Saturday, 17 July 2010


My brief moment of glory happened immediately our new pupils' class assembled at Didsbury Central School. By an overwhelming majority I was voted form captain, which carried with it the much prized office of Captain of The Form Football Team. Not bad, I thought, since I had never played football.

After our first game there was another overwhelming majority vote after which I was no longer form captain and especially NOT Captain of Football.

It was shortly afterwards that I devoted myself to the arduous cause of serial truancy. As a result, my next appearance on the football field was as sports reporter of The Bielefeld Bugle, the army newspaper of a Rhine Army holding unit in, surprisingly, Bielefeld. I was tasked with reporting a game between a team of Polish refugees and a team of Czech refugees. Both countries, as grammarians are aware, suffer from a paucity of vowels. To attempt a colourful account of how Czwrrd dispossesed Brwnjwn was beyond my prentice pen. Even player identification was beyond me.

Thankfully many years went by before the Daily Mirror sent me to write a colour piece as Manchester United battled some hereditary enemy whose name I did not catch. The News Editor was rather harsh when I returned. "Finished early?" "Dunno about early but they're all sitting round sucking lemons," I told him.

I only went to one other football match. A crooner called Andy Williams was the guest of the M.U. chairman, a boorish butcher. Oddly enough, his brother was a chum of mine, a fellow member of a dining club, as couth a chap as you could wish for.

The interview was not a success. Williams was monosyllabic and I couldn't think of a thing to ask him. Alas, though age has withered him and the years are unanimous in their condemnation, he still wails in public. So I have recurring reminders of that disastrous outing.

My family do not share my view. Indeed a much loved grandson, on his way to the States for a job interview in Wall Street, went via South Africa so that he could watch some games in a pub.
I can only assume it was a brief spasm of schizophrenia which led me to switch on the final.
Not a good choice. The Dutch team was given nine yellow cards, plus a red card - a record for a World Cup Final. What can I tell you?

I noticed an odd thing. The natives were dressed in smart casual. It was the white supporters who were plastered in war paint. And I played better than either team when I was thrown off the team at Didsbury Central.

No wonder Richard Williams wrote in the Guardian: "No more all-European finals, thank you very much." He remembered the defining moment of the previous World Cup final when Frenchman Zinedine Zidane headbutted an Italian player. Raphael Honigstein bemoaned the Dutch team's "downright cynical fouling."

All in all, I am not surprised the "Beautiful" (???????) game is played in short trousers and the ultimate prize is a school cap.


I was incensed when the Commemoration of the Battle of Britain, which ranks with Crecy, Agincourt, Waterloo and Trafalgar, was third item in the running order on TV bulletins and some newspapers did not mention it at all. Parenthetically, more enemy planes were shot down by the Polish Squadron than the rest of the RAF. You might wish to remember that when there are more complaints about Poles taking the jobs in the strawberry fields here about from Britons too lazy to do them. No arduous ad Astra for them.


The news I was waiting for was an announcement that the Pope would find time to canonise the murderous Raoul Moat so great have been the media attempts to celebritise him.

Internet news reported: "After six hours of negotiations and a good Tasering, the cornered man shot himself. As he lay dying the police jumped on him screaming like banshees. A more ignominious conclusion to the most high profile police manhunt since the search for police killer Harry Roberts in 1966 would be hard to imagine."

A Shrine on Facebook, more of the same erected round his house, and an abundance of votive offerings and prayers. His brother, a tax inspector who claimed to have had little to do with him, complained that his death was like watching a public execution. He called for a second autopsy. That was a view not shared by his mother who said he would be better off dead. It is difficult to disagree. According to the Daily Mirror, he dressed in mini-skirts, kicked a dog and left it to die for two days, and wore lipstick.

He is still in with a chance. Saints have done stranger things. St Dwynwen successfully prayed for her fiancee to become impotent and not even that disqualified her for the job of the Welsh St Valentine. St Wilgefortis was a bearded lady who "disencumbered" female pilgrims from abusive husbands. St Edmund came back from the dead; St Fraidd turned the Mayor of Cork into a horse; St David, who levitated in the most disturbing way, was the son of a raped nun. His monks had to pull the plough themselves without draught animals; to drink only water; to eat only bread with salt and herbs; and to spend the evenings in prayer, reading and writing. No personal possessions were allowed; to say "my book" was an offence. Not surprisingly, two of his monks tried to murder him. And you don't want to know about St Augustine's wild youth.

The policemen who had spent anxious days hunting St Moat, a self-confessed police killer, are themselves the subject of a disciplinary inquiry. I hope the policeman who has been blinded by this thug will be invited to give evidence.

When a nation is transfixed by the tapes of a murderer which show him as a "man under pressure" and the "peace" in Northern Ireland is threatened by eight-year-olds, I do not think Western civilisation has much of a future. There is so little one can do but I am unsubscribing from Facebook as a small but determined step.

One bright spot. Scientists have spent a million quid setting up electronic equipment of mind boggling complexity in order to measure the earth. Alas, it doesn't work. Rabbits have nibbled the power cables. Gaia is striking back.

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