about this, deeming it, wrongly I understand, part of their religion that women should be covered from head to toe. Westerners regard this as an imposition on Muslim women, but it scarcely helps the woman if, because of the ban, she is not allowed outside by her husband.

When they tried the first prosecution, the indicted woman turned up at the court wearing a burqa and was not allowed in because it was a public building.

Hollande should drop this, and blame it on Sarkozy.

15 July, 2013

Tortoises and hares

Violence continues in Northern Ireland, three days after what they call the 'Glorious Twelfth' (anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690).

Sometimes I think of the people of Northern Ireland as tortoises, creatures which have failed to evolve into the requirements of our times, unfitted to modern life without outside protection. And sometimes I think of them as hares, normal, viable creatures who go crazy only at a certain time of the year.

The present battles with the police (I am not talking about them fighting each other) were because the Protestant contingent wanted to march through a catholic area, an act of pure provocation. They make tribal signs and are aggressive, even to children, hoping to start a fight.

The police rightly banned this, so they are chucking petrol bombs at the people risking their lives to protect them.

I'd ban all marches as incitement to violence, but they claim it's tradition.

It will be the same next year.


Congratulations to Nelson Mandela who is due to be discharged from hospital.

I shudder to think what it must be like in a hospital bed, with scores of reporters and cameramen outside waiting for you to die. I can only say it would give me a renewed will to live.

The news sleuths will presumably now depart for the UK to annoy the Duchess of Cambridge, who is due to give birth around now, and Mandela can depart this vale of tears in privacy.

14 July, 2013

Enfants de la Patrie

Today is La Fete Nationale, known as Bastille Day everywhere except France. It used to be that the President would give a sort of State of the Union address but that seems unlikely from Hollande, and indeed his predecessor didn't do it either.

For things are not good. Hollande is the most unpopular president ever, and the stories are that his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, in the face of weak leadership of his UMP party, may be making a comeback. France is back in recession and the populace seems increasingly unsettled.

In truth I think the problem is that France doesn't know who it is or what it is. Is it a part of the modern world or the old? And, perhaps more important, is it part of Northern Europe or Southern Europe?

The response to globalisation seems to have been to ignore it, but it is not going away. The response to Europe's economic  crisis seems to have been to spend more. Hollande lowered the retirement age when every other country is raising it.

I think a period of national self-examination is needed but that nobody wants it. Things are not that bad and others - the UK - are having difficulty too.

Despite it all, this blog wishes the Grenouilles well

10 July, 2013

Human Rights

The continuing hoo-ha about life sentences is obscuring the real issue.

For myself I am not at all sure that we should be sending people to prison without the hope of parole - I always imagine it might be me - and I don't think we would lose much if, as the European Court of Human Rights says, the sentence had to be reviewed every 25 years.

The big question is this: who do we want making laws in the UK? The Court is staffed by judges from such rights-observing countries as Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia and Moldova, and they have overruled a decision by the British Parliament.

We don't want this, surely?

2000 today

This is the 2,000th post on my blog. It has received just over 91,000 page views.

Thanks to everyone who has read it

08 July, 2013


The nation was so obsessed with the performance of Andy Murray that you could have started a war without registering interest. In fact I am sure I spotted the smiling face of Abu Qatada on Henman Hill, come back for one last freebie.

David Cameron who, despite appearances, is hoping to be re-elected in 2015, predictably said that Murray should be knighted. He is 26 years old, plays tennis all day, has never risked his life for anyone or saved anyone else's life, and is remarkably well paid for such a trivial existence.

The British honours system has been turned into a political plaything, one of the prime examples being the Olympic Games last year. In my view it needs to be cancelled and then re-evaluated. No one should get any kind of honour for doing a paid job well (particularly civil servants who are largely lazy and surplus to requirements). Also excluded should be sportsmen and pop stars (Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard! Please! Bruce Forsyth!).

Mr Murray should be encouraged to continue his glittering, multi-million pound career. Nothing more.

07 July, 2013

Another cold one

30C in southern England today, and it was only about 3 weeks ago that the Met Office was predicting a cool summer.

This blog proved more accurate (see here). Our forecasts are made by looking at what the Met Office has to say and assuming the opposite.

06 July, 2013

Human Rights

What would it take for you to don tight trousers, a stripey T-shirt and a straw hat and punt a narrow
boat full of vulgar Russian tourists along a smelly canal while singing 'O sole mio' for the seventh time that day?

For me it would be a skin full of liquor, I don't mind telling you.

However Venice's gondoliers are to face alcohol and drug tests, following a naked initiation ceremony in the Grand Canal.

Poor blighters. I think I see a human rights case here.

PS when I say alcohol tests following a naked initiation ceremony I don't mean that as a routine there will be a naked initiation ceremony then an alcohol test (although it's scarcely something you'd do sober), I mean there were reports of such an initiation and the do-gooders thought there should be tests.

05 July, 2013


Not Eey-ore, although it is a bit of a donkey, but the Vatican Bank Istituto per le Opere di Religione. find out what's happening there in my article in The Commentator (it's free).

04 July, 2013

Not many affected

The prime example of a headline affecting most people the least used to be 'Earthquake in Chile, not many dead' but I am sure 'Belgian king abdicates' is up there with the best of them.

Apparently the old boy - he's 79, eight years younger than our Queen - thinks he's too old and infirm to carry on. He will hand over to his son Philippe, Duke of Brabant (which is in Holland).

Actually Albert II remains famous for one thing: the opening paragraph of the European Constitution contains the list of signatories, so the first words of this bogus document are 'His Majesty, King of the Belgians'. How he thought he was helping his subjects by signing it, God knows.

Anyway, happy retirement, Albert. Bring on the next one, who I reckon will be the last monarch of this quite unnecessary country.

Land of the Free

The fourth of July and America celebrates..er..whatever. Oh, getting rid of us Brits.

Sometimes I wonder if they made the right decision. The President failed to achieve any of his targets in his first term and, as soon as he was re-elected, became a lame duck President, which must be some sort of record.

Obama has still not got his troops back home, has not closed Guantanamo Bay and has financed a coup d'état in Egypt, although he is not allowed to refer to it as a coup because that would mean he had to stop the money going to the Egyptian army. In Syria he has refused to rule anything out and refused to rule anything in.

His sole success appears to be stirring up public opinion against Britain in the form of BP. One cannot help thinking the leader of the free world desperately needs a leader itself.

Happy holidays to the Home of the Brave!

02 July, 2013

Number 28

Croatia is the new member of the European Union. It joined Yesterday, 1st July, so it has had a day to get its begging letter written.

Croatia has a population about half that of London, and it is poorer than the average in Europe, so it will be expecting some handouts. In fact I hope all this was sorted a while back because there isn't much left.

Croatia has had an interesting history. It waited 400 years for the Austro-Hungarian Empire to implode, and now after an unpleasant period of ultra-nationalism during WWII followed by the quasi-communism of Tito, and the unpleasant Balkan conflict,  it now wants to hitch its star to another fading, bureaucracy-ridden wagon.

It shouldn't have to wait 400 years for this one to go belly-up, though.