The Rock Hitters


Well what did you expect ? A sporting contest ? A great spectacle ? A fair fight ? It was a fight but it didn’t look very fair to me. Last time I saw anyone drop-kicked in the chest Kent Walton was commentating on it. I, like so many others, turned up at the pub to watch it, not giving a monkey’s who won, just as long as I watched a great match. Ok, ok, so nobody wanted Arjen Havey Robben to win, but apart from that I was pretty uncaring as to the final result. By the end I was pleading for the bald Tyke with the whistle to send any or all of them off, and to be fair to Mr Webb, he did his level best. If that was soccer’s showpiece I think I’ll start watching showjumping or women’s tennis (no, not really).

So I woke up this morning feeling pretty flat (silent ‘l’), in need of something to cheer me up. The sun had disappeared after a week of sweltering weather here in Railway Cuttings, my body aching like buggery from my sporting excursions on Saturday (yes, I survived) and still no signs of any work on the horizon. Still, there was cricket on the telly today, and the Open Golf Championship is only a few days away.

So, I turn the tv on for the cricket, except there isn’t any. Rain in Birmingham had delayed the start of the England vrs Bangladesh match. Since you ask, it’s the deciding match in a 3-match series, which on Saturday saw The Tigers beat England for the first time ever. Saw the highlights on Sunday morning and it was a terrific encounter, full of passion, guts and sportsmanship with a fantastically entertaining finish. A bit like the football apart from the passion, guts and entertainment. It was also conspicuous for the lack of chest-high attacks by the wicket keeper on the batsmen.

So with no sport to broadcast, SKY reverts to lengthy chats and analysis and serveral, long commercial breaks. I notice HSBC have re-released that great advert where the Russian washing machine salesmen is sent to India to find out why the company sales are doing so well down there. Superb ad, not least for the music, so I went searching for it. Meandering my way through Itunes, various forums and Youtube I bagged myself Eena Meena Deeka by Asha Bhosle (bear with me) which got my feet tapping, with the occasional Bollywood sideways nod of the head (currently one of the few movements my frail body will allow). The lad in HSBC’s ad agency who found this deserves a house point. (Now there’s a job I could do.)

But the real prize was the video below. There’s so much to enjoy here, from the trumpet which sounds suspiciously like 3 clarinets, to the magnificent performance by the singer, called Kishore Kumar I believe. He out-Ronnie Barkers Ronnie Barker. Never mind The Bay City Rollers or the Flip Flop guy, this is a true classic. I’ll be singing it all day, but I’ll do myself a mischief if I attempt the dance.

Course of Life


To paraphrase Baldrick, I don’t have a cunning plan.

As wonderful as June was, as much football and cricket I watched, as much time I spent in the garden, burning me ol’ bald ‘ead and finally laying to rest the myth that ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, the time has come to tout myself. All play and no work makes Mike a fat, poor boy. The answer is simple. I need to throw myself at the mercy of the few remaining employers out there and ask for a job. Due to current fiscal restraints, this doesn’t mean I’ll start taking journos and editors out for long liquid lunches, crossing their palms with lager in the hope they’ll drunkenly offer me work, as much as that approach appeals to me. No, I’ll be doing what everyone else ends up having to do: tickling-up the old CV and getting it out there.

Funny thing, a CV. For starters curriculum vitae is one of the few latin phrases I use in everyday speech (along with ad nauseam, et tu, Brute ? and the ever-popular Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant – though I don’t use that one as much as I used to). Curriculum Vitae, as any schoolboy knows, is the Latin phrase for “2 Sides of bullshit written on A4”, or “Résumé ” in American. It’s the document that causes more stress and strife to bored office workers than any other, and one that more office PAs have to type up for their colleagues in return for a cup of coffee and a bun from Starbucks at lunchtime. Statistics prove that in any one working day, 20% of newspaper workers are working on their CV. The other 80% are fiddling their expenses (one for our older readers, there).

I’ve never been one for lying about myself (on a CV anyway). The way I look at it, if I go for a job in the Commandos and my CV says I’ve been a helicopter pilot, a Navy Seal and a Ghurka, I’m likely to get found out sooner rather than later, especially when on my first mission I start crying cos I’m afraid of flying, can’t swim and faint at the sight of blood (especially my own). No, I think the trick is to be completely honest in everything you write down, just leave out all the stuff you don’t want people to find out about.

For instance, I might put down that I picture-edited the definitive newspaper pull-out on the life of Diana, Princess of Wales on the morning after her death, but may leave out the day I stuck in a photo of a Harrow schoolboy for a story lauding the young men of Eton (oh how my Editor laughed when the Headmasters of both Eton and Harrow called up to complain). On the other hand I will mention with pride last year’s Beatles supplements for which I researched and picture edited for The Times. Using many rare or unseen images of Paul, George, Ringo and the other one, these books are real collectors items. They looked fantastic and I was very happy to have worked on them and boasted the same to anyone still awake in the pub. Then again, my contribution to the same publication’s 30 Best Summer Salads will go with me to my grave.

As you get older, you find the other problem is to judge how far back in time you go. Nowadays I don’t list my education or ‘qualifications gained’. I see no possible advantage in bringing up old wounds, or taking the blame at the age of 45 for what I didn’t do at 19. No, let us not dwell on such matters. However, my first real job was at a photographic studio and agency, who’s chief photographer regularly shot Page 3 Girls and Starbirds. Oh how I hated the days I studio-assisted for him. If you’re ever 19 again, offered a similar job in a photo studio, and where you’re in charge of light meters and ice-cubes, grab it with both hands (I know I did). It was often difficult to know where to look. The first words Samantha Fox ever said to me were “Oi ! Stop looking at my fanny!”. We were on a nude shoot for a German magaine. I was quite hurt. As I’d seen every other bit of her in the British press, but never seen her nude, what was I supposed to look at ?

But the question is, although this first flash and exposure to photography obviously aroused my interest (quiet at the back !) in photography, is it relevant to my next post ? Probably not, unless I get very lucky. I had to leave that job in the end as, apart from anything else, I was going a funny shape. The beginnings of the deterioration of my eyesight can be traced back to those three-and-a-half happy years with one hand on the light meter and the other on my ha’penny.

Apart from “Professional Experience”, there’s also the section at the end of a CV which comes with the heading “Outside Interests” . Over the years I’ve realised, having had hundreds of them submitted to me, this is the part of the CV which can reveal all about the candidate, the way of separating the ‘possibles’ from the ‘improbables’.
I once advertised a vacancy on a picture desk, I needed a junior researcher with a little bit of spark and nous. One applicant, having listed her places of work, qualifications gained (cow) and universities (plural) attended listed her ‘Hobbies and Interests’ as: “Taking and developing photographs; going to photo galleries; reading photographic books”.

NO !

I put it to you, that she was either a consummate bullshit artist, or the world’s dullest woman (and I’ve known a few). Possibly both. Why would you do that ? I don’t want to work in a photographic office where the only conversation is “Ooh did you see that documentary on Diane Arbus last night ?”
“No, I was at the Tate for the exhibition of contemporary Slovakian Romany black and white photography”
“Were you ? I wanted to see that, but my Rolleiflex is on the fritz and I had to get it repaired before the deadline to World Press Photo expires”
I tell you, it can get that exciting, I’ve heard them.

Wouldn’t you want to give the impression to your prospective employer that you’re a well-rounded, multi-faceted individual ? Someone who’ll bring a little bit of colour into the office ? Someone WHO HAS A LIFE ??? When I get to this part of the form I’m always tempted to copy Monty Python and list my interests as “golf, masturbation and strangling animals” just to see if anyone actually reads this far down. I know I do, and if I ever saw that sort of entry I would hire that person on the spot, but I suspect most just read the headlines at the top. I haven’t got the balls to test out this theory, of course. I shall probably be pretty vague and put down “Sport, movies and entertaining”. They don’t need to know what I really in my spare time, do they ?

So here I go. A day at my Mac, trying to remember what I did and when, avoiding professional disasters, bigging-up meself, as we like to say down these parts, and spreading the word that I’m back on the market, you lucky, lucky people. And hurry up with those job offers, I’m skint. Carpe Diem !

Now, here’s the job for me ! Who can I put down for a reference ?

Pity it’s in Wales.

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There’s a Tray of Bread Pudding in the Post


Remember getting letters through your door? I don’t mean fliers from double glazing companies, or threatening letters from the bank, or even new curry house menus (though they can be very exciting indeed), but letters. Real, genuine, hand-written letters. Someone three weeks previously had sat down in Kuala Lumpur or Ulaanbaatar and scribbled a off a note saying how much they missed you, how the weather had been and could you send them some money? Remember that warm glow you felt that someone, who may well have died in the 6 weeks the letter took to reach you, had taken time out from their gap year, or their 6 months on the run from the Rozzers to actually write, in their own hand, to you, on paper that they could have quite easily used for loo roll.

It took thought and kindness. It meant someone had put aside their own time to sit down and compose a note, when they could have quite easily been putting another shrimp on the barbie, then seeking out an envelope, a stamp and a post office , then walking unaided down to post it. Takes some commitment, that.

I remember the first parcel I ever received. Now that was exciting. It was 1974 and I’d been saving up for weeks (ok, who am I kidding? my mum gave me the money) to send off for my first calculator. We’d been given permission to use in class this revolution in arithmetic science, and my parents weren’t gonna let their little lad be the only one in school without one.

The wait seemed like an age. I think it took three weeks to arrive (though it could have been three days, ten year old boys finding the space-time-continuum concept something of a bugger to grasp), but when the postman finally arrived with it BOY what a feeling! I opened the parcel on the dining table and pulled out this brown and cream monument to modern technology: The Rockwell LED Calculator, 18R. If the 18R stood for ’18th attempt’, or probably ’18th Rockwell’ (WD40 standing for ‘Water Displacement, 40th attempt’), then Christ knows how basic the other 17 must have been.

But to me it was the most exciting and exotic thing I’d ever seen. Weighing no more than a couple of pounds, it would fit into any schoolboy’s large satchel or GOLA bag. It had all of the number ‘1’-‘9’, with ‘0’ thrown in for free. Not only did it have buttons for ‘plus’, ‘minus’, ‘multiply’ (‘times’ in our house), ‘divide’ and ‘equals’, it ALSO had a ‘percentage’ button. WOW ! There were a couple of other buttons I never got to grips with, something about storage, but I didn’t care: 18 buttons were plenty for me to be getting on with. They all made a hi-tech ‘click when you pressed them and ,when dad wasn’t looking, you could turn the box upside down and write rude words with the number. You can see it left it’s mark on me.

35 year later and where are we? No one writes letters any more since we have the wonder of email (which still impresses me.) Friends write daily from New Zealand or San Diego and we pick up their missives instantly. I’m not saying a note from afar means less than one did all those years ago, it’s just that we get so many more of them they somehow don’t arrive with the same fanfare they once did. It doesn’t now have to be a fully composed letter either. Twitter has brought us the age of the 140 character letter. 140 characters ? I couldn’t write the alphabet in 140 characters ( you may have noticed), let alone ask how the weather was.

Parcels are two-a-penny. Amazon, Ebay and their like are emptying the shops and filling the bandwidths of the Web. Even this old luddite has for the last two Christmas seasons refused the pleasures of the high street or shopping mall and bought each and every present online. During November and December there’s a seemingly never-ending stream of parcels large and small arriving at my door. I’m never there, of course, but at least the thought is there. Twice a week I make my way to the local Post Office to claim my packets. Maybe this year will be different ? If I’m still in-between employers I may be at home to catch the postie as he arrives at the crack of 4pm to deliver my goods. On the other hand, if I’m still not picking up work by then, my pressie-buying activities will be severely curtailed.

Yesterday I made my way up to the village to collect a mystery parcel. I hadn’t ordered any books or movies online recently, and doubted that it would be that set of golf clubs I’d asked for as a leaving gift from The Times, but nevertheless the postman had left a card saying he’d tried to deliver a package to me on Thursday which was too big to fit thought the letter-box. As court summonses tend not to be that size, and hoping the National Lottery actually do pay-up in wads of cash, I took my little legs off to collect my prize from the good folk at the GPO.

Although I was disappointed not to be handed a suitcase with crisp oncers from Camelot, I was very happy and intrigued to take possession of a thick white jiffy bag addressed to:

Mr M.P.BEALING, DSO + BAR
Railway Cuttings

BLACKHEATH
ANGLETERRE

Angleterre‘! Written in ink! (or at least biro) How exciting! It really took me back. It was an unsolicited Red Cross parcel from ‘Plastered of Paris’, a good friend of these pages and one who appears regularly every time I feel the need to verbally attack drunk Welshman. Realising that I may be about to have some time on my hands, this giant of a man (no, he really is) took the trouble to bundle me up some comedy reading, Bill Bryson in fact, to help me while away those hours on the loo when I can’t get to my PS3 or watch the World Cup. What a very thoughtful gift ? Thanks Terv. Bill Bryson, a very talented journalist who took to writing about the places he’d lived, the countries he’d visited and the occasional mishap along the way with hilarious results. Bryson and I differ in just two key respects.

Anyway, I can’t sit here all day talking to you. I have two books to read, a letter to write (to the council again, Lewisham Council only deal in letters) and then I’m gonna go up onto the heath where the hot weather never fails to bring out a marvellous array of young lovelies and their talents. Or in Rockwell 18R calculator-speak BOOBIES

Great Touch for a Big Man


Paul Collingwood, having just captained the English cricket team to its first ever victory in a world final (albeit in pyjamas), is reported to have been given a few months of to recoup. He says he feels mentally drained and physically exhausted. It’s been a long season and he’s picked up a ‘couple of niggles’ along the way which ‘aren’t getting any better’. With the Ashes coming up in the winter, the English cricket authorities have begun a rotation system, having rested Andrew Strauss and Jimmy Anderson last winter, Collingwood along with Stuart Broad looks set to recharge his batteries before the main business begins in Australia in November. Broad would certainly need to rest his jaw, given the amount of bleating and whingeing he does on the playing field.

The rotation system of course is a favourite of soccer managers, and Fabio Capello is not different. He may well have to do a bit of it while shepherding his 23 young men through to what he hopes is an appearance in the World Cup Final. He’s not against rotating his opinion as well as his team. He’s already picked unfit players (something he said he wouldn’t) picked players out of position (which he’d previously ruled out) and those out-of form (ditto). Still, so far he’s not budging on the WAG question. The players will only get to see their loved ones once-a-week during the tournament, thus preserving their natural bodily fluids to sweat on the pitches of South Africa rather than in the bedroom/the balcony/the back of a limo. Colleen’s had the first result of the Cup, I reckon, and at least John Terry will be close enough for his team mates to keep an eye on him.

Capello is running a tight ship at the team’s high-altitude training camp in Austria: Peter Crouch has to sleep in the same size bed as everyone else this time round, and has been bollocked for wearing slippers around the camp. Capello likes his boys smartly dressed. It must be some relief to all that King David isn’t in the squad as Christ knows what the boss would have made of him swanning around in a sarong, Victoria’s drawers and slingbacks. The games room is off-limits for most of the side, so Wayne, Rio and company will be barred from playing as themselves on the PS3. Diets will be monitored at all times.

Austria was chosen as the venue for the pre-tour training camp as Capello wanted to replicate as near as damn it the conditions in the High Veldt where the English will be playing their matches. This is where we see the Italians genius: Not only is the atmosphere similarly thin to that in South Africa, but there are almost as many neo Nazis in Austria as they’ll encounter among the farming communities when they arrive down south. Once the competition begins England will make their base in Rustenburg, SA, not to be confused with Rastenburg, Poland where A. Hitler‘s Third Reich XI set up camp during their own quest for world domination.

Historians point out that Hitler’s men may well have succeeded but for the fact that, although they possessed a devastating attack, they were a team packed with right-wingers, and were vulnerable in the air – which an RAF Select XI exploited in the quarter-final played at Biggin Hill.

Hitler's back three discuss zonal defence during summer training at Rastenburg

But I digress.

So taking a leaf out of the books of the great minds from cricket and football, I have decided to rest myself, to recharge my batteries, to get my mind straight. I’ve picked up ‘a couple of niggles’ over the season (which, let’s face it, has lasted since 1983) and they’ve shown no signs of getting any better. In fact I get more niggly as the years pass. My week’s low-altitude training in Amsterdam didn’t pay the dividends I’d hoped for, but I can’t blame the fact my WAG came along with me. No, a strict rotation policy is what I need. I know you think rotating a squad of one is gonna be difficult, but I have a carefully planned strategy to get me through the closed-work season. Playing in a solid 0-0-1 formation, I shall alternate between The Crown, O’Neills and, when I really want to punish myself, The Railway.

In the games room (my couch) I shall play no more than three hours per day, switching from Tiger Woods Golf , FIFA 10, and Red Dead Redemption, which I’ve just had a couple of hours on and is quite superb. Tiger might get squeezed out (not for the first time).

A strict diet from the Sun Bo chinese takeaway (chilli beef me-up), Khans curry house (mismas every time) and the imaginatively dubbed Blackheath Fish and Chips (all major credit cards accepted, and at these prices highly recommended) will keep my girth at the diameter to which it’s accustomed.

I have promised myself the bathroom will be painted, the banisters sanded and the bushes and hedges in the garden kept neat and trim. If I can’t find a source of income soonish, I may have to rent (or even sell) Railway Cuttings, so a month off is a great opportunity to get the house in top shape to impress any potential buyers.

But with 3 World Cup matches every day and villains and varmints to shoot on a video game, I may have to break a promise or two. Now where are my slippers ?

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A 10-Point Plan for Real Reform


Now that Gideon Osborne has apparently ended the recession (the jury is still out, of course) , here’s my cunning plan which would really make life worth living in this country. This is no death-bed conversion, this is a manifesto years in the planning, months in the consultation, hours in its plagiarism and minutes in the typing. I give you:

A SPORTING CHANCE

1. Association Football

Can I suggest what all us egg-chuckers have been pleading for for some time now?: A yellow card means being sent to the Sin-Bin. Let’s see how long Jose or Arsene and their like will put up with playing with 8 men for 10 minutes. It’d take two weeks before all that swearing at the ref, formation falling-over and waving pretend cards at the ref ends in a melee of teacups at half-time. Bring back the orange ball and all games to be played at 3pm on Saturdays.

2. Golf

I propose two innovations to the PGA and European tours:
a) Dickouts:Any player not making the ladies tee with his drive, or more realistically in professional golf, driving the ball out-of-bounds from the tee should play the rest of that hold with his willy out.
b)Gotchas: Each player will have two Gotchas per round (one on the front nine and one on the back.) This allows anyone to shout “Gotcha” at the top of his playing partner’s backswing, in an attempt to put that player off his stroke. (The reader will note that a Gotcha often results in a Dickout). Tiger Woods will be exempt from Dickouts as it’s felt he’s been playing that game for far too long for his own good.

3. F1 Motor Racing

Before each and every Grand Prix, water tankers on corners 1, 5 and 7 should be emptied onto the track every 10th lap, thus ensuring some form of mild entertainment in the form of, dare I say, overtaking, would occur, thus eliminating the boring processions witnessed in Dubai, Barcelona and probably Monaco. In times of drought, the water could be replaced by oil sourced from the gulf of Florida. BP could do with a hand with getting rid of some anyway. Also only one pit open at any time. If you mis-time when you come off for new tyres or fuel, queue like the rest of us poor sods have to.

4. Athletics: 100 Meters

Let’s stop worrying about drugs. Come one, come all. Stick into your veins or up your nose whatever you like before you compete. Can’t wait to see your head pop off after 75 meters. It’ll give Sue Barker something else to talk about and Brendan might even sober up.

5. Rugby Football (League)

Northern rugger chaps: Let’s get of rid of your pointless, lame scrums.How about a nice hand of rummy instead ? Or maybe Rock/Paper/Scissors ? It’d more competitive. Oh, and play rugby during the winter months.

6. Rugby Football (Union).

Banned: Yellow cards, red cards, lifting in lineouts. Reinstated: Wheeling in lineouts, lifiting in scrums, 16-man punch-ups, touch-judges in blazers. Let’s get back to when you got a slap for cheating, not a yellow card. Second Row: if you don’t want to jump in the lineouts, ask for a ladder. Opposition props would then be allowed to shake it at the base to put you off your catch. Hookers: Our jumpers are in the same colour shirts as the one you’re wearing.

7. Snooker/Pool

Bring back heavy smoking and drinking for that real pub atmosphere. Encourage drunks in the crowd to shout “How much fucking longer are you two gonna be, mate ?” TV Adverts only allowed when it’s one of the players turn to go to the bar to buy a round for him and his opponent. If he hasn’t been served by the time the ad break is over, have another ad break. Also, one side of the table must be no further than 1 meter away from the wall. A half-length or child’s cue will be in a rack (underneath the dartboard) for when the cue-ball is near the cushion.

8. Tennis

Exile all TV coverage to UK Living. It’s not proper sport.

9. Darts

See 7.

10. Cricket.

Get rid of the dancing girls, helmets and pyjamas and wear white flannelled trousers. All games to last a minimum of three days. Uncover the pitches, give the bowlers a chance again. Give all cricket coverage back to the BBC and Channel 4. Also, compulsory South African lineage for all England cricketers. If you’re not called Pietersen, Kietvanwesser or Van der Kochderschmidt, fuck off: we don’t need you any more.

So there you have it. A sensible manifesto for a sensible country. A grand coalition of ideas.

VOTE BEALING, VOTE OFTEN

The State of Play


Finally, there’s something to smile about, something to feel good about, something to look forward to. As the vinegar-strokes of Spring burst forth and the new season sprays its seeds over the flora and fauna of my garden and along all the lanes and byways of the sleepy little borough of Lewis Ham the sun, which has been in winter training south of the equator, make’s an early attempt to be over the yardarm before a mid-day thirst engulfs me.

As the sun’s rays stream through the patio doors, shedding shafts of dusty light over last night’s discarded lottery tickets I hear unmistakable sound of my faithful chien noir pawing at the door in a bid for freedom. He tries this every now and then and the chances are he’ll return pronto, but who am I to keep him forever at my side? I open the door to let my four-legged friend out and, as they say in the song, let the sunshine, let the sunshine, the sun shine in.

I stand at the threshold, inhale lung-fulls of chill, spring air, let the pale,weak solar beams wash over my ever-growing face then realise I should have put some clothes on before exposing my ample frame and dwindling genitalia to the neighbours in the surrounding houses and gardens. I quickly pull the curtains, leaving the rays to illuminate the beaks of the blue tits feeding on my nuts, and to dry out the cat shit on the lawn

My mood has been improving gradually over the past couple of weeks, as it tends to do this time of year. The first indicator that winter is over is the clocks going forward, then Boat Race, then the following weekend by The Grand National (that’s a horse race) and the US Masters (a rather important golf tournament) . The National and The Masters, two events separated by the Atlantic Ocean and 20 degrees Celcius, but almost inseparable by their postitions in the league table of sensational sporting events. Both have huge fields of brightly dressed runners, many carrying too much weight for their own good, most immaculately shod and watched by thousands of animated, vocal and knowledgeable fans. Though admittedly there are rather fewer pissed scousers at Augusta than turn up at Aintree (John Daly’s not from Liverpool, is he?).

Over the years both Grand National and Masters have cost me a fair few quid as I pour goodly amounts of my hard earned cash into the open wallets of the bookies while trying to predict who will win. Most part-time punters remember their few National winners, it being such a lottery and successes come so rarely. My love of the race started in 1975 when I had 50p each-way (probably paid for by my mum) on l’Escgargot which romped home at 13/2. This is easy, thought I and embarked on a, thus far, 35 year quest to repeat my success and adorn myself with the riches of the Indus. I waited 30 years for my next win when, somehow, I bet on the 2005 winners, Hedgehunter which won as 7/1 favourite. Hardly odds on which to retire.

Of course, I was nowhere near last year’s 100-1 Mon Mome, not even in the office sweep. No, I was on State of Play which finished fourth, so I just about got my money back. No-one would ever (or shouldn’t ever) bet ‘to win’ on this race, as a field of 40 horses jumping over 30 sodding great fences over 4 1/2 miles is anyone’s race, so my little ‘each-way’ wagers each year have just about kept my head above water.

So it was with curiously mis-placed optimism that I sat down to watch yesterday’s race. I’d spent long hours studying the form, listening to professional pundits and looking for funny names, but eventually I went with State of Play again, (which this time came in 3rd), while my mate Rob (who has absolutely no interest in the Sport of Kings) had a last-minute, completely uninformed and lucky fiver-each way on the winner, Don’t Push It (10-1) and thus went home with a smile on his face and a bulge in his wallet. Oh goody! How I laughed.

Meanwhile, across the pond in Augusta Georgia, The US Masters has for years had a similar grip on both my interest and wages and, up until Tiger showed up, was as unpredictable as the gee-gee race over in Blighty. Any one of the 90-odd players in the field were capable of winning and picking the winner was very much a game of chance. Once Woods came onto the scene, things became a little more predictable, but by no means a sure thing. Nevertheless, in 20 years of handing over my crisp notes to the good bookmakers, I have yet to collect anything back off them by way of winnings. Again, each-way bets would seem to be the key to all this, not that I’ve even gotten a 4th place.

When Tiger zipped up his trousers and decided to make his comeback at this year’s event, I resisted the temptation to put the house (or even a shilling on the side, just to make it interesting) on him. I was banking on the past 6 months of chaos and media frenzy that has followed young Eldrick Tont Woods around would have put him off his stroke (on the golf course, at least). No, I plumped for the plump Lee Westwood of Ing-er-land as this year’s conduit of delivering my money into the safe clutches of turf accountants of the world.

Lo and behold, my man Lee is having a stormer!! After two rounds he was leading the field with his fellow Brit Ian Poulter, and at one stage during the third round he was 7 shots ahead of Tiger, Phil Mickelson or anyone else. SEVEN SHOTS!!! It was in the bag. Lee would have to drop about a dozen shots to drop down to fifth place, to where my each-way bet wouldn’t bring me any money back. But chances were that he was gonna romp it. In my head I began counting my winnings: £10 at 25/1 is…er..£250, plus my stake back, that £260. That’s 86.6667 pints of Guinness in O’Neills (81.25 in The Crown). Even if Westwood stumbled a little and came in, say, 3rd I’d still get a percentage of the odds, enough for a pint and a curry in Khans.

Hang on a minute.

I logged onto to my online bookies, just to make sure I hadn’t put 50 quid on him (I had had a little drinky when I placed the bet) and thus about to become a very rich man indeed.

Sadly I hadn’t bet 50 pounds each-way, or even 10 pounds each way. I had, for reasons best known to God and Arthur Guinness, placed ten pounds on Lee Westwood to win. TO WIN! No-one bets to win on anyone but Tiger. No-one except bad, drunk, amateur gamblers, that is. As I looked up from my computer screen, Lee’s lead had been cut to three shots. The one shot. Then he was level. Then he was one shot behind. Bollocks. By the end of play Westwood was again top of the leaderboard, but by one shot from Mickelson, with Tiger looming ominously only a couple of shots back.

So that’s that, then. My one chance in 20 years to clean up at The Masters gone, duck-hooked out-of-bounds, sliced into the long grass. Unless it isn’t and Westwood holds strong and wins. In which case I shall celebrate by drinking just enough to put on a well-judged wager. Lib Dems at 200-1 one look tempting. On the nose, of course.

For Those of You Watching in Black and White…


Dear old Harry Carpenter. When yesterday I heard of his demise, I immediately thought that he’d died years ago, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t sad to hear the news. Another part of my childhood snuffs it. Carpenter’s voice was ever-present in our house, commentating as he did on Ali fights (later becoming Frank Bruno‘s straight man), presenting the BBC’s coverage of golf, the tennis (it was only Wimbledon in those days) and the Boat Race. He had one of those friendly, comforting faces who instantly made you feel all warm inside. A bit like Frank Bough without the bondage and coke. Harry also had one on those faces which, like that of Michael Fish and James Burke, never looked how you expected it to look.

So, as I like to honour my boyhood heroes on these pages, I went off to find something suitable to pay tribute to Harry. Where better to start than the bored office-worker’s favourite site, Youtube?

Perhaps someone would have compiled a few minutes of classic Harry quotes? “Oh my god he’s won back the title at the age of 32” stands out in the memory (Ali beats Foreman). “Get in their, Frank!” (Bruno hurts Tyson before being demolished) is another. Indeed those and more were there to watch and enjoy, but I stumbled across this:

Come on, admit it, that felt good, didn’t it? Yes I know it didn’t include much of Harry, but sod that. When was the last time you heard the Sportsnight music? When I played that this afternoon I felt a warm glow all over me. Memories came flooding back: Harry Carpenter, David Coleman, staying up late on a school night, the BBC actually having some sport to show. This was when Sue Barker was half decent at what she was paid to do, Nick Faldo was still on his first wife, most of us in the UK still had black and white televisions and there were just 3 channels on TV. THREE CHANNELS (we pause here for my American friends to stop giggling). Sport on tv in the 70’s and 80’s was something to be treasured cos there wasn’t much of it, and what there was had to share what little bit of airtime there was on offer with other sports, all vying to be seen.

Sportsnight lasted about an hour on a Wednesday night, it’s sister show Grandstand had a 5 hour slot on Saturday afternoons. Fabulous if you loved sport, less so if you didn’t. What we now call narrow band-width meant there was no space for continuous broadcasts. The cricket would share air-time with horse racing and snooker. How did we put up with it? Every half hour we’d have to leave the test match at Lord’s to endure the 3.20 from Haydock, or the final frames of Doug Mountjoy vrs Kirk Stevens. Still at least on the BBC didn’t have adverts, unlike it’s rival over on ITV.

And it had Des Lynham.

ITV’s answer to Grandstand was World of Sport presented by the amiable and skunk-haired Dickie Davies. As I was on my nostalgia quest, I went to look for the theme tune.
I don’t know anyone who admitted to watching it, or at least not regularly, but now wish I had. Just look at this!:

Wow!! All-in wrestling, dog frisbee and log-walking. AND Eric Morecabe !! What a show. What a way to spend your Saturday afternoons. All that plus that haunting middle-eight bars of whistling in the opening music. Maybe I’d misjudged the commercial channel. Had I been too harsh on them ? As the Soviets did to Trotsky, I’d erased all traces of ITV from my childhood memories. So I delved deeper. On to the football highlights.

Everybody quotes tales of trying to watch Match of the Day while your they were supposed to be paying fond attention to the girlfriend, but no-one ever talks about fumblings on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon being interrupted when this came on:

Brian Moore’s The Big Match: ITV’s Sunday highlights show. Nobby Stiles, Ossie Ardiles and Butch Wilkins with hair!! IT WAS THAT LONG AGO !!. And those shorts must have chafed a bit.

I was hooked. GOD, I love Youtube. Where to next?

Now hang on a minute: Get a grip, man, it’s just nostalgia. Worse! It’s nostalgia for ITV shows. Pull yourself together.

Now where were we? Ah yes, football. Now this takes me back, the Beeb’s finest hour. Everybody remembers Italia 90, when we all got behind the English Team’s ultimately futile campaign (apart from the Jocks who got behind the West Germans. They deserve each other). Of all the superb concerts Pavarotti gave, in all the great Opera houses and concert halls of the world, this is what made him a star to millions in the UK.

I’m sorry, Auntie, I’ll never doubt you again. This was the last era when the BBC and especially the Sports Dept reigned supreme. A golden age. A time when their sports presenters and commentators were household names: Harry, Coleman, Lynham, Eddie Wareing, Richie Benaud, Peter O’Sullivan, Barry Davies (“and where were the Germans? and quite frankly, who cares?”), Ted Lowe, David Vine, Raymond Brooks-Ward (“come on David“) Bill McLaren and Dan Maskell. These are the voices, the sources of all knowledge of my youth, (even Tony Gubba who never actually went to a match but commentated on the highlights from a studio hours later).

Will the bloggers of the future be waxing lyrical over the opening titles to Sky’s Soccer AM or Ford Football Special ? Will they be posting clips from Superleague XIII ? I doubt it. They’ll be seeking out tapes of Booker T and the MGs playing Soul Limbo to herald BBC Cricket, or the theme to Pot Black or Formula 1 motor racing (knowing my luck they’re still be showing it).

So sorry, not much about Mr Carpenter in this one. I just got carried away with the music and the memories. Know what I mean, Harry?


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Travel News


So what are we to make of Andy Powell? The Welsh rugby international was arrested last weekend, drunk in charge of a golf buggy, celebrating his team’s extraordinary victory over the Jocks in Cardiff. No one is suggesting he was actually trying to drive the golf cart onto the M4 Motorway, he was just heading in that general direction. Certainly it seems Powell was unlikely to know where he actually was, after such a long and heartfelt celebration which had tired him a little. Tired as Lord he was .

“Boys”, as they say, “will be prats”. Is this a hanging offence? Probably not. Will he be dropped from the team? Maybe, maybe not. Is there precident for this sort of behaviour? Oh yes indeedy!

Playing for Italy against England that very weekend was a chap called Craig Gower, who used to play in and for Australia, him being an..er..Australian. Here’s a taste of his Wikipedia entry:

Controversy
Gower has been involved in a number of alcohol-related off-field incidents.
In 1999, Gower exposed himself to a female Irish tourist in a Coogee bar, blaming his behaviour on alcohol intoxication. He was dumped from the Kangaroos Squad and fined $2,500 by the NRL and a further $500 in court after pleading guilty to indecent exposure.
Gower was fired as Panthers captain in December 2005, after incidents at a charity golf event where he argued with several guests, groped the teenage daughter of former league player Wayne Pearce, chased Pearce’s son with a bottle before vomiting on him, streaked around the resort, wrecked a golf cart, held a butter knife to the throat of a Sydney radio personality and threw the knife at resort guests before being kicked out of the function by security.

Gower was handed a “final warning” by the National Rugby League and fined $100,000, with $90,000 to be paid to an NRL programme encouraging the responsible use of alcohol by league players and $10,000 to replace the destroyed golf cart.[9] Gower was “deeply unhappy” that the Penrith Panthers club did not defend his reputation, and at one stage threatened to “walk” from the club.[10]
Allegedly inebriated with alcohol in a bar at Kings Cross on 11 February 2007, Gower allegedly tried to kiss one man before biting him on the neck and sparking a brawl, and is accused of assaulting another man.[11][12] The Panthers club controversially reappointed Gower as captain in 2007, claiming the Peppermint Lounge incident was just a media “beat-up”.[13]

So, who knows, there may well be a happy outcome for Andy Powell ? His little spin in a buggy seems rather tame up against proper piss-heads such as Mr Gower. On that evidence he should be made Prince of Wales. No-one was hurt and all he did (allegedly) was to remove his trousers before driving off into the night. Who amongst us hasn’t done that? Leave the boy alone, I say.

I mean to say, it’s not even as if he went out one evening this week, got ridiculously pissed and fell down the stairs of the Paris Metro, cracking his head open and busting a couple of ribs. He’d have to be a proper sad old Welsh wino to do that.

It Is Written


Predictions.

When crap journalists can think of nothing else to write about, and editors have nothing sexy with which to fill their pages, we are left with long and exhausting lists of predictions for the coming year. Here at The Sharp Single things are no different. So read this and you need not read another til, ooh, next week I should imagine.

2010 and all that.

In January David Tennant becomes Dir Gen of the BBC, narrowly edging out the twin-bid from Mathew Horne and James Corden. It’s believed that the board said they didn’t want too much hilarity during important meetings, and yet they still plump for Tennant. Peter Andre marries himself. Katie Price explodes. Her life has gone tits-up.

The recession ends in February. Then it starts again a week later for those of us under £150,000-a-year when the government raises income tax to pay for a Champagne and Crayfish bar at the 2012 Olympic Equestrian stadium.
Following another attempted rectum-launched terrorist attack on an airliner, all passengers are now asked to remove their underpants through customs. John Prescott and Amy Winehouse are exempt. In the third week of February, due to an administrative error there is no sale on at DFS. Early march sees Hazel Blears join the Tory Party, and Peter Mandelson join the Brownies. Boris will say nothing sensible or vaguely relevant all year.
I lose 20 lbs by the end of March, in preparation to put on 25 by late June. In an astonishing turn of events, Jude Law continues to receive offers of work. In April, a virulent strain of Gnu Flu sweeps through Fleet Street and Sky News studios. Some people are almost likely to very probably have a tickly throat. The epidemic is expected to last until a proper news story breaks.

A Briton wins the first seven races in the F1 Championship. Meanwhile, in sport, Chelsea win the Premiere League by one point from Arsenal when, in the Blues last game three late deflected off-side penalties are allowed by the ref, a Mr S.Wonder, apparently. (By the end of the year, each match will be officiated by 7 refs, 2 linesmen, a sheepdog and The Met Police.) Alex Ferguson is finally pickled and displayed in the Man Utd museum for all eternity. United appoint Victoria Beckham as their new coach.

Gordon Brown loses the election and takes his seat in the upper chamber as Lord Thankgoditsallover. Fox hunting is re-legalised by the new Tory Government, as is hanging, public masturbation and child chimney-sweeps. Charlton Athletic make the play-offs only to lose to Millwall, 3 fan deaths to 1 (Duckworth/Lewis method).
In late May, the newly-appointed Minister for War, Mr Liam Fox, announces the Government’s new big push in Afghanistan. Plans are made to enlist every first-born child from labour-voting households (that’ll teach ’em). June 16th, fifty-three women in Florida, California and St Andrews simultaneously give birth to babies of mixed-race and a smashing set of choppers. The women, all blonde, rather soiled-looking, hotel cloakroom attendants immediately sign contracts with The Mail on Sunday. Gillette sales plummet. Or soar. July 21st, a string bag full of lemons is seen being delivered to The Crown public house, Blackheath. But no ice.
By the beginning of August, after a summer of riots and general discontent, Police officers are allowed to carry machetes while on crowd-control duties. All fingerprints and DNA of police officers are removed from the system, to be replaced by those of mortgage-defaulters and lollipop ladies.
Brazil win the World Cup. By now, England have already been roasted by the West Germans, Capello is poached by Portugal and grilled by the press. Then he goes and gets smashed.
Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff is seen urinating up against the Grace Gates at Lords after a particularly convivial lunch during the One Day International vrs Australia. The press dub it ‘Gategate’.
In late September after a ‘leaked’ press release it is widely reported that this year’s must-have toy for Christmas will be Mattel’s Stoat Family Fortunes (David Tennant Edition). A week later all stocks are sold out. Individual members of the Stoat family change hands on eBay for up to £300, except the very popular ‘Piper Stoat’ which you can’t get for love nor money.

In October I turn 40 years old for the seventh time running. Later that month armed police from the crack ‘Arrest Innocent People Squad’ raid a flat believed to be the HQ of a sleeper cell of Al Qaeda, responsible for the alleged underpants plot earlier in the year. Yet again, their information is found to be shoddy: Having forced their way into the premises, all they find is a derelict, uninhabited shit-hole, of no use or interest to man nor beast. And that’s not this years’ only connection with Wales: After a particularly wet autumn at Celtic Manor Golf Club, play is suspended during the foursomes on the opening day of The Ryder Cup when US player Stewart Cink’s caddy is tragically drowned while replacing a divot. Organisers pledge never to attempt to hold the event in Wales again, at any time of the year.
November 2nd and the Google Street View van finally visits my street, when it catches me stealing my next door neighbour’s wheelie bin, to replace mine which was stolen the week before
Thursday Nov 25th, Brisbane: Australia finish the first day of the first Ashes test on 431-1 (Ponting 230no, Katich 125no. Swann 1-250). Ian Botham arrested pending inquiries into an alleged incident in the bar afterwards which leaves 6 members of the Aussie press corps needing treatment. Four (empty) cases of Shiraz and a cricket stump are bagged and sent to forenics.

December: Keith Harris and Orville win Strictly Come Dancing, beating Clare Balding in the final, watched by 48 million catatonic viewers. On a visit by my children, mid-month, I resume the mantle of ‘Best Dad in the World’ – the first time I’ve held the title in 12 months. Their Christmas lists are then handed to me.
On Dec 23rd, a new supply of Piper Stoats arrive on the docks in Liverpool. Massive queues form and14 people are crushed in the ensuing riot when it’s announced sales are limited to one buyer each. Dec 29th: Mattel recall all sets of Stoat Family Fortunes due to a massive, dangerous design fault. Hundreds have been maimed by Piper’s sharp protruding teeth. Richard Branson makes an aggressive takeover bid for the company. Awaiting details of the photocall.

Happy 2011 to both of you

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Who’s Been Naughty, and Who’s Been Nice?


So, in the immortal words of my old Night News Editor, as we progress “out of one shitty year, into another shitty year”, what have we learned ?

Well, we know that a 3-iron is as good at getting you at out of the rough as it is at getting your old man out of his Mercedes. Being 106 years old doesn’t preclude you from competing in international sport- as Tom Watson, Ryan Giggs and Kevin Poole have taught us (look him up!). Google Street View hasn’t become the burglars favourite tool, and they STILL haven’t been down my road.

All MP’s are wankers. Most are theives and crooks. I will never make a 50 in a competitive game of cricket. Or an uncompetitive one for that matter. Newcastle Utd and Man City are still big clubs. Apparently. I don’t want to go to work any more. There is far too much conversation in men’s toilets. It’s nearly time for me to win the Lottery (I’ll see you alright, don’t worry). Fat unattractive women can sing rather well. Rage Against the Machine can’t.

Michael Jackson didn’t die a natural death. Remember to hold that front page. We still haven’t a clue where Bin Laden is, but they’ve found the rest of his family. In general, I don’t like people. Policemen don’t like being photographed when they’re hitting people, but they do like kettles.Obama has been a bit of a disappointment, to be honest, but my poster I bought of him on ebay is not coming down. Life is better with Malcolm Tucker and without Hazel Blears

. Jade Goody will soon be beatified. Clare Balding should be. I’m not as fit as I should be, but about as fit as I thought I was. Ricky Ponting can’t win the Ashes in England., but he’ll manage it in Australia. F1 is still an interesting sport all the way up to the start of the race. Renault drivers are naughty boys. Blackheath still doesn’t have a decent boozer, but I’d like to think I contributed to the recent glut of lemons. Gordon Brown is still the PM of Great Britain (I can always Tipex that out if something happens before I go to press).

I’ve had a cold for 8 weeks in the last 52, and no matter how many channels you have to watch, there’s never anything decent on between car insurance adverts. IPL will ruin cricket as we know it. Football is already a shambles. It’s not the Chinese or the Indians, the carbon footprints or the motor cars: It’s the bankers who have fucked up the world. We want our money back.

It doesn’t matter how loathesome the BNP are, how ridiculous Nick Griffen was made to look on TV, there will STILL be stupid and nasty people who will vote for him at the polls next year. Andy Murray is a miserable bastard, but one day he’s gonna win something big. Apparently. When entering a Nepalese restaurant, plump for the mismas.

And the war won’t be over by Christmas. Or even next Christmas. Turns out they lied to us. But we knew that already, didn’t we?

May all your Christmas’s be white, and all your doughnuts turn out like fannies.

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