Thursday, July 28, 2005

Wednesday night is Patronising Busybody Night on Channel 4

20.00 How Clean Is Your House
Kim and Aggie snoop around a three-bedroom house in Clacton-on-Sea before giving it the ultimate deep cleanse.

20.30 You Are What You Eat
Gillian McKeith attempts to persaude Mark and Dean, the new landlords of a countryside pub in Hereford, to drop the booze and bring in the carrot juice in order to reduce their bulging waistlines.

Here’s an idea.

Why don’t Kim and Aggie go round to Gillian McKeith’s house and tell her how to keep it clean, and then Gillian can go round to Kim and Aggie’s house to tell them what to eat, and they can all leave us the hell alone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Poms vs Convicts

Well, the first Test was pretty dismal, wasn't it?

A magnificent start followed by a tame capitulation, admittedly in the face of outstanding bowling from the best spinner who ever lived, and probably the best seam bowler who ever lived.

So while we wait for those bastards Warne and McGrath to hurry up and finally bloody retire, let's cheer ourselves up with a look at some great Ashes quotes (culled from the Sunday Telegraph):

Us on them

“The aim of English cricket, is in fact, mainly to beat Australians."
Jim Laker in his autobiography, 1960

"The Australian temper is at bottom grim. It is though the sun has dried up his nature."
Sir Neville Cardus

"All Australians are an uneducated and unruly mob."
Douglas Jardine to Australian wicketkeeper Stork Hendry during the Bodyline series, 1932-33.

"I'm very proud, very proud of my heritage - and, unlike Mr Keating, I do have one."
Ian Botham before the 1992 World Cup final in Melbourne. Botham left a banquet after an entertainer made fun of the Queen. The Australian prime minister, Keating, accused him of being "precious"

"Not bad for the worst team ever to leave England."
Mike Gatting on winning the 1986 Ashes, after facing the usual suggestions about his team's weakness

Them on us

"Don't give the bastard a drink- let him die of thirst."
England captain Douglas Jardine's favourite piece of barracking from the crowd in Sydney during the 1932-1933 Bodyline series

"Bailey, I wish you were a statue and I was a pigeon."
Heckle from the Sydney crowd, MCC's 1954/55 tour to Australia

"Tufnell! Can I borrow your brain? I'm building an idiot."
Australian barracker addressing England's Phil Tufnell 1994-95

"I dunno. Maybe it's that tally-ho lads attitude. You know, there'll always be an England, all that Empire crap they dish out. But I could never cop Poms."
Jeff Thomson, Australian fast bowler, 1987

"McCague will go down in Test cricket history as the rat who joined the sinking ship."
Daily Telegraph Mirror in Sydney on Martin McCague's 1993 selection for England against Australia, where he grew up

"What do you think this is, a f****** tea party? No you can't have a f****** glass of water. You can f****** wait like the rest of us."
Australian captain Allan Border to England batsman Robin Smith, Trent Bridge Test, 1989

Showing that Aussie stereotypes are generally accurate:

"I acted as pacemaker on the first leg - from Melbourne to Honolulu - then others helped out on the last two stretches as I enjoyed a good sleep. When we got to London, Graeme Wood and I were fresh enough to help him off the plane. The man needed some help after 45 cans!"
Dennis Lillee describes Rodney Marsh's attempt at the Australian beer drinking record during the f light from Australia to England for the 1985 Ashes

"In my day 58 beers between London and Sydney would have virtually classified you as a teetotaller."
Ian Chappell, former Australian captain, informed that David Boon drank 58 beers on the flight to England, 1989. Boon claimed to be scared of flying

"G'day, howya going?"
Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee addressing the Queen at Lord's, 1972

On Warne’s miracle first ball in Ashes cricket:

"How anyone can spin a ball the width of Gatting boggles the mind."
Martin Johnson, in The Independent, on Shane Warne's ball of the century which bowled the famously rotund Mike Gatting in 1993

"If it had been a cheese roll, it would never have got past him."
Graham Gooch continues the theme

On Bradman

"Bradman was a team in himself. I think the Don was too good - he spoilt the game. I do not think we want to see another one quite like him. I do not think we ever shall."
England batsman Jack Hobbs, 1952

"There's no ruddy best ball to bowl at the Don."
England fast bowler Bill Voce on bowling to Don Bradman, 1933

"With the possible exception of Rolf Harris, no other Australian has inflicted more pain and grief on Englishmen since Don Bradman."
The Daily Mirror reflects on Steve Waugh's retirement

"It's not easy to bat with tears in your eyes."
Don Bradman on being bowled for nought in his final Test innings at the Oval, 1948, after he was applauded all the way to the wicket and given three cheers by the England team.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Summer’s here, so it must be sledging time

The first Ashes test is but two days away, which means it’s nearly time for the sweet summer sounds of chirping Aussies in the slips and Glenn ‘Chunterer’ McGrath in the outfield.

This entertaining look at ‘sledging’ from The Times is reproduced in full:

Sledging: It's all downhill
By Rick Broadbent
How the Aussie policy of ‘mental disintegration’ has fallen apart

ONE OF THE GREAT traditions of the Ashes summer is watching young Australian men indulge in fits of machismo while flicking their highlights and licking their white lipstick. If this seems odd, the notion that our distant cousins are masters of the witty put-down and acerbic one-liner is positively certifiable. Indeed, not since Rolf Harris pitched up at Glastonbury with a wobble board and a didgeridoo has anything Antipodean received such questionable billing.

We have got to this state of affairs because of the spin and myth that surrounds the issue of sledging. Some believe that this Aussie-invented code of unethics is full of humour and verve and somehow humanises cricket. The truth is very different. The Aussies may be well-versed in the dark arts of mendacious appeals, garrulous intimidation and snide snipes in the slips, but if by sledging you are referring to the clever aside or cutting remark, Shane Warne and his ilk are distinctly second rate.

Trawl the annals and you will find the Australian cricketer has generally been on the receiving end. Take Jimmy Ormond’s Ashes confrontation with Mark Waugh. The Aussie legend belittled Ormond by asking what a man of his limited ability was doing at the crease. “I may not be the best cricketer in the world,” Ormond responded, “but at least I’m the best in my family.”

Nobody knows whether this had any bearing on Waugh dismissing the relevance of sledging in his biography. “Over-rated,” he bleated.

Merv Hughes was another to come off second best. This was perhaps not surprising since he always appeared to be wearing a tumble-dried ferret on his top lip. “You can’t f***ing bat, mate,” he mumbled at Robin Smith. One boundary later and Smith retorted: “Hey Merv, we make a fine pair. I can’t f***ing bat and you can’t f***ing bowl.”

This state of the nations is a well-worn tradition, given that Britain’s cultural past has spawned Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare, whereas Australia’s has produced Ned Kelly and Foster’s. An inveterate absence of subtlety led to the birth of sledging in the first place, when New South Wales cricketer Grahame Corling made a faux pas at a party. It was suggested he was as “subtle as a sledgehammer” and, while Corling went on to bask in the nickname “Percy”, after the soul singer, Australia proceeded to abuse merrily scores of batsmen under the misnomer of “competitive spirit”.

Sledging is obviously designed to intimidate a batsman, which seems fair enough if it does not fall below a certain level. Racist and religious slurs, for example, are now considered taboo — albeit this brings to mind the advert for the Ashes which portrays Shane Warne as a convict heading for Australia, with the pay-off line: “I’ll be back.”

This was a radical step in that the more politically correct would accuse Warne of national stereotyping and, thus, racially abusing himself.

The introduction of microphones by the stumps mean we have grown accustomed to the unique humour of the Aussie “mental disintegration” programme. This, generally, constitutes several people saying, “bowled, Warnie” at any given time. The batsman, who may have been playing Warne with aplomb, will then develop the backbone of a jellyfish, give up his wicket, the Ashes will be surrendered and people will write articles about sledging. The only flaw in this argument is it is tosh. The Aussies win because they are better at cricket than England. Indeed, I would be bold enough to suggest that Brett Lee is more intimidating when bowling at 90mph than scowling at you like the lost member of Busted.

In recent times the Aussies have accepted they have gone too far. In 2003 a debate between Glenn McGrath and the West Indies vice-captain was picked up and broadcast live. It encompassed oral sex, infidelity and homosexuality, was peppered with expletives and caused many red faces. It resulted in Cricket Australia introducing a code of conduct.

It may be that England do not win the Ashes, but at the very least they should be able to win the battle of wits. Nothing succeeds like excess, said Wilde, but if the Australians are truly committed to toning down their sledging it is probably because, after years of being stumped by English ripostes, they have come to the belated realisation that they are not very good at it.


The Aussies may have invented sledging as a tactic to intimidate or undermine batsmen, but they seem to always be on the receiving end of the Wildean put-down in the most famous exchanges. Here are a few more classics:

Shane Warne versus Daryll Cullinan
As South African Cullinan was on his way to the wicket, the famously ‘big-boned’ Warne told him he had been waiting two years for another chance to humiliate him. "Looks like you spent it eating," Cullinan retorted

Glenn McGrath versus Eddo Brandes
McGrath was bowling to the Zimbabwe number 11 - who was unable to get his bat anywhere near the ball. McGrath, frustrated that Brandes was still at the crease, wandered up during one particular over and inquired: "Why are you so fat?" Quick as a flash, Brandes replied: "Because every time I make love to your wife, she gives me a biscuit." Even the Aussie slip fielders were in hysterics.

Greg Thomas vs Viv Richards
Greg Thomas was bowling to West Indian legend Viv Richards in a county game. Viv missed a superb out swinger, and Thomas said "It's red, round and weighs about 5 1/2 ounces." Next ball Viv hits Greg Thomas out of the ground for a 6 and replies, "Greg, you know what it looks like. Go ahead and find it!"

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Here are two stupid reactions to the London bombings:

Dilpazier Aslam in the Guardian:

If I'm asked about 7/7, I - a Yorkshire lad, born and bred - will respond first by giving an out-clause to being labelled a terrorist lover. I think what happened in London was a sad day and not the way to express your political anger.

Then there's the "but". If, as police announced yesterday, four men (at least three from Yorkshire) blew themselves up in the name of Islam, then please let us do ourselves a favour and not act shocked.

Shocked would be to suggest we didn't appreciate that when Falluja was flattened, the people under it were dead but not forgotten - long after we had moved on to reading more interesting headlines about the Olympics. It is not the done thing to make such comparisons, but Muslims on the street do. Some 2,749 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks. To discover the cost of "liberating" Iraqis you need to multiply that figure by eight, and still you will fall short of the estimated minimum of 22,787 civilian Iraqi casualties to date. But it's not cool to say this, now that London's skyline has also has plumed grey.

Shocked would also be to suggest that the bombings happened through no responsibility of our own. OK, the streets of London were filled with anti-war marchers, so why punish the average Londoner? But the argument that this was an essentially US-led war does not pass muster. In the Muslim world, the pond that divides Britain and America is a shallow one. And the same cry - why punish us? - is often heard from Iraqi mothers as the "collateral damage" increases daily.

And Mark Steyn in the Telegraph:

It has been sobering this past week watching some of my "woollier" colleagues (in Vicki Woods's self-designation) gradually awake to the realisation that the real suicide bomb is "multiculturalism". Its remorseless tick-tock, suddenly louder than the ethnic drumming at an anti-globalisation demo, drove poor old Boris Johnson into rampaging around this page last Thursday like some demented late-night karaoke one-man Fiddler on the Roof, stamping his feet and bellowing, "Tradition! Tradition!" Boris's plea for more Britishness was heartfelt and valiant, but I'm not sure I'd bet on it. The London bombers were, to the naked eye, assimilated - they ate fish 'n' chips, played cricket, sported appalling leisurewear. They'd adopted so many trees we couldn't see they lacked the big overarching forest - the essence of identity, of allegiance. As I've said before, you can't assimilate with a nullity - which is what multiculturalism is.


After 9/11, there were many possible reactions.

The worst and most misguided, from right or left, were knee-jerk anti-Islamicism and knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

The latter is not just revealed in Galloway’s pathetic bombast. It’s also in all those simpering articles urging Americans and other Western democracies to ‘look at themselves, and find out why they are so hated.’ In other words, we need to find out what we’ve done wrong to bring this kind of thing on ourselves.

Of course we don’t. Thankfully, Blair took the correct attitude, which was to affirm that these mad and evil acts won’t change anything about our way of life, except to make us more determined to prevent and punish mad and evil acts.

Exactly the same applies to the London bombings.

When dealing with people who want to indiscriminately kill as many innocent people as possible, plus themselves, because they want to be rewarded in Paradise, it is not necessary to sympathise and introspect. You only need to prevent and punish, starting with the removal of extremist Islamic clerics, and the military targeting of Al Qaeda training camps.

Steyn uses the terrorist act to beat his multiculturalism drum. Aslam uses it to criticise the West. Both miss the point, and both, despite coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, end up spouting the same nonsense: “It’s our fault, we brought this on ourselves!”

To combat extreme-Right Islamophobia, the Left correctly points out that Islamic terrorists are a tiny minority of lunatics, and that the vast majority Muslims get on with it and live peacefully with their western neighbours. Yet they choose to ignore this same fact when blaming the West for ‘alienating’ Muslims.

Small numbers of mad and evil people exist in all societies. This is the current crop in ours. We only need to 'understand' them in so far as it will help us to discover and destroy them.

Apologising for them, introspecting, wondering how we could have made them happier - all of these are a complete waste of time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

And this year’s Berlusconi Award for International Diplomacy goes to…

The Telegraph (and everyone else) reports:

Anglo-French tensions heightened last night after Jacques Chirac delivered a series of insults to Britain as London and Paris fought to secure the 2012 Olympic Games and faced fresh disagreement at the G8 summit.

The president, chatting to the German and Russian leaders in a Russian cafe, said: "The only thing [the British] have ever given European farming is mad cow." Then, like generations of French people before him, he also poked fun at British cuisine

You can't trust people who cook as badly as that," he said. "After Finland, it's the country with the worst food."

"But what about hamburgers?" said Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, referring to America.

"Oh no, hamburgers are nothing in comparison," Mr Chirac said.

Mr Putin and Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, laughed. Mr Chirac then recalled how George Robertson, the former Nato secretary general and a former defence secretary in Tony Blair's Cabinet, had once made him try an "unappetising" Scottish dish, apparently meaning haggis.

"That's where our problems with Nato come from," he said.

And presumably they continued tucking into their tasty dishes of frogs’ legs, snails, sauerkraut and, in the case of Mr Putin, one middling potato (for which he had queued eight hours in the snow).

British cuisine jokes, as I’ve pointed out before, are as 80's as Skoda jokes.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Wot, no Nik Kershaw, Howard Jones or Thompson Twins?

Says the Telegraph:

Good job, Bob

If it had been left up to aid activists and preening rock stars, Live8 would have been a nightmare of Bush- and Pope-bashing. You would hardly have been able to hear the bands for the roar of righteous indignation. But that is not the way Live8 turned out - thanks to Bob Geldof.

The music industry's anti-American bores did not hijack Saturday's extraordinary concert in Hyde Park, for the simple reason that the organiser did not allow them to do so. His instruction was simple: music, not ranting. And an instruction from Mr Geldof is not lightly disobeyed.

The former Boomtown Rat is one of those outspoken people who are so utterly fearless in their choice of target that they end up achieving more than the most skilled diplomat. On this occasion, he told the complacent middle classes all over the world to think about African poverty, and a line-up of rock stars to shut up about George W Bush.

As a result, he achieved a near-miracle: an event that awakened our consciences without getting up our noses.

And the concert was pretty good, too

Especially the geriatrics. The Who and the reunited Floyd were great, and full marks to McCartney for blasting out the most abrasive song in his canon, Helter Skelter.

The music was way better than in the original Live Aid, which is remembered for Freddie Mercury and U2, but was mostly a succession of rotten and long-forgotten 80s acts who’d poured all their creative energy into growing ever more improbable mullets.

In fact, Mariah Carey and her backing group “the African schools’ choir” (bit vague that – which country are they from? Oh you know, Africa) aside, there was very little to cringe or sneer at during Live8, apart from a clip of American rapper Kayne West in Philadelphia berating the G8 “politicians who drive home in their Bentleys every night and watch thousands of Africans die” (and what car do you drive I wonder, Mr West? Nothing. OK, so my chauffeur drives a limo with a pool, three bars and a tennis court).

Of course some of the stars were there for ego and unit-shifting purposes (though Carey was the only one in Hyde Park to commit the mortal charity concert sin of plugging her new single instead of belting out a greatest hit). And of course few if any of them would be prepared to admit that solving Africa’s problems is rather more complex than telling Mr Bush and Mr Blair to jolly well do something cos can’t you see that people are dying here, man?

But complexity shouldn’t be an excuse for blanket cynicism, hopelessness or a lack of compassion. Geldof has achieved his aim of getting Africa on the agenda for middle England (and hopefully middle America and middle everywhere else).

Nothing wrong with that. The middle is the key to almost everything.