Friday, 31 December 2010

Best of the Daniel Cure Blog 2010

Another year… ah well…

As you know by now, the natural holiday and chance to unwind over the Christmas and New Year period means that I become lazy, sleepy and generally apathetic to the need for updating this blog. As a consequence I am going to do what all the lazy, over-paid and un-imaginative TV executives do and compile a “best-of” to tide me over to the New Year.

So here they are, a short selection of some of this years contributions…including one particularly ironic entry on the topic of football.

Labour and the BBC
The BBC love Labour. They can’t get enough of them. Jeremy Paxman. Andrew Marr. Adrian Chiles. All socialists. Nick Robinson political analyst. Loves Labour. You watch any political news story on the BBC. Despite the fact that Labour are in power, the story almost immediately descends into anti-Tory conjecture. Watch Paxman getting all chummy with Ken Livingston whilst scorning and ridiculing Boris Johnson or Teresa May. In short, there is nothing they wouldn’t do to promote the merits of Gordon Brown and the Labour party whilst undermining every essence of the opposition parties…MORE

JK Rowling the Labour Party Donator...
You may have read a number of my article criticising JK Rowling for her heavy-handed political agenda on completion of the Harry Potter series. Her decision, for instance, to reveal the fact that Dumbledore was, in fact, gay AFTER the final book was published, pushed my opinion of her over the edge. To me, this smacked of someone who…MORE

I don't read newspapers...
I don't read newspapers. I don't have the time or the inclination. News is so instant now that the papers simply act as a source of conjecture and subjection. I am fully able to achieve such things myself (I don't even enjoy the speculative approach of the BBC and Sky, but there we are)…MORE

Hang the Parliament...
So, as usually happens in UK General Elections, more people voted for the Conservative party in England than any other party by a mile. And, as has been the case in recent times, it is the combined vote of the Scotland populace that props up Labour. What, I ask myself, have we done to deserve this draconian punishment? Is it payback for our annihilation of the Scottish armies during the Middle Ages? Is it in retribution for the demolition of Bonnie Price Charlie’s eighteenth century rebellion? MORE

The Dream Match - the greatest football game of all time...
The Champions League Final...

I rarely bother with these. Since the Premier League rose from the old Division One in the early nineties and English football was embraced back into European competitions, the very notion of "The Champions League" has been something of a ridiculous concept. Back when Tottenham Hotspur were actually consistently good, a team had to win their respective league in order to qualify for the old European Cup. Now, any of the top four sides qualify, which makes a mockery of the term "Champion." Anyway, Spurs are never in the competition, let alone the final, so my attentions tend to drift elsewhere...MORE

What would happen if...
I was watching a repeat of the somewhat controversial Channel Four documentary on the alternative line to the throne.

The idea is based on the fact that at some point during late medieval England, the line of succession took a dubious “kink” and true line was lost. Actually, that is far too concise a summary – the details were that Edward IV was not the true son of Richard Plantagenet the Duke of York and therefore should not have been able to legitimately claim the crown. The man who should have become king was (in the eyes of some) George, Duke of Clarence. Had that have happened, we would now be directing the Nation Anthem at King Michael, whose current location is Australia…MORE

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Quests of the Silver Knight – A Sneak Preview

You know by now– the progression of the Silver Knight sequel has been slow going this past year. However, we are nearing Christmas and a time of giving, which means I intend to provide you all with a snippet from the manuscript thus far (how kind). Picking up the action in 1455 and moving forward to 1459, this chronicle has Jack travelling farther afield than the fields of south east England. Journeying on Queen Margaret of Anjou’s order to the northern wastelands of Northumbria, to the castles of the Midlands, Jack also crosses the Channel and it is from this episode that I have decided to extract a small section for you…

* * * * *

Then, just as he neared the apex of the rigging, only feet away from the central mast, there was an almighty crash as the ship lurched between the onset of a huge wave and the powerful counter-force of the sea as its undercurrent almost took the ship out of its waters. It was at that very moment that the force finally became too much for the sail and, with an almighty noise, it tore from its hoists and shot across from the mast in an instant.
Jack looked on aghast as the sail began to flap pathetically, only for his attention to once again be diverted from beneath him as the vessel seemed to ground against something beneath the waters. As he clutched at the mast, the housing suddenly came loose and he felt himself swing alarmingly across the deck, knocking against the solid wood of the mast and bouncing from it as if he were a rag doll in the hands of a boisterous child.
‘God help me!’ he cried, as the ship lurched violently forward, sending yet another a torrent of icy, salty water crashing over the bow and down onto the deck.
His latest exclamation was born not from the threat of the weather, but something that arose ominously from the sea; a new, quite different form of devilry to those of the wind and rain. Ahead of him stood another two huge, jagged black objects that cast their horrors down upon him as another wave crashed overhead, splitting one of the deck boards in two. For a moment, he considered relinquishing his grip of what was left of the rigging and jumping overboard, for the vessel had become more of a liability than a safe-haven. However, he simply could not trust that his path would avoid striking against the ships listing bows, nor that he would not be dashed upon the apparent crop of deathly rocks below; his survival instincts, however, slim, were enough to keep him locked in his grip upon the ropes.
Jack called out in pain, his voice saturated with the vile salt water, and clutched wildly at what he perceived to be another mast rope, only to find that his vision had been impaired by the water. He briefly acknowledged the sensation of falling, then, a second later, there was a sickly crack as a large object called an abrupt halt to his suffering and he was quite still.
Darkness had taken a hold of him; the world had turned black.

* * * * *
There will more further extracts over the coming months...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Buy "The Silver Knight" for a White Christmas...

Much as I detest the flagrant commercial abuse of the Yuletide period (I think I saw the first Christmas related item back in June), I am sure you will forgive my impudence when I draw your attention to the fact that we are soon to be ensconced in yet another round of Christmas shopping.

Upon that note, what a superb time to be thinking of unusual and indeed unique gifts for those around you! Which is why I must quite unashamedly plug my latest novel, The Silver Knight...

I am sure your loved ones would enjoy reading the first instalment of Jack Templeman’s Wars of the Roses as they sit before the log fire with the crackle and cheer of merriment ringing in their ears and the slight discomfort of an unripe fig lodged deep in their ever-occupied bellies. The trials and tribulations of young Templeman will, I am sure, go down a treat with the aid of a large festive tin of Roses, bottle of wine, or dare I say, even a celebratory nut.

The promotional video to The Silver Knight is available on YouTube, whilst there is a full review and discussion available on Litarena. I also talk about the themes and content of the book on my website.

So, to purchase a copy of The Silver Knight (paperback copies start at £10.98), simply visit the online Lulu store at: (Alternatively, I can arrange signed copies on request)

You know you want to!

Friday, 10 December 2010

UK Customer Service – Rock Bottom

Those of you who know me will know that my patience has frayed considerably with time and that there is no better catalyst for my wrath than that of shoddy treatment at the hands of large organisations.

I’m no socialist. I am a capitalist. But by definition I am an advocate of the free market – free competition and the chance for companies to compete for business. Compete on price, on quality and…service. That’s right, service. And fuck me, if I haven’t had the need to scream on successive instances this year because of this.

Customer service is no longer a resource to help the customer. It is a set of self-righteous bullies who sit behind a desk and defend the actions of their pitiful organisation, only pausing to say “sorry” (and often this has to be extracted from them with seismic force) and that there is “nothing they can do.” Well, here’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to name and shame them. I’m going to write to the papers about them. I’m going to stand outside their stores and instruct people not to go in. I’m going to continue trying to sabotage their efforts at bettering their businesses and I will not rest until they go bust…Mwah ha ha ha ha….

Okay, sorry, I’ll take my valium. But you see, it drives me mad…here are some examples for you…

1. Morrisons and their mis-leading promotions
There’s history between me and Morrisons. A long and potted history. However, this has not stopped me from continuing to place my custom with them – I dare say for convenience sake rather than anything else, but still, a customer is a customer and they should be grateful. Only they are not. They are extremely ungrateful. For instance, I recently visited the Rubery store. Oh yes – that’s right, I’m going to name and shame – so for anyone interested, this is the large superstore next to the Great Park cinema in Rubery, South Birmingham. Avoid it like the plague! On browsing through the wine section, I found a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape that was being sold for half price (£14 down to £7 or something similar). Great offer – tempting enough to place a bottle in my basket. The offer sign was very clear with no catches and was placed directly in front of the bottle. Owing to the multitude of thoughts buzzing through my mind, I failed to mentally calculate the total basket value prior to paying, but the pin machine was down anyway, which meant that I was only able to see a breakdown of the items once the payment had been made. And yes, you guessed it, they had charged me full price.

Naturally I questioned this with the cashier, but was told that I would have to raise it with Customer Services – located at the opposite end of the store. Trudging over to this counter, I found a spotty, specky, geeky wretch of an individual who reminded me of the cadet in Lindsey Anderson’s “If…?” When I plucked the bottle from my bag and explained the situation, he seized it and sprinted away, disappearing in the direction of the wine section. He returned minutes later and gave me his explanation:
“There are two bottles of this – the offer refers to the other bottle – this one is actually full price.”
“But this was the one on offer,’” I replied.
“No it was the other one,” he answered. “The offer label was next to it.”
“You mean you’ve just run down there and moved it,” I replied. “But it doesn’t matter as that was the bottle on offer – quite clearly.”
“Well you’re wrong. The other bottle had a green top.” He then proceeded to give me a very lengthy description of the mysterious other bottle.
“Look, I’m not interested,” I interjected, sighing. “This was the bottle on offer. If there is a mistake, then just give me the other bottle.” (I must be going soft)
“We’ve sold out of the other bottle.”
“Well that’s you problem. The offer was there – I’ve been enticed by it and you need to honour it. Now, give me my seven pound back.”
“I can’t do that.”
This conversation went on and on. I just hadn’t got the time.
“Right, I’ll have my money back,” I finally relented.
“Fine.” He reached into the till and selected fourteen grubby pound coins.
“What’s this?” I answered as he thrust them towards me. “I paid on my card. I want the money refunded on my card as it has come out of my bank account.”
“I can’t do that. You would have to go to the counter to do that.”
“But they’ve just sent me here,” I answered. “Are you taking the piss?”
On audible receipt of the word “piss” he decided to turn his attentions to the increasing line of disgruntled customers behind me. The change fell from his feeble, skeletal, Uriah Heap-like hand and onto the floor with a depressing metallic clatter.
“For fuck sake,” I mumbled, squatting down with my assortment of bags to gather up the mass of coins. Finally, as I gathered myself, I made a judgement that I still regret – that I hadn’t got time to pursue it further – this is of course what they want – to grind you down.
“Right,” I interrupted. “Have you forgotten one last thing?”
“What’s that?” he snapped.
“A magic word.”
“Sorry,” he hissed, with as much sincerity as a Snake Oil salesman.
“Right, I see.” Gathering my belongings, I turned to my audience and drew breath. “I wish you all the very best with this idiot – sorry seems to be the hardest word, but it beats having your money back. Who needs enemies when you have Morrisons?”
I tried to jut an elbow out as I strode away, desperate to “accidentally” knock the bottle off the counter, but to no avail…

My advice? Avoid this store and their cheating offers like the plague

2. Comet and their refusal to comply to consumer law
I’m going to keep this one simple. In February, we bought a TV from the Merry Hill branch of Comet – and if you’d like me to be specific, that is the Merry Hill, Dudley branch next door to Mothercare and it was from an arrogant, buck-toothed woman with a face like that of a horse being re-hooved. We bought it home. The cable was dodgy. It kept switching itself onto standby at random times. I took it back. They sent it to be repaired. It came back, it hadn’t been fixed. I took it back. She told me it would be fixed again. I told her that it wasn’t an old kitchen table but an electrical item that was fundamentally broken. She said there was nothing they could do. They took it back in to be repaired. The problem is still there. I went back and told them that I wanted my money back or a replacement under my guarantee. She said they couldn’t do that. I told her that I would take them to court for breach of my statutory rights. She said fine. I stormed out, threatening to have her hunted down…etc

You get the idea – Comet’s staff are a load of lying, arrogant arseholes who deserve for their miserable company to go bust. As bad as Argos are – at least they replace products if they go wrong. Comet have not heard the last of this…but if I can at least spare others from the pain of this shocking organisation then at least some good will have come from this experience.

3. Volkswagen and their crappy cars
I’m going back a few years now, but this one is so relevant that I simply have to get it in…
VW Listers – South Worcester. A guy called Andy Breakwell sold me a second hand polo. Complete lemon. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. Flat spot on the tyre, faulty handbrake, tracking problems, panel repairs done badly, electrical problems, dodgy engine, loose exhaust pipe, etc etc…

They just were not interested. Every step of the way was a hassle – I had to fight, argue, threaten, bring others in to fight my cause… it was a nightmare. The scary thing was that I wasn’t alone. There were numerous people with car problems – be it vans, Beetles, Golfs, Passats – they were all bloody lemons, bought in good faith my customers awed by the plush sales area only to be fobbed off by the aggressive “service” staff as soon as the wheels started to fall off. And they did literally start to fall off. I think the lowest point was eighteen months later when my electric windows started to wind themselves down spontaneously at random times – always when the car was parked with the engine off. Like in the middle of the fucking night in the rain. The best art was that when I finally made contact with VW head office to complain, they told me that they were “completely satisfied” with their level of service. Well what a surprise!

Never, never, never buy a Volkswagen – and certainly not from Listers, Worcester. They used to be reliable – not any longer. And when they do go wrong, you’re screwed…

To anyone from these miserable companies who might read this with annoyance, irritation or embarrassment, please take it as an opportunity to pull your finger out and start honouring and serving your customers, without whom you would be buggared.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Talking of Horror...

Watching the excellent “History of Horror” documentary trilogy the other day (you see BBC – you can produce quality output when you put your mind to it), I began to return to my own list of classic horror films. There are a number that always register on people’s top lists and works such as Carrie, Poltergeist, The Shining, The Fog, The Exorcist and It are there for a genuine reason. There are also others such as Thw Witchfinder General, The Birds, Black Christmas, The Blair Witch Project and Dracula that have been regarded as groundbreaking for the time. However, here are a list of some of mine that I have recently returned to as being seriously disturbing…

Iconic for its age, this really has to be seen even if only to demonstrate that the very idea of being chilling is possible without resorting to blood and gore, or even sound. Most terrifying scene? Of course, it has to be the iconic shadow of the count as he makes his way up the stairs to his victim

The Curse of Frankenstein
One of the very first classic Hammer films from the 1950’s, this was our first true glimpse of the Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing chemistry. Everything about this film is perfect – from the chilling use of grainy Technicolor to paint a bleak vision of the nineteenth century countryside, to the grim, instrument-laden laboratory of the fiendish Baron Frankenstein. Most terrifying scene? The shooting of the creature as he appears from the gothic-strewn autumnal forest, gushing a torrent of claret blood from his mutilated eye-socket. Very advanced visual horror for the time.

The Wicker Man
Who can forget the response of Sergeant Howie as he reaches the apex of the hill and is led by the congregation towards the monolithic sight of the Wicker Man in which he is to be burned alive. “ O, Lord! O, Jesus Christ!” The best films cannot be classified by “type” and there is no better example than this folk-horror piece of disturbing uniqueness from the early seventies.

The Devil Rides Out
It would not be right to have a list of classic horror films and not include one influenced by the late great Dennis Wheatley. Though there are some departures from the novel, the essence of the story is captured brilliantly by the actors and Hammer do a fine job. The two stand-out sequences have to be the chilling appearance of the demonic figure in Simon’s astronomy tower and, of course, Charles Grey’s awesome line as he leaves Richard’s house: “I shall not be back... but something will”

Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Strange that something with such a demonic, terrifying title should seemingly be so lacking in gore. Not that this is necessarily lacking in gore – rather that it isn’t quite the festival of blood and mutilation that one would assume. The point of this film is the psychological impact - especially the bizarreness of the family in question – a sort of collective homage to serial killers and one that conjures up images of Ed Gein and Fred West. Most terrifying scene? Surely the final moments around the dining table where absurdity and horror combine towards the final climatic chainsaw dance.

The Omen
There are elements of both farce and camp in this film that almost push the boundary to something other than horror. However, the ever-present black hound and sense of foreboding doom keep this within the realms of the disturbing. Most terrifying scene? It has to be the moment when they break into the tomb of Damian’s mother in the Italian graveyard only to uncover the skeletal remains of a demonic jackal…

The definitive slasher movie – in fact I’m not convinced that there has ever been produced a movie to cause the viewer to jump as much as this. It has to be watched alone, but even if one was to view it in daylight in a room of hundreds, it would not be enough to stop you from having heart-failure.

Don't Look Now
I leave the best to last. Again, it is impossible to categorise this picture, but I have never witnessed anything so beautifully shot, edited, arranged and presented. Blood on the slide, a haunting drowning, the menace of foresight, the threat of a murderer in the streets of a wintery, foreboding Venice. Red flashes, a glimpse of the past and the shadow of what is to come. As for the final scenes in the bell tower, never has cinema ever disturbed so masterfully.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Government Advice

Don’t drive for more than two hours without a break (stop off at a dirty, overprice service station to queue for parking and the toilet) – if you don’t have time, then leave earlier for your journey. If you do stop off, make sure that you eat fruit not chocolate as you need to eat five fruits a day. But you can’t eat it in the car (or drink water for that matter) as it is distracting and dangerous. Actually, you can’t listen to the radio either as that is also distracting (which means that you can’t listen out for traffic reports to avoid accidents which means you’ll queue for longer). But that’s ok as if you left for your journey earlier then you would be okay. Just get up out of bed earlier – never mind the fact that you need eight hours sleep. When you get to your destination, continue to drink water and eat fruit in order to hit your quota (and stopping off for the toilet again. Never mind the fact that you can’t find a toilet as the walk counts as part of your daily exercise.

When you get to your destination, do not visit the pub as you must not drink and drive, nor must you drink and not drive as any measure of alcohol will lead to heart disease and death. Do not smoke either. Best to continue gorging on water and fruit. If you must take anything else – pop a few aspirin. Or red wine for your heart. Hang on, though that’s alcohol, so you can’t have that. Have you filled out your tax returns? No? Okay, back in the car and back home with you. Actually, no you’ve already had one car journey so you better ditch the car and find a bicycle. What? Forty miles on the motorway? Tough – we have to save the planet, come on, I’m not interested in the fact that you have had a knee replacement and cant pedal up the hard shoulder of a hill… oh and better regurgitate that aspirin as our counter research shows that it might not be helpful after all…

You’d better get your skates on as you need to be home early enough to have another walk, drink some water and get your head down early enough to get your eight hours sleep… however; if you have a baby to consider as well… best get yourself a time machine.

I’ve checked and the government don’t do those.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Deer Culling – Some Sense & Nonsense…

I was interested to hear this discussion point initiated on the BBC Autumnwatch program a couple of weeks ago. I knew that it would fuel the imaginations of some people, and here we go…

“I was very upset to hear Chris say deer culling is part of country life!!! Will not be watching anymore until you bring back Bill Oddie. The killing of the Exmoor Emperor was a disgrace!!”

“There are some genuine wildlife lovers around. I get sick of hearing the' they need to be culled brigade'!!! Nature will take care of its own, if only the human race would let it!!! Killing stags to chop of their heads and mount them on walls is disgusting. Must make them feel really big strutting through our countryside stalking and killing innocent magnificent animals!!!”

Then again, there still exist those with sufficient knowledge of the issue and some common sense…

“What Chris said is the absolute truth and I totally agree with all he said. 350,000 deer is an awful lot of deer and just imagine what would happen if we stopped culling?! Within 3 years we'd have over 1 million more deer in the countryside which is already over populated anyway. Don't forget also he did say he thought the killing of the Exmoor emperor was wrong though - he didn't condone that.
Culling is very unfortunate and I don't like the idea any more than most of you but it has to be done and if there are people around, sad cases though they may be, who are prepared to pay huge sums of money to carry this out then that’s the best way to do it. Putting money back into the economy of the countryside where it is badly needed. Well done Chris for being very open and honest on this very difficult subject!”

“Hunting has been part of the country way of life for centuries from the big country parks for the Landed gentry to the lone poacher wanting a rabbit for the pot. The country communities have adapted over the years but still rely on these shoots whether it be pheasants shoots or deer stalking, they bring in a lot of money to the towns and villages that are usually ignored, it is not only the land owner that makes money it is the local communities, the country side suffered greatly when fox hunting was banned, luckily a lot of groups have got around this but a large number were made redundant and some even homeless.”

Of course the main point is this – the fox and the stag have no natural predators in the UK since creatures such as wolves have not been prevalent here for several hundred years. We are the gardeners of the land and we cannot cherry pick the influence we have simply based on the cuddle-factor of the animal in question. A dearth in game-keeping and hunting will only result in one thing – the over-population of certain species that have only increased in number due to man’s influence in the first place.

So the message is - get over it lefties – stick to your lentil soup!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Pathetic Students

Just when I thought we could sink no lower than the French, our so-called academic show their true colours and attempt to destroy London. I’ve made my point about university funding – doesn’t take a genius to realise that the current model is unsustainable, but clearly people like the moron on Five Live this morning who is studying politics and philosophy and has no idea what she wants to do, believe that four years of getting drunk and forming protest groups should be another financial behemoth to be covered by the taxpayer. (As Harriet Harman’s preposterous question in the Commons yesterday – I suggest she takes a look at her own government, whose years of wasteful spending and over-zealous promotion of ludicrous degree subjects have led to this situation).

I smirked when I heard this particular student shrug off the damage to buildings as being “only important depending on your viewpoint” – I assume she means that she questions the validity of the idea of damage to buildings owned by organisations who exist within a capitalist society. Shame she couldn’t fashion a reply when it came to the question of how she would feel had the damage been caused to her property.

A more engaging interview was conducted with a policeman who had to be called out to the riots yesterday. He was six inches from being struck by the fire extinguisher that was thrown off the building above. He described his disappointment in the events and spoke of how close he was to being killed and leaving his wife and child without a father. On the day of Armistice, when thousands of ex-servicemen and women will gather at the cenotaph to lay wreaths for those who have been killed in action, London will also be sweeping up the mess caused by these students and treated those who were left injured.

I would send the bill to damage to all of them.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Autumn Internationals

Despite the term “autumn” this is always a mark of the start of winter for me. Hot pork rolls, pints of ale, a frosted, pale English sky and a Saturday afternoon’s take on the best the southern hemisphere has to offer at Twickenham. Usually (in recent times) the best they have to offer is too good for the Red Rose, but our time will come again…

Come on England!

Monday, 1 November 2010

A Dirge for November...

November is here and with it the cold, misty gloom that tends to precede Advent. I tend to find something English and uplifting, despite the dampness. Perhaps, then, some suitably autumnal sounds to accompany this time…a dirge for November…

Monday, 25 October 2010

Funding Universities

I rarely play computer games, however, one that I have owned for a number of years and always return to is the fantastic Age of Empires II for the PC - a "Sim-City" styled game in which one takes on a race of dark age people and has to lead them through the social, economic and military evolution of the middle ages in order to conquer the land and win the day. I love it - it’s a great game and incredibly therapeutic after a stressful day - nothing better than laying siege to a city and raising it to the ground in anger! However, it is the components of the game’s development that are the most interesting. As part of your societies progress you can build town centers, markets, stables, castles and... universities

You see, even in the midst of war and conquest, the principles of education and scholarship are deemed vital to the development of society. And the makers of this excellent game are entirely right to make this so. Without the transfer of academic knowledge, the engineers and craftsmen of the Middle Ages would not have been able to embrace the developments of the scholars that followed in the pursuits of science and technology.

We have a rich history of university education in this country - from the medieval halls of Oxford and Cambridge, though to the temples of Renaissance and Enlightenment, to the modern polytechnic and college-based centers – however, it has only been in the past decade or two that the issue of funding has become a central problem and one that threatens to destabilise the system within the United Kingdom.

The problem can be drawn up to a single year – 1997. The year that Tony Blair jumped upon the good steed New Labour and cantered into Downing Street. If you recall, he had announced the fulcrum of his policy intent at the Labour Party conference the previous year with the line “Education, education, education.” The focus, it seemed, was that the education system had been under-funded by the Tories and we had slipped down the pecking order of the world league (whatever that is). The truth was, when it came to education his intent was clear – simply to kill two birds with one stone. By expanding the number of university places, he would endear himself to the youthful voters who had supported his party and by doing so, reduce the unemployment figure as a whole raft of students who would perhaps have found themselves placed in the dole queue at the age of sixteen would be in the twenties by the time they would have to find a job.

And what about all these people suddenly going to university? What did they study? Did we suddenly find a new generation of doctors, lawyers and accountants? What about engineers, programmers or teachers? Try media studies and business administration.

Back in the eighties, there was some truth in the comedy of the Young Ones - I don’t mean the Marxism ideals, I mean the poverty-hit student flat with stereotypical “student-types” struggling to make their grants last for a full semester. Since Mr Blair’s intervention, a student now has more in common with a city executive than a bedraggled hippie, such are the comforts of modern student living.

However, these developments have come at a cost to the taxpayer and to the student. Universities must be funded, supported, developed and nurtured. Similarly, students have a need to survive and even if the legion of iPhones are removed from the equation, there remains a basic need for food, shelter and books. Having spent four years at university myself, I remain saddled with a large student loan that I will continue to repay throughout the rest of my working life, as I was not as fortune as those before me who received grants to fund their time as students. Conversely, those entering into university life since that point have had to contend with the increase in tuition fees which adds a further dimension of expense to the equation. With an increasing population, the number of university places is seemingly going to increase and increase until something gives.

Listen to the left and they tend to follow Ed Milliband’s idea for a graduation tax. Listen to the right and they simply skirt the issue. But I am afraid that someone has to pay for university education, or do they?

Surely if we scaled back the number of degrees on offer and stuck to the basic academic requirements for entry, then we wouldn’t have such a dilemma? Medicine, law, finance, engineering, science, languages – these are all necessary practices that require academic tuition. But what of nursing, mechanics and such like – are they not better served as apprenticeships? Furthermore, when it comes to “football culture”, “under water basket weaving”, “soap studies” and “surfing” – surely there can be no point in these existing under any circumstances? I notice that it is often the people with banal degrees who advocate their continued existence – Stephen Merchant has a first class honours degree in Film (I’m sure that was a challenge), whilst I met a couple in Scotland who had studied to become directors and were intending upon graduating to hold out for a job until they were offered full control of a film. I graduated with an honours degree in Marketing, a discipline based upon academia and business principles, but I would even question the validity of that as a degree.

When I first arrived at Plymouth, I had a preconceived notion that universities were full of leftwing time wasters. By the time I had completed the first year, that viewpoint had been fully confirmed. I recall, for example, walking to the library one morning with a friend and being approached by a young student who asked us if we wanted to sign a petition to legalise the smoking of pot. Now, there is nothing more guaranteed to gain instant approval of most students than a cause such as this. However, with little interest in putting my name to any paper, I stepped aside, whilst my friend eagerly scribbled his name down. It was only when I glanced at the sheet that I noticed the yellow paper and bird-like symbol as indicating that it belonged to the Lib Dem party. I pointed this out to the girl, who mumbled some feeble excuse in response. As it turned out, the signature he had bequeathed indicated in writing that he was interested in joining the Lib Dems (the link being that they were at the time loosely considering supporting the legalization of Cannabis). This was only one of a number of similar instances throughout the first year that told me that in essence, the vast majority of university degrees simply acted as a melting pot for all the frustrated left-wingers to assemble and attempt to recruit naïve first years to whichever ridiculous cause comes their way.

Students studying proper subjects are unlikely to be able to waste their time and therefore are more likely to succeed in life – and surely that has to be the central aspiration of any university? The way it is going, all the government will achieve is to devalue every degree ever undertaken.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Ashes Down Under – A Preview…

So, we are raring to go – the first Test in Brisbane is due to start at the end of next month, the squad is assembled and soon to fly out, the stakes are high – all set for the latest bout between England and Australia.

I can only hope that history does not repeat itself from the events of four years ago – and I say that with a degree of foreboding, given the similar circumstances. In 2006, England were the current holders, having beaten Australia the previous year, they had just beaten Pakistan in a controversial home test series and hopes were incredibly high of a first series victory in Australia since 1986/7.

The subsequent 5-0 thrashing was, therefore, somewhat distressing to say the least. However, it must be pointed out that there were a number of clear circumstances that contributed to this – perhaps even made the defeat inevitable. People point to player complacency in the wake of the 2005 series victory, especially given the fantastic drama of the series and the fact that it was the first time England had won the Ashes in over 17 years. However, complacency was not to blame for Simon Jones’ crippling injury that saw him miss the series (and all since), nor was it to blame for similar injuries to Michael Vaughan and Ashley Giles, and certainly not Trescothick’s depression. You can add in the abysmal choice of Flintoff as captain, which subsequently stifled his contribution, weakened the team and contributed to Strauss’s loss of confidence, plus the strange choice to replace Reed and Panesar with Jones and Giles, only to switch them back after the second test. Finally, if those things were not enough, Harmison’s unprofessional attitude and Hoggard’s loss of pace meant that we stood no choice of taking twenty wickets in any of the matches. Meanwhile, Austraila were at full strength and, following their painful loss in 2005, had trained hard for the one objective of winning back the urn.

This time around things are a little different. We have a settled team with few significant long-term injury absentees (touch wood). We have a better captain, who scores runs at the top of the order and is more effective against pace. We have a better wicketkeeper batsman and a stronger tail end. The bowling attack is proven and has a world class wicket taker in Graeme Swann. Most players, with the exception of Collingwood and Pietersen are in good form. The system works and is seemingly improving. Compare that with Australia. Their best batsmen are at the end of their careers. They no longer have a world-class bowling attack (Lee and Tait don’t play tests anymore, whilst Warne and McGrath have retired).

Pretty good signs – certainly the best since the eighties. That is not to say, however, that everything points to an England win. Our bowling attack is less effective outside of these shores – especially the likes of Anderson who loses a great deal of potency when the ball doesn’t swing. We tend to struggle with the Kookaburra ball as opposed to the Dukes. I feel that the selectors have missed a trick by omitting Shahzad, who offers the best “Simon Jones” type of option available in so much as he reverses the ball at pace (useful on flat pitches when the ball goes dead). Add to that the fact that Cook had issues over his technique, Collingwood is out of form and Pietersen is struggling with confidence and a lack of runs (remember how much we relied upon him last time we toured Australia in a losing cause). Australian crowds are hostile, especially at the start of the tour and Brisbane is a total fortress for the Aussies in all sports. Ricky Ponting’s men will be fired up and prepared to compensate for the deficiencies within their team by going all-out for victory.

It is clear that we cannot hope to regain the Ashes by trying to draw the series or simply containing Australia. We must attack them and play to our strengths. We need luck with injuries and decisions – unlike last time. We need to pick the right team for each match and pitch conditions – unlike last time. We need three of our top six batsmen to have good tours, with at least one having a great tour. We need Prior to play well. We need to take twenty wickets on at least two occasions. And, if the players are to have a disastrous performance, then it needs to be together in one game – rather like Headingley last year. If all this happens, we’ll retain the urn. If not, we will lose. How about that for a prediction?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Persian Cats in Iran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – the current President of Iran and acclaimed nutcase. Where would we be without him? Where would we be, for that matter, without Iran? A safer place, that’s where…

Just recently, he calmly stepped up to the podium at a UN Conference and proclaimed that the US Government had organised the terrorist attacks of 9/11 simply in order to re-ignite their flagging economy by justifying Zionist-led imperialism upon the oil reserves of the Middle East. Just one in a long line of amazing claims he has made over the past few years…If a western leader did the same, one can only imagine the reaction of the Middle East.

However, we do not simply have to stick to Mr Ahmadinejad’s ludicrous war-mongering for proof of Iran’s determination to upset the rest of the global populace. Take its attitude to its own people. Rigged elections, stoning of women, illegal nuclear construction programs, attempts to double the country’s population, oppression of students and so-called radicals.

Those who dare to enter its water fare little better and as for its attempts to construct a nuclear warhead capability whilst stirring up justification for an all-out assault upon the west, I cannot see why the UN have not yet issued proper ultimatums to prevent any further expansion or development of its military capability. It is quite clear that they are determined to continue in their efforts until they are in a position to declare war on the west.

Time for Mr Obama to step up to the plate in my humble view…

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Bitter Lemons

Peter Tatchell is the kind of person I despise. In fact, even to look at him I see a bitter, twisted, warped weirdo and that is without subjecting myself to the drivel he comes out with.

It was on the Pope’s recent visit to the UK that I really encountered the level of his vitriol towards anyone other than his clan of sycophants. In truth, he is the epitome of stereotypical beardy-wierdy lefty that in previous years would simply be ignored but is now given minor airtime owing to the efforts of people of the ilk of Shami Chakrabarti.

His issue with the Pope, it seemed, lay in the fact that he refused to deem women fit to become priests and castigated homosexuals. I noticed on one of his protests that he was joined by a man wearing a frilly pink shirt waving a banner proclaiming “Jesus had two dads.” Perhaps the stupidest banner in the history of banner-creation…

Now, I am not a Catholic, nor am I am practicing Christian. I have my own philosophical viewpoint but I personally (having studied theology and having born witness to the ills of the world over these last few years) believe that Christianity is in its cultural sense, the natural base religion of the United Kingdom and by far the least harmful to the plight of others when it compared with the likes of Judaism and especially Islam. I have almost no opinion of the Pope as I do not regard him as my spiritual leader, but for Mr Tatchell to stick his crooked, bitter beak into the doctrines of the Catholic Church simply because it doesn’t quite meet his militant and quite biased views on homosexual rights is pretty hypercritical. I should point out at this juncture that this is not an attack upon homosexual people, the rights of whom I would never question – more an attack upon people with an in-built agenda that borders on the inane.

The reality is that there is a very clear reason as to why people of his ilk focus their energies on Catholicism, Christianity, Right-wingism and such like. It is because they are inherently anti-establishment, owing to the bitterness of their formative years. Mr Tatchell has evidentially felt an outsider for so many years (he has a history of opposing Thatcher’s government and having to be reprimanded for extremism by none other than Michael Foot – a man with almost communist views himself which tells you something!), which means that the vast majority of his viewpoints are formed simply with the premise of standing against those he views as “part of the establishment.” That is to say Christians, right-wing politicians, the vast majority of English citizens, the military, the US, blah, blah, blah

If he is so concerned about the practices of Christianity, then where is he to be seen protesting against forced circumcision on Jewish males and Muslim females, or the oppression of women by Muslims? What about other evils of Islam, such as Halal meat, Sharia law, and the burka? He’s not interested in them simply because Islam is seen as the antithesis of the west, which makes it ok by him. As Churchill said of Stalin, "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons." Moreover, there is an element of cowardice in the blind eye he turns towards other religions when their retribution is often more potent than that of the Pope or the Archibishop. Criticise a Christian and you might make them sad. Criticise a Muslim and they’ll threaten to cut your head off.

The point about these people is that they are no better than the fundamental Islamists who threaten to burn and bomb the west every time someone makes a joke about Allah. Both Tatchell and Bin Laden share the same preoccupation with being “offended” by everything the west does. If you don’t like the fact that the Pope doesn’t like homosexuals, then don’t become a Catholic. I’m not homophobic but I don’t care if certain religions are opposed to gay people because it makes no difference to my viewpoint – so long as they don’t harm others let them believe in whatever they choose to. I cant control people’s viewpoints – there are people who stand in the street draped in crucifixes claiming that Jesus told them they would rise from the dead and conquer Mars but I don’t stop them and tell them they’re mental as it’s a waste of time. When the Pastor in the US stated that he was going to burn the Koran, why should Muslims care? Offensive? I think someone burning a book is slightly less harmful than a bunch of nutcases flying planes into skyscrapers and killing over three thousand people. Whatever happened to sticks and stones?

Friday, 1 October 2010

Weekend and some music...

It is the weekend, it is a new month and I don’t care if Christmas is already being thrust upon us as I simply intend to ignore it. And to celebrate this fact, here’s a great music video for you (you must have been living under a stone if you haven’t yet enjoyed this one)…

Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Death Penalty

Owing to the fact that I write historical fiction that tends to include its fair share of blood and horror, as well as the fact that I have always taken an unfortunate interest in the macabre, I have happened to have read a number of texts concerning this issue. Be it methods of execution, historical developments, miscarriages of justice, cultural trends and current cases, capital punishment is one topic that from the dawn of civilisation has never failed to lower its head from the parapet of debate.

The most frequent cases that are brought to our attention seem to be state executions in the US (perhaps the interest derives from the rarity of a western country enforcing this kind of punishment) and those in the Middle East involving either Westerners or women who have been made scapegoats by the fundamental Islamic regime. There are, of course, numerous other countries that still enforce capital punishment on a frequent basis the world over – countries such as China, North Korea, Vietnam and Sudan often fail to register on the compass of popular journalism (usually due to their clandestine political regimes) but are frequent killers of criminals.

I have often considered how fortunate we are not to have the matter existing in practice whilst we contemplate its status. The last execution took place in England in 1964 prior to its abolition for murder in 1969 (despite the fact that it was retained in principle for treason until 1998 when Mr Blair decided to sell our rights to law-making to the EU without informing us – but less of that for now). Those final hangings were sixteen years prior to the year I was born, which starts to bring home the reality of state execution. If that is not enough, though, consider France. Having brought in the guillotine as a more “humane” method of execution during the Revolution, its use continued throughout the nineteenth century, before the final public beheading in Paris in 1939. However, whilst it was moved out of the sight of the blood-thirsty French public, state executions continued throughout the twentieth century under a succession of French leaders, until the final use of the guillotine in 1977 – three years before my life began!

Quite a sobering thought – and one that just shows that we do not have to shift through too many historical gears in order to bring the realities of the past back to life.

In terms of my own feelings towards the use of capital punishment, I have constantly shifted my inclinations. As futile, shallow and weak-willed as this may seem, I am one of these people who watches 10 Rillington Place and immediately decides to oppose its use, whilst on recapping upon 9/11 and other such atrocities, I want it brought back.

In the cold light of day, however, the fundamental problem that I have struggled with is that I find it difficult to contemplate a civilised society being able to exist when the governing state imposes death upon its members. You can add in miscarriages of justice as a further reason but I would also point to the ever-present search for the most humane method of execution being an indicator that presents a barrier to progress. If we feel that hanging is barbaric, beheading too gruesome and lethal injection not as efficient as some make out, we will never be content until a method is sourced whereby no single person acts as executioner, no pain or trauma is felt and the point of death is not even present as a moment in the condemned’s consciousness. We want a more humane method, but why should we be concerned about the humanity of criminals when they displayed no such virtue to their victims? Moreover, to what crimes should capital punishment apply? Murder? Even though this is often committed out of passion and not gain? How would execution be a deterrent? Robbery? Rape?

At present, I cannot help but feel that someone guilty of these crimes is better served rotting in the depths of prison, isolated from the world they have violated. Given the choice, I would personally bring the death penalty back to the UK, but only for crimes of high treason against the state, which is why I would not utter the slightest trace of remorse should they find Khalil Sheikh Mohammed guilty (when they eventually bring him to trial). Anything else and I would avoid the donning of the black cap entirely.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Downtime on the Blog…

I’ve lost count of the number of times during the course of the past six months that I’ve posted on this blog to apologise for my diminishing frequency of contributions. There are, in essence, several reasons for this trend. Firstly, the demands of my job have escalated (in a positive way, I must stress), meaning that I am left with less time to compose my thoughts. Secondly, the political landscape throughout the build up to the general election in May left me washed out as a commentator. Thirdly, one of the main reasons for me setting up this blog was to update Silver Knight readers with my progress updates and progress has been a little slow since the start of the year. Finally, however, (and most significantly), we have been expecting the birth of our first child since January and the emotions surrounding this event have consumed my ability to write productively.

Many of you will already know that Emilia Grace Cure was born on the 14th September at 1.46am. It has never been my intention to disclose personal matters on here (if you are a regular reader you will note that this tends to read more Basil Fawlty than Nick Hornby) but I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff at Russell’s Hall Hospital for their hard work during the afternoon and evening of Monday 13th September and especially during the early hours of Tuesday morning. As an opponent of powerful trade unions and “tax and spend” Labour Party policies, you may be forgiven for thinking me a heartless, fascist penny-pincher when it comes ot matters of state funding of public services. However, the skill and expertise of the HNS staff demonstrates to me that behind millionaire bureaucrats and civil servants lies an indispensable army of public workers who provide the cornerstone of our society.

Anyway, I would like to thank everyone for their well-wishes and thoughts (I’m sure Emilia does too, despite the noisy protests). To give my assurance, I have no intention of ceasing my contributions to this blog. When I first began posting tweets, my instinct told me that I could say nothing of value in a tweet as opposed to a blog and almost nothing in a blog compared with a novel. Indeed, that may well still be the case, but what Twitter has done is to have afforded me the opportunity of keeping in contact with the outside world, irrespective of time constraints and commitments. So it is then that you are likely to notice more tweets than blogs and more blogs than books over the remaining course of this year, but I do assure you that the sequel to The Silver Knight will be completed…eventually!

Dan, Alison and Emilia

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

My new car...

I finally bought a new car and being the writer of a blog, I immediately turned my attention to a Clarkson-styled edgy thesis on the performance of said motor. However, I quickly realized that I am simply not cut out for Top Gear. The thing is, I don’t know what the brake horsepower is, what the torque is, how many cylinders it has and any other automotive magingling bollocks like that.

Suffice to say it is far quicker than my last car, it looks great, drives great and feels great. And the thing is that it’s all the boring stuff that really makes a difference! I actually have somewhere to put my coffee in the morning (sad I know). There’s a direct mp3 player input which gets rid of the ridiculous amount of leads and FM transmitter hassle I've had to resort to. It has five doors so I can actually get to the back seats easily. It’s comfortable to sit in and looks amazing.

Am I getting old? At least it’s not a Volvo Estate… not yet anyway

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

What would happen if...

I was watching a repeat of the somewhat controversial Channel Four documentary on the alternative line to the throne.

The idea is based on the fact that at some point during late medieval England, the line of succession took a dubious “kink” and true line was lost. Actually, that is far too concise a summary – the details were that Edward IV was not the true son of Richard Plantagenet the Duke of York and therefore should not have been able to legitimately claim the crown. The man who should have become king was (in the eyes of some) George, Duke of Clarence. Had that have happened, we would now be directing the Nation Anthem at King Michael, whose current location is Australia.

Now, this line of argument is almost so absurd that it doesn’t warrant my person intrusions. The fact that this “dubious” ascension took place during the Wars of the Roses, a time in which the line changed at least three times, is farcical enough, but we also have to consider the “risk” element of historical status. The people who make up this alternative line to the throne have only enjoyed (or not) the lives they have had because they have not had to encounter war, treason, battle, plots and terror – the elements that have readily filled the leisure time of many of our Monarchs. The slightest elements possible have changed the face of history for ever and as such, the most expensive predictive analysis would always ail to provide an even flimsy alternative scenario.

Take, for instance, Edward the Black Prince. Had he have lived to become King, there is a chance that the Plantagenet Empire would have returned to the glory days of Eleanor of Aquitaine and we would now include France as part of our dominion. What of Henry V? Had he not have contracted dysentery, there is a good chance with his fantastic talents that he would have succeeded in his dying wish to have successfully led a crusade to the Holy Lands – perhaps his would have been the ultimate success (a Muslim Agincourt). What is Catherine of Aragon had produced a son? Would we still be a Catholic country? And if Queen Elizabeth had married and had children? There would have been no Stuart influence in England and almost certainly no Act of Union to which we are now so bitterly entrusted. What if King Charles I had respected Parliament and avoided Cromwell’s threats from bearing fruit? No Civil War of course, but also no Irish war which, in many eyes, marked the genesis of the current troubles due to the mass slaughter dealt to its people.

The fact is however that if any one of these events had happened, none of the other would have followed suite in the first place! Which just goes to show that such programs are pointless madness…

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Book Reviews – Dickens and Marlowe

Not sure if I’ve ever posted links to reviews I’ve contributed to, but if not, here goes…two reviews I created last year for the Litarena Book Festival.

First off the mark, Charles Dickens…

“That so many of his readers regard him with almost protective compassion, belies the fact that Charles Dickens is, in many eyes, the UK's greatest ever author and requires almost no introduction. Born into the dark murkiness of Regency England, his idyllic childhood was torn apart when his father was sent to jail for fraudulent activity, rendering the family as paupers and meaning that he suddenly found himself working long hours in a blacking factory. The combination of all these factors was to have a profound influence upon his extraordinary body of work, for the themes of imprisonment, social justice, orphans, family life and destiny were all core elements of almost every major work he completed…” read more

Secondly (just to be complete), Kit Marlowe…

“It is almost something of an anomaly that the Elizabethan playwright and poet Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe is recognised as a predecessor to Shakespeare, as both men were in fact born in the same year, 1564. However, unlike his more widely renowned counterpart, Marlowe came from a line of reputable troublemakers a tendency that ultimately would lead to his untimely death…” read more

The whole of last year’s book festival contributions can be found here:

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Two years - where did that go?

Two years today I got married in Birtsmorton Court. Two years! Next they'll be telling me I'm thirty. Not, that cant be true. No, not yet. Just a ruse...

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Malverns - a reverie

I hadn’t been up there for a while so I thought If give it a go. I had suddenly recalled spate of several summers in succession in which I walked the entire length of the hills as part of the St George’s Square Venture Club (anyone remember that?) so I thought Id take up where previously Id left off in the nineties and give it a crack.

Now, I have been to Malvern since, often several times a year, but on such occasions, my ambitions have been limited to a quick jaunt up Herefordshire Beacon and back. The venture Club used to start at Ledbury at around 8am and finish off ten hours later the other side of Malvern with barely five minutes rest. Hardly Sir Ranulph Fiennes, but at the same time no mean feat under a blazing sun and up and down steep inclines.

You’ll imagine my deep distress therefore, when I encountered my first bout of stitch a mere five minutes into my attempt. Okay, so this was the first exercise I had embarked upon in some time, but I should point out that I had barely left the level plain of the car park with the only physical exertion having been in the form of opening and shutting the car boot. My morale began to sink lower still when I was then overtaken by a couple of elderly ramblers who looked as if they had been presented with far greater challenges from their daily jigsaw puzzles.

However, I am rarely beaten and with English stoicism and French flair I ploughed on up and down four peaks until I perched myself upon a rock atop Worcestershire Beacon, content to survey the three counties beneath as a worthy sign of my initial achievement. Then came the first major challenge – the need for the toilet. Drinking so much water always brings about the inevitable, but where is one to go when stranded upon a rocky peak? There are no gents to be seen. Nor, for that matter, are there any convenient caves, trees, bushes or shrubs of an abound note. In fact, as I began to scour the landscape frantically, I could hardly make out a tall weed behind which to hide. After fifteen minutes of fruitless visual pursuit, I decided my only hope was to wait for a lull in the “hill traffic” and take a "speed wee."

Seizing my chance as a group of hill walkers descended the slope away from me, I turned to face Gloucestershire (quite a therapeutic landscape for a makeshift bathroom) and did what I had to do, which was a blessed relief. So much so that I managed to utter the phrase “Aha that’s better,” so loud that I swear I heard in echo around the town beneath my feet. I needn’t have concerned myself as to the decibel level of my output, however, as it was clearly audible enough for the Chinese couple who appeared directly in front of me as I finished up. Sometimes there is just no point in pretending. Raising my shoulders triumphantly, I simply nodded pleasantly at them.

“Morning,” I announced cheerfully.

The walk progressed, reaching the fifth and sixth peaks before I broke for a rest, the sun finally breaking and offering a chance to lie down in its warm rays. I was tired and weary and rather like a cat, the heat caused my eyes to close with contentment. You’ll forgive me, I’m sure, for being somewhat unprepared for the violent outburst that followed…

“Aargh”” the voice screamed. “I’m a massive giant and I’m going to eat you alive!”

It was just as well that I had emptied my bladder as, had I failed to do so I’m sure it would have done so on its own accord as I leapt twenty feet into the air and landed painfully upon a sharp rock.

“I said I’m a massive giant” the voice boomed, just as menacingly as before.

My eyes took a short while to adjust for, rather than to settle upon the grotesque sight of some sort of mythical Norse beast, it soon became clear that (much to my astonishment) the voice belonged to a little girl.

“I think you’re disturbing people’s peace and tranquillity,” came the welcome voice of her father.

“Good man,” I thought.
“No, no,” her mother announced, haughtily. “I told Clarissa she could shout as loud as she likes when she reached the top. It doesn’t matter up here.”
“Is that right…” I mumbled, irritably.

She turned to face me and, despite the fact that I was perched as least ten feet above where she was stood, her nose still managed to position itself at an angle vertical to my own. Clearly disgusted by my visible tattoo and the audacity I had demonstrated in daring to speak in her lofty presence, she sneered at me for a moment before turning back to Clarissa.

“What does the giant say?”

“Rah!” Clarissa yelled.

“No Clarissa. That won’t do. Louder.”

It was time for me to move again, lest the family have me tasared for not having thrown myself out of their way in shame. After another few hours of relentless pursuit, I finally managed to complete the main length of the hills and I retreated gingerly back to the car park. I felt content - tired, aching and bruised yes – but having achieved what I used to do all the time. Just as I pulled the keys from my pocket and unlocked the boot ready to throw my walking boots in the back, I noticed the same elderly couple march back past me.

They had just finished their walk. They had walked, more quickly than me and for longer. And not only that. Their t-shirts. I couldn’t believe it:

“New York, London & Paris Marathons 2009”

They’d done the lot

“Bollocks to this,” I thought. “I’m going home for a cold lager.”

And I did.

Monday, 5 July 2010


I’ve never really liked Wimbledon. I’ve no desire to camp out to get tickets. I can’t stand it. Everything about it. I don’t like Pimms (tastes like fruity Benylin), I don’t like Sue Barker, I don’t like Cliff Richard. I don’t like feeble failed ex-tennis players giving weak opinions on the non-existent chances of British players. I didn’t particularly like Tim Henman, I thought Jeremy Bates was lame, whilst I can’t stand Andy Murray at all. I don’t even like London. Go to London – take the train to London, stopping at Rejection, Disappointment, Backstabbing Central and Shattered Dreams Parkway…

I didn’t like Boris Becker, I didn’t like Steffan Edberg or Michael Stich. I hated Pete Sampras and don’t like Roger Federer. All boring. I don’t like serve and volley tennis – dull, rubbish. A total lack of imagination. I like baseline tennis. Id happily go to the French or US Open. I did like Agassi and I like Nadal and I’m glad he’s won.

But I’m glad it’s over.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Utter tripe…

That’s my view on the first week or so of this World Cup. Barely averaging one goal per game, with no standout matches and no standout players. Played in a country with no love for football and watched by fans whose only contribution is to blow incessantly on those interminable horns.

People have blamed defensive coaches, a long season and “rounder balls” but the truth is that the players just are not good enough. The star players have gone. Look at the Brazil line up. No Ronaldo, no Cafu, no Ronaldinho. Look at France. No Zidane. Look at Italy. No Nesta, Maldini – even Pirlo was not included in their opening game.

A generation of players have faded away – Edgar Davids, Ronaldo, Del Piero, Bergkamp, Vieri, Roberto Carlos and many others have kicked their last international ball. There are few pretenders – today’s crop are very fit, athletic and powerful, but just don’t possess the same level of skill and ability.

What makes this worse is that England are no different…

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Dream Match - the greatest football game of all time...

The Champions League Final...

I rarely bother with these. Since the Premier League rose from the old Division One in the early nineties and English football was embraced back into European competitions, the very notion of "The Champions League" has been something of a ridiculous concept. Back when Tottenham Hotspur were actually consistently good, a team had to win their respective league in order to qualify for the old European Cup. Now, any of the top four sides qualify, which makes a mockery of the term "Champion." Anyway, Spurs are never in the competition, let alone the final, so my attentions tend to drift elsewhere...

Save, of course, for the small matter of my "dream" match. That being the game I allow my mind to play out during quiet moments, especially during Saturday afternoon defeats. For those of you who haven't been priviledged to hear this match played out, it goes something like this...

The Champions League final between Tottenham and Arsenal has been brought forward to my birthday in order to allow for the World Cup. The game kicks off at the Nou Camp in front of 120,000 fans. At half time, Spurs are 6-0 down. Arsenal are gloating, cheating and rubbing our noses in it. Then, during the second half, we gradually come back into it. 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, etc. The Spurs fans are singing their hearts out. Arsenal have a player sent off for diving. Then two players. Sol Cambell then puts the ball in his own net to make it 6-4. William Gallas sits down and starts crying. 6-5. Just as the clock hits 90 minutes, we level it 6-6. There's a stack of injury time awarded due to Wenger needing replays for everytime he didn't see something. Finally, just on the cusp of extra time being needed, Modric completes his hatrick with a bycycle kick from outside the box that slams in off the crossbar. Spurs win, 7-6.

But that's not all. The tv cameras flash to the news channel - breaking news. A group of Arsenal directors have been charged with fraudulent behaviour and are seen being bundled into the back of a police car. The cameras flash back to the Nou Camp, where Spurs players are celebrating with fans. Flash to Wenger, who is stomping around so madly that his trousers fall down to a pair of y-fronts with the slogan "loser." emblazoned upon them (there may also be some wee). Cue the tv interview, where he tries to claim that he did not see any of the major second half interviews and that "mentally" his team won the game. We then receive breaking news that owing to the arrest of the directors, Arsenal have been relegated with immediate effect to the Championship due to financial irregularities. Wenger is asked his opinion and starts to cry. Fabregas emerges into view and shouts to Wenger that he has agreed to join Barcelona, which prompts a fight between the two men. The camera leaves the squabble and points to the podium on the middle of the pitch, where none of the Arsenal players bother to collect their medal as they are all busy fighting. We then receive news reports that subsidence has been discovered beneath Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. The camera flashes back to the podium where Ledley King raises the Champion's League Trophy, just as the picture shows a glimpse of the Emirates collapsing into rubble and dust back in London.

Now, you may mock and claim that I should perhaps set my sights somewhat lower, but I disagree. THAT, my friends, is what you call a sporting fantasy and I live in continuing hope to see that day.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

The trouble with having no time is that....

I've had a really good idea for a story. It would make a great screenplay (I'm thinking TV drama), but I could compose it as a play or as a novel as it is quite a malleable concept.

It's a cricket story. Fictional, but based upon our contemporary world. Sprinkled with politics and religion. It really is quite good, even if I say so myself.

And the annoying thing is that I don't have the time to write it!

Does anyone have some spare time to offer?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A camel is a horse designed by committee

...and that is the main danger of this coalition. That the pollitical ideas of a party become diluted and carved up.

But still - we have progress. Our unelected Scottish Prime Minister gave probably the most effective speech of his appalling tenure and finally did the honourable thing, paving the way for Mr Cameron to make his path to the Palace.

My only other comment on this is to highlight the calibre of the protesters outside Downing Street. I can understand that militant trade unionists will always be moaning and groaning and it comes as no great surprise that left-wing demonstrators called Apple and Leaf are to be found on unicycles blowing on hunting horns in and around Parliament Square. However, I found it disgraceful that a small number of Labour Party activists remained standing outside after Brown's departure, waiting to heckle Cameron as his car pulled up. To me, it shows the true nature of socialists and the total lack of respect they actually have for democracy and protocol - and I am sure they would have been crying into their muesli had the boot been on the other foot.

Still, despite the dithering of the Lib Dems, perhaps those people will finally slink off back beneath their stones and do us all a favour.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Desperate Measures

There was nothing dignified about it. Nothing at all.

A dignified resignation speech usually thanks close colleagues, expresses disappointment and remains understated. But, true to his style as a man desperate to cling on by the finger tips to the slightest atom of power, Gordon Brown has hammered yet another nail into his long-term project, otherwise known as “Operation Ruin England.”

His scorched earth policy has now been in effect for over eighteen months, with the budget deficit and the money markets taking the biggest hit from his appalling selfishness. In a desperate attempt to continue as Prime Minister and keep his party in power, this latest statement has achieved the unsettling of his political opponent David Cameron, by offering a version of proportional representation that will appease the Lib Dems and suit the chances of his own party over the Conservatives. A cynical move? Try this out for size then – by offering what the Lib Dems want, he stands a chance of forming what Alex Sammond as called the “Rainbow Coalition” – in other words a bedraggled assortment of left wing muesli munchers who, with the assumption that Sinn Fein MPs would continue to abstain from taking their oaths, would just about (and only just about) squeeze a majority Government. By doing so, he remains, by default, as PM. This means that he, and only he, can call a General Election. This means that, despite the Tory Party winning 307 seats, despite them having more seats than the Lib Dems and Labour combined, despite nearly 11 million people voting for them, despite 40% of English voters choosing them to govern, despite more people voting for them than the elected Labour Government under Blair in 2005, the Conservative Party will not form the next government. Nor will they be able to contest this result, as only the PM can call an election. Not, at least, until the Autumn when Brown stands down and a new Labour leader is elected. And this is where it really gets good – there is (and he knows this) the distinct possibility that, after having suffered three years of a man who wasn’t elected by either his party or the people of the UK, we could end up with yet another unelected Prime Minister.

Thatcher, love her or hate her, knew when to stand down. Major, as incompetent as he was, offered his resignation. There must be something about the novelty of power when it comes to New Labour that their distain for the people of England really shines.

It is only the Labour Party who consistently inform us that Britain wanted and voted for a Hung Parliament. Bullshit. The UK voters voted for their individual choices. How many people can honestly say they cast their vote for a Hung Parliament? And of those, who can say they are pleased with the outcome right now? Our country is in tatters and Brown has no interest in taking any of the blame – his only interest is in the continuation of his own political party retaining power.

And where exactly does this leave Clegg? A man who a few short weeks ago was a populist of the people – now reduced to clawing after political reform for the benefit of his own voters, despite having been trounced into third place. A man who, despite giving his word that he could not do a deal with Brown, has been having talks on the quiet with the Labour party these last few days. A man whose only aim now is seemingly playing both parties off against each other for petty self interest. A man, who I am afraid to say is nothing short of a weasel.

I wonder what the hoards of Lib Dem fanatics would have said if, true to Proportional Representation, with over half a million votes, 12 BNP politicians had been elected to Parliament last week. I doubt they would have wanted that. Just as I do not want them.

David Cameron – I implore you – tell Clegg to go stuff himself. Bide your time. When the rainbow coalition breaks down into petty squabbles, go in for the kill and crush the lot of them at election number two later this year.

You’ll be doing us all a favour.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Prince Harry Party

You may recall I touched on a former fantasy the other day in which I was a frequent passenger aboard a first class business carriage. Feeble, I know. However, I had another that crossed my mind as the election results poured in...

Picture the scene. Buckingham Palace the morning of the election – all eyes on the constitution. Prince Harry storms into the throne room and takes the crown from his grandmother, bypassing his father and brother in the process. It is a coup worthy of Shakespeare, Bolingbroke and the entire House of York. Slamming the crown upon his ginger thatch, he roars a battle cry, downs a bottle of ale and marches down the Mal and across to Whitehall. There, he kicks open the door to 10 Downing Street, pushes Cameron and Clegg to one side and grabs Brown by the scruff of the neck, before punting him out onto the street.
‘Take this dog to the Tower!’ he cries, his eyes boring fiercely into the terrified hacks, who scurry away as a succession of guards seize our former PM and place him in chains.
‘What of us?’ a small voice is heard from the entrance hall.
‘I wont be needing you!’ Harry replies, with a steely grin. ‘There will be a new dawn for this country – cry God for Harry, England and St George!’

It wont happen though. Things like never do.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Hang the Parliament

So, as usually happens in UK General Elections, more people voted for the Conservative party in England than any other party by a mile. And, as has been the case in recent times, it is the combined vote of the Scotland populace that props up Labour. What, I ask myself, have we done to deserve this draconian punishment? Is it payback for our annihilation of the Scottish armies during the Middle Ages? Is it in retribution for the demolition of Bonnie Price Charlie’s eighteenth century rebellion?

Whatever the reason, I have come to the conclusion that it is time to break up the Act of Union that has held the United Kingdom together for the last two centuries. For as much as I hanker after the glory days of the British Empire, the Plantagenet Dynasty and Longshank’s Arthurian legacy; the fact is that the world has spoken. They want to go it alone. They don’t want to be part of England – not anymore.

Well, that’s fine by me. Sod the Commonwealth. Sod Scotland as well. If they don’t like the idea of the UK then fine – but I for one am fed up with Westminster being run by Scots, for Scots, having been voted in by Scots. Scotland is a small country with a very narrow economy and a huge social dependency upon a very bloated welfare state. Their only major hope lies in the non-renewal of nuclear arms and the quite preposterous idea that they should - by some kind of assumed right - lay claim to the entire reserves of North Sea oil.

Let’s rid ourselves of Scotland. Tear down the Union Jack. Build Hadrian’s Wall back up if they like – whatever works for them. But it is clear to me that we cannot go on allowing them to dictate the terms of government, drain us dry and keep their irreparable barrier in place of what we want to take place in the halls of Westminster.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Empty Cupboards and Paint Pots

We are now hours away from polling - nearer destruction and ruin or salvation depending upon your perspective. I've parked my political musings for now as I frankly have had enough of criticising Gordon brown and Nick Clegg, however easy and therapeutic that particular pastime is. I cannot place my faith in the British public - after all it was they who gave us Tony Blair and the X Factor - but at least I can rest in the knowledge that it will soon be out of all of our hands.

One thing I did want to touch on though is the thorny issue of public spending. I read one irate member of the public ranting about cuts be likely if certain parties got into power. Perhaps the biggest achievement of Gordon Brown's time in government is that he has hoodwinked people into the assertion that the more you spend the more you get...

Several problems with this theory. Firstly, you have to have the money - we haven't got it anymore. There is double the deficit there was fifteen years ago, despite all the taxes, and the economy is in a tender state of recovery which means there is little in the way of a reserve pot from which to draw. Secondly, you have to assume that the people in power spend it wisely - this rarely happens. Money is often allocated to administration and beaurocracy. Or, in the case of late, for laptops to poorer families so they can do their homework. Thirdly, even if the money is dispatched to a needy cause, it then falls into the realms of "management" - in other words anything from a Quango or a Civil Servant to a pfi team to an NHS manager to decide what to do with it. The less said on this one the better.

So for every hard earned pound, there is a great chance that seventy or even eighty pence of it will be frittered away into the system. Let's face it, if someone told you that they would spend your wages for you, would you be happy? No, didn’t think so...

Anyway, my hope is that the socialists will be voted out and we can save our reserves back up again. On that note, I'm off to do some painting whilst I can still afford it...

Saturday, 1 May 2010

I don't read newspapers...

I don't read newspapers.

I don't have the time or the inclination. News is so instant now that the papers simply act as a source of conjecture and subjection. I am fully able to achieve such things myself (I don't even enjoy the speculative approach of the BBC and Sky, but there we are).

I have always liked the idea of reading the papers though. This is something that has been formulated by an invisible world I had thought to exist before the realities of life eroded such thoughts away. I had anticipated that I would spend a couple of days a week sitting in the first class carriage of a train resembling a cross between the Hogwarts Express and the Mallard Locomotive from London to Edinburgh (why that particular route, I’m not quite sure), sipping filtered coffee and eating boiled eggs with bread soldiers with a rich quality parchment copy of The Times on my private table (broadsheet of course). Quite whether or not I had envisaged wearing a bowler hat during these excursions, I cannot recall. Those days where I would not be required to make this celebrated journey, I would be sitting in the morning room (yes, that’s right, the morning room) of my self-designed country mansion, where my butler, Hibberd, would fetch me The Times and a plate of fresh kippers.

It still remains an attractive proposition and one that almost leads me to rummage through my old boxes to locate my architectural drawings that I created during Mr Waller's Latin classes. Perhaps if I had paid more attention to Vergil's Aeneid, or whatever it was, I would now be a wealthy barrister with a smidgen of a chance of replicating my quite ludicrous fantasy, but still, I'll keep hammering away on the door of chance...

If I had managed to retain my concentration and had successfully embarked upon a career as a lawyer, or more likely had selected the correct six numbers on the first ticket going, then I do wonder quite what I would have been doing reading The Times in the first place. Not that there is anything wrong with The Times of course. I dare say it is better than it's militant rival The Guardian and more substantial than The Telegraph, not to mention any of the tabloids. It's just that I can’t imagine being bothered to read the thing on a frequent basis. After all, if I had a butler, I would simply ask him to keep me informed of the news (the fantasy was formed long before the internet took off, let alone the powers of social media took precedent) or turn the television on. The distractions strewn throughout my huge estate would be far too great to waste time reading the latest political events of the day when I could be swimming in my indoor pool, or utilising the computerised bowling machine in my cricket nets. You get the idea...

N.B For those of you who are interested in the drawings, I also created an eight-tiered two-hundred thousand all-seater stadium for Tottenham Hotspur in the mid-nineties called "The Octagon" and sent the plans to Alan Sugar. I never did receive a reply...