Monthly Archives: January 2012

Tweet of the week

My award for Tweet of the Week goes to Kate Higgins @burdzeyeview for:  “How can someone so clearly as unrehabilitated as Tommy Sheridan have been eligible for early release? #justasking”

Closely followed in 2nd place by Aarran McPherson @AarranMcPherson for:  “Tommy Sheridan is out of prison, I have no doubt in my mind that this won’t be the last time I say that.”

Well and truly stumped!

My poor Dad would be so upset – he loved cricket and was the only person I’ve ever met who found this excruciatingly tedious sport exciting! 

And why would he be so upset?  Well today England crumbled to a 72-run defeat in the second Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi to lose the three-match series.   Only Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior reached double figures as England wilted under the pressure applied by the Pakistan spin bowlers.

It was a diabolical display by England, in stark contrast to the form that carried them to the top of the International Cricket Council Test rankings, and one that wasted the good bowling work that had given them an opportunity to level the series.

Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman, said “I’ve seen some bad performances over the years but that’s as bad as I’ve seen. I couldn’t find any excuses and I wouldn’t want to. They had to change the batting order, but to not be able to make 150? They were missing straight balls. And [Eoin] Morgan? If he’s a Test player, I’m going to eat that famous hat. You’d have to see it to believe how bad it was.”

This is England’s first loss since being crowned the world’s number one side and Pakistan are ranked fifth.  Even if England lose the third test, they will only lose top spot if South Africa win 3-0 in New Zealand in March.

Would it be cheeky of me to suggest some batting practice before the next match?

Happy Burns Night

Tonight, the 25th January, is Burns Night here in Scotland and is an event which is celebrated by Scots across the globe. If you have never been fortunate enough to attend a proper Scottish Burns Supper, I would urge you to find where one is being held and give it a go! It is a unique and thoroughly enjoyable experience!

Burns Suppers have been part of Scottish culture for about 200 years as a means of commemorating Scotland’s best loved bard, Rabbie Burns. And when Burns immortalised haggis in verse he created a central link that is maintained to this day.

The ritual was started by close friends of Burns a few years after his death in 1796 as a tribute to his memory. The basic format for the evening has remained unchanged since that time and begins when the chairman invites the company to receive the haggis.


Chairperson’s opening address
A few welcoming words start the evening and the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace. The company are asked to stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table, while the guests accompany them with a slow handclap. The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns’ famous poem To A Haggis, with great enthusiasm. When he reaches the line ‘an cut you up wi’ ready slight’, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife. It’s customary for the company to applaud the speaker then stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky.

The company will then dine. A typical Bill o’ Fare would be:

Cock-a-leekie soup
Haggis warm reeking, rich wi’ Champit Tatties,
Bashed Neeps
Tyspy Laird (sherry trifle)
A Tassie o’ Coffee

The Immortal Memory
One of the central features of the evening. An invited guest is asked to give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types of Immortal Memory speeches, from light-hearted to literary, but the aim is the same – to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.

Toast To The Lasses
The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to the women in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a time to toast the ‘lasses’ in Burns’ life. The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end on a conciliatory note.

The turn of the lasses to detail men’s foibles. Again, should be humorous but not insulting.

Poem and Songs
Once the speeches are complete the evening continues with songs and poems. These should be a good variety to fully show the different moods of Burns muse. Favourites for recitations are Tam O’Shanter, Address to the Unco Guid, To A Mouse and Holy Willie’s Prayer. The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programme.

Haggis remains popular with expatriate Scots in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, owing to the strong influence of Scottish culture, especially for Burns Suppers. It can easily be made in any country, but is sometimes imported from Scotland.

Since 1971 however it has been illegal to import haggis into the US from the UK due to a ban on food containing sheep lung, which constitutes 10 to 15% of the traditional recipe. The situation was further complicated in 1989 when all UK beef and lamb was banned from importation to the US due to the BSE crisis. In 2010 a spokeswoman for the US Department of Agriculture stated that they were reviewing the ban on beef and lamb products, but the ban on food containing sheep lung will remain in force.[

This will hopefully help explain to the uninitiated reading this that haggis is something you eat – a fiction sometimes maintained is that a haggis is a small Scottish animal with legs on one side longer than those on the other, so that it can run around the steep hills of the Scottish Highlands without falling over. According to one poll, 33% of American visitors to Scotland believed haggis to be an animal!

Need I say any more?

It’s OK to ask

Keep meaning to post this video. It’s called “It’s OK to ask” and I was pleased to be involved with the young people in the early stages of the project. The message is a good one to get across so please share. Thank you.

And now for After


Sorry Martin, couldn’t resist posting this!  We had a brilliant day on Wednesday catching up after such a long time – lots of laughs and memories of those innocent days of our youth!  Hope to see you again soon – lets not leave it another 30 odd years this time!!!

After something like 35 years …

Tomorrow is a big day!  After something like 35 years since this photo was taken, I am meeting up with Martin again – I’m so excited I’m not sure I’m going to sleep tonight!

Martin was the “boy next door” when I was growing up in Twickenham (except he actually lived round the corner!) and we were extremely close for a very long time.  Circumstances were such that we eventually drifted apart and so it will be very interesting to catch up after all these years.  I know he is now happily married and living in Lincolnshire somewhere (and he’s a grandfather!).  I’m pretty sure we’ll soon revert back to those 2 carefree 17 and 18 year olds when we start reminiscing though!  This is the “before” picture – watch this space for the “after” picture – it’s probably going to be emotional!!!

Beckham for PM?

Another exciting week in the world of football!

On Monday night, the return of the King – Thierry Henry!

For those who thought it was a joke that Arsenal were turning to Henry, well, the old ones are the best.  So much for the legacy being tarnished.  So much for him losing his touch in the MLS.  It had to be Henry scoring here, recording his 227th goal for Arsenal. The script was written, the stage was set. It just needed Henry to rise from the bench, replacing the disappointing Marouane Chamakh, whose shocking form was another reason why Arsenal need the man on loan from New York Red Bulls. No wonder Arsène Wenger wants to extend the loan to the maximum eight weeks.

For those lovers of symmetry, Arsenal’s No 12 struck his 12th goal in 12 appearances against Leeds 12 minutes from time. At the final whistle, as a fourth-round tie against Aston Villa was secured, Henry almost did not want to leave his field of dreams. The Leeds centre-half, Tom Lees, requested his shirt, but Henry was not in the mood for giving away such precious souvenirs. This was one for the private collection.

Then on Tuesday we hear the news that Jason Euell is returning to Wimbledon on a loan deal from Charlton Athletic.

Jason might not stir the imagination like Thierry Henry but the veteran forward can expect an enthusiastic welcome on his competitive return to Wimbledon 11 years after he left south-west London.

So what about the latest headlines where it has been claimed that Eric Cantona is in the running for the French presidency?  Even as the news was announced, igniting hope in his fans and a host of bad jokes, it felt like a dream. In the end, it was a sort of mirage.

Cantona had written a letter in the French newspaper Libération which seemed to state his intention to gather 500 signatures, the symbolic number needed to launch a campaign for the presidency. He described himself as “very much aware of our times” which he argued offer “limited opportunities” to the young and generate “violent” and “systematic” injustices.  It sounded like the perfect platform from which a man most famous for a swift piece of retributive justice – that kung-fu kick – could launch an equally fiery and passionate campaign to unseat the current French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

It prompted much excitement and some excellent comments on Twitter, including many along the lines best expressed by the BBC presenter, Jeremy Vine, who tweeted: “Cantona wants to be the next president of France. Oh yeah, and Thierry Henry is going to play for Arsenal again and score the winner on his debut.” 

But then the excitement crumbled just as rapidly as the current Manchester United frontline in the second half against City last Sunday.  Cantona had played a blinder, sold a dummy, feinted in front of goal: pick the bad football pun of your choice.  The paper’s deputy editor explained that the letter was not a presidential bid as such, but rather a call to get 500 mayors to sign a petition about the French housing crisis for the charitable Abbé Pierre Foundation.

Despite being voted as Manchester United fans “Player of the Century” last year, this is surely a stunt too far.  Whatever will we see next?  Beckham for Prime Minister or maybe even Sir Alex as Scotland’s next First Minister?  Stranger things have happened I suppose.

My favourite video at the moment

Blackadder’s take on the Euro

Baldrick: “What I want to know sir, is before there was a Euro there were lots of different types of money that different people used.  And now there’s only one type of money that the foreign people use.  And what I want to know is, how did we get from one state of affairs to the other state of affairs”

Blackadder: “Baldrick.  Do you mean, how did the Euro start?”

Baldrick: “Yes sir”

Blackadder: “Well, you see Baldrick, back in the 1980’s there were many different countries all running their own finances and using different types of money.  On one side you had the major economies of France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, and on the other, the weaker nations of Spain, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal.  They got together and decided that it would be much easier for everyone if they could all use the same money, have one Central Bank, and belong to one large club where everyone would be happy.  This meant that there could never be a situation whereby financial meltdown would lead to social unrest, wars and crises”.

Baldrick: “But this is sort of a crisis, isn’t it sir”.

Blackadder: “That’s right Baldrick. You see, there was only one slight flaw with the plan”.

Baldrick: “What was that then sir?”

Blackadder: “It was bollocks”.

The offside rule explained

Trying to explain the offside rule to football beginners can be difficult and frustrating. Whether it’s to a loved one or to a young child, sometimes it seems to be an impossible job. But the tedious task is no more thanks to the Royal Mint, who have produced a new 50p coin to commemorate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The design – by production journalist Neil Wolfson – is available as part of the collection of 29 new coins this year which features each sport of the games. ‘Neil Wolfson designed his coin in the hope that it would encapsulate football in a simple image,’ the Royal Mint coinmakers website explains.

“As the offside rule is a perennial talking point, the image is designed to provoke discussion, which was what he was aiming for.”

Mr Wolfson added that he hoped people like the coin, saying: ‘I hope it starts conversations and people are able to [use it] to describe what the offside rule is.’

And there was me thinking that it was offside when the pepper pot is in front of the brown sauce bottle!

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