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

Political Ineptitude on Either Side of the Pond

March 31st, 2019

I’ve been writing this blog for several years now, and most topics I write about roll onto the page with very little effort. However, I appear to have a hit a wall regarding the post I’m attempting to share with my reader. Nevertheless my editor (which is me by the way) has given me an ultimatum: write or resign.

The ineptitude on either side of the pond has almost run parallel lines for the last two or three years. In June 2016, the UK held a referendum on whether to remain or leave the EU. Nobody was more shocked or stunned than Prime Minister David Cameron when the British people voted to leave. He immediately resigned and was replaced by a “remainer” Theresa May. From the outset she did a credible impression of Emperor Nero, fiddling while Rome burned. March 29th,  2019 was the date set for UK to leave the European Union, but very little appeared to be accomplished to initiate Britain’s exit for the first two years. However, a new word entered the Oxford English dictionary: BREXIT.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump was elected President of  the USA in November 2016 against all the odds. He had never been active in politics, and was a billionaire from his dealings in real estate. That’s an oversimplification of his business interests, but suffice to say he ran a multi-million empire. The Democrats were so  mortified that their candidate, Hilary Clinton, (that paragon of virtue) had been defeated by a man who has been called misogynistic, a racist, homophobic, arrogant, narcissistic, and egotistical that they refused to accept he had won. Aided and abetted by the Liberal biased media, they attempted to obstruct every element of his agenda.

This was brought to a head when the Democrats accused Trump of colluding with the Russians to win the election. In 2017 a Commission, headed by FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was directed to investigate these claims. On March 22nd this year, Mueller completed his report and gave it to Attorney General William Barr who in turn presented a summary of Mueller’s findings to Congress which confirmed that Trump was not guilty of any collusions with Russian that may have affected the outcome to the US elections.

The Democrats were not content with the Attorney General’s summary and demanded that the full report be published. They will be granted their wish next week, and whether it cools Trumps ardor remains to be seen.

Meanwhile  Theresa May attempted to make up for lost time by  scurrying around Europe these past few months attempting to get an exit deal done by the allotted deadline. Complicit with the way Brexit has been handled she first had to have the EU approve her Brexit agreement which they did. Unfortunately for Theresa May she also required Parliament to approve her deal, but they rejected her deal for the third time on March 29th, ironically the appointed date that the UK was designated to leave the EU . It was a much closer margin (286-344) than the previous two votes in March and January, but still short of the majority.

May tried a new tactic to get her deal through Parliament this time: offering to resign if MPs backed her plan. I don’t quite understand the double entendre here. Surely if her deal was approved she would continue to see it through, and only resign if it was duly rejected for a third time. So why doesn’t she resign? For the love of God, go woman. My son claims that the UK did not have a qualified negotiator to steer BREXIT through troubled waters, and the man they should have appointed to that post should have been Nigel Farage who led the campaign to leave before the referendum was taken. Bearing in mind that Farage was not a member of the Conservative Party, let alone the Government, it would have been tantamount to giving an inmate the keys to the asylum.

We can vacillate over the incompetence of Theresa May’s handling of BREXIT, and debate over whether there was sufficient evidence to set up a Commission to investigate Trump’s possible collusion with the Russians. But what is lost in all this mess is the damage done to Democracy. The British people voted to leave the EU, albeit by a small majority, and the Government was consequently honor bound to comply with the people’s decision. Similarly, Trump was elected President, and love him or loathe him, the Democrats should have accepted the decision of the American electorate. Instead they behaved like an infant throwing his dolls out of the pram.

When the Democratic Party  won back Congress last November their remit was to obstruct any piece of legislation introduced by Trump. Case in point, Trump requested $5 million to build a wall on the border between the USA and Mexico. Congress predictably rejected his request. Trump declared a State of Emergency which is not surprising when it was recorded that 76000 migrants illegally attempted to cross the border in the month of February. Trump has subsequently transferred money from the Military Budget to fund his wall. Needless to say, Barak Obama gave the green light to build a border wall during his Administration with no opposition from Congress.

Unless you advocate anarchy, respect the ballot box and the Rule of Law. People may argue that they were voted differently if all the facts were made available. That maybe so, but there is sufficient information in the media and on the World Wide Web for voters to make an informed decision. Trouble is I can’t vouch for the intelligence of the average voter.

Jackson Hole Here We Come……….Eventually!!!

February 12th, 2019

The few readers of my blog may recall my dissatisfaction with American Airlines when we flew to New Mexico in September. Nevertheless, my wife was determined to use up the remainder of her sky miles as a gold member and fly to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a romp in the snow.

A few Sundays ago (20th January 2019) we were scheduled to leave Atlanta on an 8.00am flight for Jackson Hole via Dallas. We were  mindful of the effect that the Government shut down was having on TSA security agents at some airports, so we rose at 4am to leave at 5am for the airport. By 5.40am we were making our way through security with very little obstruction.

However, upon arrival at our gate we quickly read the sign hovering over our heads: “Flight Departure delayed until 9.am. The clock ticked slowly towards the appointed hour when the public address system announced that we were waiting the arrival of another flight attendant from an incoming plane, and we would be boarding shortly. It concluded by saying: “Thank you for your patience.” This was a phrase that would resonate with us for the remainder of the day.

We finally left at 9.40am which meant that our window of opportunity to catch our connecting flight in Dallas was severely reduced. We eventually landed at Dallas which left us with very little time to catch our connection to Jackson. To make matters worse, it was the only flight of the day on American Airlines. The flight attendants made no attempt to phone our connecting flight,  but  made a cursory request for passengers on our flight to remain in their seats to allow the hapless few like ourselves  to make an attempt to catch the  connecting flight. Needless to say nobody complied with that request and we wasted precious minutes attempting to leave the plane.

We finally made it onto the concourse and my wife approached an airport employee who was leaning on a wheelchair. I’m not sure what words were exchanged between them, but he offered to push her in the wheel chair from Concourse A to Concourse C where we were attempting to catch our connection. Apparently she told the guy she was fitter and younger than her husband and they both beckoned me to take a seat in the wheelchair. I thought why not? My suitcase was placed underneath the seat and we set off at great speed through the airport. We took an elevator up a couple of floors to the airport train. I was  wheeled onto the train which departed for Concourse C, and  eventually arrived at our gate. To no great surprise the plane had departed.

I stepped out of the wheelchair and the pusher stood expectantly in front of me waiting for a tip. My initial reaction was  not to tip him because our great dash through one of America’s biggest airports had failed. The pusher hovered over me for what appeared to be an interminable time. I finally addressed him, and said: ” I’m afraid I only have a $20 bill.” He replied in a gruff, assertive tone: ” I have change. How much do you want to give?” I said: ” Give me $15 back.” He grudgingly gave me my change and disappeared into the madding crowd.

We trudged slowly to the customer service counter to explain our plight. We were resigning ourselves to spending the night in Dallas courtesy of my favorite airline when lo and behold we came across an American employee who was actually competent. She hit the keyboards on her computer for several minutes and announced: : “I have booked you on a United Airlines flight to Denver, and subsequently onto a connecting flight to Jackson Hole. Thank you for your patience and enjoy the rest of your day.” We landed at Jackson Airport twelve hours after we left Atlanta, bemused, bedraggled, but unbroken.

I wondered whether our checked bag would make the trip to Jackson Hole considering we had switched airlines not to mention two connections. My wife told me to have faith in the airlines’ computer systems, and within a few minutes of standing by the carousel our bag cruised around the corner into my welcoming arms. The vacation in the snow was thankfully back on track.

 

Menage a Trois

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.

Partnerships

December 14th, 2018

Partnerhips in sports have always intrigued me. When I ask myself which famous partnership immediately springs to mind it’s always Hobbs and Sutcliffe who opened the batting for England in the 1920s. Naturally I never saw them play, but by reading countless cricket books they left an undelible impression on me. Consequently the following paragraphs will recall many sports partnerships that I remember during the year I have followed sports.

In the sixties, football in England was dominated by two teams, Liverpool and Man Utd. But as we neared the end of the decade another force emerged in the shape of Man City. An unlikely managerial partnership, Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison, had taken over the reigns at Manchester City. Genial Joe was old school but a perfect foil for the mercurial Allison who introduced some revolutionary coaching methods. In three eventful seasons they won the Championship, followed by the FA Cup and finally the European Cup Winners Cup. However,they fizzled and subsequently faded like a Catherine wheel.

In the seventies. another managerial partnership grabbed the headlines. Brian Clough and Peter Taylor won the Championship with unfancied Derby County. Their tenure at the Club ended acrimoniously, but they transferred their undoubted talents to another unfashionable club, Nottingham Forest. Following promotion, they won the Championship, and subsequently two European Cups.

Leeds United were a formidable team in the sixties and early seventies managed by the paranoid and superstitious Don Revie, but they were overtly cynical and gave the impression they would do anything to win at all costs. Ironically the team comprised several partnerships: Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter in the heart of the defence, Giles and Bremner in midfield, and two formidable strikers in Clarke and Jones. Nevertheless I disliked them intensely and I’m not wasting any more space on them.

These days, team formations don’t lend themselves to twin strikers playing in tandem as was the case in the sixties and seventies. Ipswich Town had a formidable duo in Ray Crawford and Ted Phillips. Jimmy Greaves had two different partners at Spurs over a period of time, firstly with the battering ram Bobby Smith and subsequently with the sublime Alan Gilzean. The very successful Liverpool team relied on the goal scoring combination of Ian St John and Roger Hunt. Liverpool continued their striking partnerships with Toshack and Keegan, followed by Rush and Dalglish. In the eighties, Liverpool featured Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen at the heart of their defence both of whom were comfortable on the ball in addition to being excellent defenders.

Manchester United didn’t lend themselves very much to partnerships. Best, Charlton and Law were the creative and goal scoring force in the sixties for the Club, but not necessarily a partnership in the biblical sense. However, Alex Ferguson’s great success as manager was built on a strong defence. Bruce and Pallister formed a solid barrier for several seasons who were eventually replaced by another outstanding duo, Ferdinand and Vidic.

Rugby had its fair share of partnerships. Gareth Edwards partnered Barry John to Grand Slams and a British Lions victory in New Zealand. Legend has is that when Edwards and John met for the first time for an international, Edwards asked John how he wanted the ball. John replied: ” Just pass it and I’ll catch it!” When Barry John prematurely retired at the tender age of 27, Phil Bennett took his place without missing a beat and teamed up with Edwards to win another series for the Lions, this time in South Africa.

I have to give the forwards a mention. Brian Price and Brian Thomas formed an intimidating second row partnership for Wales in the sixties, and in the seventies an unlikely pairing, Martin and Wheel, were in the engine room. Willie John McBride teamed up with Gordon Brown (Broon from Troon) in the Lions second row to win two unprecdented successive series. However,  it was another half back pairing that first caught my eye as a partnership, and surprisingly it was England’s Dickie Jeeps and Richard Sharp. Surprising in the sense that they were English and not Welsh.

Cricket is another sport that has produced many partnerships. When I was a boy, Pullar and Subba Row opened the innings for England, quickly followed by Boycott and Edrich and more recently Trescothick and Strauss. Bowlers were often mentioned in pairs: Trueman and Statham, Laker and Lock, Hall and Griffith, Lillee and Thomson.

Golf and tennis are normally regarded as singular sports, but tennis has produced several double partnerships, notably at Wimbledon. Emerson and Stolle won several doubles Championships closely followed by Hewitt and McMillan, Newcombe and Roche. Golf’s Ryder Cup romanticizes about Ballesteros/Olazabal’s wonderful record as a pairing against USA, but Nicklaus and Palmer were even more intimidating opponents.

There are many partnerships that I have omitted, but my remit was to identify those that made an indelible impression on me. Torvill and Dean deserve a mention as twice Olympic Champions in the Ice Dance competition, but that is where I draw the line. I know I rarely receive sensible comments on my posts, but feel free to give me your sporting partnerships that deserve a mention.

 

Our 25th Wedding Anniversary at the Big Sur

November 6th, 2018

This post is somewhat at odds with the chronological order of recent entries, but I am the owner and editor of this blog, and therefore I can do what I damn well please.

In June my wife and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Not bad for two middle-aged divorcees. We spent part of our honeymoon at the Big Sur in California, and what better place to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary. Big Sur is situated on Highway 1 which is arguably the most picturesque drive in America. Moving onto our itinerary:

Friday: Flew to San Jose after surviving a grungy flight attendant. Rented a car and drove to Embassy Suites, Monterey. Had lunch at the Sand Bar Grill near the harbor where we enjoyed “she crab” soup.

Saturday: Visited the famous Cannery Row in Monterey which was a touch on the cheesy side. Fisherman’s Wharf was likewise. My wife had raved about the Monterey Aquarium, but it’s not a patch on the Atlanta Aquarium. Our first hour was relatively  quiet, but it wasn’t long before we were overrun by hordes of screaming kids.

Sunday: Drove to Big Sur, stopping on the way to undertake the 17 mile Pebble Beach Golf tour. I marveled at the golf courses and oceanic scenery the first time I did the tour, but it was a little underwhelming this time and dominated by too many tourists. Why do Orientals assume they can invade your personal space to take a photograph?

We finally arrived at the Deetjens Big Sur Inn which was to be our accommodation for our stay. In the early 1930s, Helmuth Deetjen, a Norwegian immigrant, purchased 120 acres of land in Castro Canyon and began building a homestead. Before Highway One was completed in 1937, Castro Canyon was a traditional stopover for travelers making their way along the coastal wagon road. The Deetjens welcomed overnight guests, and the Big Sur Inn was born. Over the years Deetjen built Norwegian-style rooms and gave each them a name: we stayed at the cosey Castro Cabin with no WI-FI, no cell phone service  and no TV or radio. It was surreal yet magical. All work was done by Deetjen and friends using locally milled , scavenged redwood.

The Inn exists today because, when Deetjen died in 1972, he left the Inn “to be forever enjoyed by transient guests wanting to experience the peace, friendship, and beauty of this place.” The Inn is a registered National Historic Site. We had dinner at Deetjen’s restaurant and enjoyed a fabulous steak.

Monday: had brunch at Nepenthe where the views from the terrace offer outstanding ocean vistas. Just down the road we visited the Henry Miller Library, author of “Tropic of Cancer.”

Tuesday: We made it to our 25th Anniversary. Drove to Gorda to enjoy all the magnificent scenery that Highway One had to offer. We had our Anniversary dinner at Deetjens, and I was so entranced by my beautiful bride, I can’t remember what I ordered. I know we each had a glass of champagne to celebrate, but it was all a blur after that.

Wednesday: we  decided to take the Big Sur Lighthouse Tour which proved to be very informative and entertaining. The contrast in temperature between the top of the hill where the lighthouse was perched and sea level was incredible. Lunch was partaken at the River Inn which served very tasty baby back ribs.

Thursday: no trip to the Big Sur is complete unless you visit Pfeiffer Big Sur Beach. The shape of the cliffs and archways eroded away by on rushing waves is spectacular. We enjoyed another drive along Highway One, and stopped to have a pleasant lunch at Lucia Bar and Grill. The Henry Miller Library whetted our appetite for a little more culture, and we attended the International Short Film Screening Event.  It was tantamount to stepping back to the Sixties. Hippies, the unwashed and pot smokers were in full attendance strewn around the outdoor theatre facility enjoying the ambience.

Friday: it was unfortunately back to reality as we bade farewell to Deetjens and the Big Sur, and drove to San Jose in readiness to fly home to Atlanta the following day. We walked around San Jose for a while before returning to our minimalist and sterile hotel.  It’s a very disappointing  city with little character to speak of save for a profusion of electric bikes attempting to maim or injure innocent pedestrians. Note to whom it may concern: electric bikes traveling as 15 miles an hour cannot safely share the sidewalk with pedestrians. To paraphrase Ron White: “You can’t fix stupid!!!”

Saturday: Homeward bound. A very enjoyable and memorable trip which enhanced our 25th Wedding Anniversary.

 

Tottenham Hotspur-An Enigma Wrapped Up in The Old Onion Bag

November 2nd, 2018

The “Glory Glory Hallelujah” days  when Spurs won the Double in 1961 and rampaged through Europe are confined to history now. That was the last time Spurs won the Title (which became the Premiership in 1992.) Spurs have won nothing since 2008. They have enjoyed impressive moments over the past few seasons, but sadly they flatter to deceive.

Mauricio Pochettino was appointed head coach on May 27 2014, becoming their tenth manager over a 12 year span. In his first season they reached the final of the League Cup only to be beaten by Chelsea. Tottenham were in contention to win the league in 2015-2016, but in the penultimate game of the season they drew 2-2 with Chelsea, handing the title to Leicester City.

The 2016-2017 season  began with a series of 12 unbeaten  league matches that ended with a defeat away to nemesis Chelsea in late November. Spurs only won three of their 13 matches between October and mid-December, and went out of both the Champions League and League Cup. Results improved later in the season, but their earlier inconsistencies meant they fell some way behind eventual Champions, Chelsea, and had to settle for second place.

In 2018, Pocchettino signed a new five-year contract to keep him at White Hart Lane until 2023, at least in theory. In July 2017, White Hart Lane was demolished to be replaced by a new stadium. Construction began in 2016 and the new stadium is scheduled to open during the 2018-19 season. However, here lies the rub. Spurs were earmarked to play their opening fixture at the new stadium in October, but it appears that this will not happen until at least the new year.

There is no doubt that uncertainty over the new stadium has affected the manager and the players. But that would be naïve to lay the blame on their nomadic existence rather than their inconsistent performances on the playing fields. Some days the team resembles a well oiled machine while at other times they perform like a spluttering spark plug.

When they have their first choice eleven on the field firing on all cylinders they are a match for anyone in the Premier League, even in Europe. However, they haven’t learned the art of grinding out results when they are not on the top of their game. The squad has no depth compared to Manchester City or Liverpool. Indeed City could field two teams in the Premiership and hold their own.

Apparently, Pocchetino wanted to sign new players in the summer to strengthen the squad, but was told by ownership that would not happen until the Club was settled in their new stadium. It would therefore appear that the January transfer window will not be available to Pocchetino, and he will have to twiddle his thumbs until next summer before he can sign new players. But will he? Clearly Pocchetino is very unsettled by recent turn of events which is exacerbated by the fact that Real Madrid  recently sacked their manager. Pocchetino has always been on Real’s radar, and he has expressed a wish to manage them one day.

On the playing side, the problem lies with the formation of the team. It is too reliant on three players: Harry Kane, Dele Ali, and Christian Eriksen. The team doesn’t function half as well if any of these players do not bring their ‘A’ game. Take for example the recent match against Manchester City. Ali and Eriksen were on the bench recovering from injuries. The midfield comprised Sissoko, Dier, Dembele and Lamela; none of whom possess a creative bone in their body. Harry Kane was clearly out of sorts without the aid of his two amigos, and resorted to drifting out wide in search of the ball.

Clearly, several of the squad are not Champions League material: Davies, Aurier, Rose, Dimbele, Sissoko, Winks, Lamela, LLorente, Lucas, and Wanyama are reasonable players who would find a home at mid-table teams, but they will not win you any titles. Pocchetino is not blameless either because he was instrumental in assembling this squad. I get a sense that he doesn’t have a “Plan B” when a match is not going according to plan. The style of play is sometimes too predictable and occasionally fragile.

They are probably exiting the group stage of the Champions League very shortly, and could be outside the top four of the Premiership by Christmas. Maybe Pocchetino has taken the team as far as he can, and it may prove mutually  beneficial to  the flawed genius and the club if he was hooked by Real Madrid.

 

Thoughts from Afar on the Ryder Cup

October 29th, 2018

I love the Ryder Cup, one corrupt empire battling another corrupt empire. But enough about politics. I’ve lived in America for over 22 years and became a US Citizen in 2008. However, my heart remains in Wales and my economic head resides in the USA. Therefore I always want Europe to defeat America, not just beat them by a couple of points but annihilate them. There’s no question that the US PGA Tour is far richer than the European  Tour, and naturally the best players in the world, including the top Europeans, gravitate towards America.

The American media, public and players expect to win the Ryder Cup. Most of the public don’t know half the players in the European Cup Team. Brooks Koepka won the US Open and PGA Championship this year while Patrick (liar, liar, pants on fire) Reed won the Masters. Europe’s only Major winner this year was Franco Molinari who won The OPEN in July. There’s an arrogance around the US Ryder Cup Team which really grates on my senses. The US PGA knew several years ago that the 2018 Ryder Cup was to be played  in France, but the only American to play the course prior to the competition was Justin Thomas who ironically went 4-1. The others were too busy polishing their egos and making millions playing target golf on the American PGA  Tour.

I am not so naïve to assume that European players don’t have egos. Golf is an individual sport with millions of prize money at stake, and you have to be self absorbed to be successful. But the Europeans have the ability to put away their egos and come together as a team. One for all and all for one etc.

Take for example the rumor that best of friends Dustin Johnson (ranked No1 in the world ) and three times major winner Brooks Koepka almost came to blows on the flight over; allegedly caused by Johnson’s fiancée Pauline Gretsky who appears to wear as little as possible.

Then there was the controversy of Spieth opting to pair with his pal Justin Thomas when he had been so successful in previous Ryder Cups paired with Patrick (liar, liar, pants on fire)Reed. Reed said in the press conference that Spieth didn’t want to play with him, but in reality Reed pleaded  with Captain Furyk to be paired with Tiger Woods.

There’s another story: Tiger Woods and Phil “The Cheat” Mickelson were picked as wild cards. Tiger justified his selection having had a stellar season culminating in winning The Tour Championship at East Lake. However, nobody knew, least of all Tiger, that he was exhausted and in no shape to play the Ryder Cup. Mickelson was also a shadow of his former self and should have been put out to pasture.

Statistics can sometimes tell only half a story, but the results of the corresponding wild cards makes for interesting reading. Europe’s wild cards (Poulter, Casey, Garcia and Stenson) accumulated 9-4-1 points. In comparison USA’s wild cards (Woods, Mickelson, De Chambreau and Finu)  mustered a measly 2-10-0 points. Future hall of famers, Woods and Mickelson didn’t score a single point between them. Woods had no excuses, but Mickelson claimed he doesn’t like narrow fairways and extreme rough. Bite me!!!

Every European player secured at least a point while Francesco Molinari became the first European player to register a maximum 5 points. In contrast, three of the Americans did not score a point which included Tiger and Phil “the cheat” Mickelson.

On paper there should have been only team in the contest, but golf is not played on paper. Neither is it played on reputations. It is played on tees, fairways and greens with a little “hwyl” thrown in the mix. Britain may be leaving the European Union, but the European Ryder Cup will go from strength to strength providing there’s an evil empire waiting to be beaten into submission.