Archive for July, 2012

An Olympic Diary with a Twist

Monday, July 30th, 2012

July 25th

North Korea’s Olympic women’s football team walked off the pitch for an hour at their opening London 2012 match  after organizers mistakenly introduced the players using South Korea’s flag.

A Greek triple jumper has been expelled from the Olympics after she posted a racist joke on Twitter.

Voula Papachristou was kicked out of her national team for mocking African migrants and expressing support for a far-Right political party.

Her offending message – which was referring to reports of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus in her home country – read: ‘With so many Africans in Greece, at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food!’

July 26th

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, has questioned Britain’s preparedness to host the London 2012 Olympics and asked whether the country is genuinely willing to “celebrate” the Games.

He told US television there were “disconcerting” signs about Britain’s readiness. “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,” he said. “There are a few things that were disconcerting: the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, which obviously is not something which is encouraging.”

July 27th

Commenting on the opening ceremony: “It wasn’t Beijing. Not as exotic, not as magical. And not as expensive. This opening ceremony was quirky and fun and loud and British.” Basically it was an unadulterated shambles!

Queen Elizabeth was picking her nails when Great Britain marched into Olympic Stadium. Who can blame her having to sit through several hours of boring drivel?

Aidan Burley, the Conservative MP for Cannock Chase, sparked controversy by claiming that ceremony was “leftie multi-cultural crap.”

A German dignitary at the Olympic Opening Ceremony appeared to greet his country’s athletes with a Nazi salute. the elderly man was caught on video repeatedly extending his right arm back and forth  prompting  a few awkward starres from members of the crowd. Bizarrely he was sitting in front of Boris Johnson and Camilla Parker-Bowles who looked bemused at first  before bursting into laughter.

July 28th

Fearing tainted meat, China’s women’s volleyball team has stuck to a strict vegetarian diet for the last three weeks, which the team’s coach is now blaming for his athletes’ abysmal performance.

The mother of all shootouts is in Woolwich as a pregnant Malaysian lady competes a month before due date in the women’s 10m air rifle.

July 29th

Soldiers and students will take empty seats as organizers probe ticket farce.

It was bikinis, beer and Benny Hill at Horse Guards Parade yesterday where the beach volleyball kicked off and is already proving to be the Olympics hottest ticket. As the sun beat down, beautifully built competitors cast the venue’s historic architectural sights in to the shade as they digged, spiked and bumped the ball across the sandpit in the heart of the capital.

Hot favorite to win first gold for Team GB, cyclist Mark Cavendish: I didn’t have a chance. They just all ganged up on me!

Security staff covering the Olympics has been warned they face a £99 fine for poor behavior, including arriving late for work or not wearing the correct uniform.








Another little Gem

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Last Sunday (July 22nd) was my wife’s birthday and she was presented with the wonderful gift of a third granddaughter. It is hard to fathom that they are born on the same day and separated by 39 years. Well my wife has been 39 years old and in a holding pattern for the last few years and if it makes her happy so be it.

Our granddaughter entered the world around 6.45am weighing in at 7lbs 12oz which was apparently a routine birth, and therefore I assumed my day would progress according to plan watching the final round of The Open at Royal Lytham & St.Annes. I was obviously naïve. My wife was running around like a banshee preparing to drive down to the hospital to visit her new granddaughter, and I was carried along in the wake created by her effervescent mood.

Not to worry; I decided to record the final round in the faint hopes of not knowing the result before I could return home. Anyone remember the episode of The Likely Lads with Terry and Rodney attempting to avoid a result of a football match in order to watch recorded highlights later that evening?

My plan proved to be very successful for several hours during our visit until we popped into a Mexican restaurant to buy a takeaway lunch for my stepson who had been holed up in the hospital for several hours and was now ravenous. On our return, he eagerly announced that “Ernie Els won!”

The question is did Ernie Els win The Open or did Adam Scott lose it? Ernie shot a final round of 68 while Scott shot 75. More to the point, Scott was leading the tournament by 4 shots, but proceeded to bogey the last four holes. More than any other sport, golf challenges a man’s psyche. It provides an insight into how man can deal with adversity, triumph, disaster in a blink of an eye. Typically, with a few exceptions, majors are won by great players capable of handling intense pressure. When the going gets tough; the tough get going which is my single cliché allowed today.

If we discount Scott Hamilton, Ben Curtis, Stewart Cink, and Trevor Immelman (who?) very good players earn a sumptuous living plying their trade on the various tours away from the media spotlight which brings me to another of my pet peeves. Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are ranked Number 1 and 3 in the world respectively, but have not won a major between them. Tournaments around the world are taken into consideration when the rankings are prepared, but who cares whether Donald or Westwood won the Malaysian Open on their way to exalted positions in the rankings?

English players irritate me. Underachievers like Rose, Casey, Poulter, Westwood and Donald are liable to shoot a good final round when they are no longer in contention and the pressure is off. The most recent example is Luke Donald. He never really threatened to win The Open but finished joint fifth with a final round of 68.

On day when ESPN should have been concentrating on the main sports stories in the shape of the final round of The Open, the forthcoming London Olympics, their breaking news headline for several hours revolved around the removal of the statue of former Penn State Head Coach, Joe Paterno. He failed to do the right thing when his former assistant Jerry Sandusky sexually abused at least 45 male college students over a considerable period of time.

 Sandusky was deservedly found guilty of the crimes and will be suitably punished, but Paterno conveniently passed away in January. However the main concern for talking heads in America is whether Paterno’s legacy is tarnished, and not how the lives of several Penn students were psychologically damaged.

We really need to get our priorities in order.



RAF Bomber Command and my Dad

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

 Last Thursday (28th June 2012) the Queen unveiled a memorial to RAF Bomber Command in London’s Green Park sixty seven years after World War 2 ended. They suffered the highest casualty rate of the British Armed Forces in the Second World War, and until last week the men of Bomber Command had been officially overlooked.

Some 125,000 airmen took part in the five-year air offensive against Germany, a campaign widely credited with helping to bring about the end of the war. But the cost was high: 55,573 members of Bomber Command were killed and another 18,000 wounded or taken prisoner. Only service in the infantry in the First World War trenches had a comparable fatality rate.

But from the moment the war ended in 1945, the men who survived saw their role ignored by the authorities. In his V-E Day speech, Winston Churchill, the prime minister, pointedly omitted to mention the contribution made by Bomber Command. This official silence followed growing disquiet about the cost in German civilian lives during the campaign. The men were subsequently denied a campaign medal or a permanent national memorial.

Statistically, there was no more dangerous occupation during the war, except for that of U-boat crewman. The chance of being killed on a typical operation was one in 20, while the standard “tour” undertaken by a crew consisted of 30 ops. Flak, accident, the prowling, pitiless night fighters – a completed tour was something to celebrate in the squadron local.

The bravery required taking to the air night after night, as one’s luck drained steadily away, was of a different quality to that required in most other branches of the Armed Forces, where combat was often a short and terrifying interlude to extended periods of inactivity. Turning up over Berlin or the Ruhr for the third or fourth time was not enough to merit an award for gallantry, no matter that it entailed the nightly mastering of fears that inevitably drove some to the wall.

My dad was drafted in 1942 and joined the Royal Air Force. He initially trained as a radio operator until a routine medical discovered he was color blind. His wasn’t a severe case in the sense that he could only see shades of grey, but he couldn’t distinguish red from brown. This was enough to remove him from the course and he was unceremoniously thrown on the scrap heap until reassigned to other duties. My dad was feeling quite sorry for himself until he realized that some veteran pilots had been sent to the same “holding station.”

Some of the pilots had flown over 30 missions and were suffering from post-traumatic stress which was not recognized in those days. Men who couldn’t take it any more were deemed to be LMF (lacking moral fiber.) they were reduced in the ranks and in some cases were sent for “corrective treatment.” Others were simply given menial jobs, and the RAF made sure everyone knew why. My dad was returned to the ranks and ended the war as a leading aircraftsman.

During the early years of the war the Germans were bombing the living daylights out of British town and cities including London, Liverpool, Plymouth, Coventry, Glasgow and my home town Swansea. In 1941 Swansea suffered three successive nights of air raids (locally known as “The Blitz” which resulted in the demolition of the town center. During one air raid my mum and dad were almost killed. My mum didn’t like the air raid shelters and insisted on remaining at home.

 They were sheltering in a doorway when the bombs began to fall and suddenly half a dozen houses on the opposite side of the  street took a direct hit and were flattened.My mum was really upset. She was wearing a bright red coat which she had purchased earlier in the day, and to her horror was now covered in a thick layer of dust.

At the behest of the War Cabinet, Churchill instructed Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, commander-in-chief of Bomber Command to undertake a methodical destruction by incendiary and high explosives of German towns and cities. The project had two objectives: retaliation and to demoralize the German people. Between 300,000 and 600,000 German civilians perished, but war is a dirty business and little is gained by conducting it half-heartedly. Furthermore the German people realized they were no longer invincible.

There was this awful denial after the war about the role of the bomber crews because of the scale of the destruction inflicted on Germany. Churchill, who had promoted bombing as the only way of hitting back at Hitler in the early stages of the war, devoted one paragraph to Bomber Command in his memoirs which is an absolute disgrace.

On a personal level, being unable to distinguish red from brown possibly saved my dad’s life and consequently I wouldn’t be here writing this blog.


Taking an example of 100 airmen:

  • 55 killed on operations or died as result of wounds
  • three injured (in varying levels of severity) on operations or active service
  • 12 taken prisoner of war (some injured)
  • two shot down and evaded capture
  • 27 survived a tour of operations

In total 364,514 operational sorties were flown, 1,030,500 tons of bombs were dropped and 8,325 aircraft lost in action.