Channel Traffic


If the British Government wish to stop al these boats crossing the English Channel, filled with would-be migrants, why don’t they give the job to The Minister for Rail & Air Chaos Chris Grayling? He seems to have the knack of bringing all means of transport to a standstill.

pic by Author

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Cannon to the Left of them (Jokers to the Right)


As a bloke once said to me:

Half a league, half a league,
  Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death,
  Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

01_1936 Charge of the Light Brigade LC

My regular reader, George in Cheltenham, will tell you that I’m no fan of war. Like Woody Allen in the event of war I’d be recruited as a hostage (that’s where the comparison between us ends). The army wouldn’t want me. I’m hopeless. I faint at the sight of blood, mine especially. Khaki is not my colour. I once soiled myself during a game of Paintball.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldiers knew
  Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
  Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
  Rode the six hundred.

So let’s all hope it doesn’t come to this again. You can be sure of a few things: If and when The Crimea War II bursts into action, there will be a few more than 600 involved, and the Russians won’t be just to the right of them and to the left of them and in front of them , they’ll be over the top of them and not just lobbing shells at them. Me?  I’ll be digging a hole in my back garden, wearing my tin hat, inside a Chieftain Tank. I shall be singing selections from Running Songs and Surrendering Ballads by the Queen’s Own Cowards, and crying a lot.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
  All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

1936 : The Chargeof the Light Brigade.  Errol Flynn flashes not only his Sabre but also his avocado collection.

1936 : The Charge of the Light Brigade. Future (alleged) Nazi Spy Errol Flynn flashes not only his ‘sabre bare’ but also other, favoured weapon. Like the murderer, Ruth Ellis, Flynn was famously well hung.

You see, there are a couple of things that worry me. Ok,ok, President Obama has said that there will be ‘Costs’ if Russia invades Ukraine (bit late on that one, methinks, O). But he also warned Syria’s Assad that he risked crossing a “red line” if he engaged in chemical attacks on his own people. That seems to have gone well, doesn’t it ? Shouldn’t someone tell POTUS that when warning someone not to do something, it’s always best to do it BEFORE they’ve done something, or it may come across as a bit of an empty threat.

 Not that I am against empty threats, you understand. Some of my largest threats have been absolutely bereft of any substance whatsoever. Only last week I threatened The Incumbent that if I didn’t start selling enough T-shirts to sustain us soon, then I would go and find some work back in journalism. Absolute bollocks. Never meant a word of it.  And she knew it. It was seventeenth-such threat since 2011.

No, I’m happy with Obama pretending he’s gonna do something about the pesky Russians, when really he knows (and they know. And what’s more they know he knows. And they know he knows that they kno…) that he’s gonna do no such thing. And I’m all in favour of that. We’ve had enough of mad wars for the time being, haven’t we? Yes, yes, I know the Crimea is very strategically important and all that; and “you can’t just let the bullies get away with it” argument; and that Putin is illegally invading a sovereign state (full of Nazi sympathisers, I might point out— if I hadn’t pointed that out before). But do we really want to go back down the David Hemmings’ route again ?

1968. David Hemmings tries to make a better stab of it than Errol Flynn. He failed too.

1968. David Hemmings tries to make a better stab of it than Errol Flynn had back in 1936. He failed miserably too.

If Obama goes to war, Cameron won’t be able to resist sending what’s left of the British Army (if Gideon hasn’t sacked them all by then). There’ll be months of slaughter, then we’ll pull out and let the inevitable civil war kick off. Then we’ll get weeks of graphic photographs in the papers, and footage on the news, up until the editors/public get bored and they concentrate on the new series of  X-Factor or Strictly.

Then Hollywood spots an opportunity for a remake or three. I don’t think the world needs another epic, sprawling, bloody awful movie about the Battle of Balaclava, Sevastopol or Crimean War, do you ? Haven’t we already had enough wars to write and make movies about without starting a new one ? It won’t be David Hemmings this time, it’ll be Brad Pitt. Cate Blanchett will play Florence Nightingale, Oprah Winfrey as Queen Victoria, and Matthew McConaughey in the old Trevor Howard role as Lord Cardigan.

Could McConnaughey possibly drink enough on set to do the role justice ?

Could McConaughey possibly drink enough on set to do the role justice ?

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
  All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
 Noble six hundred!

It’ll just be a matter of time before EA Games gets involved and produces Medal of Hono(u)r CRIMEA edition— when a team of crack Hussars (hussar !!) will slaughter thousands of commies (humour them) to knock out the guns at Sevastopol/Navarone/Moscow (pronounced Moscouw)* (delete where applicable). There will be bigger body count than in an average Hospital in Stafford. Don’t believe me ? There’s already been an attempt at it. Good old Atari back in 1991.

Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade_-_1991_-_Impressions_Games

“From the producers of Rorke’s Drift” ????? Do they mean that other crap Atari game or the actual battle? Perhaps Obama could bill the Presidency as : “POTUS : From The Producers of Operation Iraqi Freedom(ish); The Directors of Shock, Awe & We’ll Leave You to Clear Up all the Mess  After We’ve Left; and the writers of Somalian Disaster.”?

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

1854
.

So please, Mr President, enough with the threats. We don’t want no war, we don’t want no movies about war, we don’t want no games about movies about war. You blokes in charge of things sort it out between you without sending us lot over the top again. Please.

This post was bought to you by the makers of “I Told You So” and “I’ll Sign up for the Military Right After Politicians Send Their Sons to War.” and by the letters F and O.

Who Do You think You’re Kidding?


Things are definitely changing around here, and some of them not for the best.

I took off this morning on another one of what my doctor, Mr Lansley, calls “life-extending promenades” this morning. I know he means well but I’m not sure Dr Lansley understands just how far “a half hour’s walk” is. Or, come to that, if he understands anything at all about my health. Anyway, the novelty of the yomp to the post office is wearing off already so today I decide to turn the other way into the village itself. This way is a little more interesting as I pass by or through all the hustle and bustle which country life can offer.

I therefore reach the top of the lane and turn left this time, past the school with its newly installed metal detector and courtesy black maria which the children seem to find very interesting indeed. I stand to watch several of them playing a game of Hopscotch (or HopCaledonian as they are told to call it nowadays) through and around the metal detector. I started to reminisce about my time at the school and all the lovely knife-free years I enjoyed there, before I am awakened from my daydream and shooed away by a man pointing a Taser and wearing a flak jacket in school colours. I am a mixture of embarrassed and annoyed, but in any case shuffle off in the direction of the newsagent’s and the football fields beyond.

I no longer use this newsagent. I spent years gleaning from it all the info about the outside world I could. It was a lovely sight. A lovely big sign outside reading “The Village News” above the window was flanked by smaller ones of a bygone day: The News Of the World, News Shopper and even Horse&Hound were all represented in enamel signs down the sides of the shop. Proudly and efficiently run by old Mr Turnbull and his younger wife Susanna, it was a constant source of news, gossip and entertainment.

Sadly, as in everything nowadays, the shop has had a makeover, renamed itself “T’News of T’Village” and is daubed with posters for the Yorkshire Post, Salford Sentinel, and Whippet Magazine. The shop window has been widened, the counter brought closer to the door, and there’s even a space in the background for customers to enjoy a cappuccino or a flat white, run by the serial liar Mrs Kirkwood. (Amazing they haven’t pensioned her off yet.) The company has brought in a whole new staff to help out old Bill. I went in there one Sunday afternoon and found Jack Duckworth and Seth Armstrong serving. I had not a clue what they were on about and left sharply, never to return.

Mr Turnbull takes to the streets to sell the riveting Tameside Express

For your information I now pop along to Mr Humphrys who runs the paper stand on the corner. He doesn’t carry any of the tabloids or the magazines, and is only interested in the broadsheets, but at least I can understand what he’s talking about. And he and his friend Mr Naughtie (“Naughty Naughtie”, my mum calls him) do have a laugh when one of them accidentally mispronounces Mr Jeremy Hunt‘s name.  The only alternative place to get my news from is Holmes’– the convenience store in the high street. But I fear that if the manager, Eamonn, doesn’t stop tucking into the pasties (“well, no-one else is buying them any more”) they’ll be no room for anyone to get into the shop to buy anything. Fat eejit, so ye are.

As I passed them, Old Bill had young Charlie helping him pile up sandbags outside the door of the shop. They looked very sad. Mrs Kirkwood had her sunglasses on, so I knew it was about to rain. I put up my brolly, upped the pace to a stroll and continued up the path.

The school football pitches lay silent, save for the rustling of Ginsters Dwarf packets being blown about in the goal netting, and old Mr Fry, the omnipresent caretaker re-marking out the lines with his trusty, squeaky wheely machine. I’m sure that’s not what it’s called and that Mr Fry would take the time to tell me, at length, what its real name is, but I intentionally don’t catch his eye. I’m getting bored of him telling me everything about everything. It seems like he’s everywhere I go. And he keeps asking me to follow him. It’s creepy, I reckon. Why he doesn’t find himself a nice wife I’ll never know.

A small boy is told that Mr Moon is unable to play at the village concert.

Much excitement was to be had, apparently, up at these pitches at the weekend as two of the immigrant boys did frightfully well in their respective soccer matches. Young Fernando scored three goals. IN ONE MATCH. Putting to bed the fear had by his new PE master, Signor Baldio, that the boy needed to be fitted with calipers to sort his legs and feet out.

Over on another pitch, little Adolf Suarez also scored three times, even though parents were assured at christmas that he was to be expelled for calling some of the other boys “Schwartzers”.  His coach, Mr Kenneth Gorbals (pronounced Goebbels), sadly now blind in both eyes, did offer something by way of excuse, but no-one understood him. And on Pitch 3 John the School Bully amazed everyone by staying on the pitch for the whole of the match, and without abusing or maiming anyone. He got rather excited when he scored a goal, but his dad rushed on to the field of play and administered some pills, which he’d secreted in a little baggie down his sock. After the match ‘Bully’ was seen talking to the nurse, Mrs Bridge who seemed to be backing in to him. A lot.

It’s sad to think that in a matter of weeks the pitches and the ancient trees that surround them will be dug up and tarmacked over for use as an Olympic car park. Oh well, we all have to do our bit, I suppose. What’s hundreds of years of history and a few old Oaks when compared to ensuring the success of a corporate carve-up sports tournament ?

The Terry family takes on the Suarezes in a friendly kick about on Sunday morning.

The school’s newly-appointed Temporary Chief Coach, Mr W.O.T. Wovers (Cantab) said that he was “wery happy with all the boys he’d seen in twaining” and that he was confident in their ability to do well in the tournament this summer “especially against fwance and the Ukwaine”.

On the far side of the football pitches I could see the SBS training in the village pond. Their activity was only hampered by having to steer their boats around the Astute-class nuclear submarine which the Royal Navy have parked, sorry moored in our pond, much to the annoyance of both the ducks and the local flasher.  Sadly, since the local ARP warden, Mr Johnson, announced that our village was a prime Al Qaeda target this summer, the whole place has been a hive of activity, with varying degrees of success and popularity.

The site for the gun emplacement – originally destined to be on top of the Conservative Club – has been moved (thank the Lord) and will stand proudly, perched on top of the ICU building at the local Hospital. Mr Johnson tells us that, not only will this deter the “Mad Raghead Mullahs” from bombing our NHS hospital, but it will ensure the general security and safety of all those waiting hours in corridors to be seen by the woefully short-handed staff”. I can certainly see that no right-minded burglar would want to break into the hospital now.

A crack team of nurses abandon their posts at the gun emplacement as they
remember they’ve left an elderly patient alone with young Dr Shipman

As I turned for home, I paused for a moment and removed my cap as a funeral cortege passed by. They were burying old Mrs Blears who died suddenly and horribly in a freak razor-wire accident. She was wrapping the aforementioned wire around her chimney in an effort to dissuade the Taliban from mounting an attack on her home, when she slipped and fell through the wire to the ground. Only the wire catching her across the neck and in her mop of lovely ginger hair saved her fall. Sadly she died from the injuries sustained. Had she been rescued in time she may have lived. Apparently she hung there for four weeks before anyone noticed she’d gone. One neighbour said “I’m so relieved she’s dead: I thought I’d gone deaf”. Another was quoted as saying “Let’s just remember what she did for us and for herself and enjoy the peace and silence now she’s gone”.

I buy my paper from Mr Humphry’s I see that they’ve decided to allow drug users to represent the village in the summer sports day. That’s good. It’ll give School Bully something to do in the closed season. I did see his dad and Mr Chambers having a good old chin-wag earlier (which is strange, given Mr Chambers’ colour), but I’m sure whatever was said could be easily taken out of context.

Ok, gotta go now. Have to buy one of Mr Coe’s lottery tickets for a place in the Air Raid shelter. S’funny, I always thought there’d be a place for all of us in the shelter when the time finally came, given all the taxes we’ve paid over the years and how long we’ve lived here. Not to mention that many of us had to move out of home to allow Mr Coe to build that big bunker of his. But apparently some seats have to be reserved for special friends of Mr Coe, and their friends and their families. Which is only right, I suppose.

Jobs for the Boys and Girls.


I’ve had a few decent jobs. I’ve had a couple of bloody awful ones too. I spent a good deal of my working life at The Telegraph; then a decent amount of time in London at TIME Magazine. I spent only a few months in the employ of Rupert Murdoch, but I don’t think he misses me. He’s probably got plenty on his plate to worry about at the moment anyway. Mr Dacre doesn’t lay awake at night wondering why I only did a couple of weeks freelancing on his Daily Mail. At least I assume he doesn’t. How much time Alexander Lebedev spends wishing I was still at The Independent, only he knows. When he gets too depressed about it, he goes off and punches someone, I hear. Robert Maxwell fell off his boat before I got the chance of working for him. Pity.

So you’d think that the constant moaning and whingeing from her father might have put a young Bealing off of journalism, wouldn’t you ? Well apparently not.

If you click on the picture above you’ll see an interview with former Tory politician Ann Widdecombe, the first raft of questions being asked by my eldest daughter Lucy (bottom right hand corner of this photo) . The more observant of you will notice Lucy keeps here questions to Ann’s role in Strictly Come Dancing rather than tackle her on political issues. It’s probably for the best: Her dad, whereas he would have struggled to come up with anything coherent or relevant to ask about Strictly, would have ended up on an assault charge should he ever have had to ask Widdecombe about her “struggle against Socialism”. Probably why her dad ended up as a picture editor, rather than an interviewer. You’ll also note that Lu speaks the Queen’s English unlike her father. Another advantage she has over me.

So that’s my eldest sorted out for the future, but the job market is a precarious one. My current job of “Watching Columbo and Printing T-Shirts” is one of my favourite jobs I’ve had, it just doesn’t pay anything like I thought it might. Almost the opposite in fact. On the other hand, I’m working at a place I like (home) with people I like (my mate Rob) and the hours are pretty good.

It could be worse, I could be Andrew Strauss who’s looking particularly precarious in his job as England cricket captain, his team having lost its fourth test match in a row. There’s no disgrace losing in Sri Lanka. The conditions are brutally hot and the pitches are so different from those in England that you’d need to be a particular talent to pull off a win, especially in Galle which has the reputation of being a graveyard for English players, and in particular English bowlers.

Bealing leads off The Fleet St Exiles having taken 6-22, taking them to a
3 wickets victory against the Sri Lankan Airways XI, Galle, Sri Lanka 2005

Then again some people are luckier than others. My good mate Dave has finally ended his long wait for a permanent job by landing a plumb one on a magazine. It’s been a long wait for him and I was thrilled when he called to tell me he’s landed it. Well done, Wavey ! Then there’s rugby’s Stuart Lancaster who has just been given the job which everyone in the country (57 Old Farts aside) thought he should have been given weeks ago. The new English Rugby Coach has fought off seemingly nearly every other coach in the world for the job before the old Twats of Twickenham finally run out of South Africans to turn them down. The RFU were forced to give the job to Lancaster, something they should have done when it was clear he a) knew how to coach a rugby team and b) had no time for show ponies. Celebrity coach he ain’t. And thank fuck for that.

Andy Robinson keeps his job. Yes, really. The Scotland coach had presided over a team which last won a match in black&white but somehow managed to convice the SRFU that he’s the one for the post. Can there be another man in the country (and yes, we can still count Scotland in that) who’s luckier to be still employed ? No, not if you don’t count Francis Maude there isn’t.

The Idiot Saville Row Tory Cabinet Office Minister Maude emplored drivers to fill up their Jerrycans with petrol and prepare for fuel shortages due to the tanker driver’s strike and that “there are lives at stake”. Once people had Googled what a Jerrycan was (apparently not everyone’s obsessed by WWII like me), checked that there is no strike (and won’t be one for at least a fortnight, and even then, probably not) and that the tanker drivers weren’t using Mad Max II technology to threaten people’s lives and protect the remaining gasoline, everyone assumed Maude would be taken round the back by Dave and Gideon and pummeled to death with his own Jerrycan. Sadly not.

“Half a tank of unleaded and 3 lucky dips for tonight’s lottery, please mate.” – a scene from Mad Maude II: The Road Warrior

For starters, Dave was too busy telling us how much he loved Pasties, and about the hilarious incident when he recently bought a pasty on Leeds railway station from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. MMMMmmmmmmm….Yum Yum. Trouble is all the poor sods at the Leeds station branch of the West London Pasty Company lost their jobs in 2007. So all that justification by Dave, all that gettin dahn wiv da prols an da kidz was, ow u say,  a load of old bollocks.

Still, Dave’ll soon have some proper opposition in Parliament to point out all his mistakes, scandals, lies and wrong-doings. George Galloway is back in a job. Sadly, it’s true. The Big Brother Cat Impersonator is back in his job as an MP, this time by winning a by-election in Bradford West, a once Labour stronghold. George won by a landslide by campaigning on one issue: An anti-Afghan War campaign in the predominantly-muslim neighbourhoods of Bradford West. He even intimated earlier in the campaign he actually was a musilm (he isn’t really).

Just fancy that: A tv celebrity, however micro and annoying to you and me, campaigns in a Muslim area against a war seen by many to be anti-muslim, securing a 10,000 majority and WINNING a by-election in a previously Labour heartland. Now who could have predicted that ? Should anyone in Labour be brought to account for this humliation? Should Mr Millipede still be in his job ?

Up in Smoke


Since my little episode in the summer – when I hit the deck like the GB’s baton in the 400m relay – I’ve been like the Olympic Flame: never going out. Well, hardly ever. But “hardly ever going out” isn’t the end of one of my favourite jokes, so we’ll make do with never going out. Ok?

The route for the Olympic Torch has been announced this morning and, for better or worse, the good people or Dartford won’t be within either a javelin or a stone’s-throwing range of the runners and the flame. Good thing really cos The Incumbent has been practicing her aim with both. If a procession of tracksuit-clad locals and micro-celebrities were to jog past the Potting Shed, a violent salvo of objects, once destined for eBay, would be launched in their general direction. She may manage to cop someone of the stature of a Floella Benjamin or a Jim Davidson around the earhole with an old ornament, causing considerable damage.  But you can never be too sure of a direct hit, so it’s best the entourage stays well away from the neighbourhood.

Since we failed to secure even a single child’s ticket for the egg-and-spoon race, the London 2012 experience is not one to be enjoyed in our house. Coupled with my failure to get a job with the Olympic organization’s photo-team, mention of The Games is strictly verboten around here. (Although we are only assuming I didn’t get the job, me having not received a single word either way from the interviewers. Rude fvckers.)

Whenever there’s a news item about next year’s event, or Seb Coe’s beaming face appears on tv, the station is immediately switched off or over – even if it means watching another autopsy on Channel 4 (have they not got any other ideas?). The whole shambles/con (delete where applicable) over the ‘legacy’ and the football stadia, and the ‘affordable housing’ and the ticket prices has really left a nasty taste in the mouth, so we won’t be joining in the fun, if you don’t mind (I bet that’s come as a shock to you, hasn’t it?)

So no runners past the Potting Shed. No cheering-on of the torch by the farmhands. The locals at The Berchtesgaden Arms will not have the chance to wave the flag of St George in celebration of the flame’s progress. They’ll have to save their celebratory bender and Sieg Heil session until the Stephen Lawrence accused get off again.

Casting a cursory glance at the route I think I notice the joggers won’t be taking the torch around neither Tottenham nor Croydon. Probably for the best, I suppose. I think they’ve had enough of flames for a while. That bloke in the furniture shop has only just sat down after giving all those emotional news interviews. It’d be nice to give him a rest for a while.

While we’re on fire-related moans and groans: Can’t we now take this opportunity to ban fireworks altogether? It’s too early to know what really caused the horrors on the M5 at the weekend, but can we not make use of the suspicion by outlawing bonfires and fireworks once and for all? If we can prove they are harmful to the environment, I’d gladly reinforce my immaculate green-credentials in an effort to rid us all of the noise, the smoke and the smell.

It used to be that you’d only see and hear these bloody things on, or around November 5th.  In 1605 Guy (Guido) Fawkes and a bunch of his catholic mates tried to blow up Parliament. He got caught and the ‘gunpowder plot’ failed. We’ve been celebrating his capture/mourning his failure (delete where applicable) ever since. All well and good, I suppose. Most countries have a yearly festival or celebration day when the fireworks are rolled out. The French have Bastille Day, the day every year they give thanks for not being invaded by the Germans (again). Then there’s the 4th of July, commemorated by Brits the world over as the day we finally let the yanks out in the world on their own. A bit like sending an annoying spotty teenager off to college and getting the box room back. Years later he returns, now owning IBM and degree in shooting people, but the peace and quiet was nice while it lasted.

I digress.

But now we not only have to start dodging rockets and catherine wheels around 5th November, but we now have to listen to them over Christmas, New Year, Easter, Yom Kippur, Epiphany, Lent, Diwali, the  X-Factor results, Downton Abbey finales, in fact any and every single celebration that someone somewhere feels they need to enjoy. I’m all in favour of a multicultural, multi-faith country where all are welcomed and encouraged to live as diverse and existence as is possible. But why-oh-why-oh-daily-mail do all these festivities have to come with sodding fireworks ? Maurice, the rather nervous dog next door has shellshock – they now feed him on valium and St John’s Wort. There’s a pall of smoke hanging over the lower paddock, making it look like Kabul after the big beardy naughty boys have been about.

They banned smoking on the top deck of a bus and the left hand side of the cinema; they stopped us from riding a motorcycle without a helmet; had an amnesty on handguns; they even banned Tom&Jerry from my tv (presumably to make room for a series on human dissection on Channel 4). Surely there’s a decent case to be made against these rockets and missiles which kill, harm, mutilate and maim so many every year ? I have nothing against blowing up parliament, and happy to raise a glass to the Guido and his mates for having a pop at it. But is blowing up each other, distressing our pets and covering motorways with thick smoke really the way forward ? What if we restrict it to one huge re-enactment every year, underneath parliament, using live ammo. And hope for the best ?

Or the worst. (delete where applicable).

This Happy Breed


Happiness. It’s good to be happy, innit? With the country on the Fritz, the economy in freefall, your trusty black dog scratching at your bedroom door to persuade you to get up and face the world, and with no obvious light at the end of the tunnel (apart from the light of that oncoming train) it’s amazing what small Murphys we thank heaven for, what little ray of sunshine peaks through the clouds and lifts our hearts to cheer up our miserable fucking lives.

Take the recent romp and pomp up in Westminster Abbey. Now I like a wedding as much as the next bloke, though I’d much rather be an innocent bystander than active participant, of course. I can’t imagine flying across the world, or even hopping on a train for 40 minutes to go and celebrate the wedding of a couple whom I’d never met, nor ever likely to meet. But that’s what a million or so folk did last Friday. Unbelievable. I haven’t seen that many happy people in London since Robert Maxwell went for a dip off the back of his boat


Oops! Sorry, wrong one.


Tented villages appeared along the pavements in The Mall and Whitehall as people camped out overnight, overnight mark you, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the happy couple. Union flags (or is it Jacks?) were waved by small children and large Americans in front of the mass ranks of cameras as the world’s tv crews went in search of the happiest/daftest/fattest fans of the soon-to-be Duke and Duchess of Neasden South, or wherever it is.

So many smiling faces. So much glee. So much joy. The BBC’s Welsh anchor (subs please check) Huw Ewards (fablaas) led us through the streets of London like a fat Ralph McTell pointing out the who’s who and the where’s where of the unfolding events. He never did quite manage to explain who and why a bunch of guests were crammed into minibuses, or indeed who was in charge of the beer and sandwiches therein. Nor did he quite explain fully what an avenue of trees  was doing inside the Abbey but suggested it was “Catherine’s idea”. It was unclear whether Huw offered this as an explanation or an excuse. No matter, nothing could dim the crowd’s enthusiasm for anything and everything on this, the most British of Days.

Inside the Abbey, the mood was a little more reserved, but none-the-less joyous. Not that you’d know it from the faces of Charlie, Liz and Phil.T.Greek. They don’t do unbridled rapture, that lot, so you had to look for clues elsewhere. The cameras cut and panned from guest to guest, accompanied by Huw’s less-than-Dimbleby-esque commentary. The Incumbent and I settled down agog (or is it twogog) in front of the tv set to see who was wearing what and why. Ah there’s the Queen Mother and at least she looks like she’s enjoying herself.  There’s even a little tear in her eye, though I’m suprised she was allowed to bring a corgi with her….hang on…wait a minute.. that’s not the Queen Mum at all. She’s dead for starters. No, no, no…that’s Elton John. And that corgi’s her husband!

Souvenir Royal plate by Vic Reeves and Alan Parris. http://www.aylesfordpottery.co.uk/

Mrs Cameron looked like she had just popped out for a bottle of milk. The Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice pulled off the coup of out-uglying both the Duchess of Ming (she must never be queen) and Tara Palmer Tompkinson combined (there must surely be a by-law that prevents them being let out in public?).

Outside the hordes of happy little people waved and cheered and waved some more as if it was the happiest day of their lives and they didn’t want it to ever end. My feelings were different in just two ways. For me it was nearly over almost as soon as it begun. No sooner had the welsh commentator introduced the welsh Archbishop of Canterbury, the organist wound up the opening bars of Guide Me Oh thou Great Redeemer and the BBC quickly cut back to an interview with a welsh harpist, I found myself uncontrollably feeling for the off-switch. But I was headed off at the pass by The Incumbent who was finding the whole proceedings hilarious. Apart from wondering why they hadn’t gone the whole hog and held the wedding at Cardiff Arms Park, I had to agree. There was much mirth to be had, if you looked in the right places.

I may not have been smiling for any of the reasons that those bedecked in red white and blue were smiling, but the whole day had for a moment distracted me from unemployment, poverty and my general chien noir malaise. If you can’t titter at a guardsman saluting mid-air as the Queen gets out of the car via the wrong door then you are dead from the neck up.

Talking of which, at time of writing we’re still yet to see the photos of Osama Bin Laden‘s corpse. Many people out there still refuse to believe that the US military finally caught up with the Al Qaeda Laeda and are demanding proof. For others, the news of his death proved too much for them and their happiness was all-too-apparent as they jumped up and down in the streets of Washington and New York, waving the Stars and Stripes (or is it strips?), merrily singing USA! USA! USA! (words & music by George and Ira Gershwin).

Wave after wave of baseball cap-wearing college student chanted and waved for any poor cameraman unlucky enough to have been given the assignment to go film them. The waving of flags (and indeed the burning of them) seems to be a pastime especially made for the cameras. Over the years the amount of US, British, Danish, Israeli, Hamas and Iraqi flags which have been waved and/or burned for the benefit of “news” organisations is really quite staggering. If the camera hadn’t been invented the flag-and-cigarette-lighter industry would be in grave peril of collapsing altogether. As it is, there were no shortage of gleeful Americans who were happy to party like it was 1994 for the benefit of CBS, FOX or the BBC. They’ll be the same ones who will shout insults and hurl abuse at the Muslims doing similar after the inevitable Al Qaeda retaliation. Ho hum. Pass me that tin hat will you, dear?

The CIA and the Whitehouse are discussing whether the pics of Bin Laden’s mashed-up body are too gruesome for public viewing. Having seen the Royal Family in their full glory last week, I doubt if the Americans have anything to frighten us.

Be Happy.

Just Warming Up


I hate training. I always did. All that stretching off, press-ups, squat-thrusts, jogging around the pitch, unopposed drills. Yuk, awful. I suspect my lack of enthusiasm for training sessions was the one and only reason I never got my England cap. Yes, that’s definitely the reason.

Training sessions, in my limited but painful experience, are invariably held on a cold, wet Tuesday night and involve someone shouting at you for an hour and a half while you forward-roll and burpee your way around the pitch until your head thumps, or someone gives you a slap because you were either tackling too hard or not hard enough. Meanwhile all your mates who had to ‘work late’ or are ‘injured’ are in the clubhouse seeing the ‘physio’ or having ‘one’ ‘shandy’.

Actually, I was pretty good at that . There’s no more satisfying pint of beer than the one you have as you look out of the clubhouse bar at those assorted idiots on the training field going through beep tests and star jumps.

This five-minute fad of keeping fit can be quite annoying. The aforementioned lycra nazis mince around with their inexplicable air of superiority. Joggers in the street sweat past you under the impression that they own the pavement, with a self-satisfied “look at me” importance only rivalled by new mothers pushing a buggy into your shins.

That bunch who arrive back in the office at about 1.50 every afternoon, stinking, red-faced and drenched, unable to breath as they complete their lunchtime jog around the block- what’s all that about? If I came out of a pub looking like that I’d never go in one again.  I dunno if they actually expect a round of applause for their efforts but by the way they look at you, iPod in ears and water bottle in hand as they collapse over the office furniture, you’d have thought that they’d just discovered radium. FUCK OFF AND STOP DRIPPING ON MY DESK.

The Incumbent takes herself off to the local gym every morning. I dunno what she’s training for and given that every single morning she announces that it hurt, I haven’t the foggiest idea why she does it to herself. I’m unlikely to announce that I’m taking out for a 10k run at the weekend, so why does she put herself through it? My mate – let’s call him Paul (even though his real name’s Martin)- joined the local fitness club purely to watch women bounce around on the treadmill. Now that I understand, although I did point out there were cheaper ways to look at lithe, young women’s bodies (I’m typing on one now).

Having said all that, I am in preparation for the big event next week. The imminent England vrs Australia cricket series starts next Wednesday, but coverage doesn’t start til 11pm and goes on through the night.  Considering these days I like to be tucked up in bed by no later that 9.30 I need to acclimatise myself to match conditions. As I write, half the England team are in Brisbane, training in tropical conditions in readiness for the five-day match which will test all their physical and mental abilities. Nothing can prepare your body for the shock of playing sport in the extreme heat of the tropics, especially if you come from Manchester, Leeds or Nottingham, so the english bowlers have arrived a week in advance to give themselves half a chance of getting used to the sapping conditions.

My preparations will be no less calculated. My plan for Wednesday is to get myself down to the local pub for about 2pm, armed to the teeth with the daily papers. I shall order a pint and sit by a window and read every sports section available. At some stage I shall order a light lunch: steak and kidney pie or fish n chips. No more than four drinks shall be ordered (unless I have company then a sensible cut-off time will be deemed).

Late afternoon I shall waddle off down the hill to Railway Cuttings to the comfort of my bed or sofa (dependent on Columbo being on tv). Having checked carefully the last delivery time for Dominos Pizza (do they open through the night?) I shall snuggle down and sleep, hopefully for three or four hours. Alarm or no alarm, I hope to wake at around 1030, in plenty of time to enjoy the coverage of the match. Then I’ll simply repeat the above for the next five days.

Of course I will drop off to sleep again eventually, but this is the best plan I can come up with without reverting to chemical help to keep me awake. I’m so excited about the series I may just explode if I was to come within a nostril hair of any stimulants. No jogging kit will be donned, no sweatband worn. No hamstrings will be pulled, and even my dodgy achilles tendons can stand up to rigours of walking to the pub.

I’ll be ready. And so will the English team. Hopefully.

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On Manoeuvres


The Israeli military is to investigate the behaviour of its troops in Gaza. Many around the world will wonder if this is just another whitewash, to be seen to be doing the right thing, a sham investigation as so many have been before. But what exactly has caused the uproar this time ? More use white phosphorus against the indigenous population ? The massacre of the innocents ? Contravening international laws on human rights by boarding ships laden with aid for the starving ? No, not this time. This is potentially much worse.

According the the agency AFP “the matter is currently being investigated by the battalion commanders,” a terse statement said, with media reports saying those involved were likely to be punished for “inappropriate conduct during a military operation.”

That doesn’t sound very good does it ? You be the judge:

It’s a difficult one to get your head around, isn’t it ? On the one hand we all have our own opinions on the Israeli state: Either a tyrannical occupying force who slaughter innocents willy-nilly across the disputed territories; or a nation defending itself against Palestinian terrorists, preserving a Jewish state in the Holy Land, while being surrounded by Arabs, Palestinians and other aggressive neighbours, all of whom have claims to the same territory. There’s no point arguing the toss here, you’ll probably guess which side of the fence I’m on.

However, of all the atrocities which have taken place in the Middle East, six conscript squaddies line dancing in a street when they’re supposed to be on patrol seems a little trivial. The world will scream “shame!” and want them disciplined. Doubtless these lads will be up before the beak, an example made of them. But I wonder. I dunno about you, but it’s the politicians who should be strung up, not the poor sods they send into battle. A long succession of Israeli Governments, aided and abetted by the Yanks and the Brits of all political persuasions are those who should be in the dock, not these blokes.

Your Israeli youth has no choice but to join up. Countless conscripts have been killed since 1948 and there seems little end in sight. There’s no doubting that they face an organised and determined foe, and that life on the front line can be no fun. So who can really blame them for letting their hair down, releasing the tension and having a little bit of R&R before the next sniper or bomber targets them ?

Oooh ! that’s a bit serious, MB, lighten up, mate !

Yeah well, sometimes (not often) but sometimes The Sharp Single goes off at odd tangent, and this is one of those times.

I was searching Youtube for the video to see what all the fuss was about, and what really offended me was the lack of preparation these guys had put into their routine. Full-pack or not, there’s no excuse for being out of step or out of time, especially when there’s only six of you. The world is watching, so for god’s sake pull your finger out. That’s what you get from conscripts I suppose.

Now a PROFESSIONAL outfit knows how to choreograph a dance routine. The British Army has, over the years, shown the world a thing or two in the theatre of war, and this is no different. I’m not so sure they really are SAS (it matters not one jot), but as a prime example of off-duty troops, in a hell-hole where they really don’t wanna be, making the most of it and having fun, I’ve seen no better. A tradition which started with synchronised waltzing at Rorke’s Drift, through to mass Lambeth Walking at Ypres, it’s good to see there’s some things our boys still excel at. Do carry on.