A Valentine Weekend

March 10th, 2020

Not many husbands fly their wives 4000 miles to have a romantic Valentine dinner overlooking the picturesque Torquay Bay in Devon. Well, I assured it was picturesque because it was difficult  to see in the dark. One of the restaurant’s specialties was venison which we both love. We live in Atlanta, Georgia, as regular readers will know, where deer hunting is a very popular sport. But quite bizarrely, venison is rarely served in restaurants in Atlanta and you can’t buy it in the stores. There are meat processing plants which butcher the meat for hunters, but don’t sell the product to the public.

The real reason for our impromptu visit to the UK was to attend my sister-in-law’s funeral who passed away quite suddenly. It is quite weird how a sad event can create other opportunities. I hadn’t seen one of my nieces in approximately 17 years. Neither had I met my brother’s 4 grandchildren. That’s not quite true. I met the eldest who is now 18 years old when she was toddling around in a nappy (diaper if you prefer.)

We awoke from our slumber on Saturday morning to be confronted with Storm Dennis which was pounding the Devon coastline. Winds were whipping up a storm approaching 85 mph accompanied by torrential rain resulting in serious floods. A red amber alert relating to extensive flooding was  posted for South Wales where we were heading the next day for the funeral. The Severn Bridge which is the main route from England to Wales was threatening to close if the wind velocity didn’t subside.

Fortunately Storm Dennis decided to take a breather and we tentatively  began our journey  towards the Land of Our Fathers. The rainfall was incessant, but the wind had subsided. I could deal with heavy rain having previously lived in South Wales for forty plus years.

My son also attended the funeral, and we served as pall bearers, walking side by side of the coffin into the crematorium to the dulcet tones of Abba singing “Dancing Queen.” Neither of us knew whether we should raise our hands and perform a rhythmic wave as Abba fans tend to do, but fortunately discretion was the order of the day.

We then transferred to my brother’s church for a celebration of my sister-in-law’s life. Various people came up   to share their stories of how, where and when they had met my sister-in-law and recalling the impact she had  on their lives. They were interspersed with hymns and arias, and eulogies from my brother and his two daughters. The service ended with a video of Dolly Parton displayed on a giant screen singing a gospel, her ample bosom heaving as she attempted to hit those high notes. I learnt something new again. I had known my late sister-in-law for over 55 years and didn’t know she was a fan of ABBA or Dolly Parton.

We flew home the following Thursday, but the drama was not yet done. We fly standby owing to my wife’s former status as an airline employee. The plane leaving Heathrow for Atlanta was barely full which meant we were assured seats in first class. Not so fast my friend. We were informed that we would be confined to punter’s class (economy) because there were so few passengers who had to be dispersed for weight and balance purposes. Ten hours later we were touching down at Hartsfield Airport and relieved to be home.

Little did we know that the corona virus was hot on our heels. How many rolls of toilet paper do we have love?????

 

From Cavaliers to Roundheads

February 25th, 2020

I watched Wales playing France on Saturday, and was completely depressed by their performance. To be honest, I am not a great fan of modern rugby. It reminds me so much of rugby league which to me has always been a second cousin to rugby union. That is, when rugby union was played with flair and verve. I know rugby union went through a barren period during the sixties embodied by a match between Wales and Scotland. The Welsh captain on that day was Clive Rowlands. Playing at scrum half, he received the ball  from  the lineout for the umpteenth time, and proceeded to kick for touch approximately 96 times. It was a  diabolical spectacle. His gifted half back partner, David Watkins, never received a pass.

Rowlands’ performance led to a change in the laws. It was decreed that kicking directly into touch would only be permitted from within your own twenty five. Otherwise, the ensuing lineout would be taken back from where the kick was taken.

Fifty plus years on kicking from the hand still played a huge role in Saturday’s match. But this was much worse. Wales’s Biggar and Halfpenny continued to punt the ball aimlessly up the field invariably straight into the hands of their French opponents who to their credit showed far more imagination than their Welsh opponents. Why opt to kick and give possession of the ball to your opponents allowing them to counter attack?

I guess I romanticize over the golden era of Welsh Rugby in the seventies and eighties, but with justification. They claimed that Wales had an outside half (fly half) factory churning out the next super star. Believe me, the team revolved around the outside half until the great Gareth Edwards came along and stamped his own authority on a match from scrum half. But that’s another story. Let’s concentrate on the line of fly halves that adorned the Welsh jersey in the Golden era.

David Watkins started the ball (pardon the pun) rolling when freed from the shackles of Clive Rowlands. He was replaced by a legend  called “The King”, Barry John. He received the mantel “King” from New Zealand journalists following his exploits in New Zealand in 1971 when he guided the British Lions to their first and only series win over the All Blacks.

My dad and I had endless arguments about Barry John having the talent to play for Wales let alone being regarded as the best fly half of his generation. My dad was used to fly halves making side steps to elude opponents while John  would invariably swivel his hips and glide through the opposition. Unaccountably, John retired at the premature age of 27 when he was at the peak of his career. Fortunately, Phil Bennett was waiting in the wings to take his place.

Now Bennett played a pivotal role in one of the greatest games of rugby. In 1973, the All Blacks toured Britain and Ireland and finished undefeated until the last game against the Barbarians. The Barbarians were an invitational XV, but on this occasion it comprised the majority of the British Lions squad which was so successful in 1971. This match will explain the difference in rugby style between the golden age and the ponderous modern game. Running and passing the ball, beating an opponent with deft of movement, using magical skills of fleet of foot, and slick handling. It was poetry in motion.

Instead, Wales had a great opportunity to score a try to bring them back into contention just before half time, and France had been reduced to 14 men with one player sent to the sin bin. Time and time again they attempted to bludgeon their way over the try line which was only 5 yards away when the situation cried out for a pass to their backs lined up in anticipation. Needless to say, they failed miserably and France went on to win the match despite a couple of late tries by Wales. I was angry watching their abject failure to create any kind of magic. Worse still, I was saddened by the state of Welsh rugby, and the state of the modern game in general.

Before I sign off I must mention another fly half, Jonathan Davies, who  played with a swagger and managed to stamp his own personality and range of mercurial skills on the game. He was lost to the union game far too early when he decided to take the money and go north to play rugby league as did David Watkins. Both players were highly successful in Rugby League, which in the case of Jonathan Davies left a chasm in the Welsh team. Davies was probably the last of the artisans to wear the number 10 jersey for Wales which led to an inevitable decline in Welsh rugby.

Yes, Wales have won Grand Slams in the 21st Century, but the current attitude in the game was sadly summed up by the current captain, multi-capped Alan Wyn-Jones: “Test rugby is about winning matches and throwing the ball around can be very pretty, but it is not winning.” In response I would conclude by asking: why can’t we win with flair?

The Tale of Two Coaches

January 26th, 2020

 

Please excuse me people, but I have been attempting to write this post for a few weeks now and it maybe a little out of date. Nevertheless I will write my thoughts. When Mauricio Pocchetino was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur in November, Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn’s head was also on the chopping block. Ironically their tenure and statistics at their respective clubs/teams almost ran parallel with each other, give or take some poetic license.

Pocchetino was hired by Spurs in 2014. He guided them to three top three  finishes in his first four seasons, culminating in a place in the Champions League Final in June 2019. However, they gave their fans very little to cheer by succumbing very meekly to Liverpool 0-2. The score doesn’t tell the tale of Liverpool’s dominance.

Pocchetino’s team selection was not without controversy. Lucas Mora scored a hatrick in the second leg of their semi-final with Ajax to secure their place in the final. Their star striker Harry Kane had missed a couple of months with an ankle injury, but demanded to play in the final to the exclusion of Lucas Mora. Pocchetino meekly succumbed to player pressure and  the rest is history.

Pocchetino claimed that he would have walked away if Spurs had won the Champions League because he felt he couldn’t take the club any further. In his defence,  he was hampered in developing the team by  lack of new signings in recent seasons caused in part by the construction of a new stadium which had drained their financial resources. Furthermore, the construction took much longer than anticipated and Spurs were forced to play their home games at Wembley for almost two seasons.

At the beginning of 2019-2020 season, Pocchettino resembled a man who didn’t want to be there, and several of the first team were looking for moves elsewhere none of which materialized. Consequently, the manager and team looked stale and devoid of new ideas. By November of last year, Spurs were languishing in 14th place in the Premiership and were humiliated at home by Bayern Munich losing 1-7 in a Champions League group game. Pocchettino was  summarily sacked. Not long before he had been touted as the next head coach/manager of Real Madrid or Manchester United, and perhaps of the Argentinian national team.  He is currently back in his homeland, Argentina, where he is a color analyst for one of the TV stations covering Argentinian league games.

On the other side of the pond, Dan Quinn was hired as Head Coach of the Atlanta Falcons approximately around the same time as Pocchettino was appointed at Spurs. In his first season, The Falcons went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. In 2016, they finished 11-5 and clinched a placed in the Super Bowl only to lose to the New England Patriots. The loss decimated Atlanta fans because the Falcons were leading 28-3 entering the fourth quarter, but eventually lost in overtime due to what can only be construed as mismanagement by the coaching staff, not least by Dan Quinn.

Roughly the same time Pocchetino was sacked by Spurs, the Falcons finished the first half the NFL season 1-7, and Falcon fans and the local media were calling for Quinn’s head. The Falcons had finished 10-6 the season following the Super Bowl debacle but lost in the playoffs to the eventual champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2018 they were decimated by injuries and they failed to make the playoffs finishing 7-9.

Subsequent to the 2019 season, Quinn announced he was taking over the defensive coordinating duties which proved to be catastrophic. The Falcons conceded 40 points in at least three of their losses culminating in their 1-7 record entering the bye week. Falcons owner Arthur Blank claimed he would take the off week to review Quinn’s position as Head Coach. Meanwhile, Quinn decided to relinquish his defensive duties handing over to two of his assistant coaches, The Falcons faired better in the second half with a 6-2 record, but 7-9 overall, missing the playoffs in successive seasons.

Unaccountably, Arthur Blank announced before the final game of the season that Quinn and the hapless general Manager, Thomas Dimitroff would be returning next season. Blank explained that “it takes a big man to admit he was wrong,” meaning Quinn realized  he had made a dog’s dinner of supervising his team’s defense. But why should it take Quinn eight games to realize the error of his ways?

In contrast it was patently obvious to any Spurs fan that Pocchetino’s days were numbered, and the club needed a fresh start. Similarly, Dan Quinn and his cohort Dimitroff should have been shown the exit door. Quinn placed the blame of the previous season’s failure to make the playoffs by firing his defensive and offensive coordinators. He followed this up by placing his neck in the defensive coordinator’s noose, and was left hanging. He should have been put out of his and our misery. I was tired of his sound bites during  the first half of the season, and I actually felt he should have been fired after losing the Super Bowl in such a pathetic fashion.

Well what can I glean from this? Professional sport in the 21st Century is success oriented. Spurs’s Chairman Daniel Levy is a shrewd operator on some levels and he realized that Pocchetino was done and dusted. In contrast Arthur Blank appears to run a” good old boys club” by admitting that he likes Quinn and Dimitroff. But I wonder how many executives he fired when he was co-owner of Home Depot for not producing the goods.

 

 

 

My Sporting Heroes

October 3rd, 2019

The title of this post is a contradiction really. Regular readers of my blog (if there are any) will know that the sporting teams I support include Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur on the football front, the Atlanta Falcons from the NFL, the Atlanta Braves from major league baseball and the Wales rugby team.

Why the contradiction? Well I have had more than my share of disappointments supporting these teams over the last few years. Swansea City were relegated from the Premiership about 18 months ago, but did survive seven seasons in the top flight whilst winning the League Cup (or whatever it was called) in 2013. Paying millions for over rated players, changing managers through a revolving  door eventually put paid to their elite status. Currently, they sit at the top of the Championship table after 10 games, but it’s a long season, so don’t hold your breath.

Where do I begin with Tottenham Hotspur? They overachieved last season by reaching the final of the Champions League, but played so flat that the late Donald Campbell could have broken the land speed record across their backs. The summer almost brought a wind of change through the management and squad. Manager Pochettino cast envious eyes towards Real Madrid, Christian Ericksen, Toby Alderwald, Danny Rose, and Jan vethongen wanted to leave. However, Real Madrid rehired Zidane as head coach, and Manchester United, another possible destination for Pocchetino, made Solksjaer their permanent manager. Meanwhile no suitable offers came in for the want away players, and they all remain members of the squad.

Rumors on the internet claimed that Vethongen had an affair with Eriksen’s girl friend, and several of the squad are not speaking to each other. I don’t know whether there’s any truth in the rumor, but Spurs suffered the worst home defeat in their history by losing 2-7 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Group Stage last Tuesday. They looked like a team falling apart at the seams, and perhaps Pochettino has them as far as possible. Rumors are also rife that Real Madrid intend hiring him next season, and he will take Harry Kane and Eriksen with him. Speaking of Kane, he looks to have lost a yard or two in pace, and he wasn’t the fastest greyhound in the first place.

This is painful to recall, but the Falcons were leading the New England Patriots 28-3 entering the final quarter in the 2017 Super Bowl only to concede 31 unanswered points and lose the game in overtime. Following an unsinspiring 2018 season when they went 7-9 Dan Quinn decided to part with his defensive and offensive co-ordinators, and too over defensive duties. A quarter of the 2019 regular season has been played and we are currently 1-3. the not so mighty Quinn claims the team lacks consistency and they can find the solutions to a season  which is rapidly sinking like the Titanic. I put their malaise down to the three Ts: tackling, timing and turnovers. They are simply an ordinary team that has an over inflated opinion of themselves.

The Atlanta Braves last won the World Series in 1995. They should have repeated in 1996, but shot themselves in the foot. In my opinion the franchise has never fully recovered from that damaging loss to the Yankees. Yes, they managed to return to the playoffs on a few occasions since, but couldn’t add another World Series. They won 97 games this season and comfortably made the playoffs. However they never learn from previous mistakes. They rested players during the last week and half of the season, and proceeded to be swept 0-3 by the New York Mets in the last series of the season.

Once again they are playing an opponent, St Louis Cardinals, who surged into the Playoffs while the Braves appeared to take their foot of the gas and have last their momentum. There are injury worries concerning Freeman and Acuna and they have two or three inexperienced pitchers in their rotation. Game 1 and 2 are being played tonight and tomorrow in Atlanta, so watch this space.

Wales are currently involved in the Rugby World Cup, and produced a superb display last Saturday to narrowly defeat Australia. If they can win their remaining matches in the group  against Fiji and Uruguay they will top their table and avoid New Zealand and England in the quarter finals. Wales have not done particularly well in the World Cup, apart from achieving 3rd place in the inaugural event in 1987. They have found the proverbial banana skin in previous World Cups having lost to Fiji once before, so I am not counting chickens just yet.

Glamping Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

September 1st, 2019

About three months ago we returned from a ten day camping trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, not forgetting the additional sixty miles of Skyland Drive. When my wife reserved the camp sites, one definite requirement was the provision of showers. Surprisingly this necessity greatly reduced the number of campsites that provided this necessary facility. She managed to find three sites that would coincide with our itinerary, but even then the quality of the campsite varied considerably as the following notes will confirm:

Pigsah Camp Site: rest rooms were very basic. Wearing flip flops in the shower is a necessity. Individual  tent sites were too close together. It did provide a food storage bin. The Pigsah Inn was just across the road, and we enjoyed a very palatable meal there one evening.

Julian Price: Camp site was situated overlooking a lake, and definitely the best location during our trip. However, it had no provision for food storage. One piece of good fortune was the discovery of brand new showers and a gigantic stainless sink to wash dishes.

Sherando Lake: Best camp site in terms of space, privacy, outdoor furniture, and food storage. Unfortunately the rest rooms were disgusting. I guess you can’t have everything.

I make no apologies for this blog. It’s not for you if you have no interest in camping. It’s basically a review of our trip and maybe a useful guide for any readers following in our foot steps. Moving on:

Day 1, Friday May 17th

Mt. Pisgah Campground. Met our friends Tom and Bonnie @ Mt Pisgah Inn-whole trout which was filleted at the table. Noisy neighbors from South Carolina @ campground. Highest elevation @ 6000 feet. We were enjoying the idyllic scenery at one of the many overlooks when we were invaded by a car club!!! Final impression of the campground was being surrounded by  Wailers and cacklers and dealing with a broken concrete table.

Day 2 Saturday

Hiking Graveyard Fields, Upper Falls, Devil’s Courthouse. Theresa attempted to make friends with a Four Inch grasshopper in the ladies shower, but her screams reverberating around the camp site confirmed it was not a successful liaison. Built a fire courtesy of Tom’s wood, cooked brats. In that mountain greenery where God paints the scenery….. Views of rolling hills as the eye can see. Spectacular.

Day 3, Sunday

Visited Tom and Bonnie on our way to next campsite. Popped in at Crabtree Falls-insufficient time to explore. Marker for next time. Stopped at Linville Falls. Orange Moon over Julian Price Lake. Quieter clientele thankfully.

Day 4, Monday

Linville Falls leading to Chimney View and Upper Falls. Picnic at Linville Picnic Area. Cone/Flat Manor was a tedious looking building devoid of any character. Even more tedious was the gift shop. I was quite taken by a wooden bowl until I was informed by a snobby sales assistant that I would have to part with $350 to take it home. Missed Grandfather Mountain hike, but drove across Lincove Viaduct.

Day 5, Tuesday

No hiking today. Drove to Blowing Rock for lunch. Attractive little town not far off the Parkway, suffused with antique and craft stores. Adequate number of bars and restaurants to cater for all tastes. Ate at the Sixpence Pub which has a sister pub of the same name in Savannah. Continued onto Boone which is dominated by Appalachian State University. Bit of a tip really.

Day 6, Wednesday

Breaking camp, welcomed by a cool foggy start to the day. Visited Mabry Mill which was very photogenic. Re-enactment Exhibit at Explore Park closed in 2007 in case your guide book is old like ours. Explore Park has nothing else to offer.

Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia is not as mountainous as North Carolina. Attractive vistas but not as dramatic  at NC. Taking a break from camping, and stayed one night at Peaks Of Otter Lodge. Look out for 3 mountain peaks: Sharp Top (4000 feet,) Flat Top and Harkening Hill. Lodge and adjoining Abbott Lake constructed and opened in 1964. Satisfied our purpose, but I wouldn’t stay longer than one night.

Day 7, Thursday

Said our farewell to the Lodge and visited the James River. Why not? Discovered an historic sluice (1851.) Next stop: Natural Bridge and discovered a dead tree that survived until 1980-1600 years old. Arrived at Sherando Lake Campsite. Best campsite pound for pound. Wildlife spotted so far; turkey, fox, deer and black snake.

Day 8, Friday

Hiked up Humpback Rocks, 700 foot rise in elevation from bottom to top in one mile. Met a brother and sister from Richmond. He had just graduated, and was leaving for Togo for 27 months. Why would anyone elect to spend 27 months in Togo?

Lunch at Blue Mountain Brewery. Found a Kroger in Waynesboro which was its only saving grace.

Day 9, Saturday

Drive to Skyland Lodge, and entered the Shenedoah National Park. Experienced our “first bear jam.” Transition from being in virual wild to noisy civilization can only be described as shock to the system. Sky Lodge: room fine, views great, food and service sucked. Clearly understaffed for Memorial Day Weekend, so service was abysmal and food was deplorable.

Day 10, Sunday

We enjoy a challenge, so we decided to drive the 600 miles home. End of a great adventure.

 

 

My Mum: Part 2

June 15th, 2019

I have two stand out memories involving my brother and I with regard to my mum. We both attended Penlan Comprehensive and initially we came home for lunch. Well one Monday lunch time my mum served up bubble and squeak which comprised left overs from Sunday’s roast dinner. My brother and I refused to eat it, and we were sent packing with no food in our bellies. My mum was mortified, but it didn’t dawn on me until later that she had no other food in the house and no money to pay for it.

One summer we were getting on my mum’s nerves. Something was said and she chased us out of the house, but she continued to come after us. Now the prefab was single storey and had a flat roof. It also had a trellis which we used to climb onto the roof to avoid capture, unbeknown to my mum. She continued to make several laps of the prefab until one of the neighbors cried out: “Vi, the boys are on the roof!!!” Thank goodness she saw the funny side of the situation.

I’ve touched a little on her stubborn streak, and the next tale merely emphasizes the point. It was during the Swansea Blitz back in 1941. My mum hated going down to air raid shelters because they were “grimy, smelly and generally full of people.” My mum had recently purchased a new red overcoat, and she was going out for the evening with my Dad. However an air raid siren pierced proceedings  and she decided they would shelter in a door way on the way up the street. Unfortunately the Luftwaffe proceeded to drop a bomb on the other side of the street and my mum’s brand new coat was covered in dust. She screamed out in indignation: “Jack, look at my coat, look at my coat!” My Dad replied: “Never mind your bloody coat, we could have been killed!!!!”

One summer my mum and dad boarded the paddle steamer which left Swansea and headed towards Ilfracombe North Devon for the day. At the end of the day they missed the boat returning to Swansea, and were forced to take the milk train (red eye?) back to Swansea arriving home in the early hours of the morning. We had no telephone and had no idea what happened. I asked my Dad how did they manage to miss the boat and he told me to ask my mum. So I did and she said: “I don’t want to talk about it!!!”

In the last twenty years of her life she showed great courage and resilience in fighting a crippling illness, rheumatoid arthritis, which grew steadily worse over time. This debilitating illness was exacerbated by a nasty ulcer on her leg. She eventually required plastic surgery on her leg which was performed at Chepstow Hospital’s Burns Unit. She never complained, but was worried about my Dad who had succumbed to another dreadful disease, Alzheimer’s.

It was not long after she left hospital that my Dad had to be admitted to Cefn Coed Hospital where he would spend the rest of his days. I believe I only witnessed my mum cry twice, the first time was when my nana passed away in 1960 and secondly when we drove my Dad to hospital. Ironically my Dad was admitted around about their 50th Anniversary, which was a hollow feeling for my mum considering the circumstances. Three months later my mum suffered a heart  attack and passed away. Now this may sound clichéd, but there is no doubt in my mind she died of a broken heart. She couldn’t bear the thought of my dad cooped up in a mental institution, and it was truly the last straw.

She gave me so much support and encouragement during my life particularly when I was going through a nasty divorce. She made a telling comment when I told her not to worry about me because I was a middle aged man capable of looking after myself. She replied: “You are my son and I will always worry about you regardless of your age.” I didn’t  think much of the comment at the time, but she was absolutely right. I find myself worrying about my own kids who are in their late thirties, and I only wish my mum was still around  to ask her advice or seek guidance now and again.

She was cremated and we scattered her ashes at Pennard Castle, and  she had own distinctive way of saying goodbye. I grabbed a handful of ashes and cast them into the wind only for the ashes to blow back into my face. What an exit!!!

Rest in Peace Mum (1920-1992.)

This blog is dedicated to my grand daughter Alice Violet who was given her second name by my son in memory of my mum and his Nana, Vi (Violet.)

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts on the Champions League Final

June 9th, 2019

I have been a much maligned Tottenham Hotspur supporter since 1961. It’s no coincidence that was the season that Spurs became the first team to achieve the double (league title and FA Cup) in the 20th Century. It’s almost common place now, and Manchester City went one further last season by completing the treble (Premiership, FA Cup, and League Cup.)

Spurs won the European Cup Winners Cup in 1963 and the EUFA Cup in 1972, but apart from a semi-final appearance in the European Cup (subsequently renamed the Champions League Trophy) in 1962 when they were unlucky to lose to Benfica, they hadn’t come close to winning the most prodigious Club trophy in European football.

Following their miraculous effort in the semi-final to defeat Ajax I was really geared up to watch the final against Liverpool. The Reds had also achieved a miracle by overcoming a 0-3 deficit  to squeeze past Barcelona, and the stage was set for a grand finale.

Unfortunately, the game could be summed up by one word: DIRE!!!! Spurs conceded a penalty 26 seconds from the kick off, and the score remained 1-0 until the dying minutes when Liverpool scored a second to clinch the match. Spurs had 67% of the possession in the first half but did not have on shot on goal.

Several reasons have been put forward for the lack luster performance by both teams. Neither team had kicked a ball competitively for three weeks, and perhaps it was asking too much for the drama, intensity and excitement of the semi-finals to be repeated in such a short period of time. The temperature in the Madrid stadium at kickoff was 90 degrees Fahrenheit which is not conducive for fast flowing football.

However what annoyed me more than anything was Spurs manager, Mauricio Pochetinno’s team selection. Harry Kane is admittedly one of the best strikers in the world, but he hadn’t played competitively for 8 weeks due to injury. Now there is a vast difference to being declared physically fit compared to being match fit, and common sense should have told Pochettino to leave Kane on the bench. To make room for Kane, Lucas Mora was consigned to the role of substitute despite scoring a hat trick  in the semi-final. Needless to say Liverpool’s central defender, Virgil Van Dyck had Kane in his pocket for the whole match.

Harry Wicks is a reasonable midfield player but a little out of his depth at this level. He had not played for six weeks due to injury, and unsurprisingly was anonymous. His only memorable contribution was eyeing up the blonde streaker who took a shine to him.

Both teams use wing backs as an attacking resource, and you would assume that Trippier and Rose would have the edge because they are the current England full backs. Not so. Liverpool’s Alexander-Walker and Andy Robertson were vastly superior.

Christian Eriksen is highly regarded as the Spurs playmaker. So much so that Real Madrid are keen to acquire his services. Unfortunately he failed to deliver on the big stage, and spent most of the match drifting towards the sidelines. Son Heung-Min had a wonderful season but was another Spurs regular who chose to an off day in the final. Finally we come to the enigma that is Dele Alli. A couple of seasons ago he looked world class, but has been  on a downward  spiral since the World Cup.

I don’t really understand what his role is. Okay, he’s a midfield player. But he can’t tackle and his passing is very inconsistent. He has goal scoring ability, but that  sadly has deteriorated markedly over the past twelve months. My comments on Alli could also be attributed to the Spurs team. When they are good, they are very good. But when they are not so good they are frustrating to watch. It’s all very well for Pochettino to claim they will be back next season, but I believe they blew their chance. Top teams like Manchester City, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid are reloading as I write, and Spurs will need to sign three or four quality players to compete with their rivals.

Daniel Levy, get your cheque book out!!!!

 

My Mum (Part 1)

May 17th, 2019

PART ONE

My mum would have been 99 years old tomorrow (18th May.) She passed away 27 years ago, and not a week goes by that I don’t think of her. She was one of the World’s greatest listeners. She actually listened. Instead of waiting for you to stop speaking, which is a signal for most people to begin their various diatribes, she listened to what you had to say. Whenever I have problems with members of my family, issues at work, even my friends, I catch myself wondering what she would have said in various circumstances that I have experienced over the years, what advice she would have offered.

Many times when I had problems in school, work, marriage, and divorce I would sit down and tell her what was worrying me, angering me, depressing me, whatever. Invariably, I would solve the problem or at least understand the issues better by using her as a sounding board. By my mum listening or asking me questions I sometimes came up with solutions. Not all the time, but it did enable me to see the wood through the trees.

She left school at 14 years old, but she had great command of current affairs and was an avid reader. Ironically, my mum and dad attended the same school, Dyfatty, but didn’t know each other then because of the six year age difference. Her brother, Sam, was in the same class as my Dad, and when eventually my dad and mum started courting, he teased my mum unmercifully about dating that skinny boy Jack James from Dyfatty Street.

They met in RTs in Cwmfelin where they both worked. It was a Munitions factory during the war, so my Dad was not called up until 1942. They married in May and he was called up in June of 1942, or somewhere near that month. I have letters written by my Dad to my mum when he was serving in the RAF, and she was being chatted up by American GIs in the Rhyddings Hotel in Brynmill, Swansea. He was bereft from what my mum had written to him about GIs giving her gifts of cigarettes, chocolate and nylons, but in exchange for what favors he demanded to know. My mum’s reply must have tore him off a strip because in his next letter he was apologizing profusely for doubting her fidelity.

My brother was born in 1946, and they settled down for a normal family life and my mum never worked again save for becoming the home maker, disciplinarian, counselor and child psychologist. We lived in a two up, two down Victorian terraced house in Pottery Street. The WC was at the bottom of the garden. This was the house where she delivered me in the passage (pardon the pun, hallway.) She decided she had been pregnant long enough and accelerated proceedings by taking copious amounts of castor oil, and her and new born baby were hospitalized for three weeks. Did I mention she had a stubborn streak which has been inherited by subsequent generations?

We moved to a prefab (prefabricated dwellings were detached single storey units and designed to last 7 years. They were intended as a temporary fix to the housing shortage created by the Blitz and sub-standard Victorian terraced housing which was demolished at the end of the War. We moved out in 1962, so do the maths.) when I was five, and initially I was terrified of the vast open prairies that encircled the  prefab estate. Most of the children attended Brynhyfryd School, a Victorian monolith with Dickensian overtones. My mum was not happy sending her two sons to Brynhyfryd, and arranged an appointment with Mr. Bayton, headmaster of a spanking new school, Gwyrosydd. He agreed to accept us into the new school, and I spent six happy years there. However, there was an incident when I received the cane for slapping a girl’s face in retaliation for her hitting me. Mr. Watson ignored by protestations and delivered a savage blow across my hand. My mum noticed the angry weal across my hand, and demanded to know what happened. She was furious, and threatened to march up  the school and confront Mr. Watson. I pleaded with her not to, and she reluctantly agreed to my wishes.

To be continued:

Happy Birthday Mum, I miss you.XXX

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning Strikes Twice

May 16th, 2019

Champions League Semi-finals

Second Leg

Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (Liverpool win 4-3 on Aggregate.)

Ajax 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3 (3-3 on Aggregate, but Spurs go through on Away Goals)

I must confess that I did not give a second thought to  Liverpool playing Tottenham Hotspur in the final of the Champions league, particularly when Barcelona led Liverpool 3-0 on completion of the first leg of the semifinal, and Spurs lost the home leg to Ajax 0-1.

Liverpool were first up in the second leg, facing a monumental task against a team that had just clinched the Championship in Spain. The atmosphere in Anfield was at boiling point, and with apologies to clichés, would prove to be the twelfth man. Origi had been peripheral figure for most of the season, but was playing because of an injury to the Brazilian Firmino. It was Origi who opened the scoring in the 7th minute, and the score would remain at 1-0 until half time. Barcelona were leading 3-1 on aggregate with 45 minutes left.

Shortly after half time there was an unusual incident which would change the course of the game. Suarez fouled Liverpool’s fullback, Andy Robertson, who had to be helped off and was replaced by midfielder Wijnaldum. He was not known for his goal scoring, but in the course of a couple of minutes scored twice to level the tie. The Barcelona players looked stunned, and reacted as if all the energy and air had been sucked out of them. Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world, and captain of Barcelona appeared to be dazed and helpless to what was happening around him. It was he, and almost he alone, that tore Liverpool apart in the first leg with two terrific goals.

There was only going to be one winner now if the body language of the players was anything to go by. And it was the unsung hero once again, Origi, who scored Liverpool’s fourth following clever play and nous by full back Alexander-Arnold taking a corner kick when the Barcelona defence had turned off for a split second. At the final whistle, pandemonium broke out  with the stadium engulfed in a sea of red, and countless renditions of “You Never Walk Alone.” What a comeback!

The following night, it was Tottenham’s turn to attempt to overturn adversity, and rescue the tie on Ajax’s home turf who were leading 1-0 from the first leg. Tottenham’s only change from the first leg was to restore Son Heung-min  to the line up. He was suspended for the first leg, but had been playing really well in the absence of star striker Harry Kane, absent through injury for the past month.

The match didn’t begin very well for Spurs when they conceded a goal after 4 minutes. Worse was to follow when they conceded another, and trundled off the field at half time 0-2 down and 0-3 on aggregate. Spurs manager, Mauricio Pochettino, is not afraid to change tactics if the occasion demands, and unsurprisingly he instructed his players to introduce route 1 football, using their tall striker, Llorente, as their target man. Llorente is not the most skillful or fastest of players, but is a good header of a ball, and continued to unsettle Ajax’s central defenders.

Within a few minutes of the second half, Lucas Mora had pulled one back for Spurs. Ajax appeared to be shaken by this setback, and shortly after, Mora scored his and Tottenham’s second. In a bizarre way there are parallels to be drawn between Liverpool’s Origi and Mora. Mora had been in and out of the first team for most of the season, and in similar circumstances to Origi was only having an extended run in the first team because of injury to a star player.

Again, body language was giving the TV viewer an insight into the mindset of Ajax players. They appeared to be undecided on whether to protect their one goal lead, or go for goal which would almost certainly put them in the final. They nearly achieved the latter when they hit the post, but Spurs were able to scramble the ball away.

The score remained at 2-2 for the remainder of the second half, and time was ebbing away for Spurs while Ajax were counting the clock down. Jan Vertonghen had a glorious chance to score  nearing the end of normal time, but failed to direct his powerful header accurately. Ajax players breathed a sigh of relief and were anticipating the final whistle. However there were six minutes of injury and stoppage time added on, and in the 96th minute Lucas Mora miraculously popped up among a melee of players to complete his hat trick and level the tie 3-3. Spurs would win the tie on away goals if the score remained the same at the end of the game.

There was very little time for Ajax to react before the final whistle blew. Ajax players sunk to their knees in despair while Tottenham players were dancing a jig around the pitch. Mauricio Pochettino was on his hands and knees crying his eyes out. Spurs had achieved the impossible against all the odds. Arguably Ajax were technically the better team, but their youth and inexperience at the highest level proved to be their undoing. Spurs played with guts and grit and never gave up. Don’t get me wrong, Ajax proved they are very good team by winning the League and Cup Double in Holland, and could be a force to reckon with if they don’t hold a fire sale of their young players.

I have been a Spurs fan since 1961 when they won the Double, and were then so unlucky to lose to Benfica in the semi final of the European Cup the following season. I am so ecstatic that they have clawed their way to the Champions League Final, and I just hope that destiny has their name on the trophy. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah and the Spurs going marching on to meet Liverpool at the Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid on June 1st. Come on you Spurs!!!!!

BREXIT- Eleven Key Terms

March 31st, 2019


No deal

  • A no-deal Brexit would mean the UK leaving the European Union and cutting ties immediately, with no agreement at all in place.
  • If MPs do not approve Theresa May’s deal, and there is no alternative deal or move to delay or stop Brexit, the UK will leave with no deal on 29 March.
  • The UK would follow World Trade Organization rules to trade with the EU and other countries, while trying to negotiate free-trade deals.

WTO rules

  • If countries don’t have free-trade agreements, they usually trade with each other under rules set by the World Trade Organization.
  • Each country sets tariffs – or taxes – on goods entering. For example, cars passing from non-EU countries to the EU are charged 10% of their value. But tariffs on some agricultural products are much higher – dairy averages more than 35%.
  • If the UK chooses to put no tariffs on goods from the EU, it must also have no tariffs on goods from every WTO member.

Article 50

  • Part of an EU treaty that sets out how member countries can leave, with a two-year timetable for leaving.
  • Article 50 was triggered by Prime Minister Theresa May at the end of March 2017 and means the UK will leave the EU at the end of March 2019.
  • The UK is allowed to stop the Article 50 process completely – but if it wants only to extend it, all the other EU countries must agree.

Another referendum

  • Some campaigners – who call their proposal the People’s Vote – want to have another referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.
  • It has been suggested the vote could have three options – Theresa May’s deal, no deal and Remain. But some campaigners think there should only be two choices.
  • Opponents of another vote say there is no need for it as the 2016 referendum made it clear that people wanted to leave the EU.

 

Single market

  • A system that enables goods, services, people and capital (money) to move between all 28 EU member states, as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
  • Countries in the single market apply many common rules and standards.
  • A UK company can sell its product (goods) in Portugal as easily as it can in Portsmouth, bring back the cash (capital), offer maintenance (services) and despatch a repair team (people).

 

Customs union

  • A trade agreement under which two or more countries do not put tariffs (taxes) on goods coming in from other countries in the union.
  • The countries also decide to set the same tariff on goods entering from outside the union.
  • The EU customs union includes EU member states and some small non-EU members and forbids members from negotiating trade agreements separately from the EU. Instead trade agreements are negotiated collectively.

 

Free-trade agreement

  • A deal between countries to reduce, but not necessarily eliminate, trade barriers.
  • These barriers include import or export taxes (tariffs), quotas or licences that limit imports, and differing regulations on things such as safety or hygiene or labelling.
  • The aim is increase trade in goods but also services.

 

Withdrawal agreement

  • Theresa May has agreed a deal with the EU on the terms of the UK’s departure. It does not determine the UK-EU future relationship.
  • It does include how much money the UK must pay to the EU as a settlement, details of the transition period, and citizens’ rights.
  • It also covers the so-called “backstop”, which ensures that no hard border exists between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit even if there’s no deal on the future relationship in place by the end of the transition period.

 

Backstop

  • Currently, there are no border posts, physical barriers or checks on people or goods crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
  • The backstop is a measure in the withdrawal agreement designed to ensure that continues after the UK leaves the EU. It comes into effect only if the deal deciding the future relationship between the UK and EU is not agreed by the end of the transition period (31 December 2020).
  • Until the deal on the future relationship is done, the backstop would keep the UK effectively inside the EU’s customs union but with Northern Ireland also conforming to some rules of the single market. Critics say a different status for Northern Ireland could threaten the existence of the United Kingdom and fear that the backstop could become permanent.

 

Free movement

  • One of the four freedoms associated with the single market is free movement of people.
  • This lets EU citizens travel, live, study and work in any member country.
  • There can be no discrimination in access to public services and benefits.

Divorce bill

  • The money the UK has agreed to pay to the EU under Theresa May’s deal.
  • Based on UK’s share of EU budgets up to 2020 as well as continuing liabilities such as EU civil servants’ pensions
  • The bill is widely expected to be about £39bn and will be paid over a number of years, with about half of it during the transition