And as a bonus, daughter Olaf and the Mrs will be able to get hot water for their showers. Those of us who remember the, post rugby, freezing showers we were forced to take at Warwick School with some old master perving at us all in the pretence that he had to ensure that we went home clean for our parents, do not need hot water. By the time the stuff has arrived up at the hovel in largely metal pipes it is already a lot warmer than those Warwick showers of old.
But we now have a solar panel parked out in the snakefields which heats our water. How fecking green is that? It gets better, the humanure pits are now almost built (they are complete on three sides, with well crafted stonework, but await wooden slats at the front and a net on top to keep out the wildlife. But the first "deposit" in the pits has already been made and with daughter Olaf already having used the eco-loo we are now just three years away from the first black earth to feed my olive trees. I shall spare you a photo of the deposit but will update you when the pits are complete.
It does not end there. At the end of the project we will install PV cells elsewhere in the snakefields to ensure that we can generate all the power we need. How fecking green is that?
My father has been watching the rugby like a hawk. Here in Greece I have been unable to watch but have kept in touch via the internet and calling my father after each game. Now this may not go down well with England supporters but in an Irish supporting family it was a perfect team as both our favourite teams won.
The "Old Country" defeated Wales. That has been a bad fixture for us for a while and in recent years my father and I have found ourselves exchanging the comment "at least that will make Olaf happy" after the final whistle. My daughter has a Welsh speaking mother, Big Nose, and is a strong nationalist. But this year we had no need for that consoling thought. Incidentally I loved this tweet from BBC Sport
Get Involved - There seems to be glowing sunshine in every part of the United Kingdom today, apart from Dublin. So where are you watching from? Send me your pictures on #bbcsixnations
You don't need to be a lifelong supporter of Irish Republicanism to see the flaw in that tweet but perhaps some basic history lessons might be helpful at the State funded fake news channel.
As for the other team whose victory we cheer? Our second team is, of course, anyone playing the Old Enemy. So there were cheers in both Shipston and Kalamata as Scotland put England to the sword. The win is all the more pleasant becuase of the pre-match swagger and arraogance olf the England team, manager and supporters. Pride, as they say,...
Next up for the men in Green it is Scotland in Dublin. Win that and the championship is almost in sight...
As a lifelong supporter of Ulster and Irish Rugby I was this weekend celebrating a famous and thrilling win in Paris. My father said he could almost not bear to watch the final minutes but he managed it and was euphoric.Our brave lads were led out by skipper Rory Best of Ulster but if you check out social media you will see that in the run up there was a most hateful campaign against Best. His "crime?"
Two Ulster and Ireland team-mates Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding are on trial for an alleged rape. A third man, former Ulster Academy player Blane McIlroy, is charged with indecent exposure, while ex-UCD and Belfast Harlequins player Rory Harrison is accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information. All four men deny the charges.
On Wednesday on his day off Best and Ireland second-row Iain Henderson and Ulster team-mate Craig Gilroy attended the trial in Belfast. And that is Best's "crime".
I am in no doubt that if the men are found guilty Best will condemn them. But justice used to mean that the accused were presumened innocent until proven guilty and these men, mates of Best's, protest their innocence. I would hope that if a friend of mine insisted he was innocent of a crime I would support and stand by him (or her) until a verdict was reached at which time I would re-assess my position.
But apparently while those who accuse men of rape are guaranteed anonymity - however spurious or malicious the claim is established to be in the end - those who stand charged are named and, in the current climate of #Metoo, must be shunned because guilt rather than innocence is assumed.
There was a chap on the BBC saying yesterday that as Hollywood pourges the predators there will be innocent victims ( i.e. men falsely accused whose careers are ruined) but that this is a price worth paying. Is it really acceptable to condemn a man to shame and professional ruin without any sort of trial but just becuase he stands accused of an awful offence? This is the direction that #MeToo is heading as Rory Best has discovered to his cost.
As he led his team to a famous win I hope that all of Ireland was proud of him for he has done nothing wrong at all other than stand up to the madness of ( largely and predictably, social media) crowds and show a commendable loyalty to his friends who are still, under law, presumed, as they plead, innocent..
Driving through the Warwickshire villages where I spent my teens, as I have gone to and from the hospital, it is hard not to feel some nostalgia for the old place. The same music blares from my car as it did 30 and a bit years ago and at least I am starting to formulate the play list for my 50th birthday early next year.. The Mrs is not going to like it. She is far more George Michael than Jon Bon Jovi.
Each day I have driven past Warwick school, where I have some unresolved business, I note an email sent to OWs about two rugger matches at Twickenham today. Both the U15s and and the U18s are in the national schools cup final.
For a school that excels a musc and the arts also to be so strong at rugby and also cricket is pretty amazing and I shall be following the results closely.
I wonder if they still have the old school song? Floreat, floreat schola Warwicensis? Here's hoping they do today.
Too scared to actually go and use a pair of scales I measure how fat I am by what sized trousers I can fit into and also just how I, as a diabetic, I feel. If I am falling asleep in the afternoon that is bad. If I am full of beans that is good. This week saw a trouser test and I was amazed by the results.
For reference I was 32 inch waist aged 18 and again at the height of my rugby career aged 32 and once more when everything went wrong and I spent a summer walking around Greek and Albanian mountains pondering what to do with life. At peak fat I was a 44 inch waist. 34 inches is a size which shows that I am in good shape. And so I thought about it and decided to be realistic and try on a 38 inch pair..
Bugger me, they were just ridiculously loose. That was a very pleasant surprise indeed. And so I tried on a 36 inch pair expecting that I would have to breathe in and that after wearing them for a day i would be a high falsetto. But no, they are a comfortable fit. In fact almost a little bit on the loose side. I am a 36. That really is very good news indeed as I contemplate my next appointment with the diabetic quack.
A month or so house-building in Greece and I am confident that I shall be back at 34. As a perennial battler with weight and a man who worries about it greatly, the trouser test has cheered me up massively.
And so we entered what George the Albanian said would be the final day of the 2016 olive harvest at the Greek Hovel. The final trees were those around the house which had received special care from me in the summer and so I hoped for a good day. But it started badly with George, his women and me trooping off to the far corners of the hovel to collect sacks full of olives.
They were not full at 50 kg but almost full so must have been 40 kg each. Carrying those things slung over your shoulder over 300 yards of rocky terrain was no bundle of laughs. It reminded me of that exercise in rugby training when you used to have to fireman's lift a team mate for half the pitch before he lifted you for half a pitch. Being a forward I always got paired with another hefty fellow. But that was 50 flat yards and then you got carried before doing a gentle 100 yard sprint. And I was 30 then. I am 48 now. Four of five of these runs and even the women were breathing heavily. I was in a bad state and it was not yet 9 AM.
Mid morning came light relief. George had loaded up his truck with 25 bags. And we headed off to Kambos where strapping young men unloaded the truck. as you can see the Kambos press was buzzing with activity. The Cop from Kardamili nick, the shepherd, the whole world was there.
I have had an on off battle with my weight for forty years. 2016 has not been my best year. The scores on the doors as we head through September are Fat 8 TW 1. Giving up smoking on February 15th was a great thing to do but I put on a few pounds in the Spring. In May and June I worked hard in the fields at the Greek hovel and managed to shed much of the post smoking gain. Since then, comfort eating, and the odd cider, with a bereaved father and with a pregnant wife has been bad news indeed. But enough is enough. The fight back is underway.
The presence of my in-laws is not helpful since I am constantly offered very pleasant South Indian food and also chocolate. But they depart tomorrow and at that point i am the master of the kitchen and shall cook nice food for the Mrs but restrict myself to a spartan diet.
I know this is not terribly PC in that I should take no responsibility at all for my own weight and instead rely on an army of state funded counsellors to help me all the way while insisting that it is my human right to have the NHS fit a gastric band. But I am no slave to political correctness so I am taking responsibility for my own body and have also joined a gym.
In my early thirties I worked out three days a week and either trained or played rugby on three other days. On the seventh day I would rest with a game of tennis or a swim. But that was a long time ago. By the time, yesterday afternoon, that I had walked 600 yards to the gym owned by Perry, the flagbearer for our local Tories, I was already feeling that I had done enough. But Perry greeted me with a smile and I did my own workout for an hour surrounded by half a dozen incredibly muscular men. This is a "man's" gym that I appear to have joined.
Perry is in good form as we discussed how both Labour Councillors for our part of Bristol have now been suspended by the People's Party for being nasty about those who opposed comrade Corbyn. But the main task at hand is dealing with my weight. There is no time for gloating at the chaos and mutual hatred amomg the Comrades.
Today, Perry took charge and I did a session of his own creation. Climbing back up the hill afterwards I wondered if I would make it home at all. But I did and now have 24 hours to recover before tomorrow's session which Perry has already planned. It is now 81 days to the olive harvest in Greece and I have two stone to shift and my upper body muscles to sort out. Wish me luck.
Mr Jeffries, a grammar school boy, seems convinced that many rugger players are toffs and thus manages to get in several paragraphs about Eton. The only minor issue with this approach is that because of the Wall Game and rowing, rugger is a relatively minor sport at Eton. To lambast rugger as a game which most public schools in England play would be accurate if rather pointless but to single out the one major public school where rugger does not dominate the winter term, is just the Guardian way. Never let facts get in the way of a spot of Eton bashing with a dose of Call Me Dave abuse thrown in for good measure.
For the record I am no particular fan of Eton or of Call Me Dave but facts do matter.
And that brings me to the author's insistence that at his grim North Midlands grammar school, as a Number 8, he was forced to bind onto the two second rows by sticking his hand between their legs, rubbing past their testicles and grabbing their shirt. At length he describes the homo-erotic nature of this encounter.
My father was a No 8 and at one point in my career, as a just over 35 member of a veterans team where the scrum had an average age of almost 60, I also played across the back row for my (relative) speed. The problem with the Guardian article is that what it says is just not true. A number 8 sticks his head between the two inside legs of the second row players and his shoulders push them forward at buttock level. He will bind by reaching his arms around their waist to grab the shirt. This means he is holding the scrum together and applying forward momentum.
The Guardian binding method would see the No 8 pulling the second rows down and would also prevent them from pushing forward for obvious reasons. And so this is complete fiction. I can only assume that Mr Jeffries is suffering some sort of partial memory loss as he endeavours to re-write a childhood spent in the grim frozen welfare safaris, or possibly that his coach at his North Midlands grammar was a predatory nonce. Or perhaps the Guardian just seeks to give cheap thrills to its many readers who would never have dreamed of playing rugger themselves but rather fancy the idea of a muscular man sticking his thick forearm between their legs?
It is my father who draws my attention to this Guardian article which - as a Number 8 but also, at one brief stage, head of rugby coaching at Eton College -annoyed him greatly. I do not read the Guardian at all and did so on this occassion simply as a service to you dear readers. For it is an appalling publication and I celebrate news yesterday that 100 of its employees are to be fired this week.
As to my father, I would have thought that by now, aged 78, that he would have learned that at the BBC's sister publication, truth is a rare commodity and that every page is bad for the blood pressure. Surely, it is time for one ageing No 8 to come out of the closet and admit it...the Daily Telegraph really is his partner of choice.
A lifelong hater of Rugby, Professor Allyson Pollock of Queen Mary College London has gathered together 70 doctors and academics calling for rugby in schools to be played without tackles or scrums, without physical contact. They cite data which the media - notably BBC Radio 4 - is just too lazy to expose as utterly bogus.
Prof Pollock has calculated that from a sample she has taken a student playing 15 rugby matches in a season has a 28% chance of being injured. Most injuries, she asserts, come from impact collissions. And so she thinks that if 1 million kids start playing rugger as the RFU and IRFU want, across Britain and Ireland, there will be 300,000 unneccessary injuries a year.
So the quacks and teachers want folks to play contact free rugby until they are 18. As someone who played from 11 to 33 and a bit thereafter, I ask what is the point? That is the challenge made by John Humphries on Radio 4 today and by the mainstream media in general. And it is a fair one but had they not been quite so lazy they might have also picked this silly bint up on her data and just put her and the lazy doctors and lefty fun-hating academics to the sword at once.
Data from the biggest US study of students playing inter-school sports from 11 to 18 showed that during one season 25% of baseball players would get injured with 45% feeling severe arm pain. 22% of soccer players would also pick up an injury. It reckoned that of the 7 million kids playing inter-school sports in the 2005-6 season 1.4 million (that is 20% ) would pick up an injury.
The fact is that sport is always something that causes injury. In my rugby career I was concussed twice and played on knowing that if I got a third concussion Id call it a day. I suffered really bad ankle injuries. But the same ankle also got scorched playing basketball.
If Prof Pollock wants to stop the 300,000 injuries the only way is just to ban sport full stop. Wrap the kids up in cotton wool, give them vast amounts of Dunkin Donuts to eat and Karl Marx to read and no-one is going to get injured at all. What a brave new world that would be.
Big Nose, the mother of my Welsh speaking daughter, has obtained this exclusive photo of the English rugby squad to show that they are all ready for the Rugby World Cup quarter finals. The Celtic party continues.
I am not sure that I could place Fiji on a map of the world. I know sweet FA about the Country. But that does not really matter. Fiji is playing England at rugby tonight.
And thus like folks across Wales, Scotland and God’s chosen country of Ireland for tonight “I am a Fijian”. There are only two teams I support in this World Cup. Naturally my first team is Ireland. And my second? Whoever is playing the Old Enemy. Call it childish if you wish but it is in the blood. And across the Celtic lands nearly everyone feels the same way.
That I have to endure this match while in England is not pleasant. I suspect I shall watch at home since I fear an English win, but should Fiji be ahead with just a few minutes to go I shall rush up to the Conservative Club to relish the final moments with Englishmen in pain. That would be a double delight.
The great day of reckoning arrives and as I wander along the road towards the Pearly Gates I catch up with my father who with his stick and poorly knee has been making slow progress. We chat and before long we meet up with St Peter.
Inside heaven we can see that it is just like Donegal in the summer. Green, wild but stunning. There is Brian O’Driscoll chatting away amiably with Darina Allen who is cooking up an amazing supper for all. Seamus Heaney is reading poems to Michael Collins. It is a free land. But St Peter shakes his finger and says that my father and I have been found wanting. I think that it is a bit harsh on the Old Man but accept that I have sinned and St Peter ushers us down a little path with a sign marked Purgatory.
As we prepare to enter Purgatory we can hear from inside drunken fools baying about Chariots while other imbeciles belt out the greatest hits of Max Boyce. I feel a tap on the shoulder and it is St Peter. Fear not he says, suffering the unbearable crowing of both English and Welsh rugby supporters on the same day will not last long. You are only in purgatory for a short while. I smile. But then St Peter adds, it will just feel like eternity.
In the days of my youth the, then, five nations was about playing for a mythical triple crown or a mythical Grand Slam. Being the “Champions” did not come into it. And so for me this year’s event is really over. I hope that Ireland beats Scotland but I do not care about mathematical permutations as to who is Champion? The era of league tables is modern rugby, a business not a sport.
In my youth Ireland only ever competed seriously for the mythical wooden spoon. Occasionally at a windswept and rain sodden Lansdowne Road our grim pack of forwards would grind out a surprise win against somebody. Just now and again an Ollie Campbell or a Tony Ward would emerge and we might run in the odd try from the backs and allow ourselves to dream.
But Irish rugby has historically been about dreaming, about heroic failure and defeat. The modern era has been a bit of a shock to us all. And so 2015 will be forgotten quickly. We put the arrogant Old Enemy to the sword in Dublin which is always a good thing but in the end we waited 60 years for my father’s second Grand Slam and it is those sort of events that I count my rugby life by.
As to my daughter who has been brought up by her Welsh speaking mother Big Nose to become a total cottage burner, the post-match text was really not appreciated. Beating me at table football last week (being Welsh she cheated) was bad enough, but crowing about the rugby is really very poor form.
My dear daughter, I understand that you and your mother have a chip on your shoulder because you and your countrymen remain the colonial servants of the English and come from a nation of welfare-addicted dwarves who must blame their servility and poverty on everyone but themselves and are thus naturally bitterly jealous of a free and proud nation such as Ireland. I understand that the nation that regards as its cultural icons Shirley Bassie, Aled Jones, Max Boyce and Ruth Madoc from Hi Di Hi, naturally suffers a chronic inferiority complex when it thinks of the nation that produced Wilde, Joyce, Behan, Beckett, Heaney and of course Saint Bob Geldoff.
My dear daughter, and Big Nose, I know that as Islington based Welshies you have romantic notions of life back home but that your hearts must sink every time the train passes the Severn Bridge and you gaze out on estates of grim social housing, where the kids have no shoes, on deserted mines, steel works and on factories that lie empty. And that you wish that your vassal colonial outpost could boast the glories of the wild untamed mountains, fields and bogs of God’s chosen land.
But really, is this any way to treat your old Dad?
PS If that text was not from you I am sure that Big Nose was crowing anyway and I still have not come to terms with the table football.
I could not bring myself to find somewhere to watch the match even online but it seems that it is a happy St David’s day for the Celtic world as the Old Enemy have been put to the sword in Dublin 19-9. And it is clear that the result was not unfair. It gets better….
Before the game the English press was full of talk of how if England win they will go onto win the Grand Slam and now the World Cup. It is that conceit and swagger of English Rugby that binds the Celtic nations together in supporting anyone who plays England.
So once again the Wheels have come off the Chariots as the men in green march on. Come on lads, my father waited 66 years to see his second Irish grand slam, let’s make it just 12 months for his third. Sadly my phone is dead so I cannot enjoy what is becoming an almost annual ritual of calling my Ulster born Aunt Valerie Booker to share in the joy. She will no doubt be having an extra Bushmills and teasing Uncle Chris as I write. Have fun!
My rugby thoughts this weekend are naturally focussed on matters in Dublin but the Six Nations kicks off tonight in Cardiff with a battle of two of the minor teams and there are four very good reason why I shall support the sheep shaggers as they do battle with the English.
1. My daughter, though only half Welsh. is turning into a card carrying cottage burner and it will give her great pleasure if Wales win. And that will make me happy.
2. One should always support our Celtic brethren against the old Enemy.
3. In fact one should always support absolutely anyone against the old Enemy.
4. Wales supporters are unbearable in victory but so too are English rugby supporters. Since I live in England I shall only have to suffer a modicum of online Welsh triumphalism should Wales win but will enjoy the mass displeasure of England supporters first hand. An English triumph reverses that equation and would thus be far less pleasurable for me.
You may remember that my shower arrangements at the Greek Hovel are somewhat rudimentary. I attach a picture of the shower, aka a hose pipe dropping down from the vine on the "snake terrace."
In the summer it is great. The water comes up the hill in metal pipes and so arrives at a perfect temperature and showering is real pleasure. But now it is winter. It is almost zero at night. So what to do?
Well it brings back memories of Warwich School for boys. After rugby it was a compulsory shower watched over by an unmarried master who paid close attention to ensuring we all showered. The less said abiut that the better. But the showers were always freezing and you just sort of ran in at one end and out at the far end as soon as you could.
And so it is at the Greek hovel. Put it this way, with the Mrs not here I feel no compulsion to shower every day. But after a few days needs must. This morning, nursing a stinking hangover, it was almost therapeutic. That is not to say that it was enjoyable.
As to the hangover, well it was my friends in Kambos who led me astray again: Nikko, George and Vangelis. All three felt some concern about my ability to bike home and so it was agreed that Vangelis - who had only had about 12 ouzos - would give me a lift in his car up the winding mud track to the hovel. Fear not...I am not drink driving!
I told God that I did not mind West Ham losing as long as Ireland won in Paris yesterday and so won the Six Nations Championship. And God played ball. West Ham were stuffed at Stoke and Ireland scraped home. My stomach was in knots for the whole game, it was agony but in the end Brian O’Driscoll went out as he deserved with a win.
My thoughts as the match dragged on were of a game in Rome a few years ago. Ireland thumped Italy but knowing that the Championship would be decided on points tried for that extra score and Italy got a freak try. We then sat down to watch France vs. Scotland and with last gasp points France did enough to deprive Ireland of the Championship. It was agony. No doubt as the England team and supporters watched events unfold yesterday they felt the same agony.
Good. So much for their swagger and arrogance, the Old Enemy were deprived. That made Ireland’s win all the more enjoyable.
For once France “turned up” but Ireland were the better side and deserved to win. I am not sure that I understand how the rules of rugby have changed. Apparently a forward pass can now count as a backward pass in some circumstances but the pass for the last minute French disallowed try was a mile and a half forward. Another French try should have been disallowed and Johnny Sexton’s kicking was a bit off. Ireland were the better side on the day and over five matches the best side in the Championship. BOD was inspirational throughout. But it is our forwards who are magnificent.
I may, again, sound like an old fart but the modern scrum baffles me. Why does it always collapse? Why were both Ireland and France not penalised for feeding and “foot up” throughout the game. It just baffles me. I just do not understand the rules of rugby at all these days.
But who cares? Mrs C Booker, a good woman of Ulster, was on her second celebratory Bushmills by the time I called and was on top of the world. Mr Chris Booker had gritted his teeth and showed Euro-solidarity by rooting for the Froggies and was a bit disgruntled but it was his wife not he with who joy could be shared. We do not win things often at a National level in Ireland so when we do, it is time to celebrate. We can ponder life without BOD later.
Inevitably I start this weekend’s video postcard with the Rugby. I am sure that most of my English based readers were cheering for France yesterday. To my Celtic brethren who were rooting for Ireland – I am sure that you can share my joy. Gosh it was nerve wracking.
I then move onto the mysteries of my dead Great Uncles. If there is anyone out there who can track down Diana Norman, born 1915 who married (after the death of my Great Uncle Francis) a Mr Caulfield Stoker in 1947 (he then popped his clogs in Guernsey in 1954) I would be grateful. I can find no death certificate for Diana who would be 99 now but for reasons explained in the video and this article I am keen to track her down.
I then move onto Bob Crow. I celebrate no death. Equally I do not mince my words and Crow screwed the poor working classes and that should be noted rather than simply eulogising Saint Bob.
This is a wider issue: how and why the left systematically keep the working classes poor and that this the main theme of this video.
My weekly financial video covers shareholder activism a major theme of UK Investor Show which is now a day less than three weeks away. Tickets start to go out tomorrow. If you have not booked please do so at once HERE
My new Welsh friend Paul emails me before the Ireland match to say that he is rooting for Italy as part of some diabolical calculation allowing his beloved sheep-shaggers to win the Six nations Championship. Hmmmmm.
Despite a catalogue of errors Ireland utterly routed Italy yesterday. It was an emotional Dublin send off for Brian O’Driscoll, the greatest ever Ireland player. My father and I watched and as BOD was interviewed post match, the emotion poured over in Shipston-on-Stour as I am sure it did in every outpost of the diaspora. The way the points stack up, barring some utter freak, if Ireland can manage to defeat the hit or miss Froggies in Paris, the Championship is ours. Surely God wishes to reward his loyal servant BOD thus?
And now to Wales vs. England. For me there are no diabolical calculations. Indeed shame on you Paul for thinking that way. Paul says that he is so excited about today’s game that he cannot sleep. I would suggest that he tries counting sheep. But I guess that might make him even more excited. I digress.
I can put aside the fact that the mother of my daughter (Big Nose) will be sitting at home munching nuts nervously as she roots for Wales. I am beyond that for I also know that my daughter will be dressed in a Welsh jersey or National dress, belting out the National Anthem, passionately roaring on the men in red.
This is a simple matter. The Old Enemy are playing. Thus naturally my mind is wired to support the other side. I do not feel this way about soccer – in Ireland’s absence I will cheer for England in the World Cup for as long as its campaign lasts which will not be very long. I gather that England are 33-1 to win the World Cup. For those who do not understand betting that means that if you wager £10 on England you will lose £10.
No, this is just a rugby thing. I think of the swagger and arrogance of England sides before. I think of bloody Will Carling or Jeremy Guscott. I think of England fans singing “Swing Lo” as they assume they will always win. I think of a match at Lansdowne Road many years ago during the troubles when some pompous oaf behind my father and I brayed in a drunken slur “Oh I do wish the Irish would make a match of it.” I think of Sir Clive Woodward. My blood is boiling already. If the England Rugby Team was playing the Hamas XV I would naturally be rooting for the islamofascist nutters.
And Wales are our Celtic Cousins as well as the team supported by my daughter. Paul is starting to think like Sir Clive Woodward and should be ashamed. For him and for me the teams you support are:
1. Wales/Ireland 2. Anyone playing against England 3. Your Celtic Cousins (with Scotland ranked marginally below Wales & Ireland in the Celticness stakes). 4. The underdog (to assist with France vs Italy) - small nations should back the underdogs.
Follow that simple matrix and you know exactly who you will be cheering for in any six nations match. On that basis “C’mon Wales.”
My poor cats, they must be getting culturally confused. Tara & Oakley were born in the Isle of Man although like 99% of Manx Cats they have full tails. Rescued by me from the MSPCA they then came over to England with me but having to watch me heaping abuse on England whenever the rugby is on. So are we Irish daddy?
Of course on Sunday they will suffer extra confusion as this household stands shoulder to shoulder with our Celtic brothers in Wales. Come on the sheep shaggers please put the old enemy to the sword. Humiliate them!
But the confusion gets worse for in taking them to a new vet for their booster jabs the Mrs made the appointment. Being a deluded lefty, the Mrs is not Mrs Winnifrith but has retained her own (Indian) surname. What say you? Political correctness gone mad?
As such the cats have come back with a form showing that they too now have an Indian surname. Born Manx, naturalised English, adopted Anglo Irish and now finally Indian. Such is the melting pot that is Britain today but it is understandable if Tara and Oakley are this morning feeling a little culturally confused.
Incidentally the vet said both cats were in great nick although Oakley (the one with three legs) was a little on the plump side and could do with a bit more exercise. Plus ca change on that front.
Whatever one things about the sheep shaggers, and as I explained in Friday I have mixed feelings, an evening match at the Millennium Stadium has a world beating atmosphere. It was a wonderful night. Wales played well, France were abject. I returned to Bristol rather worse for wear on the last train.
Worse was to come with Ireland against the Old Enemy. I really do loathe the swagger of English rugby with a passion. I loathed it when I wore the green jersey of London Irish and remembered the off the ball comments. I loathe the arrogance when they win. So losing a match that was incredibly tight really hurt. Had that England hand in the maul 3 minutes before the end been spotted it would have been a penalty and a draw. Such is life.
England can still win the Triple Crown if they defeat Wales. Needless to say I am 100% behind our Celtic cousins for that match. I stand shoulder to shoulder with my daughter on that one. The Championship is wide open. If Ireland continue to play as we have done and France are as abject as they were against Wales then BOD might get the send-off he merits. We have the points advantage going into the last two games and the Italy match should add to that. We shall see, it is all to play for.
If Ireland do not win then may it be Wales. Or France.
As to the soccer, another good win for West Ham. Yes one goal was offside but a 3.1 win was deserved. Now on 31 points we are not out of the woods yet and away at Everton next - can we nick a point?. Win that one and some daylight starts to appear between the Irons and the drop zone. As things stand it really looks like Fulham, Cardiff and one of the next nine to go down. You really cannot call it at this stage. But our fate is in our hands. Horseface is back from Suspension.
As an aside it was odd watching the QPR game in the Championship last night. I counted 5 West Ham old boys in the starting eleven. It is good to see that those Old Boys were as hapless for QPR as they were for us.
Last week I expressed my shock that Ireland and West Ham had both won on the same day and wondered when this happened last? You see, I am used to supporting sporting sides that are just not very good. Well blow me down Ireland and West Ham have now both put in back to back wins on the same day – when did that happen last?
For Ireland it was a home game against Wales. Such occasions usually prompt a post-match call between my father and myself “At least Olivia will be happy.” My daughter is like her mother (Big Nose) a proud Welshie. But not this time.
Ireland were ruthlessly efficient and made Wales (who are not hopeless) look just ordinary. The pack lead by Paul O’Connell was magnificent at the lineout, with the rolling maul and in all aspects of secondary play. The scrums were a bit of a mess but overall it was a powerful display. Throw in the kicking of Sexton and the tackling of the backs – and their strength under the high ball - and Ireland looked really good.
Next up is the Old Enemy at Twickenham. England also looked good yesterday but that was against a Scottish side that was truly dreadful. If you lose nearly all of your own lineouts and give away penalties you will never win rugby matches. As a hooker myself I have some sympathy when a lineout goes awry but Scotland’s was a shambles. It was not that England were just beating Scotland to the ball but that the ball was being thrown anywhere, almost at random. In my prime (London Irish, Wild Geese) I threw better than that. Notwithstanding how useless Scotland were, England are a good side so the next outing will be tough.
For West Ham, a 2 nil win away at Villa despite not having Andy Caroll available as he serves a ludicrous three match ban. Two goals from Kevin Nolan did the trick and by all accounts the best team won. We are out of the relegation zone but the bottom half of the table is still incredibly tight. In theory, a win against Norwich at Upton Park on Tuesday could see the mighty Hammers up to 10th. Yes I know we would need to win 4 nil but let me dream for a day.
What matters is the three points. Norwich at home is the sort of game we need to win because safety is still at least 4 wins and a draw away. Somehow there is confidence back in the side. Happy days.
As you might have gathered, teams that gain my support on the sports field can rarely be described as consistent models of success. West Ham, Northants CC, Ireland & Ulster at rugby, Eire at football and England at Cricket. The less said about the last on that list the better – for now I have decided that supporting the England women’s cricket team is less painful.
My big loves are, for my sins, Irish rugby and West Ham. For the former I can blame my father. For the latter I have only myself to blame. But this weekend both Ireland and West Ham won. I really cannot remember the last time this happened.
At this stage of the season I usually have a conversation with God on the matter of sport. Heavenly father, will you allow West Ham to avoid relegation and as a trade-off I will give you that Ireland will not win the six nations. But would you mind terribly if we won the Triple Crown? I sense that God is not really interested in such discussions (although why he should have anything against Irish rugby is beyond me, surely he cannot support England?) and thus Ireland will probably not win the Triple Crown and as for West Ham? If the appeal against the red card shown to Horseface (Andy Carroll) on Saturday is successful – as I think it should be – we actually looked like a half decent side.
Okay we are still in the 3rd relegation spot ( 18th) but in theory just one win would put us 11th The reality is that every side from 10th down (Villa who we play on Saturday on 27 points, five more than us) is a relegation contender. No side looks dead and buried so who will go down? Take your pick from (bottom of the table upwards) Fulham, Cardiff, West Ham, Palace, West Brom, Sunderland, Hull, Swansea, Stoke and Villa. None of those ten looks too good to go down and none of the ten look so abject that they really deserve to go down.
At both ends of the table the Premiership looks set to provide excitement to the wire with the added joy that Man United may well be missing out on a top four spot and European football next year.
As a footnote, at my daughter’s school all the kids bar two support Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal. The two exceptions are my daughter (a die-hard Hammer) and Jude who supports Spurs. I have some time for Jude for that, even if he is a Spurs supporter. I just wonder if there might be rather fewer “diehard Man U fans” next season?
As a second footnote from Upton Park on Saturday I relay a chant from whenever the Swansea No 8 touched the ball. This balding figure did bear a passing mention to “he who shall not be named” and thus when in possession the crowd immediately began singing “he’s coming for you, he’s coming for you, Harry Potter’s coming for you.”
Okay, it seemed funny at the time. I guess you had to be there.
Announced just before April 1st Paulo di Canio has been appointed the new manager of Sunderland on a 30 month contract. Good luck to him. He replaces Martin O’Neill whose managerial career seems to be heading rapidly south and who was fired after Sunderland’s most recent defeat. The team now lies just 1 point ahead of Villa and in form Wigan and the last relegation spot. If di Canio can turn this around he will be a hero. And it should not take much. Both Villa and Newcastle who are a place above Sunderland look pretty useless. Wigan are useless but always seem to escape the drop.
Di Canio has seven games to secure two wins and a couple of draws and ensure safety. Naturally I now hope that he manages to save his side from the drop (unless it is at the expense of West Ham who still need one more win). In response, David Miliband has announced that he is quitting the board in protest at di Canio’s “past political views.” That would be the David Miliband who is also quitting his poor constituents because he fancies earning loads of wonga in New York. Di Canio is a well-known anti-racist campaigner. Admittedly he is also a great admirer of Mussolini and Fascism, a philosophy rooted not (like Nazism) in concepts of racial purity but in the idea of a big state which controls the economy and spends lots of money. A bit like the last Labour administration in which Miliband served.
I cannot see how Miliband added much to Sunderland’s board. As a London boy I am sure his support for the team was down to appealing to his constituents rather than a real passion. And the man was clearly happy for an excuse to sever another tie with the UK. I suspect that Miliband will be missed at the Wearside club almost as much as they will miss Martin O’Neill.
And sadly I am now resigned to Fat Sam Allardyce staying on at Upton Park after May for at least another two years.
The performance on Saturday by the Irons was exciting and attractive. But that has been the way this season. One game on and a couple off. It is not enough to get me to renew my season ticket. I may renew in a couple of years but £650 for 19 games when half of them are dire and I only manage to attend nine games (all of which are the dire ones) seems poor value for money.
I suppose that for a number of years I have felt less and less minded to renew my season tickets. The truth is that I have just fallen out of love with football. The rubbish talked by pundits as if it really mattered and the behaviour of the spoiled brats who play the game has just put me off. It seems as if the whole world revolves around the Premiership when in fact it is just some men kicking a ball. Those men and the pundits and whole circus involved live one one planet and expect "fans" who they treat with contempt to fund the lifestyle of that planet. It is all about money.
And becuase it is about money there is soccer played and rammed down our throats seven days a week. There was once upon a time an excitement of waiting for Saturday, for the big day. That has all gone. It is like being served Sunday lunch seven days a week. After a while it just becomes routine. There is no great excitement. I don't really care what happens any more.
It is not just soccer. Cricket is now a year round game. I lose track of which tournament England is playing in and why. I can't say that I give a damn about the result. It all blurs into one. I look at the Six Nations Rugby and even the bloody Boat race. Every match now needs a corporate sponsor and a trophy presented at the end. Who gives a toss about the trophy in the Wales Ireland game? There are so many trophies and medals handed out that their worth is devalued. In a forest of pointless silverware we almost forget the pleasure of just watching a great sporting battle.
And then, after every game, we suffer a grossly overpaid Clare or Gabby or someone else prattling on with soft questions for the professionals to be answered with cliches. Most of the sportsmen interviewed have not got two brain cells to rub together so a cliche is all that you will ever hear. And they know that if they actually say something interesting they will get in trouble so you hear platitudes and banalities only.
It is all about money. It is one great big industry. That I have to pay my part via the TV license fee is regrettable. But I can at least opt out of chipping in to the circus via a West Ham season ticket. I once played sport (rugby) very seriously. I also played competitive croquet but that is another matter. I played soccer quite a bit too. And cricket. Sport has been a core part of my life. But the disconnect with the professional world is just too large, it is time to let go and find an activity suitable for a middle aged man to participate in. Gardening?
I think sound and vision nailed once again. I am finally getting the hang of this. I am meant to be celebrating St Patrick’s Day with some Irish-for-a-day folk which means just mindless drinking. Since they were not Irish yesterday they will not understand why there is nothing to celebrate today. And so I may dodge that for some more writing. Pro tem here is the video postcard for this week
On the Agenda
The end of an era for Irish rugby –see also my sad thoughts on that HERE
My formative rugby years were in the 1970s watching on a black and white TV screen with my Dad. Why do we support the Men in Green is asked my Dad: they always lose? Well my father and I still support the men in green. He taught me to do so as his mother had taught him and we have had a great couple of decades. But it is over. The good times have officially ended and we return to what I consider normality. That is to say a battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
This season has been terrible. For the first 45 minutes against Wales we looked like world beaters. Since then it has been just dreadful. Frankly the Irish ladies team (who, I think, won their grand slam) have played with more passion and discipline and – at times – skill.
It is the end of an era. Not once have I had a chance to call Aunt Valerie (an Ulster woman) to share joy in a way that she cannot with her husband Uncle Chris, as Ireland have triumphed. Calls to my father have been sad as we wonder if those glory years – a twenty year period when Ireland were not good but great as opposed to the normal fare of brave also rans – are just over.
I am not even sure that I would describe Ireland as brave these days. Back in the 70s we would pray for the rain to poor down on Landsdowne Road. Keep it tight in the forwards and fight with passion, pray and hope. The late Moss Keane, Fergus Slattery, those were the days. In defeat those Ireland teams were brave.
And now? That the manager Declan Kidney has to go is without doubt. This has been the worst six nations in living memory and losing to both Scotland and Italy (though both sides are greatly improved) is shameful. And Brian O’Driscoll has now played his last game for Ireland. Injuries have taken their toll on his body and if he joins or even leads the Lions this summer I think sentiment will have won over reason. It should not have ended this way for a great servant of Irish rugby and, by all accounts, a good man.
I am told that there are a lot of good young players coming through. I hope so but the Irish side as it stands is quite simply not very good. It is poor. And it is not brave or disciplined either.
But as my father always says, at least Olivia will be happy. Wales have triumphed once again and my daughter’s mother (big nose) will have been screaming with joy. Deservedly so. And at least the swagger and arrogance that accompanies English rugby when it is on a roll has been destroyed today. The proud and boastful chariots have crashed. This is not chippy anti English sentiment just a comment about a certain aspect of English rugby.
But this is no consolation. For most of my adult life I have got a glimpse of what it must be like to support Chelski on their day. That is to say Ireland won games, won titles and we not only deserved to win but expected to win and to win by playing great rugby. But that era has been drawing to a close for a couple of seasons now. And now supporting Ireland is like supporting West Ham. I will never support anyone else but each season starts with a low expectation which the team I support with a passion will be almost certain to deliver on.
You were getting used to the scruffy look. Well both I and my blog have had a makeover today. Me? I am not in court for another libel trial. I am off to a City lunch in Chiswell Street as the guest of Nigel Wray. It is a sporting lunch. As there will no doubt be a lot of chatter about English rugby in triumphalist terms I shall have to bite my lip. Please can we talk about English cricket instead?
And TomWinnifrith.com – well what can I say? I hope that it is easier to read and easier to find your way around.
It is now easy to tweet or email a link to an article to all your mates and also to do the same via Reddit (not that I have the foggiest what Reddit is). I really would not discourage you from doing all three things. Go on…have a go.
I hope that you like the new look. The old one was okay to launch when this was just a sanity project for me. Now this blog is a central part of my life and I want it to look as smart as its owner.
The white bear in Shipston seems to be populated by folk who support Aston Villa and England. Given that we are on South Warwickshire that should be no great surprise but as a West Ham and Ireland support I have had enough. And it is going to get worse.
West Ham lost 2.1 and were useless. This is the third time this season that we have given hope of a kickstart to useless sides (Reading, Wigan and now Villa). I hope that we stay up although that is by no means guaranteed. But surely no-one can want another season of this nonsense. At the end of May Fat Sam’s contract is up and he has got to go. West Ham will finish this season between 12th and 18th and with two early cup exits to our name. Enough is enough.
At half time Ireland are trailing and our captain could not catch a cold at the North Pole. So much for the Lions Jamie. My father is earnestly praying for divine intervention at Church right now but I fear the worst and if we are to be vanquished by the Old Enemy I’d rather watch in misery alone than surrounded by cheering England supporters. What next?
Oh, my sister Tabby and her family (England, Man United and deluded on all matters) arrive for supper. I have a long list of restricted subjects which I am not allowed to mention but she has none, I am under orders not to respond on any matter.
Postscript: No rows with Tabby. I bit my lip once but all very amicable. Her husband opined that only aristocrats read the Daily Telegraph ( theirs is a Guardian reading household, natch) and I was unable to hold back then generally all peace and brotherly love.
Lo and behold a resurgent Wales beat the Froggies (who are now 0 from 2 but were pre tournament favourites), Scotland thrash Italy in what was meant to be the wooden spoon game and today’s match in Dublin could be the Championship decider. Although I would not rule the sheep shaggers (Welsh department) out yet.
England are, of course, the old enemy and when they arrive in Dublin full of swagger and arrogance as they do now, the desire for victory is greater than ever. And there is also the romance: in Brian O’Driscoll’s last season of six nations rugby might the men in green pull off a famous victory? If they play as they did in the first half against Wales they might win. Play as they did in the second half and there will be misery in Sheep Street, Shipston.
For I am back with my deluded lefty father and step mother. It is the former who brought me up to support “the Old Country.” For me tomorrow afternoon is a simple matter. Lunch. Then the White Bear to watch West Ham away at Villa. And shortly before 3 my father will arrive. I shall remove my West Ham hoodie to reveal an Irish shirt, we will switch bars and off we go.
My father has a dilemma. At 4 PM my step mum is preaching in Shipston Church. If Ireland are behind he will not want to watch and will head off to Church to pray for a BOD inspired comeback. If it is even Stevens he has assured my step mum that he will go to Church where he will pray earnestly for an Irish victory. So, I asked him: what if Ireland are 50 points ahead with 30 minutes to go: God vs. Pub, a chance to watch a famous victory with your son, the landlord ( also wearing green) and a bunch of miserable England supporters, or your second church service of the day? Hmmm. He admitted that would be a tough call. But it is – sadly – also an unlikely scenario.
The past few encounters between Ireland and Wales have not made my father and I terribly happy. Our parting words after each recent let down have been “at least Olivia will be happy”. The mother of my daughter Olivia is a Welsh speaker, a dyed in the wool cottage burner and I am sorry to say that she has led Olivia astray in that she also supports Wales with a passion. She kindly says that Ireland is her second team but in post match calls in recent years she has not been able to contain her glee. Ha!
Ireland were magnificent in the first half, er…less good in the second. Brian O’Driscoll was inspirational. The Old Country were deserved winners and I will be calling Olivia ( and her mother) later to discuss. I shall try not to crow with Olivia. With her mother there will be no such restraint.
I did note one English reporter on the news commenting that after England defeated the poor Scottish team that the English should have no worries about beating France to win the six nations. He seemed to assume that next week in Dublin was a given. Such is the arrogance and swagger of English rugby right now. A home win in Dublin next week would be all the sweeter for that.
My weekend has been spent walking in mid Wales. I needed a break from non-stop writing. And as always I am one who tries to be aware of local cultural sensitivities and so when in Wales…do as the Welsh do.
Hence on Saturday afternoon I sat down and watched the rugby. You thought I was going to make a cheap joke about sheep? Donkeys would be more apt. I refer to both the team my daughter Olivia supports to show loyalty to her mother (Wales) and to the team I support (to show loyalty to my father) Ireland. To Ireland first.
The game against South Africa could have been won. The visitors did not really turn up until half time. But I can tale very few positives from the game. The lineout was woeful until almost half time. The scrum looked insecure and the back line just did not look as if it could break through a determined defence. I accept that there were a string of players missing through injury and that a back line which had contained O’Driscoll and Kearney might have had a lot more bite. Having said that Kearney’s stand in was not bad. As for a pack without Paul O’Connell, the less said the better. The one positive is that Ireland’s new Jackie Charlton method of recruitment might just have found us a decent tight head prop in Michael Bent.
Five straight test defeats on the trot and Ireland look in pretty poor shape. As an aside why are we now always bringing Ronan O’Gara on for the last five minutes only? It may add to his tally of test caps but what is the point. Give him 20 minutes to make a difference or just move on. I would not be retiring him but these pointless switches in the last few minutes do not make me think any more highly of the incumbent management team.
As for Wales. They too were pretty piss poor against the Argies. But I sense that this was because the Pumas just played cracking rugby (bar a few too many handling errors) with utter commitment from the start not because Wales are as hopeless as some other Celtic nations we might mention. It was a joy watching the Argies play – there were real touches of skill and a desire to win a game by actually crossing the try line rather than just kicking for goal. On the form displayed on Saturday I’d back both Wales and Argentina to defeat Ireland but think both sides would have a chance against the Springboks. Indeed, Argentina will have their chance in Ireland shortly and I rather dread the outcome. With Scotland being routed by the All Blacks today it was a pretty miserable weekend for all the Celtic nations.
I think it is best to draw a veil on the matter without going into too much gory detail. It was just poor all round.
— Tom Winnifrith
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