Last of the Summer Wine!
September 4, 2010

It has been a last of the summer wine type of week all round. Glowing late summer days have been followed by chilly autumnal evenings and the nights are certainly drawing in. This year I will miss  ‘autumn days when the grass is jewelled…….’  in more ways than one!

This is the week that was:

The BBC series Last of the Summer Wine took its final bow  after an incredible run of 37 years and 31 series. To be honest, despite its endearing gentle northern humour and quirky characters, I felt its sell by date had passed some time ago but I do look back with some fondness on the early series with Foggy, Compo, Clegg and dear old Nora Batty.

Tony Blair was conveniently away on a journey to the States when his book of the same name became the fastest selling autobiography of all time. Mind you most outlets had it on sale at half price from the outset. Could that be because the proceeds are going to the British Legion not lining the pockets of the author?

I haven’t bought the book but having seen the newspaper coverage and listened to Mr Blair on a number of pre-recorded programmes I feel like I’ve read it!

In a nutshell, the reviews have concentrated on Blair’s difficult relationship with Gordon Brown , who he describes as ‘brilliant’  but lacking ‘emotional intelligence,’ and the  not unsurprising lack of an apology over the invasion of Iraq, despite his ‘anguish’ over the UK deaths in the war.

There has also been reference to Tony’s revelations that he turned to drink whilst in office and his apparent obsession with proving he is a red-blooded alpha male – too much information!      

With the return of the political hacks from their summer hols, Blair was quickly followed on to the front pages by Foreign Secretary William Hague, sporting a tight-fitting, long sleeved white T-shirt and baseball cap. This not a good look when your sexuality is being called into question!

Mr Hague has vigorously denied rumoured accusations, started by Guido Fawkes in his political blog, and claims he has never had a gay relationship. He then rather misguidedly, in my opinion, attempted to back up his defence with reference to several recent miscarriages by his wife Ffion.

I’m not sure what that has to do with anything! He might have done better to have kept his head down (and lost the baseball cap!)   

The tabloids have also been to work on Fabio Capello following his complaint that they had turned him from a god to a monster.

Big mistake Fabio, huge! He was immediately portrayed on several back pages as Frankenstein’s monster, an image (reminiscent of Turnip Taylor) that I’m afraid he will have to learn to live with!  

Never the less Fabio’s new look England team answered his and their critics, in the best possible way, with a 4–0 win over Bulgaria in last night’s Euro 2012 qualifying game.

Jermaine Defoe helped himself to a fine hat trick, Rooney began to find his feet again, Walcott injected the turn of speed that was missing in South Africa, Milner was at his industrious best and in Joe Hart we look to have found a secure keeper at long last.

The only disappointment was seeing Forest old boy Michael Dawson’s full international debut ending on a stretcher.     

The Premiership Rugby  season kicks off today. Gloucester have had a good pre-season beating two strong Welsh sides, the Scarlets and Ospreys, and narrowly losing at Munster.

World Cup winning England centre, Mike Tindall, has been named as captain and if he stays fit will have a big part to play in Gloucester’s continuing development. I’m quite optimistic about their chances of a top four place this season and hopefully they will get off to a flyer this afternoon, away at premiership newcomers Exeter.

Whilst the Pakistan spot fixing saga rumbled on Kevin Peterson, having been rested  from England’s forthcoming one day matches, had to make a public apology for venting his disappointment by tweeting an expletive!  

Meanwhile the Notts cricketers seem to be stumbling their way to the finishing line, having lost fairly emphatically to Durham yesterday. However they are still 22 points clear at the top of the County Championship with just two games to play. Hopefully, this will be their year and they can make the step up from being seemingly perpetual runners-up.

So, that was the week that was! My last in the UK for a while.

Last night there was an enjoyable  last supper, and last glass, at The Railway in the nearby village of Ripple. They do the best home-made fish and chips in the area!   

Thanks to all those who have sent cards, emailed, and called this week with best wishes. Next time you hear from me, internet permitting, will be from Rwanda.

I fly out  from Heathrow at 21.00 and hopefully should be met by a VSO representative in Kigali at mid-day tomorrow.  

It’s time to check my bags, take my malaria tablet, and enjoy a final piece of toast and Marmite before the great adventure begins. Murabeho!

                                   

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Geeky or Gawky for the Labour Leadership Race?
September 1, 2010

The sun is shining and the sky is blue. High pressure is settling over the UK for the rest of the week so it must be the end of the holidays and the beginning of the new school year!

As Chris left for work with a sprightly spring in her step (joke!), I reflected on the fact that for the first time in many years I had enjoyed a good night’s sleep on the eve of a new school year and that my stomach was not churning!        

If it’s back to school time for teachers, then the politicians will soon be back in Westminster.

Since the end of term, Sam and Dave whilst holidaying in Cornwall were visited by a stork with special delivery package and the PM has been able to engage in a few politician kisses baby photo opportunities, with baby Flo aka Florence Rose Endellion. I don’t think she will thank them for the latter (after her place of birth) in years to come!

Meanwhile Cleggy, who got all excited about looking after the keys to Number 10 and being asked to water the plants, wet the baby’s head with a pint of Brains.

He also met a visiting football FIFA delegation and did his best to back the bid for World Cup 2018, claiming it was, “unbeatable” and that, “it will inspire people in towns and cities across the country,” which is more than we can say for the coalition.   

To be honest FIFA could cut down on their carbon footprint and save a lot of time. Paul the celebrity psychic octopus, formerly of the Weymouth Sea Life Centre but currently living in Germany, has chosen England so it’s a done deal!     

The Labour Leadership race is entering the final furlong. There are five runners but it is fast becoming a two-horse race with Geeky and Gawky battling it out for the finishing line.

Geeky (Ed – left) and Gawky (David) formerly known as Miliband minor and Miliband major are the bookies’ favourites.

Bullish Ed (Balls) has lived up to his name and made a bit of a mess up of the race, too much like a bull in a china shop!

Andy Who (Burnham), has had a pretty good run out, with his sales pitch about  aspirational socialism which will marry the best of Old and New Labour, but  there are too many hurdles for this young unknown who has always been an outsider. He’s one to watch  for the future and his day will come.  

Dear Dianne, a robust filly, has huffed and puffed from the start finding it very heavy going and will look forward to being reunited with her stable mate Portillo and trainer Andrew Neil in the This Week studio.

That old tipster, the Prince of Darkness (aka the Third Man when signing copies of his autobiography up and down the country) seems to have switched horses mid race.

He made Geeky, a slightly more charismatic contender than the rest of the field, an early favourite but his tendency to veer towards the far left has caused a change of heart. He now seems to favour Gawky who has more of an inclination towards a right of centre course.

Gawky is certainly a stayer and more experienced than his opponents but some pundits feel he will need to shed a bit of weight as he carries a bit too much baggage. His healthy, high energy diet will probably see him first past the post provided he avoids any banana skins in the final gallop for home.  

Whoever is paraded around the winner’s paddock in a few weeks time, (I would prefer Geeky but think it will be Gawky) will have their work cut out to mount a serious challenge against the coalition stable’s high flyers.

Interestingly, betting slips (sorry ballot papers) have been sent out to Labour party members on the same day that a former novice, and three times winner of the biggest race of all, has chosen to release his memoirs – A Journey

I hope it doesn’t prove to be too much of a handicap!