My Sporting Heroes

October 3rd, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glamping Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

September 1st, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1, Friday May 17th

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

Day 2 Saturday

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

Day 3, Sunday

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

Day 4, Monday

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

Day 5, Tuesday

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

Day 6, Wednesday

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

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

Day 7, Thursday

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

Day 8, Friday

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

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

Day 9, Saturday

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

Day 10, Sunday

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

 

 

My Mum: Part 2

June 15th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest in Peace Mum (1920-1992.)

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

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts on the Champions League Final

June 9th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Mum (Part 1)

May 17th, 2019

PART ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued:

Happy Birthday Mum, I miss you.XXX

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning Strikes Twice

May 16th, 2019

Champions League Semi-finals

Second Leg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BREXIT- Eleven Key Terms

March 31st, 2019


No deal

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

WTO rules

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

Article 50

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

Another referendum

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

 

Single market

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

 

Customs union

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

 

Free-trade agreement

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

 

Withdrawal agreement

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

 

Backstop

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

 

Free movement

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

Divorce bill

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

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.