Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Sometimes, just sometimes...

... I want to say what I think without having to justify it with endless, worthy argument. It's dangerous to do that, of course, in this day and age. We are all supposed to be reasoned and reasonable. Everyone has rights and they are to be respected whether or not they impinge on the rights of others.
Well, for the avoidance of doubt, I have reasoned arguments behind everyone of the following topical statements, available on request:

If your life choice is to weigh more than is medically recommended, you do not have the right to expect IVF treatment at tax payers expense which is proven to be markedly less effective. Lose some weight.

If your sexual imperative is to form a relationship with one of your own, thus biologically ruling out procreation, you cannot then claim that your lifelong desire is to have children and that the tax payer should inseminate you. Make your mind up. You are either gay or you want children.

If you commit murder, you cannot then claim insanity. That you may be insane can and may be medically diagnosed, but if the fact that your deliberate actions killed someone is proven in a court of law, justice must be served undiluted. Your condition, once identified, must be treated with kindness and sympathy. The latter, however, does not mitigate the former. Which ever way you look at it, the life of an innocent person has been snuffed out, so you are either a murderer or you are mentally unstable with a proven capacity for killing. Remorseful or not, the public require to be protected from you and most probably you need to be protected from yourself.

(Source: Admission Impossible, Channel 4, 9pm, Wed 30 Aug) If you place your child in the most exhausting and emotionally draining private school selection process, and that child then achieves a place at the school of her (and your) dreams through hard work and dedication, and achieving you a massive 40% means tested fees bursary to boot, do not then tell her you can't afford it. Figure it out first.

Everyone of us is born different (thank god) which therefore means that we all have different skills, talents and aptitudes which in turn result in differing levels of personal achievement. By any measure, these differences rule out any prospect of equality. True and pure equality cannot and does not exist. Get over it and stop trying to pretend it does. And stop trying to enforce your 'rights' as some sort of compensation for your shortcomings.

That's me done for now. As I say, reasoned argument is available on request for any of the above issues. (Only requests from Tommy G will be ignored!!)

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Could have told us, Wolfgang

I mentioned last night that Lara and I had a positively average trip to Vienna in Austria (with the exception of the 2hr long Robbie Williams concert). I have been wanting to write some thoughts down since we returned but have been a bit busy.

Anyway, if you are Austrian, or even German for that matter, you might want to scroll on down and save yourself some heartache. I am not entirely sure I can do this without being intemperate - what with our weekend being ruined and all that.

Lara and I are respectful travellers. We eat the food, we try to speak the language, we do some homework and we enjoy new customs. In return, we hope only that our hosts will acknowledge in some small way that we are trying, that we are different to the many inconsiderate tourists and that they might offer us the hand of friendship and help.

Our main gripe therefore is that pretty much everyone we came across was so damnably rude, and unhelpful. Throughout our three day stay, we came across only ONE polite and pleasant Austrian - a waiter at Cafe Mozart (quaint, I know!!). Our hotel room was dire. A Travelodge room is cleaner and more presentable. The reaction of our Receptionist was complete indifference. She eventually showed us some other rooms and with no other options, we took one. Shop keepers, ticket inspectors, waiters and even the tourist attraction attendants - unpleasant, impatient and rude.

The icing on the cake came as we tried to balance our cultural diet and attend a recital of Mozart's best bits. The tickets were sold to us on the clear understanding that a glass of champagne in the interval was included (you can see where this is going, eh!). So we stepped out into the bar at the interval, having enjoyed the music of the first half very much, only to be confronted by glasses of champagne on sale for 4 euros.

Well, on top of the rudeness of its residents, Vienna is horrifically expensive. No matter how hard we tried, and I promise we did, money just seeped out our wallet. Even washing your hands in a public loo cost 50 cents.

So, having endured two days of handing over vast quantities of money for overpriced services to unpleasant people, I kind of blew my top at the servile little creep who demanded more money for something I had already paid. Sadly that old Anglo-German battle of wills came to the fore, and they stood their ground. I demanded the manager (like a good little Englishman!) and roundly berated her for the entire interval.

I had ruined the evening and Lara was not pleased. The second half was less enjoyable and for my part, I spent it trying to figure out how to get revenge on the way out! In the event, I did nothing save telling her what I thought of her. I think I called her a "vile Austrian cheat", or something like that.

I'm not proud of myself and I regret it hugely. It soured our trip and didn't exactly enamour me to my wife, which of course got me even more irate. I had just had enough.

Another gripe concerns their complete disinterest in tourism and tourists. Their main antiquities are unkempt by any standards. There is little effort to create atmosphere or drama. The lawns of the Hapsburg Palace are just rough areas of grass. It is all just pretty crap really.

Worst of all, this is a major year for Vienna. It is the 250 anniversary of Mozart's birth. Thousands more people than normal are in town to celebrate that fact, and indeed it was a factor in my choosing Vienna in the first place. Vienna is on show more than ever but nothing is evident that shows Vienna cares. The airport is a building site, St Stephen's Cathedral is encased in scaffolding, the Belvedere was a mess and undergoing works, and absolutely nowhere will you see any acknowledgement that Mozart even existed, let alone that he makes the single biggest contribution to Vienna's notoriety and global reputation. Everything about the place, just shouted, "We don't care!"

All of which brings me to the final analysis. Why are the Austrians so bloody miserable and rude?

I sense a real issue over their German neighbours. One gets the feeling they think they are the posh bit of Germany. It either has to be an inferioirity complex or a superiority complex. What ever it is, it cannot be much fun being Austrian but speaking German. A nation should have its own language, no?

Also, as someone who has travelled in Eastern Europe relatively extensively, I found it notable that I required constantly to remind myself that I was in Vienna, and not much further East. Perhaps, that is the point, though. Maybe their heart is further East.

Austria's contribution to history makes fascinating reading, and now having met a few of them, I can see why. For the avoidance of doubt, they are less the benign, Alpine, strudel eating, opera lovers we think they are. They are a grumpy bunch with a bad attitude.

So save your time and money. St Petersburg, Prague, Berlin and Budapest are all more attractive, more friendly and less expensive and listening to Mozart in Vienna is just the same as listening to him at home.

Footnote: We arrived at Vienna airport as early as we dared on the way out. We checked in over 2 hours before the flight - only to discover that more than 100 people had beaten us to the door!! Ant and Dec were on our flight too!

Monday, 28 August 2006


As a special treat, I took my wife Lara to see Robbie Williams live in concert. Wishing to make a weekend of it, I was keen to go somewhere slightly more exotic than Milton Keynes.

Our first choice was Berlin, the city in which we met and fell in love, but the dates clashed with Lara's exams, so we settled on Vienna.

Our weekend was dominated by a fairly average experience of a City that really doesn't seem to give a shit, but Robbie was as good as you would expect.

I have to take a deep breathe before admitting to liking Robbie, but like him I / we do. He plays great pop music, he is an outstanding show man and entertainer and, now that he is more settled and mature, he is extending himself to a broader range of exciting musical genre. If Freddie Mercury can sing Radio Gaga and Barcelona in the same gig then Robbie can sing Angels and a Frank Sinatra classic.

He was a real star and it was a great concert - next time we might just go to Milton Keynes though!

Full Term

St Neots Town Crier 25 August 2006.

Four years hard work finally came to its finale this summer, culminating in a 2:1 Degree pass for my wonderful (mid)wife and a job offer at the local hospital in Huntingdon.

I have the utmost respect for anyone who goes back to academic study after 12 years. But for Lara it was a very natural and highly motivated move. She had harboured an instinct for nursing for a great many years (and you can keep your "she'd need to marrying you, Bailey" comments to yourself!), but having our own children established the real direction she wanted to go.

Naturally gifted though she clearly is, it is an exceptional achievement. She has worked very hard over the past four years, balancing study with work on the ward and her family. The medical and academic study appeared to come easily (although she insists it did not) but the apprenticeship on the labour ward was obviously the most satisfying and rewarding.

Securing (we hope) a job at Hinchingbrook Hospital is no mean feat, especially as the Hospital goes through serious financial restructuring and losses in staff, but that is another story and another post on the diabolical state of our health service today.

30 years or so of varying shifts and on-call duties stretch ahead but we boys (Ollie, Jasper and I) are old enough now to look after ourselves. We love you very much, Lara, and we are immensely proud of you and what you have achieved.

Lara deserves her success and her job and the women of Huntingdonshire deserve Lara.

Proper grown-up music

I listened to a Top 100 Albums poll this afternoon, as voted for by the self selecting audience of Radio 2. Not all Albums qualified. Albums had to have been Number one in the Album chart at some point in history. So, no Dark Side of the Moon, no Bat out of Hell, no Eagles, no Beach Boys.
Anyway, notwithstanding the vaguaries of these sorts of polls, I found it interesting that of this Top 100, 47 were shared amongst only 9 acts:

The Beatles 12 Albums (incl. one solo album each for Paul, John and George)
U2 6 Albums
Madonna 6 Albums
Robbie Williams 5 Albums
Led Zeppelin 4 Albums
Queen 4 Albums
David Bowie 4 Albums
Coldplay 3 Albums
Michael Jackson 3 Albums

Add another 8 acts, including Pink Floyd, REM, Dire Straits, Oasis, Paul Simon and the Rolling Stones, with two albums each in the chart, and you account for 63 out of 100 albums with just 17 acts.

The only reason I mention any of this is because, for the first time, I feel in the mainstream. My music collection is dominated by pretty much everyone of these groups. These are my favourite artists (apart from Michael Jackson). Just a bit of fun.

Friday, 25 August 2006

Football above the law?

However, the [Manchester] City manager, Stuart Pearce, does not believe Greater Manchester Police should become involved (re. the assault / tackle by Ben Thatcher on Portsmouth's Paulo Mendes).

"Anything that happens on a football pitch should be governed by the FA and Fifa," Pearce said.

"Once you start involving the police, the floodgates can open and you could end up with a situation where players are arrested during a game."

Couldn't agree more, Stuart. Fancy that. Footballers being required to play 90mins of football without breaking the law of the land. Since when did the referees whistle or the white lines on a football pitch secure immunity from the law.

Any pitchside policeman who witnessed that assault on Wednesday night, should have walked onto the pitch and arrested Mr Thatcher there and then.

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Good and bad in everything!

Click here to see a 4min 52sec challenge to my assertion (below) that football has never been the beautiful game!

His name is Ryan Giggs and over the past 15 years, his choice to play for Wales has cost England at least one major global trophy. He is the devastating player/winger of his generation and in my humble opinion one of the most agile and elegant players ever.

(I have found You Tube!!)

Criminal Assault

I don't know how to post the actual You Tube video on screen as others do, but click here to see Manchester City's defender Ben Thatcher playing the "beautiful game".

Replace the green field with a city centre street and the referee with a policeman and Mr Thatcher would have been in front of a Magistrate by now and would be back in custody facing a Crown Court appearance and a jail sentence.

That the FA sits on its hands and claims that the referee's decision is final just compounds an already contemptable situation.

Football is not, has never been and, until such time as proper control is taken of the thugs/players, it will never be the "Beautiful Game".

The flow of the game must now necessarily be compromised to allow another referee behind a video screen to support the one on the pitch. The alternative, and the one I would prefer, is to allow the police to walk onto a pitch at any stage of teh game and arrest any player they witness assaulting another.

If soldiers can be arrested, prosecuted and jailed for crossing the line on the battlefield, I am damn sure footballers can be prosecuted for assault on a football pitch.