Time to Chuck in the Towel


It comes to all of us at the end. Whether it’s because the state tells you that you’re too old for employment, or when your body isn’t able to carry on – even when your mind thinks it can. Some of us are lucky enough to be in a job which allows us to choose the timing of our retirement. For most of us, the decision is out of our hands.

If you’re a journalist or even a photo editor, you can probably work until your eyes or your liver can take it no more. For some of us, the age of 46 is probably as good an age as any at which to retire; others will go on until they snuff it at their desks/the bar/toilet cubicle. Lots of us can’t wait to go, but there are those who wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if not go to work.

If you’re a high court judge you can go on and on until you’re deaf, frail and incontinent. Come to think of it I dunno why I don’t apply. Even politicians seem to go on for as long as they please, though if you stay on too long you risk become a figure of fun as did Michael Foot, Ted Kennedy, or Nicolas Sarkozy.

Boxers are often guilty of staying in the game past their sell-by date. Surrounded by spongers and yes-men, not enough are told not to fight again. Who’d ever tell Mike Tyson “don’t go into the ring again, Champ, or you’ll get a whopping” ? Not me, that’s for sure. Left with cowards and scroungers, Champ decides to have ‘one last fight’ and more often than not suffers the inevitable clobbering.

While we’re on sportsmen, there are those who have the foresight to plan ahead for that time when they no longer compete. Some become successful TV pundits:- John McEnroe, Richie Benaud, Gary Lineker or Michael Johnson spring to mind; Some become fvcking awful ones: Colin Montgomery, Michael Vaughan, Willie Carson. Then there are some who are so desperate to become TV stars they’ll appear on anything, anywhere to further their career: Tessa Sanderson, Matthew Pinsent, Kriss Akabusi but fail even to become children’s entertainers.

Some leave sport altogether and are quite happy to work in the real world, like one of my boyhood heroes, cricketer (and Ashes winner) Chris Old who works in Sainsbury’s supermarket. Not very glamorous but he’s happy.

For some, of course, the end doesn’t come when you want it to. One day, you’re part of office life, getting the tea for everyone and chipping into the Derby sweepstake, the next minute the guvnor calls you in and tells you that the Bell has Tolled for you. Yer outta here. You are surplus to requirements and you are to be replaced with a younger, sleeker (cheaper) version. It’s a horrible and humiliating way to go. And many can’t take it.

Rio Ferdinand is convinced he has still got what it takes to be an international footballer. His boss, or rather, his former boss, or rather the new bloke in the office who doesn’t want to be Rio’s boss disagrees. The new England manager didn’t pick Ferdinand for his squad to compete [sic] in the upcoming European Championship (singular: There is only one Championship being competed for and therefore is spelled Championship. Not Championships. Ok?)

I digress again.

So not only wasn’t he picked for the original squad, but when the bloke who’d replaced him in the team dropped out through injury Rio wasn’t picked then either. In fact it’s probably safe to say that if all 18 original players dropped out, having succumbed to a virulent strain of Green Monkeys Disease, Rio still wouldn’t get selected. He is not wanted. His time has come.

Rio is fuming, He thinks he should play. His agent thinks he should play (shock) and has told the world’s media (well, T’BBCSalford who are the only ones listening) that it’s a disgrace that his man has not been selected. At 34 years of age, Ferdinand knows this will be the last ChampionshiP he had a chance to be selected for. Whether it’s the pulling on of the England shirt again , running out onto the big stage for one last time, or falling asleep half way though the either half (it’d become his party trick), Rio wanted one last chance to show the world what he could do. Sadly, it was never to be.

A combination of his regular attacks of narcolepsy during corner kicks, and the fact that his playing partner is on a charge of racially abusing Rio’s brother means that manager Roy Hodgson was never gonna select both. When a sleepy black bloke is up against a violent, racist, white bloke it seems that whitey will win the day. Thank Allah that John Terry’s court case has been delayed until after the tournament, eh ? What a stroke of luck.

Whatever the reasons behind it, Rio has just got to get on with his young life, and find a new direction in which to channel his…er…talents. Cricketer and legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar has been sworn into the Indian Parliament, making him the first to enter parliament while still playing. Sachin is a humble, personable, brilliant sportsman, regarded as a God in his own country. Rio differs from Tendulkar in just four ways. Though all is not lost for Ferdinand in that respect. If the British Labour party can have Oona King, Diane Abbott and Paul Boateng as MPs, Rio may yet be able to find himself as the least self-serving and most appealing black representative the party has had for many a year.

So having said all that, who was it who couldn’t find it in themselves to gather Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney, Grace Jones and Shirley Bassey together and say “I’m sorry guys, but you can’t sing any more”? One suspects it should have been to Gary Barlow, but you can’t blame him for crumbling in the face of legends. I speak of, of course, of last night’s Jubilee bash. Possibly one of the most diverse concerts I have ever witnessed, both in content and quality. To hear Alfie Moon (no, neither had I before) and Willi.i.am (ditto) knock out a decent tune, only for the joyous atmosphere to be punctuated by the excruciating wailing of these four (and I’m being very kind to Elton John) aged, has-beens. 12 hours later, my toes have only just started uncurling after McCartney’s performance. One presumes he got the gig purely because Lennon and Harrison are dead, but that is surely no excuse for what he gave us last night. He sounded better at Live Aid – and his microphones failed on that occasion.

If Ringo isn’t busy flashing ‘V’ signs, perhaps he could climb off Barbara for a second and tell his old mate that enough is enough. Obviously the irony of Ringo criticising someone else’s musical talent won’t be lost, even on the purple-haired former unidexter-shagger, but someone’s gotta do it.

As for Cliff, Grace and Shirley: Surely they’re talented enough to realise how bad they have become ? Surely, Shirley. It was woeful. You have all been decent at what you do, but now you’re not. Honest. Cliff sounded like me, pissed in a bar on a mic at about 11.30, dancing on the bar and singing Old Shep. Shirley looked and sounded like me. And the hoola-hooping Grace Jones needs sectioning.

And finally, please don’t think this is age-based criticism. It’s talent-based. You had it once, now you haven’t. Simples. You only have to think back to Englebert last week. THAT’S how bad you lot were last night. Everyone’s different, with different bodies and talents. Tom Jones is very old (he knew Elvis, in case he hasn’t mentioned it) but he can still belt out a number like he could 40 years ago. He even remembered his Welsh accent, which some will find nice. So I’m afraid McCartney has got to be told that it’s all over. Although he might try to make the England squad. He’s got a better chance than Rio.

Norton Your Nelly


The dreaded Eurovision Song contest will again soon be upon us. Once Terry Wigon decided he’d had enough of the block voting, any fun to be had pretty much disappeared. I freely admit to spending many a happy Saturday night each spring, chuckling away to the wit n wisdom of Terry as he ripped in to the acts, their costumes, and their dreadful, dreadful songs. For the past few years it has been presented on the BBC by Terry’s fellow Irishman and reluctant celebrity Graham Norton. Eurovision is a poor imitation of its former self.

We can thank the competition for ABBA, and rue the day it introduced the world to Riverdance and the morbidly offensive Michael Flately. The music has always been biblically average, the fashions tragic, and the judging makes FIFA or the IOC seem positively fair and above board. The Russia/Ukraine dynamic will be worth a watch at the very least this year. But none of this really ever mattered as Wogan was as cutting and funny on commentary as Norton isn’t. With the correct amount of Guinness, single malt whisky, chicken dansak and convivial company a Eurovision party was a great source of ironically camp mirth and merriment. And you could always run a book on the outcome while giggly along to Terry’s witty, if mildly xenophobic banter. Norton likes making himself laugh, which he does a lot, but laughing out of context is no real substitute for his predecessor’s class.

Of course to some sections of society it still is one the highlights of the year. The ESC is, rather unsurprisingly, hugely popular in within the gay community. A pal of mine (a confirmed batchelor) runs an extraordinarily popular blog dedicated to Eurovision, which tens and tens of thousands of people visit to find out everything they ever wanted or needed to know about the song contest. Now while I’m not suggesting that everyone who clicks onto that site catches the other bus (I just clicked on it for research purposes, honestly) it’s clear that there is a huge appetite out there for this mincing wince-fest.

The newly-admitted eastern European states have embraced the contest with their huge hairy arms as a chance to express themselves. Where once they only had the excitement of annual Soviet Bloc cabbage-throwing competitions or acid rain drinking contests, Eurovision has given them the chance to show the watching millions how their prog rock and endless folk ditties can compete with the worst that Europe has to offer.

Over in Ireland it’s as eagerly awaited as The World Cup, the Second Coming of the Lord, or the Third Cumming of a Catholic Priest. The Irish have had their share of success over the years (certainly more than they’ve had in soccer or rugby) and to win the contest sends yer average Dubliner into fits of orgasmic delight. Heaven only knows how Gay Irishmen react to a win. Kleenex and change of underwear all round, I would think.

So no, it won’t be on my must-view list this year, I’m afraid. I’m not Irish, I’m ball-breakingly hetrosexual, there’ll be no Sir Terrance W and no song this year (or any other) will ever match My Lovely Horse. They really should have entered it, you know.

Big it up for Channel 4 who won’t let me embed the Father Ted video, but you can see it here.

and now a word from our sponsor…

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