Posts Tagged ‘Test Match’
We will remember yesterday for some time to come. We constantly hear ministers banging on about all being in it together, about this country or that being in an even more parlous state than us. And of course we know that there is no ‘us’, ours has become a deeply divided society, split into segments by enormous differences in wealth – or lack of it -and by race. Yesterday we suddenly experienced a total ‘usness’. It appeared at Lords.
The scenes at the home of cricket were almost unique. I say almost, having in mind similar scenes some years ago at Old Trafford when the last day of a Test match against the Aussies drew a similar response. At Lords the authorities for once deserve a pat on the back for setting low prices (plus free entry for kids), and opening those hallowed gates to all prepared to turn up. In the event 25,227 did, some queuing through the night.
There were no elitist corporate groups, no mob of obscene singers, no activities other than watching an enthralling day’s play. Here was living proof of two things. Those who say that Test cricket is dying are totally wrong, those who say that ‘ordinary’ folk have fallen out of love with the great game even more so. The packed house represented a total cross-section of society and, although loyalties were divided (but despite that everyone wanted to see Tendulkar), it responded to all that happened as one. Just for a day the old days in which sport brought together people from all walks of life and race returned. And by way of a bonus England performed magnificently. At the end the crowd as one saluted both teams.
Sadly it was a mere oasis in a desert of division which grows by the day. Today we learn that the Osborne plan for growth isn’t working, today we hear more exhortations to pull in our belts. Benchmark GDP statistics which compare us with other economies say nothing useful about ‘us’ because ‘we’ are not all in this together. In fact some are swelling like pumpkins, others shrivel, especially the ever growing number of young unemployed. Last week’s 2010 ONS figures show that the City paid £14 billion in bonuses. Bob Diamond of Barclays received £6.5 million, Stuart Gulliver of HSBC took £9 million. In fact, wherever you look, the richest became even richer last year.
A well timed report from the Resolution Foundation yesterday laid bare the raw figures. Of every £100 rise in national income since 1977, the half of the population on average or below average income received just £12. For much of the past 30 years the bottom half did see their income rise slightly, so they didn’t notice they were falling badly behind the rest. Now the cuts are leading to near-crisis financial conditions for many families, and the signs are that the now apparent inequality is creating a politically unsustainable situation. Our social elastic is heading for breaking point.
More and more ‘ordinary’ people are becoming aware of the huge differences in reward, in fact many are already in punishment mode. Jonathan Portes, head of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research has underlined where we are; “The top 1% has taken a hugely disproportionate share of growth while the middle and below have stagnated or fallen”.
Osborne’s purloining of “We’re all in this together”seems to recognise the political embarrassment of a future where half the population falls further behind while the top tenth vanishes into a realm unrecognisable to the 90% of basic-rate taxpayers. Yet he simply doesn’t seem to grasp where he is leading us. In fact he is now talking of the abolition of the 50% tax rate, only paid by the already very rich.
If he makes that move at a time when food, gas, electricity and petrol prices are rising, pay frozen, cuts in benefits, high inflation, he may well find that for the first time in decades half of the population will cry enough is enough. At the very least that one act will make people more aware than they have ever been of the fact that ‘us’ has become ‘them and us’. And even in a pragmatic society like ours it may prove the final straw. Ever the opportunist, Ed Milband is talking of the ‘squeezed middle’. He is right although why he fails to mention those at the bottom is hard to fathom.
To an extent we have always been a divided society but it is only now, as the cuts begin to bite hard, that people bother about it. Lying awake worrying about mortgages, jobs , bills greater than income and a sharp fall in living standards whilst knowing that the rich are getting richer by the day does funny things to people!
But it was good to recapture the feeling of oneness, if only for a day!
TODAY’S SPECIAL QUIZ ON THE SUBJECT OF FESTIVALS; 1. What type of festival has become associated with Reading? 2. In which country is an Eisteddfod celebrated? 3. What is the season leading up to Christmas known as? 4. Which Scottish city hosts what is claimed to be the world’s largest arts festival? 5. Yom Kippur is the Day of what? 6. Which Hall is the centre for the BBC Proms? 7. Which religion celebrates the festival of Passover? 8. Since the 1940s, Cannes has hosted what type of Festival? 9. The Buddhist festival of Parinirvana is also kmown as which Day? 10. The celebrated Spalding Flower Festival takes place in which county?
A hot and sunny morning on the allotments! We wandered about in a daze for this was a very rare experience, the sort of day when Blackpool beach sounds like a treat rather than the equivalent of Scott’s last journey. It was also the sort of day to trigger thoughts of cricket. Right now those are not positive thoughts, and I am not referring solely to yesterday’s bizaare Twenty20 between England and Sri Lanka. Pieterson and Morgan apart, this England side couldn’t have beaten a Co-op egg! Why players such as Bell are excluded is one of the great mysteries of the age!
But far more worrying is the gradual takeover of the administration of world cricket by India. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is cricket’s equivalent of football’s Fifa. In every sense! The ICC is already heavily influenced by the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), its present chairman is the former head of the BCCI, Sharad Pawar. Under the present rules there is a fixed term for ICC presidents and no one country can hold the office for two consecutive periods. At today’s ICC annual meeting in Hong Kong, India is proposing that once appointed a president can rule for life! Now that is even worse than Blatter at Fifa, he at least stages the occasional election, albeit a corrupt one of course.
Ridiculous, it simply can’t happen. Oh yes it can! As in the case of football many of the countries that vote scarcely play cricket. How can Argentina, Afghanistan etc be allowed to decide Test match schedules? But hovering in the background is Narayanswamy Srinivasan, the power in Indian cricket, the owner of Chennai Super Kings and the chief executive of India’s board. What he wants he gets. Remember the plan to reduce the next world cup to the top ten teams to eliminate all the one-sided and meaningless games that marred the last one? During a recent tea-break at a meeting in Singapore, the man of power talked to the various chief excutives who had just ratified the decision. When the meeting resumed the majority reversed the decision and the next world cup will be just as tedious as the last.
How is this overwhelming influence obtained? Geoffrey Boycott has no doubts. “Many countries that play cricket are frightened to death of India’s financial power. You’ve got TV stations queuing up in India to beam the coverage of their tours in to India and they pay a lot of money for that” says the outspoken Yorkshireman. He is clearly right, India has a vast audience for cricket and filming rights produce a bonanza for authorities often reduced to counting the piggy-bank.
So the odds are that this week will see a new order at the ICC with an Indian president taking the top job on a permanent basis. Two outcomes are obvious. The new umpires’ Decision Review System will be scrapped. It has proved popular with the fans but India has already refused to use it on the forthcoming tour of England. Of greater importance, there will be an eight week period each year when no international cricket will be allowed. This will give free rein to the Indian Premier League. That will be a financial body-blow to England. But even more important than that is the threat to good governance.
We all know from the scandal surrounding last year’s Test series with Pakistan that a cancer of corruption is spreading within the game. This emanates from Indian bookmakers who make fortunes, often in distinctly unethical ways. Millions of pounds change hands daily on such obscure things as the number of ‘no-balls’. The only body that can even attempt to keep this under control is the ICC. Need I say more?
The complex game of cricket is open to corruption like no other. It is already losing its reputation for fair play and a strong incorruptable ICC is the only hope. The idea that any single country should hold sway on a permanent basis is appalling, the idea of that being India, the home of cricket manipulation, even more so.
If this goes through Fifa will look a paragon of virtue by comparison. The English, Australian, New Zealand and South African delegations should walk out if necessary. That may only account for four votes but world cricket without the four would be less of a money spinner to say the least. India may hold all the power but matches played against Afghanistan and Argentina would soon show where the pulling power really rests!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Germany 2. Italy 3. Alan Titchmarsh 4. Gennell 5. Ernie Wise 6. China 7. Westlife 8. Potter 9. Holly 10. Colin Farrell.
HIGHEST SCORE SENT IN SO FAR; 8 BY J ROACH. HOW DID YOU DO?
Once we have cleaned out and fed the animals we always gather in the allotment shed/committee room for a brew and a chat. In Albert’s case add in a puff on his pipe- his response to the anti-smokers amongst us is that he fought a war against Hitler and has no intention of bowing the knee to the new breed. He also often points to the fact that we have become the binge-drinking capital of Europe with more deaths from liver disease amongst young people than the rest of the dreaded EU put together.
Of course the fanatics that continue to bang on about smoking include many who see booze as a safe alternative. It is not, and it is also decidedly more anti-social. Don’t agree? You would had you been at Ascot where a mass brawl of drunks showed the Queen that there is now more to racegoing than horses. Or you could visit any of our big city centres tonight or even Test Matches which will soon earn an X-rating for obscenities and general mayhem. These are not the pious words of a bunch of priggish toffs for we too enjoy a drink, but we prefer not to impose the outcome on the rest of the community.
However, our big discussion point today was the Army with which many of us have either past connections or relatives now serving. Some weeks ago this blog spluttered in outrage when redundancy notices were issued to soldiers on the front line in Afghanistan. What we hadn’t anticipated was the glee with which the opportunity to leave would be greeted.
Nearly 1000 of the next generation of military leaders have already applied for voluntary redundancy. According to today’s Telegraph the total embraces many of the brightest officers and soldiers. The number includes several future battalion leaders and officers who had been singled out as potential generals. And more applications are flooding in from all levels. Military chiefs asked for 25 colonels to volunteer but 52 wish to do so. Six brigadiers have applied and 48 majors with an average of 16 years’ experinece between them. The Army is literally inundated with request from senior NCOs, who provide the “backbone” of discipline in the field. So concerned are the authorities that Gen Sir Peter Wall, the head of the Army, is said to be holding informal meetings in an attempt to persuade the more talented individuals to stay.
But morale is at an all time low. One decorated officer, who has commanded a battalion with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan, is on record as saying that “when you know the amount that has to be cut and the inevitable impact of that on the Army, what’s the point of staying?”. Like many of his fellow commanders, he has handed in his request to leave. One infantry commander, as yet undecided, told a reporter that he has “never known morale quite so shocking. people see the way its going”. Another officer based at Army Land Command said that “the erosion of the force’s package is having an effect. There are many heading for redundancy who are pretty impressive players, operations have produced some exceptional leaders but we are about to lose them all”.
The first reaction of most of us is incredulity that we are continuing to take part in wars that have little to do with us whilst at the same time reducing numbers to dangerous levels. But there is more to it than that. There is a chronic lack of funding for training units deployed to Helmund. Several infantry batallions have been given just 100 rifle rounds to train with for each soldier. And we have all heard, often at first hand, of the lack of equipment and protection for those under fire every day. Yesterday another two soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.
I read in some recent memoirs of the loathing the troops feel for politicians who fly in for photo-opportunities. None have seen active service themselves, all are happy to sacrifice young lives in a war that the men on the ground know can never be won.
Yes, the country is in a financial mess and there have to be cuts. But the decimation of our Army and Navy has already gone too far. We now have to withdraw from all external conflicts or perform another U-turn, this time on the Defence Review.
The alterantive is to continue to play the role of world policeman with small and totally demoralised forces. Last week the prime minister summoned to Downing Street the head of the Royal Navy who had spoken out. He would have been better employed summoning, for an explanation of the shambles, the wives and parents of those who are losing their lives.
But that would involve bravery, not spin!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; HOBBIES AND LEISURE; 1. Which part of the body names a millenium feature on the London skyline? 2. Which sport would you watch at Aintree? 3. Are there more chairs at the start or end of a game of musical chairs? 4. What links a novice’s ski slope and a garden centre? 5. What name is given to the promotional scheme to save points for cheaper plane travel? 6. In the year 2005 most Bank Holidays fell on which day of the week? 7. What colour would a Sloane Ranger’s wellies be? 8. The initials RSVP come from a request in which language? 9. What colour are most road signs on UK motorways? 10. In which UK county might you holiday on the Broads?
CONGRATS TO JPL WHO SENT IN 9 CORRECT ANSWERS TO THE LAST QUIZ!!!
The sun has vanished and our spirits with it. And the rain is on the way just in time to ruin the Test Match. In situations like this we allotmenteers tend to focus on the bad news and there was plenty of that yesterday. We read to our surprise that Michael ‘Tarzan’ Hazletene was on the rampage in the Lords. His mission seemed to be to torpedo the government’s proposals for referenda whenever British sovereignty is threatened by the EU. Our surprise was not at Tarzan’s stance but the fact that he has not gone to that great jungle in the sky. He lives and doubtless delights in the news that Germany is insisting that the UK makes a substantial further payment to prop up the Greek economy.
Meantime Alan Milburn caused a stir by describing the amended NHS reforms as a “car crash”. One hopes not, since the plan involves closing half of the country’s Accident & Emergency departments. But all is not doom on the health front for down in Hertfordshire the NHS Trust has issued a final warning to nurses who show too much cleavage. It claims that patients are very upset by such a sight. Clearly all major problems have been resolved and it is good to know that should Albert be admitted whilst on holiday in Herfordshire he will not suffer a heart attack. But I shouldn’t mock for at least one consulatnt had the good sense to throw the posturing Cameron off his ward!
But if you really want a story to match today’s gloomy weather you need look no further than the revelations about Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs). These were the brainchild of Blair and Brown who saw the advantage in being able to boast of new schools and hospitals without the cost appearing in the Chancellor’s balance sheet. As is the habit of all politicians they forgot to read the small print and now hundreds of schools, hospitals, prisons, motorways and government buildings are owned by private entrepeneurs and are saddled with massive repayments. By the time the private owners are paid off the taxpayer will have incurred costs six times than he/she would have done had the state funded the building.
Britain’s biggest PFI contractor is Innisfree which owns or co-owns 28 NHS hospitals, 269 schools, the Whitehall HQ of the Ministry of Defence, a Scottish motorway and a Welsh jail. It employs only 20 people and is headed up by David Metter, who received pay and dividends worth £8.6 million last year, and has built a personal fortune of £60 million from PFI contracts. He appeared before the public accounts committee yesterday and, for good measure, added that as a “non-dom” he does not even pay full UK taxes.
When the hospital trust of which I was chair became a Foundation Trust it received an early visit from the head of Monitor. As we walked round the site he commented on the number of new buildings. I explained that all had been funded by the Department of Health. “Be thankful” he said, ” those with huge PFI debts to repay will struggle to survive”. How right he was.
This is yet another example of politicians doing ‘clever’ things that we either are not aware of or don’t understand. Within years they are telling us that many of our schools and hospitals etc have built masssive debts and need to become more efficient. In most cases they are in debt as a result of decisions imposed on them!
We all tend to bang on about whoever is in charge of the paddle-ship UK. Frankly we would be better off if Eddie the Eagle took over!
TODAY’S EGGHEAD QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. Who described 1992 as an ‘annus horribilis? 2. In which country would you see the Great and Little Orme? 3. According to Rudyard Kipling the female of what is deadlier than the male? 4. Which country hosted soccer’s 1966 World Cup? 5. Which ‘Jailhouse’ song gave Elvis another No. 1 in 2005? 6. What falls out if you have alopecia? 7. Which singer is Mrs Johnny Dankworth? 8. Who lives at Home Hill? 9. How does James Bond like his Martini served? 10. Which Richard was the first knighted New Zealand cricketer?
In a national competition the highest score was 8..can you match that????????
No need to remember my radio this morning for the Test Match is over. Throughout the duration of every game Test Match Special is a must, and even those unenlightened souls who are not obsessed by cricket enjoy listening to the mixture of commentary, anecdotes, stories of cakes and occasional gaffes. Of course the greatest of the latter was Brian Johnston’s reaction to Agger’s immortal line about Ian Botham ‘ failing to get his leg over’. On Tuesday it was once again the blushing Aggers who triggered convulsions. Whilst watching pictures of Kevin Pieterson adjusting his bat handle, Aggers remarked that “It’s not easy putting a rubber on, is it Michael”. With Phil Tufnell alongside Michael Vaughan it was no surprise that once again convulsive laughter stopped play.
On the allotment we all enjoyed that. Come to think about it we’ve enjoyed much of what we’ve heard on the news recently. In fact we have decided to run a sweepstake on the number of about-turns performed by Agger’s fellow Etonian, the prime minister. I’ve drawn 8. The calculation ends on Novbember 1st and I reckon that I’m in with a chance. Of course agreeing what is or isn’t an about-turn can be difficult but we have unanimity on 5 so far.
The fifth emerged yesterday when Justice Secretary, snoozer Clarke, was forced by Number 10 to abandon a plan to give rapists, and other serious offenders, a 50% discount in return for early guilty pleas. Just weeks ago Kenneth Clarke announced that the policy was agreed but Andrew Cooper, the new PR guru in place of the departed former editor of the News of the World, advised Cameron that the Tory brand was being damaged.
Just days earlier Cameron, under pressure from Clegg, in effect dismantled Lansley’s NHS plans which now face rewriting and resubmission to parliament. A few weeks ago the Caroline Spelman plan to sell off the forests met a similar fate, as did the plans announced to make anyone unemployed for more than twelve months lose 10% of their housing benefit. And then there was Cameron’s conversion to interventionalism in foreign civll wars.
Working for this prime minister must in some ways be worse that serving under Grumpy Gordon. He used to decide everything, Cameron leaves his team to dream their dreams and to announce them. He then has private polls of public opinion carried out and, probably, reads the Rupert Murdoch line before deciding whether to step in and stop the whole shebang. You could reasonably say that he makes more screaming U-turns than a getaway driver without a satnav!
The amazing thing is that Ed Miliband seems incapable of even scoring a point as one ministerial humiliation follows another. In the House yesterday the two bickered and threw insults but one was left worrying at the thought of either of them being in charge of a town hall, let alone a country.
But there is a mounting opposition to the saga and it rests on the Conservative backbenches. Several broke cover yesterday in defence of their right wing heroes such as Clarke and Lansley. But the protests could become politically dangerous should the Conservatives begin to reap some of the blame for what is happening. Fortunately for the PM that is not likely so long as the human punchbag called Nick is happy to take the punishment.
My own view is that ‘Dave’ should carry on having his ministers dangle off the gangplank. Just three more and I could be fifty quid in pocket. Should be easy for him for practice makes perfect!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Its star’s John Challis (Boycie) 2. Philadelphia 3. Hilary 4. Dolly and Cissy 5. Eddie Brown’s 6. Darrin Stephens (Bewitched) 7. North Tanton 8. Paul Shane 9. Mrs Polouvicka 10. Bernard Hedges
I was home in time to watch some of the Lords Test match yesterday. Something one of the commentators said made me realise that we allotmenteers, humble lot though we are, do understand wild life somewhat better than our cricketing heroes. Two ducks were waddling around the outfield when the camera focussed on them and Nick Knight expressed bewilderment at how they had managed to get in given that the gates were firmly shut. It would have been a mystery had they been chickens, but I think you would find that they flew in Nick! However, I am digressing even before I start because I was keen to have a few words about the Trade Unions.
Yesterday the business secretary, Vince Cable, attended the GMB union annual conference in Brighton. He had a mixed reception but there was applause for his promise to investigate the disastrous developments resulting from private equity games being played with the lives of eldery occupants of care homes. He said that the crisis at Southern Cross “should serve as a warning of what happens when we forget our basic approach to economic policy and the role of the state”. He is either unaware of the Cameron/ Lansley plan or is, in true Uncle Vince fashion, kicking over the coalition traces for the umpteenth time.
His reception later was less warm. He moved on to warn that tougher ant-strike laws are an option if the Unions rebel against the Osborne cuts. This was not well received and certainly sounds like the action of an authoritarian state. It is also totally unnecessary. As the GMB general secretary, Paul Kenny, put it “ No strike in our country could inflict the sort of damage which the banks and finance houses have”. He is not without support for Ipsos Mori have been asking about the nation’s pressing problems since the 1970s when the Unions were named by 73%. Now the percentage believing the Unions culpable has shrunk to less than 1%! The country expects the state’s workforce to take its share of the squeeze, but it is not in the mood to demand that dinner ladies and dustmen give up their pension rights without a fight.
The real worry about the idea of toughening anti-union legislation is that the coalition imagines a pliant workforce is all that is needed to walk Britain down the path to prosperity. Thus far the government’s most substantial proposal for growth – as against financial stabilility – involves taking a scalpel to protection, such as against unfair dismissal or in the event of company transfers. In reality the disease afflicting our economy right now is down not to workers being too costly to hire, but because families are feeling too pinched to spend sufficiently. And they observe the new super-rich tax evaders and understandably feel resentment for we are clearly not all in it together.
But the Trade Unions remain largely impotent for their membership has collapsed since their heyday in the seventies, and the vast majority of their remaining members regard them as “toothless tigers”. Frankly the workers of this country need strong Unions as they have never needed them before, but they don’t have them and have little prospect of doing so. Banning official strikes would not only be undemocratic, it would be dangerous. Once the increasingly frustrated workforce began to realise that official industrial action was not a bargaining tool, it is just possible that the well of anger would overspill. If the coalition manages to destroy the lapdog Unions it will inherit instead unofficial strikes carrying popular support. And they would take a lot of handling particularly if the police refused to act!
So my case is a simple one. This government needs strong Unions which are seen to act on behalf of their members. But this does not imply that I am a passionate supporter of Trade Unions. Yes, they have achieved much over the years but they have also destroyed much.
I worked for British Leyland and to this day believe absolutely that the militant leadership of the closed-shop Unions destroyed the company and most other sections of British manufacturing. In the seventies we endured strike after strike, go-slow after go-slow. The leading trade unionists openly boasted of being Trotskyites or Stalanists. they openly confessed to be working for revolution. They were bullies and idiots and slowly, much too slowly, the mass of the workers tired of their antics.
But those days are long gone and it seems to me that we have gone from one extreme to another. Today the workforce has genuine grievances on pensions and security. They need a voice and if the government refuses to recognise the one they have, the dam will burst. There no longer are mad people wandering around seeking revolution but there are millions who feel that the working-class is the one being singled out for the greatest punishments.
Yes there is an imbalance in the economy but it is an imbalance against the workforce!
ANSERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEAD QUIZ: 1. Vampire bat 2. Blue Whale 3. One 4. Capybara 5. Algae which grow on it 6. Mount Everest pika 7. Exmoor ponies 8. Bat 9. Intestine 10. Behind its eyes
As I type it is raining at Lords and Bumble and company are waffling on. If only they had staged the Test match in Manchester where we are sweltering in the sort of weather for which our patch is famous. Slight exaggeration but at least it isn’t tipping it down, and the hen runs are dry, or as dry as anything can be that houses a vast array of incontinent hens.
Thanks to our various smartphones we are able to check instantly on the likelihood of play, in which case we would suddenly step up a gear and head for Albert’s lounge. It has to be said that our latest phones are extremely useful. One of our number has Type 2 diabetes and has to monitor it. This used to involve pen and paper followed by use of his laptop spreadsheet. Now he uses an app called Glucose Buddy that lets him take his readings anywhere and upload them to the internet. Graph? Of course, this is the age of the smartphone.
In the first three months of this year , just under half of all the 45 million mobile phones sold in western Europe fell into the smartphone category. Which means that a lot of people can now reach into their pockets and then browse the web, send and receive email, and run one of countless ‘apps’. Experts forecast that the point at which smartphones account for more than half of all mobiles is only a year or so away. The world of technology is moving on apace!
To be honest I find it almost bewildering. When I acquired my first laptop I seemed to have entered a new age. Until the novelty wore off I would sit transfixed at all the things I could do without leaving my chair. This, I would tell myself, was the ultimate point of domestic technology. That was just a few years ago and already my laptop is facing extinction. In the first three months of 2010, 85 million PCs were sold worldwide, compared with55 million smartphones. By the last three months of 2010, 94 million PCs were sold – and 100 million smartphones. The trend has continued for 2011 and analysts forecast that the trend will never reverse.
Tomi Ahonen, a former Nokia executive who now has his own mobile industry consultancy, says that the sale of PCs is now “stagnant” and smartphones will keep growing in sales approaching the billion-plus levels of total handset sales “before this decade is done”. What he doesn’t mention is that by then yet another gadget will have appeared, but that is beside the point.
Which is that suddenly we are in an age where one carries all the information, entertainment and instant communication one needs in pocket or handbag. Now this gives me, an elderly convert to the world of PCs, a real problem. The obvious one is that I don’t particularly enjoy peering into a tiny screen, however good the picture.
The other is more a concern about the effect on society at large. We had become used to being with folk who received phone calls, but now we find ourselves with people that stare as if transfixed at whatever app they happen to be using. I was in a coffee shop last week and noticed that at two tables most of the occupants were simply staring and staring at their screens. It resembled a zombie conference The rest of the people in the place had ceased to exist. Now that would have been most unusual for PCs, other than on trains where they represent a chance to do some keying in and avoid the ticket inspector all at the same time.
But like it or not the truth seems to be that just a decade from now most people will carry a form of smartphone. Their world will grow bigger at the touch of a key but the real one in which they live will, for long periods, actually cease to exist.
Perhaps all direct human contact will occur in this way. Be thankful for sex which even a super smartphone cannot provide. At least not yet!
TODAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; ANIMAL WORLD; 1. What is the only mammal to live as a parasite? 2. How is a Sibbald’s rorqual also known? 3. For how many hours in a 24 hour period does a giraffe sleep? 4. What is the world’s largest rodent? 5. What gives the sloth its greenish appearance.? 6 Which mammal lives at the highest altitude? 7. Which animals are famously sold at Bampton Fair? 8. The mammal which can live at the greatest depth is a species of what? 9. From which part of a sperm whale is ambergris obtained? 10. Where does a cane toad squirt poison from?
They tell us that farmers in the south-east are praying for rain. We chicken-men are generous souls and we would gladly let you have some of ours given a pipeline. But for a few hours at least someone up there has turned the tap off, and we have been able to use our best B & Q broom to ease the tide out from the paths surrounding the Columbian Black Tails. As we did so a lot of the chat was about the amazing climax to the Cardiff Test match. In fact there was a definite Welsh tendency this morning for two of our number hail from the land of song and they are at Snowdon height over the arrival in the Premiership of Swansea City. Mind you their prediction that “they’ll thrash the lot boyo” may, one suspects, prove as valid as those Blackpool fan Bert was making just twelve months ago.
But either way it has been a good week on the field for the ‘beautiful game’ and everyone is still buzzing about that magnificent display by Barcelona. Sadly, the good stuff on the pitch has been drowned out by the scandalous news off it. Clearly the President of Fifa, Mr Sepp Blatter, is not a man of great self understanding and has not read the sound advice from Burns about seeing ourselves as others see us. Yesterday he exclaimed “Crisis, what crisis?”. The crisis, dear boy, is that your organisation is seen around the world as utterly corrupt. The crisis is that every soccer fan believes that you have been in charge for long enough. The crisis is that your arrogance and reluctance to recognise what is happening all around you is damaging football and even jeopardising its future.
Every day brings fresh revelations. Today there are pictures of a brown envelope containing $40,000 which a Caribbean football official says was offered to him by the Fifa presidential candidate, Mohamed bin Hammam. He allegedly used bribes to secure votes for his presidential bid. Meantime, Jerome Valke, Blatter’s closest aide as secretary general of Fifa was found to have stated that Qatar had “bought the 2022 World Cup”. He later attempted to qualify the claim but by then another bombshell had burst when Chuck Blazer, the American Fifa official stated, when asked, that he thought “individuals within the organisation are corrupt”.
It is certainly convenient for Blatter that the one rival for the presidency is suspended, for the election to appoint for another four years is due this week. Given all is is being alleged any organisation with even a vague ethical code would postpone the election. But not this one, Mr Blatter is to stand unopposed and guaranteed a clear run by his cronies.
I imagine that it is hard to find any football follower across the world prepared to say a good word for its ruling body. For my part I find it strange that some of the big influences seem to represent countries that are not renowned as football-playing nations. Over the past few days I have heard America, Australia, and the West Indies mentioned many times. It seems that most of the European and South American countries take little part. In the case of the English Football Association it appears that contempt is linked with non-participation. Yet there always seemed sense in that old adage about peeing out of the tent rather than into it!
Perhaps I am missing something here but why do the UK associations not lobby all their European counterparts to demand change? Between them they must represent the majority of footballing nations. Could they not demand a proper investigation and a proper election. They would of course receive the usual smarmy brush-off from Blatter. That would be the moment for them to form a breakaway organisation based on the existing European Football Association.
In the unlikely event that the blazers read this they will of course pour scorn. Such action would be improper and unconstitutional, they would cry. But they need to face the reality. World football is being dragged ever-deeper into the mire of corruption by an incompetent and throughly corrupt organisation. The time to worry about what is or isn’t constitutional has long gone.
Blatter and all his cronies should, as Albert puts it, take a long walk off a short pier. Or as most would put it, Blatter should get the hell out of it!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ..CAN YOU BEAT KEVIN? 1. What was the first Gareth Gates single not to make No 1 in the UK? 2. Which creature is represented in the year the Chinese call hou? 3. A fear of cats is known as what? 4. Which country ruled Greece until 1830? 5. Who wrote the line; ” The female of the species is more deadly than the male”? 6. How many species of ostrich are there? 7. Dakar is the capital of which country? 8. Which theme gave Clannad their first UK Top Ten hit? 9. Who is the elder – John Prescott or Trevor MacDonald 10. The spice allspice is made from which part of a plant?
There was not too much festive spirit on the allotment at first light. Given Albert’s accident there were but two of us to thaw out the drinking utensils and to release the multitude of chickens, many of whom slunk out as if they too had over-indulged before staying up for half the night watching England devastate the Aussies before a record crowd in Melborne. The hen’s demeanour couldn’t have been down to that however for coops are one of the few places not yet under the communications control of Rupert Murdoch.
So far as I could see there was less ‘sledging’ in the Test match than is usual on Boxing Day. This was probably down to the fact that no Australian batsman was at the wicket long enough to say anything. How that Aussie crowd yearned for Warne. He was not only the best spin bowler of all time but one of the champion ‘sledgers’. And he received a fair bit too. I always remember the arrival of an England batsman at the Sidney ground. As he took guard Warne said that he had waited two years for another chance to humiliate him. Quick as a flash the ex cantab arrival replied “Looks like you spent it eating!”.
To return to Rupert Murdoch, the signs are that he is in for a very good new year. The final piece in his jigsaw – to acquire total ownership of Sky – was far from guaranteed whilst Uncle Vince Cable ruled the roost. Sadly he blotted his copy book and the responsibility for the biggest decision ever in the history of the British media has been switched to Murdoch’s pal, Jeremy Hunt. Things couldn’t have worked out better for Cameron and his mate Murdoch.
Back on 28th June, Murdoch and Hunt met to discuss the bid by News Corp to buy the 61% of BSkyB it does not already own. They met in secret and there was no one else present. Most unusually no notes were taken. Civil servants took no notes of a second meeting either, this one between the two men on 21st July. These cloak and dagger meetings followed a dinner hosted by Murdoch on 20th May . Within weeks of coming into office, Hunt was there despite the subject not then being within his remit.
Amongst the many arguments put forward by the Murdoch empire is one concerning the BBC free news web pages. They demand their closure and they are not too happy about the British library’s stated intention to provide free public access to the news archive. Free sites reduce income for Mr Murdoch. Perhaps the fact that the BBC has a worldwide reputation for objective reporting may have as much to do with the popularity of its news bulletin website?
Be that as it may the ‘Digger’ is on course to kill off, or at least mutilate, the Beeb and to acquire the ability to do deals with the likes of David Cameron, and to deliver whatever message he desires through the greater part of the British press and media. When he was one of the first visitors to Downing Street after Cameron became prime minister in May we knew that plans were afoot. It followed the Sun’s Tory-based campaign and it was payback time. With Cable out of the way and Hunt resting in the other pocket of Murdoch’s coat the web of deceit is complete. And the BBC is the fly.
Even to such grizzled sceptics as we chicken keepers it is sad to see corruption spreading through a new government that many put their faith in. Perhaps Boxing Day is an appropriate day on which to mull this over. The name comes not as you might imagine from a long-gone riot at Milwall but from a custom when christmas boxes were given to service workers by masters too busy with their own pleasures on Christmas day itself.
After the Murdoch takeover we will certainly get some treats after the event, not least the Ashes Tests, but the real treat of control and shaping of public opinion will have gone down under !
A WARNING FOR ANDREW LANSLEY!
I was at a Christmas party last evening when a man collapsed and was clearly having serious problems in getting his breath. We rang 999 and within four minutes an ambulance was at te door. Meantime we were given constant instructions by the Ambulance Trust operator.
All ended happily but it caused us all to reflect on the crazy plans that Lansley is promoting. He intends to ‘modernise’ the NHS by which he means localise crucial commissioning decisions and slash staff numbers. Fewer ambulances will be high on the Lansley agenda of lunacy.
The present system for emergencies is a brilliant one. Reduce the vehicles and staff and people will die. The tragedy is that the only protests are about tuition fees. What Lansley is proposing merits a mass occupatiuon of London! We won’t bother and we will die regretting it!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Torquay 2. The Ewings
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Sybil Thorndike died in 1976. Who was her husband from 1908 until his death in 1969? 2. The ctreator of ‘Little Grey Rabbit’ died in 1976. What was her name?
The world of cricket has been plunged into one of its worst crises of all time. Shortly after the close of yesterday’s play in the final Test match between England and Pakistan news broke of an investigation by the News of the World which appears to show that members of the Pakistan team have been involved in match-fixing during the game. Video footage of a meeting between Mazhar Majeed, a 35 year old business man, and a reporter posing as part of an Asian gambling syndicate shows the 35 year old accepting money and promising that three ‘no-balls’ had been organised with the Pakistan team.
He specified when the no-balls would be bowled and that is exactly what happened. As he had promised, Amir bowled no-balls as the first ball of the third over on Thursday and third over on Friday, Asif did likewise with the sixth ball of the tenth over on Thursday. Replays of these deliveries on today’s Sky coverage showed that on all three occasions the bowlers overstepped the crease by a significant margin. In the video Majeed also claimed that the forthcoming one-day series of matches too had been earmarked for rigging.
Last night a 35 year-old man was arrested by police on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers and the cricket authorities announced their own investigations. Meanwhile there was televison coverage of police taking material from the hotel occupied by the Pakistan team. We must of course remember that no one is guilty unitl proven so but the evidence appears irrefutable. The implications for cricket are absolutely horrendous!
There are of course many unanswered questions. Were other players involved? To what extent did the magnificent innings of both Trott and Broad reflect deliberate lack of effort by the bowlers? Were any of the previous matches, in which Pakistan performed unbelievably badly, quite what they seemed? How can the forthcoming one-day series take place and, if it does, will the paying public be able to believe in what they see? The list goes on and on.
A huge amount of betting on cricket takes place on the sub-continent. A great deal of it is based on what is known as micro-betting. Cricket is uniquely vunerable to fraud in this way for any bowler can specify in advance deliveries that will constitute no-balls ( his front foot over the line) and any batsmen can specify how and when he will be out. There are no equivalents in soccer where even total match fixing would require the involvement of the entire team. None of this once mattered because the name of cricket, above all others, was a euphemism for honesty and fair play. No more!
Pakistan have been at the centre of match-fixing claims before, most notably in 2000 when former captain Saleem Malik and bowler Ata-ur-Rehman were both found guilty and banned for life. However, Rehman was made available for selection in 2006 and Malik’s ban was overturned in 2008. The most infamous instance of match-fixing was former South African captain Hansie Cronje receiving money from bookmakers in return for match information. Cronje was also banned for life but was sadly killed in a subsequent air accident.
The International Cricket Council does employ regional security officers who attend every international match. Their remit is to keep an eye on dressing rooms and CCTV pictures and to ensure that players and coaches do not use mobile phones during play. But the task is a near inpossible one especially if there is free access to the players as happened at Edgbaston. Temporary dressing-rooms were in use there and a corridor was open to any hospitality guest. It is understood that a key figure in the News of the World’s allegations had access to this corridor.
Anyone involved in international cricket knows that for some time there have been unsubstantiated rumours that all is not as it seems to the paying public. A near paranoia has developed around any unusual trend in any match. The most innocent no-ball, run-out or rash stroke has provoked speculation and the vast majority of honest players have understandably resented questions. The reality is that any corruption involving individuals and negotiated away from the dressing room or ground is almost impossible to detect. Until the guilty are weeded out all are damned.
The future of cricket hangs in the balance. If found guilty the individuals in question must be banned for life and if it should be found that other members of the team -as alleged during the video – are implicated they should be banned also. There should be no later reprieval, life must mean life. Depending on what emerges over the next few days it may be necessary for the forthcoming one-day series to be cancelled
There can be havering on this whatever the financial implications. Cricket is a much-loved sport and belongs to the millions that delight in it’s symbolic decency in a troubled world. No team, country or player is bigger than the game, the purge must be absolute.
It is impossible to feel other than great sympathy for the nation of Pakistan. It is experiencing appalling misfortunes and the players, after their victory in the third Test, made play of the fact that they performed for their country. How tragic then that it now appears that some of them at least may have performed for themselves!
THERE IS NO SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP!
The revelation that George W Bush and Tony Blair conspired against Gordon Brown should come as no surprise to those of self understanding. It followed a meeting held by the then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Mr Brown as a result of which she reported misgivings to the President. Even then it was common knowledge that Brown resented the seemingly cosy realtiuonship between the President and British Prime Minister, on ewhich led to Blair agreeing to join the USA in the invasion of Iraq. Claerly America did not need our armed power but they did need a ‘second party’ to give the impression of an international venture.
After Mr Bush had told Blair that he had “grave doubts” about Brown’s willingness to toe the line the britsh Prime Minister announced that he intended to stay on at No 10, a plan that was thwarted when supporters of the Chnacellor stgaed their now famous ‘coup’.
When david cameron visited Washington he caused uproar by remarking that we were a junior partner to America in 1940. it was an appalling exmaple of his lack of historcal knowledge but ironically he used the right phrase albeit in the worng context. the Uk has always been the junior partner and my studies using such sources as Churchills own war diaries and the work of Max Hastings show clearly the extent to which ant-Britiosh sentiments prevailed during and after the second World War.
Indeed there is substantial evidence that had Japan attacked only British forces the United States would have remained largely neutral. I shall return to this theme on another ccasion but for now I wanted to at least use today’s media stories of Bush and Blair to restate my conviction, and that of many historians that, the flirtation between Margaret Thatcher and Ronal Reagan apart, there has never been the place in American hearts for Britain implied by the well-worn phrase of special relationship.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Cambodia 2. Abuja
TODAY’S QUESTIONS: 1. What did Snow Knight win in 1974? 2.What happened at Lixborough in that year?
At its best cricket is wonderful, at its worst absolutely infuriating. I write from the heart having attended the third day’s play in the England v Bangledash Test Match at Lords. Even ferret breeders need an occasional treat but this proved to be more a test of endurance. The early rain was no one’s fault but play did eventually start and what followed had us booing as if our lives depended on it.
I gather that someone on high has changed the rules for bad light. As a result the umpires continually checked their light metres and regularly took the players from the field of play, sometimes for a matter of minutes. Bangladesh were batting and every cricket lover wishes to see them given a fair chance of building a team capable of creating occasional excitement in a cricket loving nation that suffers hardships the like of which we cannot imagine. Instead the umpire’s paranoia about an occasional cloud served only to destroy them. At one point they brought the players back, allowed three balls (the third of which saw the middle stump cartwheeling) and then took them off again.
We passed the time by listening to the radio. It was comforting to learn that such eminent characters as Ian Botham and ‘Bumble’ Lloyd shared our frustration. The former spoke for thousands when he remarked that cricket is supposed to be about entertainment and it is high time that the fools that run it realised that before it is too late. Bumble explained that the rules about bad light are supposed to protect batsmen from danger. But he could see none.
Of course the one redeeming feature about such days is that one gossips. Our patience having been taxed and having eventually tired even of our hero Bumble we turned to tax or more specifically the ludicrous announcement by the Coalition of a rise in Capital Gains Tax. The plan was seemingly cobbled together to satisfy the Lib Dems who seem to have gained imfluence beyond their numerical strength. As with many of their plans it is wide of the target they intended which was presumably the mega-rich.
None of us wet grumps sitting huddled together for warmth like old hens come under that bracket. But several pay in regularly to savings schemes in anticipation of a rainy day ( we were actually sitting out in one so the phrase is apt). In fact 3.75 million people are building capital in this way. Fidelity has reported that someone who invested £5000 in the FTSE All Share in 1988 would currently face a tax bill of around £4,900 based on the increased value in shares over the years. Under the new proposals that would more than double.
Fidelity is urging the government to apply some form of taper relief to at least avoid savers being unfairly penalised by being taxed on increases in value due solely to inflation. If Ministers fail to do even this the effect will be to disincentivise savings and encourage more and more people to rely on the State during retirement.
We can expect fireworks on this. Vince Cable, whose brainchild it is, argues that there are few working class people who get capital gains. Clearly he associates such things with the dreaded ‘wealthy Tories’. He can be assured that we ferreters are neither and those amongst us who have worked hard and saved no longer have his picture on our ferret lockers. Admittedly some of our number have never saved and rest content that the last temptation to do so is being removed.
To crown this early coalition madness the respected Adam Smith Institute has stated that every time the United States raised GCT, revenue from it fell as savers declined to sell. The Institute calculates that a tax increase of 10 percentage points leads to a reduction of 21 per cent in income for the Chancellor.
By now the players had once again shuffled on to the field and our increasingly boring discourse ground to a halt. I wish I could wind up with a happy ending but they went off again and we came home pausing only to conclude that if the cricket legislators and whoever is now running the national purse don’t soon display some sense it won’t be only David Laws who will be considering what to do with his future!