Friday, 30 January 2015

Tell Tales

After the success and excitement of the curling event at the last Olympics, many people have been enthused to take up the sport but a general lack of ice rink facilities means this ancient activity is simply not available to all. But for those unfortunates there is a happy alternative; for while curling dates back some five hundred years, bowls can trace its lineage to the late Twelfth Century, appearing anecdotally in William Fitzstephen’s biography of Thomas Beckett.

Bowls has retained its popularity throughout history and the world's oldest surviving bowling green is the Southampton Old Bowling Green, first used in 1299. Many historical figures are known to have played the great game, indeed Sir Francis Drake’s many heroic achievements are all but forgotten in comparison to the tale of him calmly playing on at Plymouth Hoe while the Spanish Armada approached.

All over the world you can find bowls and bowls history and recently evidence was uncovered which links the Swiss national hero William Tell to the pastime. By a strange quirk of fate this only came to light when a bowls historian based in Interlaken purchased a job lot of sporting trophies on eBay. Were it not for his particular interest in bowling he may not have scrutinised the hoard as closely as he did, but carefully buffing up the tarnished nameplates he discovered the family name not once, but many times.

William Tell himself had his name engraved on more than a dozen of the small silver cups but there was more; it seemed the whole family were stars of the bowling circuit in the early 1500s. The historian became excited – who wouldn’t? – and set out on a journey to scour the archives and uncover the detail of this hitherto unknown facet of the Family Tell. If he could trace the Tells back to the club they competed for it would do wonders to promote the sport. So he travelled to local town hall record offices and city archives countrywide and visited every existing bowling club he could find but, alas, none had records which went back that far.


Dismayed he set out to write up the story as best he could piecing together a sequence from the odd inscribed date and place and after a while, despite the lack of secure documented provenance, produced a nevertheless creditable work which now rests in the William Tell collection at the Swiss National Museum. In a forward the author notes that although we do know that the Tells were avid bowlers, history does not record… wait for it… for whom the Tells bowled.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Greeks bearing left...

So Red Ed’s ever helpful colleagues have decided in the wake of the not very surprising Greek election outcome to lurch further left and lead a popular people’s revolution. Really? Maybe they have forgotten that Greece is not the same as the UK. For instance, our economy is not utterly borked. Furthermore it is our economy and that of Germany and France that is, as always, paying for the mistakes of ‘junior’ partners in the EU debacle. Anti-austerity Party? It’s laughable because it is largely the misguided pursuit of socialist dreams that unbalanced the UK and made it necessary to engage in the minimal levels of so-called austerity we have lived with for the last few years.

Nobody is starving, nobody is neglected – at least no more than they were under Labour, under any government, in the last fifty years. There has been class-war-based strife in every decade of my life and no matter who was in power, the other side – the last election losers – have claimed they are ‘destroying’ the country. This is the sequence as I have experienced it: Labour get in, borrow and spend, bribe the electorate, promise them the earth, then run out of money, at which point the Tories return to Westminster, tell some unpopular truths and grab hold of the reins again. Meanwhile Labour activists bleat and moan and agitate about austerity until, just as we are getting back on track they have managed to convince enough people that the medicine is nasty. Repeat ad infinitum.

The Greek election outcome is not exciting because it heralds any new (golden?) dawn for Greece. There will be no resurgence of the proletariat; there is little but trouble ahead for the beleaguered country. But what IS exciting is how the next few months will play out as Syriza discover that the schoolboy politics of revolution do not impress the adults of the EU who dole out all the pocket money. Where will Greece end up when they forego their next bailout? When they renege on their debts will the EU expel them? And if not, will they come to an accommodation? Either way it will cost us all and Labour will be cheering on the little man who won’t pay his way – try refusing to pay tax and see how they react then.

None of that cold reality matters one jot to Labour who love to shout about Tory ‘ideology’ while all the while supporting dogma so dog-eared even the communists abandoned it years ago, along with the millions of people they butchered in the name of progress. Countries like Greece joined the EU so that they could benefit from sharing the prosperity of sensible mature economies, not so that those economies could reject their restraint in favour of a socialist free-for-all. Birthplace of democracy? Graveyard of civilisation, the way it’s going.

Confidence is a preference...
Well, if Russell's backing them...

So for me it’s grab the popcorn, pull up a pew and sit back to watch how some proper mental, not-joined-up thinking can grind a country into the dirt far faster than any level-headed government. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, they say – this may just be the gift that keeps on giving.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Hate Criminal!

“I hate you!” Which parent hasn’t heard their child issue this infant-fatwa before retreating to a sullen, glowering silence intended to maim? The last weapon in an arsenal preceded by wide-eyed begging, crocodile crying, nagging and the faux rending of garments. It’s an expression that more often accompanies frustrated avarice than any form of genuine malice but the threat is there: “I have tried to reason with you, now my only option is to withdraw my love. Let’s see who cracks first.” Hah! But how and why do very young children so readily resort to using the ‘H’ word?

I’m not even sure I really know what hate is. I don’t think I hate anybody, I really don’t. I find the views of some risible and others simply ridiculous. I have a modicum of pity for those so stupid they will unthinkingly vote for systems that keep them trapped in mediocre lives, but on the plus side they are no competition for me… I admit to a combination of fear and revulsion when it comes to the spitting snarling thugs from a variety of backgrounds and motivations and yes, I would happily see them disappeared, but I don’t hate them – they are just a form of inhuman vermin towards which I adopt an entirely pragmatic attitude.

So what, then, is a hate crime? We need to sort this out because lately it feels like there is some secretive policy unit feverishly working on defining ever more finely nuanced examples of this crime genre. To distract from islamophobia this last week has focused on resurgent anti-Semitism and an alarming - but entirely specious - statistic that 95% of all ‘hate crime’ in the UK is of that ilk. As it turns out the reported 358 Jew-bashing episodes represented significantly less than 3% of the 13,000 hate crimes in London last year. Sod the Heebies then – I want to know what the other 97% were for!

Every time the term ‘hate crime’ is attached to anything there are more calls to restrict freedoms; freedoms that, in the Britain I was born into, were taken for granted. “It’s a free country” was a standard playground response to anybody demanding the silence of their peers. It’s entirely because of our own good natured tolerance that we have abased ourselves to entertain clowns like Mo Ansar who claims to represent the ‘goodie’ side of those we don’t understand. While I’m on things we genuinely don’t understand, I wonder if female genital mutilation (FGM) is recorded as a hate crime? I bet it isn’t. 

But while we may be reluctant to hate those we disagree with, the same courtesy is not reciprocated. Far from it; we harbour in our midst people who hate us enough to not only curb our freedoms but would eradicate our culture altogether and regularly use our own legal processes to aid them. At a rally in Birmingham yesterday, ostensibly to show how lovely they really are, a significant number of muslims and their stooges called for the introduction of blasphemy laws to do exactly that. And still I don’t ‘hate’ them; I just want them somewhere else.

Feeling flush?
Don't even joke about it!!

To cap it all, that ‘one-percent’ that we are all supposed to hate? The one-percent responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to anybody... ever? Well, it turns out to be us. Yes, if you are white, middle class, middle aged and English there is a very good chance that you personally are in the world’s top one percent of earners and collectively we own the vast bulk of the world’s riches. For that we are supposed to apologise? Don't you just hate that?

Friday, 23 January 2015

Frying tonight!

In 1342 the Carmelite order which came to be known as The White Friars was founded in Coventry during the period that the splendid former home of Leofric and Godiva enjoyed prominence in the booming cloth trade. For two hundred years the friars flourished until the monasteries were dissolved and the brethren officially dispersed, but they continued to meet in secret and exist to this day as a select, anachronistic brotherhood, struggling to make ends meet in the modern world.

The tavern bearing their name, serving a fine selection of real ales had served them well for many years but when Coventry became a university town the traditional pub had suffered because of competition for the younger drinker in the form of various raucous newcomers whose idea of a good night out sat not well with the Carmelite ethos of quiet contemplation. As the noisy, brash ‘youth pub’ scene continued to expand, the sombre atmosphere of the monks’ traditional meeting house attracted none but the regulars whose numbers were falling as they aged.

Something needed to be done to save the order and when an early notice of increased business rates arrived at their door along with repeated offers to buy them out an emergency meeting was convened to discuss their salvation. They began the meeting with silent prayers to their patrons - the prophet Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary – and then in open forum invited suggestions. Long into the night they brainstormed, the fevered cranial activity taking a heavy toll on minds more suited to meditation but eventually they had a solution.

Like many an inspired idea it combined simplicity with simple inspiration and afterwards everybody expressed surprise that it had taken so long. The ancient and venerable convocation got to work and soon their new enterprise was ready for unveiling. Thus it was that a few weeks later, attached to the pub and close to the bus stop frequented by many a late night reveller the latest fast food outlet in the city was opened. Brother Michael gave a short speech, led the assembly in a short prayer and invited the Abbot to cut the ribbon on Friar Tuck’s Olde Fishe & Chippe Emporium. Glory be!

Fish and chips, pie and chips, kebab and chips, burger and chips; they did a roaring trade and night after night the monks retired happy and greasy and confident in the assured good fortunes of their hallowed friary. Then one evening the ancient Abbot fell ill and the order held a vigil for him, leaving only Brother Bartholomew to hold the fort at Friar Tuck’s. All went well until the stock of chips was suddenly sold out but, undeterred, Brother B hit on the novel idea of selling fish and pie, sausage and kebab, burger and fish.

Holy Father... I hope it's chips.
Our Father, give us this day our daily chips

But then - disaster - a customer arrived who asked for only a large portion of fries. Desperate to please Bartholomew tried his best to sell one of his formerly winning combinations, but the customer stood his ground. “All I want is a large portion of fries!” he demanded. Brother Bart was flustered and blurted out, “But, I’m only the fish friar… I’m really sorry but you’ll have to wait for the chip monk!”

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Tits out!

So they finally did it… or did they? Is the absence of Luscious Lynda from Leicester (who is concerned about the World Economic Forum in Davos) due to the concerted efforts of a million screeching feminist banshees, or did The Sun just decide to drop the 45 year old feature. (Lynda, is of course Naughty Nineteen - they always are - but her more vital statistics are just as impressive as the world’s leading economists at 38-24-26) The next Samantha Fox will now have one fewer avenue to success and the feminists can chalk up yet another verboten entry in the litany of do-as-we-say-not-as-you-wish.

It seems that now Page Three is no more the way is clear for other equally urgent campaigns in the quest to make the world a fairer, more equal and less threatening place. I’m sure you will have unnecessarily precious dislikes of your own but to ironically get the creative juices flowing how about we start by getting rid of art?

Honestly, art is such a divisive thing. You may not know much about art but I bet you know what you like, right? Well, what if I don’t like it? Did you think of that? Maybe you think the scrawl you keep on your fridge door is the priceless pièce de résistance of your oh-so-precocious proto-Picasso but do you realise the stress you put others under when you demand an opinion of its exquisite execution? Well, do you? You force everybody around you to lie and everybody knows lying is the prime cause of cancer-causing stress. How DARE you allow your offspring to inflict cancer on innocent bystanders? You monster!

And what about the outrageous passive-aggressive business of birthday cards? Yes, they may seem innocent enough but if you have never considered the trauma of deducing who likes you the best based on quality, size and the scan of the verse inside then that tells us all we need to know about your lack of respect for and contemptuous opinion of the human race. How DARE you lazily imply that just because you bothered to buy a hastily chosen, last-minute, poorly illustrated card that you care one iota for the recipient? You monster!

Ban all communication on the basis that somebody, somewhere, if you look hard enough is bound to find even the most qualified and cautious uttering offensive. All words have the potential to be upsetting, startling or just plain disheartening. Abolish anything that could possibly be construed as argumentative, confrontational or even just poorly phrased. Even psychotherapy can’t help here because if you look closely ‘psychotherapist’ is really ‘psycho-the-rapist’ in the flimsiest of disguises. “If you can’t say something nice say nothing at all” could become law if only we could get two hundred thousand silent signatures on a carefully worded, non-offensive non-partisan petition… but how would we spread the word?

She loves you really, lads!
Sam Fox - Page Three turned her lezzer, you know!

And finally it is time, at last, to abolish boy-children. Let’s face it boys are the source of all women’s ills. For a start they are smelly and raucous and stupid and under-achieve enormously compared to lovely girls – the feminisation of the education system has worked a treat. They also buy bad birthday cards and worse still they grow into horrible, cruel men and then the raping starts and the football chants and the beers… and the beer bellies. Men are such slobs and rarely take any pride in their appearance; why can’t men have the same level of self-respect as, say, those lovely page three girls? Whatever happened to them, I wonder?