Friday, February 6, 2009
The Bidding for Television Rights
5:03 pm gmt
If football were like any other business then the TV bidding war might have gone something like this:
a) Sky, aware
that the recession must hit even them and that a year's subscription to the sports channel costs the same as a week's
family holiday at the fashionable Phwelli Pontins, decide that now is not the time to come across as flash and bid a shade
under £1 billion.
b) Richard 'King of Debt' Scudamore, aware that such a bid means that his primary bonus
clause will not be triggered, knocks them back with a “£99,999,999.00 for the live and exclusive rights to getting
on for a hundred Premiership matches! Are you out of your tiny minds?'
c)The Scud puts in calls to Setanta and ESPN.
d) Setanta and ESPN scratch their heads. If the Scud is calling them rather than waiting for them to come grovelling to
Soho Square something is afoot. They put their mobiles on silent and bide their time.
e) Meanwhile back at the Beeb a
consultation process which has involved five department heads, seventeen deputies, thirty-two core staff, the entire in-house
legal department and a workie has, after five months, decided (on a split vote with the workie's ballot being decisive)
to maintain the status quo and offer exactly the same amount as they did when the rights were last available.
Scud, with a harrumph and much 'is that your best shot' ing, accepts the BBC offer (thereby triggering a subsidiary
bonus clause) and bollocks his secretary for failing to have got through to Setanta and ESPN.
g) Rupert Murdoch, a man
of principle, hears about the events outlined in b) and instructs his minions (sons) to withdraw from broadcasting Premiership
football and concentrate on Twenty20 cricket instead. They instruct their minions (crash hot executives on seven figure salaries)
to communicate this information to Scudamore. The executives instruct their minions....
h) While all this delegating
is going on Murdoch types a quick e-mail (To 'email@example.com') and hits send.
i) The Scud on receiving
an e-mail from an R.Murdoch Esq assumes it is a prank by a 'commie' journalist and ignores it. Harrumphing and with
much 'do I have to do everything around here' ing he calls Setanta and ESPN and leaves a message saying that the deadline
will not be extended and goes out for lunch.
j) Setanta and ESPN, after prolonged consultation, both decide to 'go
k) The Scud returns from lunch in a filthy mood and it only worsens when his secretary informs him that Setanta
and ESPN have finally come back to her and both have, coincidentally, bid exactly a tenth of a billion. 'Magnificent,'
says Scudamore, 'get on the phone right now, Cheryl, and tell them both to fuck right off'.
l) Cheryl does as
m) The Scud rings his friends in the Press to inform them that Sky have come in with an offer which 'to
all intents and purposes' matches the £1.3 billion they paid last time, the remaining rights are being tussled over
by, entre nous, Setanta and ESPN, and, of course, good old aunty has been lumbered with the highlights. He then calls it a
n) As the Scud sits behind his desk reading his own quotes in the papers the process which was initiated in h) reaches
fruition and that bloke with three phones who is the star of deadline day makes 'the difficult call.'
Scud is dumbfounded. He is of half a mind not to believe it but then, ineluctably, on the screen that is forever tuned to
Sky Sports News pops up BREAKING NEWS ALERT: SKY AXE FOOTBALL
p) The phone begins to ring off the hook.
The Scud, with quiet dignity, informs his secretary that he is 'not in' and retreats into his office to lie under
r) The BBC celebrate the 'bargain of the century'.
s) The Mail calls it an outrage.
Joint Job Application
5:01 pm gmt
It is usually Norfolk that is considered cut off and remote. Yet over the last week it has been the rest of
the country that has been detached with Norfolk seemingly the only place not to be brought to a standstill by snow. This has
led to a strange dislocation with the pictures on the news bearing no relation to what could be seen outside our windows.
It is as if we belong to another country.
This sense of otherness being compounded by completely bonkers coverage
of THE SNOW. The newspaper websites have been full of 'Snow Watch – See The Snow As It Happens' as if a quick
glance out of the window could not confirm what you could see on the screen. One 'award-winning site' even posted
'Snow hits Britain, day two - LIVE
Last updated 11 minutes ago
News blog: Minute by minute coverage
of the travel disruption and your snow and ice stories.'
I particularly like that 'LIVE' which distinguishes
it, of course, from the edited highlights of the snow (entitled Flake of the Day and introduced by Gary Lineker with expert
analysis from Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson).
This is all entirely Nuts in May and yet another example of people
who live within the M25 assuming that every one else's lives are the same as their own. Their particular is deemed to
be our general.
Most amusing, or perhaps sad, has been the gushy, slushy stuff about the quiet brought by the
snow, the sense of community, the realization 'LIVE – Last updated 11 minutes ago' that there might be more
to life than work. The boasts of those who had skived off a day's work for the first time in their lives not hugely impressing
those of us who have spent our lives avoiding a full day's work.
At least I'm assuming that the M25ers
have been off work because the one constant, along with other people's snow, of the last week has been the 'you have
0 unread messages' message which greets me every time I try to kick-start my business career.
This tends to dampen
the enthusiasm. How many e-mails can one send without inspiring a reply? A hundred? A thousand? More?
have failed to elicit a response and, more significantly, so have Gronnie's job applications. It beggaring my, and her,
belief that in this age of mass communication no one in certain organizations has the grace to acknowledge an application
which has been sweated over for days, if not weeks. Do they really care so little?
If these silences continue
there may be no option but to seek employment as a husband and wife team. Gronnie being dynamic, industrious, organized and
good with people. And me being the flip side. This employ one get one free approach to job hunting would offer potential employers
many benefits. For a start, there would be the relief of having someone around who could do the job (Gronnie) combined with
the comfort that comes from having an incompetent co-employee (me) who will obviously be the first one to be jettisoned when
there is sacking to be done.
Then there would be the further bonus of having someone who will sensitively listen
to your problems (Gronnie) and someone who you can, without feeling any guilt, slag off behind their backs (me). Finally,
when you go to the pub there will be two people to buy you a pint before you make your excuses and leave without having bought
your round. Everyone is a winner with this new approach to employment, particularly you.
To take advantage
of this splendid offer simply e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Indeed, even if you are not interested an e-mail would be
appreciated just so that I could be afforded the fillip that is given to the start of the working week by the magic 'you
have 1 unread message' message.
A benefit to taking early retirement (and
44 has to be considered early) is that it allows one to give of one's time to good causes - in my case, the campaign to
KEEP ARCHERY OUT OF WHITLINGHAM!
Norfolk is a big, largely underpopulated, county so it surely would not take too
much imagination to find somewhere else to erratically fire off bows and arrows than slap bang in the middle of my walk. If
this proves too difficult then I suggest that archery be banned. It is, after all, only Outside Darts and lacks both the humour
and the sense of camaraderie offered by the indoor version of the sport.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Darts Watching (Obs)
3:49 pm gmt
There are three stages to darts watching:
1)Pre-Christmas – a strong indicator
that life is awry. It may be bleak but there must be someone you might see or something you might do other than watch the
opening round of 64 at the WDC. A stage so lacking in drama that even Sky stopped televising one of the matches and time-filled
2)Between Christmas and New Year – essential viewing. This year with Barney's nine darter
(Barney Army!) and the Power's world record three dart scoring average (Beyond Bradmanesque!) it put even World Strongest
Man (The Globe's Campest Sport just got Camper!) in the shade.
3)In the New Year – not a good sign. It
is understandable, perhaps inevitable, that having tasted the high octane fare from the Ally Pally punters will hoover up
a bit of free stuff from Frimley. This usually proves to be a disappointment. First, BBC sport, nothing if not earnest, makes
the category error of treating darts seriously. This is a mistake because we watch darts to be entertained not informed. (Or
misinformed last week when in a so-dim-it's embarrassing attempt to pretend the corporation's darters were the equal
of Sky's they claimed a player's average was over a ton by conveniently ignoring his last three darts in every leg.
This is the equivalent of saying a batsman has a Test average over 50 as long as you fail to count all his scores under ten.)
The need for such chicanery arises because the chasm in skill between the two organisations is wide and getting wider. You
pay for premium, you receive a simulacrum for free - a strap-line for our recessionary times. No one is fooled. Not
the audience at Frimley (who, small quibble maybe, strike me as being insufficiently drunk), nor those resting at home. A
nadir occurring when Ted 'The Count' Hankey failed to hit not treble one, not double one, but big one, and still the
seventh seed won the match. Incidentally, despite the cape and the whole shtick, sources close to Hankey say he is called
'The 'Count' (sic), not in reference to Dracula, but as a slurred shortening of the Accountant, which was his
nom de darts during the days when he was number-crunching his way to success on the Home Counties circuit dispensing with
such highly-regarded rivals as Philip 'The (Loss) Adjuster' Reeve and Andy 'Human Resources' Cross.
The lack of quality in the action does have the unintended benefit of giving the darts watcher more
thinking time and I am pre-occupied by who will emerge as the Damien Hirst of football. That is to say which player will make
the last best deal and become, in all probability, the best paid British footballer of our and our children's lifetime.
Hirst, in a grand masterstroke of timing, went to market in September, weeks before Lehman brothers collapsed. Even more cannily
he cut his agent and gallery owner, Jay Jopling, out of the deal. This had twin benefits. First, he received 100% of the profits
rather than sharing them 50-50 with Jopling. Second, Jopling had to contribute to these profits because, being long on Hirsts,
it was vital for him to shore up the prices in Hirsts. Game, set and match to Hirst; Lily Allen to Jopling.
art world is not dissimilar to the football world as both were awash with money and still employ idiots near the top. Sotheby's
head of contemporary art is Tobias Meyer who said in June, 'for the first time since 1914 we are in a non-cyclical
market' and then watched his company share price cyclically slide 75%. And the Premier League has Richard 'The King
of Debt' Scudamore.
Football's Joplings are easy to spot but who will be its Damien? One would have thought
it would be a Man City signing except to get a record deal you need a competing club to up the price and Chelsea's pleas
of relative impoverishment seem to be not bluff but reality. Therefore, it is more than likely that best ever deal has already
been done. And the man who did it, topping JT and spurning Jose, was Frank 'The 'Count' Lampard.
Celebrating giving up Smoking (EDP)
3:48 pm gmt
To celebrate giving up smoking cigarettes for just over two and a quarter years I decided, counter-intuitively or desperately
erratically, to take up smoking cigars. This habit kicked in during the pre Christmas party season and hit its zenith at Christmas
when, having smoked one on the day and two on Boxing Day, I awoke on the 27th, realized that logically it was looking like
a three cigar day and felt somewhat sick (these cigars, I should perhaps add, are no enfeebled cheroots from the newsagents
but fully formed Partagas Number 4's all the way from Havana). Possessing an iron will I promptly gave up. Only, oddly,
to take up the habit again the next day.
It has been a mere fortnight and the patterns of addiction are already
apparent. There is the denial: at its strongest when the children enter my den and accuse me of smoking and I, puffing on
a cigar, stolidly maintain that I am not smoking. It's not their fault. They are only thirteen. How can they be expected
to know the difference between inhaling and not inhaling? The differences are Clintonian in their subtlety.
is the desire: Up until last November I would not have thought about having a cigar. Now, at a certain time of night, I can
think of little else. Ridiculously I tell myself that a quick – or at an hour or so not so quick – Partagas No
4 will solve all the problems rattling around my head. And ease my digestive tracts. What a miracle worker is this little
– or not so little – Partagas No 4. It lifts the spirits and soothes the stomach. It tummies could talk they would
ask for Partagas No 4. It is Rennies and Prozac, Cuban hand-rolled into one cheap – or not so cheap – product.
What can be the harm in that?
Well, there's mouth cancer, I suppose, and then there is the slippery slope argument
and it is true that I have started looking at people standing outside in sub zero temperatures smoking cigarettes with a certain
longing. But then I knock such nonsense on the head by reasoning that if I went and joined them and sparked up a Partagas
No 4 I would surely die, not from cancer but cold, before the cigar was out.
At core, it is a question of addiction.
Either one is an addict, and with age we can spot each other within a glance, or one is not. If one is, and if one is not
careful, life pleasures can be reduced to feeding one's addictions. The morning coffees to make up for the alcohol the
night before, followed by the afternoon coffees to keep one going through the day, followed by the alcohol needed to calm
one down into the evening, and more alcohol to get one to sleep at night, followed by morning coffees...All of the above washed
down by one, two or three packets of cigarettes. That's how it used to be and, without the cigarette, to a certain extent
still is. The problem being a life without any addictions to feed seems both improbable and crushingly boring. A life without
treats would, one fears, be intolerable. All addicts replace one addiction with another one. Recovering alcoholics drink the
strongest coffee. Cigarette smokers move on to cigars.
The advantage of a good cigar being that, combined with
the current smoking legislation and the children's hectoring, it is only available during a small window. No one wants
a Partagas for breakfast, you cannot smoke them in either restaurants or pubs, which rules out lunch and early evening, and
leaves open only the late night slot. It is a nightcap addiction ruled incapable of developing into a daily grind.
As with many addictions it offers escape. Not from dismal mundanity and nagging pressures, but working and family noise.
The advent of mobiles and e-mail and mutant combinations of the two have made life more cluttered. Everyone is too busy communicating
(or more often failing to communicate) to ever sit down and think. Thoughtlessness abounds. The new addictions, and I make
none of the following up, are Blogaholism, Twitteritis, Reviewing Addiction, RSS Dependency and Status Update Disorder.
In the face of all that noise a contemplative cigar, in front of an open fire with a Bach cantata for company, seems
not the desperate act of an addict but an action of rare sanity. The long slow puffs providing punctuation to assorted thoughts,
the heavy smoke proving sufficient deterrent to repel intruders. Decades ago the famous advertising slogan used to peddle
cigarettes was 'You Are Never Alone with a Strand'. Now, if they could advertise, perhaps they would sell cigars with
'You Are Always Alone with a Partagas'.
Being a Fan
3:47 pm gmt
One of the many benefits of retiring from writing football match reports after a scarcely credible (for
reader perhaps even more so than writer) two decades is that I can return to being a fan again. This is not to say that football
writers are not supporters of particular clubs, nearly every one of them is, although, bog-standardly, the people who graffiti
anonymous comments below the line at the end of articles (the online community?) nearly always fail to match writer with club.
It is just that writing about football tends to discolour the simple business of fandom
They say you should
never meet your heroes and you can double that for your heroes' agent, triple it for their PR, and quadruple it for 'their
eyes and ears in the dressing-room'. Any lingering affection I may have felt for Chelsea (it was downhill all the way
once the darn fools started winning things) dissipated as quickly as it takes to empty an early bath when Gwen Williams puffed
himself up to his full height (around about five foot six) and announced to a motley representation of working journalists
hanging around Cobham on the off chance they might be granted a few minutes in the company of Mario Melchiot (the glamour!
the glamour!!) that 'Whatever you say the answer is no'. Public relations does not come more contrary. There had been
a small dispute about whether Claudio Ranieri could be asked about whether he was 'concerned' that the fans were not
singing his name (Ranieri happy to talk; Williams incandescent) and now we were facing the Wall of No. Infantile is one word
But then no sensible person goes to a football club in the hope of hearing anyone say something interesting
or memorable. I must have attended over five hundred post-match press conferences and nothing remains in the mind. There is
just a blurred vision of one grown man looking seriously at a group of grown man and saying 'Clive's done a bit of
a groin, but we're hoping he'll be alright for Tuesday' and the group of men religiously writing this wisdom down
so that other grown men might read it.
That's not to say there was no entertainment to be derived from these
'meeting of minds'. There were the earnest journalists whose knowledge of the club bordered on the pathological. There
were the time-efficient who would start a question 'Ron, would you say?' and then read out their own opening paragraphs.
And there was always fun to be had when Brian Glanville was in the house. Brian is not only the country's pre-eminent
football writer he is also the game's top linguist. It was always a pleasure when he would raise the tone early doors
(it was rare for twenty seconds to pass before Brian opened his account) with a flurry of Italian/Spanish/Esperanto. The only
time he came unstuck was when he confuddled his Matt with his di Matteo and reeled off a question in perfect Italian only
to elicit the response 'Why's this fella speaking Welsh to me.'
So, Brian aside, I won't miss the
press conferences and I won't miss overhearing people giving marks out of ten down the phone and I certainly won't
miss formation dialogue (the technical term for a conversation, often lasting the whole ninety minutes, revolving around whether
a team is playing 4-4-3, 4-5-1, or...could this be 4-1-2-1-2). And having made my escape I will relish being able to jump
to my feet and start a chorus of 'Roeder (or whoever) out', something which when done from the press seats used to
drive the in-house PRs bananas.
All I hope is that the standard of chants has improved. In the moralising about
the Tottenham XI one of the more depressing aspects was football writers trying to come up with examples of crowd wit to serve
as a contrast the chants of the 'moronic scum'. They struggled. 'He's big, he's Red, his feet hang out
the bed – Peter Crouch' is, at best, nearly funny. And if that's as good as it has got in the last two decades
you begin to suspect the game gets the press it deserves.
Derren Brown (EDP)
3:47 pm gmt
It is important that you pick your battles as well as your enemies and I was therefore doubly negligent
when I leaned back in 'the telly chair' and said “I could do that” as on the screen an entire West
End audience shuddered with disbelief after one of their number was informed by Derren Brown, correctly as it transpired,
that she had dreamed the night before that she was married to Alan Titchmarch.
Little Mo, unaccountably still
up at 11.00pm and on a school night, too, kept her counsel until on Gronnie returning from the kitchen she falsely announced
'Daddy thinks he is cleverer than Derren Brown'. I thought about correcting her but eleven at night was no time to
be having a argument in semantics with Little Mo, particularly on a school night when technically she should be tucked up
in bed. So I let the slander stand and sat watching as the man the Times would call the next day “the greatest cold
reader Britain has ever produced” pulled trick after trick. Each stunt being greeted by a “that's impressive,
but Dad's cleverer than him” from Mum and Mo. And as I squirmed in the telly chair followed up with the inevitable,
“so, Mister Cleverer than Derren Brown, how did he do that?”
Nothing if not argumentative I boldly
attempted to come up with plausible answers, along the way making the following very smart points.
majority of the audience will have purchased their tickets by credit card so he will know the name of people in specific seats.
b) From there it is the work of a jiffy to order a minion to bring Facebook and Google into play and discover details
such as date of birth so you can predict people's star signs and earn a really cheap gasp of awe from the audience.
c)Such is the proliferation of social networking sites and so great is the penchant for sharing private details on
public platforms an extraordinary amount of private information is in the public domain. This can be used to enable one to
create the impression of omniscience.
d)It is also a doddle to employ a team of eavesdroppers to hang around the
bars before the show, and at the interval, listening out for tidbits that can be relayed to the great Master upon the stage.
e) Alternatively, a gang of pickpockets could lift a variety of wallets from which could be extracted nuggets of information
priot to the wallets being returned with their owners none the wiser.
f) Finally, and as if I needed to go
on, the fact that Brown is making such a large and unconvincing play of not having an earpiece is obviously beyond reasonable
doubt evidence that he does have one. Why protest so much otherwise? Who would bother to deny something that wasn't true?
All of the above you might have thought would have swung the vote my way but Little Mo was having
none of it. 'Jealous Dadda,' being her typical response to points a) through g). And then to top, or bottom, it all
Derren did something so complicated that it is a struggle to explain what he did, let alone how he did it. I think he added
together four numbers given to him from the audience in some complicated fashion and that the sum of these numbers was not
only the date but, coincidentally, surely, the number he had on a badge which had been on his lapel all evening. Baffling.
There was only one thing to say to that: 'Bedtime, Mo. Now. It is ridiculous you are up so late. And on a school night,
too.' And then stand in front of her in pale imitation of a referee pointing towards her room – as if she might
have suddenly forgotten its location – scurry her along, return to the telly chair and say to Gronnie 'isn't
Newsnight on the other side?'
The Morality of Football (Obs)
3:46 pm gmt
January is not yet out and already I have had my fill of 'the morality of football'. The non-subject
first appeared when it seemed that Kaka might move to City and a heft of sportswriters demanded that he stay in Milan
'for the good of the game'. Kaka's individual rights being blithely over-ridden by the sportswriters' need
to show that the sport which they cover is 'better' than it actually is.
This is a common misconception.
After all if you are dim-witted enough to consider football a religion it is only consistent to believe that it is imbued
with a particular moral quality. In reality, it is as morally neutral as money itself. Kaka could have taken the Sheikh's
money and diverted it into building a children's hospital in Moss side (an action many would consider worthy) or he could
have taken the money and blown it on hookers (an action many would consider profligate) but either way it would say nothing
about the morality of football (yet something about Kaka's personal morality). Morals are an individual's concern,
not the state's, and certainly not the press-pack's.
Yet, before the week was out, an even more absurd
figure - Garry Cook who has a CV containing stints with Thaksin 'a great guy to play golf with' Shinawatra and (in
ital) Nike – started twittering on about the morality of football and trying to claim that Milan were 'bad for the
game'. So far, so absurd. He then topped the lot by responding to questions about Nike's 'child-labour issues'
with a 'morally, I felt comfortable in that environment'. Of course, he did. He's a marketing man. They have their
own language and belief system, drummed into them during endless team bonding exercises.
was ridiculed by two excellent articles by Marina Hyde (for our big sister paper) and Michael Henderson (in the process becoming
the first sports hack to receive a rave from popbitch). Their thrust was similar but the reaction of the online community
could not have been more different. On the Guardian website they rushed to praise Marina; on the Telegraph they hurried to
bury Michael, even going so far as to demand he be sacked (A but de trop given the number of sportswriters already 'let
go' by that organisation). As with the online community, so with the rest of us, we all have different opinions...and
On to weightier issues and the revelation that Alastair Campbell (Burnley fan, political aide, and, scarcely
credibly, novelist) receives more text messages from the rich and famous per second than the neediest micro-celeb. On Wednesday
night, for example, he received 'messages' (plural!) from Andy Gray ('he may be paid to be neutral but he was
far from it once our third goal went in' writes Campbell) and one from Alex Ferguson ('keep playing as you have been
and you're there' texts Ferguson).
All of which is fascinating on a number of levels. First, Campbell
is clearly one of those irritating man-child who can no longer go to a sporting event without succumbing to the temptation
to group-text everyone in his address book as to his whereabouts and follow up with minute-by-minute updates on the 'Super
Clarets'. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to discover he owned a Blackberry. Second, the long pauses that are
increasingly a feature of Gray's analyses are obviously not for thought but to provide him with the space to text his
roster of 'good muckers'. Third, as in so many things, Ferguson is a traditionalist when it comes to texting. Many
of us would have responded to yet another text from Campbell with a brusque 'ur' but Fergie not only spelled out the
word but 'went upstairs' for the apostrophe.
Men of Norfolk (EDP)
3:45 pm gmt
It has been a mixed week for men of Norfolk. The beneficiary was a man described, wonderfully, in an
article by the journalist Ben Macintyre as 'a drunken, dishevelled pamphleteer from Norfolk'. A man who, in a varied
career, Macintyre tells us, was a pirate, maker of ladies corsets, teacher, failed tobacconist, jailbird and journalist. A
man who was born in Thetford and whose words were used by President Obama to conclude a speech witnessed by more people than
any in human history. Take a bow, Thomas Paine, who may have died two hundred years ago but still exerted a greater influence
on Obama's thinking than the 27 year old operating out of Starbucks who is his official speechwriter.
a monumental occasion. Less for the oratory which, by Obama's high standards, was reined in but for the size of the crowd
gathered in the Mall. Usually one associates such a turn out with totalitarian states, where attendance is as voluntary as
compulsory supporting of the school rugby team. Therefore, to see so many from such diverse backgrounds gather willingly was
remarkable. For a giddy moment, and to be hyperbolic, the moronic inferno appeared to be calmed and at ease with itself. It
was as if the grace of Obama had stilled millions of fears. Anyhow that's how it appeared to me, many pints in, watching
on a screen normally reserved for football in some pub or other in London.
The man who had a less good week was
Stephen Fry. He is, and will be ever more, a national treasure. He is a man of many qualities as comfortable playing the starring
role in gritty solicitor drama Kingdom as he is hosting the dauntingly rigourous parlour game QI. He is all things to all
people, which is lovely but slightly detracts from his credentials to be Britain's Most Intelligent Man (Copyright: All
A claim which has taken another dent thanks to his enthusiasm for Twitter (a messaging device which
makes e-mail and MSN seem considered and thoughtful). So great is his fondness for this device that he published his twitterings
last week, which is the equivalent of placing in the public domain a series of savagely edited postcards. Here is a sample
of the work:
All over. Won't reveal too much as press seem anxious to be all over
this. JR & I discussed
Twitter. Hope it makes the cut. Cruise
charming about 3 hours ago from Tweetie*
Better power down the iPhone now.
Catcherlayder x about 6 hours ago
Now on the sofa with Franz Ferdinand -band not archduke. Tom en
route. Not long now x about 6 hours ago from Tweetie
Show is recording earlier than usual to suit: a) Me, b) Lee
c) Tom Cruise? Answers on a tweetcard. about 8 hours ago from Tweetie
Big queue outside TVC already -
including TV cameras interviewing the
audience as they line up. Overkill? Of course not. about 8 hours ago
Ax many entries as you like, by the way x 9:23 AM yesterday from TweetDeck
RT “ @spkr4thedead51: @stephenfry
you can keep track of them all here
http://hashtags.org/tag/l ” Thanks @spkr4thedead51 x 9:22 AM
from TweetDeck' **
*Tweetie, presumably, is the name he gives to his Tweeter machine.
** I do not understand
There is nothing wrong with the above but you would be surprised if John Maynard Keynes or Bertrand
Russell or John Stuart Mill had agreed to have their name attached to such twitterings. And there is a slightly desperate
mid-life fawn to the youth element to the whole thing ('Catcherlayder x', for instance, is regrettable)
course, it is not Fry's fault that other people should label him Britain's greatest intellect. It is that of a culture
which seems to consider a facility for answering general knowledge quiz questions to be intellectually superior to, say, discovering
a cure for breast cancer or writing a definitive history of the One Hundred Years War. Fry's false position is almost
entirely due to a series of sparkling performances on University Challenge, which attest merely to a photographic memory.
His position is sustained by the fact that he is so eminently likeable. He has whole counties of friends, many of
whom revel in him being Britain's Most Intelligent man because, coincidentally, it follows they are friends with Britain's
Most Intelligent man. In its way it is as much of a Ponzi scheme as that constructed by Bernard Madoff. And, as such, it only
needs a prick of the bubble for the inflated reputation to come crashing back to earth. It may be that his love of Twitter
will provide the needle and it may well be that Fry will be heartily relieved when it does its damage.
Mickey Rourke (Obs)
3:43 pm gmt
It is good to see Mickey Rourke in the ascendant again, not only because it's always nice to see
a proper drinker back on his feet but also because someone enterprising might ask him what he exactly meant by his eighties
catchphrase, 'sometimes, you just gotta role the potato'. A gnomic phrase which is the centrepiece of Joe Queenan's
essay 'Being Mickey Rourke For a Day', the highlight of his book 'If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must
Be in Trouble'.
Here's a sample: “6:25 Emulating Mickey, who regularly induces servile intermediaries
to do the talking for him in public, I ask a friend to go into a Pakistani deli and tell the clerk: "Mr. Queenan would
like you to sell him a pack of Marlboros.""
Queenan smokes 82 Marlboros during his day spent being the
man who his co-star in 9 1/2 weeks Kim Bassinger called simply 'The Human Ashtray'. Whenever Queenan is at a loss
for words he does that Rourke look and says 'sometimes, you just gotta roll the potato' and every last bum and loser,
without quite knowing what he means, somehow catches the pseudo Rourke's drift. That is the power of the phrase.
Anyway, it has struck me that Rafa Benitez could learn a thing or two from late 80s Rourke:
Hack (Broadsheet): Leading
1-0, Rafa, and you take off the always dangerous Torres. Can you tell us what was going through your mind?
thick Spanish accent) Sometimes, you just gotta roll the potato.
Second hack: (Liverpool Echo) Wigan equalise and you
remove 'Pool lynchpin Stevie Gerrard. What was all that about?
Benitez: A veces, sólo tienes que rodar la
That would have learned them. There would have been no talk of craziness just of potatoes and rolling.
At the very least, if he had followed Mickey's example, Benitez might have confused, and perhaps alarmed, Ferguson. But,
as it is, he blew it and also any chance his team had of winning the title (which, being realistic, has always been no chance
The insight that dawns upon Queenan during his long day is just quite how hard work it is to be Mickey
Rourke. Management consultants (my personal scapegoats for the global economic meltdown) may pull the occasional all-nighter
and consider themselves Stakhanovite, but for Rourke every day is an all-nighter and every night is an all-dayer, which, making
no sense at all, merely demonstrates the enormity of the challenge that is Being Mickey. The management consultant subsists
on a diet of coffee, mineral water and apples; Rourke relies upon cider, red wine, bourbon and peanuts. The management consultant
sits at his desk talking into his Dictaphone about 'restructuring'; Rourke gets off the floor to make - not great
but, given his circumstances, pretty remarkable – movies like 'Marlboro Man' and 'They Crawl'.
It is Mickey not the MC who shows true perseverance.
Obviously, given how serious sport has become, the only Mickey
Rourke left in sport is former boxer and future WWF wrestler Mickey Rourke. However, I have hopes for Kent batsman Robert
Key who was described by Graeme Fowler as liking 'a fag and a pint' and for this reason was and is often overlooked
by the selectors. Now 'A fag and a pint' Key is a long way from 'A packet of Marlboro red and a pint of
sour whiskey and that's just for breakfast' Rourke but at least he is making an effort. He also stands apart from
the fitness freaks, like Ian Bell, whose press-up average is considerably higher than their Test average. Sure, Key may be
slightly portly, but so was Inzamam Ul Haq (nickname sag aloo). The campaign for his selection starts here. Sometimes, you
just gotta roll the potato.
The Thetford Plan (EDP)
3:41 pm gmt
It is probably my favourite train journey and, thanks to technological advances, I can write about it
as it takes place. It might be said that the station destination board (Wymondham, Attleborough, Thetford, Brandon, Ely, Waterbeach,
Cambridge or, perhaps even more so, Wymondham....Ely, March, Whittlesea, Peterborough) is a little forbidding, but the more
I have travelled along the line the greater the pleasures to be derived. Certainly, on the first few times, looking out over
all that...nothingness could slide one's thoughts towards the depressive side, and that even before anyone has embarked
at March, but, given time, there is much solace to be gained from the seeming desolation. The light, needless to say, is exceptional
but it is the space, too, which gives one pause. It is, in many ways, the antithesis of the London Undeground. My commute
used to be a packaged hell punctuated by a flurry of tantrums which left me exhausted on arrival. Now, travelling to
work is a contemplative experience, allowing me time to order my thoughts, and I arrive refreshed.
if you have not done the work you need to do before you get to work then the train makes for an outstanding office. Where
else do you get a table to yourself, coffee delivered to your desk, free heating, a remarkable, ever-shifting, view –
all for the price of a single to Peterborough. It is not quite as good as St Peter Hungate – nothing could match that
workplace – but it is considerably warmer.
The only drawback is that at weekends, because there are no commuters
about, the train companies give up. There is no trolley, which for a five hour journey is punitive, although it does add some
uncertainty to the journey as the only way to avoid starvation or dehydration is to do some frantic speed shopping at Peterborough.
This lack of care on the part of the train operators is unforgiveable and yet another indicator of what happens when shareholder
profit, rather than customer service, becomes your primary purpose. In short, you and I are denied a coffee on a Saturday
so that others might enlarge their bonuses. Once profit becomes all, the only beneficiares are those whose who are motivated
solely by money. This is why we are where we are now.
Change, however, may be in the air. The collapse of unthinking,
and unquestioned, capitalism allows new ideas to come to the fore and, after prolonged staring out of window, I present you
with the Thetford plan, or perhaps the Brandon plan is better, or even the Thetford-Brandon plan. Whatever history decides
to call it the premise is that we remove the railways from the stockmarket and place them on the bondmarket.
of allowing, say, National Express to sell shares in itself, with the result that profit maximisation becomes the be all and
end all, the company would issue bonds redeemable at 3.5% or whatever a year. In this way it is to be hoped that the profit
motive becomes one of many factors rather than the primary one. A 3.5% or whatever profit would be expected, but beyond that
monies would be invested in improving the service and ensuring the product was good enough to generate future annual profits
of 3.5% or whatever. Of course, this would mean that National Express, or whoever, ceases to be a cash cow milked by speculators
and starts being a hybrid breed combining private and public sector instituted for the benefit of everyone. The Thetford-Brandon
plan, in its simplicity and adaptability, might even prove to be the device which ushers in the fabled third way.
On second thoughts, and after considerable reflection, it might be a load of tosh. The Ely-Waterbeach plan, as it
should strictly speaking now be called, may be utterly without merit. It seems unlikely, all things considered, that the world's
economic woes might be eased by a man on a slow train to Cambridge knocking out a column for the EDP.
staring out at the landscape and thinking economics has allowed me to forget about Black Tuesday, the traumatic day on which
both boiler and automobile ceased to function, probably forever more. As the man of the house there was no dodging responsibility
for this double calamity which rendered the family cold and immobile. The timing, it has to be said, is horrid with the 'Russian
winter' arriving as you read this article and expected to last at least until a new boiler can be fitted.
we should all relocate to my new office, buying a family ticket to Peterborough and back and back again for as long as it
takes. And then once the new boiler is in we can stride down to the forecourt and become the first family to buy a car in
the United Kingdom in 2009.