Posts Tagged ‘Ferret’
It isn’t unusual for our chicken-keeping gang to spend a lot of time on Sunday mornings mulling over the football results but today the conversation was more uplifting than is our usual mixture of moans and groans about referees, overpaid players and poor entertainment value. Almost all of us were rooting for Man Utd last night, but the performance of Barcelona was breathtaking and our heroes were simply played of the pitch. As Alex Ferguson was moved to remark “No one has given us a hiding like that”. He was right but there was no shame in it for we were watching that rare thing, unstoppable poetry in motion. Throughout the whole game Barca committed only five fouls and they never resorted to the usual Premiership fare of long balls and attritional play.
Albert often unwittingly supplies my headlines and today is no exception. He said that there is, after all, a beautiful game. We regularly deride the term as we pay a small fortune to watch so called professionals hoofing the ball here there and everywhere. Last night we watched an exhibition that capped anything that even the extensive Sky coverage has ever screened. Occasionally Arsenal and Man Utd have played some clever stuff but this was in another class, it was beautiful.
The longer term effect is open to debate. As I feel right now, I will certainly feel short-changed when I pay to watch Blackburn Rovers. Yesterday has increased by feeling that the ‘stars’ are grossly overpaid and the entertainment value low. And the same will apply throughout the Premiership. Whatever the Barca players are paid they earn it as true artists. But if they can so totally humiliate our top club what does that say for the rest. I still find it hard to come to terms with a wage of £100,000 per week but perhaps a real artist is beyond valuation. But the number of real artists performing in our top league could be counted on the fingers of a ferret-breeder.
However, there is a more positive outcome from that amazing display. Even those who are indifferent to football must have been impressed and some may well decide to watch more games in future. It was also a counterbalance to the continually bad press that football has in this country. The latest appalling revelations about FIFA has shattered any remaining confidence in those that govern the game, and the constant diet of the off-field antics of many of the players hasn’t helped either. Neither has the constant lunacy of egotistical Russian, Indian, and American owners.
Many a cynic has been heard to ask why soccer was ever described as beautiful. Last night we had the answer. The next time any manager says that the only way to succeed away from home is to defend relentlessly, to play the offside trap and to ‘hack ‘em down,’ he should be boiled in tar and made to watch a tape of the experts performing at Wembley.
And all this on a day when the first Test match of the summer was on. No contest. To watch Sri Lanka who haven’t a single bowler of Test standard bowl for hours to two batsmen whose approach was akin to watching paint dry was sheer purgatory. Never thought I’d live to say this but Test cricket such as this is a poor competitor with the beautiful game!
A SPECIAL FOOTBALL QUIZ IN HONOUR OF BARCELONA; 1. Who preceded Frank O’Farrell as Man Utd manager? 2. How did Joan Bazely make history in 1976? 3. Who were the opponents in Peter Shilton’s last game for England? 4. Which premiership side lost nine of its last ten games in 2006 and stayed up? 5. Who offered the england and scotland squads a week on his Caribbean island if they won the World Cup in 1988? 6. Roy Keane played his last Premiership game for Man Utd against which team? 7. Which club’s motto is ‘Nil Satis Nisi Optimum”? 8. John Benson, Bruce Rich and Steve Bruce have all managed which club? 9. To three, for how many games was Sven-Goran Eriksson in charge of England? 10. Ray Wilkins was sent off while playing for England against which country?
DO YOU HAVE A FRIEND WHO ‘KNOWS ABOUT SOCCER’ ? WHY NOT FORWARD THIS TO HIM OR HER AND THEN COMPARE SCORES?
A flurry of snow triggered mass panic this morning. The fact that the December freeze was the worst for a century has not dispelled the paranoia and the chicken and ferret keepers alike see convinced that we will get another dose before the daffodils break surface. And you know what they say about being paranoid, it doesn’t follow that there isn’t something awful awaiting you. But for now a calm order has been restored and we were able to moan about something other than the Council’s invisible gritters. And what more topical subject could there be than VAT?
A couple of the gang once earned their crusts in accountancy and they are amazed that Osborne’s defence of the VAT hike has gone unchallenged. His case is that cash must be found to slash the deficit and no one is likely to dispute that. It is his argument that the only alternatives were National Insurance contributions or income tax rises. Rubbish is the view of my numerate pals. They contend that the chancellor is pandering to the powerful and by so doing has scored an own-goal. The VAT rise is unpopular and it will damage any green shoots of economic recovery. He is said to be cutting 500,000 jobs in the public sector, the VAT rise will make replacement posts in the private sector far less likely.
According to John and Alec the alternative was clearly to tackle the powerful, all the signs point to the coalition being scared of the big-spending lobbyists and particularly those in the financial sector. A couple of threatening speeches from Osborne and Cable were met with a barrage of threats about financiers heading for other countries and, hey presto, all is forgiven. The bonus tax levied by Alastair Darling was described at the time by most experts as too soft but compared with what is happening now Darling was the equivalent of Attilla the Hun.
Yesterday was a generally bad day for Mr Osborne. He returned from his widely criticised luxury Swiss ski break, which suggested limited self understanding, to find most of the national papers carrying adverts which portrayed him as ‘the Artful Dodger’, a campaign launched not by the Labour party but by the ’38 Degrees’ group which is non-political, already boasts 250,000 members, and alleges that the Chancellor’s family avoided £1.6 m.in tax Then he got himself into an awful knot in trying to explain why he believes that VAT is ‘progressive’ yet David Cameron sees it as ‘very regressive’.
Regressive indeed and the money that ministers are asking the public to raise could be raised in five minutes by calling the bluff of the richest section of the business community. So long as they shy away from this confrontation, and instead hammer the poorer sections of society, there will be widespread dissatisfaction. Few of us have the expertise of people like John and Alec but we know enough to realise that what is happening with banks is equivalent to pardoning the Great Train Robbers, letting them keep their loot, and applying a levy on everyone else to make up for the cash stolen.
The bankers have walked away from the debacle they caused scot free, with almost a trillion pounds of public money in their pockets. There was not so much as a compulsory lending ratio on their books. And the bankers rejoice. The big four are soon to reveal that some 200 in each of them earned over a million pounds last year. They have also rewarded themselves with personal bonuses of £7 billion over Christmas. That alone represented two fingers to the public and three times the money to be raise by the VAT rise.
There is no VAT or other transaction tax on banks. Money that properly belonged to share-holders and, in many cases, taxpayers , simply walked off the premises. It is as if a state-subsidised car manufacturer decided to allow its employees to take home half a dozen cars each Christmas!
Many of the cuts being applied by this government are justified for the waste of the previous regime was horrifying. Need an example? The multi-billion pounds NHS IT system that never worked will do to be going on with. But Osborne has fallen at an important fence. He needed to win over the public, to prove that we are truly all in this together. Visit any of the central London bars where the financial people gather and you will hear the popping of champagne corks.
They simply cannot believe that they have got away with it. And neither can the rest of us!
BUT IS AN AUSSIE THRASHING A GOOD THING?
England ended the day in a strong position at the Sydney Test. It is hard to know who to praise most in what has to be the fittest and most talented England team for many a year. The only slightly sad thing is that Paul Collingwood is nearing the end of his illustrious Test career, but there are a number of execellent young replacements waiting in the wings.
Australia seem to lack any back-up and, with the exception of the one brilliant spell by Mitchell Johnson, have looked a poor outfit. And that isn’t what devotees of Test cricket wanted to see. Yes, we longed for a winning series but we now worry about the effect of huiliation on Australian support through the turnstyles over the next few years. I worked in Australia and was surpirised to learn that not everyone down under is a cricket fan. Many are but I often sensed that the attraction was the regualar display of Aussie invincibility.
If the team continues for several years to look born losers will the support hold up? One prays so for already attendances at Test cricket in most of the other cricketing nations is falling away sharply. In India the crowds now turn out mainly for one-day cricket, Pakistan has real problems, West Indies have lost most of their support and even South Africa is seeing a swing to one-day.
The lifeblood of Test cricket has always been the Ashes but it is hard to see other than one-sided games for some time to come.
But our side can only play what is fielded against them and they have been magnificent.
SOCCER QUOTE OF THE DAY; Alex Fergusson was asked if given a gun with one bullet would he use it on Arsene Wenger or Victoria Beckham. He replied ” Could I not have two bullets?”
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Airey Neave 2. 1971 (February)
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who won the Nobel prize for peace in 1979 for her work in Calcutta? 2. Which country won 17 of 29 track and field gold medals at the 1972 Olympics?
The long-yearned for spell of mild weather has brought relief to everyone involved at the poultry end of the allotments. Like the relief of Mafekin it arrived just in time and now there is a more relaxed air about the place, no more remarks about being sent to Siberia by Putin not being as bad as this. All of which meant that, as our New Years Eve tradition demands, we had time to sit in the shed to vote for our man of the year. No prize other than a notice on the wall and the winner is unlikely to learn that he or she has won. But we mad chicken/ferret folk enjoy it and nowt else matters.
Twenty slips of paper went into the box and one name emerged as clear winner. Ian Holloway, the manager of Blackpool Football Club, is our almost unanimous choice. Only one vote for Lady Gaga spoiled our unanimity and we can all guess who put that in. For sheer deeds on the field of play many of us considered Andrew Strauss but the power of laughter won through.
When back in July, Ian Holloway somehow managed to drag his team through the play-offs into the Premiership, every soccer expert in the land predicted disaster. Ian made clear that there was no big money available for so-called megastars and put forward the view that eleven men working hard could take on any other eleven however many millions they were paid. And so it has proved. The outcome is best summed up by a remark made by Steve Bruce, manager of Sunderland, after his team’s home defeat by Blackpool over Christmas. He said that he needed a quality player and would spend £10 million to get one. He added that “there is no point in buying a £2 million one since he would be mediocre”. Ian Holloway’s victors cost well below £2 million for the whole team!
Of course Blackpool have taken a few hidings and after one Ian commented that “we have had a walloping but we’re happy because we now have a washing machine, the players don’t have to take their kit home to wash”. In fact not only has Ian Holloway proved that the vast amounts of money splashed out on players is absurd, he has also won the hearts of every sports joiurnalist with his perpetual optimism and wit. When he frst arrived in Blackpool he remarked that he liked the place because, like him, it looked better in the dark. And, unlike other top managers, he accepts defeat with equanimity. After one match he remarked that he had considered poking the linesman with a stick to see if he was awake, but as with every Holloway utterance it was said with a smile. Football, he believes, is taken too seriously and his every action recognises that when Bill Shankly saw it as more important than life itself he was way off the mark.
In a year when football reached its lowest depths and the nation did likewise Ian Holloway made us laugh. He also pricked the bubble of pomposity in which the Premiership dwells and, in so doing, showed just how ridiculous the money paid to semi-literate players of moderate abilility really is. He has set a new standard in honesty and self-effacement, rare features of life at the soccer zillionnaire heights. And his work for charity has shown again and again that he has his feet firmly on the ground.
In 1800 the novelist Maria Edgeworth wrote that “we cannot judge either of the feelings or the character of men with perfect accuracy, from their actions or their public appearance; it is from their careless conversation, their half-finished sentences, that we may hope with the greatest probability of success to discover their real character”. By this, and any other measure, Ian Holloway is the best.
On his day of (unknown to him) triumph let us give him the last word. A TV reporter was attempting to conduct the usual inane interview. “Any injury worries?”, he asked. Our hero replied “No, I’m fully fit thanks“.
AND WHO IS THE DOLT OF THE YEAR?
If such an award existed Andrew Lansley would surely be a hot favourite. A few days ago this site attacked him for cancelling this years flu advertising. As the deaths mount he has now decided to perform yet another U-turn. Has he no self understanding to warn him of his tendency to take rash and wrong decisions?
Perhaps the best judgement on his short but catastrophic reign over the NHS has emerged this very day. Sarah Wollaston is a prominent Conservative MP and is also a retired GP. She has published a lengthy article warning Lansley that he is taking huge risks by attempting root-and-branch reform whilst trying to save £15 billion. Like many she sees what he is doing as an almost inevitable prelude to privatisation and the introduction of private companies who will cherry-pick the profitable services and leave NHS hospitals bankrupt and unable to perform critical procedures. Dr Wollaston knows what she is talking about and is a political ally of Lansley. She gives chapter and verse on the chaos he has wrought and urges him to perform ‘handbrake turns’.
But being the dolt of the year, he is unlikley to listen. He will only realise what he has done when the NHS lies broken and beyond repair!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. 1972 2. Munich
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. China began using pinyin in 1979. What is pinyin? 2. What name did the BBC give to its Teletext services in the 70s?
A VERY HAPPY AND SUCCESSFUL NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!
At last! We were able to dig trenches this morning and the mountain of chicken muck is now concealed. Even after several days of thaw the ground was still hard and we now have muscles to match those of Popeye. Or as Leonard Cohen used to sing, ‘we now ache in the places where we used to play’. After yesterday’s early clean-out I deserted the camp and, together with she-who-must-be -obeyed, drove down to Oxford to deliver belated Christmas pressies. Whilst we were with our relatives the cards that we posted well before the big day dropped through their letter-box. So we were not the only people frozen into inaction.
It felt good to make a trip unencumbered by snow or ice. Of course the English climate never tires of tormenting us and, by way of a change, we encountered thick fog through the Midlands. Some idiot had decided to drive blind and the resulting pile up meant that thousands of us spent rather a long time parked on the M6 but it still felt like freedom after weeks of frozen incarceration. And it gave me time to ponder on my vote for Person of the Year when on New Year’s Eve the chicken and ferret folk decide whose picture will adorn the allotment shed through 2011.
Of course no one gives a monkey’s elbow what we lot think but we still take our long-standing tradition seriously. Who impressed us most, cheered us up and regularly revived our sagging spirits? I will let you know tomorrow what we decided but you can be sure of one thing, it won’t be a politician!. It is usually the case that some leading names appear on the slips of paper but those days have gone. The revelations about expenses, the Clegg stance on pledges and the appointment of Lords of dubious character have created a sense of alienation from the ruling classes. I suspect we are not alone!
As if to drive the final nail in the coffin of politicians we learn today that the Telegraph was not exposing a sudden lapse from grace when it broke the news of greed and dishonour. Today’s Telegraph reveals that as long ago as 1980 the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, warned the Cabinet that there was a ” grave risk of serious public scandal” over the abuse of expenses by many MPs. Records of Cabinet meetings, published today by the National Archives, show that parliamentary pay and allowances were the source of great concern. The prime minister went on to warn that MPs should be seen to be accountable for the various secretarial, research assistance and travel allowances. She demanded that Ministers give the lead in tightening the system. There were many abuses and “it might be necessary to consider prosecuting MPs known to be guilty of abuse”. It was necessary to “expose publicly the full implications of MPs’ actions”.
Incredibly nothing was done and it was to be thirty years before the truth was told by a national newspaper. So for three decades many politicians have deceived the people that elected them. The whole system of government was rotten to the core. To be fair there are honourable parliamentarians, but if even a combatative character like the sainted Maggie could not hector them into honesty and openness the lack of integrity was clearly deeply embedded.
The fact that change is now under way reflects no credit on an institution that was clearly happy to embrace dishonesty. Had the Telegraph not decided to act in the public interest we would have continued to pay taxes to fund moats and duck houses. In our book the only title open to politicians is crook of the year!
Between now and tomorrow why not ponder on your own choice of someone who impresssed you, someone who seemed genuine, a role model for your youngsters. There are some such folk out there although I suspect that your list, like mine, will not be a long one!
A fantastic performance by England in Melbourne has ensured that we retain the little urn. The England team was superior to the Aussies in every respect, it is a long time since we have been able to honestly claim that when visiting down under.
We should perhaps spare a thought for Ricky Ponting. He has been a superb batsman over many years and drew the short straw in captaining a team bereft of talent. With the possible exception of Mike Hussay and, occasionally, Mitchell Johnson this Australian side is one of the poorest to wear the baggy green.
But they came up against an England team led as never before by Flower and Strauss. Fitness levels are high, morale likewise. Now all they have to do is put on a repeat performance in Sydney starting on Sunday!
CAMERON’S PAL CONDEMNS PACE OF CUTS!
It is predictable that opponents of the coalition are busy condemning the sheer pace of the financial cuts. Slightly more worrying are the concerns expressed by financial pundits. Extremely worrying is the latest news of a fierce attack by a leading charity figure and key supporter of David Cameron’s ‘big society’.
In an open letter to the prime miister, David Robimson, the co-founder of the Community Links charity, has warned that the massive public spending cuts will doom Cameron’s main social policy initiative to failure and will create a ‘Hurricane Katrina’moment for the coalition.
Robinson, whose charity was described by Cameron as “one of Britain’s most inspiring community organisations” writes ” forcing an unsustainable pace on a barrage of uncoordinated cuts that hit the poorest hardest is not an act of God. Why let it be your Katrina?”
This surprise attack came on the day of a less surprising one. Ed Miliband wrote that “many people feel powerless in the face of these decisions that will affect their lives, families and communities. The political forces in Whitehall that have made these decisions appear forbidding and unheeding”.
Perhaps Robinson’s attack will cause someone in government to pause for thought. One can only hope so for the economic readings suggest that the cuts are too rapid and, equally worrying, the trade unions have awoken from their decades of slumber, even moderates such as Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union are openly plannibg major strikes. Katrina moment indeed!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The USSR 2. Whether or not to stay in the EEC
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What year was the Watergate burglary in Washington DC? 2. Which Olympics were hit by terrorists who attacked the Israeli athletes?
The weathermen came under attack in Scotland yesterday but it has to be said that they got it right here. We had a respite yesterday from our now established thawing routine on the allotment but it was back to square one this morning. The surest way to kill poultry is to deprive them of water and we toiled for an hour using the age-old method of dropping ice-solid containers into a bucket of boiling water. It solved the chicken’s dilemma but did nothing for our blue digits. I should perhaps mention that Albert’s are black, the result of his once shaking hands with Lady Gaga and refusing to ever wash his mitts again. But the job is done and we are cheered by the forecast of above-freezing temperatures on Thursday. Everything is relative and after this ferret version of Ice Station Zebra, five degrees above will feel like the tropics.
One of our helpers this morning was retired GP Steven. Inevitably the topic as we thawed ourselves out in the shed was Andrew Lansley, the new disease afflicting the NHS as no other has ever managed to do. One of the first deeds of the new Health Secretary was to abolish waiting time targets. The view of Steven and his pals is that some targets were pointless and bureacratic but these were not amongst them. Demand huge efficiency cuts from hospitals and abolish their waiting time targets and guess what happens. Correct, the waiting times are already extending and thousands of patients are now facing the prospect of long waits to see a specialist. Things such as weekend ‘catch-up’ clinics have been dropped and the option of private treatment has crawled out from under the rock that was guaranteed waiting times. This is probably exactly what Lansley intended but what on earth is he trying to achieve with GP commissioning?
To Steven and several current GPs that I have spoken to ( as an ex PCT chairman I made many friends amongst the local GPs) the whole idea is a complete mystery. But today Lansley will announce the creation of the first 52 GP consortiums who will replace Primary Care Trusts and will assume control of commissioning. In other words they will decide how the £80 billion budget is to be allocated. According to the press releases millions of patients will take greater control of health care. How will they? In our patch none of the 130 GPs will be involved in the consortiums and no one seems to know who they will comprise. So how do their patients suddenly take control?
But the greatest mystery for all that Steven and I have spoken to is how the enormous unfairness of massive postcode medicne will be avoided. To an extent it has always been a bugbear but at least the Department of Health has co-ordinated the Primary Care Trusts. Left to their individual fancies the hundred or so eventual consortiums will opt for different priorities and the fate of some patients will vary accoridng to where they live. This cannot be right.
There is a suggestiuon that to avoid this, Lansley may impose a central body and encourage each consortium to recruit experts from the defunct Primary Care commissioners. But if he does that the poossibility of finishing back where he started is a real one.
The main medical authorities such as the BMA are refusing to have anything to do with the project which is therefore being driven by politicians supported by some GPs who prefer not to practice hands-on medicine plus a few who have an axe to grind. One suspects that the hidden agenda is to open the door to privatisation, something Patriciaa Hewitt played with with disastrous effects. But it won’t even achieve that. So far as anyone understands the revolutionary plan it will simply result in a giant mess and a situation similar to schools where people move home to be in a catchment area offering what they seek.
The NHS has made enormious progress over the past few decades but it had become choked with bureaucracy and red-tape. This needed treatment but what is happening is not treatment, it is slaughter. The one redemming feature is today claimed to be the transfer of power to patients. How will it do that? Greater minds than mine are completely bemused and simply cry it won’t!
I am rapidly coming to the view that the loner Lansley should carry a health warning on his rumpled coat!
WIKILEAK; WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON?
Various governments are now threatening all sorts of action against the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. It is inevitable that people around the world are wondering if the sudden appearance of charges of sexual assault on two women in Sweden is a co-incidence. Yesterday a district judge refused him bail
In truth we have no idea, but one thing is for sure. The Americans, who are the most strident in condemning the daily publication of embarrassing cables, are the people really responsible for this fiasco. A soldier was able to download thousnads of secret documents on to a Lady Gaga disc. Clearly the security in Washington is lax beyond belief. The people ultimately responsible are the American authorities.
The views of the website range from concern at the repression of information through to amazement that diplomats would be so stupid as to commit such nonsense to written form. And many abhor the activities of the website. But one common view prevails – the Americans should get their security act together!
ASHES; NOW COMES THE BACKLASH!
The Australian press is tearing Ricky Ponting to pieces in the aftermath of the thrashing by England. But it is hard to see what more he could have done with the bunch that he has, other than to score runs himself. Some Aussie papers are campaigning for the return of Shane Warne who still plays IPL cricket. That seems a retrograde step given that the wizard is 41. Certain it is that England would not be overjoyed since even at that age Warne is light years ahead of the present choices.
Looking back to my predictions I have to confess to gettimg most things wrong. My self understanding tells me that I should stick to the day job! I certainly didn’t expect to see Finn as the leading pace bowler with nine wickets after two Tests!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1 Argentina 2. Cyprus
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. On which island did Noel Coward die? 2. Which was Roger Moore’s first Bond film?