Thursday, 31 March 2011

Shurely it's Sean for President

Just up from my sick bed... it seems there's an election coming up... These days I prefer to catch up with the news from the blogosphere - at least the contributors are (mostly) honest about their allegiances.

One of the most fair minded and objective bloggers on my list of favourite reads must be Stuart Winton fae Dundee. So I do take seriously his criticism of the SNP reusing the 'Alex Salmond for First Minister' slogan on the ballot papers - then again it wasn't the SNP who came up with the rules and the first objective of the SNP campaign must be for them to win the election - the people will decide, whether other parties feel the electorate aren't smart enough to understand the ballot paper or otherwise - Personally I'm more concerned about the AV referendum overshadowing the Scottish elections with UK wide politicking from Labour, Consevative and Lib Dem on that peculiar issue. I'm pretty sure that the aim is to drown out the SNP's election message with Unionist propoganda.

Still, that's not why I'm here today, Stuart's blog title Alex Salmond for President?, reminded me of the excellent Tartan Specials song for big Sean, and seeing as I need cheering up - here it is:

Friday, 18 March 2011

'Arry's game

So if you were a Spurs fan - and I'm not, but I do have a good friend who is... happens to be a Ghanaian chap who has suffered years of abuse from his Arsenal supporting mates. Well, if you were a Spurs fan wouldn't you just be marvelling at how much difference a decent manager can make to your team's fortunes.

Harry Rednap took over at Spurs in 2008 whilst they were sitting bottom of the English Premier league. He eventually guided them to safety and the League cup final (lost on penalties to Man Utd). In 2009-10 Harry took Spurs to 4th in the Premier League and a potential place at the top table to enjoy the untold riches of the European Champions League (including places for 4th placed teams from rich countries, but let's not be too churlish about his achievements!) qualifiers.

In season 2010-11, He's guided his team through a tricky qualifier and into the group stages, where they've been to the San-Siro and beaten current holders Inter Milan to qualify top of the group. The first round of the knockout games saw them return to the San-Siro where they conquered the mighty AC Milan.

Next up, Harry takes his team to the Bernabeau to face Jose Marinio's Real Madrid. What a season for Spurs fans!

PS Of course, I doubt any of this could have been achieved without the able assistance of the mighty Joe Jordan. So big it up for Joe too!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Invictus & the 16th man

I watched the movie 'Invictus' recently. A decent enough movie based on an incredible story that really didn't need the Holywood treatment and to be fair to Clint Eastwood (director) I don't think he went overboard with it.

What I felt it was missing though was that actual intensity of the matches as they were played. That's why it was such a pleasure to catch 'The 16th man' on ESPN. Morgan Freeman narrated much of this documentary, but this time it was easier to just enjoy his beautiful delivery than to have to worry about whether I liked him playing the role of Nelson Mandela.

The reality of the match scenes and the footage of the real ANC movers and shakers, who hated the Afrikaaners with all their being, coming to acknowledge that Mandela's hand of friendship across that terrible divide and support for the detested Springboks was much more powerful than any Hollywood movie could possibly muster.

One of the key elements of the story was the fear and respect that even the mighty Springboks held for Jonah Lomu

Here's why

Incredible to note that throughout his career the big man suffered from a debilitating nephrotic syndrome and yet still achieved what most mere mortals can only dream of.

As powerful as any imagery though was the reading of the poem which inspired the movie title.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Incredible to think that these stoic words from a Victorian poet could have helped Nelson Mandela not just to survive his incarceration, not just to win over his oppressors and become their master but to inspire them to their own glory over the mighty opposition which was the Lomu inspired All Blacks.

Anyone got any ideas for Sunday?

Fred the *anker's Superinjuction

I have to admit that yesterday's story about Sir Fred Goodwin's superinjunction just made me laugh. The result of parliamentary privilege means that John Hemming was able to highlight this story which would otherwise not have been permitted - I don't get this bit, but I assume the reports are allowed to talk about what Mr Hemming said, rather than simply talk about Fred Goodwin without good reason... as if him destroying the eceonomy wasn't good enough reason to occasionally spit some venom in his direction...

Sir Fred Goodwin (but Bad Loser apparently!) knighted, via Gordon Brown (lest we forget), for services to banking, apparently doesn't want to be called a banker anymore. Small wonder I suppose given the poor name bankers have these days, but a wee bit strange seeing as he was the most high profile of the psychopaths who nearly destroyed capitalism.

Just for the record though:
Fred Goodwin was a banker for more than a decade, taking senior posts at Clydesdale and RBS before accepting the role of RBS chief executive in 2001.

He gained the nickname Fred the Shred for his ruthless approach to business.

After RBS’s takeover of Dutch bank ABN Amro in 2007, widely seen as one of the worst business moves in recent history, Sir Fred’s banking career went rapidly downhill.

The bank, under his leadership, was brought to the brink of collapse, requiring a £45.5bn state bailout that brought it 83% into public ownership. (INcidentally, I think the UK coffers might do very well in the long run out of that wee bit of business!)

However, he is still eligible for a £342,500 annual pension – reduced from £700,000 in the face of public outcry – meaning that although he is now technically an ex-banker, he draws the sort of income from banking that most of us could only dream of.

Sir Fred - You are a *anker and always will be in my eyes!


Just a few links to some 'critiques' of PFI / PPP projects.

I'm not generally a Guardian reader, but they have a nice collection here

You should look out especially for a chap by the name of George Monbiot, who seems to have done a lot of research on the topic and has managed to resist being converted to it's charms.

Even the Daily Telegraph, who you might think would normally be champions of the captains of Industry getting to fleece us got around to thinking they might just be taking the piss somewhat on this.

It's little wonder that the SNP tried to find an alternative to this. I can see the difficulty though. Once the financiers have managed to get their grubby fingers into the till, how could we expect them to be a wee bit less greedy? Of course they're going to resist efforts to fund projects which don't result in them earning their vulgar fees.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Credit where it's due

Whilst the cost of being sick in England is about to rise by another 20 pence it was heartening to hear this week that Labour actually voted with the SNP on an SNP initiative, leaving the Tories and Lib-Dems to squabble over the title of most mean-spirited party - with Bill Aitken recently having to stand down as the Tory mouth piece on Justice, there was certainly an opportunity for the Lib-Dems to step up to the plate.

Whilst it is typical of the Tories only to consider short term costs rather than long term values, what on earth has happened to the Lib Dems, whom I could once upon a time identify with?

Well done Labour though!

Gratuity, tip or service charge

Had the pleasure of lunch at a plush West end establishment yesterday to celebrate my wife's birthday. The food was outstanding, but I have to say although I was neither impressed nor displeased with the service it was something of a surpise to see a 10% service charge on the bill, but hey ho! 10% is pretty much the standard for tips in restaurants isn't it? Actually I've no idea what is expected these days, but I tend to run with 10% because I can, but more often than not the actual sum will depend on the cash I have in my pocket, and that's an important point actually, for usually I pay by card unless we're in a group, but having worked as a waiter myself I know I much preferred a wee spot of cash between me and the customer without any need to bother the exchequer about the outstanding service I'd just delivered.

So, fair enough if the restaurant want these things formalised, who am I to quibble - I offered to pay the bill as it was and let them sort ot all out for themselves. What I really didn't like though was the waiter then handing me the card machine at the point where I'm expected to say whether I want to add a gratuity or not - to the bill at which they've already added my expected gratuity!

I didn't appreciate that at all - and if you've got a restaurant you should know this. It's the little things that make the difference between a great restaurant experience and an average one. Leaving the place feeling like the staff are trying to hoodwink a wee bit extra from you isn't the sort of thing I equate with a 'great' restaurant experience.

On the point of tips though, what's the story with taxi drivers? Why do they expect a tip at all. I don't mind rounding up to the nearest pound, but to have to deal with their surliness when I expect my change is a disgrace. They've got a meter running and must get a fair price for the service I'm after and which they provide. Why they should expect any more is beyond me.

Closer to the Heart

Greatly amused by the Labour blogger who recently rationalised his distillation of a Salmond answer at FMQ's to 'bluster' without actually mentioning the points Salmond had made by quoting Simon and Garfunkel "a man hears what he wants to hear
and disregards the rest". In essence he's admitted that he doesn't care what Salmond actually said anyway - not very objective to my mind, but then I'm no party apparatchik or apologist.

Much as I like Simon and Garfunkel though I tend to think that my political inclinations are rather better expressed by Geddy Lee - enjoy!

and don't forget