Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

In Cornwall, for many 2012 has been gruelling. Job prospects and real wages continue to drop away. Housing stock is ever-reducing, though I see in estate agents' windows second homes being flogged off in St Ives or St Agnes: not helpful. Cornish folk are strong, and many live in communities which try to look after everyone. Yet even in these close-knit societies people seem near to unravelling.

More and more I encounter a weary resignation, a battered worn-out acceptance of the next affliction or sacrifice demanded. Food and fuel price rises; dwindling public services; small businesses starved of cash; the disappointment of the young unemployed; elderly people too frightened to put an extra bar on the fire. Cliche? Not any more.

Just recently it’s been the expense, for many the worry of Christmas. And all the time, cruel advertising pounds out the same message: buy more stuff and be quick about it.

We’re about to enter the fifth year of recession without an end in sight. Banks prosper, everyone else is on their uppers. This is the Cornwall of Cameron and Clegg; it’s unbelievably harsh. I don’t know about you, but I’m almost out of Dunkirk spirit.
 

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Nicola Adams, MBE: Congratulations!

Nicola Adams, the first woman to win an Olympic Gold boxing title, has received an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.  Modestly she said: "It’s really good to receive such an amazing award, though it’s all a bit surreal for me.”  The champion flyweight is now aiming to compete at Rio's 2016 Olympics.

Yet just three years ago Nicola’s dream was far from certain.  In 2009 she cracked a bone in her back when she fell down the stairs; for three months she was bed-bound and didn’t box for a year.  She worked her way back just as women's boxing made its first appearance at this year’s London Olympics.

People love Nicola for more than the medal.  She’s enthused from the heart: gleaming eyes, fervour and passion, mega-watt grin.  As usual though, a few sour detractors have whined about the Honours system being devalued because of awards to sportspeople.  But Britain's competitors are among the best athletes in the world; can’t we just recognise and enjoy their success? 
     

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Charades

This Christmas, why not enjoy some traditional festive games of charades:

  • ‘Putting Up With Relatives I Detest’ charade

  • ‘Enduring Old People’ charade

  • ‘Believing in Jesus’ charade

  • ‘It’ll Be Worth It To See The Children’s Faces’ charade

  • ‘The Year’s Most Enjoyable Meal’ charade.

  • ‘Visiting Loathsome Neighbours’ charade

Have a jolly and peaceful Yuletide; may your accompanying long-term debt crisis not break your spirits entirely. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Starbucks: All Donations Gratefully Accepted

Starbucks' tax policies have led to "ill-feeling."
Like their drinks.
Following public outrage across Britain, Starbucks has graciously offered to pay a bit more UK tax. The American global coffee chain has been widely pilloried for its corporate tax avoidance policies.

Kris Engskov, managing director of Starbucks UK, announced the business would pay "a significant amount of tax during 2013 and 2014, regardless of whether the company is profitable."

Starbucks has suggested a £10m annual tax offering, as well as the dues it currently pays. Over the past 15 years that’s £8.5M on sales of £3 billion.

When I last looked into this sort of thing, tax payment to HMRC wasn’t a voluntary activity. Starbucks are simply proposing gifts of tax if and when it suits, as a charitable donation intended to repair brand value.

Engskov claims Starbucks UK is currently unprofitable, hard to believe given its relentless presence on the high street. If margin’s so hard to come by, why doesn’t the company simply shut up shop?

Starbucks’ mission statement is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.” It’s an aspiration as nauseous as the slop they serve up.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Alcohol Price Rise: Party On!

Tories' message: no more "Drink drink drrrINK!"
Today, Home Secretary Theresa May unveils controversial plans to introduce a minimum alcohol price of 45p per unit. 

Conservative party officials say that currently, strong lager can be bought for as little as 13p a can, and a 2-litre bottle of gin for 29p. Last year too, figures claim, drink-related hospital admissions rose to 58 million.

North of the border, in Scotland a minimum price of 50p per unit has already been launched. It’s proved a popular move leading to spontaneous widespread teetotalism, while Scots are also starting to eat vegetables. 

But there’s been criticism of the plan from ugly freakish people, who claim their sex lives will decline if drink is made harder to obtain. Today too, by mid-morning coffee-time Google had logged six million searches from housewives in leafy Cheshire alone, for ‘moonshine’.

Supermarket ‘dine-in meal’ deals, which include wine, will also suffer when the hike comes in. M&S, Tesco and Sainsbury’s will all be affected. In far-flung Cornwall though, a mini-mart serving the rundown town of Camborne is fighting back. Owner Len Prole said: “This week we’re launching our £3.99 ‘Too Poor To Go Out, Ever’ eating-in dinner for two. You’ll get 20 cans of cider, some own-brand crisps and a pack of three Econodoms.  It’s great value; usually the johnnies alone are a pound a pop.”  

It’s not yet clear where the extra revenue raised by the increase will go, though the NHS is unlikely to receive any additional funding. From the House of Commons’ subsidised bar Prime Minister David Pillsbury explained: “The health service already does a fantastic job on its existing resources. In fact once no-one in Britain can afford to drink, we’ll be able to cut billions from NHS budgets. Now, trebles all round!”

 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Old People At Christmas

"I'm 84, they never come ..."
500,000 elderly people in Britain will spend Christmas alone, a survey shows. Commissioned by the charity Hello Old PEople, the study examines attitudes of the young toward older folk during the festive season.

The survey revealed most young people wouldn’t be inviting elderly relatives to their Christmas meals or parties, and would rather befriend animals than older citizens. Many didn’t have time to visit an old person, especially at Christmas. Others said they couldn’t be bothered, or had a feeling elderly folk already received enough visits.

The chief reasons for older people being abandoned, say the youngsters, are their unattractive habits. Rudeness and tutting; mania for quizzes on flags of the world; a belief their anecdotes are worthy of film rights. It’s claimed many old folk endlessly bemoan the decline of common sense in modern times, and expect reverence simply because of their age.

But some young people did make visits. A handful were religious, others doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award. The survey also revealed affluent elderly people, especially those in bad health, received frequent calls from the young. The Enduring Old People charade is a well-known Christmas game, and can be lucrative.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Davidstow Airfield and Cornwall at War Museum

Fairey Gannet at Davidstow Museum.
The Davidstow Airfield and Cornwall at War Museum looks at RAF Davidstow Moor’s history, from its opening in October 1942 until late 1945 when the base closed down. Off the A.39 east of Camelford on the old airfield itself, the museum also covers other Cornish Royal Air Force bases, the Royal Navy around the Duchy, the Army, civilian services and the wartime home front.

Current pride of place goes to a rare ex-Royal Navy Fairey Gannet electronic countermeasures aircraft from 1956. Other exhibits include pilotless target drones, the deck gun from a U-boat, a tracked Rapier missile vehicle and the cockpit section from a 1950s Vampire jet trainer. As well as Davidstow’s history, the museum explores the Fleet Air Arm, Air Transport Auxiliary and the Royal Observer Corps; taking visitors back in time too are recreated wartime shops and the Home Guard exhibition.

The airfield still has many original buildings, including its old watch-tower, blast shelters and machine-gun ranges, while it’s not widely known that Davidstow was once home to Formula One motor-racing.

Annual special events include the War Machines weekend each July, which takes in weapons displays as well as exhibitions by the Cornwall Military Vehicle Trust. Airfield tours, group and school visits are available by appointment. For further information, check out www.cornwallatwarmuseum.co.uk.  


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Phillip Schofield: Boy Blunder!


Hard-hitting journalist Phillip Bryan Schofield
I’ve never much liked Phillip Schofield.  For me he’s a bland Peter Pan figure, forever appearing on insipid daytime TV. As the Independent put it: “He is as anodyne as a ceramic ornament above a fireplace, and occupies more or less the same position in most people's consciousness".

But this week, Schofield interviewed Prime Minister David Pillsbury.  The usual form would be a soft cuddly sofa chat, during which neither would break sweat. 

Instead though, live on air and wholly out of character, Schofield suddenly went all investigative. He confronted Pillsbury with a list of people he’d found mentioned online as paedophiles. Inadvertently the camera caught the names of former senior Conservative politicians on Schofield’s list, and broadcast them to 1.2 million viewers.

Pillsbury was clearly caught off-guard, but countered pretty well. Asked if he’d be speaking to the people listed, he replied that Schofield’s grilling smacked of a “witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay." Later, a statement from Downing Street put down the anchor’s action as a “silly stunt."  The programme, This Morning, has now made a grovelling apology for Schofield’s ill-starred gaffe. 

TV trial of real people based on internet rumour, the alleged crimes truly foul, conducted by presenters who moments later will be talking recipes or pop culture. That's frightening.


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Anti-Gay Priest: " I Was Only Following Holy Orders"


A mad old bigot. There, how does it feel?
A furious row has erupted after Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, was named Bigot of the Year by gay rights charity Stonewall.  The church has criticised the award as “an outrage” and showing “significant lack of judgement.”

What has O’Brien done?  Recently he’s called off talks with the Scottish government over same-sex marriage, which is to be made legal. The new laws won't force churches to hold same-sex religious ceremonies. But O’Brien has compared the reform with the re-introduction of slavery, describing it as a "subversion of a universally accepted human right.”

The Cardinal’s also drawn a disgusting comparison between gay marriage and paedophilia, saying: "What if a man likes little girls? Can he adopt a little girl and then just have a little girl at home? We are working towards the destruction of any sort of moral standards.”

I have no affiliation with Stonewall, but I do have gay friends.  Some people, gay or straight, say the award will polarise and entrench opinions, others that attitudes such as O'Brien's deserve rigorous exposure. But the church’s interference in matters outside its dwindling flock, its belief in entitlement to speak for wider society, its appalling outbursts, can do it nothing but harm.  Of course I acknowledge Cardinal O’Brien’s expertise, as a Catholic priest, in the field of paedophilia. 


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Ancient Cornwall: Just Do It!



Zennor quoit, West Penwith
The granite peninsula of Penwith forms Cornwall’s western tip.  By turn wild or sun-softened, the landscape varies from brooding greys to summer’s heathland radiance, and unbelievably vivid skies. Further east at the Duchy’s heart, the crags and spaces of Bodmin Moor breathe myth; hamlets and farms huddle in shallow valleys, along tiny twisting lanes. Both places are isolated and moody, but magnificent. 

It’s not just the views which captivate; the two areas watch over a wealth of ancient riches, some of Britain’s finest prehistoric stone sites. Other parts of Cornwall too have their share of monuments, thousands of years old. The great stones are a winner for walks and discovering, and inspire an emotional connection which may surprise you.

Ancient Cornwall is my latest little book for Cornish publisher Tor Mark. It’s a glimpse at the Duchy’s most spectacular ancient treasures, and the gorgeous countryside which makes exploring such an unforgettable experience.

You may meet no-one; pause to listen and often the only sound is birdsong, or the wind. But as well as the stones and scenery you’ll find wildlife: brown mottled buzzards, forever patrolling with cold all-seeing stare; perhaps a lizard at rest on warm rocks; along the path a bold stoat, sitting up with front legs waggling.

There’s no rush to see everything at once. Cornwall’s beautiful stones have stood for thousands of years; they’ll be around for a long while yet. Bask in the atmosphere whether bracing or sublime, let the elements soothe or assault you. The ancient sites are a world away from busy beaches and organised entertainments, especially in high summer. On the moors there are no ice-creams or pasties, but take a packed lunch and soak up the serenity; you’ll want for nothing.

Ancient Cornwall will be published in March of next year.


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Mangling Our Sacred Language!

Weather Goddess
What’s this current linguistic vogue for stuffing extra syllables into perfectly good words?  More and more, the trait’s being adopted by TV presenters and media ‘personalities’; perhaps they’ve picked it up from Engerland’s football supporters.

This isn’t evolution of language; these aren’t new words.  Such affectation sits alongside the equally irksome upward-lilt which appeared a while ago, the ending of spoken sentences as if to say: “D'ya follow?"

So today, instead of struggling to make ends meet, we’re said to be ‘struggerling’.  People who run fast are atherletes, while gamberling is no longer what lambs do.  Those who speak in this way aren't composing poetry, nor are they always from Essex.  It sounds idiotic and often a touch self-conscious.  Please make it stop.

While we’re on the subject, TV’s weather forecasters (with one exception against whom I’ll hear nothing) now treat 'Ireland' as synonymous with 'island'. I’m sure that’ll please everyone in the nation of bogs, little people, and great filums like Von Ryan’s Daughter.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Celebrity Plummet-Off: Baumgartner v Suarez v Savile!

Which of these famous celebrities has fallen furthest over the last week?

Is it Austrian space-age sky-diver Felix Baumgartner? Well done, you raving madman. Felix is sponsored by Red Bull - what could he achieve on three cans?

Or perhaps ‘footballer’ and hilarious showman, Luis Suarez. Previously an air-diving medal-winner on Uruguayan TV game-show ‘World’s Biggest Tosser’.

Or finally, Jimmy Savile: a fall from Grace (14) was alleged in 1976. Media 'personality' Esther Rantzen has bravely spoken out about Savile's crimes, now he’s dead.


Friday, 12 October 2012

Kill Burglar Bill!


"Take that, oik!"
Following the attack on plebeian police officers by the Tory Party’s chief whip, Andrew 'Thrasher' Mitchell, today Britain’s new Justice Minister Chris Grayling has attempted to even things up.

Grayling’s carefree initiative supports the police, by allowing home owners to assault with all force at their disposal any intruder found on their premises. The move comes after several high-profile cases where householders who confronted criminals were arrested. Never again will there be a question of frightened residents having ‘over-reacted’ to a burglary, trespass, or poor people looking for odd jobs.

In toff areas across Britain, doors and windows in big houses are now being left wide-open overnight. John Lewis reports spiralling sales of gun-cabinets and kitchen machetes, while local community groups are overjoyed. 

Bunny Tuffington (84) chairs Henley Neighbourhood Watch. “Each night we’ll be placing a choice of valuable household items on the drive, with the security gates unlocked. Shouldn’t take too long to bag some council estate layabout, especially after the pubs shut.” Clutching his gleaming new Purdey shotgun, Tuffington added: “Hug a hoodie, my arse. Being potted by rate-payers is simply a chance every burglar will have to take.”

Of course, people who merely rent ‘their’ homes will be excluded from the Conservatives’ legislation, while those entering rich people’s gardens for any reason will be fair game. Intruders who live through their experience will be given a severe ticking-off and in extreme cases possibly even a small fine.

Happy hunting! 
 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

It's GateGate! Andrew Mitchell v Tiresome Plebs

'Thrasher' Mitchell yesterday, and in the 
background where he should be, a pleb.
The Tory Party’s chief whip, Andrew 'Thrasher' Mitchell, has insulted police constables guarding Downing Street. 

Leaving after an arduous day’s work but refused an exit by his preferred gate, Mitchell angrily rounded on the officers, calling them “fucking plebs” and screaming at them to “learn your fucking place." 

As the tirade duly went viral, how Prime Minister David Flashman must have cringed.  At a stroke the Conservatives' real imperative has been laid bare. Flashman and his creatures govern for society’s upper reaches, ‘people like us’, not bothering with those below. This episode will haunt the Tories, the party which now openly views most of Britain’s electorate as the great unwashed. It’s a PR apocalypse, and Labour 'leader' Ed Miliband must be on his knees gibbering with gratitude. 

Now isn’t a good time to attack the police. In Manchester they have a terrible tragedy to deal with, and across the country savage budget cuts to somehow manage. Eventually, millionaire Mitchell managed to express some regret for his outburst, explaining he’d had a hard day. 

But the chief whip’s contrition was far from an ‘unreserved apology', whatever that is. Mitchell admitted the general episode but denied the abuse. His regret was more a self-justification, an arrogant sorry-lite which deceived no-one. 

It turned out Thrasher’s fraught day had included a slap-up lunchtime meal with toff friends. His outburst, by contrast, has the ring of truth, the term ‘pleb’ a typical expression someone of his age and outlook would use. Police logs confirm the rant; why would constables invent this stuff?

If I walked up to a police officer and shouted “you fucking pleb”, I’d expect some come-back. Labour is calling for an enquiry, but no doubt the episode will be brushed under the carpet as best Flashman can. Discouraged from making a fuss, the constables may be moved to other duties. But for the Tories and Andrew Mitchell life will continue much as usual, until 2015.


Friday, 14 September 2012

South Yorks Police Investigate Body!

PC Mason: no 'wrong-doing'.

Experts from South Yorkshire Police Force have been brought in to help investigate a body found recently in a city-centre car park. The corpse is believed to be that of fifteenth-century monarch, King Richard III.

South Yorkshire spokesman PC Norman Mason said last night: “There’s strong evidence to suggest the body is that of Richard, who we're certain was born in Liverpool. Our forensic tests have confirmed beyond doubt that at the time he died, the man had drunk several cans of strong lager and had been fighting.” 

Asked to comment on the corpse’s apparent spinal deformity, Mason said: “Police files show Richard was suspected of falsely claiming disability benefits over several hundred years.”

Numerous items found near the body are being treating as stolen property, including a sword, a jewelled crown and a sovereign ring. “Our investigating officers’ written records are all completely consistent in their findings,” explained Mason. “It’s clear Richard had purloined the items, probably from a frail pensioner. We’ve also checked on whether the accused had a criminal record, and now he has.”          

But Liverpool resident Doris Scally (78), a descendent of Richard who lives in the city’s popular Toxteth area, believes the police may have made things up. “Our Rich hated fighting. The whole Battle of Bosworth could have passed off peacefully if the bizzies had done their job. It’s the biggest cover-up in history, including Derek Hatton’s expenses muddle.” 

Bosworth, fought in 1485 between teams from York and Lancaster, claimed several thousand lives including the King's.  But PC Mason insisted: “We did nothing wrong.”

Richard III can't be named for legal reasons. 


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Pillsbury Reshuffle: Idiot Replaced By Bellend!

In today's Cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister David Pillsbury has inexplicably sacked popular Minister of Health Andrew Lansley. Under Mr Lansley's tenure the NHS has received repeated hammer-blows to reduce its service, and drive sick people toward private health. Lansley is a strong supporter of Neo-Darwinism, his views embraced by the Tories as reflecting a sadly unavoidable need for cost-cutting to the bone.

Replacing Mr Lansley is former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the man who colluded with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation when the company was trying to buy broadcaster BSkyB. Handily for his new duties Hunt believes in the power of homeopathy, which has been dismissed by a handful of prejudiced detractors as "unscientific bollocks". In a statement, the minister denied his aim is to reduce all NHS hospitals to portacabins staffed by children on work-experience schemes.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for News Corp has refused to confirm viral rumours that Murdoch will now be moving into the healthcare business. But thanks to BBC Radio 4's James Naughty, at least the incoming Health Minister has a suitable nick-name to help him in learning parts of the body.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Lucky Cornwall Gets New Hospital!

In a surprise move today, Cornwall’s much-loved medical service provider Serco Ltd has confounded its few critics by announcing the opening of a brand-new health facility for the people of West Penwith. 

Serco spokesperson Kelvin Slavery said: “We’re delighted to confirm another addition to our leading-edge healthcare services for you Cornish. The opening of the Mên an Tol Cottage Hospital demonstrates yet again the innovation and originality of the Serco brand. You’d have to be mad to believe there’s any better, cheaper solution to the medical needs of residents across West Penwith, including er St Austell.”

The hospital’s ground-breaking ‘medicine portal’ is currently being commissioned. Serco workers have laid new turf around the portal’s base, to remove muddy puddles and provide an enhanced hospital experience for patients.


Cornwall Council too is thrilled. During an on-site visit, Council spokesperson Kelvin Slavery said: “We’re delighted to confirm another addition to our leading-edge healthcare services for you Cornish. The opening of the Mên an Tol Cottage Hospital demonstrates yet again the innovation and originality of the Serco brand. Right, through you go, let’s test this mutha!”


Friday, 24 August 2012

Prince Harry Has A Great Laugh!

Half-royal, half-squaddie; just when you think he's grown up, Prince Harry enlivens our lives with more crazy antics.  This time he’s given up the Nazi uniform for no clothes at all!  On holiday in Las Vegas, the young Prince has been photographed cavorting naked in a sleazy hotel room, covering his genitals with his hands while a nude woman hides behind his back.

At first, fearful of Leveson, the British press delayed publishing the leaked photographs.  Instead, yesterday the Sun ‘newspaper’ created a mock-up image of the likely scene; a journalist stood in as royal body double, and a handy naked woman was placed behind.  The girl in question happened to be a passing intern who was persuaded to strip, rather than one of the Sun’s bevy of topless beauties.

Today though the Sun published the real photographs, a move it claimed was somehow in the public interest as well as a test of Britain's free press. Harry, who's been anxious to distance himself from his image as an insubstantial playboy, was said to have giggled over the episode before leaving for a happy-hour session on the public purse.

Meanwhile the Prince’s stepfather, Charles Windsor, was keen to establish the identity of the lady in the case, saying: "I suppose Harry will have to marry the bloody girl.”  Step-grandfather Philip wasn’t available for comment; an aide explained he’d been called away at short notice to his gun cabinet. 


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Olympic Champion Nicola Adams - You're Amazing!

Well done Nicola Virginia Adams, winner of the first ever women's Olympic Boxing gold medal.  The Leeds flyweight boxed brilliantly from the opening moments to the last in her 16-7 title-winning fight, and received the verdict with a grin which threatened to cut her head in half; meanwhile, the crowd went absolutely bonkers.

Nicola began boxing at the age of 12, her heroes Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali.  Now, she's a world champion herself.  And she's gorgeous too!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Olympic Tennis: Andy Murray v Jimmy Carr!


Olympic finals: Carr v Murray
Unexpectedly, it’s emerged entertainer Jimmy Carr is good at tennis.  Yesterday in the Olympic finals he gave Andy Murray a great match, before the carefree Scot finally triumphed. Jimmy represented Switzerland, where he hides all his money.

For the game, a loopy 'carnival-day' voice was adopted by BBC’s commentator. The crowd cheered and sang, millions tuned in: what fun! Finally though, Jimmy’s lack of match fitness showed – he has a second career as an impressionist – as plucky underdog Murray battled through to win 6-0, 6-0, and 6-0.

With cheers ringing out across the stadium Murray received his gold Olympic winner’s medal, and a certificate of temporary British citizenship.  Meanwhile, Jimmy’s silver medal consolation will join his heaps of tax-dodged wonga in a Swiss bank vault.


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Ennis, Farah, Rutherford: Britain's Olympic Heroes


















At London’s Olympic Games last night, Britain won three gold medals. During the evening, watching became an emotional experience. I don’t know how many millions the broadcasts pulled in but I’m certain that for many of us, there were a few tears.

By the end of the night Britain had three more champions. A mixed-race woman from Sheffield won the gold medal in the heptathlon. A red-headed athlete born in Milton Keynes became the first British man in half a century to win the long jump. A man of Somali origin, who arrived here as a war refugee aged 8, fulfilled his dream of achieving gold in the 10,000 metres.  It was a truly joyous occasion, the best time, unarguably, in the long history of British athletics.

Meanwhile, the Games' opening ceremony had been attacked by lonely Tory MP Aidan Burley for its multicultural emphasis. Following his outburst Burley was sacked; last night he must have been vomiting down his toilet, which is where he belongs.

As the evening drew to a close, before the presentation of medals the huge crowd in the Olympic Stadium sang ‘All You Need Is Love’. It was an astonishing night, but perhaps that rainbow moment was the most powerful event of all.    


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Jeremy Hunt's Olympic Bell-End!

Hapless Minister Hunt holds his bell-end
The government's 'Culture Secretary' Jeremy Hunt caused a scare yesterday when the bell-end he was waving became detached, its heavy brass dome flying through the air and narrowly missing some woman bystander. 

Hunt was aboard HMS Belfast for the 'All the Bells' celebration, as people across the country rang bells to mark the start of London's Olympic Games. The nightmare mishap happened seconds after he had given a television interview, claiming the Games would be a complete success barring any last-minute hitches.

Asked to 'join in' for the cameras, calamity-prone Hunt weakly waved his bell around before the clanger occurred. He watched helplessly as the bell-end disappeared among a small group of Olympics fans. Fortunately no-one was injured, and amid peals of laughter the Minister slunk away like a scolded animal. The bell was later successfully repaired, it was reported, while the episode provided another moment of Olympic comedy gold.

Red-faced Hunt later explained: “I was ringing my bell in a very excited way, but it collapsed in my hand and came off." Unfortunately, the gaffe will lend support to those detractors who believe the Minister is a gormless knob.  Who'd have thought the expressions 'Jeremy Hunt' and 'bell-end' would ever be connected? 

  

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Oh No: Olympic Bungle!


Sadly, the London Olympics’ first day has witnessed an unfortunate blunder by organisers. Last night the North Korean women's football team left the pitch at their match in Glasgow, after their images were shown before kick-off on a giant video screen, next to the flag of hated neighbours South Korea.

The furious squad were only persuaded to return after the teams had been announced again, with each North Korean player's face displayed beside the correct flag. During the delay to the prestigious event spectators booed, and many left the ground. Unhappily for Olympic staff including Sebastian Coe, the fiasco immediately went viral. 

Grovelling British officials have apologised to the North Koreans for the gaffe. After all, displaying the wrong flag was an easy mistake to make, depending on the calibre of the appointed score-board operator. At any rate the episode has been a first taste of pure Olympic gold.

Since their conflict of the 1950s which ended in an armistice, North and South Korea remain technically at war. Today North Korea is a reclusive, renegade state led by a mad regime, with an arsenal of gigantic nuclear weapons.

An opportunity for more regrettable Olympic bungling will arise when the two countries meet in the men's table-tennis team event. To view potential fireworks, press the red button.


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Bring Back The Real Olympic Games!

Like many people, I don’t like watching track or field sports, cycling, sailing or swimming on the box.  I’m in trouble then, because our televisions are about to be swamped by the Olympic Games.  So far the most tedious aspects of the coming event have been its relentless trailing, and coverage of the torch thing as it trundles round Britain.

But the Games weren’t always as awful.  Our foreparents knew how to enjoy themselves, with a variety of sports which show just how much we’re missing out today.

Shooting has long been included in the competition, first appearing in 1896. While competitors usually aim at disc-shaped clay pigeons, the 1900 Games in Paris adopted livelier targets: real pigeons were released, and more than 300 were killed.  But even in such unenlightened times there was a degree of protest, and from then on Olympics officials decided to skip the living targets.

Croquet was the first Olympic event in which women participated, its only appearance also at the 1900 Paris games.  Just a French team entered, while a single spectator purchased a ticket to watch. Afterwards an official report concluded croquet involved “hardly any pretensions to athleticism” and the measured, courtly game was dropped.  

In 1984 the rather contradictory sport of solo synchronised swimming appeared.  Surprisingly the event was retained for the Seoul Games four years later, and again at Barcelona in 1992.  Afterwards though, other participants were added and the event became a team competition, which probably made more sense.

The unusual art of pistol duelling has also featured, in the 1906 Athens Games. Disappointingly the event consisted of no actual duelling; competitors merely shot at plaster dummies dressed in frock coats, from a distance of 20 or 30 meters. An opinion poll held in Australia before Sydney 2000 found 32% of those asked wanted the sport revived.

If it helps, the countdown to the end of the London 2012 Olympics is currently 26 days, 10 hours and 5 minutes.




Sunday, 8 July 2012

Barclays and LIBOR: What A Muddle!

Well, pretty much as I originally predicted except the other guy resigned. Bob Diamond left the bank, while Barclays chairman 'Senator' Marcus Agius returned. Shocked by the intensity of public disgust at Barclays’ behaviour, Mr Diamond said: "Bloody proles didn't even know what a LIBOR was until last Thursday week."

To steady the helm at the troubled usurer, initially Lord Geezer had refused to quit. "I was quite disappointed,” he confessed yesterday, following his daily worship before a 20-foot ivory image of Beelzebub. “No one’s sorrier than I am about these events coming out. I'd hoped to stay on, to ensure nothing like this is ever detected again."

Leading the applause for Diamond’s years of valuable service with Barclays is his daughter Nellie. Privately-educated Miss Diamante, 23, rejected British government criticism of her father which appeared in the press. She tweeted: "George Osborne and Ed Miliband you can go ahead and #hmd." HMD is an expression of disgruntlement employed by low-end American teenagers; money well spent on Nellie’s schooling then. 

A handful of jealous detractors have claimed Ms Diamond is pampered, privileged, and unrepentant over her ‘show biz’ lifestyle being funded by daddy's piracy. But at least Nellie works for a living; using her degree in English to the full, she’s been lucky enough to find a job with Deutsche Bank. Meanwhile Barclays has sought cathartic resolution to its dilemma, introducing a new savings-account marketing campaign with hoardings like the one above; in other words, business as usual. 

      

Monday, 2 July 2012

Barclays Scandal: Bob Diamond Clears Up Everything!

Diamond: "Ask me no questions."
There’s been widespread horror and revulsion across the British banking industry, following the resignation of Barclays’ chairman Marcus Agius in the wake of the LIBOR fixing scandal. As pressure grows for a criminal investigation, the debacle has wiped billions off Barclays’ share price.

City insiders believe the resignation will prove an isolated incident. Industry executive Bunny Tuffington-Smythe, speaking today from his Wimbledon hospitality suite, explained: “It seems poor Agius suffered with outmoded business attitudes such as ‘taking responsibility’, and ‘doing the right thing’. You won’t find such claptrap has infected modern banking methods, thank God. Now, trebles all round!”

Barclays has been fined £290m for systemic misconduct, but Chief Executive Bob Diamond will keep his current role. “Honestly, pay-offs for senior bankers who resign always reach 7-figure sums,” he explained, “so by staying on it’s good for Barclays, good for Britain, and good for me. And anyway, why waste a perfectly good human shield?”

Sir Bob – who’s earned £100m from Barclays since 2006 and ran the division where the transgressions took place – will forfeit this year's bonus payment but remains in line for multi-million pound share payouts. Meanwhile, to reassure customers and more importantly the Serious Fraud Office over future conduct, Lord Geezer's announced plans for a new Director of Probity to join Barclays' board. Leading the shortlist of candidates is a current senior executive from the bank’s Asian arm, Mr Han Din Til.  


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Jimmy Carr: Power To The People!

Carr: "Looks like alien."
Jimmy Carr’s in the news; the Midwich Cuckoo look-alike has been stiffed by the media. It’s been revealed he employs sleazy avoidance loopholes in order to pay as little income tax as possible.

Some of us may go on about civic duty and funding public services.  But from the dawn of time, when dues were paid with root vegetables, given a choice most people would prefer to keep some tax back for themselves.  Why part with more than you need to – after all, the government will only spend it on things you don’t want, or won’t use.

And Jimmy Carr had that choice. Because he’s rich he can afford expensive advice on how best to deal with his tax matters.  From the numbers being touted, Jimmy’s spent wisely, but he’s committed no offence, broken no law.  In a sense he hasn’t been caught out at all, so why the fuss?

For me the episode’s more about pretence and personality.  Much of Carr’s humour is cruel, aimed at disadvantaged people; I don’t like him, so I’m glad he’s being criticised.  But Jimmy’s real deception arises from the difference between his background and the professional image he portrays.

Carr’s from a comfortably-off middle-class Thatcherite family, and before he entered show business was a blue-chip executive for Shell.  Contrasting with that lifestyle though, his comedy act relies on an entirely-feigned political stance, pitched at pop-up raving lefties with opinions most of us discard as we mature.  One of Jimmy’s recent routines was a lampoon on a Barclays tax-avoidance scheme; how he must have chuckled to himself.

Now though, it’s hard to see his collectivist fanbase taking him seriously.  With luck Carr's public repentance won’t help and after all, it’s not as if he’s offered to pay any of the tax he’s avoided.  No: instead, Jimmy’s laughing all the way to the offshore bank.

  

Monday, 11 June 2012

Pillsbury: Yet Another U-Turn!


Pillsbury: what a muddle!
Prime Minister David Pillsbury recently left his daughter in a pub following a mix-up with wife Samantha, it was revealed today.  Red-faced Pillsbury forgot the child after a long Sunday lunch with toff friends at the Plough Inn, near his country retreat Chequers.

The Prime Minister explained he was taken home in one car along with his bodyguards, and thought eight-year-old Nancy was with Samantha in some other car.  In turn, Mrs Pillsbury believed Nancy had accompanied her father. The muddle was only noticed after everyone had arrived home.

An aide explained: “The Prime Minister was distraught when his people notified him one of the party was missing.  After a couple of quick coffees, he drove straight back to the pub to pick up er the child.”

Nancy was found preparing for a gap-year in 10 years’ time by helping bar-staff and practicing an Australian accent.  “Talking with proles is fun,” she chortled as drunken strangers, now the little girl’s friends, crowded round and laughed at her antics.  Pillsbury joked: “She always finds her way home – and at least I remembered the meal receipt!”  After tuts from elderly customers, he added: “From now on, Sam will be doing the Sunday lunch!” 

Pillsbury’s security team and the hire-car firm involved, Dave’s Minicabs, have been cleared of stupidity over the incident after it was found Nancy had thrown everyone off by hiding under a table.  But staff and regulars at the Plough are worried.  Barmaid and mother-of-five Tracey Island said: “It’s a disgrace.  I always lock my kids outside in the car where they’ll be safe.” Drinker Bunny Tuffington-Smythe (85) added: “If the idiot can't even look after his daughter, what chance has this benighted country got?”

Mr Pillsbury has also recently lost a bicycle, and is keen to establish parenting classes for the socially inadequate.  

      

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Osborne's Pasty Tax Crumbles!


Pasties: Osborne's favourite. For Clegg, quiche.
Chancellor George Osborne has reversed his half-baked plan to extend VAT on Cornish pasties.  As long as they’ve been put on a tray and allowed to cool, they’ll be exempt from the 20% hike. The climb-down’s been portrayed as a resounding victory for protesters across Cornwall. 

Lib Dem MP for St Austell and Newquay Stephen Gilbert, who’d opposed the tax, said: "The strength of feeling from local people has been clear since these proposals were announced.  Plans to increase VAT would be unfair, unenforceable and cost jobs.”

Gilbert was on the right lines but the real issue wasn’t the genuine Cornish pasty, threats to the Duchy’s businesses or local protest.  Greggs, the UK’s largest bakery chain with 1,400 shops and thousands of employees nationwide, had lobbied the government for a U-turn.  Following Osborne’s announcement in March, some £30 million had been wiped off Greggs' shares; the giant manufactures various hot snack items. News of the Chancellor’s retreat immediately increased the share price by 9%.

"Yum yum!"
Osborne's recently claimed to adore pasties and apparently eats several every day.  But though his surrender helps Cornwall’s bakers, it's also encouraged Greggs to continue peddling a curious, vile-sounding product.  The company’s website describes their creation as a Cornish pasty, and reveals its grim ingredients: “Chunks of steak and minced beef with potato, onion, carrots and peas, lightly seasoned and enclosed in a puff pastry case.”  No Cornish person would ever eat such a freakish object. 

Osborne’s hike, the anti campaign in response and final humiliating defeat for the Chancellor are a microcosm of this terrible government’s blundering policies.  For a time though, the Coalition was at least able to use the Great Pasty Outcry as a handy distraction.  Now perhaps effort can be put into even more important issues.   


Sunday, 27 May 2012

England vs Norway: Total Victory!

Atkins: Euro-victory for our boys
Last night, once again Engerland stamped its authority across Europe's banana states in a crushing reminder of who's top dog in this part of the world.

At football, skipper Tommy 'Tiger' Atkins and his young lions tore apart a dazed Norwegian eleven in Oslo while from the touchline new team manager, Ollie Hodgson, watched proudly.  After our boys' comprehensive 1-0 victory over the Nordic laggards it's odds-on that this summer the European Championship cup will return to Old Trafford.

Engelbert: fond of animals
Engerland also impressed at yesterday's Eurovision music competition, held in some outlandish third-world country, where our entry comfortably beat Norway's feeble effort.  The evening was humiliating for the tearful Norwegian competitor, who at the end of the night trailed by several points to Engelbert Humperdink's well-received ballad.
  
Yet again, drawing on our customary grit and determination to 'get the job done', Engerland remains the wonder of Europe.


Monday, 21 May 2012

Land's End Re-Named For Olympic Torch Relay!


For the start of the Olympic torch's tedious journey around the British Isles, in Cornwall the Land's End's visitor centre was spruced up.  Target for trippers and fund-raisers, the place is an abomination, a ghastly tourist-trap counterpointing the surrounding scenery’s magnificence.  Those in the know approach by foot along the cliff paths, while the herd’s endless cars and coaches try to ruin the area.

But until recently the centre’s entrance portico at least flew the flag of St Piran, and was adorned with the landmark’s Cornish and English names.  Below we see some cyclists, proudly posing after their sponsored journey from somewhere to raise money for something.  And behind them, the original sign.

Land's End: Cornish name, emblem and flag in position.

Tarted up for the torch-following cameras though, we find the Cornish name, emblem and flag have been removed and a bland hording put up in English only.  For its biggest exposure ever, splashed across media round the world, Land’s End had all references to its Cornish identity dispensed with.

Sign of the times: sanitised ready for Olympic world-wide publicity.

I wonder who’ll put their hand up to this one.