Friday, December 31, 2010

What I meant to say was... Happy New Year...

I had intended to write a mid-length piece this afternoon concerning the both the murder of Joanne Yeates and the publicity surrounding the investigation, but it will have to wait for another day or two now, always assuming that the matter will not by then be sub-judice and still of sufficient interest to justify my efforts in writing it.

The reason for my lack of productivity?

I'm afraid to say I have been one of the very many victims of this winter's flu outbreak and it literally knocked me off my feet; I haven't felt as poorly as that for many years - since the last time I had flu, I suppose - and as a consequence, my ability to concentrate, or even remain perpendicular for elongated periods of time, has been severely compromised.

In closing, and on a much happier note, may I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and I'll see you all in 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to one and all...

Well, it's Christmas Eve and everything's bought that's going to be bought; so may I take this oppotunity to wish any regular readers, and others who may arrive here by accident, a very merry Christmas.

I hope it brings you all you wished for.

Time permitting, I'll be back in mid-week...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The sacking of Sam Allardyce: a clear injustice...

Hot (or as hot as it comes these days at the Throne) on the heels of my previous post about the replacement of Chris Hughton as manager of Newcastle United with the managerial luminary who is Alan Pardew, comes the dismissal of Sam Allardyce as manager of Blackburn Rovers.

Geographically speaking, the Rovers are my nearest Premier League football club and I know a great many people who support the club and who have done so since before Uncle Jack Walker rescued them from lower-league oblivion and turned them into the Champions of England.

Similarly, I often read the Lancashire Telegraph, the local newspaper, which reports extensively about the club.

Having done so, I have to say that Sam's sacking has gone down with the vast majority of Rovers fans like a pork pie would at a bar mitzvah, not just because they thought it was unjust (which it most certainly was, of which, more in due course), but because of the timing.

We are now just three weeks away from the opening of the transfer window on 1st January and the club's new owners, Indian millionaires Venky's, who have said they will spend up to£5m during that four week period, have appointed the club's number three coach - who most fans have never heard of - as caretaker manager. Who is he going to attract to the club?

They are in grave danger of turning the club - for which they paid out £42 million - into a national laughing stock before they've owned it for a month.

Anyway, in attempting to justify their sacking, Venky's have suggested that they wanted "a younger and more energetic appointment" to take the club forward.

Right, let's have a look at that, shall we.

Sam Allardyce is currently fifty-six years of age. Sir Alex Ferguson, unarguably the most successful manager of recent times, will be sixty-nine on New Year's Eve, Arsene Wenger, no stranger to success, is sixty-one and both Harry Redknapp, who is being spoken of as the next England manager, and Roy Hodgson are sixty-three; Sam is a relative strippling by comparison with them all. And let's remember, it was only a couple of days before his dismissal that Fabio Capello - who is of pensionable age - suggested Allardyce (or Redknapp) as the next England manager!

Frankly, that claim is rubbish and I think Venky's know it; they were just clutching at any straw they could to justify their unjustifiable sacking of a man they clearly intended to dismiss at their earliest opportunity, despite having promised to give him the time he needed to prove himself. in the end, they gave him about three weeks and four games, two of which were won and two, including the derby at Bolton last Sunday, were lost.

All of which brings me me back to my assertion that the sacking was unfair.

Blackburn Rovers currently stand 13th in the Premier League, five points clear of the relegation zone and just five points behind the Europa Cup placings. Had they beaten Bolton on Sunday, they would have been in seventh place; but that matters not a jot, for the owners had clearly decided Sam would have to go well before the final whistle went at the Reebok.

But that is only half the story. When Allardyce arrived at Ewood Park following the disastrous reign of Paul Ince, the Rovers were in the relegation zone, five points adrift from the pack and staring a return to the Chumpionship squarely in the face.

Allardyce turned that situation round and had the club safe from the drop with two games to spare.

Last season, his first and now only full one in charge at the club, he guided them to a tenth place finish - at least two places higher than he had been tasked by the board to achieve - and he achieved it on a shoestring.

Where's the justice in sacking a man with that record?

All that said, I know that the new owners can do with the club what they will; after all it is theirs, they own it lock, stock and barrel and they are free to sack whoever they want in an effort to take the club forward as they see fit.

But they would be well advised to be cautious, because they could easily antagonise and alienate their core support in England - the ones who actually pay to attend matches - and that will make their efforts much, much harder and could even see the entire enterprise crash and burn, and with it forty odd million pounds of Venky's cash.

It is a less than auspicious start and if the team doesn't win against West Ham United on Saturday afternoon, it will get much worse very soon.

A situation to keep my eye on, I suspect...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another own goal, Mr Ashley?

The more I read about the manner in which billionaire Mike Ashley runs Newcastle United Football Club, the more I wonder how he ever became so rich, or having done so, managed to hold on to a significant chunk of his money.

My reasons for making that assertion are many, but are neatly encapsulated by the recent dismissal of Chris Hughton and his replacement as manager by Alan Pardew.

Hughton, the football aficionados amongst you will recall, was the man who took hold of the poisoned chalice which has long been the manager's position at St James' Park, after Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the season before last, when no-one else would have touched what was a club in chaos, with a bargepole.

He proceeded, in less than twelve months, in transforming a team with a losing mentality into one which swept all before them in securing immediate promotion back to the financial promised land of the English Premier League; and he achieved it by spending about fifty quid.

Once back in the 'big time', Hughton steered his team to mid-table respectability, whist securing an away win at the Emirates over Arsenal and slaughtering their main rivals Sunderland 5 - 1 in their first encounter of the season. What's more, in doing so, he secured the support of the vast majority of Newcastle supporters; but sadly not that of the one who really matters: Chairman Mike.

Not content with the quietly efficient Hughton's work - and therein might lie his problem - Ashley peremptorily sacked him last week for no real reason other than, as the owner of the club, he simply could.

People saw Martin Jol, the former manager of Spurs, resigning from his position at Ajax and immediately thought he would have been heading for Tyneside to replace the unfortunate Hughton, but no.

Instead, Ashley appointed Alan Pardew, a man of scarcely higher profile than his predecessor, whose claims to fame as a manager include losing the FA Cup Final with West Ham, being relegated with Charlton Athletic and most recently, being dismissed from his role with Southampton, a club which now plies its trade in League One; fully two divisions and a literal world away from the Premier League.

Not only that, but in sacking the hugely popular Hughton, Ashley has also managed to alienate both the dressing room - you know, the room that contains the men who actually go out and play the games - and all but 1.5% of Newcastle fans as well.

I wish Pardew, a decent enough man, as far as I can see, a fair wind and as much good luck as he can get; because despite the five and a half year contact he has secured from the, shall we say Mercurial, Ashley, I think he's going to need it.

Friday, December 03, 2010

One down, three to go...

If you were ever in any doubt as to why David Chaytor and his fellow former MPs strove quite so long and hard - as far as the hideously renamed Supreme Court - to have the criminal charges against them for fiddling their expenses on a heroic scale quashed on the basis that they were a breach of parliamentary privilege, I suspect that the scales may have fallen from your eyes today, when Chaytor pleaded guilty to three counts of False Accounting at the Old Bailey.

This was after the ritual speech early in the process in which he expressed his determination to prove his innocence of what were charges based on misunderstandings and misinterpretation of simple, honest mistakes.

So he's not just a thief, but a liar, too. Surprise, surprise.

I wonder what the other three are thinking tonight...

Well? Let's have their names, then...

It is now becoming clear that a number of the FIFA conclave, possibly as many as six, had 'promised' their votes to England in the first round of voting, only to susbsequently vote for someone else. Rumoured to be amongst these liars - what else are they, saying one thing and doing another? - is the truly appalling and dishonest Jack Warner of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Asociation. That would be the same Jack Warner who has been mired in previous corruption investigations and a man whose disdain for all things English goes before him.

It is as well that his name has emerged from the omerta which has surrounded the voting fiasco which cost England the tournament, because I think that our FA should now grow a pair, man up, or whatever other label you may choose to attach to it and publicly name each of the representatives who said they would vote for the English bid, before reneging and voting for another one, possibly under pressure from the utterly nauseating Blatter.

What have we (meaning the English FA, of course) got to lose by adopting such a course? They've made it perfectly clear that we won't be hosting the World Cup finals any time soon (2030 at least) because can't win in a fair competition, even when our bid to hold the tournament was streets ahead of the competition, so no problem there.

But they may exclude us from even taking part in future World Cups, I hear some faint-hearts cry...

Unlikely. If FIFA is anything it is a rapacious money making machine and the English pounds spent by our fans and our television channels are very much sought after by Blatter and his kleptocracy.

No. Name the guilty men. Publish their names in the English press the FIFA panjandrums so clearly fear and despise for their unerring ability to expose their deceit and graft.

Then we can approach each of them individually and ask them, in the full glare of publicity, why they lied to our faces.

We cannot allow this issue to simply die a death, or the whole sorry caravan of deceit graft and self aggrandisement which is the governing body of world football will simply carry on as if nothing had happened, even after the hideous Blatter and Warner have disappeared into well padded retirement, rather than the secure 8' by 10' rooms that both of them so richly deserve.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Were you suprised? Really?

Is anyone actually, really surprised that England lost out to Russia (and all the other competing bids, as it happens) in the race to host the World Cup finals in 2018? Not disappointed - I suspect millions of us are experiencing that emotion; no, surprised, because I'm not.

By common consent, we appear to have submitted the best technical and commercial bid to host the tournament, but ended up receiving just two votes out of a possible twenty-two in the first ballot - one of which was our own, apparently(!) and were consequently eliminated at that stage.

Was it a form of revenge against the repeated exposures of alleged corruption, (simply type the words 'FIFA corruption' into Google and you get pages of links, such as here, here, here and here), amongst FIFA officials by our media, as suggested in the linked article by Mark Palios and David Davies?

Very possibly, although Graham Taylor – he of the turnip head – dismisses that theory, suggesting, "England have had little or no influence. We are considered to be arrogant and know-alls."

I suspect it may be a combination of the two, with a little palm-greasing thrown in for good measure; but whatever the reason, we were resoundingly rejected by all but one of those entitled to vote and that is despite our sending the next but one King of England, the Prime Minister and, in David Beckham, one of the most iconic sports stars this country has ever produced, to pitch for us at the final presentations in Zurich.

Well, so be it. As a football fan, I hope that the Russians stage an excellent tournament that we can all enjoy in seven and a half years’ time. Ditto the Qataris – a country with a smaller landmass than the Falkland Islands and daytime summer temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius - in 2022.

Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that Messrs Blatter, Warner and co are going to conduct themselves like Caesar’s wife from now on; because I can guarantee that every investigative journalist in this country is currently working out how to further expose them as the deceitful, grubby criminals they really are.

And please, let's not delude ourselves that we have any hope of hosting the competition again in 2030 - the next time we'll be able to bid. Leave it to the corrupt narco-states and third world tyrannies with which the FIFA voting panel have so much in common.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Today is Lancashire Day...

I'm sure that most readers will recognise the flag I reproduce at the head of this post as that of the County Palatine of Lancaster; a county of which I am proud to be a native son.

What some of you may not know, however, is that today, November 27th is Lancashire Day, named as such in commemoration of the fact that on this day in 1295 the first elected representatives from Lancashire were called to Westminster by King Edward I (Scottorum malleus) to attend what later became known as The Model Parliament.

To further commemorate the occasion, this proclamation is read out by town criers throughout the county each year on 27th November:


Know ye that this day, November 27th in the year of
our Lord Two Thousand and Ten, the 59th year of
the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,
Duke of Lancaster, is Lancashire Day.

Know ye also, and rejoice, that by virtue of Her
Majesty's County Palatine of Lancaster, the citizens
of the Hundreds of Lonsdale, North and South of
the Sands, Amounderness, Leyland, Blackburn,
Salford and West Derby are forever entitled to style
themselves Lancastrians.

Throughout the County Palatine, from the Furness
Fells to the River Mersey, from the Irish Sea to the
Pennines, this day shall ever mark the peoples' pleasure
in that excellent distinction - true Lancastrians, proud
of the Red Rose and loyal to our Sovereign Duke.


I shall be raising a glass (or two) to my fellow Lancastrians tonight; cheers!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Episcopal hypocrisy and the bankruptcy of republicanism

What is it about republicans which forces them to support their position by levelling puerile personal insults at members of the Royal Family?

My own answer to that that question is that their arguments are so bankrupt and devoid of logic that childish personal abuse is all they have to support their infinitesimally small minority view.

Take for example, the drivel written about the recent Royal engagement by the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev ‘Pete’ Broadbent, on his Facebook and Twitter pages, in which he likens Prince William and Kate Middleton to “shallow celebrities”, adding that the Royal Family was full of “broken marriages and philanderers”. That may or may not be true, but philanderers or not, those in glass houses should beware of throwing stones, because I cannot remember any Royal sex abuse scandals, whereas the Church of England positively bristles with them such as here, here, here and here, to name but four.

Not content with blackguarding the happy couple personally, he goes on to suggest – and remember, this is a Bishop of the Church of England making these remarks - that their marriage will not last above seven years; hardly the position one would expect from a senior member of the church in which William and Kate will marry, is it?

I wonder how many other ‘ordinary’ couples’ relationships he has openly suggested will not last more than seven years, even if he may well have thought it?

But he reserves his true bile for William’s parents, observing that, “I managed to avoid the last disaster in slow motion between Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll, and hope to avoid this one too.”
Let me remind you again that the author of these remarks is a Bishop in the Church of England; the church of which the Queen is the Supreme Governor, as all her predecessors have been since Henry VIII’s split with Rome in the early Sixteenth Century. So isn’t ‘Pete’ Broadbent – who was appointed to his bishopric by the very Queen he effects to despise – nothing more than a hypocrite?

Because, if he feels so strongly about his republicanism, I’m sure he could easily resign his episcopacy, go back to calling himself ‘Pete’ without it being a glaring and grating affectation and find himself a more egalitarian church in which to worship.

Or could it be that he enjoys the ‘fawning deferential nonsense’ shown to him as a bishop of the established church and so clings on to his position for personal aggrandisement?

I don’t pretend to know the answer, but I do know that peevish personal attacks such as Broadbent’s recent splenetic nonsense, serves only to display the bankruptcy of the republican argument, so I suppose as an ardent monarchist, I should thank him for his contribution to the royal cause.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nick and Ed - hypocrites or the converted?

Watching the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance last night on the television, I was struck by the fact that both Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband, each of them self-proclaimed atheists, had the gall to join in with the act of worship, including the singing of hymns.

At least Milliband had the decency to look uncomfortable to the point of embarrassment as he perfunctorily mouthed the words, but Clegg appeared to be joining in with some gusto.

I am not an atheist, but I recognise it as a perfectly respectable position to hold; indeed many of my friends subscribe to that view themselves. But am I alone in finding it more than a little hypocritical to loudly proclaim your atheism and then to take an active part in what was a clearly religious ceremony, more than likely for reasons of political expediency?

Wouldn't both of them been better advised to simply stand there in respectful silence? Doing so would certainly have been a great deal more comfortable for Red Ed...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lance Corporal Frederick Pickup 1891 -1916

Those of you who have been visiting the Throne for at least a year may recognise the name in the title of this post, namely that of Lance Corporal Frederick Pickup of the East Lancashire Regiment, who, like twenty thousand other men, died on 1st July 1916 whilst serving his King and country in the Great War.

He was just twenty-five years of age and he was my great uncle by marriage. His death left my great aunt Clara a war widow at the age of twenty-three.

Frederick Pickup: gone, but not forgotten.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Of students, fees and riots...

Wasn't it wearily predictable that today's student tuition fee protest would descend into anarchy and violence?

Please don't take that as a criticism of the initial 'light touch' tactical response from the police; after the noisy shellacking (hat tip B H Obama Esq.) they took after the G20 protest - much of it from the usual suspects, it must be said - they could have hardly done anything else, irrespective of what the Daily Wail may suggest in their incresingly tedious campaign of vilification of the police who, it seems in the curious world the Wail inhabits, are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

And I don't blame the NUS, either, for that matter. Their entirely sensible president summed up their position very succinctly in observing that a small minority of protestors had hijacked their march, whilst describing the violence as 'despicable'.

No, I lay the blame fairly and squarely at the feet of the criminals (how else would you describe them?) who forced their way into the building at Millbank and did all kinds of damage, including setting fires in what is a multi-storey office block, before accessing the roof and throwing items down on the heads of police and protesters alike beneath them.

From what I have seen on the evening news, many of those who forced their way into the building and committed the offences I have referred to, have been corralled on the ground floor by the police. I trust that each and every one of them will be arrested and where the evidence justifies it- frankly their presence should suffice, given the circumstances - prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Oh, and in the event that any of them actually happen to be students, that on conviction - and only then - they are summarily excluded from their university and any other such institution in this country for life, in addition to the (more than likely derisory) penalty the courts choose to impose.

I wonder what sort of response Sir Paul Stephenson will arrange next time there is a large demonstration in London? G20, Millbank or an as yet unidentified 'middle way'?

Doubtless we'll find out in the fullness of time, and with the same weary predictability I mentioned at the beginning of this post, doubtless the Daily Wail will criticise that as well...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Kinsella campaign...

It would be difficult to disagree with Brooke Kinsella's personal campaign to reduce the number of killings on our streets; a campaign she launched following the murder of her brother, who was knifed to death two years ago

Whilst obviously sympathising with her grievous loss, I have to ask whether the manner in which a victim is murdered automatically renders the offence more or less serious.

If, for instance, stabbing someone to death - possibly with only a single blow to the chest or abdomen - renders the offender liable to life imprisonment with a minimum term of twenty-five years', why does the act of repeatedly kicking and stamping on their victim's head until he, or increasingly she, dies render that offender liable to a minimum tariff of only fifteen years?

Forgive the bluntness of my point, but aren't both victims equally dead, and aren't both their families equally shockingly bereaved? So why the disparity in the minimum tariffs for their perpetrators?

Fry's delight...

Well, well; the saint in human form otherwise known as Stephen Fry has put his foot right in it by suggesting that women do not enjoy sex.

I think most people - of both genders - would have nodded vigorously had he simply added two more words: "with me."

Monday, October 25, 2010

St Crispin's Day...

The more historically aware amongst you will know that today is St Crispin's Day.

More famously, of course, it is also the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, when an English army only 6,000 strong defeated French forces six times as large on their own soil.

As such, it's time to turn once agai to the greatest ever Englishman's take on what Henry V told his men on the eve of that epic battle:


O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!


What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland?
No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have.
O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Puncturing the grocer's vanity...

Some weeks ago I wrote of how I intended never to refer to the traitorous Edward Heath on this blog again.

However, when I read the following paragraph in Christopher Booker's column in the Daily Telegraph, I decided to change my mind...

When Edward Heath died, he left Arundells, his grand retirement home in Salisbury Cathedral Close, as a monument to his life and work. But so few people visited this dead museum to the man who took us into Europe that it will this week be closing its doors to the public for the last time. The beautiful house is now to be sold, thus returning it to the land of the living.

Further comment from me would be superfluous.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The return of The Mekon...

Reading this story about 'socialist barrister' Emily Lomax, it struck me that she bears more than a passing resemblance to that arch-enemy of mankind, The Mekon.

Still, as a disqualified driver, she could probably use a floating platform controlled by the power of thought as a means of transport.

Well, that or the bus.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Open aspects to front and rear...

When I read in today's Daily Telegraph that Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani had built the world' first $1 billion house, I expected it to look like a cross between the Taj Mahal and Chatsworth House.

Unfortunately, however luxurious it might be inside, it looks to me like a lop-sided tree-house, thrown together from discarded pallets...

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm back. With a deletion...

Not for the first time in the history of the Thone, there has been something of a hiatus in posting due to pressue of work. Having worked two and a half weeks of solid twelve to fourteen-hour days, the last thing I have felt like doing on getting home is bashing something out on my keyboard.

That demanding regime is now at an end, albeit my ongoing workload is such that posting will be sporadic at best.

But as an opener, I thought I might briefly explain why I have removed the Grumpy Old Tw*t blog from my 'Good Reading' sidebar. Put simply, it wasn't the tidal wave of bad language in every single post; that doesn't bother me in the slightest: it was the vituperative references to Islam and to Muslims in general.

In fact, the word 'vituperative' is something of a euphemism for outrageous, borderline racist pronouncements supported, I'm afraid to say, by nakedly racist and in my view potentially criminal, comments from his readership.

So, enjoy his rants as I used to, I'm afraid that I can't encourage my tiny and probably shrinking, readership to visit his site again and as such, the link had to go.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

If you must oppose the Pope's visit...

Whilst I am not a Roman Catholic, I have to nail my colours to the mast and observe that I welcome the visit by the Pope to these shores.

As such, I regret the stance adopted by various famous atheists, such as Sephen Fry and Professor Dawkins who, it seems to me is becoming something of a professional, if not obsessive, proponent of his own godless creed, in noisily opposing the visit. They remind me of nothing so much as spoilt children throwing their toys out of their prams when they don't get their own way. I think it makes them look childish and small minded; which is why I fully agree with the opinion expressed by Ian O'Doherty in this article published in the Irish Independent.

It is plainly the opinion of a committed and convinced atheist; but whilst having that in common with Fry and Dawkins, his mature observations about the Pope's visit makes theirs look shrill and childish.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I would, my friend, Fernando...

According to a lawsuit filed today in America - where else - Britney Spears allegedly 'sexually harrassed' her former bodyguard.

Yeah, right, Fernando; you should be so lucky...

Ian O'Doherty and the sanctimonious Angelina...

My regular reader will be aware that I frequently link to articles written by the excellent Kevin Myers of the Irish Independent.

On this occasion, however, I am reproducing a section of the column published in today's Indo written by one of his colleagues, Ian O'Doherty, who in a few short paragraphs, gives the increasingly ridiculous and nauseatingly pious Angelina Jolie a richly deserved and wildly overdue fisking.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did...

Suffer the little people

With a new movie to promote, the Pakistan disaster couldn't have come at a better time for Angelina Jolie.

Having never met a disaster she didn't like, Jolie was quick to head off to Pakistan -- in full, fetching, repressive head gear, natch -- to show the peasants that they might be starving, dying of cholera and typhus and suffering from chronic dysentery, but at least they can take succour from the fact that Lara Croft has deigned to use them as backdrop in a photo-shoot.

According to her: "I am very moved by them and I hope to be able to do something to help bring attention to the situation for all of the people in need in Pakistan. This is not just a humanitarian disaster; it is an economic and social catastrophe."

And, indeed, she is right.

Although her perch on the moral high ground is rather lowered by the fact that she has just splashed out $40m on a giant pad in Italy ...

How many of her beloved Pakistanis could have benefited from that type of money?

Answer -- probably none, because most of the aid money is being filtered away by corrupt politicians or the Taliban.

But hey, if it makes Angelina feel good about herself, that's all that matters, right?

Hear, hear, Ian.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Show a little respect, please...

Just a very quick one.

Watching the build up to England's match this evening against Bulgaria, I was more than a little disappointed to hear the first few bars of the visitors' national anthem being booed and whistled.

Such behaviour is simply unacceptable. It is downright rude and offensive and should not have occurred; visiting countries' anthems should be listened to in respectful silence (even the French), just as we would expect ours to be in their country.

One other interesting point here, though.

Every one of the Bulgarian players was visibly mouthing the words to their (rather long!) anthem, even if they were not actually singing it, whereas a number of England players made no effort whatsoever to join in with the rendition of GSTQ.

They could have done with turning round and following the example of the barrel-chested NCO stood behind them in the flag party, who bellowed out the words with such gusto they could probably hear him in Hertfordshire!

Well done that man, I say

Friday, August 27, 2010

Renovation, renovation, renovation...

Just a quick word as to the reason for the recent posting hiatus here at the Throne.

In a moment of weakness, I acquiesced to Mrs RToK's 'suggestion' that we needed a new bathroom. There is now a large gap where the bath and shower used to be and four bare walls which used to be covered in perfectly serviceable - if admittedly dated - tiles, all of which were forcibly removed by my own (once fair, now gnarled and scarred) hands.

The plumber is due to return this Sunday to install the new 'suite', as I have learned to call it; but until then, it's showers at either work or a neighbour's house.

Enough said, I suspect.

I'll be back once the dusty cave which once served as the family salle de bain is returned to a usable condition...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Predictions for the forthcoming football season...

It's that time of year again when, for the last two years at least, I have traditionally gazed into the Throne's murky crystal ball in an effort to predict the positions in which all twenty Premier League football teams will find themselves at the end of the season.

Well, all good things come to an end, and instead of attempting to predict the position that each and every club will find itself in - an enterprise in which, if I say it myself, I was more successful than the newspaper pundits who are paid to do so - I propose to predict only the most important matters, which I will entitle the Winners and the Losers.

It wouldn't take a Philedelphia lawyer to work out that the Winners group will include the League Champions, the remainder of the 'top four' who will thereby qualify for the Champions League and a further three clubs who will qualify for the Europa League, always assuming that seventh palce will be good enough to do so.

The Losers, of course will be the three clubs that I envisage kicking off the 2011 - 2012 season in the Championship.

So here goes, starting with the Winners:

Champions: Chelsea.

Rest of the top four (in no particular order): Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City.

Europa League (again in no particular order): Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur.

Moving on to the Losers, and with apologies to the supporters of the clubs concerned: Blackpool, West Brom and Wolves.

I had considered both Stoke City and Birmingham for places in the Europa League positions and whilst I eventually selected 'safer' choices, I would not be surprised to see either of them force their way into that select club, unlike Aston Villa, where I foresee a mid-table finish at best, following a season of rebuilding and recovery after their recent losses.

So there we are.

As usual, following the last games of the season mext May (doesn't that seem a long way off!), I'll be back to assess my predictions against what actually happened, and open myself up to the usual ridicule if the crystal ball has misled me...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Could Bamber be innocent after all?

As something of a student of these things, I have to say that, irresepective of my now oft-repeated support for the presumption of innocence, I had always thought that the jury in the Jeremy Bamber trial got the verdict right, even if it was by the tightest possible margin of 10 - 2.

However, this article in today's Daily Telegraph gives me cause to reconsider that position.

If, as it would appear, Bamber's father telephoned the police on the night of the murders, suggesting that his daughter had gone 'berserk' and stolen one of his guns, it throws a second call, made to the police ten minutes later by Jeremy Bamber himself, into even sharper focus than before.

Because in that call, Jeremy Bamber told police that he had just spoken to his father, and went on to recount an almost identical account to that allegedly contained in the newly-uncovered call made by his father.

As the article goes on to say, the legitimacy or otherwise of that call was to play a vital role in the jury's deliberations, as the judge himself described the matter as pivotal to the case.

Unfortunately, the jury were not made aware of either the existence, or the content of the earlier alleged call from Bamber's father, a call which on any reading of the facts of this troubling case, would have strengthened his son's defence immeasurably if its contents are as they have been reported.

All that said, there is still an amount of evidence which points to Jeremy Bamber's guilt: his mention of the potential inheritance of £426,000 were all his relatives to perish, the existence of certain forensic evidence linking him to the murder weapon and the alleged discussion with a former girlfriend of the possibilty of hiring a hit-man to kill them, to name but three of the most compelling.

But that is to avoid a fundamental issue.

The jury responsible for convicting him - by the thinnest of margins, remember - were never told of the existence of the newly reported phone call from Bamber's father; a call which if it, at the risk of sounding repetetive, actually happened and was as has been reported, undoubtedly lends credibility to Bamber's account that his father had in fact phoned him; an issue described, remember, as one about which the entire case turned.

I see that the case is back with the Criminal Cases Review Commission.


If this evidence actually exists, it has the capacity to cast doubt on the safety of Bamber's conviction and the matter ought to be brought back before the Court of Appeal as quickly as it can be.

Bamber might just be innocent, and if this new evidence is credible, a new jury in possession of all the facts, must be allowed to consider that possibility.

Kevin Myers and a question for the Guardian...

In this article, the ever excellent Kevin Myers of the Irish Independent, asks the publishers of the Guardian why they saw fit to hire a defeated terrorist warlord to act as a moral arbiter over the actions of the British Army in Afghanistan.

Written with his usual searing disregard for reputations - in this case, those of a dissembling murderer and his naive self-hating paymasters - I think he's got it spot on; but what do you think?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't bandy words with your betters...

Just read this on Theo Spark's site and having laughed out loud, I thought I would share it with my admittedly tiny readership:

Irish Railway.........

The following is an exchange of correspondence between a customer and the Irish Railway.


I have been riding trains daily for the last two years, and the service on your line seems to be getting worse every day. I am tired of standing in the aisle all the time on a 14-mile trip. I think the transportation system is worse than that enjoyed by people 2,000 years ago.

Yours truly,

Patrick Finnegan

Dear Mr. Finnegan,

We received your letter with reference to the shortcomings of our service and believe you are somewhat confused in your history. The only mode of transportation 2,000 years ago was by foot.


Larnrod Eireann


I am in receipt of your letter, and I think you are the ones who are confused in your history. If you will refer to the Bible, Book of Numbers, 22nd Chapter, you will find that Balaam rode to town on his ass. That, gentlemen, is something I have not been able to do on your train in the last two years!

Patrick Finnegan


Monday, July 19, 2010

More excuses...

Just a very quick missive to explain my lengthy absence from the Blogosphere.

I'm afraid a very intense and busy period professionally, coupled with a sudden and unexpected, increase in grandfatherly responsibilities have combined to deprive me of sufficient spare time to write any posts worthy of the name.

I hope to resume my normal level of productivity from about the start of August or so...

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Missed your six month check up Mark?

Watching the news this evening, I saw an interview with Mark Serwotka, the General Secretary of the PCS union, who was expressing his outrage at the suggestion of 40% cuts in some Whitehall budgets; but that’s not the point of this post.

Forgive me for being personal, but what struck me was the state of his teeth; because he’d either been eating liquorice (and large amounts of it) minutes before his interview, or he has shockingly neglected his dental health for some years.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a picture of him which adequately shows the state of his teeth, but from what I saw of him on the television, his mouth resembled the inside of an Eccles cake.

Quite the worst set of railings I've seen for many a year.

No wonder the Americans have a thing about the poor state of ‘English’ teeth, even though Serwotka is actually Welsh...

Happy birthday, USA...

May I take this opportunity wish my American readers, or any of your compatriots who accidentally happen across the Throne, a very happy Independence Day.
Enjoy your party, and to get you in the mood, here's a refrain with which I have no doubt you will all be very familiar...
My country,' tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing; land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride, from every mountainside let freedom ring!
My native country, thee, land of the noble free, thy name I love; I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills; my heart with rapture thrills, like that above.
Let music swell the breeze, and ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song; let mortal tongues awake; let all that breathe partake; let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.
Our fathers' God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing; long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light; protect us by thy might, great God, our King.
Now where have I heard that tune before...

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Gout: The curse has returned...

Yes, once again, this week, I have mainly been suffering from gout.

And yes, I've heard all the 'jokes' about it being a 'rich man's' condition and 'drinking too much port', blah, blah, blah - oh how I laughed - but Im afraid I have had something of a sense of humour failure about this attack, coming as it has in the middle of an exceptionally busy period of work; and before you think it, no, going off sick simply isn't an option for me, so I'll limp through it feeling, probably looking and certainly behaving, like a bear with a sore head (or paw, as the case may be).

But it's not just the timing of this attack, it's a little bit more than that. For instance, when the attack began, I didn't have any medication left, having given my last few tablets to a fellow sufferer who was in agony a few months ago. And yes, I know that was my own fault, but bear with me.

As someone who has suffered from the condition on and very much off for the last twenty years, I know when I'm having an attack: believe me, only first-timers don't know*, so rather than book an appointment with my GP, I thought the more sensible course was to free up his time and order a repeat prescription on-line instead.

So, yesterday morning, I emailed my request to the surgery, expecting the prescription to be ready at 3 o'clock this afternoon, after which treatment could commence immediately, or sooner, if possible. Imagine my agonised rage disappointment then, when the receptionist told me, "Sorry, it won't be ready until this time tomorrow, because the doctor hasn't seen it," before watching me hop out of the premises with pain etched across my face.

Just remind me why I didn't book an appointment and waste five minutes of GP surgery time writing out that prescription...

But there's more: this is an excerpt from the website I linked to at the top of this post, offering advice as to how to reduce you chances of suffering further attacks:

'Lifestyle factors may reduce the risk of having gout attacks. These include losing weight (if overweight), eating a healthy diet, not drinking too much alcohol or sugar sweetened soft drinks. If gout attacks recur, then taking vitamin C supplements and/or allopurinol each day can prevent attacks.'

Dealing with them in order: I am not overweight, even according to the ridiculous BMI 'standard'; perhaps not surprisingly, given the fact that I am not overweight, I eat a healthy diet, I never drink sugar-laden soft drinks and I take 500mg of vitamin C every day. Regular readers will know that I do like a drink every now and then, but to put that into context, I have not had a drop since last Friday evening and then I only had four bottles of Magners' cider; so I hardly qualify as a sot. Lastly, and for the uninitiated, allopurinol is a medication given to gout sufferers to reduce their production of uric acid, which is the root cause of the problem. However, it is only given to those who have regular attacks (i.e. every couple of months or so),which thankfully, I have not had to endure and my GP has never recommended it to me.

So why me? I'm fit, strong, relatively athletically built, eat sensibly, supplement appropriately and don't drink to excess.

Probably because my father had it and I'm told that there is a very strong familial link to the condition; for instance, my elder brother is also a sufferer and he is on allopurinol. As (bad) luck would have it, my brother-in-law is another victim and as my son wrily observed earlier on tonight, given that combination, he is firmly in the cross hairs, too.

Rant over. Time for me to hop back over to my easy chair and put my foot up.

(* The first time I suffered an attack, I went to casualty, because I was convinced I had broken my foot, the pain was that bad).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Come home England...

I didn't get to see very much of today's game against the Germans due to pressure of work, but ironically, the five minutes I did manage to catch encompassed our given-goal and the-one-that-never-was from the boot of the unlucky Frank Lampard.

But, irrespective of that clear injustice, what is an average German side simply swept us aside, scoring four goals in the process. I understand that it could easily have been many more.

I suppose in the final analysis the problem can be summed up in five words: we're just not good enough.

End of.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Daily Fail...

Compare and contrast these two articles, both of which purport to report the details of the case brought by the Candy brothers against Qatari Diar Real Estate over the collapse of the proposed development at site of the former Chelsea Barracks.

This one, from the increasingly shrill and irritating Daily Mail, would have us believe that the trial judge, Mr Justice Vos, personally 'admonished' the Prince of Wales for his 'unexpected and unwelcome' interference in the deal.


Let's have a look at this one from the far more reliable Daily Telegraph. As you will have seen, this article actually quotes the words used by Mr Justice Vos, which were " [the partners in the development] were faced with a very difficult position once the Prince of Wales intervened in the planning process".

"His intervention was, no doubt, unexpected and unwelcome."

You will appreciate the difference without the need for my emphasis. The judge wasn't personally calling the Prince's intervention "unexpected and unwelcome", he was paraphrasing what he saw as the attitude of those who had seen their hopes of a deal with the Qataris dashed.

More deliberate misrepresentation of the truth, in my view from the idle sensationalists at the Mail.

Why does anyone buy it any more?


Half an hour after publishing this post, I read this, similarly inaccurate, drivel on the BBC news page. More lazy and dishonest journalism in search of a cheap headline. I'm just sorry I wasted a couple of minutes of my life reading it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Come on England (3)

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any of England's final game against Slovenia due to pressure of work (we have a very important presentation to manage next week and a large new project to deal with at the same time).

Perhaps, for the good of the nation, I should arrange to go in to work on Sunday and avoid even glancing at a television set between three and five o'clock that aftenoon, in the hope that my absence may inspire the team to overcome the Germans.

Worth considering, I suppose!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Here we go again. Come on England!

Well there's about ten minutes to go before kick off in the England versus Algeria game.
Once again, the magners is chilled, the ice is ready and I've developed a respectable thirst.
Here's to a better performance than last Saturday evening and a much needed morale boosting win.
Come on England!
Inebriation permitting, I'll be back after the game with an update...
Update 9.30pm
Very disappointing, I'm afraid. Let's be honest with ourselves, we weren't good enough - and nor did we deserve - to beat Algeria, did we.
Oh dear. Not a very happy birthday for Fabio, all in all...

Kevin Myers, the Paras and Lord Saville...

I have studiously avoided commenting on the publication of the Saville Report earlier this week for a number of reasons, chief amongst which is that I don't know enough about the events of what has become known as 'Bloody Sunday' to offer an opinion worthy of posting.

However, having lived and reported through them from the bullet and blood stained streets of Northern Ireland, Kevin Myers of the Irish Independent knows a great deal more about the history of 'The Troubles' than the vast majority of people on either side of the Irish Sea. As such, here is his slightly tangential take on the events of this week, insofar as they relate to the events in (London*)Derry in late January 1972.

I think you might agree that he doesn't spare either set of protagonists: the British Army (especially the Parachute Regiment) or Sinn Fein Ira.

Kevin Myers is clerly not a man who would hide his views in the hope of courting popularity...

(*Delete as appropriate, or as to taste).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Like the man said: It would appear they haven't gone away after all...

The potential implications for the 'Peace Process' in the north of ireland if the subject matter discussed in this story from Sunday's Irish Independent are massive; because, as I'm sure you will recall, Sinn Fein with their former IRA commanders to the fore, were only admitted to the 'government' of Northern Ireland on the basis that the IRA had permanently given up both its weapons and its wholsale criminal activities.

Well, if this story bears any resemblance to the truth, they have failed to live up to that requirement and by doing so would disqualify themselves from office.

That said, I'll repeat the Throne's stance as regards the position of the six-counties for the benefit of those unfamiliar with it. In my view, the time has come for the English - and I do mean the English, albeit in the form of the British government - to completely withdraw from the north of Ireland at our earliest convenience, allowing the people of the Province (or former Province) to choose for themselves whether to join the other twenty-six counties in an all-Ireland state, or attempt to go it alone as a small, semi-detatched statelet.

Quite what they would choose to do, I don't know and would not presume to advise them about, because I don't consider it any of my business, which is precisely the position I adopt as regards these allegations.

What I do find interesting, though, is that, as far as I can tell, none of the major newspapers or other broadcast media in this country has picked up on the story itself , even to the extent of plagiarising (or is that 'quoting') the Indo.

I wonder why?

Is it because the story is inconvenient in terms of their editorial stance (i.e. that nice, jovial Mr McGuinness can do no wrong), or because Kevin Myers was right all along in asserting that the vast majority of English people couldn't give two hoots about what happens in Ireland?

I can't answer that, but I would be very surprised if the DUP don't raise the matter with David Cameron this Wednesday lunchtime

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Come on England!

Like many of you, I suspect, I'm just settling down to watch England take on the footballing might of the USA in the first game of our World Cup campaign.

I am going to stick my neck out here and predict an English victory, either two nil, or possibly two - one.

I'll be back after the final whistle has blown to update my assessment. Unfortunately, whatever I write will probably be utter drivel (no change there then, I hear you all intone as one) because by that time, I will have put myself on the outside of about a gallon of Mr Magner's finest carbonated apple juice...

Come on England!

Update 9.30pm

Hmmm. Could have won it; probably should have won it, but we didn't convert our chances; then again, neither did the Americans. If this had been boxing match we'd have shaded it on points, but it isn't, so well done USA and well played Bob Bradley.

I think we can all agree that we'll have to improve if we want to stay in the competition for longer than a fortnight.

Anyway, back to my evening with Mr Magner...

What has she done to deserve it?

I have no particular antipathy towards Catherine Zeta Jones, but I have to say I'm puzzled by the fact that she has been awarded the CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

I say that because although Welsh by birth and upbringing, she has lived in Califonia with her American husband since 1996 - more than a third of her life - has two American children and herself effects something of an American accent.

I'm sure she'll be delighted to receive the honour and to take her husband to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen; but what has she actually done here, in this country, to actually deserve the honour? Because last time I checked, being born in Wales, being attractive and landing a rich husband about the same age as your father, weren't amongst the qualifying criteria; especially for an honour which is only one step down from a knighthood, or in the case of a female recipient, a damehood.

Dame Catherine?

Makes as much sense to me as Catherine Zeta-Jones CBE.

I also note that England's Puritan-in-Chief, Professor Ian Gilmore, has been knighted, too. He may be an illiberal killjoy, but he is also the president of the Royal College of Physicians, and as such his award is understandable and - though I say it through gritted teeth - deserved.

But Catherine Zeta-Jones?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Credit for early guilty pleas...

I fail to see how anyone, other than those who stand to lose out financially, (of whom more in due course), could disagree with Lord Justice Leveson when he suggests that suspects who admit their guilt at the earliest opportunity - i.e. whilst being interviewed at a police station - should receive a more significant discount on their eventual sentence than those who admit their guilt later in the process.

Doesn't such an admission at least suggest a degree of genuine contrition on behalf of the offender, rather than the confected version put forward on their behalf by a lawyer who has convinced his client to plead guilty because of the overwhelming weight of the evidence against him (or her)?

And shouldn't that genuine contrition, or remorse; whatever you want to call it, be rewarded in a real and tangible fashion?

I think that it most certainly should.

But then, as the article goes on to say, there are other eminent voices, such as Paul Mendelle QC, the Chairman of the Bar Council, who are vehemently opposed to the very idea.

Call me cynical, but I suspect that there may be just the slightest hint of self interest lying behind his remarks; because more early guilty pleas and fewer Crown Court trials would mean less business (money, to be vulgar) for him and his colleagues at the Bar.

And that aside, remember this: in the vast majority of cases, those under arrest on suspicion of committing a crime know full well whether they are guilty or not when they are sitting in the interview room and it is disingenuous in the extreme to pretend otherwise.

For those who are genuinely innocent of the accusation they face, or for those tiny few who simply cannot remember whether they are or not, due process of law, backed up by the all-important presumption of innocence is there to protect them.

I can't see a downside to this.

There again, I'm not a defence lawyer with one eye on a potentially shrinking practise...

Beautiful England (3)

Regular visitors will know that every now and again, I like to post images of the English countryside in all its glory.
I took this one in a clearing in the middle of a heavily wooded area just outside Great Harwood town centre, of all places.
I'm not too sure this photo does the view justice; it really is a beautiful place, even though it's no more than two hundred yards from one of the roads that connects the town to its larger neighbour, Blackburn.
That's one of the best aspects of Lancashire: wherever you are - and the county has is share of urban blight - you are never far away from outstanding natural beauty such as this...

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Two very lucky men and other knuckle-draggers...

I'm endebted to my local paper, the Lancashire Telegraph, for this story concerning the conviction of two men, cousins Azeem and Tabassum Shah from Nelson, for abducting three tipsy fourteen and fifteen year-old-girls, who they drove to a hotel twenty miles from their home town.

A further charge of 'engaging in sexual activity' with one of the girls against Azeem Shah was allowed to lie on the file.

Interesting expression, that; here's what it actually means, according to the CJS online database:
An offence not admitted to by a defendant may be allowed to lie on file if the
judge agrees that there is sufficient evidence, but it is not in the public interest to
have a trial, as the defendant has admitted other offences, and a further
conviction would make a difference to the sentence.

As you will have read, neither man was jailed, irrespective of the fact that the maximum penalty for child abduction - for that is what these girls were, vulnerable children - is seven years' imprisonment.

Bearing in mind the 'qualifying' criteria for an offence to lie on the file, are we to understand that HHJ Newell would not have jailed Azeem Shah on conviction for 'engaging in sexual activity', whatever that euphemism means, with one of them?

The comments attached to the Telegraph's story are highly critical of the lenient sentences these men received, probably because they strongly suspect that the only reason these two men - one of whom is a married father of two children, for goodness' sake - took the girls to that hotel twenty miles from their homes on an August evening because, in that charmingly innocent, but simultaneously damning phrase, they intended to 'engage in sexual activity' with them.

I think that the Shahs can count themselves very lucky indeed not to be in jail tonight, and if I were involved in conducting this prosecution, I would be busily preparing my appeal against this unduly lenient sentence even as I type.

But to conclude, irresepective of the fact that I think Judge Newell got this sentencing exercise quite badly wrong, too many of those condemning him for his leniency in the comments section lapse into nakedly racist language in doing so.

Shame on them; (if they are familiar with the concept) because not only do they reveal their ignorance, they also serve to undermine the very cause they are purporting to support, because anyone with a modicum of decency will simply ignore their rantings as the howling of knuckle dragging imbeciles.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Cumbria killings...

Inappropriate (how I despair of the capture of that word by the forces of ‘liberal progressiveness’) though it might be, with the details of the shootings in Cumbria only just beginning to unfold, I have a few observations to make about the enquiry which I suspect is just beginning to crank up in the county.

In doing so, I am conscious that the investigation into the thirteen deaths (remember, the murderer died too) is now a matter for HM Coroner for the area and in no way do I presume to trespass on his jurisdiction, or the police enquiry.

That said, I am bound to say that I am convinced that someone, or some institution, will eventually be blamed for ‘allowing’ or ‘failing to prevent’ taxi driver Derrick Bird from setting out on his murderous campaign; because as a society we seem to need a whipping boy to take the flak for every disaster, whether natural or human in origin.

So, a few areas I suspect will receive very close scrutiny:

1. Were the firearms Bird used ( reports suggest they were shotguns) lawfully held by either him or someone else?
2. If so, when was his licence last renewed and by whom.
3. Did the person who visited his home examine his firearms cabinet?
4. If they were not lawfully held, to whom are they registered?
5. How did Bird come to be in possession of both the weapons and a significant – enough to kill thirteen people and injure twenty-five more - amount of ammunition?
6. Had the guns been reported stolen?
7. Had any information been forwarded to the police, or any other body, suggesting that Bird was suffering a mental breakdown of any sort?
8. Was he undergoing any form of treatment for an illness which would have rendered his possession of firearms either dangerous or unwise?
9. Had any information or intelligence been forwarded to the police suggesting that Bird was planning any sort of criminality?
10. Was there some sort of index incident which prompted him to act as he did, out of anger, despair, jealousy or any other powerful human emotion?

These are, of course, but a few of the hundreds of potential questions which the enquiry will seek to answer.

I just hope that those answers stand up to what will rightly be the white heat of public and official scrutiny; because if they don’t, someone is for the high jump.

That's as maybe. For now, the thoughts of the Throne are with the families of Bird's innocent, apparently randomly chosen,victims; no doubt we'll find out the truth of what happened to them and why, in the fullness of time...

Kevin Myers asks why the English are universally disliked...

Regular, or even semi-regular visitors will have gathered that I haven't posted for well over a week. Once again, I'm afraid the twin conspirators of work, both formal and domestic have combined to deprive me of the necessary time to compose even my rambling and structureless.

However, not for the first time, my favourite columnist, Kevin Myers of the Irish Independent, has ridden to the rescue with another one of his neatly observed articles, in which he discusses the antipathy towards England and the English not just by his fellow Irishmen, but by virtually every other nation on earth, even our so called 'special' friends.

Hits the nail squarely on the head, in my view; but what do you think?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sea, Sea, Seasiders!

Little did I imagine when I wrote this post on the demise of Burnley Football Club less than a month ago, that they would be immediately replaced in the Premier League by their Lancashire neighbours, Blackpool, who won a sparkling Championship play-off match with Cardiff City this afternoon at Wembley.
So, clubs based within the County Palatine once again comprise 40% of the teams making up the Premier League.
Many congratulations to Ian Holloway and his team. I suspect they will be partying even harder than usual in Blackpool tonight; and that's saying something...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Football predictions...How did I do 2009-2010?

Before I venture into the murkier waters of the General Election, it’s time for me to hold my self-styled football pundit status up to potential public ridicule once again.

I posted this article last August 18th, giving my assessment of who would finish in which position in the English Premier League at the end of the 2009 – 2010 football season.

I have reproduced my predictions below, and put the actual positions the teams finished in alongside them in red, for ease of comparison.

Starting with the good (for me) news, I’m pleased to see that I correctly called that Chelsea would win this year’s title, closely followed by United in second place and that I also correctly called three out of the top four, with Arsenal who I had finishing fourth, actually finished third.

I also correctly called two out of the three teams to be relegated, having put the hex on both Burnley and Portsmouth. I didn’t get their final positions exactly right, but, as Meatloaf observed, two out of three ain’t bad; particularly when the third team I tipped for the drop, Wolves, only just survived, whilst Hull, who I thought would survive, disappeared through the relegation trap door by a relatively narrow margin.

Other than that, I was spot on with Man City in fifth, one out (either way) with the final positions I predicted for four clubs (Wigan, Bolton, Fulham and Portsmouth), two out (for better or worse) with five other clubs (Blackburn, Burnley, Villa, Hull and Everton) and three out with how I thought Spurs would do (for the better in their case) and Sunderland (for the worse in theirs).

Not too dusty then, so far…

But then I haven’t mentioned my wildly inaccurate predictions for Birmingham, who finished seven places above the one I thought they’d finish in, West Ham, who finished eight places lower, narrowly avoiding relegation, and Liverpool, in respect of whom I was over generous by four places.

Anyway, here is the evidence: judge fo yourself…

1. Chelsea Chelsea
2. Manchester Utd Manchester Utd
3. Liverpool Arsenal
4. Arsenal Spurs

5. Manchester City Manchester City
6. Everton Aston Villa
7. Spurs Liverpool

8. Aston Villa Everton
9. West Ham Birmingham
10. Sunderland Blackburn Rovers
11. Fulham Stoke
12. Blackburn Rovers Fulham
13. Bolton Wanderers Sunderland
14. Stoke City Bolton
15. Wigan Athletic Wolves
16. Birmingham City Wigan
17. Hull City West Ham

18. Wolves Burnley
19. Portsmouth Hull City
20. Burnley Portsmouth

I'm sure the non-football fans amongst you (those who are still actually reading!) will be ecstatic to learn that I'll be back to this subject in August, to do it all over again for the 2010-11 season...

But before I finally sign off on my prognostications for this season, let me offer one more thought. Sadly, England won't win the World Cup this summer; anyone care to differ?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Burnley FC: Good bye-ee, don't cry-ee...

Without blowing my own trumpet too loudly, but as I predicted last August, Burnley Football Club has been relegated from the Premier League this afternoon, with the coup de grace being administered in some style by Liverpool.

That result will not have gone unnoticed a few miles down the road at Wigan, whose top-tier status has been guaranteed for another year with Hull City, now their nearest challengers, unable to match the Latics' current 35 points.

The only question now to be resolved at the bottom of the table is whether it is Hull themselves, or West Ham Utd who follow Burnley and the benighted Portsmouth into the Championship. Bearing in mind the fact that West Ham have a six-point advantage over their Yorkshire rivals with two games to play, to say nothing of a goal difference twenty-three goals better than the Tigers', it would take a quite unbelievabe series of results to see West Ham take the drop.

So it looks like Hull City will return from whence they came only two seasons ago.

Meanwhile, following Burnley's demise, which without being unkind I believe they had all but accepted when they appointed Brian Laws to replace Owen Coyle when the latter jumped ship to Bolton in January, Lancashire will now have only 35% of the clubs in the Premier League next season.

And to add insult to their injury, they also lost to their arch rivals Blackburn Rovers, both home and away. Knowing some Burnley supporters, they would have accepted relegation with a certain equanimity had those results been reversed, but it wasn't to be and in the end, the Clarets simply weren't good enough, it's as simple as that.

As promised last August, I will be reviewing my full list of predictions for this season when the final games have been played in a fortnight

Friday, April 23, 2010

And you, good yeoman, whose limbs were made in England...

May I take this opportunity to wish all my fellow Englishmen and women a very happy St George's Day. But in addition, it is also the anniversary of both the birth and death of perhaps the greatest Englishman who ever lived: William Shakespeare. And so, in tribute to him, I hope you enjoy this small section of the speech made by Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt:
And you, good yeoman
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start.
The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'
As you might expect, I'm going to celebrate in my usual way later on, so before I do, here are two more appropriately English-themed poems by the great GK Chesterton for you to enjoy:
The Englishman

St George he was for England.
And before he killed the dragon
He drank a pint of English ale
Out of an English flagon.
For though he fast right readily
In hair-shirt or in mail.
It isn't safe to give him cakes
Unless you give him ale.

St George he was for England,
And right gallantly set free
The lady left for dragon's meat
And tied up to a tree;
But since he stood for England
And knew what England means,
Unless you give him bacon
You mustn't give him beans.

St George he is for England,
And shall wear the shield he wore
When we go out in armour
With the battle-cross before.
But though he is jolly company
And very pleased to dine,
It isn't safe to give him nuts
Unless you give him wine.
Or, quite appropriately and pointedly as the General Election looms...
Elegy in a Country Churchyard

THE men that worked for England
They have their graves at home:
And birds and bees of England
About the cross can roam.

But they that fought for England,
Following a falling star,
Alas, alas for England
They have their graves afar.

And they that rule in England,
In stately conclave met,
Alas, alas for England
They have no graves as yet.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Guess the location, anyone?

I had thought of introducing this post by posing the question 'can anyone identify the stretch of river depicted in this photograph', thinking that some may have thought it was in Scotland, Wales or rural Northumberland.
I decided against doing so, because I suspect that anyone who has visited the Throne will have automatically - and accurately - assumed that it is actually in Lancashire.
In point of fact, it is a section of the River Ribble which runs through Dinckley in the Ribble Valley and, as I'm sure you'll agree, strikingly beautiful it is, too.
Possibly more surprising is the fact that this rural idyll is only seven miles from the centre of Blackburn. I'm not a gambler, but I'd have laid good money against anyone suggesting that!

St George he was for England...

This photograph depicts part of King Street in Whalley, which, as you can see, has been liberally decked out with the Cross of St George in anticipation of their celebration of our patron saint's day next Friday.

In point of fact, every business premises on the road was sporting our national flag, creating a parade of red and white about a quarter of a mile long.

Looks like the people of Whalley intend to take their St George's Day celebrations seriously this year; not too strenuous a proposition even for the most athletically challenged, given that there are four pubs within a fifty-yard radius of the spot from which I took this shot, alarming the two men in it in the process, I suspect...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Another excellent blog...

As I've written here on a couple of occasions previously, not only have I never smoked a single cigarette in my life, I've never even held a lit one to my lips, and what's more, I'm absolutely certain that I will never do, either.

That said, I'm becoming increasingly irritated by the militant 'health' lobby, who not content with turning smokers into pariahs, doomed to huddle outdoors in all weathers to enjoy their admittedly dangerous habit, are now training their guns on the overweight, those of us who 'fail' to take enough exercise (neither of which applies to me) and those who - whisper it dark - have the temerity to enjoy drinking alcohol (of whom I'm most certainly one).

My take on them is that, far from being concerned about improving the health of the nation, their chief driver is the wish to control the very minutiae of our lives; nothing more, nothing less.

I despise their dishonest, holier-than-thou sanctimoniousness and their nauseatingly judgemental finger pointing. Indeed, in my view, their increasingly strident triumphalism leaves people whose lifestyle choices they disapprove of - the 'fat', 'incorrigible' smokers, and 'problem' (i.e. all) drinkers - just one short step from the tumbrel in which they would be dragged around for the 'righteous' to harangue and disparage.

Anyway, enough from me; but all of the foregoing, and the excellent writing, are just some of the reasons I am linking to this excellent blog, both in this post and in my sidebar.

Please give him a visit: I'm sure you'll enjoy his jottings as much as I do...

Monday, April 05, 2010

How sharper than a serpent's tooth...

Apparently, Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice has let it be known that her younger sister, Her Royal Highness the Princess Eugenie is a 'reluctant royal' who would apparently 'give it all up tomorrow', adding that if she could choose any other life, then it woud be one without the public duties and, to paraphrase slightly, the sacrifices which come with the suffocating blanket of royal status. Furthermore, it is clear from her comments that she has a good deal of sympathy with her younger sister's position vis-a-vis the difficulties of being a princess.

Well, I have a solution for the two of them, and it is one wrought not too far away from their own gilded cage, by their aunt Anne. Her children by Capt. Mark Phillips, Mr Peter Phillips and his sister Zara, are, as the Queen's grandchildren, every bit as Royal as Beatrice and Eugenie; but as you will have noticed, neither of them prefaces their name with the title of His or Her Royal Highness and nor are they styled Prince Peter or Princess Zara either.

I think you may see where I'm going with this, and to reinforce my point still further before I even make it, barring an absolute disaster, these two girls, fifth and sixth in line to the throne respectively, will never be called upon to serve the country as its queen.

As such, and bearing in mind their status as 'reluctant' royals, why don't they both simply renounce their titles and divest themselves of the encumbrance of royal nomenclature in the process? I'm sure the appropriate paperwork to facilitate such a process could be drawn up in very short order. Their renunuciations would then be publicised with a strongly worded request to the press and media in general to apply a self-denying ordinance as regards publishing any other material either identifying them, or discussing their lives, from that point on.

Hands up anyone who thinks that these two really rather ordinary-looking and clearly spoilt young women would actively consider adopting such a course for more than a nano-second.

No, I didn't think so.

All this outburst has served to demonstrate is that both Beatrice and Eugenie (or should that be Beattie and Jean in their new, egalitarian world?) want the cake of wealth and prestige of Royal status, whilst simultaneously and childishly resenting having to pay the ha'penny of scrutiny which is its inevitable corollary.

As I have written here many times before, the Throne is an unapologetic supporter of the English monarchy, both as an institution and in the person of the present incumbent; but I'm afraid that stories such as this are manna from Heaven for the abolishionists, and I dare say, extremely irritating for their grandmother, a life-long paragon of duty and self-sacrifice.

Shame on them, their childishness and their nauseating self-pity: and may I wish them the very obscurity they both so richly deserve.

Post script:

As soon as I posted this story, the link to the article in the Daily Mail was disabled, sorry. there again, you've probably got the gist of it anyway...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Lancashire at its best...

For those of you unfamiliar with the Red Rose county, this shot, taken once again on my trusty mobile, is of the hills surrounding Whitewell in the Forest of Bowland.

The area is best known for the inn which shares its name and I think you'll agree with me that it is a beautiful part of the world; and if my recommendation doesn't convince you, Her Majesty the Queen owns a good deal of the land in this vicinity, though the Duchy of Lancaster estate.

Recommendations don't come much higher, or more significant, than that.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Breathtaking chutzpah, Archbishop...

I'm not normally one to comment on religious stories, but I couldn't let this one pass without offering my two penn'orth. What's more, I certainly don't consider myself a religious scholar of any sort, and certainly not one in Dr Williams' league; but given the record of the Church of England on this topic over the years, I would have thought the following lines from the Gospel according to Matthew (from the beautiful King James Bible) would be more than apposite:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

And for the avoidance of doubt, I am a confirmed, but seldom-attending member of the Church of England, just like upwards of ninety five percent of its members...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It was sixty-years ago today...

Just a very short and rather personal post this evening.

Today would have been my parents' diamond wedding anniversary.

Sadly, my father died suddenly a matter of weeks after they celebrated their silver wedding and my mother ten years later virtually to the day; so there will be no big family get together this weekend to mark the occasion, more's the pity.

As you might appreciate, I couldn't let such an important anniversary pass without comment, or without raising a glass to them this evening.

Thank you.