Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Menage a Trois

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Thanks to the overwhelming response to my previous post “Partnerships,” (I received one comment which was from my son) I am continuing a similar theme. Only this time I’m concentrating on trios that were linked in some macabre way. Let’s begin with a comedy act from America, “The Three Stooges,” Moe, Curly and Larry. They didn’t appeal to British audiences, but were very successful in America.

Shell Petrol sponsored “World of Golf” featuring Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and they became to be known as “The Big Three.” I mentioned in my previous post that Best, Law and Charlton dominated the stage at Manchester United in the 1960s. There’s a  statue of the three of them forever linked in bronze to commemorate their achievements. I also can’t leave out the midfield trio from Tottenham Hotspur: Blanchflower, Mackay and White, who were instrumental in Spurs being the first club to achieve the Double (Championship and FA Cup) in the 20th Century. John White was tragically killed by lightning sheltering under a tree on a golf course in 1965, and was never really replaced.

Turning to politics, Hugh Gaitskell, leader of the Labour Party died suddenly in 1963, and there were three contenders to replace him: Harold Wilson, George Brown, and James Callaghan. Wilson eventually won the leadership contest and became Prime Minister in 1964. Brown served as Foreign Secretary while Callaghan lived next door to 10 Downing Street as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Brown gained notoriety by appearing on television several times in an intoxicated state, and arguably made more sense when he was drunk.

Show business inevitably is littered with trios: The Bachelors, The Beverly Sisters, The Andrew Sisters, The Supremes, The Crystals, The Springfields. Dusty Springfield achieved  greater fame as a solo artist. Eric Clapton comprised for a short time one third of the rock band Cream, but he too achieved greater success as a solo artist. Emerson, Lake and Palmer deserve a mention as one of the first super groups. I could have included Crosby, Stills and Nash but Neil Young made them into a quartet.

Rugby has natural trios in the form of front rows, none more famous than Faulkner, Windsor and Price, They were Wales’s first ever one-club front row, and immortalized in a song by Max Boyce as the Viet Gwent. Comments on a postcard please if you believe I have misconstrued that phrase. Wales had a tremendous back row in the seventies in the shape of Merv the Swerve, Basil Brush Taylor, and Dai Morris, The Shadow.

Finally it would be remiss of me not to mention the “Three Tenors,” Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras. The 1990 World Cup brought them into prominence with the general public when the BBC used “Nessa Dorme,” beautifully sung by Pavarotti, as their theme song for televising the month long tournament. The Three Tenors gave a memorable concert towards the end of the tournament which propelled their careers to greater heights.

I could write a sequel on quartets where rock bands like the Beatles, Stones and The Who would be rich pickings. But I’m becoming rather bored with this theme, so goodness knows what it’s doing to my reader. So there you are. It only remains for me to wish y’all a Happy and Healthy New Year.

A Bit Like a Curate’s Egg

Monday, September 4th, 2017

An American friend of mine asked me where I was yesterday because I wasn’t in work. I told him I was playing golf. He asked how was my round. I said it was a bit like a curate’s egg. He exclaimed: “What the hell does that mean?” I said that it meant it was good in parts and bad in places. In my mind that was a perfectly accurate explanation, but unfortunately not in the American idiom and therefore lost in translation.

Come to think of it, a curate’s egg would also describe Trump’s presidency. Trump is actually the reason I haven’t written anything over the past few weeks. I had planned to write a review of his first 100 days as President but the whole period was dominated by the Russian connection to the Trump family and the alleged Russian influence on the Presidential Election. I then decided to review his first six months in office but his presidency continued to be mired in potential scandal, North Korea, firings, resignations of his Cabinet and White House staff, and now Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impact on Houston.

During his election campaign, he promised to “drain the swamp” which he attributed to eradicating Washington of political corruption. This is all very well but he alienated politicians on both sides of the house, and therefore its no surprise he failed to have sufficient support to repeal or scrap Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare and make other positive changes to the nation’s health care system. Recently Trump commented that the swamp had now evolved into a sewer! He probably extended his colorful rhetoric to include most of the media who he constantly condemns for producing “fake news.”

One of his nemesis is Senator John McCain who Trump publically insulted by claiming “real heroes don’t get captured,” referring to McCain’s long internment by the Vietnamese when he was shot down over enemy territory. McCain was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, but made a remarkable comeback to the senate to provide the decisive “no” to block the repeal of Obamacare.

One could argue that Trump has made progress with illegal immigration, the economy and other issues since he took office. There is almost a 50% reduction  in illegal crossings on the southern border, consumer confidence is at a 16 year high, and CEO confidence is at a 20% high. He has also achieved some success in Congress approving in principle to build the wall on the border between USA and Mexico. Could this wall rival in time the history, notoriety and infamy of  Hadrian’s Wall, The Great Wall of China, or the Berlin Wall?

When Congress returns from their summer break, the major item on the agenda will be tax reform which was ranked high on Trump’s election platform. Meanwhile he has to deal with the contentious issue of North Korea firing nuclear missiles across Japan, and recently producing a hydrogen bomb. Trump has threatened North Korea with some aggressive rhetoric, but he may have to rely on international diplomacy to take the heat out of a risky situation.

Swansea City have had  what could be described as a curate’s egg of their own in the summer transfer window. They sold last season’s  two top goal scorers and chief creator, Siggurdson and LLorente to Everton and Tottenham respectively. Only to make one of the more audacious loan deals of the transfer window by signing 20 year old Portugese international Sanchez from Bayern Munich for the remainder of the season. This was quickly followed by the return of former favorite Wilfried Bony who hopefully can recapture his form that he produced in 2014-15.

On a final note, I found it ironic that Georgia’s Governor unveiled a bronze statue of Martin Luther King at the Capital Building in downtown Atlanta last week amidst the protests and outcry nationwide to remove countless Confederate statues. These protesters claim that the statues are racist and offensive to their delicate countenance. When will the Silent Majority stand up and tell them the statues represent a part of America’s history and do no harm to anyone with an iota of intelligence?


Twenty Years Living in America

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

I emigrated to USA in 1996, and settled in Atlanta, Georgia. A couple of months later the Olympic Games descended upon the City, and I might have attended a few events, but the whole experience was  just a blur as I came to terms with my incongruous decision to move across the Atlantic. A little Frenchman told me it would take approximately two years to settle down, and he was spot on. Twenty years later, the adventure continues. Based on my time in Atlanta I’ve listed below things I like or liked about living in America and conversely things I dislike or disliked living there:

20 Things I like/liked about living in America

  • Blue skies with not a cloud to be seen.
  • Hot Wings and baby back ribs. My favorite places for those culinary delights are Taco Mac (the original location in Virginia Highlands,) Three Dollar Café and Wild West Wings, and Blue Ribbon which also does a mean martini.
  • A big house, bang for the buck which we couldn’t possibly afford if we were still living in the UK.
  • Health care, and I’m not referring to Obama Care.
  • NBC coverage of the Premiership. I can watch more Premiership games live than my son can living in London.
  • Air Conditioning
  • Variety of places to travel in one big country: mountains, desert, tropics, beaches where the water is actually warm. Alaska and Hawaii would have been difficult to reach if I still lived in the UK.
  • Visiting Monument Valley at sunrise was breathtaking.
  • Touring the national parks in Utah was a truly awesome experience.
  • Learning another language; American-English. I’ve battled for twenty years to master the dialect, but I’m afraid it’s a losing battle. Allow me to apologize to y’all. For example,  Atlanta is embracing the merits of the roundabout, but have labeled it the traffic circle.
  • Visiting Great American cities; Washington DC, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Savannah, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles to name but a few.
  • Our dog Tiger, was an unusual mix of chow and collie  who passed away in 2007, aged 17. He was probably my  best friend in America. He was  brave, strong, loyal, loveable with a sense of mischief.
  • Open air concerts at Chastain Park ranging from Harry Connick Jr., Tony “Bleeding” Bennett, Ringo Starr All Star Band, Huey Lewis and The News, BB King (God rest his Soul,) Chuck Berry and Ray Charles.
  • Grilling out on the Big Green Egg for nearly 10 months of the year.
  • The High Museum of Art. I had the  privilege of viewing an Impressionist exhibition, a Norman Rockwell collection of originals, and Elton John’s photography collection by several famous photographers.
  • The opportunity to attend four different professional sports in one city: basketball (Hawks) ice hockey (Thrashers now extinct,) baseball (Braves) and American football (Falcons.) a Major League Soccer team, Atlanta United, will be playing here next season.
  • Visiting Hawaii and Alaska both of which provide breathtaking scenery. Active volcanoes, bears catching salmon, a flight around Mt. McKinley were just a few of the highlights.
  • Chick_Fil_A, easily the best fast food restaurant chain in America.
  • Lightning bugs and humming birds in our backyard.
  • Close proximity to an international airport.

20 Things I don’t like about living in America.

  • Traffic where the increasing number of tractor-trailers intermingled with idiots make driving conditions extremely difficult not to mention driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • Dog days (excluding Tiger…) of summer when the humidity is at its highest and most unbearable.
  • Political correctness.
  • Lack of community spirit.
  • Sense of entitlement of certain racial ethnicities.
  • Deteoriation in customer service in stores, restaurants and bars.
  • Insularity. I’m afraid the “special relationship” that supposedly exists between the UK and USA is grossly exaggerated. Millennials don’t relate to  World War 2 or the British Pop invasion in the ’60s. As one local talking head put it so succinctly: “Britain is that little island off the west coast of Europe.”
  • Total bias of major TV and radion networks whether it be conservative or liberal. The media has become propaganda machines favoring one party over the other unwilling to give the public objective commentary on current affairs.
  • Eighteen months of personal mud slinging campaigning to earn the right to be the presidential candidate for your Party. And boy have we ended up with two humdingers in Clinton and Trump.
  • Sixty feet high trees falling on my house and in my yard.
  • The fallacy that I could reinvent myself in USA.
  • Noisy restaurants. I can’t understand why people need to shout and scream at each other across the table.
  • Roofs (shingles) which only have a shelf life of 15-20 years. Where is the good old Welsh slate when you need it?
  • The South’s obsession with college football. Alabama doesn’t have a professional sports team, but the Crimson Tide (University of Alabama) attracts 90,000 to home games. They enjoyed a similar attendance for a practice game last season. (14)
  • Sports radio stations in Atlanta, and the irrelevant pre-season NFL football games.

The Road Trip to Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Just over a couple of weeks ago, I embarked on a road trip to Pittsburgh. My friend Bob is originally from Pittsburgh and he was to be my trusty guide covering 1200 miles in the space of four days. Travelling north on the first day from Atlanta, we drove 440 miles to our first destination, Lewisburg, West Virginia. We booked into our hotel for the night and were surprised next morning at breakfast to be surrounded by a plethora of Red Cross workers. We soon realized they were relief workers cleaning up after  the severe flooding that engulfed West Virginian the previous week.

We drove the short distance to the Greenbrier Hotel to take a tour of “The Bunker” which lived underneath the West Wing of this gargantuan hotel comprising 700 guest rooms. The former US Government Relocation facility was a top secret of the Cold War designed to accommodate both the US Senate and House of Representatives in the event of a national emergency.

Planned by the Eisenhower Administration, in cooperation with the leadership of the United States Congress, the facility was built under the Greenbrier  between 1958 and 1961. Once completed, it was maintained in a state of constant readiness by a small cadre of government employees.

The secrecy of its location was maintained for more than 30 years until May 1992 when The Washington Post  published a story effectively exposing it. The day after the story was published, the facility was declassified and phased out by July 1995.  It was finally opened to the public as an historic museum as an artifact of the Cold War. Included in the facility are 44 separate locations with 153 rooms comprising a total of 112, 544 sq. feet on two levels.

We continued our journey to Pittsburgh to pick up the cable car on the 138 year old incline which afforded us a panoramic view over the city. Once dominated by steel mills along the “Three Rivers,” downtown has been transformed into a modern city appropriate for the 21st Century.

Hunger pangs were beginning to take their toll, and we headed for The Church Brew Works which is a restaurant and brewery rolled into one. Nestled in the historic  neighborhood of Lawrenceville, The award winning CBW opened in 1996 as the first and only Brew Pub in the country to be located in a historic church.

The original Douglas Fir floors, stained glass windows and hand-painted cypress ceiling were all painstakingly renovated to showcase their original beauty, providing a unique and memorable dining and drinking experience.

The second day had provided magical moments for one who was new to the City of Pittsburgh, and we were happy and content to retire to our hotel for a good night’s rest in readiness for what next day’s adventures had in store.

We were up bright and early the next morning, and having consumed a nondescript breakfast at the Comfort Suites Hotel, we drove to Canton, Ohio to visit the NFL Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame experience is like a Disney Park for adults. The exhibit rooms were awash with jerseys and artifacts from NFL legends, Super Bowl rings, and my favorite, busts of every NFL Hall of Famer. As a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, I was dismayed to discover that only one Falcon, Claude Humphreys, has been inducted in their fifty year history, whereas Bob’s team, the Pittsburgh Steelers have 19 players inducted in the Hall of Fame. I guess 5 Super Bowl wins deserve some recognition.

We returned to Pittsburgh for an early dinner at Station Square before attending a Pittsburgh Pirate game. We found a cute restaurant, Bar Louie,  with a patio area along the river. We had luckily stumbled on happy hour, and wine and appetizers were half price and draft beer was $1.25!!!! In contrast a similar beer would later cost $11 at the ball park.

Bob dragged me from Louie’s kicking and screaming, and we boarded a paddle steamer to transport us across the river to the fairly new baseball stadium (PNC Park.) Unfortunately the night didn’t end on the brightest of notes with the Pirates losing 4-8 to the Milwaukee Brewers in a very slow contest.

On our last day, we had breakfast at a Park’N’Eat restaurant, where Bob had worked many years ago as a short order cook. The nostalgia continued for Bob as  we drove around the neighborhood where he was born and raised. He also caddied at a local golf course as a young teenager, but sadly the club went into bankruptcy a few years ago, and the course was almost unrecognizable since mother nature had reclaimed it.

Continuing the golf theme, we stopped for a few minutes at Oakmont Country Club where the US Open had been held in June and won in decisive fashion by Dustin Johnson.  Oakmont has hosted the US Open nine times, more than any other course. Some of the notable winners include Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, and Johnny Miller shot a course record 63 in the final round in 1973 to capture the Open crown.

We eventually headed for our final destination on the itinerary. Fallingwater , one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most widely acclaimed works was designed in 1935 for the family of Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar. J. Kaufmann Sr.

The key to the setting of the house is the waterfall over which it is built. Wright designed the house to rise above  the waterfall, rather than face it. Fallingwater was constructed of sandstone quarried on the property, and serves to separate reinforced concrete “trays” dramatically cantilevered over the stream. It is the only major Wright work to come into the public domain with its setting, original furnishings and artwork intact.

Sadly our journey was nearing its conclusion, and we returned to Pittsburgh where we had reservations at The Hampton Inn, close to the Airport in readiness for my flight home to Atlanta. The next morning I caught the hotel shuttle to the Delta terminal taking home a host of wonderful memories. Meanwhile Bob continued his journey to his final destination in Boston. It had been an unforgettable trip and I’m sincerely grateful to Bob for organizing the itinerary, plotting out the route, making the hotel reservations, and sharing his  wealth of local knowledge with me.

Thanks also to our Sponsors: Eat_N_Park, Sheetz, and Bob Evans

Asheville, Hush Puppies and Meltdown

Monday, July 4th, 2016


We spent a pleasant weekend in early April in Asheville, South Carolina which coincided with the weekend of the Masters, but more of that later. We reserved a two night stay at the Engardine Inn situated on the outskirts of Asheville. The owners had done a terrific job in restoration. Built in 1885, it was oozing in charm and nostalgia from a bygone age, accompanied by creaking doors, creaking floors and a creaking bed. Well, my joints have a tendency to creak these days so I fitted right in.

We arrived a day early in Asheville and we booked into the Downtown Inn situated at the heart of Asheville. What do they say about valuable property? Location, location, location………. and it was convenient for the bars and restaurants that Asheville had to offer. But why did I come away with the inert impression I had spent the night at an army barracks complete with a drill sergeant on reception?

Members of our family and well intentioned friends had recommended we visit the Biltmore House and Estate and the Grove Park Inn during our visit. Biltmore Estate is a large (8,000 acre) private estate and tourist attraction in Asheville. Biltmore House, the main house on the estate, is a Chateauesque-styled mansion built by George Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet  of floor space (135,280 square feet  of living area). Still owned by one of Vanderbilt’s descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age.

Admission was $65 each which I thought was rather pricey. The audio tour is an extra $20 and a “behind the scenes tour” is another $20 which is extortionate. We breezed through the house and headed for the extensive landscaped gardens. This was far from the madding crowds and much more relaxing.

Darwin Hybrid Tulip varieties were blooming in the Walled Garden and Estate Entry. Other blooms at this time of the year included early flowering shrubs and trees, forsythia, spirea, magnolia, and flowering cherries. We ended the day with some wine tasting and purchased a few bottles to take home.

We were also advised not to miss out on the Grove Park Inn, which is an historic resort hotel built in 1913 on the western-facing slope of Sunset Mountain within the Blue Ridge Mountains. The hotel is an example of the Arts and Crafts style of architecture. I have never heard of that type of architecture before, but no matter.

The hotel was built of rough granite stones and the expansive lobby is noted for its enormous granite fireplaces and expansive porch with its scenic overlook. It was advertised as having “walls five feet thick of granite boulders.” Unfortunately, two monolithic rear wings were added in  1958 and 1963 (the wonderful era of architecture) respectively which destroy the scale and character of the original building. But hey, money is money.

It was Sunday, the last day of the Masters, and we had returned from a long but enjoyable day of sighseeing, eating and drinking. I switched on the TV and Jordan Spieth was leading the tournament by 5 shots entering the 12th tee. In the blink of an eye he managed to score a 7 on the  Par 3 hole, and the tournament slipped through his fingers and won by a little known Englishman, Danny Willett who commendably shot a 67 in the last round. So much for the much vaunted new “Big Three,” Spieth, Day and McIlroy.

We didn’t feel like driving back into Asheville for dinner, so we found a “hole-in-the-wall” barbecue joint, called Frankie’s, bought a takeaway, and returned to the guest house where we feasted on ribs, pulled pork and grilled chicken washed down with a bottle of Malbec; serenely  sitting outside on the balcony of the guest house watching the world go by in the cool of the evening. As we pulled out of Frankie’s 10 minutes earlier, the cashier came tearing out the front door screaming: “Hey stop; y’all forgotten your hush puppies!!!!”

On the way home, we made a detour to Dupont Falls. I’ve seen more dramatic waterfalls, but these have gained notoriety as they were used as a location in the “Hunger Games” movies. I haven’t seen them either, but my wife is a great fan.



EU, UK, BREXIT and The Seven Dwarfs

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016



Bashful: Great, I’m spared 4 months of analysis and thinking. Nigel Farage, George Galloway, and Boris Johnson all think we should leave the EU. That’s me for staying in!!

Doc: IDS, Gove, etc, want to take us out, so they can rip away the rest of our human rights, make us all slaves, and kill off the rest of us who are ill, old and disabled. Fear politics all over again. Yet another reason to stay in.

Happy: Despite their policies in UK which I disagree with, I am afraid to say that I agree with them for not being part of EU. It may not necessarily be for the same reasons but ultimately I’m out!

Bashful: Why do you want to leave, Happy?

Sneezy: Why would you want to stay, Bashful?

Bashful: Ok. Very short answer.

Bashful: Original founders of EU were motivated by a desire to avoid a third world war starting in Europe. Coincidentally this is the 100th anniversary of the battle of Verdun which only involved the French and Germans. I think that motive is still a strong fundamental. Economy: It makes sense to me to stay in the biggest trading group in the world. There may be petty bureaucracies but that applies everywhere and there is a general acceptance that these can be improved.

Bashful: Wales has received some benefit from the EU financially but it is also encouraging to be part of a group that contains other small nations with minority languages who share some of our concerns rather than being dominated by our monoglot neighbor. This may be romantic but I emotionally like the idea and practice of travelling more freely through Europe – we took the train from Kings Cross to Barcelona via Paris. Fab! I’m Welsh, I’m British and I’m European. I’m an internationalist. Finally the problems that face Europe as a whole will be better dealt with if the UK remains a member.

Sneezy: World War maybe, but there are still wars going on all over the world. Not clear pulling out will change things. Biggest trading group? In decline! Also we will still be trading just as other non EU countries can. The EU also needs to trade with us. “Petty bureaucracies” – are you having a laugh calling the EU that??? Yes CAN be improved BUT hasn’t been in years and won’t be. Agree, Wales desperately needs to stay in. Had more than “some benefit”. Huge EU grants help to prop up a weak economy. You’re worried about being dominated by a monoglot neighbour but not a federational bunch of bureaucrats? Are the Swiss finding it difficult to move “freely” through Europe then?

Bashful: It’s a tough call, and I can see both sides but I think EUROPE is truly a greater vision than the alternative. And Visions don’t come easy!

Sneezy: Agree Bashful, but they need to go to Specsavers!

Happy: There are a few reasons Bashful for wanting to leave (too many to type with thumbs on a phone so I’m not going to go into detail on here but to try to offer an answer for you… I believe the system that is currently being used by the EU is not workable and the system that is needed to make it workable is not acceptable to the main established countries, including GB. Listening to DC when he announced deal, I could see nothing in what he said that actually made it beneficial to remain in EU with the changes being proposed, they are very superficial. We could have all of those things he announced if we left EU and have a greater say over all the issues the deal covers.

Happy: We will obviously still have a close relationship with the other main countries and will obviously continue to share info regarding terrorist groups/threats and national safety. There are several scaremongers saying it will be a complete break from everything but the reality is the relationship that currently exists will still remain. Also The EU obviously want us to stay as it strengthens the EU with GB in where as it weakens the EU if we leave. There are several countries such as Germany and France who would not have the current system that exists but are not able to exit due to the agreements they made. There you go, a few things to think about

Bashful: just pure speculation, Happy. No one knows what lies ahead if we leave.

Happy: You may say so Bashful! ? Anyway, to answer your ‘non-point’…when I left RBC I still kept in contact and relationship with certain folk. My relationship with some is naturally better than others but nonetheless my relationships remain. When I left Manchester for Cardiff the same thing applied. Now relationships may change for better or worse, grow closer with some and grows apart with others but the relationship remain. By leaving the EU we are not going to cut off all ties with Europe as if they don’t exist or as if there has been no history between us for the last 60yrs. That’s worse than a sudden case of amnesia. For the sake of national security we need to share intelligence with various agencies / governments but we don’t need to be part of the EU for that to continue. That relationship will remain whether we are in or out. You can take that as a given. If you think we will become hermits and lock ourselves away you are very wrong. There will be some changes regarding some funding and laws that Europe has introduced for our benefit over the years and there will possibly be some teething problems but these won’t be difficult to resolve. We are a sovereign land and have been established for centuries…your ‘pure speculation’ comment only plays on the fear element of the in campaign and doesn’t actually embrace the topic. You can pull that out with every question thus avoiding answering difficult questions and also avoids engaging in proper debate. It’s a cheap tactic that politicians will use far too often during this debate. I encourage you not to copy their lead but to consider the facts and reason wisely not just base your decision based on who stands for which side.

Sleepy: It wasn’t difficult to travel before, just the odd border check, which nowadays can only be a blessing. Blood pressure goes up every time they pass another stupid law. We are the second biggest contributor and they treated the re negotiation with such arrogance and disdain. I do not want our finances governed by Poland’s prime minister. I’m out.

Dopey: If corruption, greed and inefficiency are reasons to shut down the European project then we might as well shut down governments, corporations and humans in general across the entire planet.

Happy: For the record, I am happy to engage in the topic and willing for my mind to be changed, however, given my position as it stands is to vote out on the basis that what we have currently in EU has been built on broken foundations, it may be difficult for me to change my mind. These foundations are not going to be dealt with ever and the idea that the public has for voting ‘in’ on the idealistic notion that things can change is simply not accurate. That is not the deal being proposed by DC or Europe. It simply won’t happen. The best of both worlds idea that people like is not on the table and it is in my opinion currently dangerous to make this assumption.

Grumpy: One thing that does accrue from being part of the European is access to a greater spread of expertise in developing legislation. It’s true that the process can be time consuming but the vast majority doesn’t disadvantage the UK. What they do bring is some consistent standards across the community and agreed ways to deal with disputes.

Key to Abbreviations:

EU: European Union, formerly known as the Common Market

BREXIT: British Exit from the European Union

IDS: Ian Duncan-Smith, British Government Minister

Gove: Michael Gove, British Government Minister

UK: United Kingdom

Fab: Fabulous

GB: Great Britain

DC: David Cameron, British Prime Minister

RBC: Royal Bank of China



That Was The Week That Was

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015


The first week of June has proved to be quite eventful. Earlier in the week it was reported that Charles Kennedy the former leader of the Liberal Democrats had died suddenly at the age of 55. Mr. Kennedy was an MP for 32 years until he recently lost his seat to the SNP avalanche at the General Election. Mr. Kennedy was quite unique in politics; he was honest, personable, articulate and very intelligent.

He had the courage to oppose the Iraq War and was vilified by all around him who collectively stepped on the Bush/Blair bandwagon. He never lauded over lesser souls when he was proved right to oppose the war, and his leadership of the Liberal Democrats was a decisive factor in the party winning 62 seats at the General Election in 2005. Sadly he was a victim of the demon drink and was forced to resign as leader as the cracks began to show.

Later in the afternoon, breaking news revealed that the corrupt  weasel, Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA had announced his resignation. Four days earlier he had been re-elected for another term despite five of his cohorts being arrested on corruption charges. It would appear, but not confirmed, that the wolves were circling the 79 year old demi-god and he decided to jump before being pushed thus ending a despicable 17 year reign. However, he will remain in office until a new President is elected in December which is quite inexplicable.

In the newspapers on Wednesday, the 40th Anniversary of Leeds United’s appearance in the European Cup Final was recognized when they lost 0-2 to Bayern Munich. Critics will argue that they were the victim of poor referee decisions, but I have no sympathy for that club. They were cynical, unscrupulous, dirty, and deservedly received their comeuppance.

Cracks are beginning to show in Brendan Rodgers’ control over Liverpool FC. They failed to qualify for the Champions League having spent millions on mediocre players in the summer and Steven Gerrard has retired to earn mega bucks in a cosey environment at LA Galaxy. The American owners of Liverpool assured Rodgers his job was safe for now, but unceremoniously fired assistant manager Colin Pascoe and first team coach Mike Marsh.

I can’t imagine Liverpool’s former legendary manager, the late Bill Shankly, allowing his erstwhile assistants Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan to be fired by the Board in a similar manner. Rodgers who is never short of a word or two has some explaining to do.

We are a few days away from celebrating the bi-centennial anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo; a battle which changed the course of world history.The other day, I came across a giant statue of the Duke of Wellington astride his horse, Copenhagen, located in a nondescript park on the outskirts of Aldershot. I believe he deserves a more prominent spot in the confines of a London square or outside the Houses of Parliament to receive similar recognition as the Nation’s other great statesmen Winston Churchill and Horatio Nelson. 

I was driving passed Stonehenge and was caught in a traffic jam. Nevertheless it gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at the giant pig farm which abuts the A30, and is located less than  half mile from the World Heritage Site. I’m not a pig hater by any means but I thought it incongruent to allow a piggery so near to Stonehenge. They can’t really argue that the pigs were there first, can they?

The week ended with a flourish with Barcelona deservedly defeating Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League Final, and American Pharaoh becoming the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown of American horse racing: The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and the Belmont. Congratulations to the winners, commiserations to the losers.

Footnote: Wellington’s monument was originally placed on Constitution Arch in the City of London, but regarded as a bit of an eyesore by Queen Victoria. It was later moved to Hyde Park and eventually found its way to Aldershot, home of the British Army.




Duncan Edwards: The Greatest of Them All

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Earlier this week, the Guardian newspaper published an article by Daniel Taylor to commemorate the late Duncan Edwards’s debut for England sixty years ago. As a young boy at the time, Duncan Edwards’ death due to the Munich air crash left a lasting impression on me, and as a tribute I decided to post the article on my blog:

Sixty years on from his England debut, the Manchester United star cut down in his prime by the Munich air disaster left so many unanswerable questions.The difficult truth is that they will always be questions that don’t have answers. Would Duncan Edwards really have been remembered as football royalty? Would people point and wave in the way they did when Pelé came to the front row of the directors’ box at Anfield last Sunday and held aloft his arms? Would people genuinely think of Edwards as the greatest?

Duncan Edwards

None of us can be sure, just like we will never know whether it might have been Edwards lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966 rather than Bobby Moore but for the horrors of Munich eight years earlier. There are only brief snippets, in black-and-white footage, of Edwards with the ball at his feet, and the vast majority of us will always have to rely on the testimony of the people who saw this force of nature close-up. Sir Bobby Charlton, for one, cannot conceal the awe in his voice in his own reminiscences and when he says Edwards is the best footballer he ever saw, he is not an isolated witness. The list is considerable and the tributes feel especially powerful this week. On Thursday it will be 60 years since Edwards made his England debut, aged 18 years and 183 days, filling out his shirt with those broad, powerful shoulders and playing with the authority of a young man holding the keys to the football universe.

Edwards had accumulated another 17 England caps before his life was cut tragically short in Rechts der Isar hospital, 15 days after Manchester United’s plane had crashed off the runway, and Charlton, a survivor from flight 609 rehabilitating among his own people in the north-east, heard the four words he had dreaded the most: his mother, Cissie, placing her hand on his shoulder and whispering: “Big Duncan has gone.”

busby babes

Again, we can only guess about how many international appearances he might have accrued. Charlton never speaks more evocatively, or adoringly, than when the subject is of his old team-mate. “Duncan had everything,” one eulogy began, around the 50th anniversary of Munich. “He had strength and character that just spilled out of him on the field. I’m absolutely sure that if his career had had a decent span he would have proved himself the greatest player we had ever seen. Yes, I know the great players – Pelé, Maradona, Best, Law, Greaves and my great favourite Alfredodi Stéfano – but my point was that he was better in every phase of the game. If you asked such players as Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney about Duncan their answers were always the same: they had seen nothing like him.”

He was also the original Boy Wonder, the first player to create the kind of unfettered excitement that George Best, Paul Gascoigne, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney brought later. One of the old newspaper reports I found researching this piece – from 1 April 1953 – is a few days before Edwards makes his first-team debut for United. The impression I had was that sportswriters of that generation were less prone to extravagant predictions than the modern-day journalist. Yet George Follows, writing for the News Chronicle, seems to be ahead of his?time.

“Like the father of the first atom bomb, Manchester United are waiting for something tremendous to happen. This tremendous football force they have discovered is Duncan Edwards, who is exactly sixteen and a half this morning. What can you expect to see in Edwards? Well, the first important thing is that this boy Edwards is a man of 12st and 5ft 10ins in height. This gives him his first great asset of power. When he heads the ball, it is not a flabby flirtation with fortune, it is bold and decisive. When he tackles, it is with a man-trap bite, and when he shoots with either foot, not even Jack Rowley – the pride of Old Trafford – is shooting harder. Though nobody can tell exactly what will happen when Edwards explodes into First Division football, one thing is certain: it will be?spectacular.”

They would dismiss it as hype now, pull down the shutters and stress the need for caution, in the way Roy Hodgson has just done on behalf of Harry Kane. Back then, they quickly established there was nothing sensationalised about those breathless missives from Fleet Street. Edwards was soon establishing himself as the complete footballer, capable of excellence in any position on the pitch, though primarily as a midfielder.

His first appearance for his country came in a 7-2 defeat of Scotland, when Dennis Wilshaw became the first England player to score four goals in a match but was still run close as the game’s outstanding performer. Nat Lofthouse scored two of his own but Edwards featured prominently in all the headlines. The story goes that the Scottish forward Lawrie Reilly turned to his team-mate Tommy Docherty during the first half and exclaimed: “Where the hell did they find him? They’ve built battleships on the Clyde that are smaller and less formidable.”

Edwards was England’s youngest post-war international, a record that stood until Michael Owen’s debut in 1998. His aura was immense and when he returned to Manchester it was not long before United’s opponents started to complain about the way Matt Busby was using an established first-teamer, and now a fully fledged international, in youth-team fixtures.

Edwards had not become a great footballer simply because of bulldozing tactics but he had matured ahead of his years and was shaped so magnificently (his height was more often given at 6ft, meaning Follows might have missed off a couple of inches) that opponents of the same age might as well have tried to barge over an oak tree than knock him off the ball.

“We played matches where he won them on his own,” Charlton recalls in Colin Malam’s The Boy Wonders. “I remember, particularly, two matches against Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Youth Cup. We beat them 2-1 at Chelsea, 2-1 up here at Old Trafford, and he scored all four. And I tell you, they were hard games because Chelsea did have some good players. I remember taking a corner kick and thinking: ‘I’ll just hang it up’ because I knew he’d get there. Sure enough, he scored the winning goal by blasting through about 10 people – bang. He was massive. If Duncan was playing against today’s massed defences, he would simply knock them down.” As Busby said: “Duncan was never a boy, he was a man even when we signed him at 16.”

Busby’s eyes would twinkle apparently – initially with paternal affection, later with great sorrow – when the conversation was of the boy from Dudley. He would also say that “the bigger the occasion, the better he liked it” and Edwards certainly lived up to that reputation when England travelled to Berlin to face West Germany, the world champions, at the Olympic Stadium in 1956. His goal was a masterpiece, slaloming through a blockade of defenders before smashing the ball in from 25 yards and setting up a 3-1 win.

This time the eulogy came from the captain, Billy Wright: “The name of Duncan Edwards was on the lips of everyone who saw this match; he was phenomenal. There have been few individual performances to match what he produced that day. Duncan tackled like a lion, attacked at every opportunity and topped it off with that cracker of a goal. He was still only 19, but already a world-class player.”

In Munich, with seven of his teammates already among the dead, the doctors treating Edwards reckoned it was a miracle he survived as long as he did. They were devastating injuries: damaged kidneys, a collapsed lung, a broken pelvis, multiple fractures of his right thigh, crushed ribs and a litany of internal injuries.

Famously, he asked the assistant manager, Jimmy Murphy, during one period of semi-consciousness what time the kick-off would be for the game against Wolves the following Saturday. What does not get reported so much is that he also told Murphy he was desperate not to miss it. The initial casualty list had described him as “mortally injured” but his final breath came 15 days later. “It was as though a young Colossus had been taken from our midst,” Frank Taylor wrote in The Day a Team Died.

It has left so many unanswered questions. How might England have done in the 1958 World Cup if Edwards had been rampaging through the middle? Where would he be in the pantheon of football greats? But the testimonies form a lasting tribute. “When I used to hear Muhammad Ali proclaim to the world that he was the greatest I used to smile,” Murphy once said. “The greatest of them all was a footballer named Duncan Edwards.”


The Best Football X1 from Players I saw Live.

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

I lived in Swansea for two thirds of my life, and apart from two seasons in the early eighties, I didn’t see many players from the Premiership or the old First Division. However, I did manage to see a couple of games in London featuring Man Utd vs Crystal Palace, and Spurs vs Leicester. From only two games I was fortunate to see Best, Charlton, Law, Tony Dunne, Nobby Stiles, Gordon Banks, Pat Jennings, Dave Mackay, Mike England and the incomparable Jimmy Greaves. I later travelled to the Welsh capital to watch Cardiff City vs West Ham in a league cup tie, and marveled at three World Cup winners on display: Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst.

I first witnessed Ivor Allchurch playing for Newcastle United against the Swans in a Second Division match in 1962. He was 32 years old by then and his powers were waning slightly. Nevertheless he was the best player on the park gliding contemptuously around the field and he scored a superlative goal from a free kick  curling the ball around the defensive wall into the top corner of the net.

Ivor eventually returned to the Swans several years later, and I remember him playing against Arsenal in the 3rd round of the FA Cup at the age of 38. There was no fairy tale ending as Ian Ure and Terry Neill attempted to kick him off the park, and Arsenal won 1-0 with a goal from Bobby Gould who was not good enough to lick Ivor’s boots.

Any attempts to select the best eleven players I saw live has to give serious consideration to nine of England’s World Cup winning team I was lucky to see play: Gordon Banks, Bobby Moore, Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilson, Bobby Chartlton, Martin Peters, Roger Hunt, and Geoff Hurst. Players who won the World Cup reached the summit 0f their profession which was no mean feat considering it’s the only time England has won the World Cup (1966.) Alan Ball and George Cohen were the two members of the team I failed to catch up with.

Most of the live games I saw naturally included Swansea Town/ City, and the team comprised some very good players over the years. One of my favorites was Mel Nurse who had two spells with the team, and proved to be a very commanding centre half and leader. There were others: Alan Curtis, Robbie James, Herbie Williams, Graham “Flicka”Williams, Roy Evans, Harry Griffiths, Len Allchurch, Derek Draper, Jimmy McLaughlin, John Toshack to name but a few.

Some of the opposing teams also comprised some very good players who were household names at the time: Charlie Hurley and Johnny Crossan (Sunderland,) Ian St John, Roger Hunt and Ron Yeats (Liverpool,) Brian Clough and Alan Peacock (Middlesb0rough,)  Paul Reaney, Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter and Peter Lorimer (Leeds,)and Bill Punton of Norwich City; the first bald-headed footballer I saw.

I’m picking a squad of 23 players initially:

Goalkeepers: Gordon Banks, Pat Jennings, and Noel Dwyer.

Defenders: Mike England, Mel Nurse,  Bobby Moore, Ray Wilson, Tony Dunne, Roy Evans, and Steve Nicol.

Midfield: Dave Mackay, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters, Robbie James,  Ivor Allchurch, Ossie Ardiles, and Glenn Hoddle

Forwards: Ian Rush, Jimmy Greaves, Denis Law, George Best, Alan Curtis and Alan Gizean.

My Team in 4-4-2 formation:

Gordon Banks: as safe as the Bank of England. No frills; he simply commanded his penalty box. World Cup winner. Who can forget his magnificent save to foil Pele in the World Cup of 1970?

Tony Dunne: an attacking fullback who knew his defensive responsibilities.

Mel Nurse: a pillar of strength and a leader of men

Bobby Moore: Captain of England’s World Cup winning team and a legend. His anticipation and reading of the game was second to none. It was a travesty he was never knighted.

Ray Wilson: tough tackling fullback who filled Boot Hill with his victims. World Cup winner, and ironically became an undertaker.

George Best: a wizard with the ball at his feet. One of the top six players in any generation.

Bobby Charlton: World Cup Winner; the creator and scorer of spectacular goals and master of the comb over.

Dave Mackay: a hard man with no mean skill. Recovered from two broken legs and returned successfully to top flight football.

Martin Peters: Ghosted into attacking positions like a latter day Jacob Marley, and another World Cup winner.

Ivor Allchurch: Brazil players voted him the best inside forward (No 10 in modern idiom) at the 1958 World Cup. My dad and my Uncle Alec considered him the best thing on two legs (including their wives!)

Ian Rush: a prolific goal scorer, link man, and the inventor of strikers defending from the front.

Substitutes: Pat Jennings, Steve Nicol, Mike England, Robbie James, Jimmy Greaves, and Denis Law.

Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law are unlucky to miss selection, but Ivor was a special player. Mike England should have the vote over Mel Nurse, but Mel became a good friend of mine and I guess I’m guilty of nepotism.

One final footnote: Ivor Allchurch and Mel Nurse were unlucky to be transferred to two mediocre teams. Ivor was idolized at Newcastle but they were unfortunately relegated to the second division during his spell at the club. Mel was sold to Middlesborough when there was a possibility he could have been transferred to Manchester United. What a difference that move would have made to his career.



Friday, October 17th, 2014

This particular post has rumbled around in my head for a few weeks, so some of my reference may appear to be outdated. Nevertheless, I must stop procrastinating and put pen to paper.

The recent result in the Scottish Referendum made me realize that we all make choices in life; some life changing, others regrettable while many are mundane decisions that we are required to make out of necessity in our daily routines.

Scotland had the opportunity to free themselves of the English yoke, but The First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond chose to confirm the mantra that former First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan, placed upon him as resembling a used car salesman. He continued to assure Scottish voters that they would retain pound sterling as their currency when they had achieved independence. British Government representatives were equally adamant that an independent Scotland would be required to adopt another currency. Equally damaging was the Bank of Scotland’s statement that they would move to London should Scottish independence be achieved.

These two factors were sufficient to dowse the flames of a Scottish revolt, and normal service  resumed almost immediately. It’s a shame the vote was lost. The next ten years could have changed the face of politics in Britain never mind its culture and intricate history. Many of the Labor Members of Parliament represent Scottish Constituencies and without their numbers it is unlikely that Labor could achieve a majority to form a Government.

I believe most citizens of the USA would agree that Obama has achieved immortality by becoming the worst President in history. Therefore it was somewhat  of a surprise that he was re-elected for a second term, and even more of a mystery how he was re-elected when nobody will now admit voting for him. Democracy gives the people the opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing which is tantamount to placing a loaded gun into a child’s hand.

Several years ago I made the choice to emigrate to America. It was the right thing to do on a personal and emotional level, but it proved disastrous in terms of my career. America was lauded as the place to make one’s fortune, a place to re-invent oneself where age was not a barrier. Believe me reality can bite you in the butt.

Europe retained the Ryder Cup yet again by comprehensively defeating their illustrious opponents the good old US of A. The Americans were so miffed that Phil Mickelson savaged his captain Tom Watson in the post match press conference. Tom Watson is a legend of the game and appeared to be an excellent choice to captain his team to victory. He was captain when they won in 1993 on British soil, but unfortunately appeared to be out of touch with his players. Watson was old enough to be Jordan Speith’s grandfather for example.

Watson couldn’t win  matches for his players, but he chose the pairings for the four balls and foursomes. Some of his pairings proved to be bizarre, but ironically his decision to pair two young rookies, Speith and Reed, was a bold and successful decision. However, some of his other choices led to  his downfall.

Reeling from only two wins from the last ten meetings in the Ryder Cup, the USPGA decided to form a “Task Force” to examine ways of creating a team capable of winning the Ryder Cup in two years time. The task force includes former players, current stars and former captains all of whom have a habit of losing. Conspicuous by their absence are the two winning captains for USA in recent times, Ben Crenshaw and Paul Azzinger.

One could argue that it is wrong to look back on your choices in life. To a certain extent I agree. However it pays to return once in a while and learn from them. The secret is not to dwell on the negatives, but move onward and upward with no regrets.

My last concluding thought on choices; this blog is approaching one million visitors and I have submitted 160 posts over the last four years. I’m seriously calling it a day when I hit the two milestones of one million visitors and 200 posts unless I receive some positive feedback. But don’t discount me emulating Frank Sinatra.