Archive for December, 2012


Saturday, December 15th, 2012

It’s 12th December, 2012 (12-12-12) which is a pretty cool date since it will not re-occur again this century. In case nobody had noticed it’s the festive season, so it’s time for my pesky lists again, but only this time comprising twelve items with a Christmas theme:

Twelve Christmas movies:

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life (about a man contemplating suicide because he is facing financial ruin.)
  2. Love Actually (chance to see the Hobbit naked.)
  3. White Christmas (Danny Kaye is flaming, but Bing sings “the song!”)
  4. A Christmas Story (“Ralph, you will shoot your eye out.”)
  5. Miracle on 34th Street (great performance by a very young Natalie Wood.)
  6. About a Boy (is Hugh Grant really a plonker?)
  7. The Bishop’s Wife (original version is best with Cary Grant and David Niven.)
  8. A Christmas Carol (1951 version starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge is classic.)
  9. Elf (included this one because my son’s girlfriend likes it.)
  10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Hysterical!)
  11. The Shop around the Corner (stocking filler.)
  12. Holiday Inn (another stocking filler. I was struggling to pick twelve that I liked.)

Twelve Things I have enjoyed at Christmas

1.  Roast turkey and all the trimmings. Turkey is available the year round but there’s something about the aromas emanating from the kitchen combined with the pine smell of a Christmas tree ably supported by a log fire.

2. My children and now grandchildren manically tearing the gift wrappings of their Christmas presents.

3. My wife’s trifle is filled with an effusion of fresh fruit (raspberries. blackberries, blueberries strawberries, bananas, whatever is available) and she only makes it at Christmas.

4. My mum’s homemade mince pies, and her Christmas cake coated with marzipan and icing.

5.  I received my big green egg grill last Christmas as a surprise gift from my wife. It’s quite awesome and I can cook anything on it, but I’m not quite ready to grill my Christmas turkey on the big egg.

6. Two years ago on Christmas morning I was sipping champagne with my wife in the hot tub surrounded by a thick layer of snow.

7.  I enjoy eggnog and mulled wine, and Christmas is the only time we have them.

8.   Creating Angels in the snow. My wife gave me a demonstration on a cold, dark, crispy New Year’s Eve when I was living in Swansea.

9.  I like cracking nuts (excluding my own of course) and attempting to prize out the nut whole. There was always a variety of nuts in the bag: hazelnut, walnuts, Brazil etc. It’s funny that shelled nuts are available the year round, but they don’t present the same challenge.

10. I enjoyed going to the pub with my dad  on late Christmas morning where we would enjoy a couple of pints and a fat cigar before staggering back home for Christmas dinner.

11. The BBC TV Christmas specials were not to be missed. Morecambe and Wise closely followed by Only Fools and Horses were my favorites. In recent times Downtown Abbey follows a great tradition.

12. Pantomime in which cross dressing is rife and audience participation is actively encouraged. My son was a performer’s dream. He lived and loved every minute of the show.

Twelve Christmas Songs ( not necessarily in any order.)

1.  A Fairy Tale in New York: The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

2.  White Christmas: Bing Crosby

3.  All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth: Spike Jones and His City Slickers

4.  Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong with Velma Middleton

5.  I’ll Be Home for Christmas (if only in my dreams): Frank Sinatra

6.      The Night Before Christmas: Louis Armstrong

7.      The First Noel: Frank Sinatra

8.      The Little Drummer Boy: Bing Crosby and David Bowie

9.      Santa Claus is Coming To Town: Bruce Springstein

10.  All I want for Christmas is You: Mariah Carey

11.  Only You: The Flying Pickets

12.  Do They Know it’s Christmas: Band Aid

Merry Christmas Everyone.


Sporting Parallels

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Following the Lord Mayor’s Show cometh the dog’s dinner. Last weekend was not a profitable time for three sports teams I support. Tottenham Hotspur conceded two goals in injury time to lose 1-2 to Everton. This season they have made a habit of seeping late goals. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde:” to concede one goal in injury time is unfortunate, but to concede two is shear carelessness!”

Swansea City’s fate in the Premiership and Atlanta Falcons’ meltdown in the NFL were uncannily similar. The Swans defeated Arsenal away last Saturday and were lying 7th in the table. However their opponents Norwich City were unbeaten in their last 8 games and achieved the double over the Swans last season. Talk in the media preceding the home game centered on the possibility of the Swans qualifying for the Europa Cup, and the Champions League was not out of the question.

There was one notable omission from the Swans lineup, and no it wasn’t Michu who quite rightly has received the plaudits for his scoring exploits this season. Unfortunately Leon Britton was sidelined by a knee injury, and let’s face it he is the glue that holds the model aircraft together. The high flying Swans were playing like lame ducks and were 0-3 down at half-time. They came out in the second half determined to make amends and scored two goals before the hour to give the fans some hope. Regrettably Norwich scored a fourth to silence the beleaguered fans and Michu scored his second in extra time to make the score respectable.

The Swans face a tricky quarter final encounter at home with Middlesbrough on Wednesday in the Capital One Cup followed by a league game away to Spurs on Saturday. While it would be exciting to progress in the Cup survival in the Premiership should remain the number one priority. Any aspirations regarding Europe should be placed on the” back burner” because they are a mid-table team at best.

Atlanta is 11-1 this season and they were playing division rivals Carolina Panthers who are 3-9. Earlier in the season Atlanta scored late to win their home game against the Panthers 30-28, and some of the Panthers were trash talking all week claiming the Falcons were not that good. That should have been sufficient incentive for the Falcons to come flying out of the gate, but they started flat and were trailing 0-16 at half-time. Carolina scored another touchdown early in the second half and was leading 23-0 before the Falcons responded.

The Falcons narrowed the margin to 13-23, but they allowed the Panthers running back to complete a 43 yard run for another touchdown placing the game out of reach at13-30. It’s quite bizarre but normally you would consider an 11-2 team possible Super Bowl contenders, but Sunday’s loss exposed so many flaws which to be honest have been a concern all season.

In order to be successful in the NFL a team must be able to run the ball and prevent the other team from running the ball. Atlanta can do neither effectively coupled with the fact they have two imposters at corner back. Matt Ryan is not an elite quarter back and never will aspire to be. Yes, we will make the playoffs, but it will be short lived. We cannot compete with the likes of Green Bay or the New York Giants.

If I was a betting man I would put my money on the Swans avoiding relegation and the Falcons not making the Super Bowl. It’s only an opinion, but you know what opinions are like.

Swans recent Successful Run could prove to be their Undoing

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Swansea City is on the crest of a wave right now. They have only lost one game from their last ten in the Premiership and that was 0-1 defeat against Champions Manchester City. A week ago they completely outplayed WBA who were lying third in the table, and spectacularly defeated once mighty Arsenal on their own patch three days later.

Their Spanish midfielder, MIchu has to be the bargain buy of the season. The Swans picked him up for a paltry 2 million and he has rewarded them with 11 goals, ten of which were scored in the Premiership.

They are currently lying 7th in the table with a winnable game against Norwich City to be played at the Liberty on Saturday. Norwich has proven to be a bit of a bogey team for the Swans and they need to be careful not to read too much into the media hype that has them playing European football next season. Borrowing a phrase from the NFL, “Any Given Sunday” (any day of the week for that matter) any team in the Premiership has the chance to win.

They currently have 23 points from 15 games which is a better return than last year’s inaugural season in the Premiership. Despite the euphoria created by away wins over Newcastle and Arsenal attaining 40 points should remain the primary goal to avoid relegation.

Unfortunately their recent run of success has not gone unnoticed by teams with bigger bank balances. The January transfer window is suddenly looming around the corner, and several teams will be looking to strengthen their squads at either end of the table.

The primary target for clubs will of course be Michu. One man doesn’t make a team but a regular goal scorer can be the difference between success and failure in this or any league. His role is more than one dimensional. He can play the lone striker but his favored position is one of attacking midfielder where he provides a link between the midfield and the striker. It also gives him the option to run at opposing defenses from deep positions as he proved so successfully against Arsenal.

The Swans could sell him for a huge profit, but in doing so could seriously damage their standing the league. Quite simply he is irreplaceable and any sizeable profit from his transfer would be considerably offset by the threat of relegation.

Ironically the Swans have amassed 23 goals to match their points’ total, 10 of which have been scored by Michu. Danny Graham, last season’s leading goal scorer with a total of 12, has yet to open is account this term. The only other significant goal scorer in the team this season is Wayne Routledge with 4 goals which reinforces the importance of Michu to the success of the team.

Perhaps the Swans Chairman needs to remind Michu of the fate of Sinclair and the Iceman who left for bigger fish in the shape of Manchester City and Tottenham, but have rarely featured  in the first team this season. Sinclair was on the fringe of the England squad when playing regularly for the Swans, but has been completely overlooked by England manager Roy Hodgson.

Manager Michael Laudrup is also receiving plaudits from his peers for the way that his team is playing football. They have retained the close knit passing game encouraged by predecessors Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers, but Laudrup has tweaked it a little by adding more of a cutting edge to increase scoring opportunities.

It was less than a month ago that there were rumors of unrest in the dressing room over the changes made in the playing style. It is amazing what a little bit of success can do to quell disquieting rumors.

However, Michael Laudrup’s recent success coupled with his extensive range of contacts in Europe will prove to be more than a passing interest to other Premiership clubs contemplating a managerial change. It’s not co-incidence that former managers Martinez and Rodgers are in charge of Premiership teams. But quite frankly I don’t quite understand why Martinez viewed Wigan as a bigger club than the Swans.

Managerial appointments don’t usually take place in the middle of the season although there are exceptions (aka Chelsea.) Michael Laudrup appears to be a man of integrity, and hopefully he will not be tempted by lucrative offers to jump ship mid-season.


Shades of Grey (I think not!)

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I was recently accused of perceving life in terms of black or white values and I don’t have the capacity to accept there are shades of grey to issues. I was initially taken aback that somebody regarded me as being so dogmatic. However having mulled it over for a few days I take the accusation as a positive. I do have strong opinions and the older I get I am going to voice them.

I am passionate about many things; my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my favorite sports teams, politics, movies and occasionally golf. I do have shades of grey but they usually involve things that I am ambivalent about.

So anyway, to paraphrase my dear mother-in-law who is not in the best of health, I decided to run through a few likes and dislikes of mine and share them with you. When I was compiling my lists I noticed the dislikes far outweighed the likes, and consequently a little bit of editing was necessary to balance the books.

I like playing golf early in the morning when it is fresh and a new dawn may bring a good round instead of the usual inconsistencies that a weekend hacker like myself has to contend with. I like seeing the sun rise rendering a pink hew over the fairway which is still entrenched in a low lying early morning mist.

I dislike slow play and players who don’t respect the etiquette of the game. I do not like taking a break between the front and back nine. Consequently I like playing a round in 31/2-4 hours.

I like dressing in black; possibly because I read somewhere that black is slimming and I need every help I can get. I do not like wearing white; simply because I am one of the world’s great stainers (the spell checker doesn’t like that word for some reason.) Take a look at my white shirts and you will be able to tell what I’ve been eating and drinking the past couple of weeks.

I like honest, genuine people with a self-effacing sarcastic and/or silly sense of humor. I do not like people who take themselves too seriously, are insincere, or superficial. Americans hold the lion’s share in insincerity and superficiality, but fortunately there are one or two exceptions.

I like cooking, but I don’t appreciate dinner guests claiming they eat can anything and then turn their nose up at an exquisite fish dish. “Oh I’m sorry; I forgot to tell you my husband doesn’t like fish!”

I like watching football, NFL football, rugby, athletics, golf, baseball and cricket. I don’t like watching motor sports, swimming, ice hockey, basketball or wrestling. I’m indifferent towards horse racing and boxing. Ha Ha! I have shades of grey in watching sports.

I like going to the movies and losing myself completely in the atmosphere of a big screen. I can’t comprehend anyone who hasn’t seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Gone with The Wind.” I’m revealing my intolerance here, but that’s bizarre to me that one can go through life and not experience two of the all-time movie classics.

I like sipping a glass of champagne in the hot tub on Christmas morning surrounded by a layer of fresh crisp snow on the deck. Honestly it did snow two years ago in Atlanta on Christmas Day. I dislike the fact that America does not celebrate Boxing Day.

Basically I’m a curmudgeon who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. For the record I cannot tolerate rudeness, I dislike pretentious people and have little time for the shirkers of this world. Nobody is perfect but some are closer than others.